How to Create the Perfect Sleep Environment for your baby
Sleep Consultant, Lauren Olson, shares 10 simple tips and products to help your baby sleep
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 sleep. As a new parent, it’s important to understand that each baby is different. Some will sleep for longer stretches, while others won’t.
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:
5 tips for building a soothing sleep environment
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? Alternatively, invest in The Baby Shusher discussed below.
4. Minimize distractions
When your partner 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 them 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.
5 favourite baby sleep products
Here are a five Tot-tested baby sleep products that are essential for creating a safe and soothing sleep environment.
By month two, a healthy full-term baby is capable of 4-6 hour stretches at night, and by month three, some parents will see that stretch up to 6-10 hours. What’s the BEST possible way to achieve this? By placing your infant to sleep in the same sleep environment (a crib, dock, bassinet, nursery, etc.) for at least one nap a day, if not for all naps and night sleeps. Ultimately, if you desire your baby to sleep in a crib once they’ve grown out of their bassinet, I love the Oeuf Classic Crib in Walnut, which gives your room or nursery a clean yet timeless look, and matches nearly every decor option. This crib has a solid wood base, three adjustable heights as baby grows, and features non-toxic finishes so you can rest assured that your baby is sleeping safely.
Note: The AAP now recommends that infants sleep in their parent’s room or under parental supervision at night up until 12 months, and always placing baby to sleep on their back
This recommendation isn’t only to prevent leakage from a full diaper, but also to protect baby from breathing harmful toxins that emit from many store brand mattresses. Organic mattresses are always encouraged, but could be slightly more than you’re willing to spend, so I always suggest covering a crib mattress with a mattress cover to reduce allergic reactions and ultimately keep baby’s air cleaner at night. The Naturepedic Waterproof Protector Pad is a wonderful option. It’s completely hypoallergenic, and wicks away moisture. This option is a safe yet luxurious option, but it won’t cost you more than a box of your favorite diapers.
The Dockatot is probably one of the most talked-about products in your Mommy group, and for good reason. Creating a consistent sleep environment is key to longer naps and for connecting sleep cycles seamlessly at night. The Dock provides the perfect sleep environment that you can move around with you during the day (or even while traveling!) I receive weekly calls from parents looking for advice on this innovative product and let me assure you: you won’t be disappointed. The Dockatot is not only eco-friendly, breathable and portable (hello naps on vacation, finally!!) but serves as a perfect place for your child to learn independent and healthy sleep habits while feeling safe AND secure. This product can also double as a safe play area for baby to practice tummy time while acclimating themselves with their nursery.
4. White noise
White noise is imperative in your baby’s nursery to block out unsolicited noises. A portable white noise option like The Baby Shusher, is highly desired because of its portability, similar to the Dockatot, you can take the Baby Shusher on vacation or to Grandma’s house for the afternoon. Parents can introduce white noise as early as birth, which is helpful to keep infants sleeping more soundly (due to mimicking sounds of the womb) or to help calm a fussy baby.
There are some great pajama outfits out there, but in warmer climates babies can be uncomfortable in more than a onesie and swaddle/sleep sack. The Halo brand has a beautiful sleep sack that will keep your baby cool but comfortable, and can be the perfect solution for when your infant is ready to transition out of his or her swaddle. The 100% organic cotton fabric used in the Halo sleep sacks are also ideal for children with sensitive skin or eczema, as these conditions can commonly cause irritation while sleeping in scratchier fabrics. The Sleep Sack provides a cozy sleep option without the use of blankets, and can prevent baby from becoming overheated at night.
In the end, always be sure to use my ‘Sleep and the City’ rules for successful sleep shaping:
- The same sleeping environment is encouraged (meaning use one place over and over, or to start, at least, let your baby have at least one nap in the desired sleep place per day). We LOVE the Dockatot Grand for my toddlers to achieve this no matter where we are!
- Swaddle (0-6 months) for nighttime and nap times as needed; we love how easy this is with the HART + LAND or LouLou Lollipop Swaddles; use a Sleep Sack thereafter
- Comfy outfits for nap time (who wants to sleep in tight pants or a dress?!) We love pajamas from HART + LAND
- White noise is continuously running; a one with low rumbling is best from Baby Shusher
- Room is completely dark for naps & nighttime (nightlight over 2+ years ok)
- Understand the wake windows by age (download at sleepandthecity.com)
- Pause before rushing in to see if child can resettle on their own first if nap is less than 45 minutes
- Feed upon WAKING from sleep, not before (bedtime is the exception)
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