Having two children very close in age, often known as “two under two“, is a wonderful blessing for many kids and parents. Along with many of the joys and advantages of this family situation, also come a few concerns for parents – especially right after a newborn comes along.
Because of small living quarters, some families must have their toddler and newborn share a bedroom. Although eventually your two kids will become accustomed to room-sharing, it is not always so easy when you’re first getting your “two under two” used to sharing their bedroom.
Some parent concerns may be that their toddler has long since learned how to sleep all night, has their own bedtime routine, and may need time to adjust to a sibling in their room. Likewise, a parent may be anxious that their toddler is not a good sleeper and will wake at the slightest sound, after already having trouble staying asleep. With the newborn, a mom may worry that the baby waking multiple times throughout the night will wake the older child, and she’ll be exhausted trying to care for two kids without any sleep of her own (and have cranky, exhausted children the next day.)
That’s a lot to worry about for new parents!
But there is hope. Take it from a mom who has survived the first six months of caring for “two under two“, with flying colors, and learned how to make room-sharing work for her own kids – while living in a small two-bedroom house. The following are some tips to make the transition from one kid to two a little easier on your nighttime routine:
1. Install the second crib early on – While still pregnant, put together your second baby’s crib and place it in your children’s nursery early on. This will allow both your toddler – and you – to adjust to the change before it happens.
2. Help your toddler adjust to extra noise in his bedroom at night before the baby comes home – If your toddler is used to sleeping in silence, start getting them accustomed to additional noise during nighttime and naptime. Consider playing the radio or a CD on low, turning on fans in the room, or getting a white noise machine. This will also help your toddler learn to ‘drown out’ additional disturbances or crying in the room and sleep through the night better.
3. Keep the bassinet in your bedroom when your newborn comes home – Don’t automatically make your children room-share the second your newborn arrives. Keep your infant in a bassinet in your own room for the first few weeks (or months) until everyone has adjusted and your infant is developing a bedtime routine.
4. When baby is older, transfer the bassinet into the hallway first, then the crib – This may sound odd, but when you consider transitioning your infant into your children’s shared nursery, try placing their bassinet in the hallway for a few nights. This will achieve a few things – first, it will help your toddler to get used to hearing your infant’s noises a little louder during the night; second, it will help your infant adjust to sleeping in a new location; and third, it will help you adjust to differentiating your children’s cries in a different room.
5. Aim for shared naptimes – It may be awhile before both your ‘two under two’ are ready go to bed at the same time each night, but you can start training them to sleep in the same room by sharing a naptime. Not only will this help your kids to learn to sleep together, but will give you some time to unwind as well.
6. Go through the same, shared bedtime routine with both kids– Make sure to have a procedure for preparing for bed each night – dinner, baths, stories, songs, prayer, bottles, hugs and kisses, or whatever routine you have. Keep the lights low as you tuck your toddler in bed. Even if your infant stays up a little longer, sharing this routine each night will help your newborn adjust a little bit faster to your family’s schedule. Ultimately, your mission will be to put both children to bed at the same time each night.
7. Make a habit of going in and out of the room during naptimes, so kids get accustomed to noises – At times, while your children are napping, walk in and out of the room; especially if you have creaky doors and floors. This will help your children to learn that every noise is not a signal to wake up, and enables your toddler to learn that every time you walk in the room it does not mean naptime is over.
8. Position your newborn’s crib closest to the door for easy access– Rather than having to walk to the far side of the room, trip over toys and bump into furniture, keep your infant’s crib or bassinet closest to the bedroom door. Consider positioning a rocking or nursing chair right next to it so you don’t have to travel too much in the middle of the night.
9. When one or both kids are crying… – Every parent of “two under two” will find themselves in this scenario. Some nights, your children will still wake each other up, and both your toddler and your infant may be screaming. Try not to get anxious or have a meltdown, simply grab your infant and leave the room. More often than not, your toddler was just startled, and will fall back asleep once the noise disturbance has been removed.
10. Crib or toddler bed? – As your children begin to get older and more accustomed to room-sharing, you may find yourself questioning if it’s time to switch your older child to a toddler bed. The answer will totally depend on your parental instincts and your toddler’s temperament.
If you can trust your child, try a toddler bed for a few nights and see how it goes. You must make a point to discipline and train your toddler to stay in their bed and not wander; they will only be allowed to get up when you have given permission.
However, if your child is a bit unpredictable, you may want to consider keeping them in their crib for as long as possible. Unfortunately, if you have an active toddler who is room-sharing with your infant, you may not know if they get up during the night and try to crawl in your infant’s crib, throw toys in the crib, or other worrisome actions. It is best to keep as much control as you can at this point.
Although you may have quite a few concerns about room-sharing with your “two under two“, keep in mind that this transition period will only last for a short while. Very soon, it will work like a machine, your kids will become accustomed to sleeping in the same bedroom as their siblings and all your initial worries will be long gone (you’ll just have new things to worry about later!).