Maybe she’s afraid of the dark… I wonder if a nightlight would help.
If this thought has crossed your mind, you’re not alone! Let’s discuss.
Will a nightlight help your baby?
No. In fact, nightlights are disruptive to baby sleep.
Light sends a message to our brains to produce cortisol, which causes us to feel alert. Darkness tells our brains to produce melatonin, which causes us to feel sleepy.
White and blue lights (your typical nightlight) tell your baby’s brain to stop
producing melatonin, because it tricks the brain into thinking that the light is
actually daylight. Children are even more sensitive to this than adults, and light during sleep times can have more dramatic consequences on their sleep.
Is your baby afraid of the dark?
Fear of the dark usually begins to develop in older toddlers, somewhere around the 2-3 year old mark. Why? To be afraid of the dark, you need to have an imagination, (to imagine what to be afraid of) and imagination really starts to take off at around two years old.
Darkness is more familiar to babies than light is when you think about where they start out! Your baby’s first 9 months in utero were dark and cozy.
While toddlers can be afraid of the dark (especially around the 2-3 year old stage) most babies are simply too young to be afraid of the dark. Monsters, ghosts and wild animals are not concepts they understand yet.
Ideal room environment
The ideal sleep environment for your baby is as dark as possible. Remember,
darkness is what makes your baby’s brain produce melatonin, which will help him fall asleep and stay asleep longer. This applies to nights and naps, which is why nightlights can be detrimental to your baby’s sleep.
When to introduce a nightlight?
I recommend avoiding nightlights as much as possible, at least for the baby stage. Once your baby grows into the toddler stage, a small nightlight can be helpful if you suspect she’s afraid of the dark.
Some parents like to use a nightlight for the nursery so they can see during middle-of-the-night feedings or diaper changes. If you do decide to introduce a nightlight, for either reason, make sure it’s the right kind, so that it will have the least negative impact on your baby’s sleep.
The best kind of nightlights
If you’re going to use a nightlight in your baby’s room, make sure that the bulb is red and has a very dim wattage (4-7 watts). This will provide enough light for you to see, but not too much to wreak havoc on your baby’s sleep.
Red light is unique. Because red-based light has a higher wavelength than your typical blue/white/green light, it doesn’t inhibit the production of melatonin or interfere with sleep as much.
The best state for your baby to sleep in is darkness. If you’re going to use a light, go dim and go red. Placing the nightlight on the other side of the room from your baby’s crib can be helpful as well, so that your baby’s immediate surroundings can stay more dimly lit.
Is your baby struggling with sleep even in total darkness?
I’ve got help for you.
Check out my Baby Sleep Video course here.