I found out I was pregnant and I immediately said, “I have to create the ideal sleep environment for my baby”! Totally kidding—that literally did not even cross my mind. Instead, I immediately took to Pinterest. Being one of four daughters myself, I always wanted to be a girl mom. I imagined a beautiful nursery with pink ruffles, floral prints, and gold accents. Well, none of that was actually practical. Once our little bundle of joy arrived and (was not such great sleeper) I quickly realized her beautiful nursery was not enough and I needed to create the ideal sleep environment to improve her sleep. Here’s what we did.
Step 1: Keep Baby Safe
For babies under 1 year old, always follow safe sleep guidelines to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). You can think of the three most important recommendations as the ABCs of safe sleep.
- A- Alone: Nothing else in the sleep space with baby including pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, loveys, bumpers etc.
- B- Back: Always put baby down for sleep on their back. If baby rolls over to their belly independently, that is fine.
- C- Crib: The safest sleep space for baby is a crib or other approved sleep space that meets current safety standards like a bassinet or pack-n-play. The mattress should also be firm with a tight fitted sheet.
Step 2: Make it Dark
Did you know that darkness helps your child’s body produce, melatonin, our sleepy hormone? Yea, I didn’t either but as soon as I knew I went straight to the store to buy black out curtains!
If 10 is pitch black, you want the room to be at least a 9 out of 10 for both day and night sleep. You can use blue painters’ tape to tape down the sides or Velcro if light is coming in. The darker the better!
For a DIY version tape up black garbage bags or aluminum foil on the windows. I know, not cute, but super effective. When you’re traveling throw a roll of garbage bags and blue tape in your suitcase—you’ll thank me later when your little one doesn’t wake up with the sun.
If you’re going into your baby’s room for night feedings and need a nightlight, use one with red or amber colored light like a salt lamp. These color tones don’t affect melatonin production. Be sure to avoid blue and white colored lights. When your preschooler decides they want a nightlight the same rule applies.
Be sure to scan the room for any little LED lights. Baby monitor cameras and humidifiers tend to be big offenders here. Cover these with black electrical tape. These little lights might seem harmless but if they catch your baby’s eye in an otherwise dark room, they can disrupt sleep.
Step 3: Keep the Room (and Baby) Cool
When you are working to create the ideal sleep environment you also must factor in the ideal temperature for sleep. This is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Babies and grownups, alike, sleep better in a cooler environment. Our body temperature drops at night so creating a cooler environment mimics what the body is doing naturally.
A cool room is also safer because it prevents overheating which is a risk factor for SIDS. Also, do not overdress baby. Babies typically need the same amount or only one additional layer of clothing than you do. You can check to see if baby is too hot or cold by placing your hand on their chest or back of their neck. If they are cold then add another layer of clothing. If their clothing is damp (sweaty) or they appear flushed this is a sign they are too warm and it’s time to remove a layer of clothing or reduce the air temperature. Hands and feet tend to feel cooler to the touch no matter what so don’t rely on that as an accurate gauge of your little one’s temperature.
The set temperature on your thermostat often varies from room to room so I recommend monitoring the temperature specifically in the room your baby is sleeping in. You can use your baby monitor but I have found that those are not super accurate either. I prefer a simple indoor digital thermometer.
Step 4: Use White Noise
White noise is very soothing for young babies. It will also block out household and street noise to create a consistent quiet space for sleep. Turn it on as a last step in your bedtime routine and let it run all night long.
Keep the sound machine about 6 feet away from baby and make sure it is no louder than 55-60 decibels. This is about the same volume as a running shower and you can also check the volume using a free decibel meter app.
Stick to white noise and avoid music. Music stimulates the brain which is what we don’t want when we want our babies to be sleeping. Opt to play music during tummy time, play time, or even at the beginning of your bedtime routine.
Step 5: Be Consistent
Starting around 2 months old, begin introducing a consistent safe sleep space for naps and bedtime. For naps it could be in their own room in the crib and for bedtime it could be in your room in the bassinet or pack-n-play. Do what works for your family.
Sleeping in a consistent environment will help cue your baby that it is time for sleep and the optimized environment you’ve created will provide the most restorative sleep for you little one.
Now you know exactly how to create the ideal sleep environment and can begin creating a solid sleep foundation for your little one! If sleep is still not coming together for your kiddo, reach out. I’d love to help you get the sleep you deserve! You can book a complimentary Intro Call to chat about your needs and discover how I can help! Ready to catch some dreams?