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
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
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.
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!