My Baby Does Not Sleep! Help with ‘Self Settling’, Co-Sleeping and Sleeping in Own Bed

Baby Sleeping in Arms

Attachment Parenting in regards to sleep comes in all forms – cosleeping, sleeping in your loving arms, or in own beds. The main theme of letting the baby sleep gently is that you respond to their needs. This is a controversial topic. Why? Because there are so many ways to help your children sleep soundly. Each person offering you (unwanted?) advice in your sleep deprived days, believes their way is better or necessary for the health of you and your baby. Some may well be, but some may be detrimental to you and / or your baby.

With my 3 children, one slept well in a Moses basket by my side until gone 6 months, then in a cot for 6 months, then coslept until the age of 2.5. Since then she has been an awesome sleeper in her own bed. Another put himself to sleep in the cot as a newborn baby, eventually cosleeping too. And last, but by no means least, the ‘one who never slept’ on or off me, cosleeping or in own cot, rocking or feeding, begging…

This blog delves into different sleeping options – cosleeping (including how to cosleep safely with newborn twins), putting them in a moses basket or cotbed, and sleeping in their own bed. It then discusses how and where to let your baby sleep for naps. This blog should help you decide which sleeping options may suit you and your baby best, how to try to implement them gently, how to still get some quality time with your partner amidst responding to your children in the night, and how to respond to child’s needs but also creatively encourage the sleeping that you’d prefer for your own sanity.

Cosleeping With One Baby

I accidentally coslept quite a few times with my eldest because of sleep deprivation. The first time was in hospital 2 days after her birth. I’d been staying in hospital for the week leading up to her birth. I could not sleep at all, needing total silence for me to sleep. The labour was nearly 24 hours. After birth, I still couldn’t sleep as another lady’s baby in my room was crying most of the night and she was responding with ritualistic chants rather than feeding or doing anything with the baby. Sheer exhaustion set in and I fell asleep with my baby in my arms, on a single hospital bed, raised high in the air, with no arm supports or bed guards…

One of the midwives woke me up shouting that it was dangerous, there were warning posters on the walls with something about falling asleep with your baby and sids risk. Ultimately, I felt like a terrible mother for falling asleep with my baby in my arms.

Once home I persevered with putting my baby in her Moses basket. The manufacturers of Moses baskets recommend they’re only for up to 4 months of age, so when she was nearly 7 months old with her legs hanging over the top, I tried again with a cotbed. She did not like that as much and began waking repeatedly again. When I fell pregnant with the twins, I knew I couldn’t physically be risking lifting my 1 year old in and out of her cot for several night feedings. We began planned cosleeping.

These are the things we did to safeguard our daughter, having read the NCT’s recommendations:

  • Pulled the mattress onto the floor so if she was to fall off she would not fall far.
  • Made sure I tucked my duvet under my legs so it would not cover her in the night.
  • Made sure she was slightly further down the bed so as not to be near my pillow.
  • Continued placing her on her back, which is the current recommendation for putting babies to bed.

Being pregnant with twins at the same time did not allow me to relax and sleep while my toddler breastfed. I always felt a bit conscious that I had to protect my pregnant belly from my toddler throwing herself around while feeding. However I find it far easier than getting up and down when I used the cot next to me.

Tips for a Planned Change in Main Cosleeping Parent

Around 2 months before the twins were due to be born, I encouraged my husband to join us on the bedtime routine so that our daughter would get used to his comfort at night too. I would stop her breastfeeding just before she fell asleep, and when she cried my husband would try his own soothing techniques. He found gently stroking her hair comforted her to sleep with us.

Once I went into the hospital with the twins, he took over bed sharing with our daughter. It all went relatively smoothly. She was happy continuing like this but did occasionally scream for Mummy in the night, when he would explain that Mummy would come as soon as possible.

Once the twins got a bit older, close to the 18 month mark, I did allow her to settle on a spare part of our super king sized bed if she woke in the night.

Cosleeping with Twins or Multiple Children

The NCT recommends not cosleeping with a baby until they are at least 6 months old. That all seems possible when you have one newborn, but when you have two newborn babies at the same time, and especially if you have no support during the night, the sleep deprivation can be unreal. One of our twins barely slept.

As a background, the ‘non-sleeping twin’ was the only baby to have been in intensive care for a few days. With having her brother in a separate part of the hospital with me, and the recovery from the c-section to contend with, I was barely able to visit her for the first couple of days. There was a new midwife looking after her who refused to let me breastfeed her. She must have had a lot of emotions to deal with about the whole NICU situation she was left in.

The sleepless nights and constant crying was so challenging to cope with. The other twin woke for the day at 4am. The ‘non sleeping twin’ would fall asleep late at around midnight. When the twins were around 4 months old, my daughter started rolling around and bumping into the sides of the cot, waking herself constantly. My sleep deprived mind decided I had no choice but to co-sleep with her.

As she was so tiny, to ensure that she would not be squashed by me if I couldn’t lift her into the cot, I had a king sized mattress on the floor and lay her with her feet at right angles to my body and her head about a foot away from the edge of the bed. I slept as close as I could to the opposite side of the bed.

When her brother woke in the night too, although he was great at sleeping in his cot, I sometimes did not have the energy to risk him waking by standing up from the floor. So some nights I put him a couple of body lengths further down the bed, in the same sleeping position (at right angles from myself). They seemed to sleep much better this way.

The twins were growing quickly and eventually this couldn’t work anymore. I started lying in the middle of them with one each side, but not length ways as most people sleep on the bed, width ways so the room next to each twin was bigger. This worked for a while too. Then one started falling off the end which wasn’t against the wall.

At this point, when they were around a year old, we invested in a super king sized bed. We put the foot of the bed and one side along walls at one corner of the room, preventing anyone moving down those sides. The long side not next to a wall, we put bed guards. The other side would not allow anyone to fall as it had a tall bedhead. I slept in the middle and there was plenty of room each side for a twin. We all slept with our head along the width by the wall rather than lengthways how people would usually sleep on a bed.

Now, for the first time in a while, I was able to not usually know if I’d woken in the night. I suspect that was either because the twins were soundly sleeping in the knowledge that I was keeping them safe. Or perhaps it was because I had plenty of room, I knew they were safe, and I could drift to sleep really quickly and not remember waking to feed them.

All 3 of us are still sleeping, relatively peacefully, in the super king sized bed now at 20 months old. Occasionally my eldest daughter joins us too in the early hours of the morning.

Sleeping in Moses Basket or Cotbed in Same Room

The recommendation from birth, until at least the first 6 months, by the Lullaby Trust is to sleep in the same room as your baby. The findings of a large European study referred to on the Lullaby Trust website was that sharing a room, but not a bed, with your baby for the first 6 months reduced SIDS risk. That includes when they are sleeping for naps. Do not leave your baby unattended. Remember that SIDS cases are higher in newborn babies and, by being in a different room, you may miss something lifesaving.

With my firstborn baby, I used a moses basket and she seemed to cope fine with it. I had no experience of getting babies to sleep so I just breastfed her to sleep and then placed her in the basket. When she started rolling, I kept the basket on the floor next to my bed, as I wasn’t comfortable with the rocking part and height of it and my baby now on the move.

When transitioning her from the moses basket to a cotbed, she started waking an awful lot again. I kept having to feed her and then put her back in, so being in the same room even beyond the 6 month minimum recommendation was important for my own ability to sleep as quickly as possible.

Helping Baby to Self Settle to Sleep in Their Own Cot Bed

When I discovered that I was pregnant with twins, I knew I would have to do something different than going with the flow on where they sleep. I expected I would physically and mentally not be able to cope with 3 babies under the age of 2 if they all needed me to breastfeed them to sleep.

Fortunately my toddler weaned from night feeding to sleep when I went into the hospital to have the twins. My husband was also finally able to comfort her to sleep. She was also a thumb sucker, which helped.

With my twins, one was referred to as the ‘non sleeping baby’ above, but the other had never been separated from me so was a super chilled baby by nature. I worked hard at putting him to sleep for both naps and nighttime in a cot or moses basket. I made the decision to put him to sleep awake but sleepy, as I had read that in so many irritating places with my eldest child. For my eldest it was too late to start doing that when she was a year old. With my twins, it was not too late.

I did not like the idea of putting a baby down and let them cry it out. I decided to put him down awake but tired. If he cried, usually instantly, I would pick him up, cuddle him, feed him, whatever felt appropriate at the time. Then I would put him down again. I repeated the process, although sometimes I realised he wasn’t actually tired and would take him back to the living area.

He very quickly was used to the idea of going in the cot for sleep, and would sing some babble sounds and fall asleep within minutes. He always cried if he needed feeding etc, and there was nothing traumatic about it. The only downside was it was a bit more effort for me in the early days of trying this, but I knew that babies their age slept a lot more than when they get bigger. So the small extra effort in these early days would pay off later on.

He was the first baby my husband could even take down, awake, and lay him in bed. It felt so relaxing and I wish I’d given this a try with my firstborn too. Once his self settling to sleep was mastered, I started the same process with the other twin. This was a bit more challenging, as she typically slept much less. It actually did start working though! I felt like SuperMum!

Unfortunately I couldn’t keep it up with the second twin as we had an extension done and went and stayed in temporary accommodation for 2 weeks. She was doing so well with self settling in a standard baby cotbed, but understandably found the travel cot unbearable. Two weeks of cosleeping, at the age of 6 months, formed too much of a habit. I was too exhausted to start repeatedly putting her asleep awake, so when back home we just went back to cosleeping.

I could genuinely see how easily these methods would gently work if you only had one baby at a time though. And a bit more effort with twins but without forcing them to then self settle in uncomfortable travel cots is also achievable. I will be mentioning this gentle sleeping tip to my children if they become parents anyway.

Ideas to Help Baby Nap

It is important for your baby to be in the same room as you until they are 6 months old. This reduces their risk of SIDS, as mentioned above. Even with one baby, I found it useful to have two beds available – one in the living area and one in the bedroom. This became especially difficult with two babies at once and a 20 month old toddler running around.

The best thing I did, with the unusable travel cot we bought a year earlier, was to not let it go to waste. I pulled it out of our loft and had it permanently in the living room. Two baby moses baskets fitted perfectly within it. Each twin slept in their own basket, protected by the travel cot so my 1 year old could not disturb them (well, not physically anyway!).

I discovered that trying to put down a sleeping baby did not always go to plan. The instant the sleeping head touched the bed they would immediately wake and start crying. Gutted! The best thing I casually discovered was if the moses basket has been in the sun first, it felt more like a body temperature if I think put baby in, so they didn’t notice a temperature difference. Make sure to slide the basket out of the sunlight after they’re in it though 🙂

How to Still Get Quality Time with your Partner at Night if you do the Night Shift

Assuming you have sufficient bedrooms, you soon realise that your baby is likely to start settling in the earlier part of the night, for maybe 2 hours or more. This for us gave enough time to have a little cuddle in my husband’s bed together. Don’t be fooled into thinking that, once the baby is above 6 months, you have to stay in the same room with them while they sleep.

If when you are first woken to the baby in the next room you end up falling asleep then that’s fine. If you’re still awake, you can slip away and go back and have snuggles with your partner again. It is still possible to achieve any aims you have of being there for your children but also being there with your husband.

When you’re ‘Done’ with Co-Sleeping – Tips On Transitioning Toddler to Own Room

My husband did not find cosleeping as enjoyable as I did. He was happy supporting the family in this way at the beginning when the twins were first born. Several months later he started feeling overwhelmed with working so much and she seemed to keep waking him up. He also snores relatively loudly and I suspect her sleep at night was being disturbed too as she was now having 3 hours naps in the day for the first time ever. Gradually we started transitioning our daughter with the aim of her staying in bed for the night alone.

First we offered a bed next to my husband’s main bed (both were just mattresses on the floor for her continued safety). She did choose to start sleeping on that or sometimes rolled off in the night maybe when my husband’s snoring woke her. We were fixing the house up anyway (as mentioned above, we’d had an extension done). When creating a whole new bedroom we asked her the question while she saw the room taking shape “who’s room should this one be? Your brother’s?” (as it genuinely was going to be at the time as he was the better sleeper naturally). Of course, at the age of 2.5 years when everything is “no, mine!”, it provided us with an opportunity to see how she would go with her own room.

We recreated the bed she was used to in ‘her room’. It was worth the cost of another mattress for us to see if this worked. My husband painted the wall beautifully to offer an exciting bed space. One of us would continue taking her to bed at bedtime, and then we would leave. When she woke, one of us would join her, and leave again when she was asleep. It didn’t take long at all until she stopped waking very much at all. She did actually even ask to take herself to bed a couple of times. We hugged and kissed her goodnight, left her alone and she actually self settled to sleep. The first time this happened she was sucking her thumb and had a very proud and big smile across her face. I honestly thought it was a trick to go see her siblings….

Moments like these totally reinforced to me that responding to our children’s needs is the way that we should parent. It lets our children know we are there for them no matter how hectic our lives are, and gives them the peace that they can call on us. This surely assists them to relax at night and in the day, reducing anxiety and stress.

I Am Considering Cosleeping for the First Time – I Want To Read More From Professionals

UNICEF publishes the most recent research on bedsharing with babies. At the time of writing this blog, they referred to findings that breastfeeding was significantly associated with cosleeping.

Please also refer to the NCT guidance again, which has been linked throughout the above post.

The Lullaby Trust also has an easy to view video about safely cosleeping. Please pay particular attention to their section ‘When Not To Co-Sleep’ as this includes important points to ensure your baby’s safety.

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