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When and How to Transition Your Baby to Their Own Nursery

When your Little One returns home from hospital just after being born, safe sleep guidance is clear: your baby should sleep in the same room as you for all sleep on a clear and flat surface for the first six months of life. But the question of when to move a baby into another room isn't just about safe sleep, it's about what's practical and what works for your family and your baby.

This article will outline when it's safe to move your baby to their own room, the things you might need to consider before you make the move and how to make the transition run smoothly.

Baby standing in a cot with a dummy in their mouth

What's in this article:

What does a baby's room or nursery need to have in it?

Babies under 12 months of age don't need a lot in their nursery! Most of what you see online on Pinterest or Instagram isn't necessary. All your child really needs is a safe space to sleep. But what is a safe space to sleep? According to The Lullaby Trust the safest surface for a baby to sleep on is a firm, flat and waterproof mattress. A baby's sleep space should be completely clear and should NOT contain any of the following:

  • Pillows or duvets

  • Cot bumpers

  • Soft toys such as teddies or comforters

  • Weighted or bulky bedding

  • Sleep positioners such as wedges or straps that are designed to keep your baby in a fixed position while sleeping

  • Sleep pods or nests, rolled up towels or anything soft placed on top of the mattress

The above clear cot guidance applies to babies until they are 12 months of age, after which point it is generally considered safe to introduce things like a comforter. For the first six months of life, a baby is safest sleeping in the same room as their caregivers for all sleep periods- including naps and overnight sleep. However, I have often worked with families who transition their baby to their own nursery before 6 months, but in this case one parent will share the nursery with the baby by sleeping on a spare bed in the baby's room.

Although the above is the absolute minimum your child would need in their nursery, other things are helpful for sleep are:

  • Blackout Blinds: I am a huge advocate of fully blacking out a room, so investing in good blackout blinds is a must in my experience

  • White Noise Machine: Some babies get really distracted by noises around the home, and in those cases a white noise machine can be really helpful. I love the Hatch*.

  • A Night Light: It's helpful to have a dim nightlight for nappy changes and night feeds, but for young babies I usually don't recommend having a night light

Can a newborn sleep in their own room?

The short answer is no. You may have a friend who has moved their baby into their own room during the newborn phase, but this goes against safe sleep guidance. In the UK the NHS and The Lullaby Trust advise that for the first 6 months of life a baby is safest sleeping in the same room as their caregiver any time they are asleep be that for naps or overnight. There is leeway in the guidance to leave the room for ad-hoc things - going to the toilet, having a drink, etc.

However, I do work with some families who choose to move their child into their own room, and one of the parents will room share with the baby in their own room. This is perfectly safe, and can sometimes be a good compromise if you feel that one parent is disturbing the baby by waking early for work or snoring, for example.

But if you want to know if a newborn can sleep on their own in their own nursery from birth, you should know this is absolutely not advisable until they are at least 6 months old. This is even if you use a sound or video monitor, or even something like an Owlet sock. This is because the risk of SIDs is not just increased by a child potentially suffocating, it's thought that the presence of a caregiver somehow regulates the breathing of an infant.

Does moving a baby to their own room help with sleep?

The answer to this is maybe. There are times when it can improve sleep, and times when it can worsen sleep. Here are some things to consider, many families I speak to who have made the move to a separate room have found it improved sleep for the following reasons:

  • One or both of the parents were disturbing the baby either with snoring, coughing or getting up in the night or early hours to use the toilet or go for a shower. When they made the move, those wake ups reduced.

  • They would find as soon as they went to bed in the evening their baby would wake almost straight away as though their baby could sense they were there.

  • Sometimes the parents would wake at the smallest of sounds even if their child wasn't upset, and it would mean they often would resettle their baby when they perhaps wouldn't have needed to, and if they've held back their Little One may well have settled independently. That is something that's hard to do when room sharing.

  • If a family had been bedsharing for part of the night, and it wasn't something they wanted to do, they found it harder to put their child back into a cot when they were room sharing.

  • They found their breastfed baby would wake for more feeds when room sharing if they could smell their mother's milk.

Conversely, there are those who make the transition and find that sleep worsens, and this is particularly if you are in a situation whereby your baby was waking more than a handful of times. In those instances, the families found the move was tougher for the following reasons:

  • The number of night wakes did not reduce and it simply then meant that both parent and baby were more fully awake by the time resettling was happening, which meant the night wakes become longer and harder to manage.

  • Their baby was a real velcro baby and needed to sense the closeness of their parents to sleep soundly, and as such the night wakes increased.

When considering whether or not moving your baby into their room will improve their sleep try to consider whether the number of wakes they are having presently are manageable for you if you had to get up and go into another room to resettle. Do you feel that you can pinpoint the causes of your child's wakes? Are they from things like noises you and your partner make?

What's the best age to transition a baby to their own room?

This answer is perhaps going to seem unhelpful, but it's whatever works for you. So long as your baby is at least 6 months old, there is no perfect time. It's just about what works. The section above points out that moving rooms doesn't always equal better sleep, so you need to consider whether moving rooms would make your situation better or worse. But I would not advise moving your baby to a new room during a tricky phase such as when they are ill or going through a sleep regression. Also, if you are returning to work and they are going to childcare, I would suggest that you either make the move in advance so your Little One is nice and settled before you return to work, or you wait until they are settled into childcare. Likewise, if you need to make the move because you are having a new baby, the same advice would apply.

What are the signs your baby is ready to move to a new room?

  1. Your baby is over 6 months - this is when safe sleep guidance says it is safe for a baby to move to their own room

  2. You feel your baby is waking because you are disturbing them and you can pinpoint exact moments they wake and find they correlate with the time you go to bed, for example.

  3. Conversely, it could be that they are actually disturbing you. Babies are VERY noisy sleepers - they can grunt, squeal and kick around during their sleep. Lots of families report their baby will scratch the sides of the cot or the mattress. And even if their baby is asleep, it's the parents who aren't sleeping.

  4. The number of night wakes would be manageable for you if your baby was in a separate room.

  5. You are thinking of sleep training. You don't have to move your baby to their own room to sleep train, but for some methods (like Ferber), some families do find that being in the same room does hinder progress.

How to move a baby to their own room after co-sleeping?

Most families I speak to don't intend to bed share with their baby, but research from The Lullaby Trust shows that the vast majority of families will bed share at some point during the first year, whether that's for 100% of the night, or just for part of the night. For many they really enjoy the closeness and find their baby sleeps better that way.

So long as you're following all the safe bedsharing advice there is no reason you can't continue to bed share safely for as long as you need to until your child themselves decides they need their own space.

If you are sure you want to make the switch, it can be helpful first to get your baby sleeping on their own sleep space first. For co-sleeping babies it can sometimes be hard to transition to a cot, and some families do find the transition to a floor bed to be easier. This is because the bars of a cot make it especially hard to offer the same kind of comfort to a baby as they would have had when bedsharing.

If you would like to transition your bedsharing baby to a cot, then my online course could be just for you. It's just £22 and walks you through all the basic sleep foundations to get your baby into a healthy sleep routine with positive sleep habits. Then there are 3 responsive sleep training methods to help you transition your baby into sleeping in a cot. On top of this, there's a Facebook group with over 800 members all at the same life stage as you. Find out more here.

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Should you move your baby to their own room before you start sleep training?

Again, the answer to this is 'maybe'. There are sleep training methods like Ferber, for example, where having your baby in their own room first can be helpful. As a sleep consultant, I typically do not recommend that you start sleep training while transitioning to a new room at the exact same time. Unless you have a super chilled baby this can cause some unnecessary distress and anxiety both for you and your baby.

The sleep training methods on my online course are gentle enough that you can still find success with them while room sharing.

Should you move your baby to their own room during a sleep regression?

For me this is a hard no. There's nothing stopping you, but some sleep regressions can involve a lot of separation anxiety, particularly the one that happens at around 8 months of age. You're going to want your baby in their own room either before this point, or you're going to want to wait until things settle down.

Tips for smoothly transitioning your baby to their own room

  1. Use old bedsheets: When you make the transition, make sure the bedsheets you are using don't smell fresh and clean, and instead that they smell of you. Try sleeping with the sheets for a few nights first. Make sure for the first few nights the sleep sack and pyjamas too are not freshly washed so their sleep space has a familiar scent.

  2. Replicate the environment: This is where it really is helpful to have blacked out the room because when you then move your baby into their own room you can then fully blackout that room too. Likewise using white noise and the same night light for nappy changes and night feeds can also help to make the sleep space familiar.

  3. Have naps in their new room: If you are lucky enough to have a baby who will nap in a cot, then practicing some naps in their own room can help as a transition. Start with the first nap of the day and when you feel your Little One is used to that move on to the next nap and so on.

  4. Create a consistent bedtime routine that can be replicated in their new bedroom. This is where it can help to really keep the steps of your bedtime routine really consistent - if you sing songs or read stories, you may even choose the exact same story each night so that when the time comes to switch rooms the routine feels so familiar.

  5. If you have the space, you may want to get your baby used to their new cot (if they are moving to a new cot) in your room first. Once they are settled in the cot in your room, you could start by moving the cot further away from your bed, and then make the move totally to their own room.

  6. Relax! Remember, your child will co-regulate their emotions with you, and if the move is making you anxious they will sense that anxiety. Be calm and confident and they are more likely to be calm and confident too.

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