Sleeping Arrangements for Newborn + Toddler in a 2BR house

We are expecting a baby in October and we live in a 2/1 craftsman. We're 
looking for advice from other families about sleeping arrangements with 
a 4.5 year old son. Right now, our son is sleeping quite well in his 
crib (converted to a toddler bed) and we are next door in our own 
bedroom. We do not intend to co-sleep and have been considering placing 
the newborn in our son's room because it is still set up for a baby 
(crib, changing table, glider for nursing) and then placing our son in 
the family room. Other than the bedrooms, the house has an open-floor 
plan so the family room connects to the kitchen but we can put up 
blackout curtains to divide the room. This would also insulate the room 
so our son could stay toasty and we can even turn on the central heating 
to make sure he sleeps comfortably.

We have a few questions about this arrangement, such as ''Are we crazy 
to change our son's sleeping arrangement since he's doing well?'', 
''When can we put the two kids in a room together?'' and ''Will it be OK 
if we just put down a mattress for our son in his play room?''

We had considered putting the baby in our bedroom but it's just too tiny 
in there to add the nursing and changing component. We wouldn't likely 
put the heat on in the rest of the house so it would be tricky to nurse 
and change in another room, but certainly that is an option. Please 
share your experiences, advice, and pearls of wisdom. We know that most 
families don't have a bedroom for each child so certainly there is lots 
of experience out there!

Parent Replies

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Your son is probably (hopefully!) old enough to transition easily to another room now -- that sounds like a good plan to put him in the family room or put down a mattress. It'll feel like camping to him! When my son was 1 and daughter was 4 we put them in together, but we could have done it sooner - basically as soon as we finished sleep training!  They've just now separated at 5 & 8. 

Re heat, we've found the oil-filled radiators work great as space heaters in the kids' rooms so we don't have to blast the (extremely drying) central heat all over the house all night long.

First and foremost, every family has different sleeping arrangements and that is fine. Whichever way everyone gets the most sleep is the way to go! And what works with a newborn may not necessarily work with an older infant, so my advice to be flexible and make changes if necessary. Since you already have a kid, you've been through this before, but remember that every kid is different. My first kid co-slept with us and was a horrible sleeper until we finally figured out he needed his own room; the second one is a night owl and would quietly mumble to herself until she fell asleep. They are 2 years apart. The older one had his own room; baby slept in our room in her crib; we moved her into his room when she was about 9 months old. We would put the older one to bed first, then put her to bed a few hours later (just the way the sleep cycle worked). A few months later (they were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2) we moved to a new house and put them both together in one room with a twin and a toddler bed (we also had space issues).

One thing you might consider is putting the baby in the family room, or even in the hallway temporarily until you get a better handle on how the sleep stuff is working out. After the baby is born, everyone's sleep is messed up, including the older kid, but then once things settle down you'll have a better idea of how the new baby fits into your family and then you can decide when to put the baby in with the older one. 

Hope this helps!

I wonder if being moved out of his room would compound any jealousy or sense of disruption your son might feel. Would having a space that's his help him feel some sense of control?

For now, we have our baby in our (tiny) room (there are some great mini cribs), and we put the rocker and changing table in the living room.

Re: heat, if you would turn on the central heat for your son, could you turn it on to keep the glider and changing area warm? That said, between the hot baby, thick socks, and a shoulder shawl, I never needed the heat while rocking.

Good luck!

I would not put your son in the family room unless you can truly convert this room to his permanent (bed-)room. I would have both kids share your son's room. I was about your son's age when my brother was born and we shared a room for a number of years. No big problem.

First, let me echo the "every kid is different" mantra - find what works for you.  But I'll also note that you don't need a separate "nursing and changing" component to keep your newborn in your room for just a few months (sleeping in the same room as parents is advised by both AAP and WHO). Is there absolutely no space to fit a bassinet/moses basket? Even if you don't plan to routinely keep baby in bed with you, you can certainly nurse in your (safely prepared) bed (most comfortable with  somewhat reclined laid-back, and side-lying positions). Or if that really isn't a comfortable fit for you, you could take baby into your older son's room  to nurse (you'd have to go there anyway if baby was sleeping there, so it's no more or less convenient in that sense). Having baby nearby also lets you respond sooner to your baby's hunger/waking - BEFOE he/she gets too worked up ; that often makes nursing easier.   Keep a few diapers and wipes and a changing pad in your room (in a basket under the bed?), and you can change baby on your bed, in the bassinette, or on top of a dresser or desk.  Even on the floor if you're limber! Use a small, tightly focused, dimmable light to reduce risk of waking a lightly-sleeping partner (if there is one!). And depending on the kids, there's not official reason they can't share a room (for all or part of the night) as soon as baby is ready to move out of your room.

I second the worries of a previous poster who wonders if moving your older son's room might compound any possible jealousy issues or sense of disruptiuon (i.e. ....feelings of, 'a new baby comes, and suddenly I don't get my own room anymore? what gives? Not fair, not ok!'). Personally, I would figure something else out. I also had a new baby when my older son was 4. We also had a 2 bedroom but didn't have the option of turning a spare room into a bedroom (we were house-sharing with another family at the time and taking over another room was not an option). What we did was to make do with having the baby's crib in our room with us, and then when the little one turned about 1-1/2, we began preparing them for the eventuality that they would share a room soon, helping them feel excited instead of anyone feeling like their space was being invaded or left out. When our littlest one turned 2 (when his older brother turned 6), we moved the little one's things into his "brother's room" and it magically became "the kids' room," with an addition of a cool new new bunk bed for our 6 year old (which is "off limits" to his younger brother unless he gives his little permission to go up there!) as a present. At the same time I created a "library corner" for both of them, as a way to change the room up, make it more welcoming for both of them.  For your situation, my ideas would be: 1, do something like this if you think you can make it work. Or, 2, have YOUR current room be turned into the nursery for the new baby and move your and your husband's room into the family room. Get some Ikea bookshelf/dividers to make it more permanent-feeling / stable if you would like. Then, when your kids get older, maybe have them move into one room together? It was different for us since we didn't have a family room to possibly use like you guys do, but I wanted to share my thoughts and experience, offer my perspective. Our kids are very close, don't mind sharing, and my husband and I are now rediscovering a little occasional privacy which is fun. Whatever you decide, good luck and congrats on your new baby joining the family :)