Baby gear baby gear! (baby products for sleep!)
I am obsessed with baby gear, let me just start right there with that. Even though, no, I do not technically have a baby anymore, wahhhh time please slow down.
I got a lot of questions and comments after my post on why I think sleep training is so important for mental health. Lots of people like sleep training for babies! Lots of people think sleep training is bad for babies!
And, mostly, LOTS of you had questions about how we sleep trained, the sleep training programs we liked the best (I read them all, it feels like) and what baby products for sleep we used, what products were wastes of time, etc.
Now that we're through training our two babies (Beck is almost 5, how, why), we've pared down our list of sleep items to the best of the best. I'll update this list every so often to be sure it's still relevant as my kids get older.
Our Favorite Baby Products For Sleep
We actually received ours as a gift when Will was born and liked it a LOT for quasi-co-sleeping when he was super teeny, travel, and naps until about 3 months. We swaddled him in the Dockatot and I think it gave him a nice secure feeling and helped him sleep longer earlier. Lots of people don't have this experience after about 4 weeks old, though! We didn't have one with Beck. They're expensive and honestly while I loved it I'd look for a used one.
We got hot and heavy with sound machines when Will was born because Beck went through some stuff becoming a big sister and it was really, really loud. He also was learning how to exist in the world and it was really, really loud.
We did the following: First, sound machine in her room, white noise app on my phone for him when he was in our room. Then, sound machine in hall between their rooms once he moved to his room (about 4 months yes I know that's early, it worked for us) and another one in his room. Now he has one in his room and asks for it by name before he goes to bed. I don't worry about it as a crutch because crutches are really useful tools that keep injured people from falling down. Not a bad thing.
See above! The small version is rechargeable and we used it tucked into Will's car seat when he was a baby (the same works with phone apps!) and now take it with us on vacation. It's really helpful to position sound machines between baby and noise, so we kind of move them around everywhere we go.
The only swaddle that did really well for us with both kids. We were gifted a gazillion brands and this is just the one that kept them IN. We also swaddled for a long time because our kids were very thrashy with their arms (the Morrow reflex woke them up alllll the time and also if their arms were out they'd knock out their pacis) and this was the strongest thing we tried. Zippers and velcro just are not as good as a tight swaddle with baby weight to hold everything in.
Also. If you have a really wiggly baby who gets out of the swaddle and gets pissed, don't assume it's because "they hate to be swaddled." Babies don't know what they do or do not like, besides being tired, which no one likes. Will got out of his swaddle a ton, and I found this video of adding a regular swaddle blanket UNDER the "real" swaddle (a double swaddle!) and it kept him really confined and able to sleep better. This is a great use for the gazillion "regular" swaddles you get as baby gifts, and I sometimes would do just the first layer of the double swaddle, tucking the blanket all the way under his body, and it kept his arms securely by his side.
Sleep training for babies is a LOT about being confident about what will work even if babies seem to hate it, can't express that enough.
This is what we used when our kids were bigger! We stopped swaddling with both of them before 6 months, and then use(d) sleep sacks until Beck moved to a big girl bed. Will is still in his, and loves them. Sleep sacks eliminate the question of "when are they old enough to have a blanket" and also can help with climbing out of the crib. Our kids still could scoot around in them with no problems to get paci or whatever lovey they lost in the middle of the night.
Only after actual fear of the dark happens! Beck got a night light after she turned two, there was some kind of crazy regression and I figured out that her brain had grown, she lost her shit at bedtime, the nightlight helped. Bougie pink salt is optional, but go as dim as possible to give comfort without a phone-before-bed effect. I won't get one for Will until he demands one.
Nuk newborn silicone pacis FOR LYFE. We have tried every brand. We have bought fancy new things. Both of our kids love these and we never go up a size, figuring that if they get so old that they can request a paci that better suits their mouth shape then we need to wean the paci. I am very pro paci ESPECIALLY for newborns but honestly it's not something our pediatrician worries about. He legit one time was like "she'll go to school and kids will make fun of her, it's fine" when Beck was three. We went with it, and I feel like weaning, while painful, was less so because she was a little bit able to understand that other kids her age didn't use pacis anymore (she wasn't mocked, that was a joke).
No joke: when the pandemic started one time I couldn't find a paci, and I panic bought 6 on Amazon, and we haven't lost one since. So, there's that.
Books and Sleep Training Programs
One of the originals, the 4 S's were life changing for us with Beck. Jay got really involved in infant soothing with this book, and it was key for us starting to understand how easily tiny babies get overtired and how to avoid the exhausted-meltdown-that-looks-like-colic-and-certain-death.
How many times have I mentioned this blog? A savior website, I pored over the baby sleep posts in the middle of the night with Beck, learning bit by bit how to read baby's cues, how to strategize schedules that would let her sleep but not keep us locked in too strictly. It's also where I learned about the 2-3-4 schedule for babies about 7 months old, and kept a vague version of that schedule with my kids until they dropped their second nap at 20 months, ALTHOUGH on that, my kids never could stay awake for 4 hours in the evenings without a lot of carbs and TV, but that's just us.
A holy grail of newborn training, the newborn class was really instrumental in me learning to help Will sleep better, earlier, without any crying or official sleep training. I didn't use the bigger-baby sleep training program because I sleep trained the same way I did with Beck, but people absolutely adore it and I hear over and over again how this particular teaching method is really helpful for empowering families. Her Instagram account has boatloads of free knowledge, and I always point clients there first so they can get a feel for the style and some tips before investing any money.
One of the best tips I got and now give is to get a bedtime routine nailed down early. I'm not into begging children to do things that I know are good for them, so we use a clock as the bad guy, not us. "It's 7:30, here we go!" rather than "ok, let's start thinking about bed, are you ready to sleep?" is much easier for us and the kids - they know what's happening, we know when it is happening, no one has any options.
Our bedtime routine for Will is about 5 minutes, and Beck's is about 10 minutes. Some people do lots more things like baths as a "regular" thing, longer rocking or stories etc, and that's great! We just don't. We do often turn off screens about 6:30pm with a 7:15 start time for bedtime in mind. Sometime's it's later, it's fine.
Will's routine is like this: He gets a diaper change and grabs his penis, says "weiner man! got it!" and then yells BUTT PASTE until I put some one. Very important. I put on his sleep sack, he says "zip it up!" We sit down in his glider and read two shooooort baby books, usually that he chooses.
We close his blinds and turn on his sound machine, turn off the light. Those things are really short but we talk about them with words every.single.time, which I think contributes to giving his brain the message that sleep is coming.
While we do the little tasks above, I sing You Are My Sunshine twice (kind of while walking around the room and holding Will), and then Will says (because I say it every time if he doesn't), "all right, lie down!" in his sweet little baby voice. He pops his paci in, I put him in his crib and tell him I love him, walk out and close the door.
Sometimes he goes right to sleep, sometimes if he's had a late nap we hear him chatting with his friends for awhile in his crib. He never cries or whines unless something is actually wrong (usually that some important friend fell out of the bed), and he sleep until almost 8. This is by design, not because we are lucky: we trained our kids hard on these routines and they work really well for us.
I don't do milk or bath as "part" of the routine, though often they come right before the actual Steps To Bed start. Eventually, though, I don't want Will to think that milk is something that is required to fall asleep, so we separate them when we can.
Beck's routine is similar without as much fanfare because she knows how this goes down. We read a book (hers are longer so usually only one), review any plans we have for the next day to get excited about, and sing a separate song. We count 8,716 bedtime friends, locate anyone that has gone missing, and I tell her the time before bed. She can't actually tell time, but I show her where each of the hands are pointing and say "that means it's 7:40" or whatever. Maybe it'll be helpful some day?
For both kids: Our favorite bedtime books! These are our tried and true, memorized, love them forever books that we use for going to sleep.
Beck goes right to bed but recently has done some water/bathroom back and forth. We ignore it unless it goes on and on, figuring that we can't make anyone sleep, nor will we say no to water or potty, but we can enforce upstairs quiet after a certain time.
Ok, PHEW. If you read all this way I appreciate you so much! I hope this was more informative than boring.
More than that, though, if you have any favorite gear, strategies, methods, or tips, LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS! Pin this article! Share with your friends! Sleep training can be such a massive relief when it's done for families, and the more knowledge we have on this page the better.
Also. I know some people are game to wait until babies sleep on their own, love cosleeping, and feel really differently about sleep training than I do. THAT'S TOTALLY GREAT! This article is not for you. Everyone is a good person no matter what they do about kid sleep.
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