When you first got pregnant, how long did it take before the “nesting” phase started?  For me, it seemed like it was immediate. Forget the last month of pregnancy nesting that everyone talks about, as soon as I found out I was pregnant I started decluttering the house, cleaning like my in-laws were coming for a week, looking at cribs, “pinteresting” nursery rooms, etc.  It was so much fun picking out the theme for our nursery but looking back now I realize that I should have also considered the functionality of the room, in addition to the design and decor. If I had known then what I know now, I would have made sure that the room wasn’t just cute, but conducive to newborn & infant sleep…..because let’s be honest, that’s all we’d be focused on (besides feedings) after we brought our son and daughter home from the hospital.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you can’t Pinterest your heart out before your baby arrives (because believe me, I did) but when it comes to basics of the nursery set-up, I’ve got four words for you to remember:

Safe, Calm, Dark & Cool

  • Safe Sleep Space.

    Back is best and the safest way for a baby to sleep.  Be sure to lay your baby on their back for all naps and overnight sleep.  This has been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  You should also make sure their mattress is firm, high-quality and meets all current safety standards. You can learn more about those guidelines by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Besides the car seat, the mattress is one of the biggest investments you will make for your little one so you want to make sure you do your research.  Once you’ve selected the mattress, the next natural thing to consider is the bedding. For newborns/ infants, you need to keep the sleep space simple and free of blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, etc. You really just need a mattress protector, fitted sheet and if you want to make sure your infant is warm and covered, consider a sleep sack or wearable blanket & I have a few here that are my personal favorites as a pediatric sleep consultant.

    • Sheets: I like these because they are cozy and soft but not too warm. They make an easy transition to a ‘familiar’ place when you use them traveling, especially if you are going from a crib to a pack-n-play.
    • Mattress Protector: Accidents will happen. I always use to ‘double-bag’ the crib mattress with a protector, a sheet, another protector and then a sheet. That way, if someone vomited or spit up, the clean-up was easy and did rouse baby too much.
    • Halo Sleepsack: These are nice for long term use and are safe. They also are great as baby learns to climb the crib, wearing this they sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide right back down!
    • Love to Dream Swaddle: This swaddle is a favorite of mine and helps children get into that comfy, I spent 9 months in your belly position.
    • Merlin Magin Sleepsuit: This is a great swaddle transition. While you won’t need it for the first 10 weeks, it’s nice to have it on hand when you are ready for it!
  • Calming Environment.

Since your little one will be spending most of their time sleeping those first few weeks (fingers crossed), you will want to ensure that their sleep space brings them a sense of calm and relaxation. This doesn’t mean that your nursery needs to be boring, sterile or void of color, but it does mean that you should be mindful of the stimulus you are incorporating into the room by having a ton of bright/colorful pictures on the walls, music players, mobiles over the bed, night-light projectors, etc.

Go ahead and create a beautiful space for your little one but just remember that some of the standard nursery decorations and accompaniments can be distracting, stimulating and keep your baby awake instead of soothing them to sleep. Put yourself in their shoes or should I say sleep sack, and notice what might be in their immediate line of sight when they are in the crib or bassinet. When you put them down to sleep, is their view stimulating or calming? Are they looking at something with a neutral/soothing color or something busy that will keep them entertained and not sleeping?

You can and should have all the cute things, musical toys, colorful prints in the nursery, just put them in the areas of the room where you want your baby to be alert like the changing table, your baby nursery furniture, near your feeding/nursing location, etc.

  • Dark Room.

Just like in adults, the darkness stimulates the production of melatonin and promotes sleep for our little ones.  I recommend investing in some blackout curtains or heavy-duty blinds so there is no light coming into the room when it’s time for a nap or overnight sleep. If your child sleeps in their own room, it is recommended that you have a baby monitor so you can still see them in their crib (when it’s dark) and be alerted should anything happen while they are sleeping.  In the event that your infant takes naps outside of the home (at daycare or at another caregiver’s home) it may not always be possible to have them sleep in a dark room.

I have a few recommendations on how to deal with this and can work with you further if this poses an issue for your child during the day. In addition to the room being dark, you may also want to consider a white noise machine to help drown out sounds that may be disruptive to your infant’s sleep.  It can help to mute the sound of a doorbell, a barking dog or a busy street. Using a white noise machine can also help when traveling, so you can keep the sleep environment consistent with what you have at home. There are even some free apps you can download for white noise or a fan sound.

  • Cool Temperature in the Nursery.

Studies show that babies sleep best in a room that is kept between 68 and 72 degrees.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting your infant in one more layer than you would wear to bed. I know that sounds simple but with so many different sleep sacks and swaddles on the market, it can be a little overwhelming  so I’ve created a Baby Dressing guide and linked it here for your convenience: https://www.tinytransitions.com/how-do-i-dress-my-child-for-sleep/

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you plan for your little one’s arrival and build the perfect nursery.  The most important takeaway is that you don’t need the most expensive products out there or even the latest & greatest in baby decor, you just need to focus on creating a relaxing environment for your baby.   Should you need additional support after your little one arrives, please contact us at tinytransitions.com to take our free sleep quiz, schedule a private consultation or purchase our Navigating Newborn E-book which will give you the tools you need to be successful during those first 12 weeks with your new bundle of joy.  Congratulations and happy nursery planning!

My name is Courtney Zentz, a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Postpartum Doula, Lactation Counselor and founder of Tiny Transitions. As an award-winning sleep consultant, I help exhausted parents teach their infants & toddlers to sleep well every night with gentle, customized solutions and both group and private coaching options, so your family can all be at their best. Based in Philadelphia, I work in-home and virtually to provide the support families around the globe that need to all be at their best. Join me in my Slumber Made Simple Facebook group, where you can ‘meet’ me in my live weekly Q&As, get valuable free content and build a healthy sleeper for life!

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