Photo courtesy of Gracie Carroll
For nearly my entire pregnancy, I felt like I was constantly obsessing over how my baby would sleep. Should I get her the beautiful Eames-like $1500 crib even though friends reminded me numerous times that a $150 version from IKEA would work just as well? Did she need a high-tech bassinet with motions to soothe her? An overpriced pillow to sleep on? The issue of where she would sleep also loomed over me. Living in a small home in downtown Toronto, we don’t have a spare room to create a nursery for our girl, and we weren't quite sure how we would fit a crib into our bedroom either.
After weeks and weeks of temptation, my baby product shopping obsession began to wear off and I ultimately made the decision to hold off on buying a crib until the baby really needed one (which could still be months away). Instead, I settled on having a quaint bassinet on a rocking stand (a hand-me-down gifted to us by close friends) next to our bed.
As soon-to-be parents, we heard all of the typical warnings about co-sleeping with a newborn baby, but our midwives assured us of the many benefits that bed-sharing can have for both parents and baby. When our baby girl arrived at 1am on a Saturday and we arrived home from the Toronto Birth Centre a few hours later in the early morning, our sleepy-eyed trio headed straight to bed, and there was no question in our minds that our tiny new baby would be sleeping with us—how could we possibly have her anywhere but right next to us?
Co-sleeping with our newborn saved us as new parents. Baby got fed, we all got sleep, and everyone was happy. I should mention that our pets also join us in our bed, where they've happily slept since we adopted them. While thankfully both our dog and cat have adapted to the baby's arrival without any signs of aggression or cause for concern, there are a handful of key products we incorporated into our routine right away to help maintain peace of mind while co-sleeping with a newborn baby and pets.
One of the main tips our midwives gave us about co-sleeping was to ensure the baby sleeps next to mom rather than in between mom and dad. "Your husband won't have the same instincts to wake up for the baby as you will," my midwife said to me before we went home with our baby.
For the first couple of nights I thought I could use my pregnancy body pillow as a makeshift barrier along the side of the bed, but I quickly got fed up with how much space it took up, the way it kept falling off the bed, and my fear of the baby turning towards the pillow and suffocating. By Day 3, I sent Baby Daddy out on a mission to get a guard rail that we could secure to my side of the bed to give me a little more peace of mind. So far, it's been one of the best baby sleep-related purchases we've made.
As two adults who rely heavily on white noise to help us sleep, we were relieved to hear that white noise can also help newborns fall asleep. The only problem was, we worried that the large fan and AC unit we relied on would be too loud for the baby. We opted for a white noise machine that was not only designed for babies, but also portable so we could bring it with us while travelling or on the go. Myla The Monkey—the adorable name for the VTech Safe & Sound Portable Soother—is super cute, and has five calming melodies or soothing sounds to choose from. It also has a rechargeable battery and an auto-off timer.
The best part about co-sleeping with your baby is that it facilitates minimal disruption during the night, even when it comes to feedings. However, you still need to be able to see well enough to feed your baby (whether you choose to sit up to feed or lay on your side) and check on their sleeping positions. Because turning a bright light on and off can be disruptive for everyone in the room, keeping a low light lamp on throughout the night is really helpful. We've opted to use a salt lamp that we already owned for its warm, low glow, but we also love the soft glow that Myla The Monkey emits when the soother is on.
Even though we co-sleep with our baby at night and are always right there to check on her, we still felt the need to incorporate video and audio monitors into our regular routine at home. The main reason we wanted to incorporate video monitors in our home was to help keep an eye on the whereabouts of our pets in relation to the baby. Thankfully, they've been great with her so far, but still, using the VTech Wi-Fi 1080p Pan & Tilt Video Monitor (and being able to easily check the monitor on our phones) has helped provide us with additional peace of mind—especially when the baby is on our bed, which happens to be our pets’ favourite to sleep as well. Since we spend most of our time during waking hours downstairs, we incorporated audio monitors like the VTech Enhanced Range Digital Audio Monitor on the lower level of our home to help provide us with an extra set of ears whenever we have to run upstairs for a quick minute (for example, to go to the bathroom).
When co-sleeping with a baby, you definitely want to make sure that excess pillows and blankets are removed from the bed so that the baby's sleeping space is nice and clear. This is easy enough to do, but you might find yourself worrying about keeping the baby warm while they sleep. Baby sleep sacks are great for this, because the baby is covered in a blanket that can’t accidentally cover its face at any point in the night. I would recommend investing in sleep sacks that are right for the season when your baby is born.