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When we enter parenthood, we’re not given a guidebook.
In fact, we’re not given much of anything, other than a precious new baby to care for. If you’re anything like I was, I just wanted to do everything right for my child. So I did what I thought was best in each moment.
But I’ll be the first to admit: I didn’t do things perfectly. When my first was born, we co-slept until I became a sleep consultant and he was 3.
The second time around, I knew I didn’t want to do the same thing because I WAS EXHAUSTED! My second son slept in a bassinet next to my bed for about 6 months. As you can imagine, we had a lot better sleep the second time around.
I then realized how much better this set-up worked for my family and wanted to help other families if they found themselves in a similar situation looking for changes. And that is what led me to become a certified sleep consultant.
Many things can impact sleep and help or hinder your child’s sleeping habits. The foundation of helping your child sleep well is that they’re in an environment that is set-up for sleep. There are five steps that you can take to create a sleep-ready room to help promote the best sleep possible for your baby.
Create a Quiet Sleep Environment
The first piece of a sleep-ready room: white noise.
My kids will not sleep unless the white noise machine is on! In fact, they ask for it!
Here’s the thing about white noise: when your baby is in utero, they are used to constant, loud noises. When they are born, they enter a pretty quiet environment compared to where they spent the last 9 months. White noise can comfort your baby, as it simulates the environment where they felt safe and secure for so long.
Additionally, white noise is great at creating a noise barrier for things going on outside the room. If your baby is trying to nap and your toddler is playing in the living room, a white noise machine can help prevent outside noise from creeping in and waking your little one. I personally recommend the Hatch sound machine and nightlight combo.
When it comes to white noise, you want to place the machine away from your child’s crib or bed so that they don’t accidentally pull the machine down.
While you want the white noise to be loud enough to drown out any outside noise, you don’t need it too loud. Aiming for around 50 decibels is ideal, and there are great free decibel reading apps that you can download to your phone. Simply place your phone on your child’s mattress to read the white noise and adjust the white noise level!
Create a Dark Sleep Environment
Big windows are great for natural light, until that light wakes up your sleeping child. To prevent the early morning sun from waking your child up before you’re ready, you want to create a dark sleep environment.
Blackout curtains work wonderfully for this – basically anything that makes the room completely dark is ideal. I recommend the EZ Slumber Blackout Curtains.
Not only are blackout curtains effective at preventing a too early wake up, but they also help ensure your child gets all the daytime sleep they need.
Light signals to our bodies that it’s time to wake up, as it prohibits your brain from making enough melatonin to keep you sleeping longer. If your child is napping in a brightly lit room, they may not fall into a deep enough sleep to cycle through multiple sleep cycles.
The best way to measure whether your child’s room is dark enough is to try this:
Go into your child’s room, turn the lights off, and close the curtains. Let your eyes adjust for a minute. If you can see around the room, it’s not dark enough.
Create a Safe Sleep Environment
The AAP recommends that your child have their own sleeping space (a crib or bassinet) and they encourage parents to roomshare until their baby is 12 months of age, or at least for the first 6 months.
Every family’s situation is unique when it comes to roomsharing and when to move to the nursery, so you’ll have to do what’s best for your family.
For some families, there is no option other than roomsharing, so they’ll keep their child in a crib in the parents’ room well into their child’s first year.
For other families, they find that they actually sleep better once the baby is in their own nursery, so when the 6-month mark comes, they transition their baby to their own room.
There are many factors that can play into this decision, so here are a few to consider:
- Do you have the space for your baby to have their own room?
- Do you (the parent) sleep better when the baby is in their room? Or would you sleep better if your baby is in another room?
- Does your baby sleep better if not in the same room as you?
There is no right or wrong answer here – as long as you are following safe sleep practices, you can decide what works best for your family.
Create a Cool Sleep Environment
The next element of a sleep-ready room is to keep the room cool. Keeping the temperature between 68-72 degrees fahrenheit ensures that your baby isn’t too warm or too cold, as those factors can wake your child up.
If you think that 68-72 degrees is just too cold – if your baby feels cold when you touch their neck or head, that’s usually a good indicator – you can consider layering your child’s clothing. For instance, a onesie underneath a sleep sack can work perfectly. Just tune in to your child and adjust the temperature how you see fit.
You also want to be mindful of the airflow in your child’s room. Some studies have found a decreased risk of SIDS with the use of a fan, as it helps keep the air in the room circulating. Depending on your environment, you may consider keeping a fan on low in your child’s room to help.
Create a Boring Sleep Environment
Lastly, the room should be boring – there really is no need for nightlights, extra pillows, blankets, or toys in your child’s crib or room.
With each passing day, your child becomes more alert and aware of their surroundings, so keeping things simple will help them associate their crib with sleep and sleep only. If your child is laying in their crib but they see all of their toys on the floor, it’s going to make it hard for them to settle down and want to sleep.
One common question that arises when planning for a simple sleep environment is, “Well, when CAN I introduce items to my child when they sleep?”
While every child is different, here’s a general guideline:
- 12 months old: You can introduce a lovey or small blankie
- 18 months old: Blankets are now okay
- 24 months old: Pillows are perfectly fine
Of course, these aren’t required ages, as your child may decide they don’t want or need anything else while they sleep.
Once you have your child’s sleep environment set and you know it’s safe and sleep-ready, you can then start focusing on routines to help your child wind down and prepare their bodies for bed. If you’re not sure where to start, grab my free guide – Bedtime Routines by Age – and get a solid bedtime routine in place with your little one tonight!