So rather than write this right away, I decided to a little research on room sharing for siblings. Here is my takeaway: Room sharing is hard, but in the end it is worth it.
Hmmm, not so helpful, right? I mean, it's nice to know that in the end everyone will love each other more. But .... what about right now, your baby is waking your 3 year old up at 5am every day, what do you do now? Well? Get reading!
- DESIGN THE ROOM FOR TWO - make sure each child has his/her own sleep space, his/her own white noise machine creating a 'wall' of sound between the bed and crib. If you don't have them already, black out shades are immensely helpful.
- YOU MUST AS WELL JUMP IN - there is no perfect age for room sharing, and in fact, if you wait too long, then your 3 year old has a big day at school and no longer naps and a sibling waking him up is just too overwhelming for the family. Just pick a time when the baby is doing well enough, and you have some back up/emergency (wtshtf plans).
- PREPARE BEDTIME ROUTINES THAT WORK FOR BOTH KIDS - If your baby goes down first, have the majority of your toddler's routine take place outside of the room. Once he is in the shared room, then you can do a whisper story or song. If he takes loudly, don't shush him dramatically. Instead whisper back. Model the behavior you expect. Worst case scenario, your baby wakes up, continue your routine with the toddler and let your little one fuss/cry and get himself back to sleep.
- MAKE SURE YOUR BABY IS USED TO THE NEW ROOM - if you can give the baby 2-3 nights solo in his new digs so he is sleeping relatively well before big brother or big sister comes back. If you can time it, I suggest taking the big sibling out to visit the grandparents for a few nights.
- GET YOUR SEQUENCE PLANNED! Here is how it works. Option one, baby goes to sleep first, toddler comes in. Option two, toddler goes to sleep first, baby comes in. Option three, they both go down at the same time. Personally I think the best situation is when they go to bed at the same time, so they can carry out together, settle down together, and then fall asleep together. Bonus ... they get used to each other this way. You are not needed, in fact, getting involved makes it worse.
- GET YOUR MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT RESPONSE PLAN SET UP - Here's the deal, more often than not, your baby will bother you more than your toddler. If the baby wakes, don't go running in. Stay out. If the baby is really bothering your toddler, then have a travel crib where the baby can go in a pinch, having a spare white noise machine is always a good thing. OR Wait for you toddler to come to you and have a spare place for him to sleep on the floor of your room if his brother/sister is driving him crazy.
- COMMIT TO THREE WEEKS and you will see a difference. Even the worst roommates eventually find their peace. Try to persevere, don't respond immediately. And remember white noise and even loud fans are your friend in this situation!