Some parents share a room with their baby by choice (especially those who choose to co-sleep) and others by necessity if they live in a small home. Perhaps you have a long-term plan to move into a two-bedroom home, but are staying where you are for now. Or, like my family, you're not quite ready to have your infant share a room with an older child. Whatever your reasons, if you're curious or concerned about what shacking up with your baby is like, I offer my firsthand account of a year sharing our bedroom with our baby - the good, the bad and the ugly.
Let's start with a few positives.
- If you are a worrier (which is especially true for first time parents), you may be reassured having your baby close by where you can see them or hear their breathing whenever you like.
- You don't have far to go when your baby needs you. This may be helpful for parents who have trouble falling back asleep after being woken.
- You may not need to buy a baby monitor. You may still want one for naps, but we haven't used one at all since our daughter was born.
- I was very busy during my pregnancy and, despite my occupation as an editor for a home/design blog, it was kind of a relief to not think about decorating a nursery.
Perhaps "bad" is too harsh a word; maybe "the annoyances" or "the inconveniences" is better. Here are some of the negatives of sharing a room with a baby
- Worrying about noise we make. Neither my husband nor I snore, but we did each have a few colds this season, including some severe coughs. Several times one of our coughing fits woke the baby and once or twice one of us opted to sleep on the couch as a preventative measure. We also tiptoe into our bedroom at night and try to soundlessly slip into bed. This isn't a big deal, but I'd rather not have to walk around like a ninja after 8 pm. And you're probably wondering about noises from...intimacy. When you live in a very small apartment, that kind of noise can be a concern whether you share your room or not so it's not that much different. But, yeah, having your baby nearby can make you a bit self conscious.
- Getting woken up by baby noise: I would rate our daughter an average or better sleeper. She sleeps better than our son at the same age and goes through delightful periods of fully sleeping through the night, but one or two wake-ups is still pretty common. In addition to full wake-ups (which we would address whether she was in our room or not), she often makes noise in her sleep - sometimes snoring when she has a cold and other times adorable coos that signal that she is awake, but not complaining and will resettle herself back to sleep. My husband often sleeps through these types of noises, but I've always been a light sleeper and pretty much every little sigh of hers wakes me up.
- Noise machine: Because our bedroom is in the front of our first floor apartment, we decided to use a white noise machine to cancel out street and entryway noise. If we weren't sharing a bedroom with our daughter we probably wouldn't do this. It's not a huge deal, but neither my husband nor I particularly like sleeping with white noise.
- Sleep training: We are lucky that our daughter has been a fairly good sleeper from the start and we never had to do any sleep training with her (unlike our son who we sleep trained at six months. If you do something like CIO (Cry It Out) I imagine it would be that much harder to listen to their crying (not to mention try to sleep through it) if you are just feet away instead of a room or two away.
- Lights out. Perhaps our daughter would not awaken if we turned the lights on when we go to bed ourselves, but we haven't tested this. We usually creep in quietly in the dark, using our iPhone flashlight apps to guide the way. It hasn't been terrible, but not preferable either. And I miss reading a paper book with the light on before bed. I know I could get a book light or read on my phone, but it's not the same.
- Locked out. Not literally, but I think twice about going into our bedroom to retrieve something when she is napping during the day or after she has gone to bed. She mostly hasn't woken up when I have, but I go through a mental checklist when I put her down to see if there's anything I need out of the bedroom first.
Our daughter's corner of our bedroom. Not knowing how long she'd be in our room with us, we only decorated it minimally.
Ugly? There is no ugly. Just look at this sweet pea. Sharing your room with your baby may not be ideal but it's FINE. You can do it. Don't worry. Instead of an alarm clock, I am woken each morning by sweet giggles. They might not sound as sweet if they were at 5 am instead of 7 am, but they are sweet.
What's Next At Our House?
Ultimately, our daughter will move into her brother's room. It's hard to know when the right time is. He is a busy, active kindergartener with after school activities so we want to protect his sleep as much as possible. She is mostly sleeping through the night so I expect we'll make the change soon. Our son, for one, is excited for a roommate!
Your experience sharing a bedroom with your baby will be largely dependent on how good a sleeper they are (and I'm of the opinion that while sleep training or other methods may help, some kids are just better sleepers than others, period.) and how good a sleeper you are. When a baby is born, your family's sleep routine pretty much goes out the window and a new one emerges and keeps evolving (and not always in a positive direction) sharing your room with a baby is just a part of this adjustment.
(Image credits: Carrie McBride)