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Oh Joy / Tips for Baby and Toddler Sharing a Room

Oh Joy / Tips for Baby and Toddler Sharing a Room

When I grew up, I had a brother who was eight years younger than me. We never shared a room because we were so far apart in age, and my parents had enough space that we could each get our own room. Fast forward to now, and I have two girls that are three years apart. We don't have a ton of space in our current house for them to have their own rooms, and I like the idea of them learning to share a room. So now we have a 3.5 year old and a 7 month old together in the same bedroom.

As I mentioned a couple week's ago, we put the Ruby and Coco together in the same room when Coco was 5.5 months old. I was terrified of the transition and worried for the weeks leading up to it that no one would sleep or they'd keep waking each other up. It definitely wasn't tear-free, but it ended up not being as bad as I thought! 

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the book I read to help Coco with her sleep habits when she was an infant, and The Happy Sleeper was also helpful for us in making this transition, too. So I thought I'd share some of the advice from the book that helped me as well as what I've learned in my own experience of putting a toddler and a baby together in one room…

(click below to read more)

1. Wait till the younger one is sleeping through the night consistently. Of course, with any child, there's teething, colds, or just bad nights that will pop up throughout childhood. But I think it's essential that the little one is sleeping through regularly enough before making the transition. It will give you a higher chance that they'll sleep together more peacefully. Coco started sleeping through the night at 4.5 months, so we waited a month to make sure she was consistent and then made the transition when she was 5.5 months old.

2. In the weeks leading up to the move-in, get the older sibling excited for it. Ruby had a HUGE jealousy spell and was acting up a lot for attention right around the time Coco was 4-5 months. Coco was getting more interactive and receiving more of our attention, and Ruby was not happy about it.

I was worried that Ruby's jealously would make the transition worse, but it actually got better after their bedtimes routines coincided a bit more (more on that below). Ruby kept saying she didn't want Coco in her room, but once we changed the phrasing of it as instead of "Coco is coming into your room", it became "You and Coco will get to share a room together! You're going to be such a great big sister and you get to protect her! She'll protect you at night, too, while you sleep!" The idea that they were going to protect each other really made her excited. And now she calls the room "our room" instead of "my room". It took a few months for her to get used to it for sure.

3. Line up their schedules and evolve the bedtime routine. Make bedtime work for each child, and overlap routines whenever possible. I'm pretty strict about schedules and a solid bedtime routine in our house. A baby and a toddler both need 11-12 hours of nightly sleep (with the younger one taking naps during the day). Prior to sharing a room, we were each in charge of one kid. I handled giving Coco a bath and nursing her before bed and Bob took care of Ruby's bath, PJ's, book, and tucking her into bed. We were like two passing ships in the night, and the girls didn't really interact during their bedtime routine. 

Now, we give them baths together whenever possible (unless Coco is super tired in which we'll get her started with bath first to allow for the extra time she needs to nurse). I'll nurse Coco in their room while Ruby is getting into her PJ's and while Bob is reading her a book to bed. It's a little more distracting for Coco then when I fed her in a separate room, but we felt like the togetherness was important for them. By having them go through their routines simultaneously even if they are not doing the exact same things, they feel connected before bedtime, and we can get them both tucked in bed and asleep at the same time between 7-7:30pm.

The only time this changes is if only one of us is home for bedtime in which case the solo parent will get Coco to bed first, and then Ruby will go through her routine and sneak into bed afterwards.

(2017 UPDATE: Once the younger babe is no longer nursing/bottle before bedtime and physically more capable (can sit up in the same tub, etc), putting two kids to bed at the same time by yourself gets much easier. Now, when it's just one of us, both kids can still go through bedtime routine at the same time and go to bed at the same time.)

4. It won't be perfect, but do your best to set some boundaries. There are going to be some nights they wake each other up. Especially in the first couple weeks, this is what we'd hear from our baby monitor…

    Ruby screams, "Coco is so loud! I can't sleep!" Coco cries because Ruby is yelling, then Ruby cries cause Coco is crying.

    Ruby wakes up with a bloody nose and screams, "My nose! My nose!" Coco wakes up because Ruby is screaming. We settle Ruby down and get her nose to stop bleeding, pat Coco to calm her down. Then everyone goes back to sleep.

    Coco stirs and makes some noise and wakes Ruby up. Ruby yells, "Ah Coco, you're waking me up!"

Moments like that mostly happened in the first couple weeks, and now we make sure to tell Ruby that if she needs us for any reason, that she can just call for us in a "normal voice" and that we will come help her. When she has nose bleeds or something else unexpected that happens, she's so much better now at calling us calmly and more aware of trying not to wake Coco up. Luckily when kids are in a deep sleep, they don't wake up from the other's sounds too easily.

Recently, Ruby had the stomach flu for several days and spent a few nights throwing up (my poor baby!). That was an extreme case where we had to just have her sleep somewhere else (on the couch or in another room), and you just make it work when something unexpected comes up.

5. White noise and black-out shades. If you don't already have them, basic sleep items that are often suggested for babies like a sound machine and blackout shades help even more when there are two kids in one room. We have a sound machine placed in between the girls' beds so that they are less likely to hear each other's little sounds at night. And if either wakes up as soon as the sun rises, the blackout shades help to keep them calm until their normal wake-up time at 7am.

In the weeks leading up to the sharing of their room, I almost thought they weren't ready or that we should wait until Coco was older, but I am so glad we did it when we did. In addition to giving us more freedom and the use of our office (where Coco was sleeping) back, it's help make the girls much closer and made us all enjoy the bedtime routine a little more, too.

Do you guys have any other tips that you've found helped you share a room with your sibling or has helped for your own kids?

43 comments

  1. Joy, Once you posted a pic on Instagram saying you were concerned about Ruby going through a phase of feeling her sister was stealing the attention from her parents. You got about a zillion comments. Mine was one of them and I don’t think you read it but here you are. This is what I told you worked for my 1.9 year difference boys. They are now 8 and 10 and still sleeping in the same room. They love it! My oldest was going through the same and, in spite of us having enough rooms in my house, he wanted his brother to sleep with him. That made a huge difference in that regard. I think they bonded even more by sleeping in the same room.
    Great choice!
    Alina
    http://www.eclecticalu.blogspot.com

  2. Joy, I remember when you first posted on Instagram that you were worried Ruby wouldn’t take to her new sister well. Many flocked to your aid and offered you words of comfort, and to see such progress being made is truly heartwarming. You and your husband have done an incredible job at raising the two and helping them enjoy each other’s company!
    With love ♥︎ » http://www.parisbyfriday.com

  3. I want my girls to eventually share a room too (2 years apart) but I’m so nervous about it! I think they would love it as they grew older, so maybe we’ll tackle that once my youngest is six months ish? Thanks for this, mama!

  4. Ahhh this is so timely! We are struggling with our 3 year old little guy having jealousy problems, and baby sister is 3 months old now. I’m soooo encouraged by this post. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I grew up sharing a bedroom with two sisters, one who is five years older than I am and one who is one year younger. My little sister and I had a bunk bed — space was at a premium in our house! — and there was about three feet of space between our bed and big sister’s. At the time, the arrangement was great. Our big sister told THE BEST improvised bedtime stories and always loved kids, so was the best babysitter. We idolized her, too, and tried to make ourselves love every boy band member whose picture she tore out of Teen Beat and Bop and taped to our pink walls. Looking back, I can’t imagine sharing a room with two people! But privacy and jealousy were never an issue because we were all so close and are still best friends (and closer with age!) Long story short, I think that sharing a room taught me a lot about boundaries and respect, and the eventual transitions to dorm life and now, as of a week ago, to moving into my boyfriend’s apartment were a lot less scary.

  6. you conquered it! i love when my children things turn out better than expected!my older brother and i each had our own bedrooms too. my three children now share one room in our nyc apartment, they love it (and i do too, so much). we are moving outside of the city into a house and they plan to continue to share a room and i hope they do for a long time (they are 9, 8 and almost 4). i think it is just the sweetest thing ever, sleepover party ever night for them! xo

  7. I shared a room with my sister when we were younger, until I was 9 or 10 (I actually can’t remember). I think it’s a great idea for kids to share rooms and definitely plan on our future kids sharing rooms as long as possible.
    Kristi
    beloverly.com

  8. we will be doing this in a few months when the baby is sleeping through the night! the older one has a “big girl bed” and is so excited about that, she seems ok that her little sister will be getting the crib soon. i think having the bedtime routine together as much as possible will be the best bet.

  9. There’s a possible Freudian slip in #4:
    Ruby wakes up with a bloody noise!
    I’m pretty sure it should read “nose”.

  10. My sister and I are 3 years apart and while we are both grown now, we shared a room for all our lives until I was 16. I can honestly say we wouldn’t have changed a thing (though we would have never confessed that growing up).
    I think it made us closer. We make up fights quicker (out of necessity for a long time but even now we just can’t last that long without speaking to each other). We learn to be more tolerant of others and their differences.
    Were there issues? Surely. But for every duct tape down the room “don’t cross over to my side or I will cut you”, there were a hundred more bedtime confessions, late night tea parties, staying up late together watching the tv when mom and dad went to bed.
    We are best friends and still are best friends. If either of us have children we have always said we would also bunk them together.

  11. Very encouraging! I’m guessing the Happy Sleeper method is working and Coco doesn’t fuss when you lie her down? Our 6 month old is going through the painful process of the 5 minute checks but it only is a peaceful event 1 out of 7 nights of the week so far! I was wondering what you are doing with nap times… We have to get the 6 month old girl into the 4 year old boy’s room soon. He doesn’t nap, but she does (3/day) and fights them hard still. He has almost all of his toys and books in the room. How do you handle keeping the room off limits during Coco’s naps?

  12. Great tips! Thanks for sharing! We hope to be transitioning our boys into sharing a room. They are the same age difference as yours. Our youngest isn’t sleeping through the night yet, but I’ll be keeping this in mind for once he is!

  13. Thanks for this post Joy. I’m pregnant with my second and planning on eventually having our kids share. They’ll be just under 3 years apart and some of the logistics of actually pulling it off seems daunting already! I really like that it’s all in the attitude with the older child. So much of toddler parenting is having the patience to help them change their perspective on any given situation. I’m glad it’s working out so well!

  14. I love this information! I know it will be a bit different but I have twins on the way and the idea of black out curtains and a noise machine seem like a great way to help keep the twins from waking each other up as newborns with separate sleep patterns.

  15. I shared a room with my younger sister when we were little. I thought it was so much fun because I was the “big sister” which means my mom must have done a great job of making it exciting 🙂
    My biggest tip would be that everyone needs their own space. My mom made me a space in one of our bedroom closets where I could “hide” away. I remember always having snacks and a book stowed away in there. But it was a space where my little sister couldn’t come (really she was too young to care, but I cared a lot).

  16. We are still struggling with this. My girls – age 2 and 6, have been sharing a room for about a year. I wish it worked- but my little one has always been a not-so-great sleeper. (Did not sleep through till 20 months. Argh) luckily my older daughter is a very sound sleeper but we do have nights every week where one, two or all of us are up! we’ve got the routine, black Out blinds etc so I am crossing my fingers and hoping time will do the trick! I guess it’s a personality thing. The good part- they love it!

  17. This is such great advice! I used to babysit for a 6-year-old and 2-year-old who shared a room and the 2-year-old would drive her older sister crazy by singing in a very high pitched voice when she was trying to go to sleep! Ruby looks so much like you in that picture : )

  18. Thanks for this!! Could you please address the nap situation? I’m assuming Coco takes 2 naps a day.. Do you feel that limits Ruby’s time outside of her bedroom too much?

  19. I have two kids, the older is 2 and the younger 9 months old. We don’t have enough room for them to have their own bedroom (Paris is real expensive city !) so they share the room. But we didn’t wait for the younger to sleep through the night. We did it right away and the 2 first night, her brother was afraid of her tears during the night but he quickly didn’t hear it any longer !
    actually, when she started sleeping through the night at two months, he stardterd to wake up exactly at the hours she used to cry to be fed !! it was as if he was worried that he din’t wake up ! but we explained it to him and bought it a little lamp with magic power that helped him find his sleep again…

  20. Both my daughters (9&6) have shared a room since the youngest was 1 as my eldest started to climb over the baby gate to get into her sisters room to play in the morning and after one morning when I walked in and found them (and the whole room) covered in talc/baby powder I’d had enough. It was difficult at first but after a few weeks we were soon in a routine, the youngest goes to bed first then an hour later our eldest goes up, which we still stick to now.
    Becky
    http://coffeebeautylife.blogspot.co.uk

  21. Aww. Thank you for sharing your tips, Joy. (And congrats again on this huge success! :^)
    My two boys, 4 and 6, share a room right now (on the same gigantic bed, would you believe!) and they absolutely love it. They both sleep so much better because they’re curled up next to each other. I now highly recommend letting the kiddos share a room.

  22. I’m a twin and my brother & I actually shared a crib for quite some time after we were born.
    In fact, we couldn’t fall asleep unless our heads were touching. So there’s hope that they will comfort each other instead of disturbing each other :).

  23. My sister is 3 years older, and we shared a room when we were little. One day my dad came in to find her bopping me over the head repeatedly (her little toddler fists didn’t do any real damage). “What are you doing?!” my dad asked, shocked. And my sister smiled and said “I’m hitting the baby!”. I requested my own room when I was 7 because I was a little neat freak and couldn’t deal with her messiness. But many nights me and my sister would fall asleep together telling stories to each other in our parents bed – until they kicked us out and sent us to our own rooms. Even though we don’t make great roommates, my sister is my best friend and we had so much fun growing up together!

  24. Hi Selina!
    Coco doesn’t fuss when she gets put down for a nap. We worked on self-soothing a few months ago when I first posted about it so luckily, she’s stuck with it.
    As for naps, Coco naps 3x a day and same as you, Ruby doesn’t nap. She has some books and toys in her room, but most are outside in our living room. So she doesn’t need to go in there much. I’d suggest moving his most popular toys out into the living room or den if you have some space for them there. Then it’s easier to keep the room off-limits during the baby’s nap.
    Hope that helps!
    Joy

  25. Hi Katie,
    Coco takes 3 naps a day right now. Ruby is in school 5 days a week so we only have to worry about it on the weekend. Usually on the weekends, we stay home for Coco’s first nap, then we head out and do stuff all together with Ruby and Coco will nap on the go. Then usually by her 3rd nap we are back from whatever activity and she naps at home. Most of Ruby’s toys are out in our living room area so it hasn’t been an issue for us. Mostly, we just have to remind Ruby to be quiet during Coco’s naps.
    Joy

  26. Thanks for the response Joy! I’ve been so spoiled with not having kid stuff out in our common living areas since our oldest had plenty of space to keep it all tucked in his room. Looks like we’re going to be doing some redecorating!

  27. Ah..! This is so Timely! We are struggling with our 3 year old little guy having jealousy problems, and baby sister is 3 months old now. I’m so encouraged by this post. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Hello. We have a 2 yr old and a 6 month old and in process of having them share a room. Our toddler is a light sleeper so once she hears the baby at around 4am she runs into our room and comes into our bed which she has never done. I know I should walk her back to her room but do I just leave both kids in room crying? I’m at a loss. Thanks for help and sharing

  29. Hi Michelle, Do you have white noise in the room? I’d suggest a rain/wave/nature sound or a fan on low if possible. 4am is a common time for light sleep and more movement (for kids and adults too), so it’s not surprising to hear that one is waking the other at that time. Choices would be to walk the 2-year old back, as you said, and it may wake the baby for a bit but both will eventually get used to it; or you could put a little mattress on the ground in your room for your 2-year old if she doesn’t disturb your sleep (or her own) too much with coming into your room. It’s really a choice based on what works for you and your goals for sleep. You can always find us at thehappysleeper.com if you need more help. Good luck! – Heather

  30. Hi Michelle,
    Heather responded to your comment:
    Hi Michelle, Do you have white noise in the room? Id suggest a rain/wave/nature sound or a fan on low if possible. 4am is a common time for light sleep and more movement (for kids and adults too), so its not surprising to hear that one is waking the other at that time. Choices would be to walk the 2-year old back, as you said, and it may wake the baby for a bit but both will eventually get used to it; or you could put a little mattress on the ground in your room for your 2-year old if she doesnt disturb your sleep (or her own) too much with coming into your room. Its really a choice based on what works for you and your goals for sleep. You can always find us atthehappysleeper.comif you need more help. Good luck! – Heather
    Hope that helps!
    Joy

  31. Thank you Joy and Heather for your quick response!
    We do have white noise going and it’s at it’s highest volume. This morning the little one woke up crying around the 4-5am and our toddler was trying to sleep through it, but eventually cried too and then they both were wailing. So we brought the baby into our room – poopy diaper – she didn’t go back to sleep and the toddler took her a while and she slept maybe another 30 minutes. We will keep at it! Thank you again.

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