Written By Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant, Helen Farmer.
Now, I’m no social media influencer. I wish I was! However, as a sleep consultant, it’s no surprise that I am constantly scrolling through sleep-related social media forums and pages and I can’t miss the vast array of sleep aids and products that are out there these days aimed at new parents and parents with young kids.
And I mean, wow, the power of marketing, I have to admit I’m as vulnerable as the next person to a good advert. Even more enticing in the world of social media we live in, is the impact of the influencers we follow and become a bit obsessed by. So, if they have a new baby and get a new product, well then surely we need to get that too, right? If it’s good enough for them…….
I’m not going to try and go through every new sleep aid and product there is on the market to give it a yay or nay – there are so many I wouldn’t know where to start! But what I am going to do is suggest a few products that I think are useful and conducive to setting up a safe and calm sleep environment for your little one. If I specify a brand it’s because from my own personal experience, it’s something I have, use and like.
At this stage I will also recommend checking out the Lullaby Trust (www.lullabytrust.org.uk) as they have excellent safety advice on buying baby equipment and how to know whether it is reputable.
Here’s my list of ‘Definites!’:
- Black out blinds / curtains. You can get curtains with blackout linings. You can get blackout blinds. It’s up to you and what suits your preference / budget. But whatever it is, as long as it gives you a darkened bedroom effect. You want to be able to achieve about an 8 out of 10 in darkness levels (if 10 is pitch black). Believe me, these will be useful for daytime naps, the brighter evenings in the summer and for all those mornings when the sun comes up at 5am. In my baby’s room I have normal blinds and then curtains with blackout lining. However I do find some light still creeps in above the curtain pole so I have to block that out using my portable ‘Gro’ blackout blind. On that note, portable blackout blinds are brilliant for holidays (1st thing I pack as I find they are often needed in holiday houses!) but they are not suitable for longterm use on your windows so not advised for nightly use at home. I also use my @snoozeshade buggy cover for naps out and about (it protects against UV rays and has a blackout lining to help darken the buggy for naps). I like this product and am very happy that the material is fully air permeable, although nothing is safer than regularly checking your little one- and so I do that too!
- Night light. Sounds a bit counter intuitive to number 1?! And maybe it is. But if you have a completely darkened room and prefer to be able to see your little one when you go into the room, then a small nightlight is acceptable. Also it can be useful when your child gets older and you want ‘just’ enough light in their room for them to safely be able to go to the toilet in the night or whatever. But the important thing here is the colour. Red or amber. Everytime! They are considered the ‘warm colours’. NOT blue / white. So why is it that lots of readily available night lights emit blue or white light?? I’m honestly not sure, but I just know to avoid them! They can give the wrong signals to your brain (signifying daytime rather than night-time).
- A video monitor. (Get one that has a room temperature gauge as well so that you can ensure room stays within recommended 16-20 degrees). The benefits of a video monitor are pretty self explanatory, I think. It enables you to keep a reassuring and close eye on your little one during naps / nighttime. Obviously initially your newborn baby is always with you, but as your baby gets older and starts napping in their bedroom and going to bed before you are, a video monitor is really useful. Saves any 2nd guessing. Little one is quiet. Are they asleep yet? Do they need anything adjusted? You go in to check, and wham, they weren’t quite over yet and you’ve now disturbed them and it’s back to square one. Aghhhhhhh!!!
- A sleeping bag. I love them. There are lots of different brands on the market. They generally come in different togs, and there are often other features available such as detachable arms, zippers with safety covers, even sleeping bags with feet. I use the brand ‘Slumbersac’ and find they have a great range available. Sleeping bags are great because they are safe- the babies head can’t get stuck under the blankets. Assuming you select the correct tog for the room temperature, it’s reassuring to know that your child shouldn’t get too cold or too warm in their sleeping bag, and also it rules out the child being able to displace the blankets and then waking from being too cold. Another big reason I love them is because I believe they can help to keep baby safe for longer in their cot. If your baby is used to being in a sleeping bag from a young age, they will always be content in it. Fast forward to a 2 year old and it’s much harder to try and scale a cot when they’re in a sleeping bag (not impossible I agree….but harder) and hopefully in this instance will buy you more time to reach your child and prevent that happening. Then you will need to consider what’s the safest option thereafter. And last but not least – they are a positive sleep association. If your little one goes into their sleeping bag for every sleep, they soon learn to associate it with sleepy time. It’s a perfect cue.
Other sleep aids (the ‘maybe’ list):
- White noise aids- basically mimics the soothing noises that a baby was used to in the womb. I personally have no strong feeling one way or another towards white noise aids. They can be useful if you live in a busy area where you might want to try and block out traffic, noise on your street etc. As long as you don’t have to return during the night to turn it on, but as most of the ones on the market now automatically come on when your baby stirs, that’s not normally an issue. So, if you like the idea of them, go for it – but just don’t expect a white noise aid to ‘cure’ any sleep challenges your little one is having! And it’s another thing to have to remember when you go away for the night if baba becomes used to it.
Not recommended (‘Definite No!’ list):
- Sleep pods / positioners. The Lullaby Trust very clearly do not recommend any form of sleep pods (nests) or positioners. Instead they advise that the sleep space should be firm, flat and have a waterproof cover.
- Cot bumpers, pillows, duvets. All also not recommended as they are potential risks to a baby’s safety.
- Mobiles / light shows. As a 1st time mum 10 years ago, I read a book by a well-known mum of that time and on her recommendation rushed out to buy an all-singing, all-dancing cot mobile (literally). It played classical music and the mobile went round and round. Funny enough, my baby son never really took to it…. Now, I know better. We want our babies to go to sleep. So why would we want to have a mobile playing or a light show running that will only encourage them to keep their eyes open and watch it!?!?! These items are fine for sensory play or for wind-down time in the baby’s room but they certainly aren’t essential items for the nursery in my opinion, and definitely don’t meet my criteria as an essential ‘sleep aid’!
So there you have it. Really, the items you actually ‘ ‘‘need’ are pretty simple. Nothing too fancy. I hope this helps reassure and guides some of the new mums out there who are confused by the vast array on offer.
Was there anything else I left out that you wondered about?? Let me know if so!!
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