Newborn Sleep Essentials
Newborn Sleep Essentials is section 4 of our Baby Gear Guide. In this section, we'll go through the steps for creating a safe and soothing sleep environment as well as our favorite baby sleep items.
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Create a Safe Sleeping Environment
Before we dive into my favorite newborn sleep items, I think it is important to talk about the importance of creating a safe sleep environment. Creating a safe environment is important for your baby's safety and to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
Always place your baby on their back.
Make sure your crib or bassinet provides a firm sleep surface.
Use tight-fitting sheets.
Do not use crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, or toys. The sleeping area should be bare.
Babies should share a room with their parents, but not a bed, for the first 6 months but preferable for the first year. Room sharing has been shown to decrease SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) by as much as 50%.
Read more of AAP's recommendations here.
Another great resource for safe sleep is Healthy Children.org.
It is also important to make sure your baby does not overheat. Experts recommend keeping the room temperature between 68 and 72 Fahrenheit.
Now let's talk about what you need to create a safe and soothing sleep environment for your newborn.
Decide between a Bassinet, Crib, or Pack-n-play
As mentioned above the AAP recommends room sharing for the first year or at least the first 6 months. Bassinets or cradles are recommended for the first 6 months or until your baby reaches the weight limit or is pulling up. You can also use a crib or pack-n-pack as well.
Which one should you choose?
First, you'll want to consider space. A traditional crib or pack-n-play will take up more space than a bassinet. A bassinet might be easier to position next to your bed so you can easily comfort your baby in the middle of the night.
Secondly, consider your budget. Depending on the size and development of your baby, you may only be able to use a bassinet for the first couple of months. Bassinets are really great but consider if it makes economic sense to purchase one or just stick with a crib from the beginning.
Lastly, safety is going to be your main consideration. If you have a pediatrician already picked out, ask them for their recommendation.
Let's explore the options:
Bassinet: When picking out a basinet, look at the weight and age limits. Most bassinets have a 15-20 pound limit and 4 to 6 month age limit. Check that the mattress is firm. Also, look for extra features such as rocking or gliding. Personally, I like having a rocking option but some experts say it can pose a safety hazard not present in stationary bassinets. Finally, you may want to consider portability. If you place to move the bassinet from room to room, you may want one that is smaller, lighter or is foldable.
A popular bassinet with a lot of great features is the Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper.
Pack-n-Play: Pack-n-plays are not only great for traveling, but they are also great to use around the house and in your bedroom during the first few months.
You can buy a standard pack-n-play or one with a bassinet, napper, changing station, and/or other accessories. The bassinet is great for the first few months when your little one is still small. Then, the napper option allows you to raise the mattress higher until your baby starts to roll over. When they start moving more, you can remove the napper and put the mattress down in the pack-n-play.
Both of our sons slept in a pack-n-play in our room for the first few months. They slept in the bassinet for the first month or so and then they transitioned to the napper. I personally never used the changing station but I've seen friends set up their pack-n-play with the changing station in their living room or another room in their house to make changing diapers handier.
Snuggle up your Baby
Swaddle Blankets: For most babies, swaddle blankets are a must for the first month or longer. Most babies love to be snuggled up and sleep better swaddled. For a great tutorial on swaddling, click here.
I highly recommend investing in some really nice muslin swaddle blankets. As a first time mom, I thought any blanket would work. Wrong! Unless you are one of those swaddling ninja nurses at the hospital, a basic receiving blanket isn't going to make the cut.
Sleepsacks: Sleepsacks are great for transitioning out of the swaddle or to use instead of a swaddle blanket. A sleepsack provides the coziness babies like as well as warmth. The Halo Sleepsacks are my favorite sleepsacks. They fit like a large gown and then have velcro wings that you can wrap around your baby's arms and chest to make them feel like they are in a swaddle.
We transitioned to a sleepsack around six weeks old when our boys started breaking out of the swaddle blankets more often. I continued to use the sleepsacks until the boys were around 5 or 6 months old. At first, I swaddled their arms in. Then, left one arm in and one out for a while followed by both arms out. After that, I continued to use them to keep the boys warm.
*Please note that loose blankets are not recommended until your baby is one year of age dues to the risk of suffocation.
Create a Soothing Environment
White Noise Machine: White noise machines can help put some babies to sleep and they are helpful to drown out other noise while your baby is sleeping. This is an optional item and if you don't want to invest in a machine, you can also use a fan or an app on your smartphone.
We've tried several different machines. So far, the MyBaby SoundSpa has been the best basic sound machine.
Keep an Eye on Your Little One
Baby Monitor: There are a lot of different options when it comes to baby monitors. You can get a basic sound monitor, a video monitor, or a movement monitor. The choice is yours. With our first son, I just used a basic sound monitor. I just wanted something that would alert us if he was up so I could go and check on him.
For our second son, we invested in a video monitor. I still mainly rely on the sound more than the video but it is still nice to see him and make sure he is safe without going into the room and potential fully waking him up. We also have a second camera so I can also keep an eye on my other son on the same monitor.
Soothe with a Pacifier
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends the use of pacifiers to reduce the possibility of SIDS. Not all babies will take a pacifier but for some, it will be an instant soother.
Comfort with of a Lovey
Create a Bedtime Routine
You'll want to create a good bedtime routine as soon as you can. As young as 6 to 8 weeks old, you can start establishing a bedtime and naptime routine with your little one. You'll want to create a routine that is easy for you and will be easy to wean as your child grows.
A simple bedtime routine:
1. Give your baby a relaxing bath if needed
2. Diaper your baby and apply lotion if needed.
3. Dress your baby.
4. Turn down the lighting.
5. Turn on the sound machine.
6. Read a book or sing a lullaby.
7. Swaddle your baby.
8. Either breastfeed or give your baby a paci as your rock them.
9. Gently put them in bed while they are still drowsy but not asleep if possible. This will help your little one get used to falling asleep on their own and not in your arms.
Every baby is different and you'll have to adapt to what works for your little one and your family. If you have concerns about your baby's sleep, ask your pediatrician for advice.