How To Side-Car Your Crib

Written by Emily Bartnikowski on September 14th, 2012

Cosleeping, Safe Sleep

One of the big issues facing new parents is the one of baby sleep — namely, the where of baby sleep. Bedsharing can be daunting, but putting baby alone in a room at the end of a hallway (or on another floor, in some cases) doesn’t always sit well with new parents who know that night feedings are a part of everyone’s life for at least the first few months. A lot of new parents put a portable crib in their bedroom, or they opt for a dedicated co-sleeper. Both of these options could be the solution you’re looking for, but keep in mind that baby will outgrow them sooner rather than later, and once they do — that’s the end of the life of that product.

Our postage-stamp bedroom, before the crib is set up

Our solution was to buy a crib from IKEA (one with a toddler bed conversion, even though that part won’t ever get used by us) and construct is as if it were a co-sleeper. Commonly called “side-carring,” this was perfect for our situation.

I will just say right now that one of my hot-button things to freak out about as a new parents was SIDS, and I heard over and over from my doctors that (while SIDS is rare) having the baby in the room with parents or siblings for the first months of life helps the baby learn to regulate their breathing and has been shown to prevent SIDS. Our toddler happily sleeps in his “Big Boy Bed” in his own room now, but for the first year, he happily slept in the crib that was attached to our bed. When it was cold, he would burrow up next to me and we would snooze quite contentedly for hours and hours. (The bonus there is that we live in a drafty old house and he’s a little heater. Warm Mommy!)

So, what you’ll need to make this work for you is:

Hardware, Bungees, Electric Screwdriver

A) A bed with a frame. (Ours is a standard queen sized bed and it works perfectly.)

B) A crib, minus one long side.

C) Hardware for assembling said crib. Life Tip: invest in an electric screwdriver and allen wrench bits. If you’ve ever assembled anything from IKEA, you will either already know to do this or you’ll be smacking your forehead wondering what took you so long to do this. A ratcheting screwdriver is an acceptable alternative (and good for helpers.)

D) Bungees for securing the crib to the bed frame, also acceptable: rope, zip ties, etc. You just want to keep the frames from shifting away from each other so whichever method you choose should be as secure as possible.

E) Pool noodle(s) for filling the gap between mattresses.

And now you’re ready.

Step One: Assemble crib according to the instructions. Leave the 4th side off – it will remind you of a study carrel found in libraries. Make sure the sides are securely attached to each other and the mattress base and your crib will be sturdy.

I was not motivated to vacuum between the slats on our bed frame. Can you blame me?

Step Two: Use the bungees to attach the crib frame to the bed frame. You will need a helper for this one, especially if you’re as pregnant as I am (38 weeks as I type.) You will likely need to shift the bed mattress out of the way for easiest access.

Step Three: Replace bed mattress, situate crib mattress. Add pool noodles.

Step Four:
Add mattress protectors, linens, etc as you see fit. I added a towel because I know that the cats are going to claim the crib and we’ll have time to put clean sheets on it before it’s put to use by a human.

And that’s it. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. You’ll have your child in arm’s reach for as long as it works for both of you. If you find that it’s not working for your family at whatever point, it’s a piece of cake to detach the bungees and add the 4th rail. Or take it apart completely and have a floor bed. Or whatever transition you feel works best. Pleasant dreams!

All Set and Ready To Go...With Some Help From my Little Dude.

About The Author: Emily Bartnikowski

Emily B emmieb My NPN Posts

Emily is a wife, mother, photographer, and aspiring novelist. She blogs about parenting and life at Embrita Blogging.

51 Responses to How To Side-Car Your Crib

  1. sarah

    I wish I had done that first rather than the co-sleeper. The boy slept in the co-sleeper happily for 4 full months but once he outgrew it our whole families sleep went out the window. We had his crib in our room but getting him in it and to sleep never happened. When we did what you did here, he was too used to our mattress to stay in his harder crib mattress.

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      We had that mattress issue with our older son, too. So far, though, his little brother (who is 6 weeks) doesn’t seem to have a mattress preference. He does have an “I’d rather be on mommy than anywhere” preference, but I’m ok with that 😉

  2. Sarah  

    POOL NOODLES!! Freaking genius, Emily!! We have our crib set up forwhen the time comes, but since Lydia’s only 6 weeks, I haven’t needed the extra space, yet, so I haven’t been worrying about the gaps yet. But I couldn’t figure out what would work well – you’re a life saver!

  3. Breanna

    How would this work if your bed doesn’t have a frame? Ours is just a mattress on the floor.

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      You can just slide the crib mattress (or a twin mattress if you want to think ahead that far) up so it’s flush with your mattress. I’m not sure how you’d keep it from scooting if you have hardwoods, but on carpet it should stay put (maybe a grippy rug pad under both mattresses would do the trick?) We put Baz on a twin floor mattress in his room for naps at about 6 months and plan on doing the same for Walter when the time comes. Floor beds have major benefits for littles. Go for it!

  4. Kaylie

    We have a mattress and box spring, would it work for that as well?

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      You can, you’d just have to lift the crib mattress or remove the box spring — you could also (like I suggested above) get a twin size mattress and box spring and abut those together. The twin will actually have an even longer life span than the crib sized mattress.

      • Mary

        We had to use two crib mattresses *and* remove the box spring (so that we could keep the mattress on it’s lowest setting), but it’s perfect for us.

    • Lakynn M

      We have mattress and box spring on the floor and while the bed was on hardwood we used rope or ratchet ties to the the crib to the box spring. On carpet we haven’t needed anything because it doesn’t slip

  5. Lyalya

    What do you if you need to leave your sleeping beauty in bed. Meaning they can roll onto the adult bed and then potentially fall. Any ideas of how to set up a barrier so that baby(crawling) does not fall?

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      You can add bed rails to the other side and foot of your bed. I know there are styles that unlock and flip down, to allow for easier access for sleepy adults, and then you can flip them up and lock them to deter crawlers. We also started teaching Baz, pretty much the minute he started crawling, how to scoot backwards on his tummy and get off the bed toes first. It obviously took a long time to sink in, but it meant that the skill was waiting for him when he was ready, rather than us playing catch up. Like I said, though, he slept on a floor bed for naps at about 6 months and so wasn’t ever in the crib unless we were also in the room. (the same is true for Walter now, but he’s not crawling, yet.)

  6. Lyalya

    Thanks. We actually started out buying those side rails first but it made our full size bed really small. What’s a floor bed? A crib mattress that you put on the floor?

  7. Becky

    How do you get the mattresses to match up to be the same height? Our bed is about 5-6 inches higher than the crib mattress even on the higher setting.

  8. Janae

    I see this thread is a bit old but hoping there are still some active readers.
    I am wondering if a crib with railings that are 6″ higher than our mattress is suitable for sidecarring. Our mattress is very high, and the crib we want is only 6″ higher and not suitable for normal bed risers. Hoping for any help or advice on this! Thanks!

    • Mandy

      I’m facing a similar situation here. Anyone has any advice on this? Or Janae, have you found your answer yet?

      • Emily Bartnikowski  

        My only thoughts are that you could either put your bed on risers (like I linked above) or you could see about getting a thinner crib mattress? Another popular option is to put all the mattresses straight on the floor. Without seeing the beds, that’s the best answer I’ve got for you. If you ask on the Facebook page – and could possibly post a picture – there’s a better chance we can figure out a solution (with the help of the good readers of NPN).

  9. Rasheedah Johnson

    I’m not sure how you use the pool noodle can you give a more detailed description

    • Emily  

      When you’ve got the bed and the crib lashed together, there will be a gap where the frames come together but the mattresses don’t — the pool noodle gets smashed down into that gap and gives a nice, firm filler for the baby to roll or scoot over without worry 🙂

  10. Eddie  

    this is such a great hack! Our mattress is too tall for most premade sidecar cribs. But this will work perfectly for our bed and crib (both ikea). Thanks!

  11. Brianna

    How many pool noodles will I need?

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      It depends on your bedframe – I had a skinny one and then a thick one over it. A standard noodle is the length of the crib (or near enough as to not matter). If you buy extras and decide you don’t need them, you can slice them in half lengthwise and screw them to the walls of your garage to serve as car-door bumpers (thanks, pinterest! 😉 ) -NPN Emily

  12. Colleen

    What about safety? Our sidecar is getting finished up this weekend. LO is almost 5 months. Should it be all the way up to the top of our bed so we are face to face? Is there anything to keep in mind with my blankets and sheets? How do I keep him as safe as when he was in my bed?

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      I had the crib up pretty close to the top – there was a bedside table that was next to my headboard, where I kept things I would need immediately – my water bottle, a handy burp rag, etc, but when you took my pillow into consideration, we were pretty close to face-to-face. When the boys were in my bed, I kept all covers down at my waist (I had long sleeved nursing tops that I wore when it was cold) and just a single quilt in the crib when it was cold. Otherwise we were all fleece footie jammies and the like. When the boys started being a bit more mobile I started teaching them how to scoot off the bed on their tummies, feet first. Even if I scooped them up to carry them wherever we were going, I wanted them to be in the habit of getting down safely. About that time, we started transitioning their naps to their floor beds (twin mattresses on the floor) so I wouldn’t have to worry about a mobile baby on our bed without me there. Good luck, and feel free to ask me any other questions! — NPN Emily

  13. Rachel

    Hi, I’m new to all this and excited to welcome our little one soon. We have a crib set up and sidecarred but I don’t know anyone else who has done this so sorry if my question is daft but….. What are the issues with getting in and out of bed with husband sleeping on other side? Did you stay in bed for the night feeds or did you have to pick up baby, shuffle out somehow, feed then get back in? I understand this kinda defeats the whole purpose but my limited experience is Def. Shaped by movies and images of endless night walking! 🙂

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      The beautiful thing about having the baby arms-reach is that you’ll both get conditioned to noticing the signs of being ready for a need feed and you’ll be able to just scoot together, latch, feed, and scoot apart (or not) as needed. Your husband will likely sleep blissfully through the whole thing. The first few weeks, when night changes we necessary, we did that at the foot of the crib. I left our curtains open so the streetlight shone into the room, and that was plenty of light to see by. So I sat up, moved the baby down, changed him, (we cloth diapered, so there was a wet bag hanging on the end of the crib for soiled diapers) and then we cozied up and nursed back to sleep. I slept in long-sleeved nursing shirts and kept my babies in fleece sleepers to keep them warm and kept ALL my covers down by my waist. This will become second nature after a while. Don’t worry about pacing, your baby will learn early on that night time is for snuggling and sleeping and nursing. There will be nights of teeth and gas and illness and just plain wakefulness where you may need a change in your Get To Sleep plan, but most nights all your baby will need is to be next to you. (My first son slept in my armpit or on my chest for the first year of his life, and then as close to me as possible until he was just about 2 – he’d wander in sometime in the night and snuggle up. I’d wake up surprised he was there, and he was happy as a clam. My second son was OVER being in bed with me by about 6 months. We moved him to a floor bed in their room and he conked out. If he woke, I went to him and laid down (twin mattress on the floor: lifesaver) and nursed him back to sleep. I always knew he was done because his little hands would push me away and he would yawn and turn his head. Just a reminder that all children are different 😉

      As for getting up, I had the crib set up sometime in my 3rd trimester both times, so I got in the habit of sitting up and scooting to the foot of the bed to get up without disturbing my husband. After a few nights of many trip to the bathroom, this was also second nature. In fact, for about a week after we dismantled the crib both times, I had to remind myself that I could just get in and out of bed like a normal person. Hope that helps!


  14. Rachel

    Thank you for taking the time to reply! This is very reassuring (and exciting!).

  15. Dana

    Hi Emily. What a brilliant page and tips! My son is 4 1/2 mths now and will soon be outgrowing his co-sleeper, so I am thinking about now converting a cot into a co-sleeper like you described. Our matress is quite high so that we’d need the cot matress on highest setting. Now I understand that won’t be safe for long as the rails would be too low and he could pull himself up on the soon. Do you think it would be possible somehow to raise his whole vot to bring it up to our matress height or will I have to put the cot on lowest setting and give up on co sleeping? We enjoyed it so much even though I still get up for feeding and nappy changes… Any ideas will be greatly appreciated!

    • Emily  

      Hi Dana!

      I think if you teach him as he learns to move around how to get on and off your bed safely, he’ll be ok. I feel like the reason kids climb out of their cribs is to come find their parents, and if he knows he can just wiggle over to you, then you’ll be ok. At about 6 months is when we started having naps on their floors beds (twin mattresses on the floor of their room) and I would nurse them to sleep and then scoot away and go do whatever while they napped and then we’d find each other as they woke up – I had a monitor with me and our house was a tiny cottage, so crawling into danger was never really an issue. I vote that you prepare the environment so it’s safe for an exploring kid and then see how it goes. Happy snuggles! ~NPN Emily

  16. Sarah

    Hello Emily,

    Thank you for your post and for continuing to reply to questions years after!

    My 4 month old is just outgrowing her co-sleeper and moses basket, we need to figure out a new nap/sleep solution but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’ve enjoyed having her close by in the co-sleeper so your side-car looks like a great next step and I see you used a floor bed for naps – this is a possibility for us but we’re wondering if we can use the side-car for naps and early bedtime (my husband doesn’t think we’ll want to move her each night once she’s asleep). If so, how would you suggest we prevent crawling onto the adult bed or is that even an issue if we use bed install bedrails? I keep reading that kids shouldn’t be on an adult bed along but not sure how we’d keep her off the adult bed once she starts moving unless we blocked off the side-car from the bed (not sure how we’d do that).

    Any advice is appreciated,


    • Emily  

      I just saw this reply! I’m so sorry it got buried. You’re probably way past this stage, but we taught both boys to crawl off the bed on their tummies, feet first basically before they were even really crawling. Our house was so tiny that I could be in the kitchen and hear them stirring from their naps in the bedroom, so I would go in and hang out until they woke up and when they started scooting around I would guide them off the bed and then pick them up from sitting/standing. My philosophy is that you should be one step ahead of your kids on the learning curve, so that you’re not caught by surprise (of course…6.5 years in to parenting and I will tell you that I am still caught by surprise on the regular. Luckily, though, it’s not where safety is concerned. So far. Knock on wood.) Let me know if you have any more questions!

  17. April

    We’re looking into transitioning our 13mo out of our bed and into his own. I’m looking into side carring his unused crib for a while to help with learning to sleep not snuggled up to me. But after he’s acclimated to staying in his part of the bed and only having me when he needs to nurse, we’d like to move his bed out of our room (space is kind of an issue!). At this point, do you think it’d be safe to just use the toddler rail in his room or has anyone had experience transitioning back to a crib after side-car?

    • Emily  

      I think going back to a crib is a step backwards and you risk the transition period where Getting Out Of Bed is a fun new game to play instead of sleeping 😉 A toddler rail or a floor bed will both work fine for your purposes. Good luck for many restful nights to all of you!

      • Emily  

        That “fun new game” would happen the next time you transition out of the crib, not moving from side-car to crib. In case that wasn’t clear because lately I am all muddled. I blame Mercury being retrograde. 😉

  18. Mary

    This is great. I have set up my bed, but the problem is I have a mini crib I am using and the mattress is lower than my bed mattress (approximately 4 to 4.25 in). The mini crib mattress is thinner than a regular crib mattress, which is probably the problem. Any ideas to make it even? Also where can I buy pool noodles, it’s the middle of winter!


    • Emily  

      You could check at a store like Bed, Bath & Beyond (or amazon) for bed risers, which go under the feet of the bed and lift it a few inches. That is probably the safest way to get the mattresses level. As for a pool noodle in winter….probably Amazon, also. But my Target has swim suits out, so…pool noodles may arrive on their shelves sooner than we think! Hope that helps!

  19. Jay

    I’m expecting my first grandchild shortly and was just checking out this site for my daughter-in-law. Thought your readers might like to know that thirty years ago when we set up a “sidecar” for our son, we simply folded an extra queen size sheet in half and tucked it in on the far side of the crib mattress, stretched it across the top half of our bed and tucked it in on the other side of daddy – it always seemed to stay stretched tight over the little gap between the mattresses and had the added advantage of being easy to take off and wash if things got a little messy. Nice to know that not everyone has been scared off sleeping with their infants!

  20. Laura

    6 month old son is cosleeping. Possibly sidecaring but have some confusion over how it works. How do naps work? What happens when he can crawl or pull-up? And my biggest concern how do u eventually transition him to sleeping on his own? I love being near him but don’t see being able to make this a forever commitment! Thanks so much.

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      Once my boys got to the pulling up and crawling around stage we started having some play time that was all about how to scoot off a bed on your tummy, feet first. We also had a floor bed (twin mattress) on the floor of their room and we started doing naps there, which then led nicely to starting out bedtime sleep on that mattress. They’d join us in our bed for the first night feeding and stay there until morning, once night weaning started they stayed in their room longer and longer. Hope that helps!