Are you ready for me to give you the ultimate, be-all-end-all list of things that your baby or toddler absolutely NEEDS to have in their bedroom in order to be able to get the sleep they need? I hope you are ready to have your mind blown… because this list is only 4 elements long! Can you believe it? You just need four elements in place for your kid to get great sleep. These elements are the same whether your child sleeps in their own room, or whether they share a bedroom with you.
- Darkness – That’s it. Their bedroom needs to be as dark as you can reasonably make it for nighttime sleep as well as for naps. Do not use nightlights or mobiles that light up, cover any LED lights coming off of cameras or fans with a tiny piece of electrical tape. If there is something in your child’s room that puts out light, it should be removed or the source of light should be safely covered. The darker your child’s room is the better, especially when we’re talking about early morning sleep.
- White noise – Use white noise all of the time your child is supposed to be asleep, so from the moment bedtime starts until the moment your kiddo leaves their bedroom in the morning, and for all naps. White noise should be used as loud as you feel comfortable, and should be placed a few feet away from your child’s head. White noise should sound like a fan, or as close as possible to a fan, and should not come from your phone or ipad. Preferably, you would use a commercially available white noise machine that can be used without a timer. Do not use ocean, nature, or musical sounds. Just pure, straight, consistent white noise all night long and for naps.
- Empty crib – If your child is younger than 12 months of age, their crib should be completely empty. No blankets, pillows, bumpers, positioners (like Doc-a-Tots, etc), and nothing that elevates the crib for reflux. Your infant should be sleeping in a crib that contains a mattress, a fitted sheet, and them. Some doctors okay a small lovey (a 12×12 inch square piece of fabric or smaller) but I don’t advise the use of lovies unless your child is already attached to one. Babies usually end up putting them on their faces and that makes me worry. If you’d like to use mesh bumpers (never padded), get the okay from you doctor first. Pacifiers are technically fine as well.
- Video monitor – Regardless of whether you room share or not, if your child is ever sleeping alone in a bedroom in a crib, you should be able to monitor them directly. Without going into details (because who needs scary scenarios filling their mind!), I can think of 6 instances where parents I personally know were not directly supervising their baby or toddler during sleep through a video monitor, and as a result had their child suffer physical injury (or worse). Do not ever allow your child to sleep without being able to watch them via video monitor. Make certain the camera is not touching the crib, but is instead mounted to the wall or placed onto a piece of furniture.
And that’s it! That’s all you really need to ensure your child gets the best, most healthy sleep they need all night long and for naps.