Survival Tips for Co-Sleeping with a Toddler

Image source: ThinkStock
Image source: ThinkStock

The other morning I woke up to the sound of a dog barking next to my face.

We don’t have a dog.

What happened is that my almost two-year-old daughter, who had slept in my bed the night prior, decided to play a game on my phone instead of just waking me up.

While I appreciate her efforts to let me sleep in, it made me keenly aware of all the precautions and preparations necessary for co-sleeping with a toddler.

When she, and later my son, was a baby, co-sleeping was a breeze. I’d nurse them, roll them over onto the mattress next to me, they’d fall asleep, and everyone was happy, warm, and cozy. I didn’t understand what the big deal was about co-sleeping, until my babies became toddlers and all hell broke loose in my bed.

Now that I spend a couple nights a week with a squirmy pint-sized human next to me, I thought I’d offer some insight and tips if you, too, find yourself sharing a bed with a little person.

 Be prepared to own a queen-sized bed but only be allowed three-inches of it to sleep on.

I don’t know at what age people begin sleeping vertically in bed, but I do know that two and a half isn’t it. Toddlers morph into Stretch Armstrong and can encompass an entire bed by themselves. At three in the morning the other night, my body jolted me awake because I was falling out of bed; toddler feet pushing me over the edge both literally and metaphorically.

Invest in a quality face protection device because toddler hands and feet will find your head.

They have a magnet inside their small bodies which pulls them to your face with a force beyond their control. You will wake up in sleep-drenched pain because your kid has poked you in the eye, kicked you in the ear, or rolled over onto your mouth thus passively suffocating you. When you awake in a panic, you will discover that they are still snoozin’ while your nose is brusin’.

Get used to sleeping in a toy box.

I have rolled over onto plastic forks, woken up to find I was sleeping on an Elmo book, and I can confidently say there is nothing creepier than opening your eyes to see the vacant stare of a plastic baby doll looking back at you. Nothing. You may want to read some Stephen King to prepare yourself for what’s going to happen to your bed once you let your toddler sleep next to you.

Rude awakenings will happen.

Gone are the days of slowly waking up to the quiet dawn of a new day. Now you will wake up to cries of, “Mom! Me hungry!” or your child trying to answer the age old question, “If I shove my finger up Mom’s nose, can I touch her brain?” And if they don’t wake you up, they will find any and all technology within their reach to chew on, beat against the nightstand, or open all the apps in order to drain the battery before you even get out of bed.

Their constant energy does not cease once they’re asleep.

I’m positive waterbeds went out of style once attachment parenting got big. If I had to sleep on a waterbed with a toddler I would need to take Dramamine before turning in to avoid seasickness. They toss and turn and twitch so much I don’t know how they ever wake up rested; I sure don’t.

I don’t recommend sharing your bed with your kids because it means certain peril, but I totally get why some choose to do it. Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of my sleeping children—their pouty lips parted, their snores echoing off of my headboard—and a surge of unequivocal love surges through me. They are at peace, they are happy, they are healthy, and they are everything to me. The moment is perfect.

And then they sneeze on my face.

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but if you choose to co-sleep with your toddler, I hope this list allows you to take the proper precautions.

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