Getting a full night’s sleep and establishing a good bedtime routine for baby seems to be the holy grail of parenting… It’s probably one of the most asked (and most bragged about) baby milestones parents need to deal with. If you were blessed with a good sleeper you’re deemed a winner but if your little one prefers late nights, midnight milkshakes or break of dawn wake-up calls… The advice starts pilling up, experts need to be consulted and sleep training considered. So, are there any baby sleep essentials that can aid in establishing a good bedtime routine?
As a mother of 3 I KNOW sleep isn’t merely something to be taught. It (un)fortunately is also linked to personality. Our girls are very different and their sleeping preferences also differ. Eliana, our eldest has serious FOMO so trying to put her down anywhere expect her own bed, or at least a quiet, dark room is impossible. Lia, the middle little on the other hand can sleep ANYWHERE! Lia has fallen asleep on the floor, couch, trampoline, many shopping trolleys, car rides, under chairs, even at the dinner table… Dark room, light room, as long as she has something or someone to cuddle, she’ll pretty much curl up ANYWHERE! And then our 3rd. Ava was born with a calmness. Just something about her, 8 months in, she’s been a dream, co-sleeping soundly in our bed.
Time has however come to move her into her own room. It will be a big transition, much like the our other babies also made. She might be a little more feisty seeing as she’s older and more aware of her surroundings but we’ve learnt a few things over the year and we’re sure she’ll be happily dreaming in no time.
Setting up the right sleeping environment.
I’ll confess, setting up a baby nursery is fun and with so much beautiful decor, blankets, pillows and bedding options it’s easy getting carried away! The truth is; babies don’t need much. Ava has been quite content in the corner baby nook we created for her. There are however key things that need to be considered.
The colour scheme of the room.
Keep the overall feel of the room muted and only add pops of bright or stimulating colours here and there to create a calm environment. It’s not just for your baby’s sake but also your own – you’ll be enduring some stressful times in this new space so be sure to make it an environment free from overstimulation and anxiety. Your baby’s “sleep zone” eg. the crib, should be given extra consideration. Rather keep bright and fun mobiles and cot bumpers for the play pen or changing table. Pastels, warm whites and darker colours won’t excite baby.
Black out curtains or blinds.
This is the 1st thing we buy the moment I fall pregnant. Yes, it’s expensive and I’m sure someone has told you; “Kids need to learn to sleep in the light, your life will be so much easier…” I’m not saying this won’t work for some but we prefer going dark! Sleeping in darkness doesn’t just make falling and staying asleep easier, it’s actually very beneficial too seeing as this helps produce the hormone, melatonin, in our body. This powerful antioxidant hormone helps your body function the way it’s suppose to and aids in preventing cancer and other conditions. It’s the only reason Eliana (6), Lia (3.5) and Ava (8 months) all sleep peacefully in the afternoon for between 2-3 hours.
Add a little white noise.
With an abundance of white noise maker options on the market you can take your pick. Our favourite; Ewan the Dream Sheep. This softie isn’t just cute. We have had 3 babies and 3 Ewans. Eliana still gets sleepy every time she hears his lullaby and the 20 minute white noise play settles all our girls in an instance no matter where they are. Ewan was a huge lifesaver while spending time in-and-out of hospital with Lia. You can read our full review on why Ewan the Dream Sheep is our number one baby essential by clicking here.
The perfect room temperature.
There is some debate about the ideal temperature for baby’s room. Some experts recommend staying between 16 – 20 degrees celsius and others prefer between 20 – 25 degrees celsius. We aren’t the biggest air conditioning fans and with the help of inexpensive wall heaters we stick to 21 degree celsius,dressing baby accordingly if we see a fall or spike in temperatures. We use the Angel Care baby monitor to regulate the nursery temperature.
Bedding and crib accessories.
Blankets, duvets, quilts and sheeting… Pillows, cot bumpers, teddy bears and plushies… What will baby really need?
Seeing as we are still in the planning phase of Ava’s nursery, I decided to consult some experts…
With 12 years of experience behind them, Avocado Green Baby and Kiddies Linen and Decor, were kind enough to assist in this department providing gorgeous, custom bunny bedding and expert advice on choosing linens for your baby. Rhona Blecher, with a team of strong local woman (from previously disadvantaged communities), work together in creating and making top quality 100 % cotton, 200 thread count, baby and kids bed linens and accessories. These ladies can make any nursery dreams a reality and also design and manufacture a large selection of decor items that include scatter cushions, mobiles, lampshades, toy barrels and custom-made fabric toys. They have some great linen sets that can be customised to suit your own taste and theme.
Must haves include:
- A firm mattress that fits snugly into your crib.
- 2 – 3 100% cotton, fitted cot sheets. Loose sheets can be dangerous and cause suffocation.
- 4 – 6 swaddles, receivers or baby blankets. Swaddling worked well for Eliana but Lia preferred using a baby sleeping bag.
Good to haves are:
- With mixed reviews regarding cot bumper you’ll need to make a call yourself. Our girls kept bumping their heads while sleeping so we prefer adding one. Just be sure the bumper isn’t too thick and that it is fixed securely along the sides and into the corners of your crib.
- Consider adding a crib canopy to ensure mosquitoes are kept at bay. It also help create a cozy space. (Moo Cachoo have a wide selection of colours and fabric options sure to compliment any nursery theme.)
And if you want to spoil your little one:
- Quilts are a fantastic keepsake and the perfect items to hand down from one generation to the next. (Believe me, you’ll become more soppy as you become a mom). It also makes for a pretty play mat. All our girls have their own quilt and blanket set.
- Eliana slept in her cot till she was almost 3 years old (we considered buying Lia her own) and enjoyed sleeping with a small duvet and pillow set. Using these in her 1st bed also helped make the transition from cot to bed easier.
Do not let babies sleep with quilts and duvets. Always remove all pillows, quilts, loose blankets, toys and other objects from the crib also be sure to position baby’s feet at the bottom of the crib. This prevents baby from wriggling down and under the covers while sleeping.
Don’t forget a night light
Little ones wake up at night; whether they are teething, feeling sick, having a bad dream or just not resting properly… Having a nightlight to assist during night feeds or when you’re trying to take a temperature or just giving baby a cuddle to settled them back to sleep, makes things much easier. No need for bright lights or cellphone distractions. Something with a soft glow, like this cloud night light (also from Moo Cahoo) is perfect. Later, this same night light will come in handy when your toddler starts complaining about monsters and more (yup, we’re currently there too and Eliana sleeps much more peacefully with her Moo Cahoo Unicorn night light).
Dressing for bedtime.
I’ll never forget my 1st week home as a new mom. Eliana was born in Summer. I couldn’t wait to dress her in all the cute newborn outfits we lovingly washed and had ready to be worn. Tiny body vests, the smallest socks, pretty baby grows, booties, mittens (so she won’t scratch her pretty face) and even a beanie or two. Dressing our baby girl was AMAZING and so much fun! That was until she became all spotty…
I felt pretty stupid asking the doctor about baby measles that seem to disappear and reappear, only for him to explain how heat rash works. Fashion and outdated advice on babies needing all those extra layers was causing our Eli mayor discomfort and had her thirsty and feeding around the clock!
It was then that I realised fashion would have to wait. Practicality and comfort needed to be the focus for a baby’s wardrobe.
Out with the synthetics (nowadays, being a little wiser, we try to never buy them) and in with the natural fabrics, 100% cottons and bamboo blends.
Poogy Bear Baby Clothing saved Eliana and now it’s one of our favourite baby clothing ranges.
With a perfect balance between baby style and comfort, they give moms and babes the best of both worlds. Using only natural fabrics, Poogy Bear combines unique prints and pastel colours to create summer and winter baby garments and accessories for ages newborn to 24 months. Each item breathable, soft and fantastic quality. Our babies didn’t need anything more than one of their summer or winter baby grow and body vest (depending on the weather) while sleeping.
I bought Eliana this adorable snowflake newborn set 6 years ago and got to use it for all 3 our girls. It’s still perfect and waiting to be worn again.
Best of all, every Poogy Bear product is made in South Africa and from local fabrics too.
Keeping to a bedtime routine.
A lot of times parents have the most amazing bath time routines. These are fun and tire baby out easily but we can’t be bathing our littles ones every time they need to go down for a nap. This is why the importance of a good bedtime routine can’t be overlooked. Your baby needs queues telling him / her “it’s time to go to sleep.” Nothing fancy, just a little “ritual” you always do before bedtime, day or night. It will most probably change over time as baby gets older but some of the key associations will remain the same. This is what works for us, naptime, bedtime, everytime.
Our baby bedtime routine with Eliana.
- Nappy check and change.
- Remove any unnecessary items of clothes or accessories that can cause discomfort or harm.
- Turn on Ewan, the Dream Sheep’s calm music option.
- Read a short bedtime story.
- Offer some milk.
- Give her a kiss, tell her goodnight and rock her to sleep as she sucks on her pacifier.
- I laid her down as I saw her getting sleepy. Still staying with her and comforting her if need be, till she falls asleep.
When leaving the room I switched Ewan, the Dream Sheep to white noise mode.
Our baby bedtime routine with Lia.
- Steps 1 – 4 stayed the same but Lia is a born cuddler and touch is her love language. She was also quite ill as a young baby with regular hospital stays and refused taking a bottle or pacifier so we needed to adjust steps 5-7 as follows:
- Give her a kiss, tell her goodnight and offer her some milk.
- Cuddle with Lia till she falls asleep and only then lay her down in her crib.
When leaving the room I switched Ewan, the Dream Sheep to white noise mode.
Our baby bedtime routine with Ava.
- Once again, steps 1 – 4 stayed the same but this time we chose to co-sleep and therefor Ava is very attached to me. She is however a healthy, content and secure little one and sleeping hasn’t been an issue yet. Steps 5 -7 are now also only 2 steps:
- Give her a kiss, tell her goodnight.
- Offer her some milk and feed her to sleeps.
I know this goes against “the book” but it wont be forever. Ava doesn’t like a pacifier either so I’m her only comfort. When she turns 9 months old (this is when an infants need to “suck for comfort” starts declining), we’ll start putting her down as we see her getting sleepy. Still staying with her and comforting her till she falls asleep.
Over the years and with all our girls the basics have stayed the same. Now at six and three and a half, we have girls that never struggle with bedtime or bad sleep as long as we…
- Visit the bathroom
- Put away our toys.
- Read a bedtime story.
- Give them a kiss and tell them goodnight.
And I’ll be doing this till they force me to stop!
Keep an eye on those awake times.
When our girls fight nap time is usually due to overstimulation. Keeping an eye on appropriate awake times is key. I read Sleep Sense by Megan Faure and Ann Richardson is 2012 and their awake and sleep guidelines have been our rule of thumb ever since.
I don’t recommend parenting books but this one has some wonderful tips and advice and worth a look at.
There will be weeks (yes, I’m sorry, it happens) when your little one might enjoy power napping during the day or when he / she just can’t seem to settle. It will be unexplainable for a number of reasons… Teething, a growth spurt, maybe a new milestone is on the horizon… Who knows… THIS IS ALL NORMAL and not a reflection of bad parenting.
Cuddle your baby a little more, nurse them to sleep, keep a close eye to make sure illness isn’t a cause and most importantly, stay calm. This too shall pass.
Still having trouble…
Consider a “sleep time friend”
Having a taglet or soother toy or even just a blanket that helps calm your little one can be very helpful. These help enforce sleep associations, preparing your baby to fall asleep every time they hold their “sleep time friend”. Top tip: Buy at least 2 of these “friends”, losing one can cause serious stress and sleepless nights.
Be mindful of screen time!
We enjoy our Friday family movie nights and some days My Little Pony has kept me sane but we limit screen time aggressively. Being a 1st child we were able to delay Eliana’s exposure to television till she was two. Lia and Ava on the other hand is obviously more familiar. We’ve always been strict, never letting the girls play with our phones and they won’t be owning any tablets or ipads soon, we stick to old school TV. None for Ava and only 40 minutes a day for Eliana and Lia. Nothing before bedtime and we keep their bedroom tech-free seeing as studies show even just the luminance light shining from any device can interfere with ones natural sleep patterns.
Don’t give up and stick to “the plan”.
Your baby is learning the skill of sleeping. Be patient with those slower learners and don’t be too hard on yourself or your little one when they revert and need a refresher course.
Now let us, help you!
Win a cute Moo Cachoo cloud night light and this beautiful Avocado Green quilt! Both of these won’t just be pretty in baby’s room but also keepsakes to use and treasure for years to come. This awesome prize is valued to just over a R1000.
How to enter:
- Please leave a comment below sharing a sleep tip, funny story or just your thoughts on bedtime.
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PHOTO CREDIT | Anje-Ilana Nel from Madison and West.