I must admit that I spent hours online (and in the baby aisle at Target) when it came time to decorate my baby's nursery. I mean I was constantly looking for ideas and picking out decor. In fact, I bought the most adorable dragonfly nightlight and couldn't wait to plug it in for my newborn. After my daughter was born, however, I quickly realized my baby couldn't sleep unless it was completely dark. I never asked myself, "Will a nightlight affect my baby's sleep?" prior to pushing that tantalizing "purchase" button, and it came back to bite me in my new, sleep-deprived mom ass.
According to Elizabeth Pantley, author of the No Cry Sleep Solution, the lighting in your baby's room can make a big difference when it comes to how well they go, and stay, asleep. Pantley goes on to explain, saying, "Darkness causes an increase in the release of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone." According to Pantley's website, ElizabethPantley.com, at bedtime dim lighting can help your baby grow sleepy, and if they happen to wake up in the middle of the night even a little bit of light from a nightlight can cause them to think it's morning and, as a result, think it's time to stay awake and star their day.
Pantley recommends parents not use a nightlight in their baby's room if they want their baby to sleep soundly through the night. Because many parents opt to use a nightlight anyway, usually to make nighttime feedings and diaper changes easier, Pantley suggests choosing a nightlight that's small and dim, and to use the least amount of light possible to get the job done and avoid setting your baby's biological clock to "morning time" and subsequently disrupting their sleep.
If you worry that your baby is afraid of the dark or might get scared at night, you can rest easy. As pediatric sleep disorders expert Deborah Lin-Dyken wrote on Baby Center, young babies are used to the dark. After all, they spent months in your uterus without a nightlight. However, every baby is different, so Lin-Dyken reassures parents who want to use a nightlight, or whose baby seems to like one, that the amount of light they emit throughout the night doesn't do any harm to an infant.
To set baby's room up for better sleep, Conner Herman, founder of Dream Team Baby, recommends that parents focus on making their baby's room darker, not lighter. According to the Dream Team Baby website, parents should consider ditching nightlights and use black out curtains instead. In fact, parents can even take it one step further and cover or turn around baby monitors, CD players, and light up toys to help their baby avoid waking up, and even assist their baby in sleeping longer once the sun is up.
I don't know about you, but "sleeping longer once the sun is up" sounds like the absolute dream to this tired mom, who is willing to try just about anything to get more sleep.