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How to Successfully start room sharing between your baby and toddler

Do you live in a small city apartment? Need to keep an extra bedroom set up as a work-from-home office or guest room? Want your children to have more opportunity to bond by sharing a room? Whatever the reason, moving two children into the same room can be daunting. Sometimes introducing a big change like room sharing can disrupt sleep. This blog will take you through the factors that you need to consider when setting up a space for a baby and older child to share. Although the title says "toddler" these suggestions should work for pre-school-aged children too. If you are looking for basic information on how to manage sleep in closely aged siblings or twins, check out our other blogs here.

This blog is part of our "How to" series, which aims to provide you with all of the tools that you need to navigate common parenting sleep challenges that go beyond sleep training. We hope that you find it helpful!

1. Work on Sleep Issues separately FIRST:

Before considering putting two children in one room, you need to address any existing sleep challenges with your children. Some parents think that setting up room sharing will fix an older child's sleep issues, but this is rarely the case. Similarly, if your baby wakes frequently during the night, it could cause sleep disruption or persistent sleep problems for your older child--not fun! A well-established sleep pattern for both children will make the transition smoother. You can build a plan to improve your baby's sleep using our sleep class and work on toddler sleep issues using tips from our toddler blog.

2. What Ages Are Best for Room Sharing?

There isn't a perfect age to move a baby into a toddler's room or vice versa, but there are some phases of development that will work better than others.


  • Ideally over 6 months, because sleep is typically stable at that point

  • Avoid developmental regressions (e.g., separation anxiety at ~9 months, major motor development)

  • Ensure predictable feedings (see below)


3. don't move your children into new beds

It might feel logical to move your toddler into a bed and your baby into your toddler's crib at the same time you move your children into the same room, but those bed changes can introduce unnecessary complications. Your baby might sleep perfectly well in a bassinet in your room, but suddenly having the wide open space of the crib might lead to frequent night waking. If you need to adapt your baby to the crib, then consider moving your toddler into a different room while your baby gets used to the crib. If you worry that your toddler would have difficulty sleeping in a different space temporarily, move the crib into a different room so that you can get your baby used to it before moving it to your toddler's room.

While adjusting a baby to a new crib can be challenging, moving a toddler to a bed can lead to sleep disaster! Your toddler might not be able to handle suddenly having the freedom to get out of bed and may disrupt your baby's sleep, leave the room to find you, or worse! If you need the crib for your baby, then move your toddler into a bed two or more weeks before your plan to start room sharing. This will allow you time to deal with any issues that arise when you move your toddler to a bed. Check out our guide on how to make the crib to bed transition to make a plan.

4. Night Feedings for Baby:

Night feedings should either be weaned (if appropriate) or extremely predictable, allowing you to attend to your baby promptly. This ensures that you can manage nighttime wake-ups efficiently, minimizing the disruption to your toddler.

5. Align Schedules by Wake Time:

Sleep is lighter in the morning, which means that it's easy for a child to wake up in response to a sibling making noise. This can result in a miserable morning and if one child accrues chronic sleep debt, it could lead to further sleep disruption. If one child needs 10 hours of sleep and the other needs 11 hours overnight, you should identify a common time that you would like them both to be awake. You may need to shift one child's circadian rhythm in order to align their morning schedules. Consider using a toddler clock to establish a visual cue for when you will come into the room to start the day.

6. Stagger Bedtimes if Needed:

If your children have different night sleep needs, it's okay to stagger bedtimes. Deep sleep happens at the beginning of the night, so a sleeping child is less likely to wake up if a sibling makes noise. To stagger bedtimes:

  • Do a bedtime routine with both children

  • Put the child with longer sleep needs down first

  • Leave the room with your baby to play quietly or feed

  • Take the other child into the room when it's time for sleep. Do a brief and quiet song/shush/snuggle before leaving the room.

    • It's ok if your child cries a little or makes a little bit of noise when put in bed. Obviously, extended crying or loud noise will be likely to wake the other child up.

It may seem strange, but toddlers often need more nighttime sleep than babies because they nap less during the day. Don't be afraid to put your toddler to bed first if that makes more sense from a schedule perspective.

7. Keep Naps in Separate Rooms:

Daytime sleep is lighter, and when one child wakes up, the other may follow suit. To avoid disruptions, keep naps in separate rooms. This may involve using a bassinet for your baby or a mat for your toddler in another room. Of course, you need to ensure the alternative sleep location is safe for your child.

Tip: Opt for flexibility - move the child who adapts more easily to different sleep environments.

8. Teach Your Toddler How to Help:

A curious toddler may need guidance on how to respond when the baby cries. Teach your child a phrase like "Mama, the baby needs you!" and practice this skill using a doll or stuffed animal during the day before you start room sharing. Modeling the correct behavior helps your toddler feel involved and responsible.

9. Don't Be Afraid to Reset:

If challenges arise during the transition or even during a future sleep regression, don't hesitate to temporarily separate your children to address sleep issues individually. Once both are sleeping well again, you can resume room sharing with a better foundation for success.

As always, if you are struggling with how to do this, then we are here to help. We would be happy to help you make a customized plan during a sleep consultation.


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