Four in a Bed and Everywhere Else These Babies Sleep

Cosleeping is a unique thing. Kind of taboo in many conversations. Something not often discussed, but definitely a part of every day reality for a lot of families. It’s a part of parenting I never really thought about before becoming a mama. But now, it’s normal and something our family truly loves.

With two babies and three years of decent sleep (well, as decent as it gets between teething, nighttime nursing and kicks in the ribs) under our belts I thought I’d give the rundown of how things have progressed. In our case, we actually do a combo of cosleeping and bed sharing – that’s just what works for us in this season of parenting.

Recently, I’ve had a few questions about how things have logistically worked for us. Where Jemma started sleeping to where she is now. And how things transitioned when Max joined the fam. So, here’s how things have gone …
When Jemma was born I planned for her to sleep in our Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper. We had a crib too – for naps and such, but at night, the co-sleeper was on my side so she would always be close. Then, she was born and I was exhausted and she was nursing around the clock and often we’d just fall asleep next to one another. I moved her into the co-sleeper whenever I remembered, but noticed that her little hands would get so cold so I started keeping her in bed more and more. That’s when we became official bed-sharers and the co-sleeper just acted as a safety barrier.
When I became pregnant with Max we disassembled her crib and moved the mattress onto the floor next to my side of the bed. I wanted to begin transitioning her to a new sleep surface so we would have more flexibility once Max arrived. She became accustom to sleeping for about half the night on her own and then she’d stand, tap me and crawl into the big bed for snuggles. By the time I was huge, she started sleeping more and more on Dominic’s side. My goal was for her to not feel like the baby took her spot in bed. Hence, her own floor bed and getting extra snuggles with Daddy. Excuse the poor photos – I had to scroll through my archives hoping I had a decent representation of all the options we’ve set up over the years.

For Max’s arrival, we added the co-sleeper back to my side of the bed and Jemma’s floor mattress moved to Dominic’s side of the bed. Before Max was able to roll over on his own, when Jemma was still joining us in bed for part of the night, I would actually move to the guest bed with Max. This was the trickiest part of bed sharing with two little ones. It was really important to us that Jemma didn’t feel booted and potentially take out her feelings on her brother so Dominic and I had to each pull night duty for a few months while tending to both of our children’s night time needs. Jemma needed snuggles and Max needed nursing – hence our division of responsibilities.

When we moved into our new home I planned to use the move transition as a catalyst for a bed transition for Jemma. We moved her same crib mattress into her first room. We explained that at our new house she had a special space of her own and that is where her bed would go. She would fall asleep there and if she ever needed us, she could just walk around the corner to our room. For quite some time she slept pretty consistently in her own room for much longer than I ever expected. Sometimes the whole night through in her room and other times she would choose to join us somewhere between 1am and 6am. To this day we still haven’t figured out what wakes her and leads her to get up and join us.

Ever since summer hit she’s had a harder time falling asleep with it being light at her bedtime. She ask, “Where’s the moon and stars?” Some nights she wants extra water, other nights a specific stuffed animal or a snuggle. Occasionally, she just asks to go to “mama bed” and is always able to fall asleep there. Pretty much, we’re still in transition.

Max has been making his own transitions too. As an infant he spent most of his time in bed right next to me. Three cheers for easy nighttime nursing! If he napped independently I would lay him in the co-sleeper and until he was able to pull himself up he would also sleep in the co-sleeper after I nursed him to sleep for the night. Most nights he would sleep from 7-10pm or so before he’d wake and I’d bring him into bed with me for the rest of the night. Once he was able to pull himself up (and therefore flip out of the co-sleeper) he transitioned to spending his alone sleeping time in his crib. These days he goes to sleep between 7-8pm and doesn’t wake until somewhere between 11pm and 2am. At that point he comes into bed with me and nurses back to sleep for the rest of the night.

So, most days, by the wee hours, we’re four in a bed. Dominic primarily cares for Jemma’s night time needs and I take care of Max. This system allows us all to get the maximum amount of sleep. Which isn’t much, but at least we’re functioning :) By no means is this easy. What part of parenting falls into the “easy” category? The constant up and down of where everyone will settle for the night and in the end can be a bit overwhelming at the end of a long day. But. And this is the but that makes it all worth it … there is a peaceful sigh of contentment we get to experience every single night as they snuggle close. That makes it all worth it.

At some point in the next year I think Jemma and Max will transition together into the same room. We’ll see how much longer Max and I choose to nurse at night, I guess. I’d like to think we’d set up two cute twin beds, but in reality I’m thinking they may prefer to share a queen floor bed for a little while. They are definitely snugglers and may find it more comforting to sleep beside one another. We’ll see. Long term I’d love for them to have bunk beds, but obviously that’s a ways down the road.  

From what I’ve read cosleeping is whenever you sleep in the same room as your child, bed sharing is actually that – sharing  the same sleep surface. Three in a Bed is the best book I’ve read on the benefits of cosleeping and bed sharing. It goes into a lot of detail about the new phenomenon of cribs and why it’s not as normal as we’re led to believe. Across the globe sleep is viewed very differently than it is in America and both parents and babies can benefit from moving towards a more traditional/natural way of sleeping. 

Also, Dr. James McKenna has done an extensive amount of research on how cosleeping/bed sharing may reduce the risk of SIDS which is very interesting since popular media usually states the opposite. Dad’s fathering instinct kicks into higher gear when bed sharing too!

And, before anyone comments – when they’re tiny infants, before they can roll/wiggle/crawl, we have drastically less pillows and blankets in our sleep space. No blankets (we use sleep sacks) or stuffed animals in the co-sleeper or crib. In our actual family bed, Max (or when it was Jemma) has always been tucked in the crook of my arm for nursing. We’ve never had any rolling scares – when breastfeeding, mom’s hormones are very in tune to where baby is, their movement, sounds, everything. Mama and baby are in sleep sync when next to one another. We rarely drink alcohol and when we do it is not in excess or close to bedtime. (Hey there morning mimosas and afternoon cocktails!) Neither of us take prescription medication. In the case that Dominic has an extra beer near bedtime or takes a Benadryl for allergies – he sleeps elsewhere. Cosleeping is about what is best for your family to get a safe and good night sleep so making responsible choices is our biggest priority. 

Have questions about cosleeping or bedsharing? I’d be happy to go into more detail or write some specific posts on different topics if you’re interested! Just comment or shoot me an email – thatmamagretchen@gmail.com.
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Comments

  1. says

    We ended up cosleeping with our babes, which was NOT in our original parenting plans. It's so funny when real life happens how quickly our plans can change! Love your post. :)

  2. Ruthy T. says

    Wow! thanks for sharing…i find this so interesting! We didn't co sleep/bed share…I was terrified I would roll over on Parker–and I could never fully fall asleep. Parker is also the ANTI snuggler–she likes her space and freedom. The only time we wished we could all sleep together is when we travel…it makes things very difficult as any tiny noise seems to stir her so she needs her own room.

  3. says

    What a great post! We did a lot of bed sharing early on, almost by accident. Around six months, much to my dismay, Clementine transitioned out of our bed to hers naturally. We had several hard nights of fussy, and I noticed she was tossing and turning a lot. Once we moved her back to her bed, she slept more soundly. I miss night time snuggles, but Clementine is one for snuggles. She likes her space ;-)I think we will look at the cosleeper next time around. Clementine slept between us for a long time, but I slept so poorly because I was nervous about her getting an elbow to the face, or worse. I like the idea of having the cosleeper attached so she can sleep on my side of the bed with out worry of her rolling off. Love this post, I will likely share it in the future! Mary

  4. ThatMamaGretchen says

    It does make traveling easy, that's for sure! I keep thinking one of my kids will be the anti-snuggler, but not yet. Maybe #3?

  5. ThatMamaGretchen says

    Seriously! It's so funny to think back on what I imagined and then see how things reallyare!

  6. Bianca says

    Thanks for sharing, Gretchen! Stories about cosleeping with one seem to be easy to find, but cosleeping with two that are so close in age is harder. Glad that you 4 have found a balance.

  7. says

    wow, this is great! I hear so much negative about co sleeping when to me it seems the most natural thing in the world. I will totally be doing that with my babies, if I ever have one :)

  8. ThatMamaGretchen says

    It is totally natural, and really sweet :) I highly recommend that book, Three in a Bed, when/if you get to that point. Granted, it's important to take safety precautions, but sometimes it also works to just listen to our parenting gut. God gave it to us for a reason!

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