If everyone's sleeping well, separately, the last thing you want to do is throw a wrench in the gears by moving your infant into the same room as your eldest kid. You don't want to create a situation with more night wakings or too much bedtime stalling. But plenty of parents don't live in homes or apartments big enough to give an entire bedroom to each kid—that's a luxury. (And some kids sleep better with company, anyhow.) Before you make the switch, we asked the sleep experts for a few tips on when—and how—to move a baby in with their older sibling.
Keep the baby in your room (or a separate room) until they are fully sleeping through the night, or at least until nighttime wakeups are predictable, says Pam Edwards, a paediatric sleep consultant in Kamloops, BC. “It helps parents feel less anxious, and it will be less disruptive to your older child, while giving them more time to adjust.”
Just like you would talk to your older child while you’re pregnant about welcoming a baby into the family, you could start painting a picture of how wonderful it will be to eventually have a roommate. If you also shared a room as a child, tell them stories about the fun you had, says Laura Markham, a New York–based psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings. You could offer other upsides, like the opportunity to get a new bed. “It could be an upgrade in their living situation,” Markham adds. You’ll also need to coach your big kid about safety, like not touching the baby while they’re sleeping or putting anything in the crib. You might even want to use a video monitor to keep an eye on the baby and calm your nerves.
If you need to sleep train one of your kids while they’re sharing a room, move the other child out temporarily, either to a different room in the house or, better yet, plan a sleepover with relatives to minimize distractions in an already stressful situation. Listening to a crying baby is hard enough, even when you aren’t worried about waking your other children.
An OK-to-wake clock can be a lifesaver for teaching early risers to stay in bed a little longer. Ask your kids to lie down quietly until the “sun comes out” (or whatever the signal is on their clock), and then softly tiptoe to your room “like a little mouse” (or ninja!) so as not to disturb a still-sleeping sibling.
“If this is a new sleep situation, using some kind of temporary incentive makes sense,” says Edwards. If you’re trying to limit the bedtime antics to only five minutes, for example, be sure to praise them on the nights they are co-operative and encourage teamwork with a jar and token system that has them work together toward a prize, like a new toy or the price of a pizza party.