Naptime Is for Learning
You can minimize noises and light at your baby's naptime without making the room pitch black and completely silent. For now, here's what you should know: If your baby learns to nap with the door of her room open and with everyday life and its everyday noise going on in the house beyond her room, she will be more able to tolerate noise when she sleeps as a general rule.
You may not want to run the vacuum cleaner while she naps or sleeps, and you may want to avoid doing anything that creates a sudden loud noise, such as hammering or giving your two-year-old child a pot and a wooden spoon to play with when your baby is napping.
But you don't have to keep the noise level in the house in a total hush. You can certainly keep the stereo or TV on in another room at a reasonable volume. You can talk on the phone or chit-chat with someone who's there with you in the house. You can use a sewing machine, blender, or food processor. You can run the clothes washer and dryer or the dishwasher.
If an older child shares a room with the baby, this older child doesn't need to give up the room for the baby's exclusive use during hours when the baby is sleeping, but certain accommodations are helpful. For example, the use of a strong, bright reading light, which directs its glow in a concentrated area, can help illuminate one patch of the carpet on which the older child is playing, while the rest of the room is darkened. If the older child is of school age, use the reading light to illuminate his homework as he works on it at his desk or table.
Life Goes on While Baby Naps
In other words, you can see to it that life goes on around the sleeping baby, complete with the noises that living brings, as long as you don't encourage activities that create unduly loud or suddenly escalating noises. In this way, the baby doesn't get accustomed to absolute silence and darkness when she naps. She won't grow to need such conditions in order to fall asleep for her nap and stay asleep for the length of her usual naptime.
Learning to nap with some noise and some light present will help accustom her to sleeping in those conditions at any time, so that even at night she'll be able to sleep with some noise going on around her. This is particularly helpful if you have the baby sleeping in your room, but even more important, it will serve you well not only now, but also over the years ahead, as your child grows.
If you have an upcoming vacation or move or you are expecting some other change in lifestyle that will affect the level of noise in the baby's surroundings, you can gradually acclimate her in advance during naptimes. Turn up the volume of the stereo in the living room or your room a bit from the usual level. Speak a little louder when you're on the phone or have a friend over during the baby's nap. Get the baby used to a greater level of noise.
Acclimating Baby to Light
If you expect increased light to be a factor in the upcoming change, leave the baby's blinds opened just a little more than usual. Let her get used to napping in a room that's just a little less dark than she's been used to normally.
Don't make these changes radical. Change them gradually: a little more light and noise today, just a bit more tomorrow, and still more the next day. By the time the visitors come, or you leave on your vacation, or the construction starts down the street, or you've moved to your new house, your baby should be ready for the change in ambient noise level and light level, if that's a factor, too.
As Baby Grows More Aware
Of course, the problem is not always related to something external such as a visitor or pending move. Sometimes the problem arises without any change in your lifestyle. The change, in this case, is internal: Your baby is growing older, more aware of what is going on around him and more interested in all the activity. The same baby who could sleep through a thunderstorm right overhead at age one month now wakes up merely because the cat walked into the baby's room and meowed, or your baby can no longer get to sleep when people are talking in the living room, even though everyone is speaking in a hushed voice, although last month this was no problem.
Newborns cannot form the thought, “I wonder what I'm missing?” However, an older baby who hears conversation, laughter, and other “people noises” will sometimes feel he's missing out on something fun. Wondering what's going on elsewhere in the house, he will be reluctant to go to sleep or go back to sleep. He wants to be part of the action.