Cosleeping with a Toddler

Safe cosleeping

 

What is Cosleeping?

I had always thought cosleeping meant sleeping in the same bed as your child, but the term covers various sleeping arrangements. For example, for the first 7 months of my son’s life, he co-slept with us in a crib that we attached securely to my side of the bed. This is known as a ‘sidecar’ arrangement, and it allowed me to breastfeed him really easily at night.

The main types of cosleeping include:

  • Sharing a bed with your child
  • Sleeping next to your child while he or she is in a crib, either one that is attached to the bed or just placed nearby
  • Sleeping in the same room as your child

Safe cosleepingSafe Cosleeping

I wanted to cosleep with my son in the early months of his life, but I was worried about having him in our bed with us because I didn’t think it would be safe enough. Our bed was quite high off the floor, we had dogs that might jump up in the night, and I couldn’t find a satisfactory bed rail.

Since I was worried about safety having my son in bed with us, we chose the sidecar arrangement instead. My choice was the “Arm’s Reach Cosleeper” – a crib specifically designed to attached to the side of your bed.

You can read a detailed article about cosleeping from Dr. Sears here, and I will highlight some safe cosleeping considerations:

  • Ensure there aren’t pillows that could suffocate baby and avoid having our blanket above your waist for the same reason
  • Ensure your baby can’t roll off the bed – use a bed rail or position the baby between you and the wall
  • Your mattress should be firm – again to help avoid a scenario where your child could suffocate
  • Pets and older children should not sleep in bed with a young baby
  • Ensure no wires, cords, tassels, or anything that could strangle a child are near the bed

cosleeping with toddler

My Experience: Cosleeping with Toddler = Breastfeeding at Night

My son is 1.5 years old, but he rarely sleeps through the night. He did pretty well for a while, sleeping in his crib and waking up once, or maybe twice, per night, but quickly falling back to sleep after breastfeeding. But then slowly 2 night wakings became the norm, and then 3, and before I knew it, a good night was when he ‘only’ woke up three times.

A lot of people advised me to let him cry it out, and then a lot of other people advised me to try cosleeping. I tried the cosleeping route first. We’d put him down to sleep in his own bed, but after his first waking (typically around 10-11pm), I’d try to have him sleep in bed with me and my husband.

Let me tell you – the cosleeping DID. NOT. WORK. By now I’ve casually interrogated enough other cosleeping moms to realize that my son is a VERY restless sleeper. My husband and I would retreat to the far edges of our bed, giving our son a very wide space of his own between us – but it couldn’t contain him. He flops, kicks, crawls, hits, punches, even sits up, all in his sleep.

We found he actually slept better in his crib, where he wouldn’t wake himself up as often since he could only crawl into the side of his bed, instead of crawling on to mom and dad and wanting to play. The problem was I had to trek down the hall multiple times each night to resettle him when he woke.

Since I still wasn’t willing to let him cry it out, and any attempts at gently teaching him to resettle himself were failing, I continued getting up A LOT at night to attend to him whenever he needed me.

cosleeping with toddler

Sharing my Bed with my Son, Instead of my Husband

Then, my son and I both came down with hand foot and mouth disease. My husband was terrified of also getting infected, so he moved into the guest room. I had the master bed to myself, and I tried bringing my son into bed with me again after his first waking each night.

Finally, we were able to cosleep successfully, when my son had 90% of the space in bed to do his sleeping acrobatics. He still crawls into the headboard or kicks me in the face occasionally, but he mostly manages to stay asleep because he has enough space to flop around without waking himself up.

I don’t sleep quite as well with him in the bed, and cosleeping has not reduced the amount of times he wakes. So why am I still doing it? Because it is SO MUCH EASIER. No more stumbling down the hallway and struggling to pick him up out of his crib. No more sitting in the cold dark living room while breastfeeding him back to sleep. And I do get back to sleep much easier after each of his wakings, or even manage to breastfeed him while sleeping.

I miss sleeping in bed with my husband, and I wish my son would sleep longer stretches at night. But for now, we will continue to cosleep so I can get more rest.

Have you tried cosleeping or are you cosleeping currently? What works best for you? Happen to have any advice on night weaning a toddler, or cosleeping and night weaning? Share in the comments below!

Interested in more of my ramblings on baby sleep? Or check out my useful baby jet lag tips!
will my child ever sleep through the night how to handle jet lag in kids

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Surviving Jet Lag in Babies and Toddlers

baby jet lag tips

how to handle jet lag in kids

Surviving the Dreaded Baby Jet Lag

I am lucky to have been able to travel quite a bit with my son. But I do feel very unlucky when we travel to different time zones and face… baby jet lag. What’s the point of a vacation if you spend it awake all night with your child? 

As it is my son isn’t a great sleeper, so I am doubly motivated to make sure each trip goes as smoothly as possible when it came to sleep. Here are my top tips for minimizing and surviving baby jet lag. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links to products I use and personally recommend to cope with travel and jet lag with kids.

1. Consider staying on your home schedule if the time difference is small.

If we are travelling to a time zone that is different by 3 hours or less, I tend to keep my son on his home-schedule. This can mean some early breakfasts or late dinners, but it usually works in our favor because he isn’t cranky and his sleep is much more stable than if I tried getting him to bed hours earlier or later than usual.

2. For big time differences, understand the adjustment will happen slowly.

I have found that we need 3 days to get my son mostly comfortable with a new time zone and 5 days before he is completely settled. It is best to help them adapt to a new time zone by gently shifting bedtimes and nap times by an hour or so each day until they are sleeping at appropriate times.

3. Your child will most likely not sleep through the night at first – don’t be surprised.

Even great sleepers are thrown off by time differences. Your child might go down to sleep easily after an exciting day of tourism, but wake up in the middle of the night filled with energy because it is the time they’d normally be awake back home. Allow them to play quietly in the dark or with dim light for the first 1-2 nights as they adjust to sleeping in the new time zone.

4. Be careful with naps.

If your child does not typically nap during the day, avoid daytime naps at your destination because it will make it much harder for them to sleep at night. If your child is younger and still napping, be sure to give them naps during the day. You may want to limit the time of their naps, though. While we were visiting family in the USA (a 12 hour time difference from Hong Kong) my son was taking 2 naps a day. He would have his morning nap and wake on his own. But I found his afternoon nap could drag on for hours if I didn’t wake him, and then it was much harder to get him to sleep at night

5. Allow sleep on the plane.

When I travel on my own, I will make a point of staying awake or sleeping on the plane as a first step towards adjusting to the new time zone. I do not recommend this with children! If you are lucky enough to have your child fall asleep on the plane, in nearly all cases, I would say just let them sleep. I tried keeping my son up on a long haul flight and as a result he was incredibly fussy and unsettled. I was exhausted and frustrated, as were the surrounding passengers. Unless you have a child who is still very pleasant when exhausted, don’t try to get them on the new schedule until you’ve arrived at your destination. To help your child sleep, or sit comfortably on a long-haul flight, I recommend an inflatable pillow like the one below. I put this on the floor between my son’s seat and the seat in front of him so he can keep his legs up, or lay down flat to nap.

6. Use daylight to your advantage.

Daylight is key to adjusting to a new time zone quickly because daylight signals to your body that it is time to be awake. Get your little one outside as much as possible, especially in the morning and late afternoon when they are likely to be particularly drowsy.

7. Encourage eating at mealtimes in the new time zone.

Eating at mealtimes in the local time zone will help you adjust much faster, but it can be difficult to coax an overtired toddler or child into eating. Ensure they at least snack during the local meal times during the first 1-2 days so they can adjust to the schedule at your destination more quickly. By the third day they will most likely be eating on the new schedule.

8. Snacks are ok, and can be a godsend. 

Especially the first couple of nights, your little one might wake up hungry. Allow a snack the first night, and a smaller snack the second night, if your child wakes again. By the third night if your child wakes up, try to resettle them without food so they can adjust to sleeping at night in the new time zone. Also, during the day, if you are facing a cranky child, do not underestimate the power of a snack. Sometimes a few puffs go a long way!

9. Invest in a good travel crib/cot.

My son does not sleep well in a unfamiliar places. After sleepless nights in several different cities, I resolved to always carry our Baby Bjorn Travel Crib with us when we travel. It is one more thing to carry, but it makes him much more comfortable. The price is higher than a pack n’ play, but it is much lighter and easier to assemble/ disassemble. And it has the added benefit of knowing that he will always have a clean and safe bed. You would be surprised by the moldy, broken, or generally unsafe cribs we have encountered, even in very nice hotels.

10. The adjustment can be harder once you return home… but your children will eventually sleep normally again!

Unfortunately it is always true for us that it takes my son much longer to adjust back to his normal schedule at home than it took him to adjust to a new schedule while traveling. I am really not sure why this is and no matter how exciting I try to make our days when we get back from a holiday, it usually takes at least a week for normal sleep habits to return. It helps to just accept it and re-adjust to the new time zone slowly. For example, bedtime can be moved an hour earlier or later each day until your child is back to their usual routine.

Have any tips to manage jet lag when traveling with kids? Share in the comments below!

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will my child ever sleep through the night Safe cosleeping


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Will my child ever sleep through the night?

will my child ever sleep through the night

will my child ever sleep through the night

Will my son ever sleep through the night?

If you found this page because you have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night, I can’t tell you when he or she will. But I can commiserate with you. Being an older mom (advanced maternal age as they like to call it), I feel like every night of disrupted sleep is giving me additional gray hairs and wrinkles. And don’t get me started on the dark shadows under my eyes.

My son has slept 10 hour stretches a handful of times. Each time this happens I wake up so hopeful that they mark a turning point. I’ll think to myself “maybe he’s finally ready to night wean” and then the following night will be plagued with wake ups and we’re back to exhausted square one.

Is this actually normal?

There are many, many people who will tell you a child’s night waking is normal. My son is 15 months old and while the common expectation is that he sleeps through the night, the reality is many children his age simply don’t. I would be much more accepting of his night waking if it weren’t for our second problem – he wakes up between 4:45 and 5:30 each morning and can’t fall back asleep.

He wakes up, still yawning and bleary-eyed, but can’t fall back asleep. From my unscientific research I would say this is a bit of a sleep problem. Something is preventing him from sleeping in. Maybe he can’t self settle at that hour? He’s hungry? His diaper is too full? The room is too light?  He’s used to nursing during night wakings?

We are at 15 months old and this problem started at about 8 months. Was it because we relocated around that time? Wouldn’t he be settled in so many months later?

will my child ever sleep through the night
                  A rare long nap

What about sleep training?

I’m going to bring up the controversial words “sleep training” now. Ferber, Weissbluth, whatever you want to call it. A cry-it-out-approach works for many families. To the horror of many, I’m going to tell you I let my son cry at bedtime and it did help him learn to put himself to sleep at bedtime (after our bedtime routine) and on rare occasions, self settle in the night.

Crying it out wasn’t easy for us. It was actually pretty dreadful. My son has always been on the smaller side and not a good eater. During the few days we were crying it out, he was so tired and overwrought during the day that he would hardly eat or nurse at all. I felt terrible that he was seemingly so frightened from crying at bedtime that he couldn’t eat and also worried since his weight gain has always been low.

I can’t bring myself to let my son cry-it-out again, so I’ve been trying gentler ways of reducing the night wakings and night feeding. Are they working? No.

So, will he ever sleep through the night?

Like I said at the start of this post, each time I think we’ve made progress I realize we haven’t progressed at all. I obsessively take notes on when he is asleep and awake to try to understand if he’s getting too much sleep during the day or too little, and try to see if anything is improving with his night waking. I have 4 months of notes and unfortunately they’re pretty useless.

After poring through as many baby sleep books and articles as I could, I’m focusing on consistency. Same bedtime routine each night, consistent naptimes and bedtimes, consistent mealtimes, etc. I think this helps because when his schedule is really thrown off due to travel or whatever, his sleep does seem to suffer. I am also working on gently night weaning by nursing for slightly shorter periods each night… this is easier said than done when you’re only half awake.

I try repeating “the nights are long but the years are short” to myself to stay positive while so sleep deprived…. It kind of works, sometimes.

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