There are so many trendy products out there right now, claiming to make your baby sleep. But do they really work? Are they necessary? And will they cause sleep regressions later? Before I highlight a few of my favorite and least favorite baby sleep products out on the market, let me set up some of information to help you understand what babies ‘need’ to sleep and how that changes over a relatively short time.
When a baby is born he has what we have termed the startle reflex. This reflex, does exactly what the name states, startles the baby and wakes him up or keeps him awake. For this reason, 99.9% of babies will sleep better and fall asleep easier when swaddled. On top of that a newborn baby, defined as 0-4 months, may need help soothing to sleep. Soothing a newborn to sleep is often achieved by swaddling, sucking, white noise, motion, and feeling snug.
However, at around 4 months of age, baby sleep completely flips upside down and many of the things that helped a newborn sleep will actually hurt sleep at some point after 4 months of age. Knowing that sleep needs change around the four month mark, when I look at tools to help a newborn sleep I am also assessing how easy or difficult it will be to remove that aide to improve sleep after 4 months of age and if it is worth the price tag for the length of use.
Sleeping Stations: I consider these a non-essential item, meaning I do not recommend these across the board, but many parents do use something similar to these to aid in sleep (rock n’ plays, swings, etc).
SNOO Bassinet: The SNOO Bassinet is all the rage right now. Essentially it is a flat swing that includes a swaddle. You strap the baby in and it will, for lack of a better word, jiggle the baby to help him fall asleep. It has a monitor so if your baby wakes it will turn on and help soothe the baby back to sleep while you keep snoozing. This bassinet will cost you around a $1000, but can you really put a price tag on good sleep? I like that the baby is flat on the back in this bassinet as opposed to upright in other sleeping products that incorporate motion. Again, the more like a flat crib the better. I also like that the motion turns off, and that the baby can be swaddle. However, it is unlikely this product will work too long after 4 months of age. The SNOO website states it can be used up to 6 months of age. This really does make sleep rather expensive for those first 4 months of life. If I had to choose, and money wasn’t a problem, I would definitely choose this over a swing, rock n’ play, or other inclined sleeping products.
DockATot: The DockATot is ever popular right now! The DockATot will set you back about $175. But there are a few things you should know about his product before you rush off to buy it. First, DockATot is not safe to use in a crib, bassinet or other contained area. I recommend using this product directly on the floor in a safe space. Once you are ready for your baby to start sleeping in their own room and crib I recommend transitioning out of the DockATot. I love the DockATot for naps or sleeping on the go (think at the beach or on the plane) but transitioning out of everyday use can be very challenging.
Swaddles: I do consider swaddles an essential item and recommend them across the board. There are many types to choose from and it can be hard to decide which one is best. I do, however, have a favorite here. Keep reading to find out which one it is!
Adain & Anes: This is your most basic and probably most popular swaddle out there. It is essentially a large muslin thin blanket used to swaddle your baby. On the positive side it is less expensive than other swaddles coming in at around $45 for 4 swaddle blankets. Because this swaddle is light it is great for those summer months and is easy to layer under in the winter. Now on the flip side, the swaddle wrapping technique can take some practice to get perfect, and if not done correctly can result in the child breaking out of the swaddle, and disrupted sleep. Other than the one arm out method (which can get messy in the swaddle blanket) there is no easy way to transition out of the swaddle. As you will see with some other swaddles, this one also lacks any option for the child to practice self-soothing.
Velcro Swaddles/Miracle Blankets/Others: In truth, there are so many different kinds of swaddles out there, that offer something more than your basic swaddle blanket. These options are more expensive than the swaddle blankets ranging from $29 for the Miracle Blanket to the Halo Swaddle at around $25. These are both much easier to swaddle in, as the design eliminates the need for the complicated wrap technique. However, all of these swaddles still use hands down swaddling which prevents early self-soothing techniques. Many of these swaddles provide extra measures to keep hands in the swaddle and prevent any escaping, but not all are created equal. The miracle blanket seems to be the best for any escape artists out there. These swaddles recommend the one arm out technique to transition out of the swaddle and their design makes this technique easy.
Love to Dream Swaddle Up: The Love to Dream swaddle is the only swaddle that offers the option for swaddling with the arms up by the face. This position actually supports early development of self-soothing skills as most babies use their hands by their face to self soothe. This is also a more natural, and likely more comfortable, position for babies to sleep in. The Love to Dream Swaddle is about $29 on Amazon. With only a zipper it is the easiest swaddle to use. The love to dream swaddle also offers an easy transition option with the Love to Dream Swaddle 50/50. I can’t recommend this swaddle enough! The promotion of self-soothing in this swaddle is genius! This swaddle also works great for babies that resist the swaddle. In my experience, those babies (about 1% of babies) are not resisting the swaddle, but instead resisting the hands down position.
Swaddle Transitioners: All babies will need to transition out of the swaddle, but not all babies will do so with the same level of difficulty. Most parents try the one arm out method first since this can usually be achieved with the swaddle that you already have. In this method, you would continue to swaddle the baby but leave one arm out. As the baby adjust to that change you would then take the other arm out but continue to swaddle around the chest. If your baby is struggling to make the transition you may find these products helpful, and yes I have my favorite!
Love to Dream Swaddle 50/50: The Love to Dream Swaddle Up has a separate transition product that allows for the one arm out transition method. This product has a zipper on each arm, and when you are ready to transition you simple unzip one of the arms and continue to use the product as normal.
Zipadee-Zip: The idea behind this product is that by completely enclosing the baby’s arms, while creating space for movement, your baby can adjust to not being swaddles while still being able to feel the outer edges to create some security. The Zipadee-Zip comes in at around $39 and many parents swear by it! For me this one doesn’t quite top the charts because I don’t personally like that the hands are covered. Babies are unable to get to their hands and often end up sucking on the fabric and wearing it down faster.
Merlin Magic Sleepsuit: If your child is showing signs that she may be ready to transition out of the swaddle before 4 months (rolling over, breaking free, increased night wakings), or is having a difficult time transitioning after 4 months this is the perfect option! This suit provides the comfort and security your baby is seeking without the limitations of the swaddle. Parents often report their babies adjust almost immediately and begin sleeping better. The Merlin Magic Sleepsuit is around $39 and is worth every penny to overcome that 4 months sleep regression.
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Noise Machines: The final product I want to highlight is a noise machine. Noise machines help sleep from the time a baby arrives here up through adulthood. Loud noises wake us up, noise machines drown out noise and help us sleep. It’s as easy as that!
Dohm: The Dohm noise machine is favorite noise machine because it provides a continuous, boring, fan sound. In fact, there is an actual fan inside creating a pleasant sound instead of the computerized fan sound. The Dohm machine is right around $50 and because you will use it at least through those toddler years it is money well spent!
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