Making the Family Bed Work
There are many different options for enjoying the family bed. Sometimes it takes work to find the option that fits you and your family the best.
You can have your baby right in the bed with you. Or you can have your baby in a “sidecar” arrangement. You may also decide that you are more comfortable having your baby in a bassinet or bed near yours.
Have Baby in Your Bed
Many parents love having their baby right in bed with them. They make sure their bed is set up to co-sleep safely. If you choose to bring baby right into bed with you you have several options. You can put your mattresses down onto the floor so that there isn't much room between bed and floor. You may want to put rails on the sides of your bed to keep your baby from rolling out.
Some experts recommend that you do not let your very young infant sleep between you and your partner. Instead have your newborn sleep between you and a rail or between you and the wall. You are a little more attuned to your baby than your partner is. However, may families sleep with baby between them right from the beginning. You may feel more comfortable having your baby in a small bumper bed
A tip that some moms have found helpful is to have a small blanket to put up around their shoulders at night. By having the small blanket for themselves they can keep the bedding down below baby's chest level and still keep their shoulders warm. Wearing a long sleeved top or nursing top can also be helpful during the cold months. Keep a hat on baby (a pilot cap may stay on better than a stretchy cap.)
Keeping Everyone Happy
If you and your partner want some time alone in bed at night, you can start your baby off in a bassinet or crib and bring baby into bed with you when you are ready to. Some parents find this is a wonderful arrangement that keeps everyone happy.
If you find that you feel cramped in bed with your baby, you may want to consider getting a bigger bed! A king-sized bed is a wonderful investment for years to come. You might also choose to make your bed bigger by adding a twin-sized mattress beside it. Some families literally have a “bed room!”
A Sidecar May Work
Other families want to share sleep but don't want the baby directly in the bed. There are yet more co sleeping options if this is how you feel. A sidecar arrangement can be made in a number of ways. You can sidecar your baby's crib to your bed, you can buy a co sleeper, or you can put your child on some type of mattress on a lower level than yours.
You may choose to lower or remove one side of your baby's crib and adjust the mattress to the height of your mattress. You can then use clamps to clamp the crib to the side of your bed. Some parents find that putting a piece of plywood under baby's mattress and under theirs helps the sidecar. If there is a gap you can fill it with tightly rolled blankets. Another solution is to put a pool “noodle” (made of a very firm foam) in the crack.
There are also commercial co sleepers. Some moms love these, and enjoy the piece of mind from a product made especially for co sleeping. Arm's Reach makes a wide variety of co-sleepers. You can choose designs that double as play-yards or styles that become benches after your child is done with them.
As They Grow
Once your child is older, you may wish to put a firm crib mattress or futon down beside your bed for him to sleep on. This works well for some families transitioning from the family bed, or who are adding a new baby. The older child still feels the security of being with the family, but is not directly in bed with parents.
You can also choose to have your baby's bed in the room with you, but not have baby in bed with you. By having your baby's bassinet or crib in your room, you can quickly respond to his needs.
If you are trying to work out a family bed with a growing family, there are several choices for you. You might want to invest in a king sized bed, or even add a twin sized bed mattress next to your king mattress. You will want to separate your toddler from your infant (see safe co sleeping.) You can choose to have your toddler on one side of you and your infant on your other side. Or you may want to have your toddler on the opposite side of your bed, next to your partner.
You can put your infant in a side car arrangement while your older child is in bed with you. Or you can put your toddler on a separate mattress beside your bed. Maybe your older child feels ready for his own bed, but still in your room. A compact toddler bed may be a good idea for your family. Some older children like to have their own mattress or small bed at the end of their parent's bed.
Co sleeping can be a joyful experience. There is nothing like waking up to your sweet baby grinning at you! At the end of a long day it can be delightful to cuddle up to your darling baby. It is a time of connection for a family, and millions of families all over the world have been enjoying co sleeping throughout time.(Hint: Would you like practical, no-nonsense, really-help-you-get-more sleep tips on handling nap time and bedtime with your little one? Check out the baby sleep crib sheet - no crib required - and get better sleep tonight. Get it here.)