When a Toddler and Newborn Share a Room

Family Matters on 12.17.12
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Photo: Katherine Martinko

The only problem with our beloved century home is the fact that it only has two small bedrooms. When we first viewed the house, this was a serious downside, but I was willing to live with it because I loved the rest of the house so much. We had only our sixteen-month-old son at the time, so it seemed reasonable, but in less than a year, we had a newborn. We squeezed two cribs into the room; it was cramped.

For the first four months, the baby slept in a basket on the floor beside our double bed. I kept him there until he outgrew it. If that seems like a long time to keep a newborn in a bassinet, it’s because I was terrified of the inevitable dilemma — how to teach a rambunctious toddler and a fragile newborn to share a small room. The combination of different sleeping schedules, the baby’s cries when waking up to feed in the night, my fear of the baby getting assaulted by his enthusiastic brother in the mornings, had me wishing I’d opted for a different house with more bedrooms.

But then I thought about the room I’d shared with my sister and the wonderful experience that was. I thought of my friend Jenn’s three-bedroom farmhouse that once raised a family of eight kids. I looked at the black-and-white photo of our house showing a mother with two little children. Clearly this dilemma has been faced by countless mothers for ages. Why should I think it’s such a big deal? After all, we humans are communal creatures who take comfort in company, especially a little baby who’d hardly like to be alone in a dark room.

Out of necessity, I began introducing the baby to his crib and my toddler to the idea of having a companion. Much to my relief, it was a success. I found my older son in the baby’s bed only a few times. Within days, they began to show an adorable dependency on each other’s company. The baby cried if his brother wasn’t put to bed at the same time. If my older one had trouble falling asleep, he’d chatter to the baby. Once I heard him singing a lullaby to the fussy baby. One of the funniest times was hearing him shout, “Stop crying! I’m trying to sleep.” Amazingly enough, each slept through the other’s noises all night long and sometimes even into the morning.

Now that we’ve all gotten used to room-sharing, I’m thankful that circumstances forced me to do it. With a third bedroom, I would have been tempted to put the baby in there because it would be so much easier. Now I look at the special bond that my two boys have and am happy that they will always be able to listen to the sound of their best friend breathing nearby.

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