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…
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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?