To go along with my articles on cosleeping and breastfeeding, I thought I'd offer my full length review of the Arm's Reach Mini CoSleeper. I used this product for about 7 months with my second daughter, and I have to say that I liked it so much that I am only sorry that I didn't have it around for my first.
For my first daughter, we slept her in a graco portable crib/playpen with the bassinet insert next to the bed. It was fine, but it was huge – we had to rearrange our room to make it fit next to the bed, and when I got her to nurse at night, I had to get up and get her in and out. Being an anxious first-time mother, I was also constantly sitting up to check on her whenever I awoke to her movements in the night.
The mini cosleeper fit easily right next to my bed and attached tightly and safely to it with the included bedplate and strap (attaches to the cosleeper and runs under the mattress and pulls firmly against the far side with a plastic plate). I could see her while I was lying down, which was great, and when she woke up, I was able to just bring her to me and lay her back down without actually getting out of bed. It was wonderful.
The mini cosleeper has its own special sheets (additional can be purchased) with lots of Velcro to attach the mattress firmly on the underside of the mattress to the frame. This is what is recommended for safety purposes by Arm's Reach. Standard elastic bassinet sheets do fit the mattress as well, and we chose to use these even though it is not recommended by the manufacturer. Height extenders are also available for the legs, so that you can make the product fit a higher mattress.
We got our mini cosleeper mainly because I expected my older daughter to want to come back in our bed, at least temporarily, when the baby was born (I figured, who wants be the only one sleeping alone!). Since it's not safe to cosleep with a baby and an older sibling (the heavily sleeping child can overlay the baby), and big sister was too young to sleep between my husband and the edge of the bed, I thought this would be perfect. Also, I believe heavily in swaddling (see my article on Swaddling Your Breastfed Baby), and I'm not personally wild about cosleeping with a swaddled baby. Ironically, our older daughter never did return to our bed, but the baby slept SO well swaddled in the cosleeper (a 6-8 hour stretch, almost right away), we stuck with it. It was great having her so close with the feeling of being with me in my bed, while still having some space to stretch out and roll around.
The mini cosleeper comes in a range of colors and patterns and range in price from about $130 to $160, although more expensive styles are available. You can get them in the traditional fabric/netting style, or splurge for natural wood slat or other more custom looks. They are even now making a product that converts to a lower crib, rather than having the storage underneath. If that had always been available, I would have never bought a full-sized portable crib, since the playpen function is not important to me. The mini provides more than enough room to sleep until your child is old enough to sleep in a regular bed, or alternately a mat, cot or sleeping bag of some kind.
Additional features and benefits of the mini cosleeper include the easy transition from the lowered side to a regular bassinet (seems tricky to figure out, but easy once you've got it down). It's also easy to disconnect from the bedplate (two squeeze latches) and then you can roll it from room to room since (unlike its full-sized counterparts), it's small enough to fit through standard doorways. It's so much smaller and lighter than the full-size portable cribs, that after years of traveling with those, it was a delight to travel with the mini. They also have pretty good resale value, selling at the time of this article, between $50 and $100 on ebay and Craigslist – neutral colors are a better buy for this purpose than a pink or patterned look.
After using a range of products, and finally coming to the mini cosleeper, I can't recommend this product highly enough.
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