Believe it or not, even the environment your baby sleeps in can help - or hinder - their sleep!
Babies need a lot of sleep, especially at the beginning of their little lives when they are growing literally like weeds. Around the 3-4 month mark, babies tend to become more touchy to their environment as they are able to stay awake for longer periods, able to see farther and become easily distracted or even overstimulated. Also because their circadian rhythm starts to become established. Sleep becomes a bit more difficult as a result as well.
Have you ever fallen asleep with your partner and found yourself jolting awake in the early morning hours if they aren't there any longer?
Creating a sleep environment that is conducive to sleep is oftentimes overlooked by parents but in reality, when setting up baby's space, it should be on the top of the list along with safe sleep practices.
Creating a Sleep Environment Conducive for Sleep
Have you ever fallen asleep with your partner and found yourself jolting awake in the early morning hours if they aren't there any longer? This generally happens when our sleep cycle is lightest and is most likely to occur in the morning after having many hours of continuous sleep. Some signs that your baby is experiencing a troubled sleep environment could be early morning wakings or a hard time napping. It would be hard for anyone to want to nap if they can see all their toys and a mobile to enjoy!
Having said that it is crucial that their sleep environment remains as consistent as possible throughout the night, into the morning and even for naps.
To create a sleep environment that is conducive for sleep, you should consider implementing the following:
Complete darkness - Baby's room should be completely dark with no light entering from around the windows or under the door that could disturb their sleep. I am a fan of these blackout curtains because they are great quality and easy to install with simple suction cups to the windows. We even take them traveling with us. Check to make sure there aren't any electronics with on/off lights and if there are, block them with electrical tape or duct tape.
No Nightlights - I also do not suggest using a night light unless completely necessary. If it is necessary, I suggest using a very dim, red light that isn't as disruptive to sleep as blue because it doesn't inhibit the production of melatonin. There have been studies suggesting that any bit of light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall and stay asleep.
White Noise - I generally suggest using a white noise machine that has a continuous sound - like a fan or the sound you hear while on an airplane even. This is very beneficial as it blocks out any sounds that could disrupt sleep, such as noisy siblings, birds in the morning, loud neighbors, trash trucks, etc. This is a great machine that is also portable.
No Toys in or on the crib - Toys tend to distract baby and suggest its a time to play instead of sleep. We want baby to associate the bed with sleeping only. For this reason, I do not suggest any toys in or a mobile above the crib. Choose instead something like a lovey for baby, like this one.
Temperature - the room should not be too hot. It should be comfortable for an adult.
Creating a Safe Sleep Environment
Creating a safe sleep environment is at the top of the list for every family. Not only do we want a well-rested baby but we want the baby to be safe while they are sleeping. It is a constant concern for parents and even causes sleepless nights for a parent even though the child is sleeping. I have created a list of important factors for safe sleeping according to the US Department of Health and Services program Safe to Sleep in hopes to prevent SIDS.
It is advised that baby sleep in parent's room until one year of age.
Baby should sleep in their own bed
The mattress should have a firm, flat surface
The bed should only have a tightly fitted sheet
No blanket or stuffed animals
Baby should always be placed on their back to sleep
No electrical cords should be running under the crib
The crib should not be near any hanging cords, such as window shade cords.
For more information, please visit Safe to Sleep.