Like most new or expecting parents, you’ve probably spent a lot of time preparing baby’s sleep environment, creating a space that’s cute, cozy and safe. But is it actually conducive to sleep?
While sleepless nights are just a part life with a newborn, creating a proper sleep environment will help you maximize shut-eye and instill healthy habits from the start. Our sleep expert, Jennifer, has six tips to help make baby sleep time easier.
1. Use the Same Sleep Space for Nighttime and Nap Time
Even the youngest babies benefit from routine, and putting your baby down in the same place for both nighttime and naps helps establish sleep cues. This place can be a bassinet, a crib, or a pack ‘n play.
2. Use a Flat, Stationary Bed
Despite the stories of babies only sleeping in strollers, swings, car seats, or even on top of the dryer, the truth is, baby will have better, more restorative sleep if they are on a flat, stationary surface. While movement and vibrations can help a baby fall asleep, they should be reduced or turned off once a baby is actually sleeping, since they can force the brain into a lighter sleep state. A flat, stationary surface is also the safest place for infants to sleep, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
3. Keep Your Baby’s Bed Free of Any Toys or Blankets
The AAP also recommends that babies under 12 months be placed in a bassinet or crib that’s free of toys, bumpers, or loose blankets. Along with being safe, this also has sleep benefits, as it helps prevent distraction that may disrupt sleep patterns.
4. At Nighttime, Make Your Baby’s Room As Dark as Possible
Circadian rhythms can be thrown off by even the smallest amount of light, and since babies naturally tend to hone in on light, even the most innocent of light sources can keep them awake or cause them to rouse between sleep cycles. Invest in room darkening or blackout curtains to prevent light from peeking through windows, and make sure there are no glowing lights in your baby’s room. If a baby product has an LED light on it (think: diaper warmers, baby monitors, cool mist humidifiers), cover it up with black electrical tape or masking tape to prevent a wake-up.
5. Use a White Noise Machine
A good white noise machine will not only help eliminate outside noises that could cause baby to wake (like the theme song from that comedy you’re currently binging after bedtime), it can also become an auditory cue that it’s time to sleep. Just make sure to use the actual white noise setting on your machine, if there are options, and not sounds like waves, crickets, rain, etc. These other sounds have subtle inconsistencies that can keep part of the brain awake and result in poorer sleep for your little one. The same hypothesis goes for lullabies. Feel free to incorporate them into your bedtime routine, but once it’s time to get down to sleeping, white noise is best for restful, restorative sleep. For machines, The National Sleep Foundation highly recommends the Marpac Dohm.
6. Make Your Baby’s Room Cool
When it comes to monitoring sleep schedule and sleep problems, many new parents focus on making sure their baby is warm enough. Children (like adults) actually sleep better in cooler temperatures, so keep baby’s room between 68-72 degrees. If you do think your child is cold, remember: no loose blankets. If baby has outgrown the swaddle, a sleep sack is a great, safe option for safe sleep.
To learn more about sleep patterns and sleep training, check out our course, Infant Sleep 101: A Guide to Newborn and Infant Sleep.
About our Expert
Jennifer Denzel is a certified Sleep Consultant with more than 20 years of hands-on experience in early childhood education. As a Gentle Sleep Coach, Jennifer‘s philosophy serves as an alternative for parents who resist the cry it out method. Her step-by-step method has a 95% success rate when the child is healthy and the parents are consistent.