Babies wake up a lot, and it is worth putting quite a lot of thought and effort into figuring out how parents can still get sleep. One approach we've found helpful is trying to reduce the time when the baby is able to wake us both up by sleeping in multiple rooms.

For example, here's what last night looked like:

  • 9:30: Nora (9m) goes to sleep, in her room.

  • 10:45: we both go to sleep, in our bedroom. Being able to talk and cuddle before sleep is important, and we almost always start the night in the same room.

  • 12:45: Nora wakes up. We both hear it on the monitor. I go get her and give her to Julia to nurse. We are trying to reduce night wakings, so this was a tapered feed. I set a timer for 3 minutes. When it goes off, I bring Nora back to her bed and put her down. I go to sleep in Nora's room. Julia turns off the monitor.

  • 1:00: Nora did not go to sleep right away, and after a bunch of thumping her feet and then some crying I settle her. She takes maybe another 10 minutes before she goes to sleep.

  • 2:55: Nora wakes up again. This is late enough that she gets a full feed, so I let Julia know that she's awake, and go to sleep in Anna's room. Julia feeds Nora, turns the monitor on, and goes back to sleep.

  • 6:00 Julia hears Nora on the monitor and feeds her

  • 7:15: My and the older kids alarms go off to get ready for school. Because I'm not in the same room as Julia, this doesn't wake her up.

  • 7:30: I hear Nora thumping on the monitor, and bring her down to while I get the older kids ready for school.

  • 8:00: Nora is eating breakfast and Julia is still asleep, so the older two walk to school together.

This is more complicated than our typical nights: when Nora is sleeping well she wakes only twice, and I move to Anna's room at the first waking.

We have extra beds partly for playing on, but also to facilitate this. Nora's room has a guest bed, while Anna's just has an extra mattress on the floor.

When Lily was a baby, I think we overly prioritized being in the same room, and we'd both wake up every time Lily woke. Eventually we started using multiple rooms, but it took us much longer than if we'd been thinking about it from the start.

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We also prioritized sleep pretty heavily. Just as a datapoint, here are some of the ways that has looked for us:

  • Both parents get 4+ hour chunks of uninterrupted, "both ears closed" sleep from the time the baby comes home. Mom sets alarms to pump and baby gets bottles of breastmilk when Mom is on her sleep shifts. 
  • As baby got older and more settled, taking dedicated shifts whenever we expect a more difficult night - e.g. switching at 2 AM. Parents sleep in different rooms, baby sleeps in room with on-shift parent, the first minute that parent is awake after 2 AM, they move the baby to the other parent's room. (Sometimes modified to first time they are putting the baby down after 2 AM). On less difficult nights, we did the same thing by switching sides of the bed so that the on-duty parent was close to the baby.
  • From the beginning, each parent getting periodic off duty nights, sleeping in a room with no baby or monitor all night. Mom sets an alarm to pump if she's off duty. Our experience was that waking at a pre-determined time to pump and not having to monitor for or judge baby noises, or know which chunks of sleep would be long versus short, was overall much more restful than getting up to nurse, even if the two took the same amount of time.

We have in general lucked out with our baby being a relatively good sleeper and generally easier than average, but the above has been very important to us as well. 

My experience after two babies: better if the kid sleeps with mother in the same bed. The reason: she can feed the baby almost in sleep, and the baby is more happy to be near the mother, so not night cries.

That was our experience when the kids were very little (though with our youngest, we used a Snoo instead, and would recommend it). When they got older, however, and didn't need to eat so often, continuing with co-sleeping would have meant substantially worse sleep for the mother.

Sharing a bed with kids has the same pros and cons as carrying them: It is nice for both of them, builds trust that makes later autonomy easier (in my opinion) but also takes its toll - you get exhausted quickly. And while carrying may count as free exercise, lack of sleep doesn't. 

Every now and then, my youngest (10) still wants to sleep in my bed - especially after a stressful day - and I know that I will need about two hours more sleep - because he turns and moves a lot.

Bigger beds help. We had a self-build 3x2m family bed (which counts as extremely big in Germany) and filled most of the family bedroom - bordering on three walls, so there wasn't even a risk of falling out at the side - on some family evenings, all six of us slept in there.  

Things I can confirm from our own for kids:

  • Additional beds - simple mattresses you lean to the wall also work - in kid's rooms work great. Also: Rocking chairs or other comfy chairs.
  • Being able to talk and cuddle is important - before sleep or at other times.
  • Make sure you get as much sleep as you can - it will often not be enough anyway. Finding ways for one partner to sleep while the other takes care of all kids is something you probably have to do if you don't have a nanny or other people who can take care.
  • Having a feeding schedule is better than not having one.