Updated: May 22
Creating a sleep-friendly environment
One of the easiest things you can do to help get your child sleeping through the night is to create what I like to call a ‘sleep sanctuary'.
What do I mean by that?
You want to create an environment for your child that is very calming and comfortable. When you bring your child into this room, you want them to immediately understand that this is where sleep comes quickly and naturally.
The good news is that the advice I'm about to share will work for babies, toddlers, or pre-schoolers. These tips even work for adults too!
The five steps Richelle Franklin, Parents You've Got This Sleep Expert is about to share with you will make your child's nightly journey into sleep easier and much more relaxing — for both of you!
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is creating a ‘carnival atmosphere' in their child's room.
I know, I know... It's tempting to cover the walls with all those adorable elephant stencils, hang a cute musical mobile over the crib, and fill the shelves and crib with stuffed animals. But trust me when I tell you that less is more when it comes to children's rooms.
The reason is simply that all this extra ‘stuff' can be distracting (or downright overstimulating) for a child, and the last thing you want to deal with at bedtime is an overstimulated child!
So my advice here is to de-clutter your child's room. Or, at the very least, de-clutter the crib by getting rid of:
When it comes to your baby's crib, remember that less is best. Not only does this create a much more calming sleep space, but it's also much safer! Overcrowded sleep environments can be a safety hazard.
Keep the room dark
Contrary to popular belief, babies aren't afraid of the dark. Most babies prefer a darker sleep environment than we adults do!
Plus, one of the biggest reasons a baby wakes up too early is because they are SO sensitive to even the slightest changes in light levels. In other words, it can be enough to wake your baby when the morning sky lightens!
For this reason, I'm a big fan of blackout blinds. (Those thick blinds or curtains that hotels use to keep it pitch black in your room even in the middle of the day.)
If you're on a REALLY tight budget, you can always tape garbage bags to the windows. Not pretty, but it works!
Use white noise
I like to tell parents that a baby's room can never be too dark ... but it CAN be too quiet!
Why? Because the amount of light that enters your child's room is something you can control pretty easily.
The amount of noise? Not so much.
Sure, you can tiptoe around the house and watch TV with the volume at a whisper, but there's always the chance that somebody will ring the doorbell, call your phone, or drop a saucepan in the kitchen!
With that in mind, I recommend two things:
Get your child used to a little bit of background noise (like a conversation, TV, housework, etc.) from a young age so that they'll be able to sleep through the part of your life that happens after they go to bed.
Try out a white noise machine. Many parents swear by these, and I'm a big fan myself! A white noise machine does a great job of ‘masking' other sounds. However, ensure that you don't place the machine beside your child's crib or bed, as some recent studies suggest that doing so might be bad for your child's hearing.
Keep it cool
One of parents' biggest mistakes when putting their babies to bed is overdressing them.
As a first-time mom, I always wanted to bundle my little son in several layers of clothing each night. You know, to keep him cosy. However, he would frequently wake in the night, and when I went in to check on him, he would often be too hot.
Overdressing your baby can also be a safety hazard, putting them at risk of overheating and SIDS.
It turns out that most experts recommend keeping your baby's room somewhere between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius.
In order to keep your baby warm, but not too warm, I recommend using a baby sleeping bag. There are a lot of different kinds available, and you can get really cute ones!
Keep it calm
Starting about an hour before bedtime, your child's bedroom should become an oasis of calm.
During the rest of the day, it's fine to have all kinds of loud, rowdy fun in your child's room. But for the hour before you put your child down for the night, everything in their bedroom should be quiet and soothing.
This accomplishes two very important bedtime goals:
It ensures you are not getting your child excited or overstimulated right before bed. Remember how excited you used to get on Christmas Eve as a child? That's what a rousing game of "peek-a-boo" can do to a baby!
It helps you "set the tone" for the night. By not engaging in ‘active play' the hour before bedtime, your child will understand that fun time is over for the day and won't be tempted to try and start playing games with you after you've put them to bed for the night.
I'm not saying you should turn into some unfeeling robot the hour before bedtime. I fully encourage cuddles, singing, laughter, storytelling, etc. Just remember to keep it calm! Creating a sleep sanctuary is a great way to set the stage for a healthy night's sleep, but if you're the parent of a baby or toddler who isn't sleeping through the night, chances are there's a little more work to be done. Get in touch today if you need some support to build healthy sleep habits in your family.
This article was written by Richelle Franklin, Parents You've Got This Sleep Expert and Melbourne's top Sleep Consultant from Sleep Right Tonight. Richelle presents at the Parents You've Got This Baby Basics Masterclass and Starting Solids and Infant Sleep Class Masterclass.