Motherhood

What Safe Co-Sleeping Looks Like

Well, at least for us.

Its been quite the process for us to finally figure out something truly safe once Penelope became mobile. When she was a tiny baby, and couldn’t move, we never thought twice about leaving her in our bed alone to nap.

When she started rolling over, I made a wall of pillows on one edge of the bed. I tucked pillows along the entire side of the bed under a fitted sheet. And that worked for awhile.

Then when she first started crawling, I thought the wall of pillows would be enough of a barrier to keep her from crawling off the bed, since she always made noise when she wakes up and I come in the room before she is fully awake.

But all it takes is one time.

And one time when she was about 7 months old, she woke up and didn’t make a peep and crawled right off the damn bed and fell, oh, about 3 feet to the floor. She cried hysterically for about a minute, but she was totally fine. She crawled off the side that didn’t have pillows- I had only done one wall of pillows because when I am in bed with her, I am the “wall” to the other side. It hadn’t occurred to me that she would ever wake up without a peep and crawl way over to the other side of our king size bed and keep going.

Parenting Fail #1.

So then I thought, well I just need to do a wall on the other side, problem solved.

Then she woke up again, without a peep and crawled OVER the wall. This time hitting her head on the side of the bed on the way down, giving her a deep blue/green bruise on her cheek.

Parenting Fail #2.

After that we took the bed apart and put the mattress on the floor. At the time our house was on the market and I needed to keep the house show ready at all times, so we left the box spring underneath to make the bed look not so much like it was a mattress on the floor. So with the box spring and the mattress, the height of the bed this way, was about a foot and half. Then I lined the floor surrounding the perimeter of the mattress with pillows, so in case she crawled off she fell onto a pillow.

Then she crawled off the bed and hit the floor and managed to miss the safety pillows entirely. She screamed hysterically, because this time she fell on her back and it knocked the wind out her and scared the crap out of her.

Parenting Fail #3.

So then we took the box spring away and truly just had the mattress on the floor. If you know me, you know I like to keep a perfect house. Things must be in their place and tidy. Having a mattress on the floor, is so not my style. But I have given up in name of Safety. We also immediately started teaching her how to get on her belly and slide off the bed if she wanted to get off. I still worry she is going to take a nose dive, even though its only 6 inches off the floor, but most of the time she gets on her belly and scoots down like a pro.

But then she started being able to stand by herself and she wanted to practice her skills in the middle of the night. At 3am, she would crawl to a spot and stand, then crawl to another spot and stand. In my exhaustion, I just didn’t feel like wrestling with her to keep her in one spot, so eventually she crawled off the bed.

Again.

This time, even though, its was a very short distance to the floor, she hit her head on the night stand, that was still butted up against the mattress in my futile attempt to keep our bedroom looking like a normal bedroom, as she tumbled off the edge.

Parenting Fail #4.

Now the night stands are on the far corners of the room. And there is two feet of space in between the mattress and the night stands on each side.

If you are co-sleeping, save your self a whole lot of trouble and Parenting Fail moments and just put the mattress on the floor, with no box spring, with nothing close by, as soon as the baby starts rolling over!

P.S. There are lots of other ways to co-sleep safely, like side car-ing a crib, but this is what works for us. I am by no means an expert on safe co-sleeping, just simply sharing our experience.

For more safe co-sleeping tips check out Attachment Parenting International’s website.

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  • Lia Dominique Andress
    August 31, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    I know this is horrible but I love how your humor shined through… and your determination!

  • Chris Pessoa
    September 1, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    Everything you wrote in this post happened here as well. It looks like I'm living all again. :-)))
    But what I did after a few accidents here was moving my daugther to her room and her crib. But after some weeks she started complaining because she could not get out of it and I moved her to a bed, with that safety thing we put on the sides (sorry, I dont't know the name en English). As I still worried about her falling on the floor, because the safety thing does not covers all the sides, I used to put a matress on the side of the bed, on the flor. She felt just once, made some noise, but not even woke up. After some months, I stoped using the matress because she never fall again…
    Now when I try to make her sleep on my bedroom because I'm exausthed, she doesn't want. She wants her bedroom and her bed. :-)))

  • Stephanie
    September 1, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    @Lia…yup, I can either cry about it or laugh!

    @Chris…I have heard of several kids who are like that, they prefer to sleep in their bed in their own space. In fact, pre-baby I was like that, if my husband so much as came within two feet of me I woke up. But Penelope has forced me to change. Now I can sleep on my side curled up next to her while she nurses!

  • Andréann
    September 1, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    Oh, co-sleeping!
    I have a month old baby so it's all starting back again.
    With my 2 year old we co-slept during the night and she'd nap in her crib, so she never felt.
    Now she's in a big girl bed, and can get up anytime in the night, and takes advantages of her tired parents so sneak into the bed while we're too tired to realize it… There's no more room left in our bed to move!

  • Tatiana
    September 1, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    We have queen size matrass on the floor in Baby's room. It looks tidy enough and soft carpet beside it and nothing dangerous around. When she wakes at night I just go and sleep the rest of the night with her. Sometimes I also go to sleep with her when daddy snores too much and I can't possibly sleep next to him! That way our bedroom is still looking like a proper adult bedroom and this kind of co-sleeping works for us.

  • softearthart
    September 2, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    Looks like you have it sorted now, a good read, cheers Marie

  • Maureen
    September 8, 2010 at 2:41 AM

    This was hysterical!! We were floor mattress parents until about a month ago! Now that Nora is 29 mos, she knows how to get off the bed, and we don't have to worry 🙂 We have been sleeping on a mattress on a floor for over 4 1/2 years…

  • junebeansprout
    February 16, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    I plan to do this for our sons bedroom, he will not sleep in a crib and only nurses to sleep, once we get a new mattress our double will become his bed, the long way will turn to his width way so he has more room to roll. Will put cushions on the floor or rails,not sure yet.

  • Chloe
    September 16, 2011 at 12:32 AM

    Mattresses can go mouldy when placed directly on carpet – I recommend buying a cheap bed base, removing the legs and having the mattress just an inch off the floor, so it can air. Great idea though!

  • Stephanie
    September 16, 2011 at 1:53 AM

    Oh my gosh, Chloe, I never thought of that before! Thanks so much for the tip. I am going to check the bottom of it when we get home. Thank you!!

  • Ashley
    November 2, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Hello, I am so happy to have found your blog through Pinterest!

    I too went through all of these co-sleeping stages as well, but luckily my daughter never crawled off. She always made noise when she woke up too, until one night I heard a quiet stirring on the monitor and went to check just to be sure, and I found her on he edge of our bed. Mattress went on the floor after that!

    Thanks for writing such an amazing blog!

  • Loretta
    November 16, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    Ha, ha! This one made me laugh as I'm in it right now with my 4 mo. old. The other day I left her napping on our bed with the 'wall of pillows' and after an hour or so, heard her squeak, which usually means she's rolling onto her stomach. Then she was quiet. Some time later I went in the room for something and found her playing quietly on the floor…

    I adjusted her and didn't worry too much about it beyond that. Made me laugh a little though. Now I'm a little more careful. Glad it wasn't worse for her!

    Just found your blog and am having so much fun going through your archives. I always love reading 'radical' blogs like this!

  • Stephanie
    November 16, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    @Ashley…welcome and thanks for your sweet comments!
    @Lorretaa, so glad you are here too. I don't think of myself as radical, but I guess I am! 🙂

  • Steph, RN
    September 23, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    I’m glad you talk about how do do co-sleeping safely. I work in the pediatric Trauma ICU and I am convinced that there is no good research projects out there that truly shows how dangerous it can be. I have seen many infants die as a result of accidentally being smothered by their parent or blanket or pillow, with parents of all sizes. I think as it is becoming more popular we are getting more and more tragedies and maybe after some time there will be better research out there to support safer strategies. I just want everyone to be incredibly cautious with infants; their airways are very small and it does not take much at all to occlude them and they will not wiggle or make a peep, as the CO2 increases in their blood, instead of making a gasp for air, they will just fall deeper into sleep. I know many healthcare professionals recommend co-sleeping but unfortunately the different pediatric units don’t communicate as well as they should and there needs to be better communication about how to safely co-sleep. I think the side crib might be the safest idea out there for the youngest ones because, of course, as the babies get older it becomes much safer. Be safe! Babies are precious!

    • Stephanie
      September 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM

      I agree there is not enough communication about how to do it safely. So many peds and governmental organizations spend all their time on convincing parents not to do it at all. When they really should be educating parents how to do it safely.

    • Cassandra
      September 24, 2012 at 1:37 AM

      Personally I would love a research project that distinguishes between toxins released from the mattresses and bedding that are suffocating the babies, as well as other suspected culprits of SIDS, instead of assuming that a parent actually smooshed their child to death. Plenty of children also die from being left totally alone in a crib with no bedding.

      When a baby suffocates and dies in a crib, nobody cries out about how unsafe cribs are because obviously there was nothing in the crib that caused the death, it was just SIDS. When a baby dies next to a parent, they assume the parent was at fault in some manner because that’s the only factor different from a crib.

      While I agree that more education needs to be made about safe co-sleeping, I have very serious doubts that straight up bed sharing has as many dangers as have been claimed. It is normal, all across the world, to have babies sleeping next to sleep deprived parents, along with other siblings and even pets, even on soft pillowy beds with lots of blankets. That’s not to say there aren’t dangers in our society, but rather our society has created dangers that have never existed before i.e. toxin filled bedding, unhealthy sleep cycles, babies with depressed brain and respiratory function, etc.

      • Daron Bougie
        February 5, 2016 at 8:33 PM

        Exactly! My hubby and I bed share with our 6mo with a side car crib. He sleeps on the crib mattress when no one is in the room and he has actually rolled over onto his face with his nose smooshed into the mattress, yet when he is sleeping beside me he stays on his back or side with his face clear of obstructions. Not only has this happened a few times, but he also rolled to the far side of the crib, stuck his leg through the slat, rolled over again then tried to move but his leg was stuck. Uuuummmm idk about you but I don’t think a safe sleeping surface involves getting your leg stuck in between wooden slats. I’m definitley considering taking my box spring away but were in a basement and already trying to figure out how to raise the bed an inch to prevent mould. So now I’m trying to figure out how to raise just the mattress. Maybe the mattress on a futon frame of some sort. I’m feeling like my side car is getting dangerous. I also want to say that yes people should be taught how to properly bed share before being told that cribs are safer. Wear socks and make sure your back is covered. Lol wear two pairs of pants if you need too. Your heats gonna be up whether your using a blanket or not because your baby isn’t going to be. I use a sheet or a very light microfleece blanket below MY waiste when its really cold as were in Canada, but really like I said your heat will be up. Use one pillow, and your set.

  • Tasha
    June 19, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    We started co-sleeping mostly full time when our son was 6 months old. We placed the bed in the corner of the room and he either sleeps on the wall side (which helped when we were weaning him the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method which worked great in just about one month). Now he mostly sleeps in the middle, dressed warmly because he doesn’t like covers on him. We never put our mattress on the floor though it was our original plan. Before he could crawl we taught him how to scoot backwards going down, stairs/beds/couches… Etc. the only danger with that was that he sometimes went back so fast that he’d land on his feet and then immoderately fall backwards and knock his head… But at least it was only from his height. Usually he’d only plop to his bottom if that happened. He’s only fallen off once… But that was when we discovered that he sleep crawls!!! (Super funny btw to see a baby sleep crawl)

    I have seen on Pinterest that people are putting their mattress on pallets to give it breathing room if you decide to put it on the floor.

    He’s 14 months and we have have been homeless traveling the world this summer (currently in Belgium, Paris last weekend, Germany coming up this Friday) so he has been with us every night. I know that sleeping has been much easier this way because no matter where we are, he is sleeping with us and that is always the same. At home his crip is our room that we move him to at night after he’s out, he’ll usually stay until around 6, and then slep another hour or so with me in bed.

    There are few things sweeter than your baby tapping you on the shoulder and greeting you with a “Hi mama” and a smile in the morning.

    Sorry for the novel! But I think co-sleeping is awesome… I was strongly against it before we had our son. He slept just fine in his crip until 6 months when I went to work full time. I think he and I both we suffering from separation anxiety and sleeping together at night seemed to help. Having just gone through a miscarriage and hubby often out late with school and business, I covet those baby snuggles at night.

    • Stephanie
      June 20, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      Thanks for sharing! The pallets on the floor below the mattress is a great idea to keep the mattress up off the floor but at low height. So sorry for your loss, keep enjoying those snuggles!

  • Natasha
    January 17, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    I’m just wondering what your husband Peter input on your life-style decisions?! I co-slept with my baby up until she was 8 months old but hubby never liked it (he wanted alone time and he was paranoid he’d squished her) and he thinks I can go overboard sometimes with my new cautious eating habits 🙁

    • Stephanie
      January 17, 2014 at 3:14 PM

      He mostly agrees with everything I suggest. I think he would like to be more involved in the decision process, but he knows that I am the “expert” and that he has not read one single book on parenting, so he is not qualified to give an opinion. I know that is kind of harsh, but until he is as educated on me on the topic, he can give me a gut feeling or his take, but at the end of the day, I make all parenting decisions. I don’t make engineering decisions or investing our families finances…that’s his area of expertise. So we both have just learned to respect each others areas of expertise and trust each other’s judgement. And he knows I am a good mother and he can see the result in Penelope, so there is really a reason for him to go against anything I am doing.