How To Side-Car Your Crib

Written by Emily Bartnikowski on September 14th, 2012

Cosleeping, Safe Sleep
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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.

15 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.

  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.

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