By co-sleeping, I mean sharing a bed with my baby. Some people call this bed sharing. Deciding to co-sleep is a very personal decision. You have to decide whether co-sleeping is right for you and your baby and whether you can co-sleep as safely as possible. These are some of the things that have helped co-sleeping work for us.
Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family by The La Leche League – This book was invaluable to me. It’s full of helpful, practical tips on how to make co-sleeping as safe as possible. The La Leche League has done an infographic that summarises the key points.
Infant Sleep Information Service (ISIS) – I found ISIS really helpful as it summarises the evidence and research on co-sleeping and gives advice on how to co-sleep as safely as possible. Most of the information on co-sleeping is geared towards breastfeeding mothers, but ISIS has a section on bed sharing and non-breastfed babies.
Covers – I sleep with my covers around waist height so that Little Bug isn’t smothered by them and so he doesn’t overheat. Little Bug sleeps higher up the bed than the covers, in his own sleep bag.
It can be chilly having the covers so low down, so I wear a warm woollen jumper over my pjs. The jumper lifts up and the pj top comes down so that I can feed Little Bug. I also wear socks as I find that helps me stay toasty.
Pillows – I have continued to use pillows, but I keep my arm in between the pillow and Little Bug’s head to keep the pillow away from his face. I’ve found that since co-sleeping with Little Bug, I don’t move much around in my sleep, so I don’t move the pillows around.
Image courtsey of Kathryn O’Donnell and taken from the Infant Sleep Information Service website.
Mattress – We had a memory foam topper on our bed, but I removed it when we started co-sleeping with Little Bug after reading the section on sleeping surfaces in Sweet Sleep. I was concerned that it was too warm and so could make him overheat. Also, if he rolled over, I felt the topper was too soft and there was a risk he could suffocate by being face down on it. I don’t feel comfortable having Little Bug sleep on top of the duvet for the same reasons.
Securing edges and gaps – We used a co-sleeper crib at the side of the bed to stop Little Bug rolling out. Now he’s over six months, we have his cot bed up against our bed with the side off. In both cases, we tied to the cots to our bed with straps, to stop them moving apart from the bed. We have stuffed gaps at the top and bottom with blankets and pillows. We check and resecure the gaps regularly as mattresses and beds move and gaps can increase in size a lot over a short space of time.
I found that I ended up with a gap between the cot mattress and the mattress on our bed and stuffing it with blankets wasn’t secure enough. I bought foam pool noodles and put them down the side of the cot furthest away from my bed. This pushes the cot mattress up against my mattress and gets rid of the gap.
The photo below is Little Bug’s cot bed against our bed. We have had this set up for when he was older than six months. When he was six months and younger, we used the Snuzpod co-sleeper cot. The pool noodles are the yellow objects on the right.
Cot height – Our co-sleeper cot (that we used when Little Bug was less than six months) was lower than our bed, so we placed foam tiles under the cot to create a raised base for the cot to sit on. We double and triple checked that this was secure and the cot wouldn’t be unsteady on the tiles.
Changing sides to feed and sleep – After a few weeks, I learned how to feed Little Bug lying down, which helped me get more sleep as I could fall asleep once I’d latched him on. His cot was to my left, so it was easiest to feed him from the left breast. I could feed him from my right breast, by angling myself over him, but I got a sore hip from always lying on my left hand side. Plus I was worried that it wasn’t great for Little Bug’s neck and digestion to always be turned to the right when he fed.
I didn’t put Little Bug in the middle of the bed when he was younger as I was worried about my husband rolling on him or moving the duvet in his head. Instead, when I want to change to my other side, I’ll turn Little Bug around so his head is at feet end of the bed and then grab my pillows and swizzle round myself as well. It’s not ideal, because my feet often seem to end up not covered by the duvet, but for me it’s better than not being able to sleep because my hip is aching.
Baby monitor – In the UK, it is recommended that until your baby is six months old that they sleep in the same room as you at all times. Once Little Bug was old enough, I would leave him once he was asleep (if I could get him to sleep early enough and sneak away without waking him) and the baby monitor is really useful to make sure he is in a safe position.
I’m sure our set up will change as Little Bug gets older and becomes more mobile, but this is working pretty well for us at the moment.