Introducing a new baby to a toddler sibling presents both a precious family moment — and a new set of logistical challenges.
If the siblings will be sharing a room, it means setting up a space that’s at once welcoming, safe, and conducive to sleep for everyone in it.
Yes, it can be done — and it can set up the sibs for an especially deep lifelong bond. Here are three essential ideas to consider when setting up a shared bedroom for a baby and a toddler.
Think safety first
A well-meaning toddler in a shared space could cause danger to a baby unknowingly — such as by trying to feed the baby (choking hazard) or cover it with blankets (respiratory hazard).
Take the time to educate the older kid on how these good-intentioned behaviors can actually hurt the little one, repeating the importance and potential consequences. And when possible, remove potentially hazardous objects like small toys from the shared bedroom.
Make a plan for bedtimes
Babies and toddlers will naturally have different sleep schedules, both at nap times and at bedtime. Interrupting either child’s sleep pattern will have ripple effects across the whole family’s ability to get adequate rest.
It helps to stagger your kids’ bedtimes so you can devote time to each one’s needs. This may even be a necessity if only one parent is available to do the nighttime routine.
For instance, you might put the baby to bed a half an hour earlier than the toddler, then read to the toddler in another room before putting him into bed for a final quiet cuddle and tuck-in. Remember that a baby might actually adapt to a later bedtime than a toddler if the younger sib naps more during the daytime.
If both children are winding down for sleep at the same time, lull them gently into slumber by playing calming music or a guided meditation, age appropriate for both. Moshi’s meditations are soporific for babies and toddlers alike, with magical stories presented through dreamlike narration amid soothing music. This is also a way to encourage a positive, peaceful association with bedtime for both kids.
Empower the toddler
Impress upon your toddler the importance of his own responsibility to play quietly when the baby is sleeping; to avoid taking any actions that could harm the baby; and to generally to be both a good roommate and a good big sib.
Turning the room-share transition into a teachable moment is not only a practical necessity for safety and functionality within the home, but also a way to make your toddler feel important, acknowledged, and praised in the role as the newly promoted big brother or sister.