I am often asked “when should I move my baby into their own room?” It can be an emotionally charged decision and ultimately once your baby is over 6 months of age it should come down to a personal preference. However, I often see this decision delayed if your baby is not sleeping well overnight and parents that don’t plan to long term room share continue to do so until the baby is sleeping better, when in fact this transition is necessary to actually help your child to sleep better.
It is not unusual for parents to report that their children have started to sleep better in their own room, separate to the parent. As it can often be the case that we are disturbing them whilst we are coming to bed and during our own sleep cycles. Also that when your baby is sleeping and waking we are jumping up very quickly when they make noise in the mistaken belief that they need assistance, when in a lot if instances you will find that babies make lots of noise and call out and yelp and then roll over to sleep themselves if you give them some space and this is more possible when you are not all in the same bedroom.
Here is some information for you to consider:
- The health agenda recommends that we room share with our babies until they are at least 6 months. Many families I meet make this transition sooner and of course once you are making an informed decision based on the current recommendations, I hope that you will trust your instincts.
- Beyond 6 months if you are not planning to room share in the long term then I find that the ideal time to make this transition from your baby’s point of view would be between 6 and 8 months when they will likely transition without any negative impact.
- Decide on the time that is right for your family, when you have a good few weeks planned at home for overnight sleep.
- I suggest that in advance of making the move that you consider spending lots of non-sleep time in the new room with them – up to 30 minutes per day. Dress them, play with them and change them in the new room and help acclimatise them into the new space.
- Make sure that before their sleep time you have already developed a bedtime ritual and make sure that from the time that you move them into their own bedroom that their bedtime routine always happens in their bedroom, the place where they will sleep in order to have great sleep associations. Even if you tell me their bedroom is small I would strongly encourage that you make this happen so that they don’t view the room in a negative way.
- I don’t believe it is necessary for you to stay overnight in the room with them at this younger 6-8 month age group, but if it made you feel more comfortable about the transition, then you could share their room with them for the first three nights and then vacate. It can be up to you.
- If your child is 9 months plus and you plan to no longer room share with them, then you will need to bear in mind that your baby now has object permanence and their memory is catching up too, which is why they can start to have separation anxiety. You may need to pick your timing more carefully. Avoid doing this perhaps when you are just returning to work as s/he may find that too much entirely.
- Just like with the younger age group you will need to spend lots of non-sleep time in the room with them to build a level of trust and weaken room anxiety which may be more relevant now.
- The bedtime routine in their room is now really important. Consider adding extra time to this at the start.
- I definitely would suggest that in this older age group that you room share in the new room with them for 3-4 nights and then move out. This way you really help to bridge the gap from them sharing your room until now and now moving on to being solo in their own room. Use a mattress or a make-shift bed in this interim period if you don’t already have a bed in the room.
- Don’t delay this room sharing for too long and for much more than 3 days or else you might find that you have ingrained a reliance on your presence that you may not want to strengthen, so literally, make the move, room share for 3 nights and then move back to your room.
Bear in mind that any change you make, regardless of age, can have a temporary negative impact on your child’s sleep. Sometimes, I have even seen a negative reaction from just moving something in the room. Once I moved the cots location in the same room and my little boy Harry just could not settle with his normal ease, so don’t panic, if your usually-great sleeper is restless and unsettled, it can happen, even to me! Everything that you do can potentially have a cause and effect, so provide lots of extra reassurance and be confident that this unsettled period will pass and restore again. If you are committed to no longer room sharing then maintain this and generally within 7-10 days everything will settle down again. Good luck!