It’s a cry heard in houses across the world: “Why won’t my baby sleep?” Well, one big factor is your baby’s sleep environment, especially once your baby moves beyond the newborn stage of being able to sleep anywhere.
Taking some time to prepare your baby’s sleep environment – ensuring this environment is as consistent as possible – will make it easier for them to settle well and learn the skill of sleep. And that’s something that every sleep deprived parent wants!
Over time, you’ll figure out what works best for your unique little one, but here’s some general guidelines to get you started on the road to better quality sleep.
Factor 1: Consistency
Keeping your baby’s sleep environment consistent is a really important first step. Babies take in a lot of what is going on around them even when sleeping. You will find that your baby will benefit from a more consistent place for sleeping, as they will start to recognise the room and associate it with sleep time.
Within the first few months If your baby is sleeping in your room but you would like a little of your own space it’s okay to place them into their own room for all day sleeps and then back into your room for night time sleeping. However, it is best to decide on a consistent pattern away from the main living area. Once your baby is a bit older, say 4-6 months, they’ll probably sleep better if they are in the same cot in the same room for all of their sleeps.
Factor 2: Dark Room
Another important factor in creating your baby’s sleep environment is darkness. For younger babies, this is not so important but if your baby is unsettled it may assist. The room does not need to be pitch black (there’s no need to go crazy with masking tape around the blinds!) but having a darkened room helps little stimulated minds unwind. Often, babies sleep for longer when the room is darker.
Tip: The more unsettled your baby is, the darker the room needs to be
Factor 3: Temperature
Temperature is an often overlooked factor when getting baby’s sleep environment ready. Whilst researchers have not yet agreed on an exact temp that all people best sleep in, it is better to be on the cooler side when deciding on your baby’s appropriate sleeping temperature. Aim for a room temperature of 18-22 degrees Celsius. This will ensure your baby is comfortable. Remember, it is really important that infants do not get overheated as this increases their risk of SIDS, so don’t overheat the room or use too many blankets.
Factor 4: Music
Regularly playing music can create an important sleep time cue for your baby and can works wonders in helping them to settle. Often, music seems to distract them enough to stop or calm their crying. It also keeps your baby company when awake in the bassinet or cot – this is very important when you are trying to help your baby learn to self-settle and go to sleep in their cot without your assistance. A CD, iPod or radio works best. Whichever you choose, it is important it plays the entire time baby is in bed. This will help prevent your baby being distracted or stimulated from noises around them and waking up prematurely. Don’t forget to choose something that you are happy to listen to as well! The last thing a sleep deprived parent needs is ‘Baa-Baa Black Sheep’ on repeat for two hours.
Tip: The volume can be louder during the day than at night
Factor 5: Making the bed
How you make the cot/bassinet can make all the difference to how your baby settles and how well he or she sleeps. Most importantly you want the bedding to be safe, but you also want your baby to have the help he/she needs when settling. A great way to to keep your baby safely wrapped is to make up the cot/bassinet making sure the top sheet is securely tucked in. Lay the top sheet sideways over mattress so you have more of the sheet to tuck in around the sides. Another trick is to place a rolled up nappy or wrap down the side between the cot railing and the top sheet. This will help to keep the top sheet nice and secure over your baby. It will also keep your baby’s wrap nice and secure and in a safe sleeping position – and remember, all babies love to be wrapped!
Sweet dreams. . .
Finally, always remember that learning to sleep is a skill and your baby will need time to learn this. You cannot make your baby sleep, you can only help them by providing the best possible environment and eliminating any potential reasons for not being able to sleep like hunger, a dirty nappy or other discomforts. Sometimes, there’ll just be that crazy day when your baby won’t sleep and that’s okay. You’re doing a great job, and you and your baby are in this together.
Over to you! Did making changes to your baby’s sleep environment help them to settle and sleep better? Did you find one factor more important than any other? Let me know in the comments.