Bed-Sharing Options with a Toddler

Written by NPN Mentors on April 23rd, 2015

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Bed-Sharing Options with a Toddler at Natural Parents Network

An NPN reader asks our natural parenting mentors:

My husband and I are co-sleeping with our 13 month old. Generally speaking, I love it. However, he seems to be a restless sleeper and I am woken up at least every hour, all night long. My husband sleeps through it better. Our son sleeps between us.

We are considering moving from a queen to a king-sized bed so that I have a little more room. This is not really in our budget right now, though, and I’m wondering what other options there might be for sharing the queen-sized bed. Suggestions?

Here’s what our natural parenting mentors had to say:

Juliet of Twisting Vines: You have my sympathy! My 15 month old is pretty wriggly too, and he likes to sleep
horizontally across our small double bed.

Here are a few alternative options you could try out:

– Get a co-sleeper cot and attach it to the side of your bed (or do it yourself with a regular cot, but make sure it’s safe). This gives a bit more room for the baby. However, not all babies go for it as it can be a bit too far away from the parents; as your son is used to sleeping between the two of you, he may not be keen on this new arrangement.

– Put your existing mattress on the floor. This increases the effective space a little, because you can be closer to the edge (or spread a limb off) without falling out. It’s worth trying to see if it’s enough to make a difference.

Put your existing mattress on the floor and put a single mattress next to it. This gives a lot more space, and it has the financial advantage that you can use the single mattress for your baby’s room whenever he eventually moves into his own room and a real bed. You could even do this with a full single bed (safely attached to the double; be careful of gaps between the mattresses) if there’s room, with the same financial advantage.

– Do you have any other rooms available? You could do a bit of bed-swapping throughout the night. This is the solution we’ve gone for. I now feed my son to sleep in the early evening on a queen-sized mattress on the floor in his room, then I go back up to feed him back to sleep as necessary throughout the evening. At adult bedtime, my partner snuggles up in that room with our son, and I get a couple of hours on my own to spread out. I swap in with my partner at the first nighttime feed. At any point, there’s only one adult and the baby to fit on the mattress, which is a lot more comfortable! We’ve also found that our son actually sleeps more soundly with a bit of extra space in which to stretch out. You can change this around a bit to suit you. If you want some couple time, both parents can start in the other room. If you’re not breastfeeding or have night-weaned, you can take turns on night duty. If you are breastfeeding at night, Dad can fetch the baby at the first waking and then go to the other room himself, if that works better for you.

Good luck!

Moorea of Savvy Parenting Support: My experience with co-sleeping was that is was awesome in so many ways but that I had to tough it out for a while because both my child and I are light sleepers. Two mattresses on the floor in the form of a queen and a full or twin worked very well. This is especially advantageous, since as he gets older, you will want everything a bit lower for safety purposes. Until about 15 months, I was also woken up every hour. This was not sustainable for me and I wish I had not let it go on so long.

Eventually a slow and gradual night-weaning method that I developed for her helped and she woke less and slept deeper and less restlessly. I was more willing to night-wean slowly than I was willing to leave her to sleep alone at night, so that wound up being a good compromise for us. A mattress on the floor is also great if you can put baby on his own mattress next to you because it will make the transition to his own room much easier when the time comes.

One thing I have noticed is that since babies are drawn to heat, they tend to spread the body more if sleeping between two beings. If you can make the bed safe enough, you can have baby sleep on the other side of the other parent, at least for part of the night so that you can get some sleep with less interruption.

If you ever suspect that your child could have a sleep disorder beyond restless sleep, such as long pauses in the child’s breathing or loud snoring, make sure to ask your family doctor, pediatrician, or naturopath about a pediatric sleep assessment. The easiest methods for promoting more restful sleep for everyone include not having too many fluids before bed, keeping the room temperature at or below 68F, not sleeping with too much clothing or blankets on, giving a before-bed massage, and no screen time within two hours of bedtime.

Kelly of Becoming Crunchy: My 34 month old has just started to sleep through the entire night in the past few months, so I feel your pain! We found several ways to make the best of the situation, as we too dreamed of a king-sized bed we couldn’t quite afford.

1. Put a twin bed next to the queen. Our mattress was moved to the floor awhile ago when Bean went through a stage of rolling off the bed. When we were looking for more space, it ended up being convenient to just drag a twin mattress over next to it. Originally, it was supposed to be for Bean to sleep on and still be next to me; in actual practice, my husband usually takes the twin bed while Bean and I stretch out on the queen mattress.

2. Switch it up. We have a guest bedroom with another bed (an air mattress or a couch works too), so when one of us really needs a full night of sleep, we head in there and let the other take the little one for the night. When she was going through a very wakeful phase, we had a rotation of every other night. Getting even a few full nights of sleep a week this way can really make a difference to your well-being!

3. Think outside the conventional bed. If you really all want to be together on the same level and just have some more space, consider covering a large part of your bedroom floor with futon mattresses. I haven’t done this myself, but I read that this is what Mayim Bialik did and it sounded like an awesome idea. It’s cheaper than a king-sized bed, too!

4. Have as much patience as you can and work in other ways to find rest. It can definitely seem like this stage will last forever, and more than a year (or two or three) is a long time to go without good sleep. It will get better! In the meantime, you might need to go to bed earlier, try to get a nap in during the day, or ask your partner to take a more active role in waking with the little one. Making sure you are taking care of yourself may create a better energy for your little one to sleep more restfully; at the very least, it will help you get through it more easily.

Very best of wishes to you as you figure out what works best for all of you!

Photo Credits

Benjamin Earwicker


In sharing how they do things in their families, authors are not trying to suggest the same choices are right for you. Please consider the safety issues, and take all precautions when considering where your children will sleep. There might be increased risk for babies under six months regardless of how bed sharing is done. In such cases, a separate safe sleeping surface might be a better choice. Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.

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