One question I usually hear when teaching The Happiest Baby on the Block (THB) classes is “Can this help me when I want to move her into her sister’s room?”. The answer is: absolutely! Strategies that keep your newborn calm and sleeping more deeply will smooth the transition to shared bedrooms later on.
Most parents use either a co-sleeper or a bassinet for the first few months after birth. They can hear and see the baby more clearly, and the frequent feedings and diaper changes are less disruptive to everyone’s sleep. Unless they use the “family bed” concept, they often plan to move their newborn to a separate room after 4 and 6 months. I think every family should decide for themselves when and where they want their babies to sleep. But if you want two children to share a room, you need to have a plan. Twins can be a bit easier, but it is not a guarantee that they will have identical sleeping and feeding schedules. When you have an older child already sleeping in a bedroom, moving your infant in with them is even more complicated. Parents are generally worried about waking the infant when the toddler goes to bed later, or worried that the infant will wake for a feeding and then wake up the toddler. They envision nights with one or the other crying, and nobody getting a decent night’s sleep. It doesn’t have to be that way. And it can be done without anyone crying.
My favorite saying about sleep issues in infants is that a good night’s sleep starts in the morning. Using THB, you have strategies to calm your baby all day long, through naps and stressors like noise that other children make. A baby that has spent the day being quickly calmed, had deep refreshing naps, and knows that their caregivers can calm them quickly is much easier to put to bed at night. Parents who are no longer swaddling have asked me what they can use. Well, swaddling isn’t the only THB technique. In fact, it is only one of 5. Parents can use sucking without risk of dental deformation or habitual dependence through month 6, and white noise is great for the whole first year. Some children will use the adjustable swaddle garments to get the firm chest/abdomen swaddle input after they start rolling.
It helps if you use techniques like the dream feed to extend and deepen sleep at night (see my post on the magic of dream feeds). THB techniques can be done by dads and nannies, so moms aren’t the only ones who have to get up at night. Sometimes babies need to nurse, and sometimes they aren’t hungry but have a stuffy nose or need a diaper change. Getting them back to sleep quickly is very important to preserve the concepts of day and night difference. Recent research in the UK indicates that the circadian rhythm of naturally seeking sleep at night is developed in the second and third months of life, and is not entirely biological. Their research suggests there is an interplay of brain development and the way babies are supported to sleep that promotes that circadian pattern. It can be disrupted; ask any insomniac. Give your baby the best chance at solid sleep patterns right from the start!
Babies that have grown accustomed to always nursing or bottle-feeding to get back to sleep, or expect to play a bit before going back to sleep are going to be the most difficult to blend into room sharing. A baby that is quickly calmed by THB techniques at the earliest age is practically asleep by the time you put them down. They can save the fun for the times when the sun is shining. They are so sleepy when you use THB that they will not develop habits that work against getting their precious nighttime sleep, even in a shared room.