Are you hoping that one day your kiddos will be able to share a room AND sleep like a dream? My daughters have shared a room since baby sister started sleeping through the night at 7 months of age, and it's an ever changing landscape. I wont lie, it comes with it's fair share of problems, eye-rolling and requires lots of patience. However, it allows me this office I'm sitting in today and I love that they provide each-other with companionship and have learned to follow the rules that protect everyone's sleep needs... Well, for the most part.
Whatever your motivation - It's possible! There are just a few things you'll want to keep in mind.
First, set the stage for healthy sleep
You'll want an "okay to wake" clock like Hatch to signal to kiddos when it's time to sleep and when it's okay to wake for the day. When it's time to make the shift you also want to gather some small prizes to have on hand for successful mornings.
You want both your kiddos to be sleeping through the night so they don't interrupt the other one during sleep. Many parents ask me when they can move new baby in with big brother and I usually tell them to wait for it... Set baby up in a cozy corner of parents room until they are 6-12 months and have developed independent sleep skills allowing them to sleep 12 hours a night without interruption.
Sometimes baby is sleeping like a dream, but big sister is uncooperative at bedtime and wakes multiple times a night. If this is the case, you'll need to do some work to help them feel more independent and empowered at bedtime. If you feel like you've tried everything, I invite you to set up a free call with me and we can talk about my plan to make that shift happen with a few days of hard work.
In the days leading up to implementation, notice when your kiddos are being independent, responsible, and cooperative. Toddlers are longing to be these things and even though they may lack the fine motor skills or communication to do so all of the time, they are trying and it's the effort that counts. So give them high fives and thank-you's for their hard work when you see it around the house, getting ready for their day, etc. Their feelings of confidence in other areas of their lives will affect what you do with sleep, so laying this foundation is key.
Setting clear expectations for what healthy sleep looks like is really important for Toddlers.
You also want to give them control over the process. I encourage parents to make a visual list of activities with illustrations of your bedtime routine. You may even want to put it in a plastic binder sleeve so that your kiddo can check them off each night with a dry erase marker. Also make a list of the sleep rules to post in the room. Keep it simple, 1. Rest quietly in bed, 2. Stay in bed all night long, 3. You may get out of bed (or call for parents) when your light turns green.
Provide them with many choices within the routine, "it's toothbrushing time, do you want to brush your teeth first, or should I?", "Here are 2 pajamas, which one do you choose tonight?", "Here are 2 books, which one do you want to read first?", "Okay, time for lights out, do you want me to lift you up, or use the stool?", "which song do you want me to sing, twinkle twinkle, or you are my sunshine?"
Second, implement appropriate bedtime routines for each kiddo, and stick to them for a solid week. Consistency is key!
Scenario 1 Two kids, same bedtime.
If kids have the same night time sleep needs (12 hours at night) you will want them to go to sleep and wake at the same time. So you would do the bedtime routine together and then sing songs to each individual child so they have 3-5 minutes of sweet time alone with their parent. Alternate nights of who goes first and who waits quietly.
Scenario 2 Two kids, different bedtimes
If kids have different sleep needs because your younger child is still napping, or your older child needs less sleep, they will go to sleep at different times and you'll need to stagger bedtimes. NOTE: It's common for an older child who is going to preschool or kindergarten to be exhausted by 6:30pm and your younger child who's getting a 2 hour nap can easily stay up until 8pm. If you're not sure what an appropriate bedtime would be for your child, please schedule a free call and we can figure it out together.
If this is the case, you'll need to do two separate bedtime routines and then tip-toe your child who goes to bed later into the bedroom to whisper their song and say goodnight. Surprisingly, in our house this works way better than two kids who go to bed at the same time. I think it's because they each love having special time with just one parent.
Make sure kiddos get to bed at their ideal times for a solid two weeks. This prevents over-tiredness/overstimulation and helps the body clock sync up with a rhythm of calming and alerting that is very helpful for young bodies.
Once lights are out, there is no asking for drinks, to go potty, for one more book, etc. Gently remind them, you already checked everything off the list during the routine. Thank them for their cooperation and hard work. Then you may need to remind them of the rules (and the rewards!) and tell them you'll check back on them in a few minutes to make sure they are following them.
Check back in 3 minutes and give them a smile and a thumbs up, but don't say anything. In the first few nights you may find yourself sitting next to the door or going back to do frequent checks to make sure they are keeping the rules, but after the first few days of sleeping well and reaping the reward (intrinsic and extrinsic) most kiddos will begin to keep to the plan with minimal effort.
Keep it real
If they demonstrated cooperation with some of your expectations in the morning have a reward party: stickers! a small treasure! Call grandma or tell a teacher what a great job they did! Make a big deal throughout the day, and ask them about how they feel, proud?, rested? etc.
Be sure to add on the next night: "You did so great staying in your beds last night, and tonight it's my expectation you'll to that AND keep your voices to a whisper - I shouldn't hear you from the hallway, remember?" Play a game to practice: inside voice, outside voice, and library voice, so that they know you know they know how to whisper.
If you would describe bedtime as uncooperative and frustrating, then I would put those treasures on the shelf and lovingly say "we still have a lot of work to do before you get a treasure, kiddos. Lets review the rules one more time." During the day you may want to role play what it looks like to "rest your body quietly". If laying still is difficult, try doing some compression massage when they lay down in bed (firm squeeze of shoulders into mattress for 3-4 seconds, then slide down to hips for a compression, then knees, ankles, feet. Repeat shoulders and down arms) and let them know, this is what a quiet body feels like, can you remember this for bedtime?
I LOVE helping families with this process: identifying the ideal schedule, finding strategies that will work, and creating a plan to implement them with consistency so their big kids can get the rest they need to do all the things! If you would like additional support check out my Toddler Package or schedule Just a Consultation.