Should A Baby And A Toddler Share A Room?
You want your children to share a room.
Space is an issue, especially since the pandemic, and you and your partner have been working from home and you need the extra room. You plan to move your baby girl, who sleeps in a crib, into your toddler's room. He sleeps in a bed. Your toddler has told you how excited he is to share his room. The baby wakes at 4:00 AM, but you are hopeful and think that will stop when she sees her big brother across the room sleeping in his bed.
Children can share a room, and it can be a very positive experience for siblings. However, to have the best outcome, you need to make sure that they are both great sleepers before the merge. Mostly-good sleepers are not great candidates for a merge until you do a bit of sleep work and teach them to be fabulous Little Sleepers. Your baby waking at 4:00 AM is not that big of a deal to you when she sleeps in her own room, but when merged with a toddler a couple of years older than her, that waking can become a big deal.
These are sleep chinks in the armor and can become a house of cards!
If your baby wakes up at 4:00 AM screaming and your toddler sleeps until 7:00 AM, it's not the time for a merge. You have some sleep work to do before you take that step; this is a sleep chink that will set both kids up to have their sleep disrupted and have night chaos ensue.
If you move your children into the same room before facing and solving sleep vulnerabilities, you may find yourself jumping through hoops at 4:00 AM to keep the baby quiet and your toddler sleeping. You could very well wind up sitting in their room or wind up moving her or your toddler into your bed or doing other tricks to "save" your toddler. You may not realize that by jumping through these hoops, you are inadvertently unraveling your toddler's sleep by being in the room at 4:00 AM and rocking your baby. Your toddler was a great sleeper before, but now that you have been in the room a few early mornings, he needs you in the room because you have spent every morning in his room.
It is good to take note that after you share the big news with your toddler, he may say that he is "so excited!" to have his baby sister move into his room, perhaps because you used your best "won't that be great!" voice. However, when it comes down to sharing a room becoming a reality, he may change his mind at bedtime. How he originally envisioned the scenario in his mind is not how he is feeling now.
Before your children share a room, you will need to take some preliminary steps to ensure a positive outcome. If you don't have the space to keep both kids in separate rooms while you do your initial sleep work to iron out the sleep chinks, you may have to give up your room for a tiny bit and sleep in the living room! Don't panic; it is a temporary situation and completely worth it to have a smooth transition.
When you talk to your toddler about the move, make sure you don't talk about it for months on end. Children perceive time in a very different way than an adult. A month to you is an eternity to a toddler. Your words will become very watered down if you talk about the move for months. A week is a reasonable amount of time to prepare your child.
It is a good idea to stay away from convincing him it's going to be great. Why? Because he may not think it's so great, and he needs space for his genuine feelings. Besides, and nobody likes to be convinced of anything, especially a toddler. Think about it, if you need to move them into the same room, and he's not convinced it's cool, are you going to abandon the plan? Convincing is very different than being excited. You can be excited and positive, but you have lost your parental footing if you find yourself running in circles doing a whole bunch of convincing.
Your toddler will feel positive and safe if the merge is a parental decision. A clear and grounded decision is beneficial for both parties. If he has too much say in the change, he may feel you do not know what you are doing! A definite plan benefits parents as many people quit on the first night of a merge because it does not go as planned. Be prepared and troubleshoot. Be sure, calm and stick with your plan. Your toddler will feel much safer if you stick to your choice in a moment of him feeling confused or vulnerable.
Siblings of different ages sharing a room can be an excellent choice for your whole family. Just make sure you take an honest look at your situation, don't merge them to "Fix" a current sleep issue, and mend your sleep chinks before you forge ahead on your journey!