By Kaitlin Stanford
These clever strategies from baby sleep experts will help baby - and you - get a good night's sleep.
Is baby keeping you up at night? We had Conner Herman and Kira Ryan, the owners of Manhattan-based sleep consultancy Dream Team Baby, share how to maximize baby's sleep time so that you can get some shut-eye.
Dim the Lights
Forget the nightlights - babies aren't likely to fear the dark until at least 18 months. In fact, cut out all the extra light you can.
"On a scale of one to five, five being pitch-black, your baby's room should be a four," says Herman. Get yourself an extra hour of sleep by putting vinyl blackout curtains behind decorative drapes. Light signals daytime to baby, so blocking out the sun will help keep her snoozin'. Also, scan the room for anything shiny. A CD player, baby monitor or flashing toy could catch baby's eye and wake her up, so cover those objects or turn them around. If baby's a nighttime nurser, attach a dimmer switch to a lamp and turn it on and off slowly for nighttime feedings.
Soothe With Sound
What baby hears (or doesn't) is just as important as what she does or doesn't see. Pick up a white noise machine to cancel out house noise, cars and other distracting sounds; leave it on all night. Baby will begin to associate the constant and consistent sound with sleep. Some noise machines have lullaby, ocean or other sound options, but simple white noise is fine - it'll bring baby back to being in the womb, and really, what's more soothing than memories of mommy's belly? Look for a portable machine so you'll be able to re-create the sounds of the nursery while you're away from home.
Baby sleeps best when the temperature is consistent and cool.
"Most moms actually keep the nursery too warm," says Ryan. Try to keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. Putting your crib in the right spot is also essential. "Pick a location that isn't in the direct pathway of your air-conditioning or heating vents," says Herman. Sudden temperature changes will startle and disturb baby. Also, keep the crib away from windows to protect baby from drafts and outside noise.
Though it may go against your natural instinct, Ryan recommends putting baby in her own room for at least one nap a day from the start.
"This gets her acclimated to her room, so when it's time to move in there, it's not a total change."
A daily solo nap also helps baby and you get used to being apart - these little breaks may be tough, but they're healthy and necessary. Even if baby sleeps in your room, Herman recommends putting up a screen or partition for a little separation.
"If baby wakes up during the night and sees you, it's easy for her to rely on you to fall back asleep."
And you'll all be happy later if baby's able to put herself back to bed.
Clear the Clutter
Make sure the nursery is designated as a room for sleep. Keep the area around the crib free of toys and other fun knickknacks.
"Crib distractions confuse your baby," says Herman. "They'll make her wonder, 'Is this a playpen, or is it time to sleep?"'
Clearing the space will help your baby mentally associate the bedroom with sleeping, and other rooms with playing.
"Babies can't understand you verbally," reminds Herman. "You need to figure out how to give them other cues."