Want the inside scoop of which products and books I love and recommend to my clients (and use in my own home!)?
Over the past 5 years, I’ve researched and tested countless white noise machines, toddler clocks, nightlights, timers, sleep sacks, loveys…anything that a baby or child might use to have a better night’s sleep! I’ve read every book I’ve found on sleep – whether it’s on the process of sleep training or children’s books on the bedtime routine, sleeping in a big bed, getting rid of the pacifier, having bad dreams…
Some of the books and products help to achieve the goal of getting a child to sleep better – falling asleep on their own with the right swaddle or sleep sack, sleeping in later with the right blackout shades, etc – and some make things more convenient – the right nightlight for baby nightwakings or preschooler bathroom trips, a great portable and lightweight travel crib…
The list below are my favorites – the ones that I have personally used and thought were the best (and my clients agreed). I’ve included a summary (like a mini blog post) of why I chose each and which factors to consider. And I will keep this list updated as I find new products I love!
Best DIY Sleep Training Book
Yes, working with a consultant is definitely an investment (of both time AND money!) – and as I’ve been told, worth every penny!
But I realize that it’s not possible to work 1-on-1 with every family, so if you want to try something on your own to get your baby to sleep, I recommend this sleep training book.
It’s the best do-it-yourself sleep program for babies in my opinion (and I’ve read every sleep training book on the market!), it’s an e-book and short enough to get through in an hour or two so you can start immediately. There are two “middle ground” methods in this book which I often use with clients, so no leaving baby to cry alone all night or co-sleeping.
Remember that any book on sleep training has its limitations since every child and individual family circumstance is different and they can’t answer all the questions that will come up along the way like a sleep consultant would, but it gives great advice on getting rid of sleep props, getting on the right sleep schedule and consolidating night sleep.
Best White Noise Machine
I’ve tried several white noise machines and phone/ipad apps to see white one was the truest white noise. I’ve tested some that sounded like broken vacuums and others sounded like horses clopping claiming to be white noise?! Many have multiple features that have a type of mediocre white noise, plus birds, waves, waterfalls, night bugs, etc. Many cycle in 30-45 minute intervals.
You want one that is just white noise. Nothing with any rhythm that the brain can concentrate on and no water sounds (ever turn the faucet on to get your child to pee??), and it should be continuous for the entire nap or night sleep, not turn off and restart because inevitably your child will be transitioning to the next sleep cycle and completely wake up.
This white noise machine is the one I have in our house and we traveled with it when the kids were smaller – it came in very handy in hotels with elevators close by or loud guests coming back to their rooms late or visiting grandma’s house with different sounds. It’s also great to drown out thunderstorms, early morning birds chirping outside the bedroom window, 5am garbage trucks and dogs barking next door.
I don’t consider white noise to be a sleep prop – it’s doing its job of blocking sound while you’re sleeping – and you can always turn it on after your child goes to sleep so she doesn’t depend on it to fall asleep (once great sleep habits have formed).
Best Blackout Shades
I find it (almost) funny how blackout shades are not usually the complete-room-darkening-experience they claim to be. Don’t you just hate it that you can still see perimeter light around the edges?! Grrr!
So for my own sanity and my clients’, I went in search for true blackout shades that would provide a pitch black sleeping environment, even at 5:15am in the summertime.
I found a great blackout shade that provides window coverings for any size window and it will completely block out the light. (Psst…if you’re on my newsletter list, you’ll see there’s a 10% off code – to get on the list, just look for the sign up box on the sidebar for the Free Guide.)
Not long after becoming a sleep consultant, I realized that not all nightlights are created equally. Many are just too bright that it’s necessary to diffuse the light somehow. But more importantly, very few nightlights are beneficial for natural melatonin production, which is what helps us fall asleep at night.
Most light (from bulbs, tv/computer/tablet screens, etc) has the full spectrum of light, but the blue light is the problem when it comes to sleep.
This company has solved the blue light problem. They have the best nightlights – without the blue light and bright enough to guide your little one who gets up in the middle of the night to the bathroom or for you to see enough for night feeds, so it’s easier to fall back asleep.
They also have low blue light glasses which I swear by – I wear them every night and travel with them. They’re especially helpful if you’re on an ipad, computer or watching tv right before bed. It’s recommended to wear them 1-3 hours before bed to help the melatonin production (I usually wear them the last 45-60min before bed.) I will be the first to admit that they aren’t the most attractive things to wear, but when you have trouble falling asleep because you watch the news or are working on your laptop right before bed, it’s worth it! They have children sized glasses for those kids who read before bed with their bedside lamp on and also clip on reading lights for older kids and adults.
Best Product for Overnight Leaky Diapers
When a baby is fed all night, it makes sense that he’ll go through a few diapers because of the number of ounces he’s consuming. As you start weaning from the night feeds and really focusing on that last bedtime bottle, many parents see an improvement in the wet diaper issue, but if you’re still struggling with leaky diapers in the middle of the night, try these. They have a 5 star rating on Amazon because they work so well!
Best Timer to Transition to Bedtime
A friend recommended I look at this product when I was at my wit’s end with my youngest who easily spent 50 minutes eating a sandwich and a few carrots at lunch. He’d barely finish before it was dinnertime?! When I started using this timer, magic happened at our kitchen table and he was more cooperative and ate in a timely manner. And then I used it in the mornings before school to get everyone out of the house in time and it made a huge difference for us!
Soon I started referring it to clients who had kiddos who were reluctant to head upstairs for the bedtime routine…or those who would prefer to stay in the bath for hours and come out kicking and screaming…and every family who tried it said it made a big difference because they were no longer “the bad guy” making kids stop playing and head to bed – they could blame the timer!
This timer is a visual cue of time so even littler ones can grasp the concept of time (and more importantly, how much they have left) and it has so many uses. It comes in various sizes, but this is the one that I have and seems most versatile.
Best Nursery Thermometer
And according to the National Sleep Foundation, the best room temperature for sleep is mid 60sºF – and I’ve found 68-70ºF to be a great range for babies and toddlers. (During the cooler months at our house it’s set at 62ºF, but my kids are older and can pull up the comforter if they get cold!) A great way to check if baby is too hot is to feel the back of the neck or chest – don’t rely on hands and feet because those often feel cooler because of their circulation.
According to the EPA, the humidity in the bedroom should be 30-60% (more than 60% will promote mold growth which is something to be avoided, especially for those with developing respiratory systems!).
What I like about this thermometer is that it isn’t specifically made for a nursery (so you’re not paying the “baby premium”), it calculates temp to the nearest tenth of a degree and doesn’t have any extra bells and whistles – just the indoor temp and humidity (which you want to track especially if you’re running a humidifier so you don’t have an issue with mold growth). It sits on a table or shelf, but if you’d like to hang it on the wall, you could use velcro dots so you can remove and change the battery.
Best Products for Congested Babies
A large number of clients I work with are former Rock n Play users – and their babies had never been laid down in a crib flat before we started sleep training! Most of the time it’s because the Rock n Play is nest-like and helps the parent get longer stretches of sleep temporarily (all the while making it more of a sleep prop!) but there are other moms who do it because their babies seem to be congested a lot.
I love this product to help clear those little nostrils so baby can breathe better because it’s very hard to be successful with sleep training when baby can’t breathe well!
Using a saline spray is also helpful to loosen the snot and mucus. I like this saline spray because the natural ingredients help clear and moisturize the nasal passages and if some drips down the throat, it’s a sweeter taste than the normal salty saline.
And because most tissues start to feel rough when the nose is red (and I’m not a fan of the tissues with added lotion and fragrance), I like these wipes because they have soothing, natural ingredients including aloe, chamomile and Vitamin E with no parabens, phthlates or alcohol.
And especially in the colder weather, it’s important to keep moisture in the air in the bedroom. I like this humidifier especially because the output it perfect for the average nursery and there are no filters that need to be cleaned or replaced (although like any brand, you do need clean with vinegar weekly if using daily). See above info for the thermometer to make sure humidity levels are in balance so mold growth isn’t promoted.
Best Portable Travel Crib
When my kids were small, we used Pack n Plays, because those were really the only ones in the market space, but they were extremely bulky and harder to travel with. Now there are so many portable crib options and when the 10th client said they loved this crib, I knew it was a winner.
The feedback I’ve gotten is that this portable crib is very lightweight, easier to set up and take down, folds into a flatter, briefcase shape, has a very sturdy design and won’t tip over, the fabric is machine washable and is toxin free and it has a thicker mattress than other portable cribs.
If you already have a pack n play and regularly use it at the same place (ie grandma’s house), I’d highly suggest getting a real mattress for it – it makes ALL the difference! (Just make sure to measure the space and get the correct sized mattress.)
Portable cribs are very useful when you go to grandma’s house for a weekend, a party at a friend’s house and know you’ll be there late, or on vacation where there may or may not be an adequate crib to use. I think for most people they like the idea of traveling with their own crib – they know it doesn’t have other children’s germs and their child will sleep in it based on past experience.
When an older baby or toddler is used to sleeping on you or next to you, it can be a transition sleeping on their own in the crib. That’s why I suggest replacing the old lovey (YOU!) with one that can go in the crib.
Before you introduce a lovey, it’s always a good idea to speak with your pediatrician to make sure your child is developmentally ready to have one. I’ve seen doctors ok loveys as soon as 3-4 months when baby can push up on arms and is starting to roll, and others say it’s better to wait until 6-9 months.
One suggestion I always give to clients – buy a duplicate! When your child attaches to the lovey, just imagine leaving it on a plane or losing it at a friends house. Much better to have a spare (I bought two extra’s for my son – I’m not one to tempt fate!) AND rotate them – wash the lovey with the crib sheets so they wear the same. You don’t want a well-loved lovey and a new looking lovey!
If you’re looking for a little square blanket without an attached stuffed animal, this little blanket is my favorite. It’s thick enough to be huggable and super soft…My oldest still has his 11+ years later – it’s a keeper! Or this company has little blankies that are luxuriously soft as well!
If you’re looking for that’s both a blanket and a stuffed animal, this lovey is a great option. I like that there is no rattle or squeak in the stuffed animal (loveys kids sleep with shouldn’t make any noise!) and it’s soft and huggable without being bulky.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS include:
- Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
- Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
- The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
- Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
- Wedges and positioners should not be used.
Many parents choose to have baby close to the side of the bed for easy middle of the night feeds, which happen so frequently the first few months. For safety reasons, I like co-sleepers that are separate from the bed so baby is within easy reach but there isn’t any risk that a parent will roll over on him. This is the best co-sleeper that several of my clients have used and loved for the ease of use and multi-functionality.
Best Crib Bumpers
For those that habitually get an arm or leg stuck in the slats, this bumper is great. It’s breathable so if your baby rolls into it, she can still get air, unlike the old plush, decorative bumpers that posed suffocation hazards. It also works with most cribs and is very easy to put on the crib. What I don’t like is that once baby is mobile, it can sag down in the middle and you have to readjust.
Another option is to buy these bumpers that wrap around the individual slats on the crib – if your baby is rolling around in the crib in all directions, you’ll want a bumper for each slat. If he seems to gravitate to one side or corner, just buy enough bumpers to cover that area. Many parents like these better than a traditional bumper which can scrunch down over time.
Best Toddler Clock
Toddler clocks are great to use once your child has transitioned to a bed – hopefully no sooner than 2.5-3 years old! – and has trouble “remembering” to stay put in bed until morning!
There are so many on the market – but I found many have limited functionality, have pieces that break or are too confusing for kids to understand in the middle of the night.
This toddler clock is a good one (the Classic version is also good) – it’s an easy visual cue of when your child should be in bed and when he should wake up, has four levels of brightness AND you can set it for both bedtime and naptime (and weekend – although I recommend keeping the same schedule 7 days a week so your child’s body doesn’t have to keep adapting back and forth!)
There is a little learning curve to setting the times, but once you do it it makes sense. And I wouldn’t use the lullabies – music in bed can quickly turn into a sleep prop and isn’t necessary.
Best Sleep Sacks
When it comes to sleep sacks, there are several to choose from, all with slight variations. I’m a no-frills kind of person, so simplest is best in my book. This sleep sack does exactly what it’s supposed to do – it’s a wearable lightweight blanket so your baby or toddler doesn’t get tangled in a blanket, but doesn’t get too hot during the warmer months. For colder weather, this sleep sack is great.
I’m not a huge fan of the sleep sacks that combine a swaddle only because I find parents using them far too long (babies shouldn’t be swaddled once they start rolling over!).
If your toddler is getting frustrated with sleep sacks, I recommend getting one with the feet openings. He’ll stay warmer and these toddler sleep sacks make it much harder to climb out of the crib, should he get that idea in his head :)
Best Book on Introducing Solid Food
I am not a dietician, but I’ve done a ton of research with people who are (especially when it comes to babies and reflux!) and I’m a firm believer that food can either help your body or hurt it.
Because I have a child who was diagnosed with food allergies at an early age, my radar is always up for food issues with my clients. Again, because I’m not a doctor, I don’t diagnose food allergies or reflux, but I know when things aren’t progressing the way they should and will then point you back to your pediatrician for testing.
Since more than half of the babies I work with are between 4-6 months old, many of the parents are just at the stage of starting solids.
This book on introducing solid foods is a wonderful comprehensive resource and includes which foods to try at what age, how to make healthy cereal options, and which foods to avoid as choking hazards.
Remember you always want to only try one new food every few days (to make sure there isn’t an allergy) and I usually tell parents that it’s a good idea not to try new foods during the 10-14 days of sleep training.
Best Sleep Books
Need a book to help your child sleep in his own bed instead of mom and dad’s room? Try this book.
What I really like about this one is that while it is geared toward parents who are ready to transition away from co-sleeping to having their child sleep in his or her own room, it doesn’t focus ONLY on mom and dad’s bed. The little boy in the story explains why sleeping on the couch or in a sibling’s room wouldn’t be very comfortable or relaxing, but then goes on to why silly places (like the refrigerator, garage and dog house) wouldn’t work either. By the end of the book, the focus has been drawn away from sleeping with mom and dad because of all the other places the character has explored.
Looking for a book about transitioning from a crib to a big bed? This this book.
What I like about this book is the positive message it sends about transitioning from the crib. This one doesn’t try to persuade the child that it’s better to sleep in his own bed…it shows that there’s a natural progression for animals and humans alike as they get bigger. If you’re looking for a book that will convince your child that his big bed is just as good as mommy’s bed, or shows how children should stay in bed at bedtime and during the night, this will probably not satisfy your need. This book illustrates the sequence of getting to the big bed (which is on the very last page), rather than focusing solely on sleeping in the big bed.
Ready to get rid of the pacifier? This is a great book.
It’s a longer board book that explains why it’s time to give it up, AND what you can do once it’s gone. It gives strategies for what to do when you miss it, and all the things your child can now do when it’s not constantly in his mouth!
If your child is motivated by rewards and you need to get rid of the pacifier, try this one.
Does your child have bad dreams?
If you have a preschooler or early elementary aged child who has frequent nightmares or night terrors, first I would say there’s something else going on. My best guess is overtiredness.
But if your child is going to bed early enough and getting the right amount of sleep for her age and still having the occasional issue either falling asleep or waking in the middle of the night, then this book on what to do if you have bad dreams is for you.
I love how this book teaches kids how to process what they’re feeling and be proactive in a solution.
The nightmares depicted aren’t scary in a dark and stormy night kind of way…they are more upsetting situations for a child (i.e. not getting dessert for 3 days, being locked out of the house, growing so big he couldn’t get a hug from daddy, being left by a friend). None of the illustrations have monsters and won’t scare your child…
Do you have a favorite product that’s not on this list? I’d love to know more about it! Send me a note HERE.
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Photo credits on 1st collage: (from top clockwise) Deposit Photos | olesiabilkei; Dreamstime | Serhiy Kobyakov; Deposit Photos | aletia; Deposit Photos | VadimPP
Photo credits on 2nd collage: (from top L clockwise) Deposit Photos | romrodinka ; Deposit Photos | kobyakov; Deposit Photos | iofoto; Deposit Photos | rbvrbv; Deposit Photos