Creating the right environment for a baby’s bedroom requires more than just choosing the right patterns, toys, and decorations. To create a space where your little one can establish a healthy sleeping habit for life, you need to consider several important environmental factors, including noise levels, lighting, temperature, and clothing choice.
This is also one of the best ways to reduce the impact of baby startling while your child develops their natural Moro reflex and is highly sensitive to slight changes in their surroundings. In this article, we explore how you can craft the perfect home sleeping set-up for your baby so that they have everything they need to sleep soundly at night.
Essential Facts About Baby Startling
Before we start, it’s important to understand that baby startling, or the Moro reflex, is completely natural up until the age of 6 months. You can do everything possible to reduce the frequency of them waking up at night due to their startling reflex, but often they’ll do so anyway, and this is completely normal.
There is no way to prevent the Moro reflex from happening completely, in fact, if your child isn’t displaying this reaction then it might be a cause for concern.
Common Triggers of Baby Startling
*A sudden noise
*A sudden touch
*A change in sleeping position
*A change in lighting conditions
*Movement of the baby’s body
*Other changes in the baby’s immediate environment
Some of these changes will be obvious to parents, but others will go completely undetected by adults. This is because babies are much more sensitive to slight variations in their environment and may pick up on distant noises or changes in temperature that you completely miss.
For more on the Moro reflex and why it happens, take a look at our blog: Moro Reflex: How to Stop it so that your Baby can get a Good Night’s Sleep.
Babies are much more sensitive to slight variations in their environment and may pick up on distant noises or changes in temperature that you completely miss.
Light Levels and Baby Startling
Darkness is essential to sleep. You may want to make your child’s room softly lit with low emitting night lights to make them feel comfortable, but this can actually disturb their ability to sleep properly. While a soft lamp is great for the wind-down time, for babies to truly relax and embrace sleep, aim to create a dark cave-like atmosphere where your baby can completely switch off.
A lack of light sends a signal to our brains that it’s time to rest, and any exposure to light can alter the body’s natural sleep cycle, especially for your little one who is still establishing their own sleep routine. By creating a completely dark room for your child, you are letting their biological reactions take their natural course by releasing Melatonin, the “sleep hormone”, which will prepare your baby for sleep.
Studies have also shown that the onset of sleep is much more challenging for individuals who are exposed to higher levels of light during the day. So you should also be careful how much exposure to bright lights your baby experiences during their transition towards bedtime, especially during their evening wind-down routine.
Sound Levels and Baby StartlingOverstimulation in the form of sound can be just as bad as any other stimulus when it comes to disrupting sleep. For instance, environmental noise from things like transportation is considered one of the leading causes of sleep disturbances.
While it's not realistic to remove all forms of sound from outside your home, especially if you live on a busy road or next to a railway line, you can do your best to reduce the sources of noise coming from within your home, such as TV’s, radios, buzzing phones, doors slamming and people talking loudly.
Some parents also believe that ambient noise is the best way to control the level of sound that a baby is exposed to at night, helping to reduce baby startling. For instance, a white noise generator or a playlist with subtle, ambient tones can be played to block out external noise.
One particular study on newborns between 2 and 7 days old found that 80% fell asleep within five minutes in response to white noise, compared to only 25% who fell asleep spontaneously in the control group, suggesting it can be a useful tool with baby’s who find it difficult to sleep normally. You may be concerned that your child will become dependent on white noise for sleep, but this can generally be phased out once they come out of the baby startle phase.
The Baby Swaddle and Startle Reflex
Swaddling is a practice used around the world as a way to calm infants and help them sleep at night. This will restrict the baby's movements and help draw their extended limbs back, recreating the womb environment, which can help soothe babies who experience the startle reflex.
If your child is too old for the swaddle, however, or they’re showing signs of discomfort when you use this method, you can explore swaddle transition products to help induce the same relaxed sensation and encourage sleep, while also reducing the frequency of your baby startling.
The Zipadee-Zip, for instance, can offer your baby a secure and easily adjustable clothing option that keeps them snug and offers them more flexibility than a typical swaddle, helping them to relax at night and avoid unnecessary baby startling caused by changes in their sleep position or environment.
If you’d like to hear other parents and children’s experience using the Zippy-Swaddle or Zipadee-Zip, take a look at our customer testimonials page for more on how baby sleeping products could help your little one achieve better sleep at night.
Baby Room Temperatures
Many parents try to bundle their children up with loads of pillows and blankets to keep them extra warm. However, this comes with the danger of overheating as well as an increased chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) occurring. To avoid this, aim to create a room temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the equivalent of 18 to 21 degrees Celsius.
In most situations, babies will be comfortable in room temperatures that adults also prefer, but it’s good practice to add an additional layer to compensate for any draughts or drops in temperature at night while your little one is sleeping.
In most situations, babies will be comfortable in room temperatures that adults also prefer, but it’s good practice to add an additional layer to compensate for any draughts or drops in temperature.
Baby Handling and Crib Layout
Keep your baby’s crib bare. A few cuddly toys are fine while they’re playing in their crib during the day, but the safest option is to remove any unnecessary items from their crib at night when they’re sleeping. This will ensure that the environment your child sleeps in is controlled and risk-free from items falling on them or obstructing their optimal sleeping position.
Changes in your little one’s position will often cause their Moro reflex to kick in, so setting up a consistent layout for your crib within their room is also a good idea. If you’re moving the crib from one room to another, do your best to minimize sudden jerky movements, which will almost definitely lead to your baby startling out of restful slumber.
You may also notice your baby’s startle reflex when you lower them down into their crib. To reduce the chances of this happening, keep your baby close to your body when placing them down. Gently releasing them onto the mattress can help prevent them from feeling the sensation of falling.
Bedroom Colors and Decorations
When you’re planning your baby’s nursery, you’ll probably spend a great deal of time thinking about the most charming and cute color schemes and styles, with combinations of furniture, toys, and rugs. However, it is just as important to think carefully about the impact that these things will have on your baby’s sleep.
Specifically, color can have a big impact on a person’s mood, and it’s no different for babies. For instance, red tends to raise a room’s energy level and induce feelings of excitement, while blue has a tendency to induce relaxation by slowing breathing and heart rates.
Greens are a popular choice for baby rooms as they have a similar calming effect to blue while offering the cheerfulness of the yellow spectrum. Neutral colors are also good, such as tans and grays, as long as they are more “warm” than “cold” tones. You don’t need to be completely bound by these rules, but it’s worth considering them when you choose the color scheme of your child’s bedroom to create a calm and restful atmosphere to help your baby sleep and reduce baby startling.
Greens are a popular choice for baby rooms as they have a similar calming effect to blue while offering the cheerfulness of the yellow spectrum.
A Healthy Evening Routine to Reduce Baby Startling
As we’ve mentioned in some of our other blog posts, the quality of your child’s sleep starts long before you even put them in their crib. Creating the right environment for sleep relies on you setting up a healthy evening wind-down routine to help establish a consistent sleep pattern.
Top Tips For The Perfect Evening Sleep Routine*A consistent bedtime routine
*Transition gradually to the right environment (eliminate external stimulants)
*A relaxing bath and skincare routine
*A soothing massage
*Proper clothing for sleep
*Put your baby into the crib while still drowsy (not asleep)
*Introduce a dream feed
For more on this topic, check out our article: How to Help My Baby Sleep — The Perfect Evening Routine.
What If My Baby is Not Startling?
If your child is not experiencing the startle reflex at all, or any other important baby milestone, it might suggest that there is a problem with their nervous system. However, before you get too worried, remember that all babies are unique and may experience certain development stages in different ways and at different times.
Also, the Moro reflex is particularly weak in preterm newborns because of lower muscle tone, inadequate resistance to passive movements, and slow arm recoil, compared with full-term newborns. If you’re concerned for any reason, the best thing to do is consult your baby’s doctor, who will easily be able to determine whether there is anything to worry about.
The Perfect Sleep Environment for Reducing Baby Startling: Final Tips
While your baby is still getting used to the outside world, you’ll need to be gentle with them. Their Moro reflex is a completely natural reaction that shows they’re developing all the important reflexes they need in their journeys towards being healthy toddlers. Having said this, by managing certain environmental factors in your baby’s room, you can reduce the frequency of your baby startling at night due to their Moro reflex kicking in.
If in doubt, make sure that the following aspects of your baby’s room are optimized for giving your little one the best chance of sleeping well and night — undisturbed by distractions, overstimulation, or changes to their surroundings.
Best Bedroom Environment For Sleeping Checklist
- Dark lighting conditions
- Minimal external noises (or ambient white noise to block out sounds)
- Comfortable, suitable clothing, such as the Zippy-Swaddle
- Optimal room temperatures for babies
- A clear, and uncluttered crib layout
- Warm, calm, or neutral color choices
- A relaxing and consistent evening wind-down routine