Time to Move Baby to the Nursery

You have probably heard of the dreaded four month sleep regression.  Have you heard of the six month sleep regression?  Perhaps not.  I am not sure that babies are “supposed” to go through a sleep regression at six months.  Bugaboo did.  For almost six weeks we were waking up three, even four times a night with her.  Finally, we had to face the facts – it was time to put Bugaboo to sleep in the nursery.

What Does the AAP Say?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, to best avoid SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), have the baby “share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months.  Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.”

My husband and I have made an unofficial pact to always follow the AAP guidelines when it comes to SIDS.  I am an avid anti-co-sleeper, and going “back to sleep” was easy for us because it’s all we’ve ever heard.  So it was a no brainer for us to put Bugaboo in our room to begin with.

The logic behind keeping the baby in the room with you is twofold.  First of all, you will be able to hear and respond to changes in your baby’s breathing patterns.  If something goes wrong, you are right there to respond.  In addition, sharing a room may help the baby sleep lighter, which will keep her from falling into the deep sleep which is most likely to cause SIDS.

But what happens after six months?  The AAP’s official recommendation is a little open ended as to how safe it is to move the baby to her own room after six months.

The Dreaded Four Month Sleep Regression

The biggest problem with room sharing is that it can cause mom and dad to miss out on a good night’s rest.  First, if the baby is moving around a lot, or if the parents are focused on not making noise, there is added stress in the room.  Then there is the challenge of trying to coax a baby back to sleep while your partner is also trying to sleep in the same room.  In our situation, I wanted to start sleep training Bugaboo, but I couldn’t let her “cry it out” with my husband right next to her.  Not only would he have interfered and tried to soothe her back to sleep, he needed to get his rest to be able to go to work the next day.  (I needed my rest, too, but with only one I could still “sleep when the baby sleeps.”)

Co-Sleeping

There is a danger in keeping your baby with you through her sleep regressions.  A study found that parents who room shared with infants over four months old were four times more likely to bring their babies into bed with them!  And guess, what?  We did that!  Oh, I tried to justify it.  We would slip Bugaboo between us and gently lay a hand on her stomach.  Then we would wearily gaze at her in the semi-darkness of the room, waiting for her to fall asleep.  Sometimes I would let my eyelids flutter down, hoping my husband was still awake.  I am sure he did the same.

In addition to the dangers that co-sleeping bring (potential suffocation, potential rolling on the baby), this is just not a restful way to sleep!  Every time Bugaboo went through a phase where we brought her in to bed, my husband and I would begin to have nightmares.  I would wake up patting his face, thinking it was the baby’s.  He would shoot up in bed shouting, “Where is the girl?”  I believe there is a word for this, and it is guilt.

If you find that you are being tempted to bring your baby in to bed with you, not only is it time to sleep train, but it is probably time to move her to the nursery!

Toys In Bed

For older babies, toys in their bed pose the greatest danger.  Similar to co-sleeping, parents of older babies may be tempted to throw a toy into the crib to soothe the child back to sleep, or to keep her asleep longer.  Unfortunately, the AAP doesn’t recommend toys in the crib until the baby has turned one year old.  We found ourselves in this predicament as well.  We had a Gloworm for Bugaboo, and its soothing music and light really helped her through her tough sleeping phases.  It certainly looked innocent enough.  But what if her “special toy” had been a loose blankie or fluffy bear?  Even with the Gloworm, given the right parameters, she could have suffocated*.  You want to walk the line between paranoid and cautious – it is better to move the baby to the nursery and sleep train than to start piling potentially dangerous toys into her crib.

*I do, however, highly recommend the Gloworm either for an older baby or for non sleeping play.  The songs it plays are classical and soothing, and the light from its face is also very gentle.  Bugaboo loves to turn hers on and off, as it was one of the first buttons she learned to operate.  In addition, it is listed as appropriate for children 0 months and up – I hardly ever see toys geared for babies under 3 months old!

Constant Night Wakings

We made it through the four month sleep regression with Bugaboo in our room, and we lucked out that our temporary solutions didn’t cause any harm.  Around six months, though, she seemed to go through another sleep regression.  She was waking every 2-3 hours, sometimes more often!  She was up more often than a newborn, and yet we didn’t have the benefit of a baby who slept 18 hours a day.  We were all exhausted.  Finally, it occurred to me that our presence in the room with her might be causing her to wake up.  As adults, we know how to fall back asleep when we are awakened at night, but Bugaboo doesn’t.  If she woke up and heard us breathing hard or moving around, it was stimulating her and keeping her up.  We had to face facts that perhaps, even though she was only six months old, it was time to move her to the nursery.

Issues Surrounding Bed Time

Before moving Bugaboo, the first thing we considered was how noisy we were in going to bed.  Although Bugaboo has never had a consistent bedtime, we would put her down between 7:00 and 8:00, but she always woke up when we were getting ready for bed.  Our first task was to try to slip into bed quickly and quietly without disturbing the baby.  We moved our showers to the guest bathroom to avoid making noise.

The same study that found that room-sharing babies tended to end up in their parents beds overnight noted that they tended to have later bedtimes.  This may be a result of the parents putting the baby to bed closer to the time they go to bed themselves.  If the baby’s best sleep of the night is her first shift, then parents who room share may want to push that shift back as far as they can to become the most rested.

Regardless of what time she was going to bed, Bugaboo continued to wake around the time we went to bed.  We had to face facts – it was time to move her to the nursery.

Nursery Environment

After Bugaboo turned six months old, we hesitated to move her to the nursery because it was winter.  With two outside walls and windows and poor ventilation, we weren’t sure how warm Bugaboo would be.  We found a space heater with tip protection – so that we could point it into her nursery to keep the room warm, but it would turn off if it tipped over.  We didn’t want to create a fire hazard.  In addition, we purchased a few fleece sleep sacks for her to wear over fleece pajamas.  The Halo Sleep Sack had become Bugaboo’s special cuddly blanket, and it soothed her to sleep at night.  By switching from cotton to fleece, we were able to keep her warm without changing her bedding.

Our nursery is the best spot in our house for natural lighting, which is actually the opposite of what we wanted for Bugaboo.  We wanted her to be able to take daytime naps and to sleep in a little (or go to bed early in the summer).  So we purchased some room darkening blackout curtains.

We moved the crib mattress one level deeper and fitted it with a mesh crib liner.  If you use a crib liner, you want it to be mesh and breathable.  However, we didn’t want to shock Bugaboo by putting her into the crib where she could see out to the rest of the room.  Fear of heights might kick in, since she wasn’t used to looking down on the floor.  The crib liner obstructed her view during the transition.

In addition to updating the sleeping environment, we made sure the nursery was going to be a safe place for Bugaboo.  We added a rocker and a glider so we could easily rock and sing her to sleep.  My husband bolted the cubby shelves to the wall so they wouldn’t fall on Bugaboo.  And we purchased some safety latches to keep the closet doors closed.

The Move

Start with Naps

Babies generally nap best where they sleep.  We had been getting longer and more reliable naps with Bugaboo by putting her in the pack n’ play in our room than when she had been sleeping in my arms.  But before moving her to the crib all night long, we wanted to make sure she was familiar with the nursery.  We wanted her to feel safe going to sleep and waking in a room by herself.  Fortunately for us, she did fine!  Perhaps the softer crib mattress or dimmer nursery lighting helped her sleep even better.

I started slowly – it was one nap the first day, then two the second and so on (she was up to four naps at that point).  It surprised me how well she did.  It only took one week for me to feel comfortable moving her to the nursery overnight.

Make the Move on a Weekend

Even with our success at naptime, we wanted to make the move to the nursery on a Friday night.  That way, if Bugaboo had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, we would both have a few days to rest.  This is a common sleep training technique.   Fortunately, we didn’t have to use it.  Bugaboo went into the nursery and slept fine.

Test: Does She Sleep Better in the Nursery?

The short answer was that Bugaboo did sleep better in the nursery.  We were quickly able to get her night wakings down from every two hours to every three or four.  We still had some other issues to work through, such as whether or not to feed her or sleep train her.  However, the restless nights where we were waking her up inadvertently were gone.  Further, her napping became longer and more consistent in the nursery.

Most importantly, we knew it was something we needed to do.  It would have been nice to wait the full year, but we knew Bugaboo was out of the true danger zone for SIDS because she was past six months.  Once safety concerns had been addressed, it was also important to consider Bugaboo’s development.  For babies and toddlers, a part of growing up is learning to sleep in the nursery on their own.  Bugaboo now has the opportunity to practice some independence.  We love calling it “her” room and taking her in there to play and explore.

We can’t say we’ve mastered sleep entirely, but these have been some good old days now that Bugaboo is in the nursery!  She will be able to make memories in there for many years to come.

Was it hard to transition your baby to the nursery?

 

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