5 practical tips for bed-sharing and co-sleeping families

By: Fabíola MedeirosCC BY 2.0

When it comes to co-sleeping and bed-sharing we've covered an awful lot — but never have we listed practical tips for families who are introducing the practices into their lives.

From reusable waterproof pads for the bed to ditching your comforter for a duvet, I've compiled the top five most helpful bits of information I ever received for co-sleeping, and I'd love to know yours!

Get a few reusable waterproof pads for the bed

These are the best. They're also $20, but there are all kinds of options out there (like these for $9). We bought three when our son was a baby, and in between diaper spills and toilet training accidents, they've saved our mattress from a whole lot of drama.

Store extra PJs (for everyone) close to the bed

We have always kept our son's pajamas in his "area" of the room or, as he got older, in his own room. While accidents are few and far between now, back in the day the only thing more frustrating then being woken up because at least one of you is covered in pee is then groping around in the dark looking for a towel and pajamas.

Pro tip: I found the entire waking up in the middle of the night disgruntled experience became easier when I focused on making sure I was mellow, reassuring, and calm. As he got older, my son was very upset when he had accidents and just needed me to keep my cool and make sure he knew it was ok — not freaking out and moaning about being covered in kid pee. Does it suck? Yes. But does your kid need to know that? Nah.

Get your pets their own beds, at least at first

Our dogs have since migrated back into our bed, but when my son was an infant we totally kicked them out. I felt bad at the time, but we were a little paranoid an animal might trample our kid in the night, and also didn't want to have to share our space with extra non-humans. Now one of our dogs prefers the bean bag chair we got her, and only snuggles with us on cold nights.

Use a duvet instead of a comforter and sheets

One of my favorite things we have on our bed is our duvet. You can find really awesome covers for them everywhere (Ikea, Target, locally, and so on). I grew up with a a sheet and a blanket on my bed at all times, so at first this totally tripped my world out. However, the duvet-only arrangement is great for bed-sharing because it eliminates the possibility of your kiddo getting wrapped up in a sheet.

DIY a double-sided sheet for the heat

My husband's grandmother sewed two sheets together to make this really wonderful double-sided sheet that he's since snagged for our household. It's perfect for hot summer nights when it's too hot for the duvet, but we want to be covered by something out of habit. If you don't have A/C, I also hiiiighly recommend getting a box fan or two and putting them in the windows at night.

What practical advice do you have for families interested in bed-sharing and co-sleeping?

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  1. My son's father and I divorced when he was a year old. It was a difficult transition for me, since he's the one who initiated the split, so I started letting my son share the big empty bed. This was a big mistake, as I now cannot get him back into his own bed and he's six going on seven.

    When you are ready to transition out of bed sharing, I would suggest setting a transition schedule. We made the agreement that he can sleep in my bed every Friday night, but on one condition… he cannot beg and plead to sleep with me every night during the week. So far, so good – but it is tempting to give in on those nights when I'm feeling extra lonely.

    1 agrees
    • This is a really solid call. The Dude & I intended on not cosleeping with our seven-month-old, but I'm literally incapable of being put on a sleep schedule. So now my daughter gets up at nine o'clock every morning like a normal person, while I fall asleep at three at night–which I do even if I get up with her. We cosleep from the time she gets up 'til I do a couple of hours later, so that I can feed her in the morning, but I fear next year when I wean her it'll end up being a hard habit to break.

      I ascribe most of my sleep problems to cosleeping with my own mother from the time I was born 'til I was eight. They moved me to a bed when I was a toddler, but we had to downgrade to a very small apartment a year later. Then my folks started sleeping in separate beds… and one of them was mine. Cosleeping or not cosleeping, whatever, the most important thing is to get on a routine–'cause they are -much- harder to learn as adults!

    • If you have space in your bedroom, a mattress on the floor (Or a camping pad. Or a thick pile of blankets) in your room might make a good intermediate step between sleeping in your bed and sleeping in his own room.

      That is what I did for a while when I was a kid and transitioning (Not very happily) to sleeping in my own bed.

      Another thing that I have figured out in retrospect that might have helped little me is an electric blanket or heating pad in my bed. I remembering having a hard time getting warm all alone in my own bed when I was little. I just didn't produce enough body heat to warm up the bed until halfway through the night. Even as an adult, I sleep better on winter nights if I put a heating pad at my feet.

      4 agree
  2. We've been co-sleeping with our almost two year old from the beginning. We only have a queen sized bed, but I feel like we have plenty of room. One thing that's helped us is getting two comforters/duvets. Baby and I share one and my husband gets his own. This way we weren't pulling the blanket over her head when she was smaller. Oh! And to save space, I flip my pillows so they are vertical instead of horizontal. It really helps.

    5 agree
    • YES to the duvet situation — our solution was to get a king-sized duvet for our full-size bed.

      3 agree
      • Ok, am I the only idiot that is having the whole "baskets" moment that you don't use a sheet with a duvet? I never knew that. But it makes total sense now.

        Sigh. I used to get so pissed 'cuz my sheets and duvet would get all tangled. Now I see why. I got rid of my duvet because of it. Oy vey.

        4 agree
        • I totally did not know that either about duvets, so you're not the only one!

          1 agrees
    • We also use two duvets to avoid pulling blankets over the babies. And since I have so much duvet to work with, I can tuck some behind a baby during a feeding to support her and keep her from rolling away.

      2 agree
    • I recommend separate blankets to EVERYONE I know. We started doing it years ago when we were still dating, and it was the best freaking decision we ever made. Saved my damn relationship. 😛 He gets his gross ratty one that I can't make him get rid of, and I get lovely microfiber snuggliness. 🙂

      7 agree
  3. We got this great soft sided "box" that is designed to go between your pillows like a tiny crib for a new baby. It kept our son up by our faces and yet we didn't have to worry about accidentally covering him with a pillow or blanket. It was great peace of mind for a brand new parent! It was like the Safe and Secure sleeper–worked great. For the second child we built a co-sleeper that hooked onto my side of the bed. My daughter slept there or in the bed with us until she was about one. I think the best tip is to do what makes everyone comfortable and get as good of a night's sleep as they can.

    1 agrees
    • I also got a box similar to that one and LOVED it. Meant our little one could sleep in our bed, with peace of mind.

      My son is 3 now and still co-sleeping. Full admission: I still love to snuggle with him at night. But my husband is getting a bit disgruntled since our son moves a LOT and we typically end up in H formation (H is for hell – anyone else remember that hilarious cosleeping chart?). We`re building him a room in our house but part of me is glad it`s taking a while!

      We also use a permanent, padded plastic mattress cover that`s eary to wash and it`s worked out great.

      2 agree
  4. We solved the night leaks with our son by putting him in a lanolized wool cover (you can use one over disposables). When he gets older and starts training we plan on buying him a larger size one for nighttime. Solved our nighttime leaks on the bed. 🙂

    2 agree
  5. We've also found that having a night-light is essential. We were fine as two adults to stumble over each other in the dark until we could find the light switch, but we didn't want to trample the baby in the process!

    Having a very low level of light helps us to wake up and allows us to see if the wee one needs a diaper change or just a feeding without having to disturb him any further. I also think not always sleeping in complete darkness at night helps our little guy nap in the daytime more easily.

    10 agree
    • This. So this.

      We didn't sleep with my twins (2 babies with severe reflux in your bed…only ends in pukey sheets). But we are with my 2.5 month old. The first week we coslept we hated it. He was fussy and we felt like were stumbling around in the dark all night to find diapers and bottles. Week 2 my husband suggesting turning the bathroom light on and cracking the door – it let a little bit of light in without making the room to bright.

      My son slept like a champ (or as well as a newborn can sleep) since he spent 7 weeks in the NICU he was used to the light and my husband and I functioned better with the little light. We no longer felt like we were sleep walking in the dark.

      2 agree
  6. My pro tip, turn one side of the bed into a red light district. The red isn't as distracting to sleepers, but allows you to see what you need.

    4 agree
  7. When we were cosleeping with my son, I always kept a little battery-operated LED push light on my nightstand so that I didn't have to fumble around with the lamp switch in the middle of the night during diaper changes, plus it wasn't that bright. One of those Twilight Turtles would be great too since the light isn't so harsh. I also kept diapers and wipes in my nightstand and would just change him in the bed so we didn't have to move around too much. I also had a small towel in my nightstand that I would slip under him during diaper changes in the beginning back in the day when he would pee as soon as his diaper came off.

    1 agrees
  8. We've been co-sleeping since our son was born and because he usually sleeps between us (which is NOT recommended), we use two separate blankets and have downgraded to one pillow for the hubs and none for me.
    We also leave a dim light on so we can see the baby at night.

  9. We tried a co-sleeper that sat in our bed, but little wasn't having it. He would only sleep next to/touching me. Our pediatrician asked if we were co-sleeping and when we said yes she said "Ok, then lets talk about doing it safely". Our mattress has a pillow top (not recommended for infants) so she recommended a bassinet mattress. That worked really well for us, he still slept right next to me, just on that mattress on our bed.

    Other commenters talked about light. In the very beginning we were totally paranoid and slept with the light on, but I found a device that you plug the cord of your lamp into then plug into the wall and it makes your existing lamp (with metal base) into a touch lamp (or just buy a touch lamp). We used it with a 40 watt bulb so the lowest setting on the lamp is much dimmer than that. It worked pretty well in those early days when our sleep was so interrupted anyway.

  10. In the beginning I had an idea to get a caddy and keep it beside the bed filled with wipes, nipple pads, cloths and diapers. This was great when he needed a late night diaper change. At 2 months he stopped needing late night diaper changes so now at bed time I just keep a soother and a cloth beside my pillow.
    I plan to co-sleep until he stops his 2am feed. Nursing in bed = enough sleep to function and feel human!

    4 agree
  11. On the subject of duvets – I definitely second king size duvet on double bed – it makes for a lot less fighitng over the duvet in the night! And if you are, like me, too lazy to make a double sided sheet, a duvet cover by itself does the job pretty well for hot nights.

    2 agree
  12. I am confused by the "Replace your comforter with a duvet" suggestion because, where I come from, "duvet" and "comforter refer to pretty much the same thing (A thick, fluffy, stuffed bed blanket and frequently kept in a cover, for easy washing). But it sounds like on of these words has a different meaning for you. What is the distinction you are making there?

    1 agrees
    • A duvet in this case is basically a comforter with a separate cover – the comforter is put inside and then the duvet cover is buttoned or zipped around it. Because it's so frequently changeable or washable, it can replace sheets by keeping the comforter clean.

      I think you're thinking of the right thing. But there are comforters out there that you don't put into a cover.

      2 agree
    • So here in Aus we have 'doona's which I BELIEVE is the same as a duvet. Haven't the foggiest what a comforter is, I always thought it was the same thing. I've never seen a doona with its own cover. Unless thats a quilt?
      Also – we use our doona with sheets. They keep the cover clean enough that you don't have to wash it every linen change, and I have to have a top sheet. I need it tucked in at the end so I feel cozy! I just make sure the top of the sheet is tucked over the top of the doona. Usually works just fine here!

  13. Australian SIDS guidelines recommend no doonas (=duvets) near baby if co-sleeping. Knowing how twisted our doona often ended up, I wasn't convinced I could keep it off bub in my sleep. So, I bought snugly pyjamas and a really warm fleecy dressing gown, and slept in those with a sheet over the top. I was warm, bub was safe and getting out of bed in the middle of the night wasn't as bad when I was already rugged up!

    3 agree
    • I dressed my daughter up super warm and made sure I put on extra layers, but kept the doona on my lower torso and legs. I can't sleep without the weight! Never had an issue.

  14. We have never slept with a top sheet. My partner thrashes around like a wounded wildebeest when trapped. This unconscious fitting means that we cant have two blankets either as he was constantly ditching his onto our kiddo.
    Instead we have a low pile doona (to minimise SIDS risk should our bub roll onto her face) and our baby sleeps on top, rugged up in her own pyjamas and sleepy sack.
    It makes it easy to add/remove layers of clothing as the temperature changes and nappy leaks are easy to deal with by simply changing her into a fresh set kept next to the bed.
    With our sweaty, refluxy son we kept a blanket under him just in case Sir Puke-A-Lot spilled making laundry day much easier.
    This also removed the blanket wars between my partner and myself as we each got half, pinned down by our child and if we get too hot we just stick a foot out the side. 🙂
    In hot weather we use a sheet and keep a light sleep sack on her to soak up sweat and stop us from sticking to each other.

    Since we had the space and one available we keep a cot next to my side. This has been super handy as a place to safely stash her before we come to bed, when I want a few hours to spread out between feeds or if Ive had a few drinks as it stops me from automatically sticking boob in her face rather then using expressed.
    Just because you bedshare doesn't mean you can't use other safe sleeping arrangements whenever it suits 🙂

    • I love having a mini-crib next to the bed! Having a safe place to "stash" baby is a major bonus for us – sometimes you just need to sprawl out, or spoon with your honey, LOL. I think it will also help him transition to sleeping on his own eventually.

  15. Do you have any recommendations on getting the dogs off the bed? My husband and I are trying to conceive and have two snuggle bug dogs that we love to cuddle. I like the idea of cosleeping, especially for late night feedings, but dread the idea of getting them off the bed. They currently have crates that they sometimes hang out in and will sometimes sleep on the floor when it is hot, but the second they hear our alarms in the morning they're on our faces/chests for their morning snuggles. I guess I'm just not sure how to teach them to stay off the bed the entire night. Both are well clicker-trained and I can "touch" signal them off the bed when I need to change the sheets but will jump back on as soon as I'm done. I don't love the idea of having them out of our room, because they have extended the crate/den space to our entire bedroom and thus will always wake us up if they need to go out at night, which they're not as great at signaling in the rest of our house.

    • We got our dog off the bed by buying a doggy bed, and placing it on ours at first. We encouraged him to lay only in his bed, and rewarded him with treats. We also put treats on his bed at random times throughout the day, and praised him every time he stepped foot on it. Then we moved it to the floor, and again praised him heavily every time he laid on it. Oh, we also put stuff with our scent in the bed – teeshirts we had worn all day, etc.

      He used to "cheat" and jump back into our bed around 3am, but that was still okay with us – we just wanted to be able to have some private time as we were falling asleep, and weren't bothered by his nighttime visits. When we moved, he suddenly preferred his bed to ours, and now he usually sleeps in his bed all night long. After he eats breakfast at 5-6am we sometimes all go back to sleep, and he'll join us then, which we like.

  16. In New Zealand we are encouraged not to use duvets/doonas because of the SIDS risk. Instead we're told to use a light sheet and warm the room or wear extra clothing. Guidelines here say baby should wear a sleep sack and not have any blankets on at all.

    1 agrees
  17. We moved from the crib and rocking chair to a large futon on the floor after we realized the old style way meant no one got enough sleep. And never needed bed rails or whatever to prevent falling out of bed. Nursing was so much easier.

    When the second child arrived we bought two queen sized futons thus covering the largest bedroom floor. We had our space so to speak and they had plenty of room also. All of the comments in the opening paragraph applied.

    We got time with each other at every opportunity which kept the creativity flowing.

    We used blankets and comforters with success.

  18. Since our 2 1/2 yr son likes to move around a bit, I sleep in the middle and he sleeps on the side. We have a mattress on the floor. We attached a dimmer switch on a cord to a night light. I keep the switch under my pillow and can turn it on/ off as needed without getting up. This also allows me to keep it darker when I do use it and not blind myself by turning on the full night light.

  19. The best light-bulb moment we had was when we got 2 smaller blankets for our king futon, so husband and I each have our own, and toddler goes in the middle with no blanket. It's not just the safety issue with the blankets for us, our kid absolutely hates any blankets on him at night! He will rip them off and cry if he even feels them touching his leg! He just wears full pyjamas in summer (with feet and sleeves) and warmer fuzzy pyjamas when its colder.

    1 agrees
    • My son is the same way! I had to go out and get super warm pjs for myself because he FREAKS out if there are blankets near him! We slept with sheets/blankets on our bed with him right from newborn because he would (even when soundly asleep) kick and thrash until they weren't on him so we had no worries at all that they might make it to his face. I remember trying swaddling for nap times and I don't think I've ever seen a child so angry!

  20. I always kept a small cloth sandwich bag under the pillow that had extra pacifiers in it. When baby woke up crying it was never easy to find the one that was lost in the sheets, this way I could get one quickly and sooth her before she was fully awake. When she was old enough for a pillow we got the memory foam ones for all of us because they are smaller and flatter.

  21. Currently cosleeping with my 4 month old son. Everything's great especially at first because it meant more sleep as he no longer had to cry to let me know he was hungry. But he still won't sleep more than 2 hours without nursing. Family keeps asking if he'slept sleeping through the night yet. I don't mind so much but I'm starting to feel like it's excessive. Maybe it's a comfort thing but the more he feeds the more he pees I would love some straight hours of sleep I'd be happy if it was just four. He still takes a lot of naps though the day too. Please any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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