Recently in our home, we met the commonly experienced moment of realizing we needed to combine bedrooms for our two older children (a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old) as we prepared for baby number three to enter our home in November. This means we had to adjust expectations for everyone, physically combine spaces and then do our best to cultivate similar environments to best help our kids’ transition. We intentionally did this two months before my due date, as to hopefully keep the kids from thinking the new baby and the lack of their own space were associated. I’ll let you know how that goes, but currently, the secret seems safe. Keeping in mind what my training is in and from hands-on experience, here are the five key things that make room sharing an all-around success.
5 Most Important Things about Room Sharing:
- Darkness. Not just your regular darkness, but the darkest darkness you can manufacture in their space. The rule of thumb is that you should be incapable of reading a book in their room because it is that dark. We are trying to limit all distractions in their sleep spaces, so they have only one thing to focus on – sleep. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter loves to talk herself to sleep and talk herself awake in the morning. That means poor little brother across the room has had to learn how to sleep through big sister chatting to her lovey, herself, and occasionally him. This leads me to my next point…
- White noise! White noise! White noise! This is one of our best friends in helping our little ones engage with a good sleep routine and it is even more important if we are trying to sleep multiple children in one space. Ideally, we would put the white noise between the sleep spaces to allow it to drown out the auxiliary sounds that we all make when we sleep. This isn’t always feasible given space and setup, but that doesn’t mean you cut it out completely! It really does help calm the little minds and allow them to go into beautiful restorative sleep without the possibility of a sibling, parent, or car backfiring in the neighborhood to wake them up.
- Give yourself time before you’ve decided room sharing doesn’t work. Kids will adjust as we allow them the right environment and some time to manage their expectations. If you are going from little ones in individual rooms to sharing a space, it may take a week or so before they accept that this isn’t a vacation, but their new reality. That is okay! As parents, all we can do is cultivate the right space and then we must allow them to choose sleep. This is obviously much easier said than done, but it will work with time.
- Respect. The. Naps. One way to help the adjustment of night sleep is to really allow for the best day sleep to keep away from overtired cycles. In our home, right now, this means that we still nap our kids in separate rooms. One naps in a pack and play and the other naps in their bedroom. This is because they don’t nap for the same full length of time and day sleep is more sensitive than night sleep. They don’t have the same sleep drive to push through or get over hiccups as they do in the evening, so we try and let them have the best day sleep to allow for even better night sleep.
- Let’s talk about kids on separate schedules. If we’re honest, the likelihood that everyone sharing a room also runs on the same schedule is small. Definitely not impossible, but not common. Because the first four hours of night sleep are the deepest sleep for our little ones, try to stagger bedtimes by at least 30 minutes from the first put down to guarantee that they are in deep sleep and will not be disrupted. If possible, also discuss with your kids that if they do wake up or struggle to sleep there is an expectation that they stay in bed and try. We cannot force them to fall asleep, but we can encourage them to accept the opportunity with the right discussions when age-appropriate and environment.