Here’s hoping your little ones were as sleepy after the big Thanksgiving turkey dinner as I was! And in the event that a good night’s rest isn’t on the menu, here are my top product picks for putting your little ones on the road to dream land.
#1 – The MVP: The Technique (The Happiest Baby on the Block)
One of my cousins recommended this book after having her little girl and my grandmother bought me a copy while I was pregnant. It’s an interesting read and, whether or not you subscribe to the author’s idea of the “missing fourth trimester,” the techniques are solid. This book gave me the inspiration, skill and confidence I needed to find that magic combination of stimuli that would consistently calm my daughter down so I could get her to sleep (which happened to be absurdly loud “shushing” sometimes with additional accompaniment from the bathroom exhaust fan or blow-dryer, vigorous jiggling and a good, tight swaddle). Even though I’m certain my baby was especially calm by comparison, I would swear by these techniques and the reassurance they provided.
#2 – Swaddlers
I received some super cute, gauzy organic cotton swaddling blankets as a baby shower gift. But even with a diagram provided in the book above, it just wouldn’t work. I could not fold the blasted things so that my little one would stay a nice, neat, tightly wrapped baby burrito. Each time I would try, my daughter would wriggle out in mere minutes. Maybe I should have spent more time in grade school folding paper airplanes and fortune tellers. But I didn’t so now I’m a nerd who can’t fold a swaddling blanket. That’s where Velcro comes in. These little swaddlers provide a nice, tight, secure swaddle without all the fuss. I’m not sure I could have survived without them!
#3 – Arms Reach Co-sleeper
I had a co-worker who insisted that what I really needed was a Pack ‘n Play but I had page after page of reviews that suggested otherwise. It’s a portable crib! It’s a play yard! It’s a changing table! Based on the reviews I read, it was a jack of all trades and a master of none. I had a stationary crib, a changing table, and a variety of mobile things in which I could place my baby for safekeeping. What I needed was one thing—a temporary sleepy time headquarters. I looked into simple bassinets and was shocked at how pricey they were. I even entertained the idea of a Moses basket but we live in scorpion country and anything that sat flush on the ground didn’t appeal to me. After much searching and reviewing, I settled on the co-sleeper which worked quite well. Our bed was too high up to use it as an actual co-sleeper which was okay since I had to get out of bed to change the baby each time she woke up to nurse anyway. What we have really loved is how easy it is to collapse the co-sleeper and pack it away in its little travel bag complete with handle. In fact, this bad boy just traveled with us to Indiana and back earlier this month!
#4 – Phillips Avent DECT Baby Monitor with Temperature Sensor
At about seven weeks, we decided to move the baby downstairs into her own room which meant we had to find a baby monitor. My neurotic side REALLY wanted a video monitor but after reviewing our options, we just didn’t feel like the range was big enough. It was also really important for us to find a monitor that had a temperature sensor and alarm because our room and the baby’s room are on different air conditioning units. If hers went out in the middle of the Arizona summer, we’d have no idea. This monitor fit the bill plus the DECT technology helps allay my fears of someone tapping into the frequency and eavesdropping. And after using it, we found that it had some bonus features that we really loved. We started training our daughter to self soothe as soon as she was in her own room which involved the heart-wrenching practice of allowing her to cry for a specified amount of time before going in to comfort her (another activity for which the countdown/stopwatch timer from my feeding roundup comes in handy). We found that, with this monitor, we could turn the volume off during these periods of self soothing while still seeing whether or not she was making noise by looking at the indicator lights. This practice was EXTREMELY difficult for me but this monitor helped and after a short period of time, our daughter became a proficient self soother and we all enjoy higher quality sleep now as a result. After about six months of use, we could no longer turn the parent unit off and we have nothing but good things to say about Phillips’ customer service who quickly replaced our unit.
#5 – Breathable Bumper
Most child safety advocates including the American Academy of Pediatrics consider crib bumpers, particularly soft, pillowy crib bumpers, unsafe citing risk of suffocation. Full disclosure—although the breathable bumper has been endorsed by some pediatric groups, the official recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics is still no bumper at all. We started out with no bumper and for a good while—as long as she was safely swaddled—that worked just fine. But as soon as she figured out how to start escaping her swaddlers, she immediately started shoving her arms and legs into any tiny nook and cranny she could find. I was so afraid she would manage to wedge a limb between the wall and the crib, I had to find something. The breathable bumper kept her safely inside the crib without the risk of suffocation and that gave me the peace of mind I needed to sleep myself (that is, when the baby would let me).
#6 – Sleep Sheep
Not only did my wonderful cousin recommend the book in the MVP spot, she sent me a sleep sheep. I used this thing so much I wasn’t sure I would be able to sleep without it after moving the baby to her own room! I would inevitable hear her stirring in the co-sleeper next to my bed and I’d quickly roll over, restart the Sleep Sheep, pop the pacifier back in, cross my fingers and say a prayer that she’d sleep just a little bit longer! And more often than not, it worked!
#7 – Pacifier
This one may seem obvious to some of you, but I had decided before my daughter was born that I wasn’t going to use one. The breast feeding class I took suggested that babies who are introduced to a pacifier before breastfeeding is well established risk latching difficulties. For me, breastfeeding success was the Holy Grail so I didn’t even buy any. Then she was born and the reality of sleep deprivation set in. If I didn’t want to nurse for hours at a time, I was going to have to give the kid something to suck on. Thankfully, we had been given two or three pacifiers at the shower so I dug them out and popped them in. And you know what? Nursing turned out just fine.
#8 – Pajama Separates
We started out with one-piece ensembles which was fine. If you’re looking at one-piece sleepers, I recommend snaps and not zippers (it’s no fun to have to unzip the sleeper all the way just to change a diaper). But as the baby grew, it seemed like she was sizing out of the one-piece sleepers after the first wear. That’s when we decided separates was the only way to go. Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to find cute sets like this one at sizes smaller than 12 month so we fashioned our own with pajama sweatpants we found sold individually combined with Gerber kimono style tee shirts. These days, pajama separate sets is all my munchkin wears.
Incidentally, this one doesn’t cost a thing. Having a consistent bedtime routine goes a long way to helping everyone in the house get a good night’s sleep. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be as long as you can repeat it each night. At about six o’clock each evening, I begin our nighttime ritual:
- Change the baby’s diaper
- Give her a good wipe-down to get rid of the day’s grime
- Give her the last feeding of the day
- Brush her teeth (and before that it was her gums)
- Give her a pacifier and her comfort object (a little tiny No More Monkies Jumping on the Bed themed blanket)
- Read her Pat the Bunny Sleepy Bunny
- Say our prayers
- Turn out the light and rock her for a little bit
After establishing this routine, it’s incredible how quickly she clues into what’s going on and starts settling down. It makes bedtime a pleasant, calm, loving experience for all of us and given how little quality time I get to spend with my daughter during the week, being able to enjoy that time means the world to me.
That’s the sleepy-time edition of the One Mama Roundup! In the next installment, I’ll review my top picks for keeping your little one so fresh and so clean!