Creating the Ideal Sleep Environment for Your Baby
When I found out I was pregnant, almost instantly I was on Pinterest pinning a million gorgeous nurseries for inspiration. Cribs, bedding, and rugs – oh my! Then I found out there were two babies growing in there, the pinning was at fever pitch!
You know what I wasn’t thinking about? Sleep! It was all about the aesthetics and nothing about the actual purpose of the sleep environment. We don’t know, what we don’t know, right?
So whether you are pregnant or your little one(s) are already here, these tips will help you to create the ideal sleep environment for your baby or babies.
First things first, we want to ensure that the nursery is safe for sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS is an unexplained death in a seemingly healthy baby that occurs during sleep.
While we don’t know what causes SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for safe sleep give us guidance in what we can do to help prevent the likelihood of crib death.
Use this checklist to ensure your baby’s sleep environment is safe.
- Firm mattress – when you place your baby on the mattress, they should not sink in at all. No pillow top or dock-a-tots.
- A naked crib – a firm mattress, a fitted sheet and your baby in a sleep sack or swaddle are the only things that should be in the crib. This means no toys, stuffed animals, bumpers, blankets, pillows, or positioners. These can be entrapment, strangulation, or suffocation hazards.
- Temperature – between 68-72F – more on this below
- Air circulation – a fan blowing towards the ceiling and not on baby
For a full list of recommendations and more insight, check out this post.
Babies and adults sleep best and are most comfortable in a cool room for sleep. The ideal temperature for sleep is in between 68-72 F. (20-22.2 C)
A cool room prevents overheating, which has been linked as a risk factor for SIDS.
I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time worrying:
• Is the nursery too hot?
• Is the nursery too cold?
• What should I dress my babies in?
How to tell if the temperature is just right…
Signs your baby’s room is too hot:
• Breathing heavily
Signs your baby’s room is too cold…
• If you touch your baby’s nape of the neck or core and they are cool or cold. These areas should be warm. Hands and feet are extremities, which aren’t a reliable gauge for temperature so stick with the core and nape of the neck instead.
Even if the heat or air conditioning for the house is set to the ideal temperature, make sure that your baby’s room isn’t too hot or too cold. You can use a baby monitor with a temperature gauge or a standalone digital thermometer.
Dressing baby for sleep…
Babies can quickly lose body heat or become overheated. They can’t make adjustments, like throwing off the covers or putting on an extra blanket like we can, so we must help them regulate their temperatures.
A good rule of thumb for ensuring your baby is dressed properly is to add one extra layer than we sleep with as adults. Extra layer is not a blanket, unless it is designed for sleep!
In spring and summer months, a lightweight onesie and a cotton sleep sack or swaddle should keep your baby safe and comfortable for optimal sleep.
In the fall and winter months, you are looking at a lighter weight and heavier weight combination. So a heavier weight pajama and a lightweight sleep sack or swaddle or a lighter weight pajama and a heavier weight sleep sack or swaddle.
- Monitor the temperature and keep the nursery in between 68-72 degrees (20-22.2C) and monitor
- Layer pajamas and sleep sacks to ensure your baby is cozy, but not too warm
Did you know the darker your baby’s room, the better they’ll sleep? Seriously!
Darkness tells our bodies it is time to be asleep, light tells our bodies it is time to be awake. Our sleepy hormones are released when its dark.
Placing your baby down for sleep in a pitch-black sleep environment will help your little one to fall asleep, stay asleep and make the sleep more restorative. Darkness also helps to prevent early morning wake ups and difficulty settling to sleep when it is still light out.
This is one point that parents fight me on. I get it – you want your baby to be able to sleep anywhere, at any time. And for some babies that works. But if you are having sleep challenges, trust me on this one. It’s science and there is no fighting science!
Darken your baby’s nursery so that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
My favorite long-term solution is the Blackout-EZ window covers. These are easy up and easy down and block 100% of light coming in through the windows. I wish I had invested in these when my boys were little!
Want to darken the sleep environment for baby quickly? Black Hefty Trash Bags and blue painter’s tape are my go to. I even travel with these. Once my boys woke up at 4:30 am in a hotel room and we had a wedding that day. It was a total disaster. See my husband’s reaction below!
Many parents fear that white noise will become a dependency so they shy away from using it. White noise is completely safe as long as it falls within a certain decibel level and as your child gets older, you can wean them off of it slowly by decreasing the volume.
In the meantime, white noise can be your BFF and is a key to healthy sleep habits.
White noise is comforting to babies. When your little one was growing in your tummy, they slept with a lot of consistent, fairly loud noise around them.
Once they make their arrival, we tip toe around, trying to ensure that we don’t wake them up, but even a random sound can cause your baby to jerk awake.
When babies try to sleep in a silent environment, it feels really strange for them. White noise helps babies to feel secure, relax into a deep sleep and helps keep babies sleeping. It also allows you to continue to have a life, without being in constant fear that loading the dishwasher is going to wake your little one up.
- Invest in a sound machine. My favorites can be found here.
- Tune it to the white noise option – stay away from other sounds because they stimulate the brain
- Position the sound machine at least 6 feet away from the crib
- Measure the decibel level by using a free app on your phone and ensure the volume falls around 50-55 decibels in the crib
- Use white noise continuously for all sleep periods
Want to learn a lot more about white noise? This post goes much deeper.
Now that you’ve got your homework, you know exactly what to do to ensure that sleep environment for your baby is safe and optimized for sleep. These tips will really help your baby in having healthy sleep habits!
Optimized the sleep environment for your baby, but your baby and you still aren’t getting enough sleep? We’d love to help you figure out the missing puzzle pieces! Schedule a free intro call so we can learn more and talk about how we can work together to improve your family’s sleep.
P.S. Want to stay connected?
Sign up to receive our monthly "Scoop" email newsletter!