From a mini-crib, to a Dock-a-Tot, to bed-sharing, we’ve tried a few different sleep environments on for size here to see what works best for our lil’ family and space. I wrote a comprehensive post on that topic here, in which I explain why (and when) we made the decisions we did. Now that West is 2y3mo old, we feel as though it’s time to get him comfortable with his own bed, even though we’re not fully shutting the door on bed-sharing.
For a while, we debated: Do we craft a mini-Murphy bed in the closet? Do we create a daybed-style built-in? Do we make a fold-out platform at the foot of the bed? Ultimately we decided on the simplest course of action— a bumper pillow for the couch.
While this particular move won’t land us in any decor magazines (what— no picturesque telescoping guard-rail or accordion extension on the build-ins?!), it is easy, affordable and practical. And while it’s admittedly not the most aesthetically-rewarding choice, it’s not an eyesore either. Plus it’s easy to for others to recreate in their own small homes or apartments, without requiring extra inches or big budgets.
When we make our bed in the morning, we slip the bumper out of sight against the headboard behind our normal pillows. Unless the linens need to be washed, the mattress protector and fitted sheet fit within a repurposed plastic bag, and are stashed under the bed or sofa. West’s Ketzal Blanket folds up and remains by the couch, while his Parachute Baby Quilt + Pillow go onto our bed, as they always have.
(Ah, Sophee, why must you stick your nose in EVERYTHING? Please note that we do not leave plastic bags out where the pups or our son can get to them. This repurposed storage bag is usually tucked safely away unless actively in-use. Safety first, folks!)
The whole thing takes about 5 minutes to set up / and 5 minutes to break down. Adam or I encourage West to join us so that he can find joy and pride in the process of constructing his own space at night, and deconstructing it for the entire family’s use in the morning.
By adding books (which West chooses every night), a hand-me-down rotating nightlight gifted by his cousins, and a few plushies (which we only bring out at bedtime so that the dogs don’t mistake them for their toys), the space instantly becomes West’s own little zone.
We are really relaxed when it comes to hid bedtime routine. We go through the same motions nearly every night, but we are flexible with time and place.
If he is sleepy and wants to get in bed at 7, great. If it’s more like 8, that’s fine, too. If he wants to read 10 books instead of 5, we go for it. And if he’s only in the mood for a single story and wants to sing and watch the night lamp rotate in lieu of finishing the stack of books, we do that together instead.
Similarly, we ask him which bed he prefers. He can choose his “big kid bed” on the couch, or the “family bed.” This has allowed him to naturally gravitate towards his dedicated sleep space comfortably and at his own pace. He chooses it now more than our family bed, and is clearly excited about his independence. There was no fighting, no bribery, no pleading, and and no struggling to stick to arbitrary rules. West still loves getting in bed and falling asleep, as he did before— it remains easy and delightful for everyone.
As far as noise and light are concerned once our son falls asleep… we lucked out. The kid seems to be blissfully immune. (I discussed this more comprehensively in our bed-sharing post from January 2018.)
When we have visitors over after our son’s bedtime, if we’re hosting an overnight guest, or if West has a rough night, he’s fine to simply sleep in the middle of our built-in queen bed in the bedroom instead, as he’s done for years. The great thing about bed-sharing for so long is that West contentedly falls asleep nearly anywhere and in any reasonable conditions, and he isn’t upset by change.
I know that many people can’t imagine parenting life without a crib— I completely get it, and I’m not advocating for or against any sleep methods or tools. But it has been such a happy surprise to discover that 12+ hours of sleep per night for West is doable thanks to inexpensive and space-savvy gear, such as a Dock-a-Tot (initially) and now the bumper.
While we’ve had fun trying out and reviewing other methods and products (both for our lifestyle and for our business), we continue to learn over and over that pared-down and simple solutions are usually the best for our family and our tiny home.