Co-Sleeping with a Baby and an Older Child

Parent Q&A

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  • I would love to see what other parents have done in this situation (even though it's still theoretical for our family at this point).  I am due with my second child in about a month and my daughter will be almost 4 at that time.  Our current sleeping arrangement is that she sleeps in a toddler bed next to our bed.  This suits our family great as we love being together but I was never able to co-bed successfully and get much personal comfort or sleep.  When our new baby arrives we plan to have him in a small in-bed co-sleeper at least for the first few months.  We keep a noise machine on throughout the night in the bedroom but I am concerned for my daughter's sleep quality with the baby waking up multiple times.  We have talked about my husband and daughter sleeping in a different room but that would be a last resort for us.  A couple of months ago we tried to transition her to her own bedroom but felt that we didn't want to pressure her or make it a traumatic thing (I have terrible sleep issues from my own childhood and a lot of fearful experiences surrounding bedtime).  She would start in her room and stay about 10-15 minutes max and then say she was ready to come sleep in our room and that she "will be ready to sleep in my own room when I'm 5 years old."  We didn't force the issue and are fine with her in our room.    Without knowing anything about this new baby's sleeping habits until he arrives, is there anything I can do to prep for this?  Has anyone successfully co-roomed with a preschool-aged child and newborn without the older child's sleep suffering?  I would say she's a moderately heavy sleeper.  She doesn't wake up if my husband and I are talking in a normal voice (again, we do have a noise machine on near her bed) or normal noises around the room with us up and down at different times and through the night.  I know every family/parent/child is different and we all have to find what suits us best.  Just looking for some thoughts from people who have navigated this new transition before.  Thank you!

    My advice is to wait and see what happens.  We had a 2.5yo who I thought we'd never get out of the family bed, but the day we brought his (noisy!) baby brother home from the hospital, the 2.5yo announced he was ready for his own room and never looked back. Since she has her own room ready, you have options - just be flexible and try not to sweat it and my bet is it will work itself out.

    I think you have a good, flexible attitude about it and things are likely to work out just fine.  There's no reason to upset your daughter by forcing a different bed arrangement before you even know whether everyone being in the same room is a problem, and from your description there's no reason to think it will be a problem.  After all, plenty of families with a new baby all share one bed, let alone one room, and everyone sleeps very well that way.  And if it DOES turn out to be a problem, you'll know what KIND of problem and can work out an appropriate solution. 

    My elder child was about 3 1/2 when my younger child was born.  I'd been a little concerned about how the sleeping arrangements would work out, because although the 3yo did ordinarily go to sleep in his own room, he routinely got up during the wee hours of the night and joined me & his dad in our bed (a routine which suited all of us perfectly well).  But ultimately it all worked out fine without my having to really do anything special!  I put a bassinet next to my side of the bed for the baby, though I had no firm plans about how much it would be used - I do just fine with baby in bed with me, so it was mostly going to depend on the baby. After baby was born, it turned out that the 3yo would, when he came to our bed during the night, finding the bassinet in front of him, automatically check for baby's presence (and several times when he didn't see her right away, he woke me to ask where she was! I never instructed him to do that, he just did it).  If she was in the bassinet, he'd climb in right next to me in the bed.  If she was next to me in the bed, he'd lie down at the foot of the bed, well away from baby. This went on until the baby was old enough that I was no longer concerned about her safety with her brother in the bed, and neither child's movements or noises ever seemed to disturb the other. Over the next couple of years, with no particular encouragement from us, the older child made a gradual transition to sleeping in his own room all night, just as the baby gradually began starting the night in her own bed next to mine and then in a different bedroom.  I now can't really even remember exactly how old either of them was the last time I woke up in the morning to find a kid in my bed.  You're of course right that every family/parent/child is different and you'll figure out what suits your own family best.  Go with the flow is the best plan IMO.  :)

    Our 3.5 year old and newborn shared their room (not ours) from the first night the baby came home.  Our eldest child is a relatively heavy sleeper and almost never stirred with the baby crying.  Newborn cries are relatively quiet so it will probably be fine.  They have shared a room for almost a year now and I think the older kid has been woken up by the baby maybe 4 or 5 times.  

    I think the best approach is to not disrupt the current sleeping situation too much before or after the baby arrives as it is just another reminder of all the "change". If you displace the elder child but keep the baby in your room I fear that will be upsetting to the older child.  But if  you do need to make a change in the sleeping arrangements, it is not the end of the world.  Kids adapt.  :)      

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Co-sleeping with 2-y-o and infant

December 2002

We have a family bed with our two year old but are not sure what to do when our second child arrives in late May. How have other people handled co-sleeping with a toddler and an infant? We love having our 2 year old in the bed and want to find a situation that allows him to stay while we also want to share our bed with our new baby. Any ideas?

Hi, When I was pregnant with my second child, we weaned our first from our bed. It took a long time and was very emotional. She slept in a crib in our room. When the new baby was born we started to feel like she was in a cage across the room while the three of us were snuggling and warm. We brought her back to the bed after all the pain of weaning. Yes, we have some regrets--there is no room half the time. But all in all I think it was the best decision we could have made. You just have to make sure that the toddler and baby are not next to each other. Now that the new one is a year they sleep next to each other and love waking up together. I hope this helps. I know it is a really hard decision. Any way you decide will be good for you children because you gave it a lot of consideration. Good Luck and may want to consider trading your queen or double for a King! Bene
When our second joined the family bed our biggest problem was that he woke up the first child, leaving her sleep deprived and grumpy during the day! But if you think you can make it work, I'd recommend putting a toddler bed or mattress next to your bed for the toddler (with the newborn in between the parents), or a co-sleeper for the newborn (with the toddler in the middle of the parents). It seems unsafe to have them sleeping next to each other. Good luck! anon.
Our 2nd child joined the bed when child # 1 was 3.5 years old. It was not a difficult transition though took some adjustment for #1 to give up the spot next to mama. Our 3rd child joined the bed when child #2 was 4 years old. (Child #1, then 8, moved out because it was ''too crowded...though occasionally he visited up through age 12.) Our youngest two (now 5.5 and 10 years old) are still in the bed (though the 10 year old chooses to sleep in ''his own bed'' from time to time). It's a very happy scene. My husband and I have a romantic outpost elsewhere in the house. The kids are affectionate with us and each other. Our youngest is very comfortable snuggling with his brothers for comfort. I believe its made a difference in the intimacy of all of relationships. Co-sleeping has worked for our family. anonymous
I don't know how tall you are, but here's what we did: We bought a king-sized mattress and turned it sideways. Most of the kings they have here are ''California Kings'', which means they are longer than most kings. This gives you an extra few inches, and boy, do they make a difference! In any case, the width of a king is pretty close to the length of many mattresses, so it becomes positively roomy for four when turned sideways.

Since we sleep on the floor, and are both 5'8'', this works well for us. I'm sure you could do it off the floor as well, perhaps with one of those bed frames or even with a bed with a head/foot (which, come to think of it, would keep people from rolling out).

My husband and I have separate quilts; I share mine with the baby, and he shares his with the toddler. Otherwise it just gets to be too much of a tug-of-war, and I worry about the baby. Good luck! Hope this helps. A happy mom

With our first child we were all in a king size bed and loved it. We knew, however, with a baby that bed would not be big enough so we bought a twin and put it right next to our bed (the twin was a few inches shorter) and put a store bought bed rail on the open side. 2 or so months before the second one came we introduced the bed (big girl bed) to our toddler so she got used to sleeping next to us but in her own bed. It worked out GREAT and we are still at it (children are 4 and 7). We still love waking up in each others company and arms. Mary

Family bed with spirited 4-y-o and baby

October 2002

I have a ''spirited'' 4.5 year old (as defined in the Raising your spirited child book), and a ''normal'' 1.5 year old, both boys. We have a family bed, mostly because this is the only way my older son can sleep through the night. My question is for any parents that may have a simliar situation. A spirited child does not follow the normal rules. My older son has always, since birth, needed a body to sleep next to if he is going to sleep for more than 30-60 minutes. This has always been a problem, especially at daycare (which he has been in since he's 3 month old), and in the mornings when I want to get up before him. Currently, my youngest wakes earlier, and I would like to get up with him, and play with him one on one before the oldest wakes. But if I leave the bed, the oldest wakes within 10 minutes (this happens if I leave the bed anytime, and has always happened since his birth, and he will not go back to sleep, and he will have a bad day). So Dad gets up with the younger and they march through the morning routine without much joy. My younger son goes to bed about 1.5 hours before my older, and my older should sleep another hour after the younger gets up. I get one on one time with my older everynight before bed.

So, my questions are, (for parents of sleep problem spirited kids) can I teach my older to sleep on his own? At what age? Please understand that he resisted ferberizing for a whole month when he was a baby- and I have tried numerous times to teach him to sleep in his own bed. I have talked to Helen Neville, and my own thearapist, read numerous books and tried numerous methods to get him to sleep in his own bed, and it is not that he is resistant, it is just that he wakes every 10 -30 minutes, and we both get too exhausted after a few weeks- yes weeks- of trying this. Thus, the family bed, which I am not opposed to. I am pretty relaxed, and try not to get upset about this.

Should I just put them both to sleep at the same time, and wake at the same time? How do you put two kids to sleep at the same time? Esp in a family bed? Is there a better solution? I would like to have time alone with each child everyday, as they both go full time to daycare. Thanks for any help A patient but tired Mom

Sounds tough, as life with a ''spirited'' child must be in many ways. Thank goodness for the differences in people, that's all I have to say!! I'm sure your 4-yr old will be a wonderful and interesting adult. But, about time with your younger one, why not try to schedule time with him during the day and avoid the whole conflict in the waking part of the day. Your older son is clearly in need of a person with him in bed, meeting that need will prevent a whole host of problems throughout the day. But negotiate with him, let him know that to be with him in the mornings you need your special time with your younger son during the day (or evening). Then both boys will feel special by you and that their needs are heard. Good luck. Wendy