While you’re pregnant, you usually have lots of questions about how to create a safe and calm sleeping haven for your new baby. Will you want to share a room with your baby? Which type of bed should you choose? Is the room dark and quiet enough? Is it too cold or too warm in there? Will your baby need props to help her nod off?
Even before you’ve met your bundle of joy face to face, there are plenty of things you can do around the house in advance to make sure he or she comes home to a safe, calm and comfortable sleeping environment.
Prepare your home
Pregnant women often report of a “nesting” instinct during the last month or two of pregnancy. It sometimes causes them to sort clothes, dust in hard-to-reach places and organise repairs. Use this nesting drive to make sure that your baby’s bedroom, as well as the rest of your home, is as calm, welcoming and safe as possible.
You can live in a house for years without ever noticing, but as soon as you have a little baby in your house, every floorboard and door will seem deafening. If the doors groan or floorboards creak – get them fixed.
If you don’t have the time or resources to get professional floorboard repairs done, you can always use a quick fix instead: Sprinkle baby powder into the cracks between the floorboards at the source of the squeak.
Alternatively, find the creakiest planks and simply mark them with an “X” with some red tape so that you know not to step there when you’ve just gotten your baby to sleep.
Groaning doors are usually very easy to fix. A drop of oil (even cooking oil works) in the hinges and the door usually shuts up.
Check your doorbell – is it too loud?
It is also a good idea to check your TV volume. One parent stands where your baby is going to sleep, and the other parent adjusts the volume.
Low lighting helps your baby’s brain release melatonin, a magical sleep-inducing hormone that makes him tired. Usually, adults, kids and babies get a good kick of melatonin about half an hour before they go to sleep.
If the bedroom is too bright at bedtime (particularly in the summer months), it might take significantly longer for your baby to recognise that strong urge to sleep.
Keeping the bedroom dark during the night, helps baby to set their internal body clock and showing your baby the difference between day and night is important when establishing a sleep routine. Your baby learns when day activities are appropriate and when night activities are appropriate.
There are good blackout blinds with suction cups that attach to most sizes of window. These work great at home as well as being handy to pack in your bag when travelling.
Room Temperature and Ventilation
The ideal temperature in your baby’s bedroom is between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius (63-68 degrees Fahrenheit). A room thermometer can be extremely helpful for deciding how to dress your baby for bed.
The Gro Company developed the Gro-Egg for this purpose, a handy night light that changes colour as the temperature fluctuates. You’ll know immediately if it’s too warm or too chilly in there, and you can modify sleepwear or blanket thickness accordingly.
Ensure that the room is well-ventilated. A stuffy room can make it difficult for your baby to breathe and may result in a stuffed up or a runny nose. Check the air vents to make sure they are not right over baby, but open and working.
Poor ventilation is correlated with a higher risk of SIDS, and it’s important for both babies and parents to get a good night’s sleep. Invest in a small fan for your baby’s room, especially if you’re concerned it’s too warm in there. Make sure that the fan is not blowing directly onto your baby. It just needs to circulate the air around the room.
Safety Precautions While Pregnant
Even if you’ve worked yourself into a cleaning and renovating frenzy, keep some simple safety considerations in mind. If you are pregnant, avoid lifting heavy objects, especially anything over 20 kilogrammes in weight.
As your pregnancy progresses, your muscles and ligaments become softer and stretchier in preparation for giving birth. Your centre of gravity also shifts as your body shape and size changes. Even if you feel fine, you probably don’t have the same strength or sense of balance as you did before you became pregnant.
If you are painting rooms while pregnant, keep rooms ventilated. Although paint hasn’t contained lead since the 1960’s, there is a limited amount known about the effects of paint exposure on your developing fetus.
Traditional household paint probably contains very low levels of any toxic chemicals, but to reduce your risk of exposure, keep the windows open, run the fans and protect your skin with gloves and long-sleeved clothing. Do any painting work in short bursts and give yourself lots of breaks.
Assembling furniture and performing renovations can be stressful and taxing on personal relationships. High-stress situations can raise the level of cortisol in the blood and may affect foetal development.
We don’t know enough about the relationship between maternal stress levels and foetal development yet, but as a precaution, try to avoid situations that elevate stress as much as possible while pregnant. Even when assembling furniture!
Cot, Bassinet or Nest
Purchasing and assembling a baby’s cot is a special and very memorable moment in time. Choose between a traditional cot, a bedside bassinet or a baby nest.
There are advantages and disadvantages with all three and several things to consider when choosing where your baby should sleep, especially when it comes to safety. Read our article on the baby’s bed/cot to find out more.
Once you’ve decided on a bed for your baby, you’ll need to deck it out with linen and, of course, decorate. You can choose a seasonally appropriate, age-appropriate sleeping bag or sheets and blankets. Alternatively, swaddle your newborn baby and give him a sense of security.
Practical Furniture and Accessories for the Nursery
There are some very useful pieces of furniture and equipment for the nursery or family bedroom that will make your baby’s transition to sleep as smooth as possible.
A Rocking Chair
Consider investing in a rocking chair, particularly if you plan to breastfeed. The rocking motion reminds your baby of being carried along in your womb as you walked before she was born.
Parents have been using this completely natural and incredibly calming method to soothe babies for hundreds of years. A rocking chair isn’t just a great way to give your feet a rest; it also has some great health benefits for mums, especially those recovering from having a caesarian section. The rocking motion lowers blood pressure, steadies breathing and releases pleasurable hormones.
There are two types of rocking chairs out there on the market: the traditional rocking chair and the “glider”. If you decide to invest in a classic rocking chair, choose a silent one with a wide seat and comfortable padding.
If you plan to breastfeed, make sure the armrests are high enough to do this comfortably. As the name suggests, gliders use a gliding mechanism to move you back and forth smoothly with very little physical effort on your part.
A Night Light
We already know that dim lighting is useful for lulling babies to sleep, but it’s also a comfort to babies who might otherwise get scared in complete darkness. Some night lights project images onto the wall or ceiling, and could be a good alternative to a hanging mobile. You’ll appreciate the night light when you want to check in on your baby without turning on the bright room light and disrupting his sleep.
In my opinion, a baby monitor is a must-have. The allow you to keep a close eye on your baby if you are not in the same room and respond quickly to their cries. I would recommend getting one with a video feed, music setting and thermometer
Purchase a baby monitor and get to know how it works in preparation for your baby’s arrival. You won’t want to be fiddling around with the instruction after your baby has already fallen asleep, and you can test it in different sound environments with the help of a partner.
When you install your monitor pay particular attention to where the cables are placed. Keep them well out of reach from the cot. There have been reports of accidents related to monitor cords and strangulation.
Make sure the monitor you choose has sufficient range for your house. Most monitor’s signal can travel through 5 walls, which is probably enough for most homes. Clarity and interference do not have to be perfect to hear your baby crying. The best place to look for recommendations on baby monitors is product reviews.
A budget alternative to the stand-alone monitor is to use two smartphones or tablets. They connect to the same wireless network: use one as a video camera and the other one as a viewing device.
White Noise Machine
White noise can soothe your baby into sleep, recreating the safe and familiar sounds she would have heard in the womb. White noise machines come in various shapes and sizes.
Some of them are combined with music, environmental sounds, a night light, a baby monitor or alarm clock. Read our article to find out more about white noise machines.
Hanging mobiles can either be soothing and relaxing or entertaining and distracting. Many come with flashing lights and play music. Choose a subtle one if you find your baby is distracted or stimulated by the cot mobile.
Sleep with Baby’s Future Blanket
A baby’s sense of smell is one of their strongest senses. Babies can sense milk let down from their mothers and which objects they have previously used or touched.
Sleep with the baby blanket for a few nights before your due date. Your scent will then transfer to the blanket and be very comforting for your new baby.
Protect from cigarette smoke
The last but one of the most important preparation steps is to stop smoking.
Many mums and dads resolve to kick the habit when they get pregnant, but it is not always possible to guarantee an entirely smoke-free environment for your new son or daughter.
There is a significant link between secondhand smoke and the rate of SIDS that is hard to ignore. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is diagnosed when a baby dies unexpectedly and inexplicably when sleeping during its first year of life.
The chemicals found in cigarette smoke hurt infant respiration, releasing nicotine and cotinine into the lungs. This increases the risk of SIDS occurring.
Ear Infections and Respiratory Illnesses
As your baby gets older, secondhand and even thirdhand smoke exposure will affect his pulmonary growth and can lead to asthma or increased risk of respiratory illnesses.
Children who grow up around smoking get sick more often. In addition to respiratory complications, babies and children exposed to secondhand smoke get ear infections more often than those who are not exposed. Cigarette smoke appears to promote fluid build-up in the ear.
Frequent ear infections could lead to an operation being necessary, in which tubes are placed in the ear to drain excess fluid.
If you’ve tried and failed to quit smoking, don’t give up. Try to give your baby a home environment that is smoke-free. If you have visitors in your house who smoke, ask them to do so outside.
Don’t let anyone smoke in your car and seek out places to eat or entertain your kids that don’t allow smoking. It’s up to you whether you let smokers hold your baby without washing their hands or changing clothes: the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke remain on skin and clothes for up to an hour after smoking.
I hope you now have a good overview of the necessary steps to take to ensure that your baby can have a good and safe sleep.
What have you done to prepare your home? Help others by leaving a comment below.