Mom Goes Camping

Tips for Co-Sleeping with a Baby while Camping

baby camping in tent

Going camping with your baby? One option is to co-sleep in the same sleeping bag.  I honestly recommend against co-sleeping while camping.  However, if you want to do it safely and comfortably, follow these tips.


Why I Am Opposed to Co-Sleeping in the Same Sleeping Bag

I only tried co-sleeping with my baby once during a camping trip. She was 6 months old and the October weather was very cold, so I thought that it would be a good solution.  I was very wrong!  After that trip, I’ll never try it again: My baby is staying in her own sleeping bag!

Let me be clear about something: I’m not opposed to co-sleeping with a baby in everyday life. I co-slept with my first daughter and often co-slept with the second too.  However, co-sleeping during a camping trip is completely different than when you are at home.  Here’s why:


Breastfeeding in the Tent Is a Challenge:

There are two ways to breastfeed in a tent while camping:

  1. Sitting up
  2. Lying down

If you go with the sitting up method, you’ll need to completely remove your baby from the sleeping bag.  Guess what? It’s COLD at night! Your baby will get cold and probably fussy.  And if she does fall asleep on your boob, good luck getting her situated in the sleeping bag again without waking up.

The lying down method means that you can leave your baby in the sleeping bag.  However, this method means that your boobs must be at the same level as the baby’s mouth.  So, you will have to wriggle your entire torso up and out of the sleeping bag. This is cold and very uncomfortable (especially in a short tent where your head ends up smushed against the tent wall!).


Diaper changes are also a challenge:

If you have to change a diaper during the middle of the night, both of you will need to get out of the sleeping bag.  Again, this means your baby (and you) get cold.  And it’s a lot harder to get a baby back to sleep when she’s cold.


Suffocation Risk

Adult sleeping bags are thick and fairly heavy, so pose a suffocation risk. So, you’ve got to be extra careful that the top of the sleeping bag isn’t too close to your baby’s head.

To prevent this, you must keep the baby high up in the sleeping bag – meaning a lot of warmth is lost around the neck area.  You’ll need to make sure your baby has warm layers on and definitely a hat on cold nights.


You’re Screwed if a Diaper Explosion Occurs

Diaper explosions always happen at the worst possible moments.  So don’t be surprised if it occurs while camping.

If your baby is in her own sleeping bag, this isn’t such a big deal: you can just take her out and co-sleep for the night.  But, if you are sharing a sleeping bag, your sleeping bag (and pajamas) are now gross and wet.  Unless you brought a backup sleeping bag for yourself, you are screwed.


You’ll Wake Your Baby Every Time You Get In/Out of the Sleeping Bag

I don’t go to sleep at the same time as my baby when camping.  So, if co-sleeping in the same sleeping bag, she would end up in there alone – which means it won’t be nearly as warm without my body heat.  I’d rather put her to bed in her own sleeping bag.  Then I can hold her while sitting around the fire and transfer her to the tent when I decide to go to sleep.


Still Want to Try Co-Sleeping in the Same Sleeping Bag?

Despite all of these issues with co-sleeping in a sleeping bag with a baby, a lot of parents still do it successfully.  I know several parents who wouldn’t even consider putting their babies in their own sleeping bags. If you want to try co-sleeping, I suggest following these tips.


Use a Double-Wide Sleeping Bag!

A double-wide sleeping bag means you won’t be cramped inside with your baby (and worrying about crushing baby all night).



You’ll Also Need a Double-Wide Sleeping Pad

In theory, you could just put two normal width sleeping pads next to each under your sleeping bag.  However, gaps inevitably form between the pads as you move around at night– meaning you or your baby get cold.  So, you seriously need to get a double-wide sleeping pad to match your double-wide sleeping bag.

Here are some really good double-wide sleeping pads:

  • Big Agnes Hinman Double Sleeping Pad: This sleeping pad has an R-value of 5.5 and is rated to -30 C.  It’s only 2.5 inches thick, but still pretty comfortable.
  • Exped SIM Comfort Duo 7.5: This is a pricier option, but really comfortable and warm. It can even be folded in half to make it even warmer.  I love that there is Velcro on the sides so it can be attached to another pad to make a giant sleeping surface. The R-value is 6.4, it’s good to -28 C, and the Duo option is 7.5cm thick.


Put Your Baby in Warm Layers

Your baby needs to be kept high up in the sleeping bag in order to prevent suffocation risk.  So, a lot of heat is lost in the space around her neck.  You’ll need to make sure your baby is wearing warm layers of clothes at night.

Wool pajamas are the best choice because they are warm yet breathable. Fleece is also a good choice, especially if you are on a budget.

If it’s really cold, put a hat and mittens on your baby.  If your baby hates wearing hats, then choose PJs that have a hood.  Or, put a blanket under your baby’s head for added warmth.


Put a Waterproof Pad Under Your Baby

This won’t solve major diaper explosions, but will prevent your sleeping bag from getting wet from minor leaks.


Wear a Puffy Jacket to Bed

There are two benefits to doing this.  First, it means you stay warm when breastfeeding at night.  You can simply unzip the jacket a bit and wriggle up out of the sleeping bag so your boobs are mouth level with your baby’s mouth.  Then your torso won’t freeze during each feeding.  Likewise, you’ll stay warmer when sitting up to feed.

The second benefit is that you can sleep with your torso out of the sleeping bag.  IMO, this is a much more comfortable position for co-sleeping since your baby’s head will be in the crook of your arm instead of face-to-face.


As I’ve made pretty clear, I still think it’s a terrible idea to co-sleep with your baby while camping.  Save yourself the hassle and get your baby sleeping bag instead.  Not sure which one?  Read this post for the best baby sleeping bags for camping.

morrison baby sleeping bag review

Warm, happy baby in the Morrison sleeping bag. Read the review here.

Got any tips about co-sleeping with your baby while camping? Let us know in the comments section below.

Image credit:”Lyra & the Funhouse” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Jenny Lee Silver

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About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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