On Sunday, June 8th, we started the transition of moving Harvey out of our room (where he generally slept in the co-sleeper and/or our bed) and moved him instead to his crib to start the night. He was just 4 days shy of 5 months old, so it’s not exactly noteworthy to most people, except for one thing – he and his big sister were going to share a room. Most people thought we were nuts.
Harvey & Stella are are 25 months apart in age, and we live in a tiny 3 bedroom house. The 3rd bedroom is currently a guest room / office – and quite honestly, we would like to keep it that way as long as possible. Charlie has a quiet space to get away and work on bids for jobs, and guests have a place to unpack their bags and settle in during extended visits. I shared a room with various siblings until around age 11, so I figured if I could do it, my kids could too!
But how were we going to implement this? Won’t the kids wake each other up? How is anybody going to get any sleep?
Lesson #1 – Kids sleep with Dad ears, not Mom ears.
I mean this in the kindest way possible, but at least in my house, I’m attuned to every noise the kids make – my husband is not. Stella has a nightmare? Harvey needs to nurse? Check and check. I handle it. In the morning, my husband will generally say something like, “Wow, how awesome is it that the kids slept through the night last night?”
Honestly – Stella can come out of their room 15x in that first hour while stalling bedtime, and Harvey can wake up crying wanting to nurse in the middle of the night, and 9 times out of 10, they do not wake each other up. It’s amazing. In the beginning they did a little more often, but here we are almost 6 months into the shared-room adventure, and they are so used to each other’s noises that it takes a LOT to wake up the other.
In the beginning, we laid both kids down awake around 8pm. This worked well for a few reasons:
- It was summer, nights were long, the sun was up late.
- Harvey was young enough he was still taking a 3rd nap in the late afternoon for 30-60 minutes, so he had the stamina to stay up a little later.
- Instead of waking each other up, the kids would “talk” each other to sleep since we laid them both down awake at the same time (after bath, nursing [for Harv], books, & prayers). Within 10-15 minutes maximum, they’d both be asleep.
Back then, Harvey would usually do one 4 hour stretch in the crib, and then when he woke to nurse around 12-1, I’d pull him into my bed to nurse, and he would either sleep in the co-sleeper or in our bed until morning because he’d often nurse every couple of hours after that. I love me some baby snuggles.
After a month or so, I started to put him back to sleep in his crib because I was hoping without the scent of my milk nearby, he’d learn to sleep through the night by the first week of August when I left him with my parents for 4 days. He did pretty well, and for a few months he pretty consistently woke only once around 4-5am to nurse & sometimes slept from 8pm-7am without a wake-up. Then we hit teething and daylight savings time and he dropped the 3rd nap and yeah… shit hit the fan.
Lesson #2 – Consistency is Important with Kids’ Sleep Routines, but Don’t Be Afraid to Switch it Up when Necessary
Once the days got short (i.e. it was dark early), DST happened, and Harv dropped his 3rd nap, things had to change. He was a wreck if we waited until 8pm to put him down, so now after dinner (and sometimes bath – we rarely bathe our kids – please say we’re not the only ones!) we get PJs on the kids and read a couple of books on the floor in their room, and then Stella goes downstairs with Charlie while I nurse Harvey and put him down at 7pm. He is generally out like a light within a couple of minutes. Stella still likes to stay up a bit later, so we’ve been letting her have special Mommy/Daddy time from 7-8 now to try to combat the 8 million stalling excuses that happen at bedtime lately. Sometimes it seems to be helping, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s frustrating as hell when we put her to bed around 8pm and she comes out a million and one times to (1) pee (2) poop (3) get a drink of water (4) tell us something (5) try to sleep in our bed (6) ask to be tucked in again, etc etc etc. We are seriously looking at getting a hook & eye latch to lock the pocket door closed. On the up side – Harvey sleeps through all of it!
Lesson #3 – They get used to each other’s noises, and white noise helps a lot.
In their room we have a LOUD humidifier that we turn on the highest level and let run all night. It helps moisturize the air (awesome in dry, high desert Colorado) and it gives a nice, constant background white noise that helps drown out each other’s noises and helps them to sleep better. I think it helped us out a lot that we moved Harvey prior to the separation anxiety stage that tends to hit around 6-8 months. He was already used to sleeping in that room with his sister, and they both got used to each other’s noises really easily. The one time this does NOT hold true is anytime after 5am.
Lesson #4 – You’ll probably get less sleep in the morning if your kids share a room.
Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but for us, the kids slept in much later when they did NOT share a room. If Harvey wakes prior to 5am to nurse, I can go in, rock in the glider & nurse him, and put him back down. Stella will sleep through it, and they’ll often sleep until 6:30-7:00. If Harvey wakes at 5am or later to nurse, we are screwed. Stella is close enough to waking up that she hears him fussing & wakes up herself, it is close enough to morning that Harvey is generally up for the day, and then I’m a zombie at 5:30am, stumbling around getting ready for work with two wide awake children following me around. Those mornings kinda suck. However, they usually LOVE chatting in the morning and hanging out.
Lesson #5 – It’s really awesome to watch the relationship between your kids grow when they share a room.
I can’t even count the number of mornings that Stella has crawled into Harvey’s crib, and by the time I walk in to get them up for the day, they’re laughing, jumping up & down, and just enjoying each other’s company. Back when we put them to sleep at the same time, it was also music to my ears to listen to them talk each other to sleep. I truly think that sharing a room will help them become closer as siblings. I have very fond memories of talking in the dark room with my siblings while we were growing up, and I hope the same for them!
So what’s the end goal?
For now, our hope is to keep them in their crib & toddler bed for another year or two. At that point we will probably invest in bunkbeds. We are thinking either standard twin bunks with a twin trundle underneath the bottom bunk for sleepovers, or perhaps the twin/queen style bunks. It probably mostly depends on what I can find for cheap on Craig’s List. 🙂 I’m sure there will come a day that they don’t want to share a room, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that we have another 5-10 years before we are forced to give up our guest room / office space!
So how about you?
Did you share a room while growing up? Do your kids share a room? Do you have any tips for people who are considering trying this? Did you try it and it was an epic fail? (for us, naps are epic fail in the shared bedroom, so Harvey naps in a pack’n’play in the guest room and Stella naps in their bedroom)