The First Year: Sleep and Bath
Babies spend most of their time sleeping in the first year, and so this space needs to be both safe, cozy, and encourage rest.
In the first few weeks, your baby will need a smaller space to sleep, like a bassinet or co-sleeper (see below). This helps her feel safe and secure. As she grows, you can choose an infant floor bed in a safe bedroom, or a traditional crib.
A safe space to sleep has a firm mattress or pad, with NO pillows, loose blankets, toys, or bumpers. Babies under 5-6 months should always be placed to sleep on their backs.
Learning to fall asleep is a skill, and one that your child can master without an elaborate routine from you. Read this first book below for details.
While your baby doesn’t need as many baths in this first year as she will later, you’ll probably want a few materials on hand to make the process easier for both of you.
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Sleep and Bath Materials
Compassionate Sleep Solutions
Here's how you help your child learn to fall asleep on her own, step by step. This book is written by a RIE professional who also offers personal consultations for parents.
I used this book with a very clingy 9 month old who would ONLY fall asleep on my hip and had him falling asleep on his own in a week. Read the story here.
If you are spending hours each day coaxing your older infant to sleep, you need to read this book.
To help your child feel secure in the first 2-3 months, a co-sleeper or bassinet is best. Look for a model with a flat, minimally padded bottom, short sides, and ease of access for nighttime waking and feeding. You may prefer a model on a stand at bed-height, or a free-standing bassinet like this one pictured.
This bassinet is my favorite, as it can be placed on a table or directly on a floor bed, moved around the home and taken on trips, plus it folds up for easy storage.
Sleep for infants
As your infant grows, you can choose to move her to a floor bed or a traditional crib. The floor bed is just a crib mattress on the floor of a small bedroom, designed to aid your child's independence. Yes, children fall asleep this way, and yes, it will take some guidance on your part. This article offers more details in making the decision.
Floor Bed After 2-3 months you can transition from the smaller bassinet to a floor bed. Ideally, your child spends a few nights in the bassinet on top of the floor bed in the same room to ease the transition. Floor beds are only an option IF you can make the bedroom safe for an infant. Look for a firm, small mattress (approx. W: 28˝ x L: 52˝ x H: 5˝), a waterproof cover, and a handful of sheets. This mattress is completely washable!
If you can't make the room safe for a mobile infant, use a crib or portable crib. Be sure to research your options, and look for safety recalls.
Read about safe sleeping areas and the prevention of SIDS here, if you aren't familiar.
While very young infants will fall asleep anytime of day, it's helpful to darken the room as your child gets older. Involve your child in closing these curtains as part of your sleep routine, to cue "now is time to fall asleep" You may want full blackout or merely light-blocking curtains, depending on what's outside your windows. I also suggest thermal insulating curtains to discourage drafts in an infant space.
The sleep sack is an excellent solution for keeping your infant warm without the danger of a blanket, or the movement restriction of a swaddle. Sleep sacks create a warm cocoon, small enough to offer comfort, but large enough to allow for movement. I tend to follow RIE's opinion about swaddling, but should your child LOVE and NEED to be tightly wrapped those first few months, do what your child needs so everyone can get some sleep.
While you want to allow your child to self-soothe so she can learn the skill of falling asleep, if you live in a noisy place, white noise may be helpful. Simple is best, an air filter, fan, or noise machine is plenty. Stay away from rocking/shaking/swinging gadgets, it will only make independent sleep more difficult.
I have this air filter in my home, and I love it. It has a quiet hum while it's running and it cleans the airs with both HEPA and VOC filters. It's portable too, so you can move it to the area where you need it most.
Cozy chair for night feedings
You'll want a chair for feedings in this first year so you can relax and be comfortable. Look for a model that little fingers can't get smashed under if you're adding this to the nursery. An ottoman can serve as a footrest and the perfect object for pulling up and cruising.
I suggest a small table with water, snacks, and reading material as you may be sitting here for 30-45 minutes at a time!
Your baby needs to get clean, and really any small vessel of water will work here. There are plenty of inexpensive plastic baby tub options, but I like this one for it's simplicity, the ability to grow with your child, and the option of using it inside the tub or out on the floor. If you choose to use the kitchen sink, an insert like the Puj or Blooming Lotus are helpful. But a towel and attentive parent are really all you need here.
As with other care giving activities, bath-time should be a time of connection, full attention, and respect. Learn more about the specific techniques of creating quality time in these moments here.