14 Sleep Tips for Babies & Toddlers Who Share a Bedroom

Jacqueline Burt Cote | Jul 12, 2017 Baby
14 Sleep Tips for Babies & Toddlers Who Share a Bedroom
Image: iStock.com/luanateutzi

toddler kissing baby
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At some point, many parents find themselves in the situation of having more kids than bedrooms. It might seem like no big deal at first -- after all, plenty of siblings grow up sharing a room -- but making sure your new baby and your toddler both get a good night's sleep in the same space can be trickier than you might expect. 

Because this arrangement presents some unique challenges, we asked sleep experts and moms for their best advice on how to make room sharing a peaceful experience for all (including you!).

  • Wait Until the Baby Is Sleeping Through the Night

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    baby sleeping next to clock
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    While it's not always possible to keep your new baby and your bigger kid away from each other until that magical milestone, it's a good idea to wait until the little one is sleeping through the night to put them in the same room.

    "Due to feeding schedules, infants younger than 6 months old will likely need to sleep in a separate room from their siblings. Many families find that having a young infant sleep in the parents' room -- in a crib or co-sleeper -- works best," says Daniel Lewin, PhD, psychologist and associate director of sleep medicine at Children's National Health System.

  • Put Your Big Kid to Bed First

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    mom and daughter nuzzling
    iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

    It might seem counterintuitive to put an older kid to bed first, but this approach actually makes the most sense.

    "Toddlers often need more one-on-one attention and time with a parent before being able to fall asleep," explains Dr. Lewin. "Starting the toddler on an earlier sleep routine can help ensure he or she is in a deeper sleep, and less likely to become engaged when the infant enters the room."

  • Start the Baby's Sleep in Another Room

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    baby in crib
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    Naturally, the last thing you want to do in the process of putting your little one down is to wake up your sleeping toddler. To avoid this bedtime horror story, Dr. Lewin recommends this simple solution:

    "Parents could try putting their child to sleep in another room first and then moving him or her into the shared space with the toddler once the toddler is asleep." 

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  • Give Older Siblings a Role

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    toddler and baby reading on bed
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    Get the camera ready for some seriously cute sibling bonding snaps:

    "While every child is different, older children may want to participate in helping their younger siblings prepare for bedtime," says Dr. Lewin.

    "Try having the older sibling help sing a bedtime song or lullaby or participate in bedtime storytelling. This routine can serve as a cue to begin his or her own bedtime preparation."

  • Put Space Between the Bed and Crib

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    toddler playing
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    Granted, some shared bedrooms aren't large enough to put much space in between the toddler's bed and the baby's crib, but do the best you can. 

    "For safety reasons, it's best if the beds are farther apart," says Dr. Lewin. "Depending on the children, arranging the beds so there is less visual contact, and less distraction, can also be beneficial for helping each child fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night."

  • Have a Backup Sleep Location for When One Kid Is Sick

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    mom snuggling toddler
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    As every parent knows, setbacks like a case of the sniffles or a stomach bug can seriously derail sleep.

    "Be flexible when one of them is teething or someone has a cold," recommends Lisa Furuland, mom of two boys and the creator of the portable infant sleeper DockATot. "Eventually, they will get into a routine of sleeping through each other's sounds. [Until then] set up a backup location for the baby for nights when no one is sleeping."

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  • Keep the Lights Dim

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    dad and baby
    iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

    Out of sight, out of mind?

    "When siblings share a room, it is ideal to have a dark, quiet setting," says Furuland.

    "This is a brand-new situation for both kids. By keeping the lights dimmed, the distraction of seeing one another will be reduced."

  • Establish a Bedtime Routine

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    toddler baby bath
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    Whether it involves joint or separate baths, stories, and/or a relaxing massage, a consistent bedtime routine will give both of your kids the cues they need to know it's time to settle down.

    "Develop a routine for each child's individual sleep habits," says Furuland.

    And, perhaps it goes without saying, but "bedtime should be at the same time each night," she adds.

  • Make Sure the Room Is Safe for Both Kids

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    toddler proof
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    Babyproofing and toddler-proofing aren't always the same thing, and having both kids sleep in the same area requires a little extra caution.

    "Above all else, make sure that the room poses no safety hazards for the younger child," says Furuland.

    "Make sure that the toddler cannot climb into the baby's crib or give the baby any items that could pose a choking hazard."

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  • Practice Being Quiet Before Baby Comes

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    baby staring up at toddler
    iStock.com/luanateutzi

    Toddlers are known for being noisy, but teaching your big kid about "inside voices" before your new family member arrives can help.

    "I tried to make a game out of learning to whisper and tiptoe with my older son before my daughter was born," says Patty S. of New York.

    "It really helped later because if the baby was sleeping he knew what to do, or at least he tried!"

  • Expect Bumps in the Road

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    stressed mom and baby
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    No matter what your kids' sleeping arrangement, there are bound to be some bad nights -- that's just part of being a parent!

    "Sometimes my little one woke up my big one, and sometimes my big one woke up my little one, especially in the beginning," says Patty. "But if you can just get through the hard times, you'll make it!"

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  • Make Use of Audiobooks

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    mom and toddler reading
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    "I had a horrible time when my son was born because my daughter was 4 years old and was used to me reading a bedtime story every night," says Marie P. of Stamford, CT. 

    "Unfortunately the baby had colic and all I could do was walk around the room bouncing him. So I started playing audiobooks for my daughter while I stayed in the room and rocked my son to sleep, and it worked!"

  • Try a White Noise Machine or App

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    baby asleep in crib
    iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

    Once upon a time, parents had no choice but to sing lullabies. Now, we have some high-tech options to help our little ones drift off, like white noise machines.

    "Using a white noise machine or smartphone app can be very beneficial in helping a child fall asleep and stay asleep," says Dr. Lewin.

    "Not only does the sound mitigate other noises that could rouse the child from sleep, but it also provides consistent, repetitive sound that can help calm a child's sensory and emotional arousal. It is important to be aware that if your infant falls asleep with white noise at the beginning of the night, they may need the same cues present to return to sleep when they have brief awakenings in the middle of the night."

  • Have Pre-Bedtime Playtime

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    happy family on bed
    iStock.com/Liderina

    If your kids are too distracted by each other's presence to think about anything but playing, give them some time to do just that every night before they go to sleep. That's what worked for Jennifer Bright Reich, coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Getting Your Baby to Sleep and mother of two sons. 

    "I generally allow them to have a little time, 15 to 30 minutes, before going in for the firm 'lights out!'" she says.

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