To co-sleep or not to co-sleep, that is the question
November 14, 2012 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Please describe your co-sleeping experiences

I have a just-turned-4-week old son and we're still trying to figure out this sleeping thing. When he was born all of the midwives and doctors strongly encouraged us against co-sleeping, saying it increased the chance of SIDS. This converged nicely with our goal of doing what we could to train him to be a good self-soother and sleep through the night as early as reasonably possible. He was a reasonably good sleeper at the beginning and we've been putting him in a crib since then.

Problem is, as he's gotten older it's been increasingly difficult to get him to go down and stay down, particularly after the middle of the night feeds (he is exclusively breastfed, if it matters). What once involved just getting him to drowsiness on me and plopping him in the crib now involves nearly an hour of standing near the crib, reassuring him that I'm there, swaddling him within an inch of his life, etc, etc. This has led to much less sleep for me, and frustration for all of us.

A few days ago he got a cold and was much more fussy than normal, so that none of the normal tricks worked. After a hideous day or two I finally said "To hell with it" and took him to bed with me at night (I am currently sleeping on a mattress in his room). It was really lovely -- what I have instinctually been wanting to do for a while, and clearly set well with him because he immediately slept through and aside from a few very easy midnight nursings, both of us got better sleep than we've had for a month. We co-slept last night too, with similar great results.

So now I'm strongly considering just going with co-sleeping. But my partner and I have some questions and concerns, and googling doesn't help much. All I find is fairly strong dogmatic rhetoric on either side of the equation. What would really be helpful is just hearing about people's actual experiences or getting some actual numbers. Specifically:

1. What is the actual SIDS risk either way? Especially if you take the recommended precautions (e.g., firm mattress, no duvet, don't get drunk, etc). I can find stuff about the precautions but no actual numbers about the SIDS risk either when they are taken, or when they aren't, or how it compares to crib sleeping.

1a. People who have co-slept, if you took any non-standard precautions that you think helped, what were they? If you didn't bother with some of them and it was fine, what were they?

2. Our biggest worry with co-sleeping, aside from SIDS, is that we'll end up with a kid who can't sleep unless one of us is there sleeping with him. In an ideal world I'd co-sleep with him till he's 3 to 6 months, but at the point where he can sleep through the night without nursing, it would be great if that sleeping occurred in his crib and I could go back to the bed I share with my partner. Is this at all realistic? Most of the co-sleepers I've heard about go until the kid is 1 or 2 years old which is a lot later than we would like. If you succeeded in accomplishing our goal, please let us know how! If you tried and failed to accomplish this, that is useful information too (as well as why you think it failed).

2a. Relatedly, we would like him to still be able to go down for naps without us laying down with him. I've already noticed that he's harder to get to stay down since I've started co-sleeping (we get him to sleep on one of us and then try to put him down by himself, but usually he wakes up again at that point). But it's hard to know what to make of a few days. Still, it's worrisome. Did you find that co-sleeping night affected napping during the day? Any tricks to prevent this difficulty?

3. Are we massively over thinking this and it doesn't really matter what you do at 4 weeks?

Mostly, I'm just looking for people's actual experiences, both good and bad, with co-sleeping. I am not interested in a debate about the abstract merits of either. I just want to have a sense of what we'd be getting into if we decided to co-sleep. Thanks!
posted by forza to Human Relations (47 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I hated co-sleeping; my daughter has never been a cuddler. When I did, I kept pillows and blankets away from her and our mattress is fairly firm.

That being said.

* Four weeks is not a place to be making decisions about sleep patterns. Your baby is probably hitting a growth spurt, and you're sleep deprived anyhow.

* I highly recommend the "Happiest Baby on the Block" book and/or DVD. Swaddle that kid within an inch of his life, turn on some white noise, and put him in a bassinet in your room, but not in the bed. The cosleeper bassinets are very nice, but we'd already sprung for the crib and pack and play, so we didn't get one.

Good luck!
posted by checkitnice at 5:09 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I co-slept with all three of my children. Most of the people I know also co-slept, so it is normal around here. None of my midwives or pediatricians ever discouraged it. I believe co-sleeping actually prevented a possible SIDs death in my son's case; I am an EXTREMELY light sleeper and a disruption in his breathing pattern made me wake up, notice that he did not take a breath (I place my hand on his chest) and roughly picked him up which shocked him into taking a deep breath and resume normal breathing.

I had a lot of trouble getting them out of the bed, but admittedly there were other stressors in our lives that made co-sleeping the best choice even after the infant stage.

I don't think co-sleeping has a bigger impact on the parental bond than other things parents do. As long as you are comfortable with what you choose and are acting in the child's best interest then it all comes out in the wash. I think because of the boob=fall asleep association that having the father put the baby to bed for naps and bedtime is easier if you want to avoid co-sleeping out of sheer exhaustion. Hang in there; this too will pass.
posted by saucysault at 5:16 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

My philosophy always was to do whatever let the highest number of people sleep the most number of hours. So it changed back and forth -- my kid was in my bed for the first few weeks, then in his crib, then a few months later back in the bed, and later on in the bed at night but crib for naps. You don't have to pick one hard and fast rule. Especially at this point -- do whatever helps you sleep the most.

I never agreed with the folks who felt changing between crib and bed "confuses" the baby. I think it teaches the baby to be able to sleep in different environments, which is a good skill for a baby to have.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:23 PM on November 14, 2012 [23 favorites]

I co-slept until 5.5 months. That's just how we've always done it in my culture, and when I reviewed the SIDS data, I concluded that many of the risk factors didn't apply to me (smoking, drinking, socioeconomic status, etc.) I did not take any other precautions, but also found that I was a light sleeper, and would wake up if she so much as smiled in her sleep.

Co-sleeping worked really well for us, until the 4 month sleep regression, at which point it just didn't, and then we moved the baby into a crib in our room and eventually into her own room (at around 7 months). This required sleep training, which was painful, but I honestly don't know what we could have done differently to avoid it.

The mechanism for naps is different than that for sleeping, so you can definitely use different techniques for each.

I do think that you are somewhat overthinking things -- at 4 weeks, you're still in triage mode, so do whatever needs to be done. Most babies don't start developing a discernible pattern until six weeks or so. Right now, the how of getting baby to sleep is probably less important than the when; eventually baby will start developing a schedule that will make this easier.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:23 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi, mom of an eleven-week old here, and we've been co-sleeping since day one.

The research I've done doesn't indicate any numbers of SIDS risks, either. The most reassuring thing I've read was an article that points out that saying "co-sleeping is dangerous" is alarmist and unnecessary, because SAFE co-sleeping is safe. News stories about infant deaths and co-sleeping often fail to discriminate between kinds of co-sleeping, like bed-sharing (safe) and sofa sleeping (not safe). The article also notes that "the highest rates of bedsharing worldwide occur alongside the lowest rates of infant mortality."

What we do:
- my husband has his own blanket, I share with the kiddo
- light blanket only, kept well away from his face
- swaddle swaddle swaddle
- bed guard thingy
- no pillows (other than mine), toys, or loose stuff

I will admit that it's hard to get him to sleep on his own, but he's still young enough that I'm not super concerned about that right now. When I need to I'll train him out of it, but for now I'm so tired that I'm happy to lie down any chance I get. Also, I really enjoy the cuddling and closeness and am conscious of the fact that he won't always want to snuggle this much!

I'd say go with your instincts. I personally believe that human infants are not meant to sleep alone, we're large primates after all, and I think there's a biological imperative fueling your desire to sleep with your baby.

On preview: yes, you tend to sleep more lightly, which is a good thing, and yes, do whatever gets you the most sleep, especially this early in the game.
posted by Specklet at 5:27 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

We co-slept with our eldest until he was 7 years old (!) and continue to co-sleep with our youngest who will turn 4 in March. Our eldest still sleeps in the same room as all of us. It's also a cultural thing - it's not at all unusual in Japan.

Besides the lack of privacy for the parents, the main drawbacks are kicking and throwing off the blankets, plus a tendency to pass on colds more easily. On the other hand, people generally remark at how calm and emotionally grounded our kids are, and I am somewhat doubtful about the whole "self-soothing" aspect of having younger kids sleep on their own.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:29 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

We coslept with parents in their own bed + baby in sidecar cosleeper until about 4 months, then baby moved to a crib beside our bed. At 6.5 months we Ferberized her into a crib in her own room (took about 1-2 days, as I remember). YMMV depending on what kind of sleeper you've got, but for us having baby sleeping space very near to, but not identical with, adult sleeping space was the winning combination. Not saying we never drifted to sleep together during midnight bfing, but I think on the whole everybody enjoyed having their own no-kicking, overlying-worry-free personal space.

With the room-sharing thing, it REALLY helped that we knew from the beginning that we were ok with sleep training to get her to transition to solo sleep in her own room. If you think you guys might be at all squeamish about that, then I can understand being concerned that he'll get "too used to it".
posted by Bardolph at 5:32 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cosleeping for the first four or five months is fine, but make sure you have a plan to get the baby out of your bed and sleeping independently before they get much older than 5 months. If you miss that window it just gets harder and harder to teach the baby how to sleep on its own.

I know whereof I speak. Mrs. Alms and I did not do this successfully. Our first child took three years (!) to sleep independently. Our second child is now about 20 months old and still wakes frequently in the night wanting to nurse and wanting to sleep with us. Out of a misguided effort to be nice to her we've ended up making her life (and our lives) much more difficult. She has cried very much more than she ever would have if we had sleep trained her properly when she was younger.
posted by alms at 6:00 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Father of an 11-month-old. Co-sleeping meant getting kicked in the balls throughout the night, plus waking every hour or so, convinced that we'd smothered our son. So we put him in a co-sleeper, and then moved him into his own crib at six months.
posted by waldo at 6:03 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

We cosleep with our 4 month old and use the Arms Reach Cosleeper to do so. It attaches to our bed and gives her her own sleeping space but puts her close enough to just roll over to her and breastfeed. Her having her own space makes kicking a nonissue.

She now only wakes up once or twice a night and our life has become so much better for it. She doesn't cry at night, she wakes up and rustles around which wakes me up and then I feed her and go back to bed. She uses a wearable blanket and we have our own blanket, so her kicking off a blanket isn't an issue either.

During the day she naps in her crib and right now we're at friends and she's sleeping in their office in a portable bed. She has no problem sleeping on her own, but admittedly sleeps much longer when she's with someone. If I lay down with her for a nap during the day we can easily take a two hour nap but when she naps alone it usually for about an hour. She's on a schedule right now of awake for two, down for one, its pretty awesome.

I totally recommend cosleeping, it's done wonders for our sleep, if you want to know more feel free to PM me.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:13 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Co-slept until 18 months or so, then room sharing until 2.75/3, and now she's in her own room. She slept through up to 6 months, hellish up-every-two-hours until 22 months, then back to sleeping through. We still sit in her room at night, but not for naps. If she does wake in the night one of us usually kips in her room from then (sometimes she is in her bed, sometimes she is in with us on the futon in her room). As long as we stick around as she goes to sleep she will sleep anywhere. Co-sleeping didn't change her sleep as much as she grew older, it just meant more sleep for us (because a crying two year old wakes you up no matter what).

As baby she slept between me and the cot we had set up sidecar, my partner on my other side. As she got older she slept more in the cot, sometimes between us. Our routine now is we do wash, teeth, stories then kisses and cuddles while singing a few songs, then she lays down and I read on my phone/ipad. As far as I can tell the major difference between us and the CIO crowd is that we're in there and there's no screaming/silently playing with toys. The kids sleep about the same, it's just where the parent is (the other families range from 'always in another room and CIO' to 'transitioned at 3 months') (all will claim CIO worked wonders but we spend enough time around each other to know that most of the kids are not 'going straight to sleep at 7 and sleeping all the way through').
posted by geek anachronism at 6:19 PM on November 14, 2012

We used an Arm's Reach co-sleeper for the first 5 months or so with both kids. Once they could get real mobile we moved them into their own cribs.

I think co-sleeping is great but I also think its just plain smart to reduce the risks associated with co-sleeping by giving the child it's own space. You're sleep deprived and thus more likely to sleep so deeply that you lose awareness of your surroundings. Alternately, you may be so concerned about smothering your babe that you're not able to get good restorative sleep.

Either way, 4 weeks is way too young to be worried about any sort of sleep training or damage to the babe's ability to sleep.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:29 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is how we handled sleep with all of my babies, who were all (except for one) pretty good sleepers on the whole - slept through the night early (by which I mean for, say, a 6 to 8 hour stretch, without nursing or only nursing briefly once), good solid nappers, not too fussy except when sick or teething, and learned how to self-soothe fairly early on (we did not use pacifiers or bottles). Here is a previous answer I wrote about co-sleeping.

They had their own little bed (bassinet at first, later a playpen) in our room for most of the first year. They slept in their bed some of the time, and with us in our bed some of the time. If the bed felt too crowded one or the other of us might sleep on the couch, but most of the time we did just fine with all three of us in the bed together - we have a queen-sized bed. Once the baby was in their own room (around 10 months or so) we'd have a bed in there in case my husband had to go in and settle them down, but he'd only be there for part of the night. I would not have enjoyed sleeping apart from my husband on a regular basis, nor he from me. Neither would I have liked to have the baby always in our bed. We co-slept flexibly - it doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing deal!

I like having infants in the room with us because I sleep better with them close by; I'm always halfway vigilant about the baby being okay, so I just feel better having them near where I can check their breathing if I startle awake. I did not mind co-sleeping for most of the first year - we made sure to have less pillows in the bed, keep the pillows away from the baby, separate blankets for each of us - the usual common-sense precautions.

At first we let them sleep however they managed to get to sleep; they would fall asleep nursing or from laying on our chests and being patted on the back (my husband did a good deal of this putting-baby-to-sleep work from the beginning as well, so the baby got used to something other than Mommy/nursing to get to sleep). Then we'd lay them down in their little bed or in the middle of a blanket on the floor or in the middle of the bed (with pillows around them - none of mine rolled early, and we have a low bed) - we did this for most naps or at the start of the night stretch. If we wanted a nap ourselves, or if in the middle of the night the baby woke up to nurse, we'd fall asleep with them on our chests, or lay them down next to us on the bed and sleep that way.

As they got older (say, 3 or 4 months old) they'd have more predictable naptimes - and I would deliberately not nurse all the way to sleep, or have my husband pick them up and put them to bed, so that they would get used to putting themselves to sleep more (and not rely on nursing to sleep). We also established a bedtime routine - having a bath, jammies, board books, nursing/patting, at around the same time each night. We put them to sleep in their own bed, and then if they wake up in the night, my husband would get them and bring them to me, and they might go back into their bed if either of us are awake enough to bother, or they'll co-sleep if not.

Eventually, once they understand there's a routine signalling "naptime/sleeptime", we start patting them down to sleep but putting them down a little bit awake still, so they have to go to sleep themselves. If they cry a couple minutes it's no big deal - some of mine had to do it to let off steam - if they keep crying we go pick them up and soothe them, but we're trying to get them used to the idea of doing it themselves.

Finally once they're well into eating solid food (8 or 9 months) and it starts becoming annoying to co-sleep (they want to nurse more often in the night, or they're restless in the bed and waking us up), I start weaning them off nighttime nursing... I'll give them a bigger dinner, not nurse for a few hours, then the "top up" nursing at the end of the night is a long one. My husband will put them to bed in their own room, and if they wake up, he'll soothe them to sleep - not me - because if it's me, they'll want to nurse. Pretty quickly they get the idea, and stop waking up. This way they're not "crying it out". We continue to nurse in the daytime until they're over a year old.

The thing is with babies, in my experience, is during that first year as soon as they get kind of predictable they'll shake it all up on you again - go from three naps to two to one, or begin teething, or learn something new (sitting up, crawling - whenever mine learned something new physically, it unsettled them sleep-wise for a few days) - and every time it happens, the routine you're just starting to get used to will change; you have to adjust. So you have to be flexible, not get too caught up that you're "backsliding" or the baby's forgotten how to sleep properly, or anything like that.

Anyway, overall my philosophy is: at first you do whatever it takes for everyone to get a decent amount of sleep; then you start giving the baby the idea that they need to take care of it on their own; then you get more insistent that they do so. It's a process! But you don't have to worry about
posted by flex at 6:35 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Cosleeping for the first four or five months is fine, but make sure you have a plan to get the baby out of your bed and sleeping independently before they get much older than 5 months.

Seconding this, hard - I'm getting ready to go sleep in our guest room (again) tonight, because my 19 month old is fighting tooth and nail to keep co-sleeping. As I type this, he's in my spot in our bed, with his head on my pillow.

If anything, co-sleeping was too easy - it's getting them to sleep on their own that demands some serious thought and planning.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:52 PM on November 14, 2012

We have a 15 month old. We've been cosleeping since birth, first we had a sidecarred crib, then just a King-sized mattress on the floor as a family bed. We obeyed all the safety tips Dr Sears gives on his page (Safe co-sleeping habits). I'm firmly convinced that if you take these precautions, cosleeping is as safe, or safer, than not.
I was also planning to transfer babytoad to her own bed or even the nursery after a few months. She had (and still has) other ideas. I now don't expect her to sleep alone until she's at least 3. Why I'm OK with this: Turns out, sleeping with a baby or toddler is the sweetest, sweetest thing. Waking up not to a crying child but a little warm soft something, giggling and kissing your face. They talk about kids sleeping in your bed until 3 as if it were a bad thing. I don't get it. I will be sad the day our daughter moves out. It's the most cuddly, comfy, sensual experience you'll ever have as a family. Cherish it, if you can get sleep that way (some kids are bad cosleepers because they kick and squirm, we've been lucky in that regard). And yes, I think you're overthinking. Do what feels good to you. I highly doubt you'll look back in 20 years and say 'Whew, I wish I hadn't spent so much time cuddling with my baby!'.
posted by The Toad at 6:57 PM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

When our baby was born, we had him sleep in an Arms Reach Cosleeper pushed up against our bed, and I would bring him to our bed to nurse. I did this for a week or two, but I had a c-section so lifting him in and out of the co-sleeper crib was more difficult than it should have been, and I'd sometimes forget to put him back in there after he nursed anyway.

I soon found (like you have) that the bedsharing type of cosleeping worked the best for us. I didn't have to do awkward twisting motions to get him in and out of the crib, and I could half-sleep through feedings.

We coslept full-time until he was 10 months old, at which point we bought him a real crib. He was going through a phase where we would wake each other up and once he was half-awake, his brain would think it was because he wanted to nurse (rather than the fact that I'd just jostled him by turning myself over) so he was nursing every hour and a half all night. I really liked co-sleeping, but not enough to suffer through that many wakeups.

Once we got the crib, I'd put him in there at bedtime and then bring him into our bed when he woke up to nurse for the first time. (Crib was in our room.) I'd try to put him back in the crib if I was awake enough to remember to do so, but that was spotty for a while. He finally slept through the night at 15 months, which equaled nightweaning for us.

I didn't find that cosleeping affected naptimes at all - he seemed to recognize that he slept alone at naptime and with us at bedtime.

All that to say, yes, do what gets you all the most sleep. There are arguments that cosleeping actually helps prevent SIDS because the mother's body helps regulate baby's temperature and breathing (can't remember where I read that though - maybe Dr. Sears' website?). I loved cosleeping and found it way easier than the alternative - especially if you're breastfeeding and learn how to nurse side-lying.
posted by meggan at 7:00 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I want to Nth Bardolph, Flex and a few others that, whatever you decide to do:

a) If you're doing it before 5-6 months, it's totally not habit-forming, and "training" them to do anything prior to that - at least for us and our baby - was totally a lost cause.

b) it doesn't have to be all or nothing; at around the two month mark, I guess, when sleep deprivation was really kicking our arses, co-sleeping happened quite a bit. We never had trouble switching back to cot for our baby.

c) If you're gonna do it, do it right. Happiest Baby on the Block dude is a paediatrician, and has no problem with co-sleeping, and gives a lot of tips about making it safe (though he, too, warns that it will be much harder to break the habit >6 months than before).
posted by smoke at 7:02 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Arm's Reach co-sleeper mini worked GREAT until son outgrew it and we went to the larger model, which proved disastrous because the little man refused the deeper crib-like setting he was placed in.

For his safety and our sanity, he instead moved into a "cuddle nest" between us, and there he remained. At 19 months old, he's just now moving into a toddler bed pretty successfully. He's obsessed with Thomas the Train. Guess what? His bed is FULL ON all about Thomas. This has eased the transition immeasurably.

Bardolph and others are correct - have a plan about sleep training for about the 4 month old mark and stick to your plan.

We got into trouble because my husband, as the youngest in his family, did not grow up around younger children and he had zero idea about how babies behave. He did not have the stomach for sleep training.

At first, co-sleeping is a lifesaver. It quickly turns into a pain in the ass if the babe can't sleep or nap without being next to you - so yes - variety helps!

Whatever you do, don't miss that 4 to 5 month old window when you transition them to a proper crib with tall sides, in your room, or preferably into their own room.

I think I'm still angry with my husband over not doing this correctly 15 months ago. No kidding.
posted by jbenben at 7:03 PM on November 14, 2012

We coslept with my son until he was a bit over two, and he had no problems moving into his own bed at that point. He had a new baby sister and he grew up a lot when she was born, so he was thrilled to be a big boy with his own bed. This also coincided when he could stay dry overnight, because nothing sucks more than a toddler waking you for a diaper change if you're in another room. And sleep training him would not have worked, given his personality and propensity for escalating his crying. But what did work was waiting until he was ready, and we had zero problems, zero nights of crying, and a really easy going bedtime routine. My husband and I were able to maximize our sleep.

My daughter is 14 months now and we still cosleep with her. We probably could have moved her into a crib at 6 months or so, but we live in a small apartment and quite frankly didn't feel like putting in the effort. She's a much better sleeper than my son, so once she night weans some (since I work, we pretty much only have overnight for her to nurse as much as she wants and I'm happy to oblige /our mutual desire for this) she'll probably be happy to move into her own bed as well.
posted by zizzle at 7:49 PM on November 14, 2012

All that to say, yes, do what gets you all the most sleep. There are arguments that cosleeping actually helps prevent SIDS because the mother's body helps regulate baby's temperature and breathing (can't remember where I read that though - maybe Dr. Sears' website?).

I think Sears mentioned something about the fact that C02 from the mother triggers a sleep pattern in the breastfeeding baby.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:59 PM on November 14, 2012

My son will be three months old next week (ack! how did that happen so fast?) and like lots of folks in this thread, I have an Arms Reach co-sleeper next to the bed, but he pretty much never actually sleeps there, and is in the bed with me. His pediatrician is fine with this, though my dad, who is also a pediatrician, thinks we'd be better off using the co-sleeper more.

At four months, I'm planning to transition him to a crib, and to do some sleep training. It will be harder for me to give it up than for him, I think. It's really sweet to be close with them when they're tiny.
posted by judith at 8:12 PM on November 14, 2012

My ten-month-old now sleeps in her own room after co-sleeping and room-sharing with us. We did not set out to co-sleep, as I was worried about the difficulty of transition, but we had planned on her being in our room with us for the first few months. It turned out that during the first few weeks she was not able to sleep anywhere but on my chest. Then I was able to move her from my chest to the space between my husband and I on the bed. We used minimal pillows, separate blankets, no smoking/drinking, she was firmly swaddled, all the safety precautions. For daytime naps, we used one of those babywearing pouches or a bassinet. That lasted three or four months, I believe.

Then she started wiggling and moving enough to disturb our sleep. We transitioned her to a sidecar-style co-sleeper. That was good for a couple of more months, but she and I started waking each other up more. The sidecar was on my side of the bed, which is terribly convenient for nighttime nursing and checking on the baby, but made it too easy for me to wake up with each one of her movements. She also got too big for her sidecar to be safe. Her room wasn't ready yet, so we set up the crib in our room. We delayed setting up her own room (it had been our office) and we didn't get her in there until she was 8 months old. The big transition wasn't a great experience, but it wasn't horrible, either. What made it bad was not that she was in her own room, but that I hadn't yet noticed that she was ready to fall asleep on her own, rather than falling directly asleep on me. Frankly, I think she sleeps better on her own than she did the last month in the room with us.

We absolutely enjoyed co-sleeping as a family - it was a very sweet experience. We occasionally have naps together. (She naps fine on her own, too.)

But ... I will say ... co-sleeping dampened our intimacy as a couple. Obviously not the highest priority with a newborn in the house, but I'm curious how other couples handled it. The only times my husband and I could, uh, lay together in the biblical sense is if she was napping in her living room bassinet. But she got too wiggly for that pretty quickly, but then we didn't have her room setup for a while, and intimacy was in some uncomfortable positions/rooms for a while there. It's been really, really nice to have our bed to ourselves again on our schedule! (I wonder how many months we have until she figures out how to get out of her crib and back into our room.)

It's important to pay attention to the needs of the baby you have. Those needs will change. Be attentive and flexible.
posted by stowaway at 8:12 PM on November 14, 2012

at 4 weeks, he's nowhere near ready to sleep through the night or get into a consistent sleep routine

I used a co-sleeper, which worked well for us. My son was done with it around 8 weeks (before I was ready for him to be done!) and I moved him to his crib. My daughter stayed in it until 3 months, and then moved to her own room and started magically sleeping through the night. The co-sleeper felt much safer to me than having the baby in bed, and I liked having the babies near me when they were newborns.

I didn't cosleep with my son more than a few times, mostly on off nights when he was sick. My daughter was another story - she slept through the night at 3 months, which was wonderful. And then she stopped sleeping through the night around 8 months, which about killed me. So we did some co-sleeping, but it was more for survival than anything else.

With both kids, we started a bedtime routine at around 12 weeks - bath, reading, etc. - and put them down in their bed. When they were really little they got nursed down, but as they got older I worked on getting them both down without that (starting with naps). In my experience it was more of a continuum, not an either-or thing. And it was different for each kid.

Personally I didn't love co-sleeping, but the extra snuggling and easier nursing were nice because I was working. There are some things you can do to make cosleeping safer, but newborns are so very small, I would hesitate to do so. Have you looked at cosleepers? Or bassinets? Anything that gives the baby a safe spot to sleep within easy reach of your side of the bed would be my recommendation.
posted by hms71 at 8:13 PM on November 14, 2012

We coslept with both of ours until they stopped breastfeeding (about 2 yrs old for #1, 3.5 for # 2). It was the only thing that saved our sanity when they were little bundles of need and eat. Getting them to their own beds was easy once the all night milk bar shut down. Before that it was impossible. By the time #2 left the bed I was more than tired of being kicked in the gut every night for 5+ years.

Our precautions were the basics, no booze, drugs or meds. Light blankets, no pillows when they were tiny. Baby slept between us or on the nursing mom side, depending. We tried sidecarring the crib at one point. That was a total failure. Naps without us were tough for #1, fine for #2. As you know with babies it's pretty much guaranteed that YMWV.

They do grow up and sleep in their own beds eventually. Thank god.
posted by Cuke at 8:16 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

We cosleep with our 20-month-old. The exact specifics have changed over time, but he's always slept in bed with one parent or the other. We like it fine; I think we'd like it fine the other way, too. I wish we'd taken advantage of the time when he was around six months old that I think he would have been most receptive to sleep training, but we were traveling and it just didn't make sense. We've tried it since, with poor results.

When he was little little, he did all his napping in a sling or other baby carrier. When he was about six months old, we transitioned him to napping on his own, which has gone fine since then. He sleeps in a bed on the floor. This is also where he first goes to sleep at night -- in his bed. Now that he's night weaned, when he wakes in the night, he gets pulled into bed with Papa. Generally he sleeps there (with greater or fewer interruptions depending on what's going on in his little brain and his little life) until 5:30 or 6 when he comes over to Mama for milk and snuggles. (We have a full and a queen-sized bed right up next to each other -- my partner and I like our space, and it meant that when we were night-weaning, Toddler couldn't easily get to the boobs in the middle of the night.)

We are sloooowly transitioning him to his own bed for the whole night, but it's taking a long time. Our house doesn't have a bedroom available for him right now, and when it does, we'll start that work in earnest.

At four weeks, yeah, get sleep the best way you can, whether that involves cosleeping or not. I have a really vivid memory that must have been around when my son was three weeks old of trying like hell to get him to sleep in the damned cosleeper. I think I spent an hour rocking him to sleep, setting him down, having him wake up screaming and starting over. I wish I'd known that it just wasn't worth it at that age.
posted by linettasky at 8:19 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My oldest slept with me for quite a long time. My youngest wanted his own bed from the beginning, "thank you very much mom but please get lost". Breastfeeding at night was very convenient with my oldest sleeping with me. And he nursed until he was nearly two. My youngest is lactose intolerant and rejected the breast at ten days of age, so I was making bottles in the middle of the night anyway. Thus it wouldn't have been more convenient to have him sleeping with me in that regard.

My two sons went a long way towards convincing me that every kid is different and you should do what works best for that particular child.

YMMV (seems super redundant after that last sentence though).
posted by Michele in California at 8:25 PM on November 14, 2012

Do you drink? Do drugs? Have a violent temper? Don't co-sleep. I think most "co-sleeping deaths" have something to do with one or all of those things. A normal sober adult is not going to hurt their child while sleeping, or accidentally roll on top of him or her. I think co-sleeping is great for babies, and really facilitates attachment, and has been the norm throughout most of history, until recent ages.. My sister has co-slept with my nephew since he was born, and they have a great bond. I've slept with him too, no problem. He also has no problem sleeping alone in his crib during the day, (he doesn't love it, but what baby does?) and is not overly needy or clingy in general.
posted by catatethebird at 9:26 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

After my son got past the eat-every-two-hours newborn stage he slept with his dad alone on a mattress on the floor with no blankets, which felt very safe, but who knows. He pretty easily transitioned to a crib from that. I wouldn't cosleep much past 5-6 months if you don't want it to be a habit. Most people I know with cosleeping toddlers are miserable about it, or their spouses are miserable about it, and everyone is getting crap sleep but they think it's normal/natural to be up multiple times a night breastfeeding a 14 month old. It's not necessary at that point, it's a habit. So basically, I think your plan sound sound, it is doable, and good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:28 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wanted to do it. Kid hated it. Put crib next to bed, then his own room, then his own bed.

At which point he suddenly got super attached and wouldn't sleep alone so we compromised by letting him sleep on our floor next to bed till he got tired of that. He seldom does that nymore at seven.

Do what works. Try as many things as you need to. We knew we would not be able to do the scream it out system at any age so we didn't.

But at four weeks, do what works and tell the ret of the world to faff off. in fact, do that till he reaches adulthood.
posted by emjaybee at 9:34 PM on November 14, 2012

We're another household with a 4 month old and an Arm's Reach sidecar. Two thirds of the night he sleeps in the sidecar, and when he wakes for a feed/gets too distressed, I pull him into bed and all is well once more. Waking up to a happy, well rested baby is one of the greatest joys of parenting. Even if he smells like pee.

I'm firmly pro-co-sleeping - since 8 weeks old it's been hard enough to get my child to nap consistently through the day, and if I'd added sleep deprivation from having to pick him in and out of a separate crib all night, I would have gone insane by now. Thanks to following my instincts, I have had exactly three terrible nights of no sleep since July 14th. IMO if you take the proper precautions - no excess pillows/blankets, no alcohol/medicated sleep - it's no more dangerous than leaving a baby by themselves in a separate room. SIDS is a real life concern for me, as I have a cousin that died from it back in the 80s, and while many aspects of my child sleeping are something I'm careful with, the fact that he sleeps close to me is the least concern. I always wake up when he needs me. If I was a heavy sleeper, perhaps I'd feel different, but my body seems to know exactly what it's doing, and I'm guessing yours does too.

With a 4 week old, I would say you should be doing what gets you through the night. Cast one eye to the future you want (me, I don't mind the idea of sharing a bed for over a year, but I *do* practice getting him to sleep separately because it helps during the day), heed your child's needs and practice good habits/routines. You'll be fine. We all get there in the end.
posted by saturnine at 9:54 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

My oldest daughter co-slept with us all night until she was about ten months old, then went into a crib in our room-sometimes starting out in the parental bed. We had a one bedroom house and there was no alternative. I usually kept her on my side with a rail on the bed, but sometimes she would nest between her dad and me.We each had our own covers. There was never any problem with nap times and she could self soothe fine. Partially it was laziness so that I could nurse easier, but I really loved feeling her next to me.
My second daughter slept with us for about 6 months before going in a crib in our room. Her older sister had her own room by then, but often ended up with us. By the time the youngest was 2 they were both in their own shared room.
They are 22 and 18 now, were each nursed long term (3 and 4 years) and are very independent healthy young women . I really think you should just do what is comfortable for you and enjoy your little one.
posted by Isadorady at 11:42 PM on November 14, 2012

Until 6 months, my son started his night in the bassinet attachment on the pack n play at the end of our bed. At some point during the night, he'd end up in the bed with us. One pillow per parent, separate blankets for each, and the baby stayed on the outside of the bed next to me. We bought a king sized bed when he was 3 months because we were getting crowded in our queen sized bed as he got bigger. After 6 months, he stayed in the bed with us all night because he wouldn't stay swaddled anymore and would wake up if we tried to move him without it.

When he learned to walk at 16 months and I felt he could get in and out of his toddler bed well, we moved him over to the toddler bed sometime that month. I'd still have to lay down and nurse him to sleep and sneak out. He would wake up halfway through the night and come climb in our bed.

He has just turned 2 and this week has decided he will go to sleep without nursing, but only in our bed, so I lay with him til he falls asleep, then move him to his bed after a few minutes. He still comes into our bed halfway through the night, but that has been exacerbated by a cold he's had for a couple weeks that causes him to wake up coughing sometimes.

Some kids are easy sleepers. Mine was not. We did what needed to happen so we all got a reasonable amount of sleep.
posted by chiababe at 5:45 AM on November 15, 2012

I haven't read the other posts yet, because I have a ten week old on top of me and a few minutes of quiet. Excuse any typos and the lack of a hyphen in cosleep..

I feel pretty strongly that mothers are programmed to sleep with their babies, and that modern things like soft bedding, alcohol, and obesity are what cause issues in modern day co-sleeping. This wasn't an idea I'd had before giving birth, but it was something that became pretty obvious to me fairly quickly. my youngest sister passed from SIDS in the early eighties, so I am not one to disregard safety advice regarding these types of things and it was not an easy decision for me. My baby was the 'sleep on people' type for the first few weeks.

We ended up cosleeping for a few weeks, from three weeks until about seven weeks. I didnt like a lot of the cosleeping products, especially the one with the bumpers along the sides and top. I felt they had limited ventilation, and it was too easy for the baby to roll against the sides without you knowing. So we used nothing. I followed the Dr. sears website guidelines. What was different (or not mentioned) was that I slept with her swaddled, right up against me and tilted slightly out (no blankets near her). This made her less able to roll in towards me, and in turn, I was extra aware of any movement she did make. I also wore very tight shirts over my nursing bra, so there was no loose fabric. Because she was swaddled well, the only thing she could move was her head. I should mention here that she was born with the ability to turn and lift her head, and had good control very early on.

This worked almost too well, because I woke up with every little movement or grunt she made, and eventually it became obvious that we needed our separate space. She had also started to sleep independently during the day, and i was running enough of a sleep deficit by then that i started to feel safer with her on her own a little more (cosleeping was not restful for me at all, even though i got more sleep). At seven weeks, I started sleeping with her for the first long sleep, and then I'd stick her in the rock n play for any subsequent sleeps. After one week she was in there full time (and i highly recommend the rock n play, it keeps them upright and a little snuggled). I still won't sleep without her near me, and won't even consider it anytime soon... Perhaps when she's done with her swaddle. Do I think this would work or be safe for everyone? Not at all. But it worked for us until she got past the point of needing to sleep next to someone at all times.
posted by smalls at 6:18 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm laughing. My girlfriend's family all sleep together in a king sized bed. Her daughter is 12.

They also have a bunch of cats.

That is one crowded bed.

It's awesome when they come to visit. I put them in the king-bed and I go into the guest room.

I'm sort of the opposite. I have a bed, husbunny has his bed, in his room.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:50 AM on November 15, 2012

I think it's important to know that sleep improvements are not a linear thing for lots of kids. They don't sleep for longer and longer periods at night until they're sleeping through the night always and forever. A 4 week old is likely in the middle of a growth spurt which disrupts sleeps. Sleep can also be disrupted by sickness, change in the seasons, and developmental leaps like crawling and walking.
posted by chiababe at 6:58 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I should mention that when I coslept, there were a few times when I woke up with the baby under a blanket or in a dangerous position. One of the contraindications to cosleeping is fatigue. Welcome to early parenthood.

I think, despite people trying to peg it as safe or unsafe, that it is, like so many other parenting decisions, a trade-off. Surely the safest thing would be to have the baby in some sort of mesh bed being constantly monitored by a trained physician or three, but that's not reality. Nor is it reality that maternal instincts will necessarily keep the baby safe no matter what so it's fine to have 3 heavy comforters, a bunch of pillows and 4 other kids in bed with you. Of course if the alternative is suicidal post-partum depression...well...that's not looking all that bad anymore.

You have to decide what makes sense to you. There's no pro- or con- that makes sense as a general declaration for everyone.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:02 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used an Arms reach co-sleeper for a while, but once he woke up and knew I was in the bed, he wouldn't settle in there anymore. So I bought a cheap toddler bed rail and stuck it on the side of the bed - one with a big mesh panel. I put my son swaddled next to me, between me and the rail. I positioned my son below the pillows, with my arm above his head too. Blankets went only to waist-high for me, so they were well away from my son. I wore nursing pajamas to bed so we could easily nurse in the middle of the night. I slept way better than with my first son (who was a great sleeper, but slept in a crib in a different room). Lighter sleep, but longer and only awakened for a few minutes at a time, and didn't fully awaken. No drink, drugs or alcohol either.

Short-term, co-sleeping will get you more sleep.
Medium-term, you will have to transition your son to a separate bed some time, but that's a price that gets paid no matter how you set up your sleeping arrangements. Every parent has to deal with sleep disruptions and bedtime drama, and personally I think that's more appropriate when the baby is older (at least 6 months, ideally a year).
Long-term, you will look back and be glad of that closeness and the lovely experience of co-sleeping with your baby, and not worry about the transitions you had to make.
posted by Joh at 7:20 AM on November 15, 2012

Co-sleeping works for some, but in my experience it was terrible. We were basically being kicked and woken up much more throughout the night. We determined that we were more effective parents by waking up with marginally better sleep.
posted by dgran at 7:40 AM on November 15, 2012

I gave up on the arm's reach and started co-sleeping with my son when he was about a month old. instant relief. i would swaddle him, latch him, and then go to sleep, only waking up a few times each night to briefly switch sides. i am a much better mom/person when i've had enough sleep. i think swaddling is key, though - none of this kicking thing i'm seeing a lot happened to me.

i sleep-trained him at around five or six months. we did CIO - it was no fun, for two or three nights. and then he slept through the night like a champ, and still does. i highly recommend it, as long as you do it safely - no giant blankets, etc. i wasn't a big fan of sleeping on my side, but that was still better than no sleep.
posted by woodvine at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2012

We coslept for the first year. For the first 6 months, baby and I slept in a queen-size bed and dad slept elsewhere, and from 6-12 months (after he fell off the bed one night, when we were just hanging out, not sleeping, but he had just learned to roll) we all slept on a king-size mattress placed directly on the floor. No other special precautions; I used blankets (the light vellux type), just made sure they didn't cover his face. He was a winter baby, so especially for the first few months it made sense to keep him warm by having him under the blankets with me.

Baby nursed to sleep every night, and nursed during the night, for the entire first year. I don't think he knew how to fall asleep at night without nursing. During the day, dad would rock him or hold him and they would nap together.

A couple weeks after he turned one, we moved him to a crib next to our bed. It just took one night for him to learn to sleep on his own. If you want more detail about our experience, look in my posting history.

He is an excellent sleeper and has been from the second night after we moved him to his own crib (he's almost 2 now). He goes to sleep babbling happily to himself and sleeps all night long without waking us up.

Looking back, I think I probably got more sleep by cosleeping than I would have otherwise for the first 4 months or so when he needed to nurse a lot, but after that, my sleep was really broken and I wasn't all that comfortable but I didn't realize it because it had become the new normal. I did try to move him to his own crib at around 8 months and it didn't work, so for mine at least I don't think he was ready until somewhere between 8-12 months to sleep on his own. It was SO NICE when I moved him out of my bed; I think we both slept better after that.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:26 AM on November 15, 2012

My experience is exactly like Meggan's above (co-sleeper to co-sleeping to crib). We transitioned my son into the crib around 4 months and he did fine after a few rough nights. I still bring him into our bed for his second night feeding - usually around 4 or 5am and he stays there until I get up for the day.

Once the baby was past that tiny, helpless newborn stage (around 6 weeks), I had no concerns about having him in the bed with us. We are healthy, careful, normal-sized human beings and I never once worried about the baby suffocating or me rolling on top of him. Now that he's bigger and rolling over, my only fear is him rolling off the bed.
posted by jrichards at 10:38 AM on November 15, 2012

I presume the only animals that don't co-sleep are (many) modern humans. I think it's very natural to co-sleep and you should let your instincts guide you.
posted by Dansaman at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2012

We have a 3 year old that still cosleeps. Basically echoing what other people have said it's easy and as long as you don't drink or do drugs or put too many blankets over the kid extremely safe.

Yeah it can be a bit like sleeping with a bag of antlers at times when little feet get pushed into the small of your back but it's really not that bad for the most part. Yeah you sometimes get accidents if they are potty trained but that's what mattress protectors are for.

Plus if you are breastfeeding it's way way more simple than having to wander down the hall to feed an infant. Just establish a latch and you are good to go.
posted by vuron at 1:23 PM on November 15, 2012

Wow, thank you to everyone -- all of these different experiences really help flesh out the space of what co-sleeping is like and what might happen with us. I'm getting the clear message that everyone is different and that we should feel free to do what works for us, especially at his age. And if we do co-sleep now (which we probably will), we should try to take advantage of that 4-6 month window to train him back into his own bed. And that as long as we take suitable precautions, cosleeping is probably reasonably safe.

I realise I am prone to overthinking these kind of things; as a result, it's awesome to have this wealth of actual experiences to give me something to think about rather than just spinning my wheels. If anyone has anything else to share I will still be reading the thread, but what is here is super useful.
posted by forza at 3:53 PM on November 15, 2012

I'm answer 2. and 2a. We only co-slept for the first eight weeks- I couldn't handle all the noises, so I slept in another room while my husband co-slept. We didn't co-sleep after that, and our daughter slept through the night at 3.5 months. Our second daughter never co-slept and slept 12 hours/ night at 2.5 months.
Everyone we know who has co-slept longer than the first few months has had problems transitioning their children into their own rooms. Many people I know still have 5 or 6 year olds in their beds. If that's okay with you, go for it... but I don't think it's healthy for either parent or child.
posted by percor at 5:22 PM on November 15, 2012

Don't stress too hard about that 4-6 month window. My daughter slept with us for about 18 months, and then transitioned to her own bed. We had a few nights of tears, but then all was well. And I feel that it was easier on us to make that transition at 18 months (when we could talk about what was happening and why) than at 6 months (when we couldn't). One to two years SOUNDS like forever, but it's really just a season.

She's 9 now. She sleeps on her own and has for years. Every night I spend a little time with her before bed having "snuggles." We lay down together, sometimes talking, sometimes just resting quietly. It usually takes about 5-15 minutes, and she almost never falls asleep during that time. She insists on it; it makes her feel safe and loved at the end of the day. I think this is a direct result of cosleeping - a lovely one.

I want to share another experience - one I had long before my daughter was born. My husband and I adoped a pair of kittens, and the first night we had them the mewed and cried. We put them at the foot of our bed, but they intrepidly climbed up the covers and situated themselves between us near the head of the bed. In the middle of the night, I woke suddenly to find my husband about to roll over onto the kittens. I swept them toward me and went back to sleep.

That experience gave me total confidence in my ability to successfully cosleep - I knew I would be aware of the baby and her situation. And I always was. And my husband never almost rolled over on her.
posted by jeoc at 5:41 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

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