Room sharing with siblings. I can’t imagine many families explore this option without a bit of trepidation. So the plan is to take two tiny humans and put them in the same room at their most tired time of the day and hope that they sleep peacefully the whole night through? A daunting thought for many! Admittedly, the process will most likely have a few hiccups but it absolutely can be done and can be a really amazing bonding experience as well.
One of the greatest factors for success is being sure that both littles are sleeping well prior to the move. That’s not to say that a baby who still has a night feed can’t room share with an older sibling. Night feeding and consolidated night sleep are perfectly capable of co-existing. The ideal though would be for the feed to be quiet and seamless, so that the potential for interrupted sleep is kept at bay.
Another factor to consider is how staggering bedtimes might work to your/their advantage. End of the day, quiet activities like reading a story or a shared bath-time can be nicely paired between siblings, but when it comes down to the actual lights out and final snuggles of the routine, it can often be best to have that time one-on-one. Not at all easy if you are solo parenting though (my husband is a shift worker, so I know first hand how tricky this can be!).
Consider introducing a special bedtime box for the older child, filled with quiet, non-electronic items that they can be distracted with in the final moments of putting baby down. Roll-play what them playing quietly and you placing baby down for sleep is going to look like well ahead of bedtime. When older sibling understands their role and the expectations ahead of time, its bound to be a smoother ride.
Be mindful of the age of each baby/toddler/child and keep safety top of mind. Furniture needs to be secured to the wall, crib height at the lowest setting, no items that could be placed into baby’s crib should be at the reach of the older sibling. Do an audit of their shared sleeping space and consider every possibility for an unsafe sleeping experience for either. This should be done at least a week prior to putting them together so that you can be sure you have addressed every single inch of the room to be sure it is safe and secure the entire night through.
For both siblings be sure to stay away from tv/tablets in the final hour leading up to bedtime, as the blue light emitted has the potential to significantly push out their readiness for sleep.
Over the first few weeks, bump everyone’s bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes. That’s lights out, not when you are starting the bedtime routine. This is a period of change and adjustment and there is bound to be excitement and maybe a bit of shenanigans. Pulling bedtime earlier will buffer end of day tiredness that is bound to creep in as a result of all of the new.
And finally, it’s really important to have healthy expectations around sibling room sharing. Expect that even under the best of circumstances there will be some growing pains Two to three weeks of one step forward and two back would be expected given the magnitude and excitement of this event for your littles. Be patient, have a plan in place for how you expect the end of the day to unfold and be vocal with them about the changes to expect and the expectations you have around good manners at bedtime.
As a parent who had their little ones room share at 6 months and 3 years and now again at 4 years and 7, I have to say, it’s so worth the pain and frustration of those initial days and few weeks. For some families, room sharing is out of necessity and for others, it’s simply a wish to foster a closer connection at the end of the day.