Introduction: Foldable & Compact Co-Sleeper
Last year we learned that we were pregnant (my wife of course, but I am very involved ;)), and we started to discuss the ways in which we would like to raise our kid.
One of the first topics we discussed is what to do at night... Prepare the babyroom and have everything in there seems strange if baby needs to be fed every 2 hours (note I'm not speaking from experience yet, but from research). We both felt that co-sleeping would be a good thing for both parents and baby, but unfortunately we have very limited space in our bedroom, and none of the off-the-shelf co-sleepers would fit in our room.
We therefore decided that making our own would be the best way forward. Due to its limited size, we might not be able to use it as long as off-the-shelf solutions, but I think it's best of both worlds, especially to pass the first couple of months.
Step 1: Research
First step is to do research...
There's two sides to the story and you'll find contradicting information on whether to co-sleep or not. However, a lot of articles use co-sleeping and bed-sharing interchangeably. We are not looking to sleep in the same bed, but rather to have an "extension" such that the baby has its own space to sleep in. We outweighed the risks and benefits and decided that at least while my wife is still breastfeeding, it should be completely safe to co-sleep using an external co-sleeper.
Several co-sleepers models are available using boards or slats. After some more research we decided that more ventilation is better to minimise the risks, and therefore we decided to go with the slat design.
The next question then becomes: what size should the space in between the slats be? Well like for everything these days, most product groups are well regulated and therefore there are standards. A short google search was concluded with a product-safety-guide.pdf with the following statement:
Never use a cot that has loose or missing slats. Be sure that all slats are securely fastened in place and the space between slats is no more than 4.5 cm to 6.0 cm to avoid head entrapment /strangulation.
Same holds for painting and or varnishing, the same document states the following:
If a cot is to be painted or refinished, use only high quality household lead-free enamel paint and let it dry thoroughly so there are no residual fumes. Check the label on the paint can to make sure the manufacturer does not recommend against using the paint on items such as cots.
Step 2: Requirements and Dimensions
First things first. How much space do we have?
Well we have quite a small bedroom, and we have 30 cm on one side of the bed and 40 on the other. We are going to reconfigure the room, but we don't want to have the co-sleeper sticking out too much into the available space. We decided to stick to +/- 40 cm which is more or less what babies have in prams. But what's more, the idea is that this space extends towards mommy in our bed.
When we saw the IKEA PLUFSIG, we thought that would be the perfect size to base it on, and if needed we would make a mattress to fit in there. This resulted in the inner dimensions of 37x78 cm.
Then let's list "all" our requirements:
- It should be foldable, such that it takes up as little space as possible once the baby moves on to the next sleeping situation.
- Same height as our mattress, such that the baby can smoothly roll from one mattress to the next.
Although the latter requirement seems like a difficult one, as it turns out, the entire PLUFSIG stack + 15mm plywood was exactly the perfect height when starting from our bed's sideboard.
Finally we had some stuff lying around, such as the shelf brackets shown in the picture, which perfectly fit our bed's sideboard as well. I couldn't find anything similar while googling hanging shelf brackets, so anyone knowing how to find these, please leave a comment below! :D
As briefly mentioned before, I used 15mm plywood for the base.
Furthermore, the slats were made from 20mm round slats, and the top and bottom of the sides are made from 30x40mm beams. An extra beam is needed of 30x30mm to make the front fold over the sides. I made this by sawing the 30x40 beam in length, but you might as well want to buy it ready made.
Also, 6 hinges were needed: 3 sets for each foldable side.
Final Dimensions & Supplies
Altogether the dimensions can be seen in the rough sketch above, which results in the following "shopping list":
- 15mm plywood:
- 30x40mm beams:
- 3x 840mm (front) (or 2x 30x40mm and 1x 30x30mm)
4x 340mm (side)
- 12x 220mm (front)
- 10x 250mm (side)
- 2x ???mm for legs
Step 3: Making the Sides
To make the sides 2 parts need to come together, the 30x40mm beams and the 20mm slats.
The whole process is quite straightforward:
- Cut the slats to the right length
- Drill evenly spaced 20mm holes in the beams.
- Make sure the distance between the slats is according to the norms (between 4.5 cm to 6.0 cm
- Make sure the depth of the holes is as constant as possible
Nevertheless, I thought of a couple of things that made my work a bit easier:
Making a jig for marking the slats
Cutting the slats was pretty repetitive work, but the best option I could think of given I do not have (the space for) a mitre saw, was to make a very simple jig from scrap wood. This jig helped me to draw the cutting line on the same place every time. The jig allowed me to position a pencil in a predefined dent, and turn the slat around its axis to mark its entire circumference.
Marking the centre of the beams
To mark the centre of the beams, I just lay the beams on their side, next to the floor board (15mm thick). I drew a line, which marks just off-centre, then turned around the beam to draw it on the other side. That way I could easily position my 20mm spade bit.
Assuring the depth of the holes
To assure the depth of the holes was similar each time, I used my slat-marking jig to mark a 2cm line on a scrap piece of the slat. Again, I guess people with a workshop and access to a column drill will have it way easier than me, but this made it very easy to measure and test for each hole.
Step 4: Finishing the Sides
Pretty straightforward again, this step consists of rounding off the edges of the beams, and sanding all the sides.
I used a wood planer to chamfer the edges slightly, and then finished it off using 120P sanding paper. This resulted in beautifully rounded corners. I made sure to round off the top sides more than the bottom sides for aesthetic purposes.
Finally everything got a quick sand, after which it got glued, and clamped in place overnight.
Step 5: Finishing & Assemble
I decided to embed the hinges to make sure the left and right sides would lay flat when folded in, and the front to fold flush over it, holding everything tightly packaged.
I marked the spots where the hinges would sit, and first cut the perimeter using a circular saw with a shallow cut depth. After chiselling out all the wood, and made sure the hinges would fit without major tension, we decided to varnish the whole thing first.
We chose to varnish all the parts before assembly, to make sure the parts are a bit more resistant to spills. I guess this is not necessary, but it does make it look very pretty as well as feels very soft.
Trick to get a silky finish was to give it two coats of varnish, and in between the coats sanding the parts with very fine sanding paper (I had some old sanding paper saying 320 laying around, not sure if it's the ISO or CAMI).
Finally came the time of assembling all the parts. Nothing special here, just screwing all the hinges in place, and making sure everything stays in its place while doing so.
Step 6: Enjoy
Nothing left to do until the baby is born!
I'm definitely curious to see if this small co-sleeper lives up to our expectations. There are a couple of things in my mind at this point in time though:
- It's quite small, but it's only supposed to be used in the first couple of months..
- It doesn't have support directly to the ground, although I've bought material to make two detachable legs, but I wanted to test this out first.. I might change my mind very fast when my baby's lying there..
I'll consider adding a review once we have used it.
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