The moment you announce your pregnancy, people start in with that sadistic line about enjoying sleep while you can, because you can kiss it goodbye once the baby comes (never mind that many women don’t sleep well toward the end of pregnancy, either). It’s like they take pleasure in the idea that you’re about to receive your raccoon eyes and that you may or may not spend the next year wondering if that dancing lawn gnome in your living room is a hallucination or not.
Yeah, sleeping when you have a newborn can be tricky. It can be relegated to a myth, depending on the kid, the phase, or the night, for that matter. But there are things you can do to make the wake-ups less painful for everyone involved, if you’re willing to go a slightly unconventional route.
I prefer to use gear that’s not explicitly adaptive when I can, for a few reasons. First, generally speaking, adaptive stuff is expensive. It’s made by small companies in small batches or even to order, so the cost advantages of mass production usually don’t exist. Second, the sample size of users is quite small, so it’s difficult to find reviews that speak to the overall quality of the product — write-ups, if you can find them, tend to focus on the adaptive advantages. Third, when I use a mainstream product that meets my unique needs, I try to make sure I give the company feedback that highlights the fact that they’ve made a product that’s friendly to people of varying abilities in hopes that they might market it that way. I recognize that this isn’t always an option, but I usually try to find something in the mainstream market that’ll work.
In addition to the regular concerns about sleep, Bryan and I also needed to consider my mobility. Walking down the hall to another bedroom, then scooping a baby out of a crib with high railings isn’t practical for me, and I breastfeed, so putting Daddy on night duty just isn’t an option.
Enter, my favorite invention of all time: The cosleeper. A cosleeper is like a crib, but one side is low and it attaches to your bed, so baby is always within reach. Many people use a bassinet for the first few weeks; a cosleeper is bigger than a bassinet, so baby can sleep close by for much longer, even if you’re not crazy about bed sharing.
I’ve only been able to find one brand that’s meant for babies over 6 or 8 weeks, and that’s the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. There are various sizes, including a mini, in case you have a smaller space or want it to be more portable, but baby will outgrow it faster. I have the Ideal Co-Sleeper, which doubles as a pack and play, though I haven’t used it as such. There’s a clever strap system that attaches the whole thing to the bed so that if baby climbs out, it doesn’t slide away. If you’re a wheelchair user and need to be able to get to the lower side from your chair, it’s super easy to unbuckle and slide away from the bed. My only significant complaint is that it’s supposed to be used with beds no lower than 24”, which sounds low, but if you have limited mobility and aren’t very tall, that’s actually pushing it. We raised our bed up to 24” exactly and it was really hard for me to climb into, so we ended up lowering it again. It’s actually fine, but I guess we’re technically putting it to off-label use. Overall, it’s amazing. Well-made, lightweight, easy to store, and SO convenient.
I’ve also seen a crib with a swinging door, which eliminates the obstacle of needing to reach over the top of a railing and allows someone who’s sitting or on the short side to use a standard crib setup. We never intended to have Arwen in her own room until later on, though, so I didn’t really look into it. From what I can see, though, it’s an adaptation you have to make yourself. Also, it feels to me like a tiny jail cell. That’s kind of how I feel about cribs across the board, and the door puts it over the edge, but I digress. If cribs don’t seem like tiny jail cells to you, this could be a super useful tool.
So, there you have it. If you’re working with a small space, have a physical disability, are breastfeeding, or just want to keep baby close, a cosleeper might be the way to go!