It’s been two weeks since I decided on a whim to drag my nine-month-old son’s cot into his three-year-old brother’s room and insist they share a bedroom – so I thought I’d share some initial thoughts and findings on how that’s going. But first, let me give you a little bit of background info.
Our house has bedrooms set across two floors – two bedrooms on the top and two on the bottom which means that technically both boys can have their own rooms, but not if we all want to be on the same floor, which feels like something I’m keen on whilst they’re so small. I’d always planned that they would eventually share, and the hope is that in the future they’ll have bunk beds. But the standard advice in the UK is that six is the minimum age a child should sleep on the top bunk, so we’ve got a few years to wait first.
After my baby was born we decided to each take a child to be ‘in charge of’ overnight, as a way to attempt to get more sleep. I took the newborn in the spare room upstairs and tackled the night feeds whilst my boyfriend dealt with toddler nightmares and 5.30am starts to the day downstairs. It worked well until it got to that classic point around six months in where you so much as blink whilst in the same room as your sleeping baby and they wake up screaming and it becomes blissfully obvious that you need to go your separate ways. And so Baby Z and his cot got sidelined to the 4th bedroom which is pretty much just a glorified cupboard.
I had hoped to maybe move the boys into a shared bedroom once the baby was sleeping through the night, in a bid to keep nighttime disturbances to a minimum. But at nine months and with at least one – if not two – night feeds still happening, it didn’t look like it was going to happen anytime soon, and so I bit the bullet. I wanted my bed (and its fancy mattress and bedside table crammed with skincare) back, and I wanted to find a new level of post-baby normality, and so I just went for it.
Prepare your older child.
I’ve been telling my toddler pretty much since the baby arrived that they’d be sharing a room at some point. So when I said: ‘Hey! I’ve got a surprise for you!’ and showed him his brother’s cot moved into his room, it wasn’t a big shock. Although, for a kid who historically hates change, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was genuinely excited when it finally happened.
They won’t necessarily wake each other.
I assumed that just because I would instantly wake up if the person lying next to me started loudly wailing at 1am that my toddler would do the same – turns out, not so much. I would say he’s been woken up by about 10% of the night feeds, but the majority of the time he’s completely out of it. We hear Baby Z’s cries, we race in with a bottle, we leave and job done. Equally, if the toddler has woken up shouting because he’s scared of the dark, often the baby will stay asleep. They seem to sleep through each other’s yells, no matter how loud.
But if they do, it’s usually in the morning.
The one time they do tend to make each other stir is in the morning – which means if one of them has decided that 5.30am is a damn dandy time to start the day, then the other one has too. When they had separate rooms you’d have the odd morning where one of them would have a spontaneous lie-in, but those days seem to be long gone now. Although it is incredibly cute to wake up to the noise of them chatting together (or the toddler chatting and the baby gurgling back in response).
Staggered bedtimes work for us.
Whilst Baby Z is still smaller and can often need a few resettles to fully drift off in the evening, we’re doing staggered bedtimes. The hope is that eventually we’ll be able to do books and a joint bedtime and only one of us will need to put them to sleep. At the moment the baby goes to bed first, he has a bottle in his cot around 6.15pm and is usually down for 6.45pm. The toddler gets into our bed around the same time and watches a couple of YouTube videos/reads a couple of books whilst having some downtime and cuddles, and then gets into his bed at about 7pm.
Illness is the worst.
Two days after we made the switch I feared we’d made a terrible mistake and was gearing myself up to move the cot back out again. Turns out we’d had a couple of nights of terrible sleep because both boys were getting a hideous cold. Plenty of Calpol and the miracle worker that is the Calpol plug-in and things settled down again.
You likely won’t get more sleep.
If you’ve gone from having the baby in your shared (with your partner) bedroom and then moved them in with a sibling, the chances are that your sleep won’t be that much different. But because we’ve both got used to just waking for one child, we now get less sleep because we’re waking for both. We made the switch whilst my partner was on annual leave so we were better prepared for any hefty sleep deprivation, but it hasn’t been as bad as I was expecting.
It might be exciting for the older sibling at first.
Aside from illness, there was definitely more unsettle at first because of the excitement of sharing a room. Whereas Baby Z is smaller and more adaptable, the toddler was slightly overwhelmed with a change to his routine and surroundings – including going from silence to white noise (which tbh, he doesn’t actually seem to have noticed). I’ve heard of other kids getting up in the night and going to the cot, but my toddler hasn’t – he tends to shout for us in the night rather than creep into our room or out of bed, but this is definitely individual to each kid! If anything, I think he finds comfort in not being alone when he wakes at night.
I’m hoping that as time goes on they’ll both settle into it more, and maybe, just maybe Baby Z will start to sleep through…