Build A Co-Sleeper For Your Baby

If you're feeling handy and expecting a new arrival, consider building a co-sleeper.

Do-it-yourself activities are all well and good, but before you start building furniture for your baby, make sure you are not just confident in your skills but truly competent in them. Babies are fragile, and the last thing you want to do is build a shoddy piece of furniture.

That being said, one of the items you might want to consider building (if that's your sort of thing) is a co-sleeper. The very un-baby-sounding name of this piece of furniture belies its very baby-friendly qualities. If you aren't already familiar with this piece of furniture, a short description is in order. Like a bassinet or crib, a co-sleeper is meant for the baby's nighttime sleeping or even napping. Where it differs from those two, though, is that it sits right up next to the parents' bed, attaches to it, and features an opening where the two pieces of furniture come into contact. The baby's mattress is on the level of the parents' or very close to it.

The advantages at this point should be obvious. The baby is close to one of the parents (often the mother) for comfort breastfeeding and/or other care, but there is virtually no risk of rolling over on the baby, as can occur if the baby was in the bed WITH the parents.

That being said, what do you need to know to build one from scratch?

First, the shape is rectangular, whereas a bassinet can often be more rounded (and even some cribs are round or oval). Why? Because the co-sleeper needs to butt up right against the parental bed. Thus, a rounded edge won't work. Typical length is 35 to 40 inches and typical width is 20 to 28 inches. Remember that your co-sleeper will need a mattress, so don't use a set of dimensions that will be too large or too small for a standard mattress, unless you plan to custom-make that item as well.

Second, the walls of the co-sleeper should be solid, like a bassinet tend to have, and not slats like many cribs have. The fourth wall that abuts to the bed should be nonexistent or most of it should be cut out to allow easy access to the baby and to allow the baby to feel a sense of closeness to the parent.

Third, the height must correspond to the height of the parents' bed, so that the baby's mattress is level with the parents' mattress or just an inch or two lower. If you think that you will use the co-sleeper with more than one bed (i.e. you plan to move it between a couple rooms or you think you will get a new bed soon), make sure you have a way to adjust the height in one- or two-inch increments. Also, consider a larger height extension of perhaps six inches, so that the co-sleeper can double as a changing table.

One of the hallmarks of a co-sleeper is sturdy contruction but compactness and light weight. This is meant to be a very mobile piece of furniture. As such, a light wooden frame or one that uses lightweight metal or plastic tubing can work well. Over this frame, use fabric to make solid walls that don't add much weight.

Remember to include straps that will secure the co-sleeper to the parental bed. Brakes (if the co-sleeper has wheels) or non-skid caps on the bottoms of the furniture legs are NOT sufficient. You cannot afford to let the co-sleeper push away from the bed at all, or the baby could fall to the ground or be trapped between the co-sleeper and the bed.

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