How to build a soothing sleep environment for your baby

Type “Baby Sleep” into Google and a staggering 274 million entries come up. Yes – million.

That gives you an idea of how many stressed-out, sleep-deprived moms there are looking for something, anything, to help get their newborns off to the land of nod.

Baby girl sleeping
Photo: ichi ichi zero ichi/a.collectionRF

There are also thousands of books on the topic of building a soothing sleep environment, each offering their own take on how to get your little one sleeping through the night in record time. Here’s a hint – they’re all essentially useless. Each baby is different, there is no magic formula and – newsflash – there’s a good chance Junior won’t even come close to sleeping a full 10 hours until they’re well over the age of one.

There are, however, things you can do to help your very little little-one learn to sleep well at night. Building a good sleep environment is key. Here are a few handy hints:

1. Establish a routine early on

Newborns have no concept of day or night, and have no idea when they should be awake or asleep in those early days – they just know when they’re hungry and when they’re not. By establishing a calming nighttime routine, you can help them learn that evenings are for winding down, and night is for sleeping. A calm, soothing bath, followed by a little baby massage and a cuddle before bed can help.

2. Darken the room

Black-out blinds can be very effective – especially when it’s high summer and the sun’s still blazing waaaaay past baby bedtime. Some babies sleep best when it was black as night – even during the day – and black-out blinds can be easily purchased anywhere from IKEA to Pottery Barn Kids (i.e. anywhere desperate parents might turn up in search of relief!)

3. Don’t be too quiet

There’s a tendency to tiptoe when you’ve just got your newborn off. But, really, there’s no need. In fact, some babies sleep a lot better when there is background noise around. Remember, it wasn’t silent inside the womb – before your baby was born he was nodding off to the sound of your heartbeat, digestion and the muted sounds of noises outside your body. If your baby likes a particular noise there is a free app called ‘Sleepy Sounds’ you can try. Some babies may love “Heavy rain,” while others nod off to “Vacuum.” Whatever works, right?

4. Minimize distractions

When your husband comes home from work late and decides now would be the perfect time to sing “Old McDonald” in a Bruce Springsteen style, whilst jazz-handing in baby’s face, politely remind him now might not be the best time. Make a clear differentiation between “sleep time” and “play time.” It’s best to minimize stimulation right before bed, so that means turning the TV off, dimming the lights and keeping those show tunes to a minimum for at least half an hour before you want to put them down.

5. Talk quietly to your baby

Talking quietly to your baby as you dress him for bed may calm him down. Never underestimate just how much your little one understands – you’ll be amazed as to what they’re absorbing. Saying, “Good Night, Mommy loves you” every night as you place them in their cot, or rock them to sleep, is a lovely end to the day for you both.