Baby sleep environment
Creating the perfect sleep environment for your baby is a key step to helping them become great sleepers! There are a few things to consider when setting up your space to ensure optimal sleep.
As a new parent, one of the most important things you can do to ensure the health and safety of your baby is to create a safe sleep environment. Creating a safe sleep space can significantly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Safe sleep guidance is that your baby should have their own separate sleep space such as a crib or Moses basket in the same room as parent’s until 6 months old for both day and night.
Baby’s sleep space should be clear of any toys, loose blankets or cot bumpers, with just a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition. Instead of loose blankets you could choose a well-fitting sleeping bag, carefully following the manufacturer’s guidance to ensure the product is correct for your baby’s weight.
The ideal temperature for your baby’s sleep space is 16-20˚C.
I recommend creating a nice dark space for your child to sleep in, investing in black out blinds is a must! Our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) takes its cues from the environment and light will enter the eyes even when closed and signal to the brain that this is wake time, so we really want to help our little ones with this. If your child is old enough to express a fear of the dark then opt for a dim red night light, since red will not interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
White noise (or pink noise) can be another very helpful tool for sleep. These are soothing sounds that also reduce the difference between background noise and more sudden noises such as car horns or doors slamming. Playing a sound machine can help to tune out background noise so that your baby can fall asleep and stay asleep more soundly. For this to be effective it needs to be playing for the duration of sleep.
When to move baby to their own room
Whilst safe sleep guidelines are for your baby to sleep in the same room as you for their first six months this does not mean you cannot share a room with your baby for longer. The decision about when to move your baby into their own room is very personal and should only be done when you feel you are ready.
After six months some parent’s notice that as their baby’s sleep matures and their baby starts experiencing lighter stages of sleep they are easily disturbed when sharing with parent’s. Coming up to bed, shuffling around and snoring could all more easily disrupt your baby and sometimes they simply seem to be able to sense your presence! This is where families may make the decision that everyone will sleep more soundly if they have their own sleep space. Other parent’s may choose to move their baby into their own room as part of their sleep training process. Every family’s circumstances are different.
When you do choose to move your baby into their own room you may be wondering how you can support this transition to go more smoothly. How you approach this will depend upon your baby’s temperament. Some babies are more laid back and do not require a gradual transition and lots of preparation.
If your baby already settles themselves to sleep happily and independently and sleeps well during the night, you may be able to just go for it. If you feel your baby is more sensitive, you could try taking things more slowly. If space allows, the first step could be to move your baby into their new larger cot whilst staying in your room, before moving the cot into their own room. When moving your baby having them sleep on an ‘already slept on’ sheet rather than a freshly washed one can bring comfort to your baby. Once you decide to make the move do your best to keep your routines the same for your baby; this will be reassuring for them.
When should I move my toddler from a cot to a bed?
I recommend waiting to move your child to a bed until as close to three years old as possible. This is because it is often the case that toddler’s do not have the impulse control or reasoning to understand the concept of staying in bed. Some parents feel they need to move their toddler sooner because they are making attempts to climb out of the cot. Of course, where your child’s safety is at risk, we need to make changes. If this is happening I would first exhaust all options for preventing your toddler from climbing out of their cot. Putting your child in a sleeping bag can limit their ability to climb. Also check that there are no toys in the cot that could be aiding their climb! Finally, establish why your toddler is trying to climb. If there is some resistance to sleep and bedtime, there may be a need to re-evaluate timings or the bedtime routine.
When it is time to move your toddler to a big bed, many toddlers enjoy being involved in the process – so, talk to them about your plans and make it exciting! You could take a trip to the shops to choose their new bedding or a cuddly toy they can sleep with; maybe they can even help with building the bed? When the night comes to put your toddler to bed my number one tip is don’t put the idea of getting out of bed in their minds!
They likely haven’t even figured that out yet, so stop yourself before you utter the words ‘stay in bed’ or ‘don’t get out’. It’s fairly common for there to be a bit of a honeymoon period before your child discovers their new found freedom and starts exploring that. This is when you can start putting strategies in place where you very clearly explain the expectations at bedtime and that your child needs to stay in bed. Support and guide them to do that with consistency and consider a visual aid such as a toddler clock which shows them when it is okay to come out of bed and when they need to stay there.