*This blog post provides tips on transitioning toddler siblings into sharing a room. It does not address sleep training or how to transition your toddler into a bed- these topics will be covered in the very near future.
We live in a 3 bedroom (technically a 2 bed +office) semi-detached condo. So, when we were expecting Camila, our second daughter, I panicked on where we would put her. Of course, for the first few months she slept in our room, but eventually she would need her own space (and so would her mommy & daddy). Room-sharing with her older sister seemed like the most obvious solution, but it also seemed like the most complicated one. Why would I mess with Lily’s perfect routine and sleep schedule, by putting a volatile tiny human a few feet away? Well, unless I wanted to give up our walk in closet, no thank you! Or move our baby downstairs into our office, too far away should the worst happen. Room-sharing didn’t seem so bad after all.
As you’ll be able to tell from other posts on this blog, I’m not a grey area kind of person. I thrive in black and white, so my approach is almost always to go cold turkey. But I wasn’t really able to find good information on how to transition toddlers into sharing a bedroom, nor did I really know other families that were in the same situation. So I decided to approach this a little more on the grey side than I usually do, since I wasn’t entirely confident on how it would go.
Now that I can reflect back on it, I really underestimated how adaptable kids truly are. It wasn’t as awful or as difficult as I expected, but there were certainly some rough patches. Our girls adapted relatively fast, as if this was the way it was always supposed to be. So, my greatest advice to you is to go with your gut, do what’s best for your family, and be consistent! If you come across some roadblocks, don’t make a drastic change to over-compensate, instead I encourage you to tweak your routine to avoid derailing the progress you’ve made. In other words, if either one of your children wakes up crying for you, don’t bring them into your bed. Instead, I suggest you pick them up and reassure them it’s okay to go back to sleep, or do something else to soothe them back to sleep. It will be easier to shift back into the routine from this point, versus starting from your bedroom.
To give you a little more perspective on timing, it took us about 3 months to wean Camila’s night feeds, and for both our children to sleep consistently through the night. Camila was 6 months when we started the process. There were many times in that time period that I chose to bring Camila back into our room after nursing. In retrospect, I know this really confused her and it also affected my relationship with our oldest, Lily, who witnessed me taking her younger sister with me and not her. As much as you can, put them to sleep in their own room, in their crib, so it’s clear to them where their sleeping quarters is.
Needless to say, all children are unique and will react differently. The following tips are very specific to what worked for our family. Your children, their habits and personalities, along with your space and parenting preferences will differ from our own, so keep that in mind if your results are not exactly as mine:
- Toddler Bed- If your older child is at least 18 months, it’s best to transition him/her to a toddler bed before you transition your younger child into their shared bedroom. The transition to a toddler bed can also be complicated, so it’s best to address it before you move another human into the equation.
- Bed Placement- For obvious reasons, it is best to keep their beds/cribs as far away from each other as possible. It’s also good to try to keep both their bed/crib away from line of light that could come from opening the door. If its not possible to position both as such, try to at least to shield your oldest from it, as your youngest will most likely be the reason you need to go into their room in the first place.
- Sound Machine- If you don’t have one, get one! They help muffle cries or any other sounds that might disrupt sleep very well. It’s best to place it somewhere between them, or closest to the sibling that seems to be more disruptive.
- Environment Harmony- Their shared bedroom should be a reflection of both of them. Your youngest child might be too young to understand this (although, don’t underestimate their awareness), but your oldest is not. S/he may/may not have a hard time learning to share their room, so modifying the space to incorporate the new sibling, while maintaining elements of his/her old space are important to consider when re-designing their room.
- Bedroom is for sleeping- I know this one is difficult for some families that maybe don’t have the space to keep the “play area” separate from the sleeping quarters. Keeping play & sleep separate, does help to promote better sleep. It allows the bedroom to be associated with just snoozing and/or calm ‘getting ready for sleep’ play, such as reading or listening to soft, soothing music (I like the yoga station on pandora).
- Nursing/Feeding Space- we moved our glider to the small loft located right outside their door for the purpose of nursing. This added an extra sound buffer and also shielded the sight of mommy from Lily, so she could continue to sleep soundly.
- Self-soothing- If your baby needs you in any way to fall asleep, they will need you every time they wake up. If you teach them to self-soothe, you are teaching them an essential life skill, and your future (more rested) self will be forever grateful.
- Overnight Diaper Changing- I avoid changing diapers overnight unless I know they have a poopy diaper. Obviously go with your gut. I know my kids will be okay with a wet diaper for about 10 hours. I never knew this, but our sleep trainer told us that babies have to wake up to pee & poop. So if you’re baby sleeps through the night, their diaper shouldn’t be in bad shape. Another good suggestion from our sleep trainer was to just swap out the wet diaper for a clean one, there really isn’t a major need for wipes unless you want to startle them in the middle of the night.
- Baby Monitor- Consider what type of baby monitor you will need to see/hear both of them. We have 2 baby monitors that work over wifi, each pointed at a different child. We also have an analog sound-only monitor in case our wifi fails in the middle of the night. The child unit is placed closest to our youngest child, in hopes that we will hear her before her sibling does. This was especially important in the earlier days of the transition, when I needed to be the first to react to the cries to avoid waking anyone else up.
- Sleep Schedule Synchronization- This doesn’t necessarily mean that your kids need to have the same sleep schedule, although ours do. Instead it means that for the sake of your sanity, you should try to overlap their routines as much as possible. It not only fosters a sense of family unity (the family that goes to sleep together… you know how it goes), but it can also make siblings feel more connected to each other. There are certainly reasons why siblings would need to go to sleep at different times, but pre-bedtime routine can easily be done together.
I hope any/all of this is helpful if you or know someone who is looking to transition children into sharing a room. I wish you the best of luck and would love to hear your comments/stories…