Whether you are expecting a baby or are purchasing for a new family, there are many (too many) choices when it comes to sleep. According to the Safe Sleep guidelines, the safest way for your baby to sleep is on his/her back in a safe sleep environment that is firm and free of extra items: no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads. Now that we’ve had 2 kids, difficult sleep journeys aside, I wanted to share the items that worked best for our family:
Infant Sleep Necessities
- Bassinet – Although not necessary, we found it easier to have baby in our room from the start, allowing for easy access to breastfeed throughout the night. We found it more comforting to have baby close, and studies have shown it to be beneficial to baby as well. We used the bassinet that came with our Uppababy Vista, making it a great all-around purchase that we still use 4 years later!
- Bassinet Sheet – These were hard to find, but make it easier to keep the bassinet clean – babies spit up a lot!
- Rocking Bassinet Stand - We used the Jolly Jumper stand and had it rigged up to a belt to rock more easily without the parent having to sit up. Our boys were both rough sleepers, but it helped in the very early days.
- White Noise - I’d call this absolutely essential, although we didn’t believe it at first. You can buy white noise machines; we used an iPad playing a waterfall track from iTunes in the early days, or an iPhone if we were on the go. In the first few weeks, the sound alone sent Damien to sleep. Now that he’s older, we still play white noise on an old iPod Speaker Dock to minimize the number of times his older brother disrupts his sleep.
- Miracle Blanket - The recommendations on swaddling vs not swaddling keep changing. For our two boys, it was essential, but not long lasting. We tried regular blankets of many sorts and several specialty items. The longest one to last was the Miracle Blanket, since it was the hardest to “escape” from. Our boys both rolled early and were very mobile at night, so we stopped swaddling each before 6 weeks old.
Baby Sleep and Beyond Necessities
Our kids moved to their own rooms at 4 months, for Aiden, and 2 months, for Damien. I wish we had made the move earlier for Aiden, who struggled a great deal with the distractions of our room. For both of our boys, we have found the ideal set-up to be:
- Convertible Crib / Bedroom Set - We made the unconventional decision to buy convertible cribs for both boys, instead of using a crib for both. Our logic is that we are buying not just baby furniture, but furniture for their whole lives. Ideally, you would buy a whole set: crib (with conversion kit to make it a toddler bed and/or double bed), dresser, bookshelf, side table. By buying all items early, we ensured the items will never go out of stock. Tip: when buying a whole set, envision the style that would be appropriate for a teenager, not just an infant!
- Crib Mattress – Choose a mattress that is firm and ideally water resistant, eliminating the need for a waterproof mattress protector. Who wants to do extra laundry? Not me!
- Sleep Sack – A wearable blanket in the appropriate weight and size for the season. Aiden wore these until he was almost 3, when he switched to a blanket. You never have to worry about tucking in with one of these! Tip: choose one with a hidden zipper at the front or side. Avoid ones with snaps at the top, which come loose easily.
- Crib Sheet – Choose a sheet that fits snug and still has some softness to it. We have foundmany too loose. Our favourite crib sheet is from Skip Hop.
- Breathable Bumper – Although bumpers pose a suffocation / SIDS hazard for young babies, and a climbing hazard for older ones, babies have a habit of getting arms and legs stuck in the bars of their cribs! We solved this with a breathable bumper.
- Crib Rail - If your convertible crib doesn’t come with a safety rail for use in the toddler bed setting, a safety rail is essential. My 4-year-old still needs his (he rolls a lot) and we plan at least one more year in the toddler bed setting.
- Video Monitor - Although not essential, it is so helpful to see your baby to know if they are crying in their sleep (totally unaware) or if they maybe need your help. Plus, for older kids, you can spot when they’re not in bed! We personally use wireless cameras we connect to our phones, but if you’re not tech savvy, any baby video monitor should work.
- Toddler Bedding – For older kids, choosing bedding is not easy. Depending on how much your kid tosses and turns and the temperature of your room, you could choose a quilt or a comforter. Since top sheets cause an unnecessary amount of “can you tuck me in?” requests, we use a blanket only. We learned the hard way to ensure that the blanket is larger than the bed area, so it doesn’t come off too easily. We now use a thick quilt from Pottery Barn Kids that mimics a comforter, but without the need to wash a separate cover.
- Toddler Pillow - Pillows are very personal. The recommendation is to wait until age 2-3 before introducing a pillow, and then introducing one that is toddler-sized. Pillow cases can be hard to find (Pottery Barn Kids has them). Aiden at age 4 still doesn’t want a thicker pillow, as he still sometimes sleeps on his tummy.
- Blackout Curtains – You need to block out the light to get babies to sleep a decent night, and particularly for naps. Aiden has blackout curtains behind his nicer curtains, though Damien has a thicker curtain with blackout sewn into the lining (from Pottery Barn Kids).
Those lists seem exhaustive, but if you’ve been to any baby store, you’ll know that you are pitched far more that you don’t need. You don’t need teddy bears that play heartbeats or fancy night lights or mobiles (distracting) or toys for the crib. Bedrooms are for sleeping – keep it simple!
Aiden isn’t going to sleep tonight for some reason, so he’s babbling. And this is just one of the adventures he’s made up:
I’m a new racing car. Vroom Vroom
Why are you called Vroom Vroom?
Because that’s what my name is.
Why are you called Vroom Vroom?
That’s because I like being Vroom Vroom. That means I’m a race car. All race cars vroom vroom and their names are all Vroom Vroom. Because because weeeee aaaaarrrrreee so big. Gianter than a giant kid. Or than a grown up. Or than a little giant. Or than a big giant. Or a bigger giant.
We are bigger than houses. We are bigger than airplanes.
After many hours sitting in the car for the drive from North Vancouver to Kelowna, we were more than glad to dump our stuff down in our suite at the Cove Lakeside Resort. When we arrived, our room was all ready for us, including our rentals from The Tiny Tourist Baby Equipment Service, which supplies baby and toddler equipment across the Okanagan.
Our hotel was happy to supply a pack & play crib for Damien, but did recommend this service as an option. Knowing we don’t travel a whole lot, and we were going to be there a week, I though Damien would be far more comfortable in a crib. While I was perusing their site, I came across the bed rail option and knew we had to have that for Aiden too! Though he would have a large bed, he still moves a fair bit and he actually fell out of his bed in Victoria last summer!
Aside from their sleep options such as cribs in various sizes and the sleep rails, you can rent a variety of products for your trip including a wide variety of strollers, monitors and gates, high chairs and even toys! The “tub of toys” in particular is customized for the age, gender and interest of your kids, including toys, puzzles, books, bath toys and more! Pretty amazing idea.
As you can see, our kids had no trouble sleeping in the hotel! Damien missed his first nap in the hotel, being thrown off by the experience in the car and being asked to nap so soon after arrival, but after some initial protest at night, he went right to sleep. He woke up once during the night that first night when we made too much noise joining him, but otherwise he was great! Both kids woke about an hour earlier than normal each morning in the hotel, probably as much to do with the sun as with anything!
As you can see, the crib was a big hit with both kids! Aiden loves to play with Damien after his naps.
Disclosure: we received a discount on this service. All opinions in this review are my own.
Once Damien was sleeping well, he gradually dropped all of his feeds on his own for the 12 hours of his night, keeping only the dreamfeed. By 4-5 months, Damien had dropped his remaining night feed at 3am all on his own, we only had to re-enforce the habit. Since then, I’ve held on to the dreamfeed and it has been my special time with him.
There have been times, for sure, when it would have been convenient to be able to stay out past 10:30, to go to bed early or to drink an extra glass of wine without having to worry about feeding a baby at a certain time. But, given all that, I couldn’t bear parting with my special time with my little baby – my last little baby.
Damien rarely wakes up early anticipating the feed, I almost always wake him up when I open the door or approach his crib. I hear him wake up and sometimes smack his lips waiting for his milk (he may also use his milk sign as well, as I get ready to feed him). I am always assaulted by the wonderful baby smell of his room and the warm perfection that it all is. It’s like my own little piece of paradise.
I pick up that sleepy baby and feed him for a few minutes – only 5-10 now, which isn’t very long. There’s no kicking, no fussing, no stretching or pulling of hair. No biting, no banging, no distractions, no preschooler to talk to. It’s just me and Damien and it’s perfect.
After I feed him, I put Damien right back in his crib and he’s oh so relaxed. From time to time, the feed actually wakes him up for a while, but he’s such a content little sleeper that he just chills out and eventually falls back to sleep. He never progresses to fussing in the same way that Aiden did! He rolls over asking to go right into his crib when he’s finished his milk – no cuddles necessary.
It’s an amazing experience, nursing a baby, and the dreamfeed has been my little oasis of calm before bed. I’m sure the oxytocin was a nice boost too!
Last night, I didn’t offer Damien milk at his usual time and he slept right through to morning, no problem. I’ve known for a while he probably wasn’t hungry, but he’s my baby and I was selfishly waking him up to spend time with him. I’m going to miss those special times.
At least I know that he’ll probably still have some night wakings when he has a cold or is teething or whatever. Then again, he popped a tooth out during those 12 hours and didn’t make a peep!
Now, if only there was a sniff detector in his room, since he sometimes dirties his diaper while falling asleep and doesn’t cry, so we don’t know. ;)
I am proud to say that I have a baby who sleeps!! Damien has now slept 3 nights for at least 13 hours with only one feed!
Damien goes to bed at 6pm (sometimes earlier) and gets his dreamfeed at 10:30 (sometimes he wakes up a little earlier and I feed him then) then sleeps all the way until 7 or so!
Crazy! Amazing! Yay!
After sleep training Damien from 6-9:30pm, Damien has eliminated his night wakings all on his own; all we’ve done is re-enforce his habits. For example, after 2 nights of dropping his 3:30am feed, when Damien woke last night at around that time, I left him to quietly fuss and he was back to sleep in under 5 minutes.
Sometimes babies wake up and need help going back to sleep; but sometimes, if you give them a chance, they can surprise you! Damien definitely did!
I am SO glad he decided to drop his feed on his own, I wasn’t looking forward to ‘forcing’ it (since keeping it may have caused him to regress & wake more often). I was still tired and the idea of staying up to watch him on the monitor with maybe some crying wasn’t appealing. We knew that 12-16 weeks is a time when babies often regress on sleep, so it was amazing that he did this on his own.
Our sleep consultant, CheekyChops, says that once babies drop their night feed, they’re usually able to figure out longer naps too. We tried some nap extension training but it was more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’, so we’re waiting a couple more weeks before trying again – he did take one nap of nearly 2 hours by himself, so perhaps he’ll surprise us again and figure them out on his own. Stay tuned!