There is nothing like bringing your baby home from the hospital and into their nursery for the first time. You’ve filled their space with the sweetest clothes and blankets, chosen the perfect artwork for the walls, and maybe even passed down a few treasures from your own childhood. But how do you know if this room is ready to help your little bundle sleep? A beautiful nursery is wonderful, but a space that really encourages your new baby to maximize those precious moments of sleep is critical. While an uninterrupted night may still be at least a few months away, there are several things you can do to ensure that your baby’s space is as conducive as possible to a good night’s sleep.
Keep the room dark. Darkness signals to baby that it’s time to sleep and minimizes distractions that might keep them awake. As babies grow, they are more and more aware that there are fun things happening in their house and want to be a part of it. Invest in some good blackout drapes (or get curtains lined with blackout fabric) and pull them over the window each time you put baby down. These also prevent your baby from waking up with the sun each morning!
Use a sound machine or fan for white noise. Have you ever noticed how your baby seems to fall asleep so easily in a noisy restaurant or party but can’t seem to settle in a quiet room? As counterintuitive as it is to an adult, babies are used to sleeping with constant noise. When they were in utero, they were constantly hearing sounds like your voice, your blood pumping, and your food digesting. Some estimates put this sound as loud as 90 decibels; no wonder silence seems strange to them! Get a sound machine or box fan and turn it up. This makes baby comfortable and helps them relax and drift off to sleep. It also helps you not worry about making too much noise while they are napping!
Swaddle baby snugly. Another way you can make your baby comfortable sleeping in their new world is by swaddling! This suppresses their startle reflex and mimics the way they were snuggled up in the womb. Lots of parents say, ‘my baby doesn’t like the swaddle’ but, even if they take a few minutes to settle, almost all babies will sleep sounder and longer being swaddled. Just watch one of the videos of a baby being wrapped in The Ollie Swaddle! Babies don’t outgrow the startle reflex until 4-6 months, so if they aren’t rolling or consistently breaking out, that swaddle is going to be a real comfort item to help them sleep.
Remember that the main function of this room is sleep. Between naps, bedtime, and middle of the night feedings, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your baby’s room. It can be tempting to bring in things to entertain both of you but remember that the goal is for your baby to go to sleep easily and sleep soundly. Resist the urge to put toys in their crib that light up or make noise, even if they are marketed as ‘soothing,’ and keep things like TVs, computers and other large electronics out of the room or off when you’re trying to get baby to sleep. During nighttime feedings, read a book with a dim light (replace a lamp’s bulb with a low wattage one), listen to music or a podcast through headphones, or just use the time to bond with your baby.
Create a bedtime routine and use it every time baby goes down. This isn’t something physically in their room, but a consistent bedtime (and naptime) routine will signal to your baby that it’s time to go to sleep and help them wind down. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but make sure you do it every time, and you’ll quickly notice your little one picking up on your cues. A sleep consultant can also be a valuable resource if you want help developing a plan for getting your baby on track to developing positive sleep habits as they grow.
For parents of a newborn, sleep may seem like an impossible goal, but these are a few ways to make sure that you’re creating an environment for your baby to get the best sleep they possibly can. The first few months can be an exhausting blur, but there will come a day your baby goes to sleep and sleeps all night without needing you to come in. Try to enjoy the snuggles and time together as much as you can -- these days don’t last forever!
As a mom of three young boys, I know how important and difficult it can be to get a good night's sleep during this season of life. Having someone to talk to and ask questions of is an invaluable resource as you are finding your footing with a new person in your family. I was very grateful to have friends who responded to frantic texts from me at all hours of the day and night when I brought my first son home and began Sleep Baby to provide that gift to other parents.
Besides keeping up with my men, I love being outside, especially by the water. I currently live in Charlotte, NC after growing up in Charleston, SC and consider myself a lowcountry girl through and through. In Charlotte you can frequently find me outside soaking up the sun at the pool or playing with my boys at a park.I'm passionate about babies and their parents and love the joy on their faces when they tell me that their baby finally slept all night. I'd love to learn about your family and how I can help you! Reach out to me on Facebook or on my website.