I get asked a lot how we manage with a family of five and our sleeping arrangements. And my answer is typically, "musical beds".
There are a lot of different ways to co-sleep but this is what works for our family, you may be able to apply parts or all to your sleeping routine.
When Sylvia was born we got an arms reach co-sleeper. She never slept in it because I had a c-section and leaning over and lifting her out of it hurt like hell. So she was in the bed with me and there she stayed. Girlfriend ruled our bed and our life like only a first born can do!
We kept the co-sleeper attached for a few months as insurance she wouldn't hit the floor if she ever slept on the edge...this meant that my husband and I could sleep next to each other. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with newborns sleeping between parents this is a great solution.
For both Penelope and Oliver we did what is called side-carring the crib to the bed. Though I don't think anybody has ever actually slept in the crib it allows us to maximize the full width of our bed. You can see an example in the pictures below.
Now does co-sleeping mean they will sleep with you forever, or even every night? No. I would say for the last year or so that they are only in our bed 5% of the time. Now I do lay with them until they fall asleep in my bed then transfer, because it's easiest and works for our family.
We never bought a toddler bed. A full we've had for years went straight into Sylvia's room. It's awesome, if the kids did sleep in our bed often times we would sleep in the kids room. Sometimes one kid is in our room with me, and the other is the kid's room with Kyle. Sometimes both kids are in our room, and the baby is in the full and we're hanging on the couch.....see musical beds.
Most nights they sleep all the way through as long as they're with someone. And you know what I don't want to sleep alone, so why would I think a child would want to. I get it. Some nights one or both will come find us. Some nights like last night my daughter was pretty adamant she wanted to stay in our bed and not be moved to her room. OK. We can do that. And we all slept the whole night through. I'm sure if we would've moved her last night she would have woken up, and in turn woken me up, and maybe my husband, and maybe my son, and maybe the baby. Now, who wants the whole family up at 2am.
We have no expectations when it comes to sleep, and most nights are fairly easy now.
Tips for co-sleeping with a newborn and bigger kids.
When Penelope came Sylvia and Oliver needed me more, understandably so. In the first few weeks I didn't want to be waking everyone as we we're establishing sleep, nursing and midnight diaper changes. Every night I would either have Kyle carry Penelope or if she was happy and asleep I would have her on my chest as I lay with the big kids as they drifted to sleep with me by their side. Then we would transfer them to their bed and Kyle would spend the rest of the night with them. Penelope and I got the whole room and bed to ourselves to party like college kids 'till 4 in the morning. We also could sleep in a bit while the rest of the rested house woke early for breakfast.