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Where Will My Baby Sleep?

By Amalah

O wise and all knowing One-

I recently found out that I am pregnant for the first time and have spent quality work time reading all of the back postings that are baby-related.

I’m sure I have plenty of time and other things to worry about but right now am trying to figure out baby sleeping options. We have a small apartment and not a separate room for the nursery. Do we squeeze a crib in there some where? A pack n play or something similar or a co sleeper? or just give up and let the baby sleep with us from the start?

Since you have 2 wonderful children, what worked for you? What would you suggest? And what would you suggest I better spend my time worrying about instead??

Thank you in advance!!
N

Ha! Rest assured this is not just a first-time mother obsession — I spent a large chunk of both pregnancies fretting about where the baby would sleep. We had a traditional nursery and crib set up, both times, but I knew better than to really think that the baby would sleep in the crib from the get-go. And who would even want that, what with the constant getting up and padding down the hall for feedings and diaper changes and neurotic-is-the-baby-still-breathing checks? No, you really do want (and need) the baby to start off very close at hand.

With my first child, Noah, we had a Pack-n-Play with a bassinet attachment. I was loathe to buy a separate bassinet once I noticed the weight limit was typically only 15 pounds (and this was before I even knew I would give birth to a 10-pound linebacker-baby). Noah was 15 pounds by three months, and Ezra will likely be the same, despite a three-pound difference in birth weight. I do good work with the big boy babies, apparently.

HOWEVER. Noah spent maybe two or three nights in that bassinet. He hated it. Swaddled or unswaddled, flat on his back or elevated with a sleep positioner (edited on 10/6/2010: sleep positioners have now been recalled by the FDA and the CPSC) — he would not sleep there. His eyes would fly open the instant we put him down. (It’s a flaw in the SIDS-prevention Back To Sleep campaign, honestly — nobody tells you what to do with a baby who haaaaaaates sleeping on his back, as most of them actually do.) (But I will try to do just that later this week! It’s Baby Sleep Week at the Advice Smackdown! Stay tuned! And then next week I will bitch about my double chin.)

So after a few sleepless nights I got over my hang-ups about co-sleeping (omg we’ll smother him! we’ll never get him out of our bed!) and he spent the night with us and oh, goodness, we all slept much better. I mastered nursing while lying on my side and figured out that I didn’t even have to stay awake throughout an entire feeding. (Although beware skipping the burping — or at least be prepared to change your sheets a lot.)

At some point, after just a few weeks of co-sleeping, I tried putting Noah in his crib again, and this time it took. He slept soundly all night, for about six hours at a time. I missed having him in bed with us, honestly, but I followed his lead that perhaps he was ready and preferred having his space — and was only waking so much to eat because my boobs were RIGHT THERE. I mean, hey, as long as you’re offering them, Mama…

And now there is my second child, Ezra. Even though Noah despised the Pack-n-Play bassinet, I dutifully lugged it up from the basement and into our room. (We have used the Pack-n-Play dozens of times since, though, as a portable crib for travel, so I’m still glad we got it instead of a whole separate bassinet.) Then I realized we were missing an essential piece for the bassinet attachment. We dithered about ordering it and never did. I looked into the co-sleepers but discovered that none of them adjusted to the low, low height of our bed. (Seriously, baby gear manufacturers: Platform beds and beds without box springs. Think about them.) We thought about getting a bigger bed but couldn’t afford it (we only have a full). I looked at Moses baskets and bassinets and bassinets that turn into junior cribs and toddler beds and high chairs and God knows what else.

In the end, we still really didn’t have a plan for where the baby would sleep when we brought him home from the hospital — I figured we’d just improvise and see what he liked.

So now Ezra sleeps in bed with us. We get one “long” stretch starting around 10 or 11 pm — anywhere from four to six hours, although last night it was a whopping THREE — and then after that he’s in a eat-and-doze pattern of regular wakings until morning.

Jason keeps trying and trying to get him in the crib for that first leg of the night — because, you know, that’s what Noah did, HA HA HA — but he’s just not ready. Most of the time, he sleeps on his side, curled into my chest with his cheek literally using my boob as a pillow.

(For those of you biting your knuckles in horror, rest assured we are very, very careful. I keep all bedclothes far away, I do not move a muscle out of instinct, and studies have also found that a mother being that close to her baby can help regulate its breathing and reduce the risk of SIDS…but I know the safety of co-sleeping will probably forever be debated and the official stance forever flip-flopping. If you do not feel like your bed is a safe place, or if your are both restless sleepers who move a lot and yank covers up in your sleep, don’t co-sleep without a bedside attachment or sleep positioner or other safety precaution.)

Neither of us is particularly down with extended co-sleeping FOR US, and at some point we will start making a conscious effort to help Ezra learn to sleep alone, probably when he’s rolling over and I feel less confident that our bed is safe for him.

But for now, this works, and we like it. Okay, I love it. (I also love that my three-year-old sleeps all night, every night, in his own bed though. He’s POINTY.)

So…I don’t know how helpful any of this could possibly be for you — expect to know that we all bounce around the many sleep options and often don’t even end up using whatever gadget we were SO SURE was the right one. (And that a “nursery” is really just the place where we keep his clothes and diapers, so don’t fret about not having one, seriously.)

If I HAVE to give you advice, and the title of this page suggests that I do, I’d suggest you wait until you meet your baby. Does he or she sleep in the hospital bassinet? (Neither of mine did, AT ALL, EVER.) Is he or she a swaddling/sling/must-be-constricted-and-held-tightly-against-your-body-at-all-times baby? (Noah = NO. HATE. Ezra = DON’T YOU DARE PUT ME DOWN EVER.)

These little personality quirks are present pretty early on, and will tell you a lot about what the best sleeping arrangement will be. Since you’re so limited on space I’d hate for you to rush out and buy a co-sleeper or a bassinet and God knows what else, only to have them all be completely and utterly useless. At some point, yeah. You’ll probably want to find a place for a crib, but at least a real CRIB will last your baby for a couple of YEARS, instead of a couple of months, and you can delay that purchase until your baby is actually ready to sleep independently.

A compromise would be something like the STOKKE Sleepi crib, which converts and converts and converts, from a bassinet to a crib to a toddler bed to freaking CHAIRS, my God. It’s expensive, of course, but beautiful and what parent doesn’t love the idea of buying ONE thing that you can just keep reassembling and your child can use forever and ever? My only caution would be to remember that kids are TOUGH on furniture, and that the crib might not always be so beautiful or even survive all the way to the sofa/chair option. We bought a crib that also converts to a toddler bed and a twin bed, and we’ve never used those options and probably never will for a variety of boring reasons, one of which is that Noah used the railings and slats for teething. I guess he didn’t read my memo that his crib was supposed to be a precious family heirloom, because he beat the hell out of it. (No wonder Ezra won’t sleep there! It offends his aesthetic sensibilities! IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.)

Readers, where did YOUR babies sleep, just so we can confuse poor N even further?

Published December 15, 2008. Last updated March 27, 2018.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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