The Co Sleeping Continuum




Some things never change.  I originally wrote this post in 2009 and it was probably my most popular post of the whole year.  I think maybe 20 people read it?  I thought that I would give it a little face lift with some new pictures and share it with everyone again.

Since I woke up to this precious yet crowded bed a few mornings ago, I have been thinking a lot about co sleeping and how it changes as baby grows.

First is the newborn phase.  This is marked by a neat separate area for baby to sleep.  Carefully arranged, reduced, or eliminated pillows and blankets.  Mom nurses baby and then makes sure everything is neatly rearranged before returning herself to sleep.

Then comes the comfy co sleeper phase.  This phase is marked by a larger, yet mostly non mobile baby.  Care is still taken with pillows and blankets, but the fear of actually losing baby has almost gone away since baby has grown.  Mom still has ultimate authority over breastfeeding positioning and timing.  In many ways this is the ultimate period of co sleeping.

Comfortable co sleeping has its end, however, when baby figures out how to move.  This next phase can be broken down into several revolving stages.  First is the perpendicular sleeper.  The lucky parent is the recipient of merely a head in the armpit.  The not-so-lucky parent in subjected to continual feet in the rib cage throughout the night.

In addition to the perpendicular sleeper, the newly mobile baby and toddler discovers that mom makes a really good pillow.  Or at least a sleeping ledge.   Mom finds she often wakes to being in contact with at least 75% of baby's body.  When an older sibling is also involved, this contact phase runs parallel to the sandwich phase.  This is when mom wakes up as the peanut butter in between two slices of bread. 

Good luck with your attempts to continue sleeping after a mobile baby has decided that it is time to wake up for the day.


The night time nursing relationship takes a hit at some point during the mobile phase.  At this point, baby can zero in on target, access the target, and attack the target without any assistance from mom.  Some moms are able to sleep through these well planned attacks, but others find their sleep to be significantly disrupted...often waking regularly throughout the night when their little barracuda decides to attack.

The only significant counter measure to this phase is a VERY long nightgown.

Possibly tied shut at the bottom.

The above three phases to co sleeping can continue for quite some time, waxing and waning as the child may or may not adjust to sleeping in their own spot in Mom and Dad's bed or elsewhere.  Eventually, however, children move into the negotiation phase of co sleeping.  Parents hear themselves saying, "You can sleep here, but no nursing until the sun comes up"  or "Otherside of Daddy, please," or "Get off of your sister already!"  This is the stage at our house when we start to encourage the floor next to our bed.  There are glimmers of hope when the toddler or preschooler involved occasionally stays in their own bed all night.

The final phase of co sleeping is the sneaky co sleeper.  This is the co sleeper who doesn't want to admit he might need Mom or Dad in the middle of the night.  He is sure he is too old for that and he knows its *against* the rules.  This final phase of co sleeper sneaks into the bed late in the night and stands next to the bed for a few moments figuring out the best place to squeeze himself in.   Head towards the bottom, feet towards baby sister seemed to be a popular conclusion to this thought process.

In this case, Mom and Dad may wake up to have no idea when or where all of these children came from. 

I've been enjoying digging through my first few years of blogging to find gems like this one and I hope to share more in the future.  If you have a favorite post of the past be sure to let me know and I'll see if it might be due for an update!

Disclaimer:  If you are new to co-sleeping you should know that pretty much none of these pictures currently represents "safe" definitions of co sleeping.  I'll save my soapbox on what I think about that, but be sure to do your own research before deciding what is best for your family.  While I take safe sleep seriously, the news and media is really only showing you the set of research that backs up the AAP narrative.  They want you to be very confused about the differences between SIDS/SUIDS (not preventable and by definition has no known direct causes, only risk factors) and suffocation (which can be avoided/prevented...just maybe not in a couple of these pictures).  Look up Dr. James McKenna for real anthropologically relevant information on how babies have slept throughout time.  



The Queen of Chaos said...

that last picture is hysterical

Lisa said...

I was just going to say that is funny. Oh how many times it happens here. Anna is a big culprit conning Craig into sharing her twin bed. But I can't even count the times I've woken up and wondered when Andrew joined us or how he even got there. :) Sometimes I wake up and I've got all the kids and Craig has disappeared. Thanks dear.

Rachel said...

Very funny (and true...unfortunately!)

Cheryl @ On the Old Path said...

So Mom and dad were in that bed at one point too? It is kind of like a pretzel :)

Meredith said...

Every morning Bill and I have the conversation, "When did Isaac come in?" And we're adding another to the mix in this family where no one stays put. What a wonderful, crazy life!!

gillianherrle said...

.i love this post! my 21 month sleeps in our family bed... i was sharing with my husband the other day, how it used to be so sweet when was a tiny baby, he'd wake in the night with just a little chirping sound asking for milk.... where as now he wakes up, whining, and then yells out... MIIIIIILK! hah. it was nice to read that co-sleeping has it's moments!!!

Pink Slippers said...

Love the last picture!

Kylie said...

hahahaha that was so very funny but oh how true. I have both a perpendicular sleeper who is also a barracuda. We also have a sneaky co sleep, well not so sneaky actually, she wakes us first.

Hubby and I just over the weekend took our bed apart and pushed together 2 queen size mattresses on the floor at least we now our nights are so much of a 'meat in the sandwich' kind of experience.

Kylie said...

oosp sorry meant to say not so much of feeling like the meat in a sandwich!!!

Irritable Mother said...

This reminds me of a night when my mom and sister and I were driving up to my parents' cottage to celebrate Christmas. Dad was already there and the three of us (adult!) women were on our way to join him.
The roads were terribly icy and we ended up finding a motel with ONE room left where we could spend the night and wait for the salt trucks to do their thing.
That one room had one double bed, and the three of us collapsed into it. Had to time our breathing and rolling, but we managed to make it through. With quite a bit of laughter and groaning along the way. *grin*

*Mirage* said...

So funny! And so true! ;) My 3 y/o occasionally still magically appears in my bed some nights. Hehe...
We shared a bed with both of ours until they were 10 months old then they went in the crib (to learn how to sleep through the night- with the milk supply so close it was too much of a temptation for them to wake up every hour all night long and 10 months is too old to be nursing hourly without mama losing her mind from lack of sleep). Now that my 3 y/o is in a toddler bed she likes to sneak in for some snuggles occasionally. ;)

Amy Sanders said...

How can you be so right on!? This blog generated many deep belly laughs for me! Thanks

Angie said...

I think our evolution of cosleeping was barely begun when this was first posted...ah, now however in the midst I must chime in with the rest. Yes. Yes. Yes. We currently have a perpendicular barracuda and a sneaker most nights.

Heidi said...

Angie its fun to read back and see the comments from some of you who have been reading this crazy blog all along!

Meredith said...

Funny to read my old comment from when we just had two! Now, it's not just in our bed, but we're wandering from room to room, caring for kids' night needs and sometimes sleeping in their beds (ahem, Simon...and Marian....and others!). Still crazy, but at least we're still sleeping. Most of the time.