Products, Reviews & Recommendations
Talking about sleep-related products and their usefulness, because let’s be honest, there is a lot of awful baby products on the market these days!
Please know – I am NOT affiliated with any of these products and I do NOT make any money endorsing these products. These are simply products that my clients and family have used successfully.
Parents ask me all the time “Will <insert expensive baby product here> help my baby sleep better/longer/faster?”. The short answer is no. I’ve never heard a parent say, “I bought <insert product here> and my baby is finally sleeping where and when I wanted him/her to”.
Buying any product to “get your baby to sleep” is like buying a band-aid and expecting the band-aid to heal the wound.
Band-aids don’t heal wounds, your body heals the wound; the band-aid just aids your body by protecting the wound from outside elements. If your baby can’t fall asleep without a bottle, no sound machine or swaddle will change that! So, think of baby products as objects to aid you with a particular task causing you difficulty; there is no product to “fix the problem”. I understand it’s a lot more work to figure out what the root of the issue is and try to resolve it. If you want to create healthy sleeping habits, there is no secret magical product, just time and effort!
Now with that being said, there are certain baby products that can help us teach healthy sleeping habits. Are these products an absolute necessity? No. However, if it can make the difficult process of falling asleep and staying asleep easier for our little ones, then I am all for it; assuming, of course, it’s not negatively affecting sleep in the long term.
There are different age-appropriate products for general sleep use. We will discuss and review the different products below and their age appropriateness.
Starting With Newborns
We are talking 0 to 3 months of age, or for those of you who like to count in weeks – 0 to 12 weeks old. These adorable little squishes have just recently left a dark, loud, and tight space! This is important to remember when thinking about how to help them feel more comfortable, especially when sleeping. The products to help us to recreate their in-utero comforts are swaddles (tight), black-out shade/curtains (dark), and white noise machines (loud).
Now, darkness and noise machines are ideal for almost everyone’s sleep, while swaddles are very unique and specific for newborns. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when swaddling – first not all swaddles are created equal and not all babies will like all (or any) swaddles. Some babies don’t like to have their arms swaddled down around their chest and that’s okay because they make swaddles that keep their hands up by their head. So, consider trying several different types to see what might work for your baby.
Secondly, when swaddling you need to consider your baby’s hips and their lower body development. When swaddling newborns, their knees need to be up by their chest to allow for proper hip and leg development. If the swaddle is too tight around the hips and legs, it can cause long-term issues. Plus, most newborns prefer to sleep in the fetal position, so this will help them be more comfortable.
So, here are my favorite choices for newborn swaddles –
Please note, swaddles are only safe to use until your baby starts rolling onto their side or stomach. Once you see them start to roll at all, the swaddle has to go; more specifically, the arms can no longer be swaddled, but you can still swaddle their chest.
Swaddles & Sleep Sacks for 3 months and older
When your baby starts to roll, you’ll need to transition from an arms-in swaddle to an arms-out swaddle or a sleep sack. There are some great options for transitioning away from a swaddle, as well as options that go well into toddler sizing and beyond.
- Halo, Sleep Sack Products & Swaddle
- Love to Dream Swaddle Transition with removable arms
- Zipadee-Zip, Sleep Sack & Flying Squrriel Pj
Now let’s get back to the other two things I mentioned – darkness via black-out curtains/shades and loudness via sound machines. Both of these are comforting and helpful at almost any age, so let’s talk about sound machines next.
One of my favorite and most common recommendation requests, sound machines!
I don’t actually recommend sound machines. I do however recommend white noise machines- yes there is a difference. Honestly, your baby or child does not need to hear monkeys in the jungle or seagulls by the ocean when trying to sleep. The best sounds to help aid in falling asleep and staying asleep are white, pink, or brown noise (yes, there are different frequencies of white noise and they are named by colors!).
There is also some discussion around playing music, i.e. – lullabies or classical music, overnight and/or during sleep. Now, I am not a fan of doing this because music is a form of education and learning for young children. Think of all the kid songs that use music to teach (i.e.- the alphabet song, wheels on the bus, etc.). While trying to fall asleep or stay asleep, we don’t want to trigger different parts of the brain causing the child to become awake and stimulated. So, keep your lullabies and songs as part of the awake routine, but once the baby is in their bed – no more music!
White Noise Machines
- Marpac Dohm Natural White Noise Machine
- LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine (pink noise option)
- Big Red Rooster White Noise Machine
- LectroFan Kinder White Noise Machine (brown noise option)
- Marpac Rohm Portable Travel Noise Machine
Please note, pink noise, despite being proven most helpful for sleep, is not recommended for babies under the age of 6 months.
Darkness via Black Out Shades or Curtains
I know one of the old wives’ tales is “get them used to sleeping in bright light and loud noise so they aren’t sensitive later”. Thanks, Grandma, for that advice but science has come to a different conclusion. We are light-sensitive creatures, biologically driven by sunlight, which is why daylight-saving time and jet lag is so hard on our bodies. Knowing that daylight sends the signal to stay awake in our brains, why would we try to fight our body’s natural reaction. So, creating a dark enough sleep space can not only make it easier for a baby or child to fall asleep, but it can help them stay asleep longer! This can also be very helpful for naps and during long days of the year.
How dark is dark enough?
Often parents mention to me that they have curtains or shades up, but they aren’t sure if the room is getting dark enough. So how dark does it really need to be?
Go into the room, close the door and curtain and sit in the room for 5-10 minutes, to let your eyes completely adjust. Can you clearly identify everything in the room? Then it’s way too bright! Once you let your eyes adjust, it should be so dark that it’s hard to see your hand in front of your face. YES – that dark, really!
What about being afraid of the dark, you ask? Simply put, babies are not afraid of the dark. Remember the fact they were in the dark womb for months. Fear of the dark comes from the development of “imaginative play”, when young children start to play pretend. This developmental leap usually occurs between 3-4 years of age, or younger if there is a sibling. If you’re working on sleep with your older child and they are dealing with a fear of the dark, introducing a night light or “toddler clock” can be very helpful. We will go over that in more detail below when I give my recommendations for “okay to wake clocks”.
So, until at least 3 years old, there isn’t a fear associated with the dark, and having the room dark enough will help your little one make the transition to a peaceful night’s sleep smoother.
Side Note for Newborns
With newborns in the first 6-8 weeks of life, you should be focusing on creating 12 hours of bright light and 12 hours of pitch black. This will help your newborn develop a healthy internal clock or circadian rhythm. Once they have established day and night, you can start offering naps in a darker space.
No Damage, Quick Install, Travel Black Out Shades
There are a few options for darkening your child’s sleep space depending on the room and your long-term living arrangements. Below are all alternatives to installing and hanging blackout curtains or if your current curtains aren’t darkening the room enough. Go through all the options and see what might work best for your space and budget.
- Amazon Black Out Travel Shade – Suction cup style
- Blackout EZ Window Cover – Velcro-style
- Room Darkening Blackout Cover – Vinyl sheet
- Redi Shade Black Out – Paper Window Shade
It’s important to mention that not all light is created equal. Blue light, in particular, can stop the sleep hormone (melatonin) production in your brain, which can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Most electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, TVs, etc.) emit blue light, which is why experts say to limit screen time before bed! So, be on the lookout in your child’s sleep space for anything that may have a blue light on it.
When looking for an ideal night light, think of sunset colors: reds, oranges, and yellows. Stay away from blues, greens, purple, and anything labeled daylight or white light!
Toddler Clocks & Alternatives
So perhaps you have an older child or a toddler – are you struggling with early morning wake-ups? Or maybe overnight wake-ups where they come into your room, every night, maybe multiple times?
Good news! They make a product to help with this issue. Again, I must remind you that this is an aid to help your child learn a skill, not a fix to the problem. So, you’re going to have to put in some time and effort teaching the rules and boundaries around this new exciting product for it to work for your child.
These products go by many different names but most commonly they are referred to as “Toddler Clocks,” “Sleep to Wake Clocks,” or “Okay to Wake Clocks.” In general, they all do the same thing. They are one color at bedtime and then change color to signify it is morning and okay to get out of bed. After working with my fair share of toddler families, I can tell you that this can, in fact, be one of the more helpful sleep aids when dealing with this age range.
Most toddlers just want some control and independence
Toddlers will fight for even an inch of freedom and any control that they can get. Mind you they don’t actually want control; they just want to know where the boundaries are and that they aren’t changing. Now, if you have a toddler, you understand what this is like. It’s easy to understand why giving them this tool, where they have some control over bedtime and wake up, can be very powerful!
- Gro Clock Sleep Trainer Night Light and Toddler Clock
- Kids Classic Sleep Trainer Clock Night light and Toddler Clock
- Hatch Baby Rest Night Light, Sound Machine & Toddler Clock
I have one of these for my own son who is very independent and it’s a wonderful tool! However, you don’t technically need to buy a fancy color-changing clock to help your child. There are old-school ways. If you have or can find a plain, simple digital clock, all you have to do is duct tape over the minute section and teach your child the number 6 or 7, maybe 8 if you’re lucky. Then follow my instructions below.
Let’s use it!
How to properly use any toddler or sleep clock, so they work for your child:
- Obtain the clock of your choice.
- Create a lot of excitement about this new object.
- Explain the new rules with the clocks.
- When the light is <insert color> you stay in bed!
- When the light turns <insert color> you can get up!
- Start using at bedtime. Allow them to turn on and off, if possible.
- Be super excited when it is turned on and when it changes color in the morning.
- If they get out of bed before the color change, remind them of the light and rules.
- Depending on the age, a present or reward chart can be used in conjunction with the clock to reinforce the new positive behavior.
That’s it! Depending on the age of your child it may take 2-4 weeks to see full results. Remember, the more consistent you are, the faster they will learn!
That’s all folks!
There are my top recommendations for sleep products for babies and children. There are lots of other items on the market and new items coming out every day that I have not encountered. Make sure you do your research and find the right product to aid you in reaching your sleep goals!
Please keep in mind the AAP safe sleep guidelines whenever purchasing an item. There are many items on the market that are not safe for sleep, so read the manuals or instructions properly and follow their guidelines.
Have a question about a product?
Shoot me an email at Laura@goodlittlesleeperzzz.com or go here to contact me. I’d be happy to answer any questions relating to any sleep products.
Again, I am not affiliated with any of these products and I do not make any money endorsing these products. These are simply products that my clients and family have used successfully.