Want to create a nursery that may actually help your baby to sleep? Sleep consultant Karen Biddlecombe shares her top tips and go-to products to give your nursery that bedtime advantage.
Setting up your nursery is one of the most exciting aspects of the journey into parenthood. Whether it’s your baby’s own nursery or a partitioned area in your bedroom, there’s so much to think about: What colour scheme or theme to go for? Which decorative mobile to buy?
But your baby’s nursery also plays a vital role in establishing healthy sleep habits from the get-go. So here are some tips and advice on how to create that calm, relaxing environment for optimum sleep.
- Blackout Blinds
Investing in blackout blinds is a must. It’s one of the first things I recommend to families I work with. Whether it be blings that are attached to the frame, or travel ones that you suction to the window, they are fundamental in creating an ideal sleeping environment. Babies sleep best in a dark room. We are biologically wired to sleep in darkness and the presence of even small amounts of light can interrupt the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone
Don’t worry about baby confusing day and night due to a dark room during their naps — they won’t if you do it right. To create a clear difference between day and night, ensure daytime awake periods are spent with bright lights (preferable natural), activity, noise, and interaction. Awake times (feeds) during the night should be dimly lit, quiet, and calm. Baby won’t get them mixed up and their sleep, both at night and during daytime naps, will benefit greatly. So popping up blackout blinds encourages longer daytime naps — and discouraged early-morning wake-ups.
- Sleep sacks
Sleep sacks are the perfect item for transition after swaddling. Not only are they are a great cue to let your baby know it’s sleep time, but they are perfect if you are worried about you little one kicking off covers in the night and getting cold.
You can get different tog weights for all seasons, which takes the stress out of having lots of loose blankets in the cot and constantly checking to make sure you baby is still covered and warm. A 2.5 tog is perfect for a standard room temperature.
Babies have a strong sucking reflex, so therefore lots of babies love a dummy. Dummies also trigger the calming reflex which settles babies when they’re upset, letting them fall asleep easier. They are a great tool in abbies’ first few monts; however, I would recommend weaning them off when they are approaching four months old to prevent it becoming a negative sleep association. I encourage families to use one to link sleep cycles during the day naps and occasionally at bedtime if they are very unsettled.
Swaddling is one of the best ways to settle your new baby in those first few months. It reduces the moro, or startle reflex, which minimises crying and will let baby sleep sounder and for longer. Swaddled babies experience less anxiety and fewer scratches to their face. It also lets baby feel secure and safe, as it replicates the sensation of being in the womb. I recommend swaddling loosely from the waist down, so babies can freely move their legs and rest them in a frog-like position.
Once your baby is around four months old and starting to roll over, or is getting out of the swaddle by themselves, then, it’s time to transition. The best way to do this is leave one arm out for one week, the leave both arms out for another week.
- Room temperature
The nursery temperature should be somewhere between 16-20℃. A heater with a thermostat will help regulate this. If you are unable to adjust the temperature in the room to this range, dress your baby accordingly — dress your baby for sleep as you would dress yourself. Feel your baby’s body temperature by touching their chest or back. Remember, cold hands or feet are not an indicator that your baby is cold, as these are not areas you are adding layers to. A warm baby will sleep more soundly through the night., whereas a cold baby will seem more restless, move around the cot more, and wake more frequently at night.
One of my favourite sleep aids is a comforter or blankie. I highly recommend introducing one at around four months. Comforters are what I would call a positive sleep association, as babies can find them easily in their cot or bassinet. Studies have shown that babies with a comforter are significantly more likely to sleep through the night than those without one. When you baby forms an attachment to a comforter, they are able to sue it to self-sooth, which is essential for learning to sleep through the night. Comforters also play a major role in helping children cope and providing reassurance in times of stress, sickness, change or separation. Comforters really are a worthwhile investment. You might want to buy a spare just in case.
- White noise
I love white noise and often encourage families I work with to use it in their baby’s room. Whether it’s an app on your tablet or an actual white noise machine, it has amazing benefits. The simplest one is its ability to drown out external noise such as traffic and morning birds. And it’s also great for internal disturbance, such as Daddy getting up early for work and noisy siblings getting ready for school!
But another huge benefit of white noise is that it offers a sensory distraction for the subconscious mind to fixate on during the brief period of arousal between sleep cycles. What does that mean? Your baby is more likely to drift off back to sleep to sleep instead of crying for you every hour during the night, or waking after a 30-minute nap.
- Night lights
I wouldn’t recommend night lights for all-night usage, as babies do sleep better in the dark. However, they are a great tool for those nighttime feeds. When you are feeding through the night, you want it to be as quiet and dimly lit as possible, but you do need to be able to see what you’re doing, especially when you’re changing nappies. But you should, however be mindful of the colour of the light you use. Blue and white lights are stimulants that actually boost attention and reaction times and this light will interfere with the production of melatonin, making it harder to fall back to sleep. The best colours to choose for a night light are red and orange. These are the same colours that feature in the sunset, which is nature’s own way of telling us to get ready for bed. Experts also believe that red would have been the only colour your baby would have seen in the womb.
It’s super-important to use the cot or bassinet as a consistent place for all of your baby’s sleep. The idea is to create a sleep association, so you little one knows their cot or bassinet is for resting and that’s where all their sleep with take place. It’s also a good idea — and safer — to keep your baby’s cot or bassinet clutter-free. When they are old enough to have a comforter in with them, that is all they need. We want to send the message that the cot is for sleeping. Piling toys into their sleep space will distract and make it hard for them to focus on the task at hand — SLEEPING!
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