A Special Series on Sleep and Parenting
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
Sharing a bedroom, whether by choice or necessity, can be an opportunity for siblings to bond and learn important life lessons about cooperation. But for many parents, the real concern is whether their cohabitating kids are going to get any sleep. Here are some tips for making the most of your kids' shared sleep space after lights out.
Respect each child's bedtime needs.
Sharing a room doesn't have to mean sharing a bedtime. Create a special nighttime routine that allows each child to be tucked in when it best suits his or her individual sleep needs. That may mean putting the baby to bed before getting an older child into pajamas and reading books in Mom and Dad's bed. Or, there might come a time when the baby, who still takes naps, gets to stay up later.
Spread out the transitions.
An older child can certainly share a room with a baby—and many do. But consider holding out for a few months for your first child to get the hang of being a big sib before he or she gets the job of being a roommate, too. That gives you time to talk up the role while also waiting until the baby starts sleeping for longer stretches—ideally five or six hours. Until then, you might have the baby sleep in your room, which is recommended for the first six months or more to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Prepare your older child.
Talk about the fact that the baby is likely to wake up and cry during the night, and that Mom or Dad will come in to feed her or change her diaper. When your child knows what to expect, he or she is less likely to be startled. You might even be surprised by how much he or she is able to sleep through all of it.
Set some ground rules.
If every night is turning into a slumber party of staying up giggling and talking, set limits. You might say, "No talking once the lights are out," or allow 10 minutes of chitchat followed by quiet time. If one child is an early bird, teach him or her to quietly slip out in the A.M. without waking his or her sibling.
Embrace white noise.
"Mom, he's breathing too loud!" Sound familiar? A fan, air purifier, or dedicated white noise machine can help to muffle noises so everyone sleeps a little more soundly.
Prepare a Plan B.
Plan ahead for how you'll handle things like a bout of teething or an up-all-night illness. You and your spouse may need to shortchange your own sleep, but try to insulate room-sharing sibs from the interruption. For babies, a portable play yard in another room can be an ad hoc sleep solution. For bigger kids, a sleeping bag in the living room or an air mattress can provide separation when needed.