When I first got pregnant, there were about a million things running through my mind. Boy or girl? What am I going to name it? Oh my lord, how much weight am I going to gain?
And I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t excited about decorating the nursery.
“It will be cute, but contemporary, with an element of sophistication,” I thought. “The colors should be fun, but not tacky-fun. The furniture must be sleek and understated, but with just the right number of childish features.”
But by the time my third baby came along, I was more realistic.
The diaper genie should go somewhere I won’t kick it over in the middle of the night, and the crib should be out of arms’ reach of the Penaten. Bam! Nursery decorated.
The advice I have for you new parents is that, when it comes to your kids’ bedrooms, functionality trumps fashion.
And their primary function is to help your kids sleep.
So decorate however your heart desires, but keep these tips in mind.
• Regulate the temperature
Babies sleep best in a room that’s somewhere between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but you should adjust it as you see fit and see what works best for your baby. Some kids like to be bundled up in a cool room, and some prefer sleeping in next to nothing in a warmer one. Whatever your baby prefers, stick with it.
• Keep it dark
Darkness is an indicator to the brain that it’s time to go to sleep. Light, especially light on the blue end of the spectrum, commonly found in screens and sunlight, inhibits melatonin production and throws our circadian rhythms off. I recommend some blackout blinds for keeping the outdoor light away, and turning the lights off in the area outside baby’s room as well.
• Make some noise
White noise machines can be a great addition to a nursery. Just be sure to keep them a reasonable distance away from the crib. Some of these devices have been measured at over 85 decibels, which is about as loud as a blender. (Why on earth the manufacturers designed them that way is anybody’s guess.)
• Soothing colors
I couldn’t wait to decorate my firstborn’s bedroom, but I chose the color scheme based entirely on the jungle theme we used for the decorations. A British study from 2013 suggested that blue, yellow and green are the most sleep-conducive wall colors. Purple, grey and brown scored the lowest.
• Remove distractions
Mobiles, light shows and pretend aquariums are cute, for sure, but they’re more likely to keep your baby awake than help him fall asleep. Babies sleep best in a crib with a pillow, a blanket, and maybe a soft lovie (if age appropriate). Leave the entertainment outside of the bedroom.
• Get a great mattress
Mattress salesmen have a good point when they tell you that you spend 1/3rd of your life on your mattress. Your baby will be spending almost double that on his, and he’s still got a soft, sensitive little body, so make sure you get the best mattress you can. It’s worth your time to do a lot of research.
• Keep it organized
People tend to sleep better in a clean, organized bedroom, but that’s not the only reason why I recommend keeping your nursery organized. The less light you have to turn on when going in to change a diaper or feed during the night, the better. So if you’ve got everything squared away and easy to find, you can hopefully get it done without turning on the lamps.
• Keep it squeak-free
Walk around the baby’s room and locate any spots that tend to squeak, creak or otherwise protest when you step on them. Babies can sleep through noise, but if it’s one they associate with you coming into the room, chances are they’re going to hear it and get excited.
• Clear the air
Dust, pet dander and other pollutants can build up faster than you might think, even if you’re keeping your baby’s bedroom neat and tidy. A good air purifier with a HEPA filter can trap 99% of airborne particles, and can also substitute as a great white noise machine.
In much the same way I tell adults to keep the TVs out of their bedrooms, not to set up work stations in the corner, and to leave their phones and iPads at the door, baby’s room should be about sleep, and sleep only. If they get it into their heads that it’s a play area, that’s what they’re going to want to do when they get in there. But if they understand that it’s a place for sleeping and that’s what happens when they get in there, they’ll be much more comfortable falling, and staying asleep in there.