Through the past 8 years – over the course of having 4 children and 6 international moves – we’ve had all sorts of sleeping arrangements. From our first child and the traditional – baby sleeps in the crib while tired exhausted, breastfeeding mom gets up for every feed…and then puts baby back in crib – to our fourth child where we never bothered getting a crib at all, we’ve tried it. I’ve written about our last baby and how much easier it was to just put him in bed with us from the very beginning here.
But how do you practice bed sharing with a toddler? We are told by most everyone that bed sharing with a newborn will lead to SIDS (though this is absolutely not true when the Safe Sleep 7 are practiced). At least sleeping with a newborn can mean a better night’s sleep for a new mom. But a toddler? Kicking, tossing, turning, restless sleep…by this point mom’s space in the family bed is usually just a smidgen, squashed in between everyone else.
When our family increased from one child to three, we decided to get a bigger mattress. Going from a queen to a king made a huge difference. By the point we took this plunge we had 2 toddlers and a preschooler. Most of the time they would start off the night in their own beds, but any assortment would end up in our bed throughout the night. Having a king size mattress – and one without box springs so it was low enough to the ground they could easily crawl in – really helped us to enjoy bed sharing. It also provided a great, big mattress once our fourth arrived so he could easily call our bed his own.
But once he started rolling around, things became more complicated…especially naptime. We set up a pack n’ play at the foot of our bed so if we weren’t in bed he could still have a safe place to sleep without rolling off. Little did I know he was going to love having his own space. He enjoyed napping in “his” bed. During the night he began tossing, turning, kicking, and pushing after nursing, “asking” for his own space. As soon as I’d get up and lay him on a separate mattress he’d smile, relax, and dose off into restful sleep. What?! Yes, I’m serious. By this point in our bed sharing journey, I was completely happy with having him (and any other assortment of children that wound up in bed with us at night) in our bed. But this little guy wanted his own space. So for a year we kept a pack ‘n play in our room and I’d get up and put him in bed with us when he wanted to nurse, and then return him to his bed at his request.
Though I was nursing lying down and falling back asleep as he fed, I didn’t like the fact he’d wake me up when he was done and push and point to his bed…it required me to get up twice for every feeding. I was tired. So, in an effort to help him sleep well, and to keep me from having to get up and down throughout the night to nurse a toddler, we came up with the idea of putting mattresses on the floor. We were in the midst of yet another move and would only have a full-size mattress for a season. We decided to put our mattress in one corner and his on the other – with a sea of pillow in between. Now, when our toddler wakes and wants to nurse, he actually comes and crawls into bed with me. If he falls asleep afterwards that’s great – it makes for one happy mama! (Sometimes he will roll onto the pillows I have mattress-high beside the bed and make a new “bed” there.) If not, I’ll dutifully take him back to his mattress where he goes right back to sleep. I love that he doesn’t even make noise when he wakes…he’s such a big boy he knows he can just crawl off of his mattress and into ours. I usually wake briefly to feel his sweet body snuggle up to me, but then fall back asleep.
Now our bed sharing has turned into co-sleeping. I know these days are short and I’m treasuring them all, even when our now “big kids” – all school-age – want to come to our bed for cuddles. One day, all too soon, they will be grown up and out of our home. The musical mattresses game that we play now will become memories I will cherish forever.