“My kids share a room. How do I handle naps and bedtimes?”

“My kids share a room. How do I handle naps and bedtimes?”

Multiple kids, multiple bedtimes and nap times, one shared bedroom…what’s a parent to do? We went straight to the pros for advice.
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In our Ask an Expert series, we culled the most popular questions from our Nanit Community to bring you the answers, straight from our group of Nanit Lab experts. Parenting isn’t a solo mission, and at Nanit, we believe in the power of information, education, data and resources so that we can empower you to be the best, happiest parent you can be, and to have all of the answers at your disposal (even when you feel like you have none!). 

Here, in honor of National Sibling Day, we explore what to do when your kids share a room and have different nap and bedtime schedules.

When you have more than one child and your kids share a bedroom, figuring out bedtimes and nap times can feel like complicated choreography. How do you keep the kids from waking each other up when they go to bed at different times? What if one child still naps twice a day and the other has dropped down to one nap? It’s a tricky puzzle to solve, which is why we wanted to call in the pros for ideas and strategies. 

Dr. Natalie Barnett is the VP of Clinical Research at Nanit and our go-to sleep expert. Here, Natalie walks us through the simpler-than-you-might-think steps to make sure all your big and little kids get the rest they need.

How to handle different bedtimes

Natalie’s first guideline to help everyone navigate different bedtime schedules? Don’t move your baby into a room with your toddler (or older child) until your baby is sleeping through the night. With a newborn or a very young baby, the wakeups are too often to allow your older child to have a peaceful night.

Once your baby is sleeping longer, regular stretches, however, it’s fine for siblings to share a bedroom. 

Sync up bedtime routines

Your baby is a little bigger. Overall, they’re sleeping well at night and have an earlier bedtime than your older child. So how to handle two different bedtimes? “It’s not such a big deal,” reassures Natalie, “as long as you have good systems in place.”

As much as possible, set up a bedtime routine that allows both kids to participate in as many of the wind-down activities as you can. For example, you bathe both kids, they both get into PJs, you read books or listen to calming music all together. Perhaps your baby has their last feed of the day out in the living room while you’re listening to music. The point is to plan an easy routine that everyone enjoys. “Keep it consistent, simple and fun,” encourages Natalie. “You want the routine to involve activities that your family will look forward to and that you can easily do every night.” 

Then, because the baby has an earlier bedtime, your routine will finish with you putting your baby to bed. Again, keep it simple. Put your baby in the crib, say goodnight, and leave the room. A white noise machine like Nanit’s Sound + Light can be soothing company, helping your baby drift off to sleep. 

The beautiful thing about this approach is that it’s streamlined and straightforward enough that only one parent needs to do it—and another caregiver can step in just as easily when you need a night off.


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    Spend quality time with your older child

    Once your baby has gone to bed, you can spend quality special time with your older child. “Especially with a little baby in the house, it can be hard for parents to carve out natural time to spend just with the older child,” says Dr. Natalie. “And it’s often what older kids crave, one-on-one moments with their parents. If your toddler has been acting out, they’re likely looking for attention—they don’t really care if it’s negative or positive as long as it’s attention. So the chance to have extra minutes at the end of the evening just with you might wind up making your whole day go more smoothly.” 

    Read an extra book, snuggle in the living room armchair, do a puzzle or some other quiet activity. And let your toddler know how much you value this time. “You can say something like, ‘Isn’t this fun? The gang’s back together, just the three of us. The baby’s not old enough to do these fun things like you are,’” suggests Dr. Natalie.

    Put your younger child to bed first

    Most babies drop into deep sleep within 15-20 minutes. So by the time you go into the kids’ room with your older child, your baby should be sleeping soundly enough that they won’t be disturbed. And if your baby does stir, they’ll likely drop back into sleep quickly. 

    Similar as to when you put your baby down for the night, keep your older child’s into-bed routine simple and short. A kiss on the head, a pulling up of blankets, a good night and then you go out.

    Wake-ups during the night

    Middle of the night, yup, that’s the baby waking up. They may need to be changed. If they’re younger, they may be hungry. So should your monitor alert you to the fact that your baby needs help, go into the kids’ room as quietly as you can. Use a soft night light if you need to, but no bright lights. Minimize noise or talking. 

    “Ideally, you’ll take the baby out of the room to help them,” says Dr. Natalie. “Take care of whatever is needed, then bring them back and put them back down. But there’s no right or wrong answer. Some older children may easily sleep through a baby being changed. Or if they wake up, they’ll be able to settle back down to sleep quickly. It’s about what works for your family. And you can experiment to figure out what that is.”

    How to handle different nap times

    When children have different nap times, Dr. Natalie advises that parents have their kids nap in separate rooms. “Unlike nighttime, it’s hard for kids to go back to sleep when they’re woken up during a nap,” explains Dr. Natalie. “When a nap ends, it ends. So let’s say you have a 6 month old who takes two naps, one from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.. and another from 1 to 3 p.m., and you have a 3 year old who naps from 12 to 2 p.m. If the kids nap in the same room, you run a high risk of waking your toddler up when you come in to put the baby down in the afternoon. And then that nap is likely over.”

    So you may want to put your baby down for a nap in a pack and play in your bedroom (or even bathroom), and your toddler will nap in their room. Or vice versa. Again, whatever works best for your family is the way to go, as long as all the kids are getting the uninterrupted naps they need.

    The big picture

    Different kids with different naps and bedtimes can feel like an impossible hurdle to overcome. But with simple routines and a little flexibility, you’ll be well on your way to sleep success. You’ve got this!

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    Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

    Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

    Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

    Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.