Baby Bell #3 will be here in eight short weeks, meaning we are about to become a family of five. That's right, we'll officially be outnumbered- and so will our house. We'll have five people to three bedrooms. Therefore, Gideon and Phoebe need to share a room. Gideon is a few months shy of 3-years old, and Phoebe is 16 months. We made the transition over the weekend, and it's going much better than I expected. I assumed there would be a period of adjustment, and there was, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I was anticipating. So, I wanted to share our experience and my top tips for siblings sharing a room.
An Easy Transition- Our Experience
As with any changes made to a child's routine and surroundings, you should expect a period of adjustment when putting two children together in one room. We moved Phoebe in with Gideon. His bed stayed in exactly the same spot and not much changed for him, other than fresh new paint on the walls and new bedding. She, however, not only got moved to a new room, but also a new crib. So, I knew the bulk of the adjustment would be on her.
The first night, Phoebe did cry when we put her down. She continued to cry on and off for about 20 minutes. We went in to check on them a couple of times and reassured her. When all was said and done, they were both asleep within 25 minutes. Gideon didn't cry at all and didn't express any frustration; he was a trooper! In fact, he was talking to her at one point when she was crying. They both slept all night (which I wasn't expecting) until 6:00am. Then Gideon was crying for his other pillow. We went in and gave it to him, and they both laid back down for another hour. I'd say that was definitely a successful first night!
By Nap 2 in her new crib/room, she only cried for about 30 seconds before calming down. It's now been three days. She didn't fuss at all when I put her down for her nap today. Mornings have been a bit earlier than usual, but for the most part it's going really well! There are two things we did before making the transition that I believe helped it go better than expected.
Even though Phoebe had never slept in Gideon's room before, she was definitely familiar with it. They would sometimes go in there and play together during the day. We have always done as much as possible of their bedtime routine together, even before they shared a room. The parts we did together were done in Gideon's room, then we'd take Phoebe to hers and just put her in bed. So, she was certainly familiar with this room before it became her room. It was something that naturally happened for us before the transition. If it isn't a normal thing in your house, though, take some time to make the room more familiar to both kids before making the transition.
Although most of the transition was on Phoebe, it was still a change for Gideon too. Having someone crying while you're trying to go to sleep isn't exactly enjoyable. So, we started talking it up months ago. We talked about how Phoebe was going to sleep with him and how fun it would be. He had always looked forward to it. When the day came, he was prepared and didn't seem to mind at all.
Tips for Room-Sharing
That was our experience and a few things that helped the transition go smoothly. Now, I want to share six general tips for room-sharing to be successful. The last thing you want to happen is for good sleepers to start having sleep issues because of room-sharing.
My number one tip for room-sharing is to use a sound machine! Kids are noisy sleepers. Sometimes they may even cry out without actually being awake. The other night, Phoebe cried out just as I was getting into bed. I knew she wasn't fully awake and would be right back out within seconds. Still, biting my nails, I worried she'd wake Gideon up, then he'd fully wake her up, and it would be a big ordeal. Thankfully, she went right back to sleep, and I never heard a peep from Gideon. Hallelujah!
I have their sound machine placed right in the middle of the room (away from their cribs). We have it set loud enough to cover those little noises they make through the night. A sound machine is crucial if you are going to have little ones sharing a room. For more tips on how to optimally use a sound machine in general, check out this blog post.
To have successful room-sharing, each child needs to have some personal space. This is particularly important for older ones. Once they become aware of "mine," they will be a little territorial of their space. We put their cribs on opposite walls, as far away from each other as possible. Even in decorating, we kept things neutral and then added little touches on each of their sides. We went with a star theme to unify things. Yet, to give each one uniqueness, his bedding and décor is blue, hers is purple. I love how it turned out!
As a side note, yep...Gideon is still in a crib at almost 3-years old. He's not climbing out and he still fits just fine, so there's no reason to rush it. I'm going to wait as long as possible to make that transition! Toddler Bed Ready?
This one was easy for us since Gideon has recently stopped napping altogether. However, if he was still napping, I would not put them in the same room to nap. Sleep is naturally much lighter in the day than at night. The purpose of naps is not necessarily deep, restorative sleep, but more so to get them through the day without becoming overtired by bedtime. They get their most deep, restorative sleep at night. I'm definitely not suggesting that naps aren't important- they certainly are! I simply mentioned that to explain why it can be harder for children to settle down and sleep for a nap if there are distractions. Sleep is just naturally lighter at that time, so those distractions are even more...distracting.
If both children are still napping at the same time, then put one of them in another room. You can put a Pack n' Play in your room, or any other available room, and have one nap there. It may not be ideal, but you'll likely experience nap issues otherwise. Just trust me on that.
Honor Each Child's Schedule
Sleeping in the same room doesn't mean they have to go to bed at the same time. It may be a little easier if they do, but it isn't necessary. Sticking to their normal schedules will help the transition go smoother. As I've mentioned, sleep is deeper in the night. If you put one child to bed earlier, you may be surprised that he can continue sleeping when you bring the other child in a bit later. If you don't want to do that, or it isn't working, then you may need to gradually transition one child's schedule. Either way, don't just change a child's bedtime one night when you start room-sharing. For help setting effective schedules, check out this post.
Be Firm and Consistent
With older children, especially, you need to lay down the ground rules from the beginning and then stick to them. For example, you may allow them to talk for 5 minutes before you turn the lights out, then expect them to be quiet. Whatever the case may be, let them know your expectations from the start. Then, you will need to be firm in enforcing them. If you give an inch, they'll likely take a mile and bedtime could turn into a big mess.
Be Patient- Expect Transition Time
It may take about 3 weeks for both kids to realize this is permanent and settle in to it. As I mentioned above, our mornings have been a bit earlier still. Similar to nap time, early morning sleep is lighter as well because our body is preparing to wake for the day. So, if one starts stirring early, the other is likely to wake as well due to lighter sleep. When this happens, we just leave them in there until their normal wake up time. This will help encourage their body that it's still time for sleep. Hopefully, in time, the novelty of this change will wear off and the mornings will get back to normal. Even if they don't go back to sleep in that time, at least I can take a quick shower before getting them up!
Room-sharing may be out of necessity, but it can also give your children a chance to really bond together! There will be a transition period, but using these tips will make it as smooth as possible. Are there any other tips that helped make your room-sharing experience smoother?
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant