Many families come to me looking for tips on how to help their children share a room without bedtime, nights and naps turning into a three-ring circus! As a mother to twins and a certified child sleep consultant, I can 100% understand the fears and concerns that come with children sharing a room.
In some cases, your floor plan may not give you many choices and room sharing may be your only option. For others parents, they want their children to share a room from a bonding perspective. The following tips include my real-world experience and tips I share with my sleep coaching clients to help navigate this transition.
TIP #1 – SCHEDULE
If you have twins, they are likely on a very similar schedule, which makes room sharing easier. If you have two children at different ages, it is pretty likely that their sleep needs and schedules may not align exactly.
For siblings at different ages, try to respect each of your child’s individual sleep needs and schedule. A baby will likely need an earlier bedtime than a toddler or preschooler. Ensure that you are putting the baby down first, usually in between 6:00 -7:00 pm. For your toddler and preschooler, they may do better with a later bedtime. Bedtime for toddlers is usually around 7:00 – 7:30 so they will go down after the baby.
TIP #2 – NAPPING
At night, it may not be as challenging to put your children down at separate times because the drive to sleep is so much stronger at night. During the day, the drive to sleep isn’t a strong. This can create a challenge with putting the children down at separate times in the same room. You may run the risk of one child waking the other if they go down at separate times. I know you DON’T want that!
In this case, I recommend having the child that is more flexible, nap in another room. Ensure the room is optimized for sleep (cool, dark, white noise). Many families will set up the pack n play in their room for naps for the baby and have their toddler or preschooler sleep in their room.
TIP #3 – WHITE NOISE
I am a HUGE fan of white noise – for myself, for my kids and for my clients! Everyone sleeps better with white noise because it helps us to not wake up at every noise in our environment. Position the sound machine near the source of where the most noise comes from. Keep the volume around the loudness of a running shower or 50-60 decibels. Quick tip – if you are a light sleeper and wake up all night long, white noise is your friend too.
TIP #4 – KEEP THE CRIB
If you are bringing a new baby home and you want your toddler, who is less than 3 years old, to share a room with the baby, KEEP THE CRIB. No seriously. Don’t transition your toddler to a toddler bed too early. This could look like you waking up with a newborn and a toddler all at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. Most children are not ready to transition to a big kid bed until around 3 years of age, so keep their crib as long as possible. Purchase or borrow a second crib until your toddler is ready to transition to a bed.
TIP #5 – SET LIMITS
I think this applies to all parenting, but it is important to set limits, especially as you are looking at your children sharing a room. I recommend coming up with a plan with your spouse/partner before having your two or more children share a room. Come up with a plan together of what the limits are and how you will handle any shenanigans!
The second chat is with your child or children that can understand sleep rules. Usually ages 2.5 years and up will understand sleep rules. Children 2 – 2.5 years old still need to understand the changes that are coming, but may have a harder time following the rules. (see #4 above)
Tell your children which changes are happening, share your expectations and talk to them about the sleep rules. Some of the popular rules include staying in bed, being quiet after lights out and don’t wake sleeping people.
TIP #6 – HAVE A PLAN B
Some of our best laid plans don’t always work how we planned them! Remember being pregnant and thinking all babies were naturally good sleepers and they’d just “sleep like a baby”? Ha ha ha!
When our children are going through sleep regressions, sickness or you have to do sleep training with one of your children, have a back up plan of what you are going to do in these situations. Some families will move one child out of the room so that child’s sleep isn’t affected by their brother or sister’s current sleep challenges. It helps to think about this before you move the kids together so you’ll know how you are going to handle any challenges before you are in the thick of it.