If you want your baby to sleep well, creating the perfect environment is essential—dark, cool, and relatively quiet.
Whether you’re trying to sleep train your baby, escape the short nap rut, or prevent night wakings, setting up their nursery or bedroom is the first thing you’ll want to look at.
This post will walk you through everything you need to know about creating the perfect environment for your baby’s sleep. I have included some of my favorite products if you want to deck your nursery out with the best sleeping gear!
You’ve read all the baby books, shopped through the ‘must have’ products for the nursery, and read the best advice about being a new mom—but there’s one thing most of these websites and books don’t tell you: your baby’s sleep environment is a huge factor in how well they sleep. While your baby’s nursery is a place to experience laughter, giggles, and bonding time between you and your baby, the real purpose of a nursery is for your baby to get the best sleep.
Like mom and dad, babies also need a good sleep-promoting environment. They need a dark, distraction-free setting that will help them learn to fall asleep and stay asleep—so you, mom, can get the rest you need, too. Whether you’re dealing with frequent night wakings or a baby that just doesn’t want to stay asleep for more than ten minutes, I’m here to give you my best advice on setting up the ultimate sleep cave for your little sleeper.
What does a baby’s sleep environment look like? It may be cute and full of adorable clothing, toys, and decor, but unless your nursery is meeting the criteria for a suitable sleep environment, none of that matters. For your baby, you want to nail three things:
Once you can nail these three factors, sleep for your baby will be a breeze (almost). Let’s dive in.
Sleep cave factor #1: Darkness
When I say dark, I don’t mean just closing the drapes and kissing your baby goodnight. We want the darkest of dark. Any external light sources can trigger cortisol production and wake your baby. When we keep things pitch back, we stimulate melatonin production needed for sleep.
Check out these items: Blackout EZ window cover and SlumberPod portable blackout canopy (great for on-the-go sleep) If you don’t have access to these, consider covering your windows with materials that will block out all outside light. To test the level of darkness in your baby’s room, put your hand about 6 to 8-inches in front of your face. If you can see it, it’s not dark enough.
Sleep cave factor #2: Temperature
Are you tossing and turning when it’s warm in your bedroom? Chances are, your baby will do the same thing. Core body temperature naturally falls at night, and you want to help facilitate that drop for your baby by keeping their room temperature cool. If they’re too hot or too cold, they’re likely going to wake up. So, just as Goldilocks says, we want it juuuust right.
Do this by: Dropping the thermostat, opening windows, turning on a fan (doubles as white noise) and using cooling bed sheets. The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 68°F and 72°F (16-20°C).
Sleep cave factor #3: Noise
By noise, I don’t mean blaring your favorite song while your little one is trying to sleep. Remember, your baby has been in a quiet womb for nine long months and being in a noisy environment can be less than conducive for sleep. Blackout shades and white noise can transform your baby’s room into a womb-like environment and improve their sleep habits.
Babies spend more than 50% of their sleep in REM—a light sleep stage—which means that even the slightest noise can wake them. However, this is much less likely to happen if you’re running a white noise machine, as it muffles background sounds. So, while it may seem counter, drown out the noise with noise. The ideal level is 50-60dB.
Extras for creating the perfect baby sleep cave
Nailing darkness, temperature, and noise can go a long way to improving your baby’s sleep. Here are a few extras you may want to consider:
- Salt lamp: If you must go into your baby’s room, avoid turning on the light! Overhead LED or fluorescent lights emit blue light that interferes with melatonin production and can arouse your baby. Salt lamps are a great alternative. They naturally emit a cozy, red hue that doesn’t interfere with melatonin secretion, so if your baby wakes up mid-sleep, they can quickly return to it. Salt lamps come in various sizes ranging from a few inches tall to over one foot. Ideally, you want to place it away from the crib.
- Sleeping buddy: If your baby has been waking up frequently, having a sleeping buddy or Lovey could be really effective for getting their sleep back on track. A sleeping buddy is a positive sleep association for your baby and gives your little sleeper something to associate with sleep without relying on mom or dad to help them do it. Plus, a sleeping buddy is also great to help teach them self-soothing skills and make them feel safe and comfortable. Make sure that their sleeping buddy is only available at sleep time so they can learn to make the association between getting their sleeping buddy and bedtime (at night or for naps). Also, remember that the AARP recommends introducing a sleeping buddy after 12 months of age.
- Baby monitor: One of the perks of being a parent today is that you don’t have to be in nursery to know what’s going on. Say goodbye to the days of sneaking into the nursery at the risk of disrupting them. Thanks to the high-tech monitors on the market today, you can watch your little sleeper with a bird’s eye view and get feedback from the latest wearable devices to monitor your baby’s sleep patterns. For BCP Readers’ favorite baby monitors, see this post.
Just as a review before I wrap up, remember that regardless of what your baby’s room looks like, always practice safe sleeping. That means:
- Crib or bassinet
- Sleep sack or swaddle
- Paci (for newborns)
- Sleeping on back
- Blankets or pillows
- Loose clothing
- Sleep positioners or props
For more tips from Penny on creating a perfect bedtime routine for your other children, see this post. If you have any questions about setting up the perfect room environment, feel free to get in touch via email or Instagram—and please share how these tips worked for your baby! Happy sleeping 🙂