We’ve discussed how YOU sharing a room with your baby can affect your baby’s sleep, but what about when your baby needs to share a room with a sibling? We know that some of you have been anxiously (dare we say desperately?) awaiting this article. Fear not, we have 7 tips to successful sibling room-sharing.
Why Should Siblings Room-Share?
We know many of our readers are finding themselves faced with the task of transitioning their kids into sharing a room. And we know that for many of you, room-sharing isn’t really a choice — it’s something you have to do.
This is often the case for families who are expecting a new baby; suddenly, you have more children than you do bedrooms, and the sleeping arrangements have to change.
Or maybe you’re downsizing. This was the case for my family. A few years ago, we moved from a three bedroom home to a two bedroom rental, and it just wasn’t an option for my boys (age 2 and 8 months) to have separate rooms anymore. Some of you may even like the idea of siblings sharing a room and being (emotionally) closer growing up. Whatever the reason, these tips should help!
Sibling Room-Sharing: “Is This Going To Work?!”
The prospect of suddenly shoving two (or more) kids into a room together and expecting them to easily sleep in the same room can seem overwhelming. If your children have never shared a room before, you may be wondering how the new sleeping arrangements are going to affect their sleep (or if they’ll sleep at all!)
Take heart, readers! We know how you feel. A few of us have done room-sharing in our own homes, and we understand perfectly well the panicky “Is this going to work?!” feeling. So we compiled a list of 7 tips we think will help make room-sharing easier for everyone in your family.
1. Create Personal Space.
One of the toughest things about having your children share a room is that all privacy disappears. While this might not bother young children, it may bother older kids a lot. If you know that the lack of privacy and personal space is going to be a problem for your kids, then work to create a private, personal area for each child, as best you can.For example, consider buying two of everything (2 beds, 2 dressers, 2 night stands), and then creating a side of the room for each child. This creates separate spaces for the kids, and helps both feel like they have their own space. Some families have even gone so far as to string a curtain along the center of the room, so that when it’s pulled shut, there’s actually a separate (and private) area for each child.
2. Honor Your Child’s Sleep Schedule.
This is especially true for those of you who are putting babies and toddlers/preschoolers in the same room. Don’t assume that just because your children are sharing a room, they also have to share a sleep schedule.
If your baby needs to go to bed at 6:30, but your toddler won’t fall asleep until 8:00, that’s okay. Put your baby to bed first, and then use the extra hour and a half to have some one-on-one time with your toddler! Read a few extra books, take a longer bath, or squeeze in some cuddle time. It’s perfectly okay for each child to have different (and separate) bedtime routines and schedules, even though they’ll be sleeping in the same room.
“This is an important one! If need be, do your baby or toddler’s bedtime routine in another room, if they are waking the other while getting settled for bed. Also, at different ages, your toddler may be going to bed earlier than the baby (who still naps, for example). Make sure you are ‘unfair’ to them in that you are respecting their individual needs.”
3. Be Creative With Naps.
One of the toughest parts about sleeping your children in the same room (in my experience, at least) is figuring out how to do naptime. Naptime can be more challenging than bedtime to begin with; add to that the fact that your two children are now supposed to be napping two feet away from each other, and you might have a real problem on your hands!
If you find that your children simply won’t nap in the same room, and are keeping each other awake, you may have to get creative about the napping arrangements. My solution was always to nap my boys in different rooms. The youngest would nap in his room, in the crib, while my oldest took a nap in my room, on my bed. That worked well for our family. And there are plenty of other creative arrangements you can come up with, too. I knew a family who always had a portable crib set up in one of their bigger closets; it was their baby’s favorite place to nap!
4. Get A White Noise Machine (or MP3).
White noise can help promote better sleep for everyone, but in my opinion, it’s especially useful in helping to create deeper, more peaceful sleep for kids who are sharing a room. The noises that one child makes during the night can make it harder for the other to sleep — one snores (or talks, or coughs) and wakes up the other. White noise can help solve that.
5. Be Firm and Consistent.
This is good advice for parenting in general, but let’s talk about how it applies specifically to sibling room-sharing. It’s a given that putting two children in the same room is going to (at first) make sleeping harder. Your children will want to look at each other, talk to each other, play with each other, etc.
Decide early on what you’re going to allow, and what you’re not. Establish boundaries, and set limits. Some families have a strict “lights out, no noise” policy at bedtime — when the lights go out, the children have to be silent. Other families allow some talking and giggling at bedtime, but put a limit on how long it’s allowed to continue before the kids have to be silent.
My approach has been to send my boys (now ages 5 and 3.5) up to their rooms 30 or 40 minutes before bedtime. I let them play and make noise to their hearts’ content. Then, precisely at 8, it’s lights out and no more talking. This works well for us. The boys get their fill of noisy, wild play (and of each other!); then, when it’s bedtime, they’re ready to settle in and be quiet.
There is no right or wrong way to do this, of course. The only thing that really matters is that each of your children get the sleep that he or she needs. However, if you find that one child is keeping the other awake, and that both children’s sleep is suffering, make some changes to your approach.
6. Have a Back Up Plan.
Sometimes, even your best-laid plans go haywire, don’t they? Even us supermoms and superdads get caught off-guard! 😉 Maybe the baby goes through a sleep regression and suddenly starts waking during the night. Or maybe your preschooler contracts the flu and is up half the night vomiting. In times like these, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan.
When my boys were little and were first sharing a room, my youngest son still wasn’t always sleeping through the night (he was only 8 months, after all!) And so, during nights that he just wouldn’t sleep soundly, I’d set up the Pack-n-Play in our kitchen and let him sleep there. It allowed our oldest son to get the sleep he needed, and it spared me the stress of having to frantically shush and rock the baby, in the hopes that he wouldn’t wake his brother.
“We have a lot of families who need their toddler and baby to share a room. One caution I share with others is not to have them share too early. A toddler has good intentions, but they are unpredictable. She may try to feed the baby something or cover him with a blanket, for example. They can be good intentions that can be unsafe for a baby. I recommend waiting until the baby is older, if you still have a toddler who is too young to understand the ramifications. Instead, YOU share the room with the baby.”
7. Remember That Room-Sharing Gets Easier With Time.
Changing your children’s sleeping arrangements probably isn’t going to be an easy process at first. (Change never is, right?) In the beginning, your kids will probably wake more often at night, and will probably be more sleepless than usual. But know that it’s going to get better! Once your children adjust to the new sleeping arrangement, things should return to normal.
In fact, if your kids are anything like mine, once they get used to sharing a room, you may find that they can’t sleep any other way!