It’s all fun and games until someone gets head-butted in the eye… Don’t get me wrong, I love love love co-sleeping with my babies… actually, it’s not that I love it, it’s just that I can’t imagine it any other way. Okay, but occasionally, sleeping with a baby and a toddler in the same room/bed does have its funny challenges and dilemmas. What would the cave people have done… well, they wouldn’t have thought twice about it, they all sleep together and on the same safe sleeping surface… but we all live in houses and have things like mattresses and blankets, etc. So, we do need to consider a few things in order to make co-sleeping work.
We have been co-sleeping with Margo since day #1. We don’t have a cot (crib) and she has never slept in another room away from us. At first, Margo was in our bed with us, but around 11 months old, she started getting really big and starting nailing Art in the side with these big chunky leg kicks. Our queen sized bed seemed to be shrinking, so we decided to get a toddler bed from IKEA and smoosh it up against our bed. We never forced her to sleep in her bed. It was there as an option and she knew it was hers to use if she wanted. I think somewhere around 15 months or so, she was sleeping in her bed exclusively and she still does to this day. We never call the big bed ‘mommy and daddy’s bed’. It’s just the ‘big bed’ and she has mostly free access to it at any point, if she can manage to find any spare real estate.
Ever since Goldie has come along (she’s about 6 months old), Margo has stayed on her toddler bed and the baby is on the big bed with us. I have to have easy access to both, because I’m breastfeeding them… Goldie through the night and Margo gets a very sleepy morning feed that usually puts her back to sleep. It all works very smoothly, and I certainly feel like I’m getting enough sleep. I would get even more sleep if I didn’t stay up late writing my blog posts.
There are a few things to co-sleeping with two kiddies of different ages that can make it work and here’s what I’ve found:
Safety First, But Don’t be a Worry Wart
Probably the biggest concern, that everyone always fusses about with co-sleeping is the safety aspect. Human beings have been sleeping with their babies since the beginning of time. Imagine if the cave people had put heir babies on the other side of the rock because they wanted to get a good night’s sleep? I don’t think so! However, the cave people also went to bed when their babies went to bed, so they were always there to monitor. They didn’t have mattresses, cushions, pillows, heavy blankets and alcohol; all things that can compromise safe co-sleeping. There are many tips and guidelines for safe co-sleeping that you should follow. *Just as a disclaimer, this post is meant merely to share my experiences, not meant to replace a safe co-sleeping guideline checklist.* Margo just loves her baby sister to pieces, so much that she’s practically jumping all over her, so for that reason, you do have to be aware of what’s going on. But, I don’t think it’s any ‘extra’ work to just make sure things are safe, just a little extra thought.
Extra Safety for the Baby
Keeping the baby safe from the ‘loving toddler crush‘ as I like to call it, is another variable to consider when co sleeping with more than one child. No matter how gentle and sweet your older child is, you don’t want to leave a newborn or very young baby on the same sleeping surface as the toddler. I’m sure some people do it, but to me, you at least need an adult human barricade. Toddlers can thrash and roll around at night, some call it sleeping like a butterfly. And… keeping your baby safe from toddler thrashing will also give you the bonus of keeping the baby asleep.
Margo’s auxiliary bed, the platform for Goldie to learn how to roll off the bed.
Wear a Football Helmet to Bed
Joking… you don’t need to wear a football helmet to bed… BUT do be aware of where your babies are sleeping because sometimes those large craniums or boney heels or pointy elbows can come crashing down on your eye socket (or if you’re a guy, in a much more sensitive spot) while you’re fast asleep.
Probably the most variable aspect of co-sleeping are the sleeping arrangements. In other words, who sleeps where. There are too many options for me to even list. You can have the ‘monkey in the middle’ as I like to call it, or baby between you and dad, but only do this if the father is a light sleeper and will wake if he touches the baby. Mattress on the floor is great, if you can. If not, you can have a bedrail and have the baby between the mother and the bedrail. (I like that one the best). You can have a ‘side car’, or a little cot against the big bed. Some people actually put the cot (crib) up against the bed and take off one side of the rail, so that you’ve got a three walled pen, with access to the bed. I think this arrangement would be great if you have a baby who likes to roll a lot (ehm, like mine). But, I think most co-sleepers who have a toddler and a baby would agree that at least in that first year, it is much more safe to keep the toddler separate from the baby. A mother has a certain awareness of where the baby is at night. A toddler can just roll all over the place in their sleep without even knowing it!
Like I said, mattresses on the floor is best… however, we live in a pre-furnished place and the beds are raised. For some babies, that’s never a problem. Margo would always call out if for some reason she woke and we were not in bed. (The hard core attachment parents would go so far as to say that you shouldn’t even leave the bed if your baby is asleep or that the baby should always be sleeping with you in a sling if you’re not also asleep in bed… but… well, if we all lived in communes and everyone took turns helping to cook and clean and hold the baby while you pee, that would work beautifully). Only when Margo was able to really walk did she ever try to leave the bed when she woke up. Other babies… like our Goldie, are a bit more adventurous, and a raised bed is a bit of a worry. We use a bedrail on one side and Margo’s toddler bed, which is slightly lower than our big bed. on the other. I really like this set up because it creates just enough space from Margo and also creates a nice soft ‘fall’ for Goldie if she rolls that way. That will teach her gently about falling off the bed (hopefully). Once the baby is a little older, you can teach the baby to ‘back up’ off the bed. I’ve noticed that Goldie is already starting to do this onto Margo’s little toddler bed.
Waking Each Other Up
Initially, I worried about co sleeping with two because I thought that every squawk or squeak from either kid would wake the other one up. To my delight, for the most part, these two rarely wake each other up! In the beginning, Margo was a little more sensitive to her little sister’s noises, as she wasn’t used to them. But, the newborn is used to hearing all the ruckus from the older sibling from being in the mother’s tummy! A friend of mine who had twin babies and a toddler also confirmed that the toddler rarely wakes up the babies! Margo could be screaming her head off, and to my surprise, the newbie was sleeping right though it! However, at certain times of the night, particularly 4 am-ish, when I think everyone is sleeping a little bit lighter, they are more prone to wake-ups. But, from what I’ve heard about most co sleeping scenarios is that after a little adjustment period, any regular night waking sounds, for the most part, fall on sleeping ears.
Co sleeping with two has been a most cuddly adventure! I would encourage anyone who wants to do it, to just give it a try (reminder, using co-sleeping guidelines of course). See what sleeping scenarios work for you best
For more advice on co sleeping here are some more resources:
For turning a cot (crib) into a side car to push against your bed
For a tutorial on safe co sleeping for the mother and how to be comfortable
Kelly Mom,,, another great resource for co sleeping