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. Ginger

    My husband and I are preparing to build our sidecar crib soon to transition our 8month old son to. I have slept with him in bed with us a few times and am curious how to better nurse him at night. The few times I’ve done it at night (plus the few naps here are there too), he mainly nurses from the breast closest to the bed and therefore easiest for him to nurse and fall asleep with. But the one breast gets sore on the nights he wakes a lot. But getting him to nurse the other breast requires me to hold him more sitting up and then it is harder to get him back laying down. Any suggestions for a first-time cosleeping mama preparing to jump into this sidecar lifestyle?

    • Emily  

      Sorry I’m so late in replying…honestly I would just lift myself up a bit and tilt over so he could get the other breast. Or I would roll him over and nurse from the side farthest from the sidecar, and then scoot him back and finish up on the close side. It’s really a bunch of trial and error. I hope you’ve found something that works for you!

  2. Erin T

    we’re hoping to side car a crib. Right now our son (9 weeks) sleeps in a bassinet in our room. he does well, but transitions of course take a long time. I was hoping we’d all get more sleep if I could lay down with him at first, get him dozing and then later, come to bed myself. Our main question however is with our two curious cats. They have left our son alone except for occasional sniffing, but I’m a tad worried that the sidecar would be an invitation for them to sleep with him. they don’t usually sleep on us, just next to us. Do you have experience and advice for 1. the cat situation and 2. before the baby is mobile are people comfortable leaving the baby without an adult in bed as well?

    • Emily  

      Ah…the cats. We have cats. We have a 20lb black and white cat that has, from the moment we brought the boys home, treated them like kittens to be tolerated and slept with. He sleeps near, but not on them. He lets them flop all over him and when he has had enough, he gets up and leaves the room. When the boys were learning to crawl, I am convinced that he helped — they would scootch over to him and pet him (not as gently as they should have, but not hard) and he would get up and walk two feet and settle back down and they would crawl after and the whole thing would repeat until Kipper (the cat) had really had enough and he would go somewhere they couldn’t follow. Our other cat, the 14lb Polly, treated them with great disdain and avoided them at all costs. She slept on my husband the entire time the boys were in our room. I had a cat (sometimes more than one) in my crib with me in the 70s.

      Basically – I would make sure that you know where the cats are when your tiny son is asleep. They will likely NOT sleep too close to him because he is noisy and stinky and he makes weird movements and he gets loud and it’s just not the fluffy cat-pile they’re looking for. Once he is able to move around on his own, it’s even less of a worry because the cat fur will tickle and he’ll turn his face away, should they get too curious.

      As for question 2 – I did. I left them alone and then when they became mobile I would listen for them to stir and come back to the room. At the point they started crawling, we transitioned to the floor bed in their nursery – which was empty of anything dangerous until well into toddler-hood. And from the minute they start scootching, I would teach them to scoot off the bed feet first on their tummies and to hold on until they were solid on the ground. It took a long time, but it’s never too soon to start that habit. It helped with the floor bed, too. Neither of my kids has rolled out of their bed when they’ve been asleep. (My almost 4yr old fell out of his bed the other night, but he was trying to reach across the room and hand his brother a book without getting out of bed. Instead of walking 3 feet. This is why toddlers and preschoolers always look like they’ve been in a bar fight 😉 )

  3. Rajwant

    I hope I can get an answer to my question. My LO is 4 months old and i am converting her crib into a cosleeper. The mattress on our bed was pretty high so i doubled up on the crib mattress now the height is good but our bed has a wide frame that protrudes out and is about 5 inches wide leaving a good gap in between the bed and crib. I was thinking i can fill the gap using memory foam etc but wanted to know if you ever came across that and if there is a good solution to it. Thank you so much in advance.

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      Hey there! My first suggestion is to wedge a pool noodle (or two, if it’s that deep) between the mattresses. I’m not sure I’d do memory foam, since it tends to be pretty squishy. The pool noodles are firm enough that they won’t go anywhere when baby rolls across them. Hope that helps!

  4. Katie

    Wow, this is an old article, but it looks like you’re still checking in on comments, so I thought I’d take a shot – our first little one is arriving in June, and we’re looking to do a set-up like this. Can you tell me which ikea crib model you used here? Thank you!