We have never really co-slept with our son. I love the idea and we tried it, but it kind of freaked me out that our two-day-old baby could inch his way over to me in minutes. I quickly learned that the two of us were both better at feeding if I actually got up in the night and sat with him in a chair. That said, we have always cuddled or rocked or fed the small one to sleep. It was something he seemed to really need, we loved doing it, and he has generally been a really good sleeper once we accepted this.
Fast-forward 18 months and he is now very large 15kg (33 lbs!) and full of spirit. Cuddling him is really no longer possible and leaving him to cry was never an option for us. So what to do?
While visiting relatives in another city, with a full house and no spare cribs, my partner Zed ended up co-sleeping with the smaller one on a low futon. This has always been something my Zed wanted to do. I think it was his way of gaining some of the intimacy that I got with breastfeeding. He has also never been particularly comfortable with the idea of a crib, so we have made the decision to move our 18 month-old from his crib to a floor bed.
When researching the pros and cons of this option I could only really find Montessori-inspired stories in which a baby sleeps on a low floor mattress from the beginning. For Montessori parents, floor beds are said to encourage independence in a child. They are able to get in and out of bed as they need and can explore their safe environment on their own terms.
While we are sympathetic to this idea, I couldn’t find any information about families who try this method with an older toddler, or who are not actively raising their children using the Montessori teachings (although, since doing this research, I have adopted a number of Montessori ideas like low shelving with limited toys and books on display), or who have found that it didn’t work for them.
Of course we have fully baby-proofed his room, placed a baby gate at his door, and he’ll continue to sleep in his sleep sacks, but for the moment, placing him on a large floor mattress seems like an option that will work for us. It is not quite co-sleeping, but we can lie with him and physically comfort him while he falls asleep. On the odd occasion he wakes in the night when my sleeping arms just cannot hold him, I will be able to lie with him again until he settles.
We have numerous camping trips and holidays planned in the coming months, and having him used to sleeping on a low surface and possibly with us makes those trips seem much more doable. Another plus is that we can have guests stay over and turn his bed into the spare bed while he sleeps with us. And this may be wishful thinking, but I’m also hoping that in time he may be able to have his naps when he wants, as he often tells us when he wants to go to bed, and now he can climb into bed on his own accord.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any concerns about taking this route. I am worried we will rue the day that the small one was given the option to get out of bed on his own. I am worried what our more conservative family members will think. So far, our friends with children have widened their eyes in alarm at the thought of a toddler on the loose. But you know what? This is what works for us right now, so we’re sticking with it.