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Co-Sleeping with a Baby

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Sleep > Co-sleeping > Co-Sleeping with a Baby



Co-sleeping 3-month-old thrashing & kicking at 4am

June 2005

Our 3 1/2-month old sleeps in bed with me and my husband. He does well until around 4:00 am (easily goes back to sleep after nursing, etc.). But starting around 4:00 am he becomes very restless -- thrashing and kicking his arms and legs. (At first we thought it was because he had gas, but we have discovered he thrashes regardless.) He seems to sleep through it all, but my husband and I have a hard time doing the same. This has been going on for at least a month. Does anyone know if this is common baby behavior? Has anyone been able to calm their baby's restless arms and legs? Or is it time for us to start transitioning him to his own bed?


My baby moved around quite alot as well at that age. We put her in a bassinet right next to the bed (or you could use a co- sleeper) which would minimize the disruption to your sleep. Good luck
Your post reminded me of a friend's infant - now 7 years old - who started to be a big thrasher around 5, 6 months. In that child's case, the child was diagnosed with sleep apnea and was I guess thrashing around for increased air. The baby's adenoids turned out to be big and partially blocked breathing. My friend described her baby as snoring, mouth breathing, and doing a kind of sucking, choking sound as well as thrashing. Just a thought. I think that an ENT doctor evaluates that sort of thing. P.S. The baby had her adenoids out and become a champion quiet, still sleeper. Good luck to you! Fredericka
It's normal for babies to move around when they sleep, particularly when they go through milestones. At this age your baby is becoming much more aware of the world around him, is getting control over his body and soon will start rolling around and sitting down, plus he may be starting to teeth. All these things disturb his sleep. Chances are that he'll go back to a quiet type of sleep for a while, only to be disturbed again when he reaches another milestone. In a few months, you'll have him crawling in his sleep! If his movements bother you and your husband, you should think of transitioning him now, when it's still easy. You could put a crib near your bed so you still have him close but he doesn't hit you. anon
One of our babies did the same thing--he's now 7 months and I'd say it hasn't been a problem since 4 months or so? I'm finding that with most baby-related ''problems,'' the simple answer is that you just need to wait and it will resolve itself! Genevieve
Three months is when we moved our daughter into her own sleeping space. We really liked the idea of having her in bed with us but nobody was getting any rest because she is so restless. It was hard - I missed having her right next to me! - but it was really good we did because we all slept better and she really likes being in her own crib now. good luck sleeping well
The same thing happened to us with our now 12 month old son when he was around that 3-4 months, so we began to swaddle him at naptime/bedtime and it helped a lot. We swaddled him until he was about 6 months and swaddling helped keep him asleep longer, and it also helped on the transition from our bed to his crib. Hopefully that will help you guys, good luck! Teresa
My baby began to thrash around at four months and I started to transition him to his crib at this time. For me, it has worked out just great, and my son loves his crib. If you aren't ready to start moving him out, you could try swaddling him when he sleeps with you and this might keep his movements down... lisette
Try swaddling your baby. It sounded kind of old-fashioned to me but it works and it is fine for the baby. One explanation (and instructions) can be found in Harvey Karp's 'Happiest Baby on the Block' book. Apparently there is a DVD version, too. Anon.
i have a 2 year old who has done this on and off forever. he's now transitioning to a toddler bed....i entirely missed the crib boat. my advice is you will all sleeep better if he goes in a crib. i wish i had taken my own advice. good luck

We want 4-mo-old in bed but not between us

May 2002

Our 41/2 month old son has been sleeping in bed since he was born, (first baby) now he is strong and big 16lbs. and rolling so we need to figure out something else, but we don't know what. We need to have some personal snuggle time but the baby is always between us. We tried to get one of those bed rails so he could be on one side but our mattress is too big 15''... any suggestions- we were also told that co-sleepers are onle good for 17lbs or less? The bedis already next to wall - not good enough. The thought of a crib has come up but we still want him in bed with us and we don't think he will sleep alone. He has to fall asleep on one of us and sleeps on me most of the night after nursing. Help with ideas are really appreciated. Liza


We kept our son in bed with or near us for the first year, which we all loved, except for the part about the kicking, thrashing, sideways-sleeping little body taking up most of the bed. My solution was to take my sister's porta-crib [one of those miniature cribs where the sides fold in] and remove its 4th side, so that it became kind of a co-sleeper for big kids. I secured it around with a belt clamp, keeping the sides all snug. You can also use some c-clamps to secure it more snugly to your bed; ours was jammed between the bed and the wall pretty tight, so we felt it was safe. You can place a piece of board or cardboard beneath the crib mattress if you think the gap presents a problem. The crib's mattress was somewhat lower than our mattress top, but our son climbed up to us when he needed us and we were able to slide him over into the crib pretty easily too. It's so nice to just be able to reach over and comfort him - it worked really well for us. It did make it a lot harder to make the bed. Jean
Have you tried all different types of bed rails? We have a tall mattress too and finally found a brand (Safety First I think?) that works perfectly. It doesn't need to be really high off the bed-just enough to prevent a roll. I would not recommend the bed against the wall as baby can get wedged between the bed and the wall. I put my baby on the outside with the bed rail up and find she is more far more likely to roll towards me than she is to roll to the outside near the guard. Nicole
we had a lot of luck putting our son's crib, minus one side rail, right up against our bed. It functions just like a co- sleeper, but give us a lot more room in the parent's bed. he can roll over when he needs some milk or a snuggle and we can roll him back when he falls asleep again. Jolie
You could try putting your mattress right on the floor and adding a second mattress and extra bedding materials right next to it, to make a super-sized bed for all three of you!

Not only does this eliminate getting scrunched up when your kid squirms and rolls, but there is enough space for all of you to sleep soundly while enjoying the many sweetened benefits of the family bed. Plus, it makes for a great play area during the day!

A couple of our friends came up with this idea, and we have implemented it as well - our 18-month old is the most cuddly yet tossy-turny sleeper, and the double-mattressed bed is the most ingenious and simple solution. Enjoy! Nora BF


Before our babies could crawl, we took off one side of a crib and jammed it between our bed and the wall. We raised the crib mattress so it was level with ours. I know another family who attached a crib to their bed with bungee cords. Jennifer N.

6-month-old only sleeps lying on top of mom

July 2002

Help- we have a real problem -getting worse every day- Our son whom is breast fed- on demand is not sleeping through the night. Not nearly, he is up every hour to nurse, granted he is teething -just cutting second tooth... first one was so painful for him. So he sleeps with us in our bed, but he insists on sleeping on my chest, that way he can nurse when he wants and it is right there... good for me- sometimes I sleep straight through. Lately I'm not sure if it is the teething or not he is so cranky during the night if I roll him off me to sleep by my side he wakes right up and screams, sometimes he sleeps next to me but he always wakes sooner than if hee were righr on top and if my husband tries to cuddle up to him he screams and if my husband tries to put him on his chest he screams bloody crazy. My husband is so sad. His not wanting my husband if he is not totally happy and wide awake thing has been going on for a month or more... he is so upset about it , he thinks I'm doing it somehow- am I?!

I think there may be a few things going on ,but they are all wrapped together now. We just got a crib to try to encourage independant sleeping but we haven't gone through the whole crazy srceaming yet. We put him down and when he wakes at midnight or so he comes in bed with us We are a little scared at what lies ahead- I'm afraid of traumatizing him if we suddenly change his sleeping arrangement- but I can't sleep well now that he is getting heavier- I'm afraid he will never sleep off of me....Our son is very aware and active he also dosen't really like to be down at all unless he is playing in a bouncy chair, play gym or saucer. I mostly carry him in a sling - or my husband would carry him too since he was born- he has had lots of contact. He is so use to it. he dosen't really like to stroll either he prefers to be slung around.

Please any advice on all or part of our problem- please don't be too harsh - this is our first child and we just want to love him and give him what he needs. any similar cases? Sorry to be so long winded! tired in Berkeley


It sounds to me that you give your child a lot of control. A child at 6 months doesn't need to be nursed at night anymore unless it's not gaining weight or is sick in any way. Spend a lot of attention with your baby at day time but at night he needs to sleep by himself. Maybe he can come to bed with you in the morning for nursing and cuddling but if he is not getting used to his bed now it will be even harder later on. He will cry a lot at the beginning but you can comfort by talking to him but don't pick him up. Walk in the room every 10 minutes or so to let him know that he is not alone. After a while walk in every 20 minutes. It might take a few days or even weeks. If you give in once you can start all over again because babies are smart. I did this with my 6 months old. She gets lots of attention during the day but the night is for sleeping. Your husband can also walk in the room to comfort him so he knows that dady is there for him too. I know that you always pick up a newborn when it cries but at 6 months should get more independent. Good Luck !! Alex
We had a similar experience with our son. He is now 22 months old and has been sleeping through the night since he was about 12 months old.

As for advice, I'm not sure what will work, but just hang in there, because ''this too shall pass.'' Sometimes the most important thing is knowing that other people are going or have been through the same thing. So, here is a snippet of our experience.

I also nursed on demand. Our son started teething at 4 months (first teeth appeared at 6 and continued pretty regularly each month -- it seems as if he was always teething.) He was really miserable teething (ear infections, swollen glands.) *** We used Tylenol/Motrin and a topical (anbesol or oral gel) quite regularly.

For the first 4 months he would never sleep in a crib or a bassinet. *** He just slept on one of us.

*** At about 6 months old he started sleeping (2-3 hours at a time) on the portable changing table from the pack and play (we put it on the floor next to our futon that was on the floor.) He also slept in his car seat sometimes.

*** At 7 months he decided that he'd rather sleep on the gimini mat (the thing with the 2 arches with toys hanging down.)

*** At 8 months he slept in the pack and play (4 hours at a time). He was sleeping through the night by 12 months.

He never got used to sleeping in a crib. The advantage is that when we travel, he never has a problem sleeping in the pack and play crib! We are in the process of switching him over to a toddler bed. Interestingly enough, he doesn't like it at all, but prefers the big bed in the guest room. So, such is life. That is his new bed. If that's where he wants to sleep, then so be it.

We hated when friends told us that their baby has been sleeping through the night since 18 hours old. During this time, my husband and I were always exhausted. We became late night TV watchers (we never watched TV before.) We fought a lot because we were always exhausted. We often slept in separate rooms so that at least one of us resembled a human being.

Our solution was to throw money at the problem... we hired a nanny and used lots of babysitters (sometimes we would just lock ourselves in our room and sleep when the sitter arrived.)

By the way, we now have a 6 month old daughter that wakes up every 2-3 hours....but alas, she at least stays in her crib without too much fuss ;-) cheers anon


My husband and I were in a similar situation with our baby awhile back, and so I know how difficult this can be, both emotionally and physically. Here are several suggestions that really turned things around for us;

1. Read the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. This was our biggest savior. He spends a lot of time talking about patterns of sleep in babies and how important it is that they get enough sleep, meaning sustained sleep. We realized that our baby needed to take better naps, and that would feed into better night sleep. Essentially, fussiness and irritability was due to sleep deprivation, and not teething or gassiness as we had thought. The book helped us figure out timing for putting the baby down to sleep, which helped to reduce crying. He is not against co-sleeping, and incorporates this into his book.

2. You might want to try swaddling your baby when you try to move him off your body. This helped for us as well, and we swaddled up to about 7 months. Also, you could put a heating pad, set on low and covered with one of your tee shirts under the baby when you move him off -- just be sure to turn it off as soon as you put the baby on. The pad will stay warm for awhile, and this may be comforting to him. Good luck! used-to-be-sleepless mom


I feel for you, but you have to help your baby learn to sleep independent of you. You can do it gradually without tramatizing the baby, too. I purchased a book about dealing with sleep problems. I read a book I bought on Amazon based on the recommendation of a dear friend who had the same problem. It is called ''How to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night'' and it is written by two Berkeley moms whose husbands are pediatricians. They give excellent techniques for ''Ferberizing'' your baby with minimal trauma for you and your family. They give lots of details and step-by-step instructions for breastfeeding moms like yourself, too. I also breastfeed, and it was very tempting to keep her with me in bed, but that only makes things worse. Thanks to this invaluable book, my daughter began only waking once per night to nurse. I read it when my daughter was about 7 months old. She's 14 months old now and still wakes once a night to nurse, and everyone in the house is well rested. Christina
A couple of thoughts that might help you -- we've gone through a variety of similar things at some point in our 14-month-old's development; some easier, some not:

1) It turns out that once my son got used to sleeping in the crib, he sleeps much better there than in our bed. When he slept in bed with us, he woke every hour to nurse, or sometimes just to cry; when he slept in the crib, he slept for several hours without waking up. We started out putting him in the crib at bedtime and then taking him in with us when he woke; then we went to nursing him the first time he woke, getting him to be sound asleep, and then putting him in his crib; then taking him in with us the second time he woke, and so on, until he slept in his crib the whole night (I was never able to do the ''let 'em cry it out'' approach; I cried harder than he did!). This approach, though it took time, enabled him to sleep alone pretty well; though he still does feed once a night. But after I feed him, he curls up by himself in the crib and goes to sleep with no problem.

2) Kids go through the ''not wanting mom/not wanting dad'' thing as a regular part of growing up. For awhile, my son wanted only me (and his dad was sad); now he's going through an ''I want daddy'' phase. You haven't done anything wrong, nor has your husband. Kids just do that. Since you nurse him, and since he can smell your milk, he will probably want to be close to you at night, rather than your husband.

3) At about 5-6 months, we introduced my son to a ''blankie'' -- a little blanket (about 14 inches square) that was flannel on one side and satin on the other. It's small and light enough that there's no danger of suffocation; even sound asleep he's strong enough at his age to push it off his face. At first, I slept with it myself for a couple of nights so it smelled like me, then I started putting it down with him every time he went to sleep, and holding it against him as he nursed. He started pretty quickly to use it as a surrogate security object; he now grabs it and buries his face in it when it's time to sleep, and can also use it for comfort if he has hurt himself or is upset for some other reason. We actually have several, just in case we lose one...

If you love him and work with him, he will eventually grow out of all of this; but it does take some time and teaching. Karen


Your problem sounds hauntingly familiar, and you may be tired of hearing this, but IT WILL GET BETTER! Our 9-month old now sleeps through the night in her crib,and has for about two months. However, for the first six or seven months of her life, she was usually in bed with us by midnight, more often than not on my chest. And she, too, cried a lot if we tried to put her on dad. The most important thing for both of you to recognize is that this is nobody's fault! Breastfed babies are smart -- they know where the good stuff comes from. Plus, it was your body that sheltered the little guy for nine months, so naturally it feels best to him. In terms of what you can do to change the situation? We read all the books and quickly realized they didn't make sense for us. What I did was try to nurse her back to sleep sitting in a chair in her room when she woke for the first time. If she wouldn't go down, I took her to bed and put her next to me and nursed some more. Then she slept, and it was minimal effort to nurse again. Gradually, she slept longer in her crib, and when she did wake, we let her cry for just a little bit to see if she would go back to sleep. And then, one night, she did! She still wakes around 5 or 6 in the morning, and we nurse in bed and all sleep together -- now it's cozy, rather than a pain, which it used to be. And she still prefers me to her dad to some extent, but that too is changing. So tell your husband to lay off you -- you're doing a great thing for this baby in providing him with all the physical comfort and love and milk he wants and needs. Dad's turn will come, and in the meantime, he should be glad that the baby likes to play with him when he's awake and happy! Alexa
We do family bed and your predicament sounds familiar. It seems that babies go through periods of sleeping better and periods of greater neediness at night. My daughter is now a year and still sleeps with us. I remember times when I would have to hold her in my arms the whole night long, during times of teething and/or illness. And, I know how frustrating feeling sleep deprivation can be. There were times when I felt like throwing family bed out the window. But being at the end of the tunnel (for the most part), I am glad that I stuck with it. Your sleeping arrangements are a personal decision and I think you have to decide how much you can handle and what you are willing to give. Based on my experience, it does get better as they get older.

In terms of your current predicament, I would suggest having your husband put your baby to sleep. He may cry a lot at the beginning, but will eventually fall asleep and get used to this routine. This gives you a break, allows for some bonding time between them, and your baby will learn that he can receive comfort from his father as well. (We did this with my daughter and she is sleeping so much better and nursing much less at night). If your baby is sleeping in the crib until midnight, this means that he can sleep in places other than on your chest. You may try sideline nursing him once you move him to the bed (you lay on your side and he lays on the bed and nurses on the breast closest to the mattress). When he wakes up, you or your husband can rub his back or rock him. I know when they are crying and you just want to get back to sleep that the easiest thing to do is nurse them, which I have done many a time. But, other forms of soothing do work. They just take a little longer and require that you sit through a little bit of screaming. If your husband really wants to participate in the night time ritual of putting him back to sleep (be thankful), you can calm your baby down if he starts freaking out (by nursing or whatever), then give him back to your husband to rock to sleep. You can go back and forth like this until your baby is calmed and begins to learn how to be soothed by both parents. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it has worked for us. Also, a dose of Tylenol before bedtime has helped us tremendously during peak teething times. And, your husband should know that babies do tend to prefer their mothers at this point. I don't think it has much to do with you. It will change with time. Good luck. Brightstar


I just had to write even though I am a single mom and so I can't say anything about the husband issue. However, I co-sleep with my daughter so I have some experience with that. First off, I don't think you are doing anything wrong. I carried (and still do) my baby all the time and all I can say it got easier as soon as she started crawling at 8 month and now almost walking at 10 1/2 month. She became more independent and doesn't want to be carried as much anymore and even lets me put her in the stroller at times, which is nice for my back. And for the most part she sleeps better - I think she wears herself out. When I was reading your post, two things came to mind: It might be a bit much for your baby to go from sleeping on top of you to sleeping in the crib. You might want to teach your baby nursing when side-lying during the day when you are both in a good mood and not too sleepy - it works great for us, as my daughter can nurse quite easily at night and I can sleep without her on top of me (even tough I miss that!). But we both had to learn how to do this. Also, whenever my baby cuts teeth things get unpredictable, but then again I try to think about how I am when I am in pain, and that helps me cope with my baby. Also, I don't want to tell you what to do, but I just don't believe in the teaching babies to sleep through the night but letting them cry it out in the crib - I wouldn't like to be treated that way and it seems to me it would break trust. But that is my personal opinion. I encourage you to read what Sears and Sears (Baby Book, Attachment Parenting Book) have to say about that. Good Luck!

Co-sleeping 9-month-old sleeps very lightly

December 2002

Hi. I have been happily co-sleeping with my 9 month old son since his birth. Lately, however this is becoming more of a challenge. He goes to bed a couple of hours before my husband and I do, has been recently waking up when we come to bed. We now have to talk in whispers in bed, or not at all, and reading in bed is basically a thing of the past. I could do without these things, but we seem to be disturbing his slumber even being as quiet as mice. Even if he does stay asleep, he seems to be sleeping very lightly, moving around a lot, greatly invading my sleeping space, and usually ends up needing to be nursed back to a deep sleep. He has begun waking up at different times through the night again, after months of sleeping through. I know it is not great to get into the habit of nursing him back to sleep, but that is the only way to get him to easily go back to sleep with a minimum of disturbance and fussing. I'm also concerned about nap time, as he is now a crawling man. I surround him with pillows and toys, but it seems like only a matter of time before he makes it over the barriers and lands headfirst on the floor. We are reluctant to put our bed on the floor- does anyone have any other suggestions for me??? I don't really feel like any of us are ready to end the co-sleeping, but perhaps it is just time for a crib...I'd love to know what others have done in this situation. Thanks! Jessica


Hi We recently went through the same thing with our 13 month old. He had been acting as your child had since he was about nine months. We were very worried about him falling off bed, and we were also getting much less sleep than we used to get. Also- he was much more physical, biting, kicking, moving around in his sleep or between sleep. So----we bit the bullet, and we spent the last two weeks first night weaning him (took 5 nights) and then moving him to his crib and letting him learn to fall alseep on his own. He now falls asleep on his own in the crib and sleeps, without milk, from 6 PM until 6 AM with a few brief wakeups. This did involve some crying, but not as much as I thought, and he used to cry anyway with us there as he was trying to fall asleep. We also tackeled naps, and he now takes them in the crib as well. I would be happy to talk with you more if you want more specifics. We relied heavily on Weissbluth's book ''Healthy Sleep Habits Healthy Kids.'' E-mail me at Jesse
How about trying a crib from the time your child falls asleep until the first wake up? This will help you for the eventual transition away from the family bed. We ended the whole night family bed fairly early but have always brought the baby in at the 4-5 am nursing and still resort to it during times of illness. Except when the baby's very sick we seem to all sleep worse together. It just curbs the wake ups and allows us to cope with them horizontally. jw
When none of you are sleeping well in the same bed, it's time to try separate beds. You can put his crib in your room if a separate bedroom is too far away for your comfort, or you can put a mattress on the floor for him if you dislike cribs (just be sure the room is very well babyproofed, since he'll be able to get out of bed on his own!). And if/when he wakes up in the middle of the night, you can simply fetch him back into your bed and nurse him back to sleep. That's what most people I know do, that's what I've always done, and I really don't understand why so many people think nursing a baby back to sleep is a ''bad habit'' if that's the fastest and most convenient way for everyone to get back to sleep!!! For what it's worth, my son is now 22 months old and sleeps through the night (by which I mean 9 or 10 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m.) much more often than not. We have NEVER done any type of sleep training, gentle or cry-it-out, I have always nursed him back to sleep when he wakes at night, and everyone in the house gets enough sleep.

Remember, too, that nothing you try has to be permanent if it doesn't work out for you or for your baby. But what you're doing now isn't working, so try something else. Don't be afraid to do what works now just because you're afraid you won't want to do it any more in another year or three years. Babies change much too fast to be concerned about that sort of thing. Holly


Our co-sleeping lives improved dramatically the minute we starting using the Graco Pack-N-Play. Any co-sleeping baby who takes a ''header'' off the bed while napping needs to be moved elsewhere. Wouldn't you begin to relax more knowing that you baby isn't going to silently crawl off the bed before you even know he's awake? When you're in bed with him you're very aware of him and he's safe, but a mobile baby needs a secure place to nap. We liked the Pack-N-Play because somehow it didn't make us feel like we were giving up on the co-sleeping plan, as though somehow it wasn't really a crib. We keep it at the foot of our bed, and lately we've been putting her in it at the start of the night too. She'll wake up after several hours and we simply pull her into bed with us. So far we're really happy with this solution. MEG
My daughter co-slept with us, although at about five to seven months we began putting her down in her crib and bringing her in the bed when she woke in the night to eat. Around nine months when in our bed she slept more lightly and then would wake frequently to nurse for a few minutes at a time. I found this very disruptive to my sleep and the very frequent nursing quite annoying, even though I loved nursing her and felt very positive about it overall. At that point I discontinued middle of the night feedings, allowing her to come into our bed and nurse at 5 a.m. Instead of bringing her into our bed to nurse and sleep, I went into her room and hugged and comforted her without taking her out of the crib. We had about 2 or 3 horrible nights of her being upset and then she got used to it. That solution worked really well for us. It sounds like your situation is somewhat different in that your child has never slept in a crib, but your son would likely transition well to it if you decide you are comfortable with this. Good luck. anonymous
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