Baby’s Perfect Sleep Environment for a Good Night

 In Baby Sleep Tips, Safety

Dear sleepy mum,

How has your day been so far? I hope you were able to get some rest here and there. I remember a time where I struggled catching up with naps.

Up until the age of 11 months, my daughter slept really bad during the day (and night). The best sleep she had, was while sleeping on my chest. I have to admit that a part of me really loved the cuddles though. Who doesn’t like a little newborn or infant sleeping close to them?

However, not only is co-sleeping not very safe, I also started noticing that she was unable to fall asleep in her bassinet or cot by herself. Even when she was already asleep, it seemed that placing her in her bassinet triggered an inner awake response. From the moment she’d touch the mattress, her eyes opened and her awake time restarted.

Because her bad nap routine caused her to wake up many times at night, I became incredibly sleep deprived.

Eventually, I contacted a sleep consultant who made me see where I needed to correct the habits I had created. One of the changes she recommended, was to improve my baby’s sleep environment.

What exactly were the changes I made to my daughter’s room?

baby yawning in bed

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1. Baby Needs to Sleep in Her Own Bed

Obviously, I missed the ball a bit on this one. I had made a habit of my little girl sleeping in my arms and she quickly decided that was perfect for her.

However, if you want to minimise sleep problems along the way, it’s recommended to put your baby in their own bed. Yes, even when they’re still a newborn baby. Cuddles now and then won’t harm, but making a habit of it is not healthy.

The best thing to do, is to place your baby in her bassinet or cot when she’s still drowsy (not sleeping). This way, she can learn to self-soothe in her own bed, day and night.

baby sleeping in cocoonababy
Baby sleeping in a Cocoonababy® Nest

2. Cosy Spaces Can Help

Especially newborn babies need that cosy feeling they had in the uterus – all snuggled up and safe. This can be accomplished by placing the baby in a bassinet or cot, rather than on a big space (like your own bed if you co-sleep).

Swaddling your baby may also be very helpful. Until the age of 4 months, you can use a cotton or muslin swaddle to create a cosy feeling. This also prevents the startling reflex from waking the baby up.

My own little girl didn’t like being swaddled, so we just skipped straight to a sleeping bag. There were times she woke up from the startle reflex, but it actually wasn’t too bad for her.

An alternative to swaddles and sleeping bags, is the swaddle bag. It’s a combination of, you guessed it, a swaddle and sleeping bag. These bags will allow you to close the armholes until baby is old enough, or starts rolling over. When your baby hits this milestone, simply open the armholes and you have a sleeping bag. Easy!

One final option to make your baby feel more cosy, is to lay them to sleep on a Cocoonababy®. The elongated semi-fetal position of the Cocoonababy® respects the medical recommendation to sleep babies on their backs, and allows them to feel safe and content. They really look like they feel very snuggly and cosy sleeping in a Cocoonababy®.

3. Keep the Room Dark

This tip (and the following one) made a big difference for us. All our rooms only had blinds. As a result, the room wasn’t dark enough during the day, and the early summer sunrise brightened up the nursery too soon. Using block-out curtains made a world of difference! The basic rule is simple: if you can still read a book when the lights are off, the room is too bright.

Personally, we installed block-out curtains purchased from Spotlight. They made an incredible improvement to our daughter’s room, although a small slitter of light may still enter on the side of the curtains. It doesn’t seem to disturb her though.

There is, however, a different kind of block-out curtain. Honestly, I didn’t realise they existed back then. I do believe I would have gone for block-out blinds, like this one from the Gro Company, instead as they attach to the window with suction cups. Because they perfectly fit on your window, they are very effective at blocking out the sunlight.

4. Use White Noise

Oh, white noise. Some people love it, others hate it. For us it worked a charm! In fact, my daughter is now 2 years and 3 months and we still have moments where we use it. Especially during nap time.

White noise machines come in different shapes, sizes, and sounds. Ours is from MyBaby and has 4 sounds: heartbeat, space, beach, and a lullaby. My daughter prefers the beach sound. It has beautiful ocean sounds that come and go. If you close your eyes, you’d actually think you’re at the beach.

Our sleep consultant recommended using it with every nap and at night for the entire duration. Okay, it does eat up a lot of batteries this way, but it really worked. She also suggested to turn up the volume quite loud. Not too loud, of course, but at a volume that blocks out most of the noises outside. This is especially beneficial for naps as it blocks out sounds like trucks reversing, etc.

Make sure to keep the volume under 50 decibels. If you’re unsure of how loud that is, simply download an app to double check it.

Besides these 4 tips to improve your baby’s sleep environment, also make sure you follow the SIDS safety recommendations. Red Nose lists them as:

  • Sleep the baby on their back
  • Make sure the baby’s head and face are uncovered
  • Keep the baby smoke free before and after birth
  • Provide a safe sleeping environment

    • A cot which meets Australian standard AS2172
    • Safe mattress that is firm, clean, flat, and the right size for the cot
    • Tuck blankets in firmly or use a sleeping bag
    • Do not use pillows, cot bumpers, lamb’s wool, soft toy, or doona in the cot
  • Sleep baby in their own bed in the same sleeping space as the caregivers until the age of 6 months
  • Breastfeed baby

All these tips made a difference for us in combination of a good bedtime routine and dropping the negative sleep associations, such as rocking, singing, feeding the baby to sleep. Also remember that every child is different and tips may need a little tweaking here and there.

Still struggling to get your baby to sleep through the night? I wrote an in-depth post about the perfect sleep program to help you out. Yes, your baby can sleep through the night too!

If you know any other suggestions that worked for you, feel free to share them in the comment section below. We would love to hear them too.

Talk soon,

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baby in co-sleeper