How to exit the family bed

I love cosleeping with our little girl, and I’ve written fondly about it before. That’s not what this post is about. This post is also not about how to stop cosleeping with your baby or toddler once you’ve gotten into that habit. I haven’t the foggiest idea how to do that, and I am the last person who should be writing a blog post about it. If and when we ever figure that one out, trust me – I’ll blog about it, Facebook about it and shout it from the highest rooftops.

No, this post is simply meant to be a helpful how-to for parents with a little one in their bed. Parents who need to exit that bed, temporarily, while leaving the little one slumbering peacefully. Parents who need to exhibit the speed and stealth of a ninja in order to depart without waking up, and pissing off, said baby.

I can teach you how to do this, because I am an expert at it. After cosleeping for more than two and a half years, the only way I get *anything* done is by executing what I affectionately call the Pillow Drop Log Roll maneuver. I do this almost every night. I would do it at naptime on Wednesdays and weekends too, but for reasons I have yet to figure out or understand, this move does not work during naptime. Only bedtime at night. But I digress. Let me first explain why you would need to employ such tactics – black ops, if you will – on your sleeping infant or toddler.

I’ll tell you why. It’s because these small, savvy creatures have more senses than a normal person. They go way beyond six – they have approximately eleven senses, all acutely honed to knowing when their beloved parent/milkshake machine/wooby is about to creep out of the bed to do mommy business. Whenever you’re lying there next to your little love and start thinking you might want to get up and go blog, snarf your secret hoard of Cadbury Creme Eggs, or even jump on your work laptop and do a little late-night catching up on work, they know it. That’s when they become the tiny human equivalent of a band-aid, plastered up against you with every cell of surface area they have. They can be in a deep sleep and still sense your pending departure, clinging on to you like a rabid tree monkey, sidling as close as possible and sometimes even throwing a leg over you for better grabbing and staying power. THEY DO NOT WANT YOU TO LEAVE. You are warm, you are cozy, you are a milkshake machine and you smell like love. In their mind, nothing else could possibly be as important as lying beside them and being their human sleep aid.

But there is a way. My patented (okay, it’s not, but it should be) Pillow Drop Log Roll maneuver works almost every time. Here are my step by step instructions. Good luck! And may the mommy force be with you.

1. First, be sure baby is completely and utterly asleep. If you’re nursing, baby should have unlatched and relaxed away from you a tiny, almost barely perceptible amount. Watch baby’s hands – they should be relaxed, open and loose. Only then can you proceed safely to step 2.

2. Remove the pillow from the warming chamber (i.e., between your knees). Did I forget to tell you to put a pillow between your knees? Go back and do that. It’s the step before #1. Keep it there a good long while – until baby’s asleep. Get it nice and warm. Now, in a seamless and silent movement, whip the pillow out from between your knees and place it on top of your body, lengthwise. Do this without moving or disturbing the sleeping angel in any way.

3. In another swift and precise motion, ideally at the exact same time as step #2 above, roll away from baby and completely out of the bed, allowing the pillow on top of you to strategically drop into the space your body occupied just milliseconds ago. This MUST be done with razorlike precision and lightning speed. The baby must not sense your departure – the mommy-warmed pillow will lull the sleeping little one into thinking you’re still present and accounted for. If you must drop down onto the floor to accomplish this, so be it – but in time you’ll be able to do this all so fast and with such cat-like reflexes that you roll out, land on your feet and pop up like a skilled assassin, all in a split second’s time.

4. Hold perfectly still. Don’t even breathe. This is the critical junction at which sleeping baby may start executing the patting motion that will tip him off to your desertion. She may still be sound asleep yet the moment the realization sets in that mommy is gone, the age old primordial instinct of night terror and aloneness will kick in, setting off the alarm that can wake the dead. In other words, you’ll be caught and will have no choice but to slink back into bed with your tail between your legs, resolving to try again another day. Don’t worry, soldier – it happens to even the stealthiest mommies. Just keep trying. You can do this.

5. If you’ve managed to execute the Pillow Drop Log Roll as seamlessly, swiftly and silently as described above, and if baby remains sleeping blissfully, cuddled up to the mommy-warm and mommy-scented pillow you’ve so thoughtfully deposited in the bed, then you are FREE for the next hour to three hours. Watch TV, blog, mingle on Facebook, have a glass of wine, or indulge in some chocolate. You deserve it! After all, even Indiana Jones couldn’t do this maneuver right every time. Remember him carefully weighing and measuring a sand bag before quickly swapping it out for a big jewel? Remember what happened when he gauged the weight wrong – shooting daggers, poison darts and a giant boulder chasing him out of the cave? That’s you, mommy – only you didn’t get caught. Congratulations! Enjoy your hard won mommy time.

There you have it – my very best advice on how to keep baby happy, get your mommy time and get some work done, too. If reading this made you think “why would I ever want to cosleep if I have to go through all that?” then you may have a point. But that brings me to step 6 – some would say it’s the best step of all.

6. After enjoying your well earned break, creep back into the bedroom and sneak into the warm, baby-cocoon of a bed. Curl up with your little one and feel her snuggle into you, sighing in her sleep at the pure happiness that is mommy’s warmth and presence. Maybe he’ll start to nurse again, or maybe she’ll just keep peacefully snoozing – but either way, sneaking back into bed to fall asleep cuddled in the all-cultures, all-peoples, timeless sleeping position of mama wrapped around baby is the VERY best part of this whole process. You got your needs met, and baby gets his met too. It’s the best of all worlds.

So what do you think – have you tried the Pillow Drop Log Roll, or do you have another escape tactic or cosleeping secret I should know about? I’d love to hear in the comments below! In my next post, I’ll blog about how to successfully put down a sleeping baby or toddler who has fallen asleep on you – without them ever waking up! But no, not really. Because no one can do that. It’s impossible. It’s a known fact that they will always wake up, so don’t even try – just enjoy their sleepy snuggles and focus instead on how you’re going to get the feeling back into your hands, arms, left foot and left lower leg once they wake up.


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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.


  1. I do all of the above, but *slowly.* Like, slug on the sidewalk slowly. Mostly this is due to hip pain thanks to vaginal birth that prevents me from being able to get out of bed quickly. If I try, my own yelp of agony would break the spell. But yes, the careful roll-out to take a knee on the floor as the pillow drops, the moment of silence before rising. Even prayers against the dreaded hip or knee pop that might really just be for us thirty-something Mamas who thought we’d be all cool and save the child-rearing for after the wild selfishness of our twenties, only to learn WHY it’s better to try this stuff while you’re still young and flexible. Literally. I also have a method for putting down the sleeping baby or toddler? Want to hear it? It’s called “transfer the angel to Daddy and let him do it.” Works nearly every time for those who have a willing partner nearby. Also works with friends, grandparents – anyone who doesn’t smell like Mommy, really. Plus, if little one wakes up, someone ELSE gets a shot at soothing her back to sleep – and practicing the Pillow Drop Maneuver.

  2. Love the pillow idea!

    My babies (dd 2y 8m and ds 8m) never unlatch voluntarily, so I wait till their breathing changes, limbs relax, etc and then roll (yes, still attached) onto my back. And freeze! They flutter half awake, find me still there, drift back off, and then I tai chi my way ever-so-slowly out of bed. Formylittleguy. I then strategically place pillows to prevent rolling, so I’m definitely going to try this on him next time.

    1. My daughter won’t ever unlatch at naptime, but she does at night when she goes down for “the big sleep.” You’ve got some serious skills, mama Liz! I need to come up with a mommy ninja badge for all of us to proudly display. πŸ˜‰

    1. LOL, good thinking Lee – we’ve got one of those. It lives in my daughter’s adjacent, vacant room. You know, the stuffed animal dormitory. πŸ˜›

  3. This was hilarious! I haven’t done that exact maneuver- but enough close to it that I can totally relate. My youngest likes to sleep on his tummy with his butt in the air, so if I wait for him to roll into that position, I’ve got a pretty good chance of getting out of the bed.

    1. Our daughter loves the belly down, butt up position too. Once she assumes that position it’s definitely easier to escape the bed! Thanks for visiting, Katrina. πŸ™‚

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