As a sleep consultant with 2 kids and years of experience helping babies sleep, I’m going to share with you the best way to set up your nursery to help your baby sleep. Give you the skinny on what you need and what you really don’t need.
1. Black Out Curtains
Maybe you didn’t get black out curtains because you were worried “she’d become dependent on it to be dark” to sleep, or maybe you just didn’t think about it, but definitely get them. Your newborn may sleep anywhere, anytime but that will change when she wakes up to the world around her at 4 months of age.
Blackout curtains are an easy way to help your baby sleep more. They help by minimizing daylight and distractions. They are also very very helpful in the summer to keep the light from shining in at 5:00 am.
In general babies and toddlers nap longer when the room is dark, and have a greater chance of “sleeping in” when the room is dark in the morning. These will undoubtedly help your baby sleep.
For your child’s nursery, check out Pottery Barn Kids black out curtains in a variety of colours and patterns.
Land of Nod, the child version of Crate and Barrel, also has adorable and trendy black out curtains.
You can also buy black out curtains from Overstock.com, Bed Bath and Beyond and Ikea.
Travel Black Out Curtains
These Gro Company Travel Black Out Curtains are great for traveling when you’re staying at someone’s house. They have suction cups that stick them to the window payne for easy application and then a longer “cuff” to cover the edges.
2. A night/light/sound machine
I like this Hatch Baby Rest light. It is a night light, sound machine, plays lullabies and is an”okay to wake” clock. This clock has longevity and will stay with you from newborn to preschool years. The white noise won’t “make your baby sleep longer.” It is not a magic solution, but it is one helpful tool in your parenting tool box to help your baby sleep.
White noise helps by soothing newborns, not so much older kids but it helps by blocking out household noise that could distract a child from sleeping or wake a child up.
In addition, lullaby’s won’t make your baby sleep, but are a beautiful way to set the stage and help your baby sleep.
The 3 reasons I like the Hatch Baby Rest:
- It’s 3 units combined into one – night light, sound machine, “okay to wake clock”. It will take you from newborn to preschool years. An okay to wake means it turns green in the morning when your toddler is allowed to get out of bed.
- Controlled from your smart phone, it is super easy to turn on and program the light color, intensity and times. You can turn the light on from your phone when you are going in for a night time feed.
- You can use it to play lullabys. I love this as a cue in your bedtime routine that it’s sleepy time. I’ve used this for years with my babies from birth to 5 years old.
- I’ve been behind the scenes at this company as I consulted for this company as a sleep consultant and they make a good product!
3. A Change Pad Set Up
What you don’t really need is an entire piece of furniture that is a dedicated change pad. It becomes useless after your baby is out of diapers. I used this Ikea Hemnes dressers because you can use them as a changing area and a regular dresser in your baby’s nursery. The only catch is that you need to be tall enough. I’m 5’8″ and this worked fine for me but might be a little high for a shorter parent.
But the idea is the same – seek out a dresser with a flat top that you can use that suits your height. Then store your diapers, wipes, etc in the top drawer, or on the end of the dresser. There’s also a longer version of this dresser if you want more storage space on top. In this picture my diaper is out of diapers and into “trinkets”. She’s had this dresser since she was born and it has served us well. You’ll want a change pad close to your baby’s crib so the whole bedtime routine is the nursery and you have a predictable routine in one room to help your baby sleep.
4. A Comfortable Rocking Chair/ Nursing Glider
When you have a newborn you might nurse all over the house. You might think you don’t want a nursing chair or a glider because there is plenty of places you can nurse, and do you really want to be confined to the nursery and socially isolated for nursing?
But this is still a good investment because after the newborn phase where you are nursing everywhere, you’ll start to fall into more of a predictable feeding schedule where your baby nurses around sleeping time, either before she goes down, or when she wakes up (this is preferred by the way ). And you’ll want a comfortable place to feed in her nursery. I had this chair in my living room for the first month when I was nursing all the time. After I did some sleep training and got more of a flexible schedule and feeding on wake up, then I moved it into the nursery. This is a Dutailer Glider.
In addition to using this as your nursing chair, you’ll want a comfortable place to sit as she ages and you have a longer bedtime routine. This chair is going to last you likely until she’s 3 or 4 years of age. Make sure you like how it fits in with your decor and is comfortable.
Lastly, as your child grows she’ll go through a variety of coughs and flus, and you’ll want a comfortable place to comfort and hold her. When my daughter was congested I would rock with her in this chair in an upright position to help her sinuses drain, and then put her back down in her crib. When your baby is sick with congestion it can be helpful to hold her upright to help your baby sleep.
Things to look for in a chair:
- Adjustable positions
- Being able to recline it slightly or tilt it back is helpful when you’re comforting a sick baby
- Being able to keep it stationary or rocking is helpful
- Good arm support
- If the arms are too wide apart it won’t offer good arm support when you’re nursing
- Washable material
- These Dutailier are great as you can take the cover off and wash it
- You can actually order a new cover too. Mine was a hand me down that had been covered in spit up over the years and it wouldn’t wash out. I was able to order a new cover that matched my nursery from the company
5. Quality Mattress
My first crib mattress was a hand me down from my sister and I didn’t really think much about mattresses. But now that I’ve had to buy a few mattresses I have more thoughts and experiences to share. A comfortable mattress is essential to help your baby sleep.
Here are some things to consider when buying a mattress:
- The mattress needs to be firm
- It needs to be well vented
- It needs to fit the crib perfectly, you can’t have any gaps on the side as a safety precaution
- Consider buying an organic mattress
- The off gassing on new mattresses can be intense. I once bought a mattress from Wayfair that left my daughter’s hair smelling from the chemicals. That left a mark, and then I found this privately owned company started by a Dad that makes organic mattresses called My Green Mattress. I have no affiliation with this company just love that there’s a guy out there following his passion and making a great product.
As a bonus to a great mattress would be great bedding. Don’t use polyester as it is cheap, stiff and not very breathable. You can find beautiful organic bedding all over the internet these days and don’t forget about flannel for those winter months for extra softness and comfort. Your newborn may be swaddled and then after 4 months you’ll want to find a sleep sack to keep your baby warm. You can read more about my favorite sleep sacks here.
Things That Don’t Help Your Baby Sleep
You don’t need mobiles! They look beautiful but are usually more of a distraction than helpful.
I often get asked if crib bumpers are helpful. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against the use of crib bumpers. They don’t want anything but your baby and her sleep sack or swaddle in the crib for safety reasons. If your child is getting her legs caught in the rails, then a sleep sack will help keep them out. If you’ve really got a restless sleeper, you could consider Breathable Baby bumpers which are mesh. They are approved for use in a variety of states.
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