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Creating a nursery that is a soothing environment for your baby will hopefully help them to sleep better and longer so that you can get a bit more sleep too.
It is important to remember that every baby is different, and what works for one baby may not work for another baby.
Try out a few different things and see what works best for your baby.
Decorate your baby’s nursery with relaxing colors and soft textures.
Try to keep the nursery a relaxing environment with gentle noises and soft light.
Finally, do your best to create a bedtime routine that will help your baby understand that it is time to sleep.
Decorating the Nursery
Choose a soothing color for the walls.
The most obvious way to create a soothing environment for your baby is to choose a wall color that is calming.
For example, green is often seen as an ideal color choice for walls as it is a natural and calming color.
Orange is a comforting color that evokes feelings of coziness.
Choosing a warm blue color may be soothing for your baby. Lavender colors will also be soothing for your baby.
Try to aim for wall colors that are a bit softer.
For example, you might find that an entire room painted bright green is not as soothing as you had imagined it would be.
Softer, more neutral shades will be less overpowering.
On the other hand, if you want to use a bold orange color, you can paint just one wall in that color and choose a softer complementary color for the other walls.
Try to think in the long term.
Unless you are OK with repainting the walls again, try to choose colors that will be enjoyable for years to come.
There are always trends that come and go, but choosing a more classic color means your baby’s nursery can easily be transitioned into a big boy or girl bedroom later on.
Colors like red, yellow, and black tend to evoke stronger emotions in people.
These are not necessarily bad choices for a nursery, but since your aim is to create a soothing environment it may be best to stay away from these colors or at least limit them to accents.
Choose soft fabrics.
Another great way to make a soothing nursery is to choose fabrics that are soft and cozy.
For example, choose bedding that will feel soft against your baby’s delicate skin.
If you don’t have carpet in the nursery, you can place soft rugs that will give the room a cozier feel, and that will also help keep the room a bit warmer during the colder months.
You can keep a soft blanket to use when you are cuddling with your baby, but do not place this in the crib with your baby while they are sleeping.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death of babies under one year of age.
Bedding is believed to be one cause of SIDS. Thus, it is recommended that babies sleep on a firm mattress.
You can have a fitted sheet that is tightly wrapped around the mattress, but all other items (e.g. blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, toys, etc.) should be removed from the crib.
Instead of a blanket, your baby can wear some cozy pajamas or even a wearable blanket to keep warm.
Keep your nursery clutter-free.
It may be tempting to decorate the walls with lots of pictures and to fill the room with decorations and furniture, but your baby may feel more relaxed in a simple, clean space.
Try to limit furniture to what you feel is essential, and if you want to decorate the walls, try not to fill the walls with pictures.
Keep it simple.
Additionally, at the end of each day, try to do a quick sweep of the room to clean up any messes that have been made.
Creating a Peaceful Environment
Use a sound machine. Many parents opt for a machine that produces noise to help soothe the baby, and also to block out other noises that might be disturbing.
There are many types of machines to choose from.
Some play white noise, some play soft music, while others play a sound such as a heartbeat.
Some machines have various sounds that you can choose from.
There is a debate about how long you should keep the machine playing each night, so it may be best to try out different amounts of time to see what works for your baby.
For example, many machines come with an automatic shut off after a pre-set amount of time.
If you notice that your baby wakes just after it stops, you may want to try playing it for a longer amount of time.
It is important not to set the machine to a volume that could harm your babies hearing.
For example, hospital nurseries in the US that use sound machines limit the machines to 50 decibels.
You should also not place the machine close to your baby. In fact, experts recommend placing it as far away as possible so, for example, across the room from your baby’s crib.
Keep the toys somewhere else.
This won’t matter too much if you have a newborn, but as your baby gets older and more mobile, they will likely be looking around the room.
Keeping toys and games that are used for play time in another room will help your baby understand that the nursery is for sleeping.
If you don’t have the space to keep the toys somewhere else, try keeping them out of sight with something like a toy trunk.
Install curtains or blinds to make the room dark.
If the room is light your baby will have a more difficult time staying asleep.
You can install thermal curtains, privacy film, or black out blinds on the window (if there is one), which will block out sunlight effectively.
The room doesn’t have to be pitch black, but it should be dark enough so that your baby won’t be disturbed by sunlight.
Turn off the night light too.
Your baby is unlikely to fear the dark until they are at least 18 months old (if at all), so the night light will only make it more difficult for them to sleep.
If you need a bit of light for night feedings try installing a lamp with a dimmer switch so you can very gradually increase the amount of light in the room, and decrease it when you are ready to go back to sleep.
Keep the room at an ideal temperature.
Your baby is not able to regulate their temperature as well as an adult, so it is important to try to keep the room at the right temperature.
Anywhere between 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16 C) and 68 degrees (20 C) is good, with an ideal temperature of 65 degrees (18 C).
You should never place heating blankets or hot water bottles in the crib, and the crib should not be placed next to a radiator.
Overheating is another suspected cause of SIDS, so be sure your baby doesn’t get too warm.
If it is very warm in the room, try placing a fan in the room (but don’t point it directly at your baby) or open a window to allow the air to circulate.
You can check whether or not your baby is too warm by feeling their chest or stomach.
If the area feels hot or is sweaty, then your baby is too warm. The hands and feet are not a good place to check as they are typically cooler than the rest of the body.
Creating a Bedtime Routine
Start your baby’s sleep routine early.
If you wait until your baby is sleepy to start the routine, then your baby will be overtired by the time they are ready for bed.
At nap times and bedtime, babies have a “sleep window” when they are just starting to get tired, but are not so tired that they’ve become irritable.
Once your baby passes their “sleep window,” their body begins to produce cortisol, which is a stress hormone that will make it more difficult for them to fall asleep and to stay asleep.
Every baby is different, but if your baby is over 4 months old, they might be ready to sleep anywhere between 5 and 7:30pm.
Note that newborns don’t have a scheduled bedtime since they are still developing circadian rhythms.
Until your baby is a few months old, it won’t be necessary to establish a night time routine.
Give your baby a bath.
This is not necessarily a mandatory step, but many parents use a nightly bath as a way to help their babies understand that they are getting ready for bed.
A warm bath is relaxing and also a good bonding experience for you and your baby.
Give your baby a massage.
Giving your baby a massage will help them relax even more and is a great way to bond with your baby.
You can use baby lotion or baby oil, and massage your baby’s arms, legs, belly, and neck for 10 to 15 minutes after bath time.
Massage their legs by gently wrapping your hand around their thigh and then sliding your hand down from the thigh to the ankle.
Repeat this on the other leg.
Use a gentle clockwise motion with your fingertips to massage their belly.
You can massage baby’s arms using the same technique used for the legs. Wrap your hand around your baby’s upper arm and then slide your hand down to their wrist.
Repeat on the other arm.
To massage your baby’s neck, support your baby’s head and upper body in one hand.
With the other hand, place your thumb on one side of your baby’s neck, and then wrap your hand under baby’s neck and place your index finger and middle finger on the other side.
Use your fingers to gently massage in a circular motion.
Get your baby dressed for bed.
If you have a brand new baby, you may choose to swaddle your baby as this is very soothing for infants.
If your baby is older than two months, you should dress them in pajamas based on the temperature.
If it is during the warm summer months (over 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 23 C) then your baby probably only needs one layer of clothing.
If it is under 75F (23 C) then your baby may need a few more layers to stay warm.
A good rule of thumb is that your baby should be dressed in one layer more than you need to be comfortable in the room.
Dim the lights.
Dimming the lights will signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep.
You can do this by turning on a soft lamp in your baby’s nursery.
If you have an overhead light with a dimmer switch, simply turn the lights down low enough so that your baby will relax, but high enough so that you can still read a book and move around without hurting yourself.
When you leave the room, turn the light all the way off so the room is dark enough for your baby to stay asleep.
Try reading a bedtime story.
Hearing your soft, relaxed voice will be soothing and relaxing for your baby.
Try to speak softly and slowly so that your baby will begin to get drowsy.
Alternatively, you can also just talk to your baby. For example, tell them about your day.
Especially with very young babies, it doesn’t matter much what you are saying. Hearing your voice will be comforting and relaxing.
Turn on soothing music.
Ease your baby into sleeping in the nursery.
If you have been co-sleeping with your baby, or if they have been sleeping in the same room with you, it could be a bit distressing for your baby to sleep alone in the nursery at first (depending on the child).
You can help ease your baby into sleeping in the nursery by beginning with just one nap alone in the nursery each day.
Gradually increase the number of naps your baby takes alone until they are able to sleep at night in the nursery.
It can be hard for a parent to be away from their baby.
Try to remind yourself that it is healthy for both of you if you are able to spend a bit of time out of each other’s sight.
This will also help your baby learn to fall asleep without you there.