Simplify Parenting

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

I was ready to be a mom long before I became pregnant. I’ve been around kids my whole life. I knew about the soft spot on their head and meconium poop. I was prepared to burp my baby after feeding to avoid spit up and work around their umbilical cord for a few weeks. I’d already begun to collect resources to learn about cloth diapers and breastfeeding. Yet there was one question I couldn’t seem to get a clear answer to: Where does a newborn sleep?

Newborn Sleep

I’d seen enough decked-out Pinterest nurseries to know that most babies have a crib in their own, typically with themed sheets that coordinate with other accessories in their own, separate room. I’d always imagined and dreamed about setting up a room like that for my baby, too.

Yet when I found out I was pregnant with Baby Bear I couldn’t fathom putting the child growing inside me in a crib in a room across the hall and shutting the door. I guess I planned to do that eventually, but I figured that would happen when she was much older.

I also couldn’t fathom myself getting out of bed every 2-4 hours, walking across the hall to feed and change my baby and then walking back across the hall to go to sleep. Do parents actually do this? If so, how do they survive?

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Where Did My Newborn Sleep?

Turns out that the answer to “Where does a newborn sleep?” varies pretty drastically from family to family. Most families do room share (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) with their baby for at least the first few months. Some families put the crib in the parent’s room to start, then move it to the baby’s room. Other families have a pack and play or rock and play setup in their bedroom until their baby is big enough to be moved to their own room.

While these are all good options, longtime readers will know that my laziness runs deep. I don’t like extra steps in a process, especially in the middle of the night. I didn’t even want to sit up in bed or bend over to pick up my tiny baby. After running through a few options, Mountain Papa and I were drawn most to the idea of attaching a sidecar to the side of our bed. Hoping to save some money and extend the length of use, we opted to make a DIY sidecar using the Ikea Sniglar crib.

I loved having Baby Bear sidecar’ed to our bed – I could wake up in a haze and see that she was still sleeping soundly, or pull her over to me to nurse her and go right back to sleep.

Is Co-Sleeping Safe?

Initially, suffocation and SIDS was a constant fear of mine, as it is for most parents in their baby’s first months of life. In the earliest days of her life Baby Bear was insistent about only sleeping right on my chest. I would stay awake in fear that she would slide to the side and suffocate. As she grew older and began to spend more time in the sidecar I grew more comfortable.

Then I read a book that reaffirmed everything that my instincts had told me about sleeping with Baby Bear. Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family is a book put out by La Leche League International. I highly recommend it for every breastfeeding family. The book teaches safe co-sleeping practices and discusses the current research on co-sleeping in detail. It completely put my mind at ease.

Dr. James McKenna at the University of Notre Dame runs a mother-baby sleep lab and is considered an expert on co-sleeping (or breastsleeping, as he dubbed it). He shares his safe co-sleeping guidelines on his website.

How We Co-Sleep

From the time of Baby Bear’s birth until she was around six weeks old, Mountain Papa and I were up with her every few hours for a diaper change and a feeding. We kept extra diapers and wipes near our bed, changed her, I nursed her while sitting up and we all went back to sleep. Like all parents of newborns, Mountain Papa and I were like walking zombies during those first few weeks. It was rough.

At around six weeks old, Baby Bear stopped pooping in the middle of the night and we didn’t have to wake to change her. She and I also learned to nurse in the side-lying position. It took a few nights of practice, but once we mastered this we were golden. Neither she nor I ever woke up in the middle of the night again.

Baby Bear still isn’t fully night-weaned now at 18 months but I can happily say that she and I have both been sleeping through the night since she was six weeks old. At around nine months I started nursing her to sleep in her own room. Mountain Papa brings her into our bed at her first wakeup.

Getting my sleep makes me a happier and more patient mama and wife. I’m not sure our family or my sanity would have survived Baby Bear’s first year if we had tried to do it without co-sleeping.

What About Mountain Papa?

Much of the criticism of co-sleeping comes from people empathizing with the partner’s point of view, so here is what Mountain Papa has to say on the subject:

Co-sleeping has its pros and its cons. I love knowing that she’s with us and safe all night. I love being able to cuddle with her and wake up to her smile when we sleep in. However, I do miss cuddling with my wife. I would do it all over again with a future child, though. It is definitely the easiest way.

He’s a man after my lazy, sleep-loving heart. If we were waking to bottle feed in the middle of the night, he would be taking 50% of the shifts. Mountain Papa knows co-sleeping is the easiest way to preserve his sleep, too. Every month or so, he and I revisit our sleeping arrangement and chat about how we might want to change it. We have yet to make any big changes because we’re mostly happy with how things are now. As in all things parenting, there are pros and there are cons. You just need to weigh the two and figure out what works for your family.

There is a reason families have slept with their babies for thousands of years: it is the easiest way to get through the newborn stage with the most sleep.

Who knew there actually is some simple magic involved in getting your newborn to sleep through the night? Read more at SimpleMountainMama.com.

How did you make it through the newborn phase? Would you ever consider co-sleeping?

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Tyane Milem
    September 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I co-slept with my two youngest. It became a need while recovering from a c-section and it took ages for me to get out of bed at night. My husband wasn’t thrilled, but I made it happen so I could get some sleep at night. He worked midnights, so he had no idea what I had to put up with for night feedings and feeling like a zombie for the first six months. I made it though, and I cherish my sleep, now that my youngest is 3.

  • Reply
    Georgiana
    September 29, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I used to get so freaked out about sleeping when my kids were newborns. The youngest 2 slept right next to me for a few months, but in a bassinet.

  • Reply
    Susan Croox
    September 29, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I think co-sleeping is the best-kept mom secret because we’re all told not to do it and then we all do it! I though with my first that of course she would sleep in a pack n play next to the bed. Of course she would not! Coslept all three for some amount. No regrets.

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:36 am

      I’m always so surprised by how many people actually do co-sleep! We do tend to keep it under wraps, though.

  • Reply
    Naya @ Lactivist in Louboutins
    September 29, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Bed sharing was the only way our family got any sleep. We followed the Safe Sleep Seven with our oldest and again with our youngest. I can’t imagine doing it any other way!

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:34 am

      The Safe Sleep Seven was a lifesaver. I felt guilty, like I was breaking all of the rules when we first started co-sleeping, and I’m a rule-follower. Reading Sweet Sleep gave me a way to co-sleep where I could still follow the rules & have some peace of mind.

  • Reply
    Stacy
    September 29, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    I actually co slept with my first son who is now 19 months. He still wakes up in the middle of the night and ends up in our bed. My 5 month old son sleeps beside my bed in a pack in play. Its so much easier on us because of breastfeeding. I’m trying really hard though not to co sleep with him. As much as we all love it, my bed just isn’t big enough lol. Its also a hard thing to break for mom and baby.

  • Reply
    Erin
    September 29, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Side-lying nursing my first son was a lifesaver to getting more sleep but my second son wasn’t a fan. I quickly learned how different two little ones could be. This post will be so helpful to a new mama. Such a great personal reflection for what worked for your family.

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:31 am

      Oh goodness! I don’t know what I will do if my next child doesn’t want to nurse side-lying; it has been such a life saver with my first. I guess we all figure out what works for us and our babies eventually, right?

  • Reply
    Savannah
    September 29, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Cosleeping is the way to go!! At least, for us anyway. Seriously, the night I finally gave in and brought my son into bed with me, was the night I slept the best I ever had since I was about 20 weeks pregnant, lol. I remember, during my pregnancy, I swore that I would never bedshare, but knowing and understanding safe sleep practices can calm even the most worrisome soul. Thanks for sharing <3

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:29 am

      Absolutely! It was never in my realm of possibilities either, but I have no clue how parents make it through without co-sleeping.

  • Reply
    Julie
    September 29, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    Initially we had the baby in a bassinet right next to my side of the bed. It wasn’t level with me like your side car idea. I want that next time! Getting my butt out of bed was no fun.

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:28 am

      I know – I absolutely hated getting out of bed when I needed to (usually when we traveled).

  • Reply
    Mommy Blogger: Candace Ann
    September 30, 2016 at 8:12 am

    All three of our littles had their cribs in our room until they were over 9 months. This was a very good and detailed article. I like that you broke down the specifics of what your family did and how it turned out.

  • Reply
    Shann Eva
    October 2, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    We co-slept with our oldest. We did have a bassinet in the room, but we all just preferred him in the bed. Once he outgrew the bassinet, he didn’t want to sleep in a crib at all, so it was in our bed full-time. With our twins, they slept in rock ‘n plays in our room for the first few months after getting out of the NICU. They had monitors, and with two of them, I couldn’t figure out a safe way to sleep with both in the bed.

  • Reply
    Tiffany @ shortsweetmom
    October 3, 2016 at 1:59 am

    My munchkin co sleeps. In the beginning it was the only way I got any sleep. Nursing in the side lying position is a lifesaver!

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:24 am

      Side-lying is amazing once you get the hang of it, isn’t it?

  • Reply
    Nichole @ The Titan Adventures
    October 5, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    I think I will want to try out the side car with our second child! Our son slept in a pack in play as an infant because I was too nervous about safe sleeping practices. When he got older we did transfer him to a crib in his own room, and now a toddler bed. All in all I’m glad we did that because I love snuggling with my husband, I don’t think I could survive without it. Our son has been a trooper about sleeping in his own bed, but he does occasionally come in at night and that is okay too. I love family snuggles in the morning! Great tips and I say whatever works best for you and your baby is what every mama should do!

    • Reply
      simplemountainmama
      October 6, 2016 at 6:24 am

      The sidecar is awesome, you’ll love it. And the morning family snuggles are the best! They’re what has kept us going this long 🙂

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