Here’s one of the trickiest sleep training struggles I see parents face – sleep training their youngest child whilst they are sharing a room with their toddler sibling. And often, parents have no clue of how to navigate this hurdle without disrupting their toddler’s sleep. It is stressful just by thinking of it. If later both have trouble sleeping, it will be very exhausting for parents.
And let me tell you, this concern is valid and unfortunately there is no magic wand that you could use to prevent your toddler from waking while sleep training your younger child. This is just the reality of this area of your sleep training journey.
But before I continue, I’d like to state that I DO NOT use the cry-it-out approach when sleep training and I will not ask you to leave a crying baby alone until they fall asleep if you’re not comfortable with the idea.
Now that we’re clear on that, we need to be realistic as well. Sleep training is going to involve crying at some point because we are trying to let them change their current sleep habits. To be completely honest, having a baby involves a heap of crying and that should not come as a surprise to you. And with your baby crying, it will mean that during the period of sleep training, your older child will have some night’s when they are awoken because of the crying.
I can imagine you’re probably thinking you should probably hold off on sleep training your younger child. But ask yourself, would you rather have your toddler have some sleep interrupted for a few days or would you rather have your family sacrifice sleeping through the night for a few years?
I’m sure, you’ll choose the former and sacrifice a few days of your toddler’s sleep so everyone can get to sleeping well.
Now that you’ve decided to forge ahead like the warrior you are, let’s take a look at ways in which we can minimise the effect this will have on your toddler’s sleep. Here are a few amazing tips to help you through this period:
Start the sleep training in your own room. Start off by putting your baby in a crib or bassinet next to your bed and where possible, try creating a separate sleep area in your room by hanging a curtain or blanket. I’ll tell you that it won’t be very aesthetically pleasing, but let’s face sleep training is not stylish at all! By creating this separation your baby won’t be able to see you, and this is a very important part of this journey.
When your baby has acquired a few skills, move them into your toddler’s room. Once you observe that your baby has started mastering some sleep skills and has started to fall asleep independently, this is the right time to move them into your toddler room.
This whole process will have both your kids put up some sort of resistance because it is a huge shift in their normal routine. So be prepared to have bedtime get just a bit harder for all of you, so try as best to do this over a long weekend or during a week where some lost sleep won’t be that much of an issue.
Be sure to chat to your toddler and explain what is going on. Remind them that if their little brother or sister does wake up crying, you’ll be there to take care of things in a snap. The better your toddler understands, the less your baby’s sleep will affect your toddler.
And as for naps, I always recommend they be done in separate rooms if the older one still needs to take a nap. The truth is, napping is the hardest part of the sleep training program, and you’re better off just keeping it this way to save some daytime tears while ensuring your children get the sleep they need to thrive.
One last thing to add on this topic… I know some parents tend to take this approach despite having an extra bedroom because they want to hold on to the spare room for their in-laws or other visitors who might need to spend the night.
If the extra bedroom is an option, I strongly suggest you use it. Sleep training when siblings share a room isn’t impossible, but it does add an extra layer of difficulty to the process, and you’re much better off moving one child into the other’s room on those occasions when you have company than trying to get them both sleeping in the same room on a permanent basis, especially if older one still needs parent’ accompany.
At the end of it all, sleep training with a toddler in the room is difficult, but not impossible! And let’s face it, it’s better than not helping your kids sleep independently. In the end all the tears in the short term will be worth it.
If you’re in the midst of sleep training and having a harder time than you expected, let’s chat and discuss how I can support you on this journey.