We’re running out of space in our king size bed between us two adults and our 15-month-old. Should we be thinking about doing a sidecar crib? Is it worth it? How do blankets and pillows work for safety at this age? How does nighttime breastfeeding work?
— Wondering Mama
These are all incredible questions!
At 15-months, our daughter, Kensie, was not developmentally ready to sleep out of arm’s reach from me. She was still nursing at least 2-3 times during the night and having her right next to me allowed her to scoot up to me for “self-service”. We both barely had to move to achieve the evening feeding, which made falling back to sleep much easier.
A little after 18-months old, Kensie was down to one big nursing session around 2:30 AM. She would nurse down to sleep in our king bed around 8:30 PM, then if she stirred when we climbed into bed later, I’d offer a quick soothing feed so that I could get a solid block of uninterrupted sleep. Otherwise, she’d sleep right through until that 2:30 AM feed.
Kensie never liked blankets, so we prioritized breathable cotton long-sleeved/legged pajamas. Hanna Andersson (organic cotton) and Gap Kids (not always organic cotton) are durable favorites of ours.
During the winter, we had her sleep in socks (unless she asked for them off, which happened often!) and during the summer, she sleeps barefoot. This helped immensely with temperature regulation (which causes unnecessary wake-ups!). If she was ever much colder, she’d snuggle into me. Try experimenting with dressing your little one for sleep based on temperature. At this age, Kensie really responded to getting back into pajamas for her afternoon naps, too. It was a great sleep cue for her and helped me to stay consistent.
Her dislike of blankets made safety easy for us — we put her into bed in-between us with our sheets/comforter half-way up under her (to about hip height). We never had to worry about blankets going over her head, or letting her sleep with her own blankets. For future kids, I’m going to try to go without the blankets while bedsharing, too — it’s worked out that well!
At 23-months old, we got pregnant with Kensie’s little sibling (due after Christmas 2019). Before we had that positive pregnancy test in-hand, I noticed she wanted more on-demand nursing sessions, especially at night. It was one of the first hints that we might be pregnant. She was still in the king bed with us at this time, but I remember feeling SO thankful for that because of how much her nursing picked up. Consider that if you’re planning on expanding your family anytime soon, an exclusively breastfed child might react to the pregnancy this way and you may want to prioritize staying in bed together to maximize your rest.
For us, having the sidecar crib wouldn’t have been worth it. At 23-months, I would have been pulling Kensie back into bed with me constantly, which would’ve just made me even more tired on top of early pregnancy. Prior to then, I don’t think Kensie was developmentally ready for a little more distance.
By Kensie’s 2nd birthday, we had the positive pregnancy test in-hand and with the celebrating of becoming a “big sister” Kensie took a strong interest in “big girl” everything. She wanted to wear big girl underwear and go on the big girl potty and started sleeping through the night just after her 2nd birthday.
Once she slept through the night for about 2-3 weeks consistently, we followed Kensie’s lead in transitioning to her “big girl bed”. Waiting until she was developmentally ready for a slightly “bigger” change to the sleeping arrangement worked so beautifully for us. It spared us the financial cost of an “in-between bed” like a toddler bed or side-car. It spared us the energy cost of assembling, re-assembling and rearranging furniture, and the energy/emotional cost of pushing Kensie to sleep differently before she was ready.
Kensie is just shy of 27-months (2 years, 3 months) as I’m writing this post. She’s completely potty trained and, after a short, singular nursing session with me in her big girl bed on a single regular sized pillow (with blankets she kicks off), she’s sleeping through the night 8:30 PM to 7:00 AM in her own room.
Once she was ready, it’s like she grew up overnight. The experience has been emotional for us; my husband and I miss her in bed with us more than we ever thought! But it hasn’t been emotional for her… It’s made all the difference in her independence and, for that, we’re so grateful we stuck to our instincts on sleep.
I remember feeling so self-conscious when Kensie was hitting the 15-month mark and all of her little baby peers in playgroup were sleeping through the night in their cribs due to sleep training and the cry-it-out method, and I remember wondering if I was being stupid for trusting a baby to tell me when they were genuinely ready for a different bedtime scenario. There were many days when it felt like that telling day would never come.
Fast forward to now, there’s been a complete role reversal. ALL of those “sleep trained” babies are clingy, whiny, and wake up intermittently throughout the night. And there’s a lot of babies in that playgroup — too many to make the observation a fluke. Take that with a grain of salt.
My bottom line is: follow your gut. My gut feeling was to follow Kensie’s lead, so long as it was within the safe bedsharing guidelines, and it proved to be the right decision for us.
What does bedsharing with a toddler look like for you? What questions do you have?
You can read more details about our Transitioning from Bedsharing to the Big Kid Bed experience here soon — I’ll link a separate post once it’s written — but in the meantime, ask me any questions in the comment box below (or on Instagram) and I’ll be happy to get back to you faster.