This is the third post in a series on preparing for a second baby. If you haven’t read it already, check out the first part What on Earth Were We Thinking? and the second part To tandem or not to tandem.
…there were four in a bed and the little one said
“roll over, roll over”
so they all rolled over and one fell out
There were three in a bed and the little one said…
Sprawling limbs. Acrobatic nursing. Coughs. Teeth grinding. Wiggling. Wet diapers. Teething. All things that can make sleeping with multiple children challenging. But the cuddles, ah….the cuddles. They make it all worthwhile. And having your kids feel secure at night is a wonderful feeling.
If you practice attachment parenting and do not want to push your children to sleep on their own before they are ready, then you may wonder what the best arrangement is when you add a second child into the mix. What will be most practical? What will be safest? What will let everyone get the most rest possible?
Let’s start with Jane’s story (@janefriar):
Our older daughter slept with us for most of her 2 first years. We had so many different sleeping arrangements over the years including a co-sleeper, a side-carred crib, and mattresses on the floor (probably my favorite!). When she was 2 we put a double mattress on the floor in her room and she started sleeping in there for most of the night. If she woke she would either come to our bed or more likely one of us would go to her bed. This is how it continues to be.
This is similar to what we did. When our son turned one, we put a double futon in his room where the never-used crib used to stand. We put up a Safety 1st Secure Top Bedrail so that he wouldn’t fall out of the bed. When it was bedtime, I would nurse him to sleep in his room and then sneak away once he was asleep. When he woke up at night, either I would go and join him in his room or bring him into our room. Part way through my pregnancy, I ended up having to go on a few short business trips (two nights away each time) and that gave our son the chance to get used to having Daddy take care of him at night. It went much better than I expected and after I came home, and he realized Daddy could meet his nighttime needs too, it made it easier for us to take turns at night. That meant when he woke up, sometimes we would bring him into our bed and sometimes Daddy would go and sleep with him. As the end of my pregnancy neared, it was more and more often Daddy that went. We didn’t want to suddenly switch from Mommy to Daddy when the new baby arrived because we didn’t want him to blame the new baby for not having Mommy take care of him at night.
More from Jane:
When the baby was born, my husband would sleep with our older daughter, and he would comfort her when she woke up, but if she needed me, my husband and I would switch beds, and this has been the way it’s worked for the past 7 months. It worked well at the beginning, but now we are at a new phase and I am trying to have our bedroom set up so that all 4 of us can fit happily and safely on the bed. The mattress is already on the floor, but I am trying to save up to buy a king. I am happy that we have been able to be flexible and come up with solutions for each phase instead of trying to enforce an unhappy sleeping arrangement.
Oh yes…a king sized bed. We also invested in a king sized bed. It means that all four of us can sleep in one bed if needed, but in reality we rarely do. With all four of us in one room, there is always someone keeping the others up. So divide and conquer has worked better in our case. We play musical beds. When the kids were little, we didn’t have them sleep together alone in one bed because it isn’t safe. But now that they are both older (our daughter is 2 and our son is 4) we sometimes put them to bed together in the same bed. Most nights, I sleep with our daughter and my husband sleeps either with us or with our son. Everyone can have someone to cuddle if they need it. No one has to sleep alone.
Naomi’s (from Mama’s Applecores) family also used a divide and conquer strategy:
For us, co-sleeping has never involved all of us in one bed. We only have two functioning bedrooms in our house, so we planned for a girl’s room and a boy’s room. My husband has been sleeping with our son since I night weaned, and our son was obviously not ready to give up the comfort of an adult in bed. My husband continues to sleep with our son, and recently I was able to move our daughter into my bed. We were not able to co-sleep earlier because she had reflux and slept in her bouncy seat (or on my lap), but she has always been in the room with me. Now that she is a bit older I am starting to hand her off to my husband some nights when I really need to get some sleep, and then I go sleep with our son. I can’t say that co-sleeping is completely easy or fun for us, but it’s what we do and we can’t imagine not doing it.
robin from woowoomama had the additional challenge of transitioning her son from falling asleep in the rocker to getting him to fall asleep in bed:
while i was pregnant we had made some changes that we thought would help things. when the bean was a baby we all slept together in a family bed. at about 18 months old we moved him to a queen sized mattress on the floor in his own room and i went to sleep with him after his first waking (by 11pm). during the pregnancy flash (my husband) started going to sleep in with the bean when he went to bed. he first tried going when the bean woke but he was never accepted that way. if he was already in there and could settle the bean before he started calling for me it worked out much better. we imagined that the boys would cosleep together in beans room and chickpea and i would be in the master bed together. the bean never made it through the full night with flash while i was pregnant, usually he asked for me by 4am, but it still was a major change from me sleeping almost the entire night with him.
the bean nursed all through my pregnancy and although his nursing decreased he was still nursing to sleep for bedtime and naptime, in the rocker, like we had always done. at about 34 weeks we went through a stretch where he was just not falling asleep in the rocker and i was losing my patience. this made me push myself to try transitioning him to falling asleep in the bed.
so, when we moved out of the rocker and onto the bed for nighttime falling asleep i hoped he would just find his mole and use it like he did in the middle of the night (instead of nursing). after a few rocky nights it worked, and by the time chickpea was born the bean was used to falling asleep with me laying in his bed. this was a huge step for me because i knew i could lay there with him and hold the newborn but i had been unable to imagine to having both of them in the rocker! (flash has to travel a lot for work so it is imperative that i be able to handle bedtime alone.)
Another solution that many families use is to either side-car a crib for the baby and then have the older child sleep between mom and dad or put a twin-sized bed next to the family bed for the toddler to sleep on. Either of those solutions keeps the whole family together without having to crowd everyone into one space. It also helps to ensure that you won’t have a toddler rolling over the baby.
Co-sleeping can be such a wonderful experience and can have many benefits. Whatever arrangement you choose, it is important to keep everyone’s needs in mind and to ensure that you take co-sleeping safety into consideration.
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at PhD in Parenting. She is going to sneak into bed with her little girl after writing this post.