Stephen has been co-sleeping with us since he was about 3 months old. When he was first born, we had him sleeping next to us in a bassinet, but once he grew out of it and we moved him to his cot at the end of the bed, he would hardly get any sleep. We tried controlled crying for all of about 5 minutes, then discovered attachment parenting and the works of Dr Sears. So that we could all get some sleep, we chose to co-sleep and we never looked back!
Irini, on the other hand, was a different story. I had planned to have her co-sleeping with us once she outgrew the bassinet, even planning to buy an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper, but she made it very clear from early on that she did not want to sleep in our bed. After nursing her, instead of drifting off to sleep like other babies, she would start tossing and turning until I would return her to her bassinet (and then cot), where she would promptly fall fast asleep. So for the past 15 months, Irini has been happily sleeping in her cot in the room next to ours with no problems.
A month ago, Irini finally woke up to the fact that the other three of us had a nice cozy arrangement, and that she was being left out in the cold, literally! So instead of her regular peaceful dozing off to sleep, we were confronted with screaming, and leaning out of the cot with arms outstretched, crying "Mummy, Mummy" and when that wasn't working, "Baba, Baba (Daddy, Daddy)". Can you imaging anything more heart rending than going to bed and snuggling with your son, while listening to your daughter crying for you? So, of course, into bed she came.
While co-sleeping with three is generally comfortable, co-sleeping with four was anything but. We tried all different arrangements over the course of a week, and all I could think of was the line from the song "there were four in the bed and the little one said, 'roll over, roll over'...". We even had "the one fell out" when Stephen, trying to escape the squeeze, had wriggled to the edge of the bed and then promptly feel off. We tried Irini on one edge, then me, Stephen in the middle, and Nick on the far end, but I couldn't sleep, terrified that I would let go of Irini who would then fall off. Since Irini wasn't a baby anymore, we tried having both of the kids in the middle, but they kept waking each other up as sleepy arms and legs and heads moved around into other sleepy arms and legs and heads. After this experiment, Stephen tried his own variation by moving his pillow to the opposite end of the bed and sleeping with his feet to Irini's feet. This worked well space-wise and we did this for a few days, however, it meant that Stephen was sleeping on top of the blankets, and kept kicking off the extra blanket; after catching a chill, we quickly put an end to that sleeping arrangement.
What ultimately worked for us was creating our own co-sleeper by taking off the drop-down side of the cot, raising the mattress to the level of the bed, and tying the cot firmly to our bed frame. We pushed the mattress across so that it is pushed firm against ours, and got some firm foam cut to fit the resulting gap on the other side of the cot. This way there are no possible crevices to create a suffocation risk. Here some pics of our created co-sleeper.
Now, we have the perfect co-sleeping arrangement. Stephen still sleeps in between me and Nick and Irini sleeps on the edge of the bed next to the cot. It gives us that little bit of extra room; I am not scared that she is going to fall off; and the kids are not disturbing each other's sleep. I get to snuggle up to both of them, and listen to Stephen's recounting of the day's events (as he does every night for about 15-30 minutes before he goes to sleep) and Irini's little babbles and sweet kisses as she drifts off to sleep. I can wake up in the morning to cute little toddler cuddles and kisses, but best of all, I love watching Stephen and Irini give each other cuddles and kisses. What more could you want?
If you are planning to co-sleep with your child or children, there are a safety issues to keep in mind. The best resource listing these is the Dr Sears article, Sleep Safety.
Labels: children, family, lifestyle