Co-sleeping Outside the Family Bed

by Amber Strocel on February 2, 2010

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I love co-sleeping, and I have co-slept in one capacity or another with both of my children. There are few things sweeter than curling up to sleep with my toddler and sharing a good night’s rest. Co-sleeping has made breastfeeding easier, it has helped my babies to sleep better and it has meant that I don’t have to wake up as fully or as often.

In spite of my love of co-sleeping, I occasionally wonder whether co-sleeping loves me. There are the mornings that I wake up sore, contorted in some awkward position because that’s the only way my little one would sleep. There are the infrequent but jarring kicks to my head or fingers attempting to pry open my eyelid. And there is the amazing ability that my toddlers have both cultivated that allows them to take up 75% of a king sized mattress.

Hannah and Dorothy napping together
My daughter Hannah, napping in her parents’ bed

I am willing to sleep with my kids for as long as they need me, but with both of my children I found that at around 18 months the family bed stopped working so well. The space grew increasingly cramped, and our babies stopped sleeping as soundly. However, my little ones still needed me throughout the night for breastfeeding or just for comfort, and so we had to get creative.

The solution that we’ve reached both times, and that has worked well for us, is to replace the unused crib with a full-sized bed in our child’s room. The bed is large enough to comfortably accommodate one adult and one child. By keeping the sleeping surface low to the ground we’re not overly concerned about our toddlers falling out of bed, and they can also easily get in and out by themselves. Add an alarm clock in the room and we have everything we need so that everyone can sleep soundly.

Hannah and Jacob wrestling
Our kids Hannah and Jacob, playing in Jacob’s new bed

In sleep, as in all things, flexibility has been key for our family. What worked with a newborn did not necessarily work with a 6-month-old or even with a newborn plus an older sibling. Adjusting our sleep arrangements as needed keeps us all rested and happy, and ensures that we meet our children’s need for nighttime parenting as well as our own need for balance. I think it’s common for AP families to play ‘musical beds’ from time to time, experimenting with different solutions to find what works right now.

Attachment parenting is about meeting our children’s needs and listening to our instincts, and co-sleeping has been a big part of that. So I remain committed to it, whether it happens in the family bed or another bed in another room. And I know that if I need to, with flexibility and patience, I can find a sleep solution that works.

What about you? Have you found that your sleep set-up has changed over time? I would love to know!

You can keep up with Amber’s regular adventures on her blog at Strocel.com.

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Amber Strocel (32 Posts)

Amber is a hippie mama to two, a writer, a dreamer, a student, an erstwhile engineer and a lover of chocolate. She lives in suburban Vancouver with her family and one very cranky tabby cat. Keep up with her on her blog at Strocel.com.


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