The best sleep products you’ll ever buy!
Sleep deprivation is one of the most debilitating and emotionally challenging aspects of parenthood. As parents, we spend hours mulling over this most talked about subject, comparing our little one’s sleep with anyone who is prepared to listen.
There is no denying it, if a product claims to ‘help’ your child to sleep, you’d crazy not to buy it. After all, today’s retailers know how the promise of sleep is music to most parents’ ears.
However from swinging hammocks to illuminated cot mobiles (sometimes a necessity for an unsettled new-born), these products and many others can unintentionally create inappropriate sleep associations and become counterproductive.
Having been a professional in this field for a long time, I can say with confidence that no product on its own will miraculously teach your child to sleep, so choosing the right product and using it effectively is the key to maximising your baby’s sleeping potential.
So what products really are worth their weight in gold and will go a long way to helping your child to develop positive sleep habits?
The Swaddle blanket
There is nothing new or revolutionary about swaddling, in fact babies have been swaddled for centuries around the globe, so why is this ancient practice so beneficial?
When your baby arrives into the world, it is born with a primitive survival reflex, known as the startle or Moro reflex. This reflex produces involuntary, spontaneous jerky movements causing your baby’s sleep to be regularly interrupted. By wrapping or swaddling your baby, you will significantly reduce these movements and help to create the familiar restricted conditions that the womb once evoked.
If you consistently swaddle your baby at each sleep time, he will quickly interpret it as a cue for sleep and be able to wind down. Some parents find it beneficial to add a few drops of lavender oil to the swaddle wrap so your baby recognises it as the sleepy time smell.
It is important that when your baby is awake, he is able to engage in active play which gives him the freedom to kick and use his arms and legs; this will also enable him to differentiate between play time and sleep time.
Around 14-18 weeks of age the startle reflex starts to fade and your baby should no longer need to be swaddled. If you want to do this gradually, loosen the wrap over time and switch to a sleeping bag.
Contrary to belief, babies settle much quicker and sleep more deeply when exposed to white noise. That’s not surprising when you think the conditions in the womb can reach as much as 80-90 decibels, comparable to the sound of a vacuum cleaner. *see chart
Babies can get stressed and overtired easily, especially when their world is over stimulated with too much excitement and bright lights. Using white noise will help to create a safe space for your baby to sleep and unwind and help him to interpret the sound as a sleep cue.
During sleep, babies have what are known as sleep arousals, where they stir briefly every 20 – 45 minutes as they shift between sleep cycles.
White noise helps babies to gently navigate through these arousals to get longer more restorative sleep. It also helps to block out the noises of life, especially if you live near traffic, have noisy neighbours or older siblings in the house.
Most children can successfully be weaned off white noise around 12-18 months, and you can gradually do this by turning it down further and further each night.
Snugly toys, blankets and comforters are all beneficial in teaching your child to sleep independently and learn the skill to self soothe.
If you want to introduce your baby to a comforter, the best time is when your baby has stopped being swaddled, approx. 4 months of age, and can easily reach out, grab and snuggle the toy.
Before you introduce it to your baby, try sleeping with it or wear it inside your clothing for a few days, so all your comforting mummy smells will be absorbed onto it. It’s ALWAYS worth investing in 2 identical comforters, and switch them round regularly so they both smell and wear the same, just in case one gets lost.
If your baby is securely attached to their snugly toy, instead of crying out or needing you to comfort back to sleep, he will find his snugly, sniff it, snuggle it, rub it on his face and often suck on it to go back to sleep. This is your baby effectively using his snugly toy to self soothe. Once he’s attached to it, it’s likely to stay with him for a long time and form a very special bond.
You can even buy comforters that have special straps or clips, designed to safely secure your child's dummy to, thus breaking the habit of the invevitable 'dummy run' at night and making it much easier for your child to find it.
There is nothing like the comfort of a snugly toy when in unfamiliar territory; hospital stays, first day at pre-school or a sleep over at a friend’s house.
Sleep trainer clocks
This ingenious gadget is designed to help toddlers stay in bed for longer and combat the perils of early risers. There is nothing worse than being constantly woken at 5am by a cranky over tired toddler who hasn’t had his full quota of sleep.
Unless we teach them, toddlers can very quickly slip into the habit of waking up too early which can then have dire consequences for the rest of the day.
Too much day sleep, daylight savings and external noises can often play havoc with your child’s natural wake up time, so it’s important to address this very common complaint.
Sleep trainer clocks can be used effectively with children from 2 years of age and should remain a consistent part of their sleep routine.
To maximise your success, it is best to address the problem gradually over a few weeks, as rushing it won’t allow their body clock time to adjust.
It is really important at first to set the trainer clock to come on close to your child’s usual wake up time. For example, if your child usually wakes around 5am but you would like him to sleep till 6:30am, then first set the clock to come on at 5:10am and get him up at this time. Once your child has grasped the concept, you can then move the time forward by 10 minutes every 3 days until you get to the desired time, allowing your child time to adjust.
Sleeping bags are designed to provide a cosy, safe and comfortable alternative to traditional sheets and blankets. Not only will your baby remain covered up throughout the night, but there are no blankets to kick off causing your baby to wake up feeling cold.
It also creates a safer sleeping environment since there are no sheets or blankets to wriggle under that may pose a suffocation threat.
Most sleeping bag manufacturers follow the international TOG rating system to indicate how warm the sleeping bag is and how many blankets it is equivalent to, the higher the TOG the warmer the sleeping bag.
Bags with rating 1-2 or below are suitable for spring / summer use and ratings of 2-2.5 are suitable for autumn and winter.
Sleeping bags can be used effectively up to the age of 3 and are a great way to prevent your child from climbing out of his cot. They are also very handy when going away as your child will be able to sleep in something familiar that smells and reminds him of home.