What Are the Best Baby Products for Sleep? Here’s What I Recommend…Mar 14, 2023
As a baby sleep consultant, I’m often asked by parents which products I recommend introducing to babies to help get them to sleep. And the truth is, there are actually a lot more products that I would say are NOT necessary (no matter how they’re marketed) for helping your baby to sleep better or longer, or fall asleep faster.
Check out my blog post on my recommended bedtime routine and how it can help your little one fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer, over time!
While helping your baby fall asleep or get them back to sleep with your help is not “bad” (and is very common and normal in the newborn phase!), if something external is doing the work for your baby or toddler to fall asleep and stay asleep - and that same thing puts them to sleep every single time - it’s likely that your baby will develop a sleep association, the longer it’s being used to put them to sleep.
A few common, strong sleep associations are:
- Being fed to sleep
- Being rocked, held, or bounced to sleep
- Contact sleep only (on a caregiver’s body)
- Falling asleep with a pacifier
If these things work for you and your baby then that’s okay! However, it’s common for these sleep associations to lead to your baby having short naps and disrupted sleep overnight. The reason for this is that babies often can’t fall back to sleep on their own when they wake between sleep cycles during a nap or overnight sleep because they’ve never done it before and need their sleep association to get back to sleep.
If your baby is struggling with sleep, or you’d like some extra support weaning them from any sleep associations they may have, check out my baby sleep guides! No matter what stage your baby is in, I have a guide to help you rock baby sleep.
Now, there are a few things that I DO recommend for better baby sleep that are NOT considered sleep associations. Read on below to learn what they are and why I recommend using them, even when practicing independent sleep habits:
Using White Noise, Darkness, and Sleep Sacks for Better Baby Sleep
Sound machines (or white noise) have been found to promote sleep and help little ones stay asleep for longer stretches of time.
However, it’s important to note that the noise from your sound machine is not meant to put your baby TO SLEEP. Instead, sound machines should be used for the sole purpose of blocking noise out of your baby’s room so your baby is less likely to have their sleep disrupted, helping them stay asleep longer. When used this way, they are not considered a sleep prop, since your baby won’t rely on the noise itself for falling asleep! If your baby can sleep without something, it’s not a sleep association - even if it helps them sleep better or longer.
But remember, it’s important to make sure you are not exceeding the recommended decibels, to avoid hearing loss. Check out my blog on safety recommendations when using white noise machines with your baby.
Darkness is a very common concern among parents, as it’s often believed that babies are afraid of the dark. However, kids aren’t developmentally able to be afraid of the dark until around 2 years old. This is why I don’t recommend using a night light for your baby! In the case of babies, it’s really just a distraction that stimulates them unnecessarily.
Darkness promotes sleep, helping us (adults and babies) to fall asleep and get back to sleep when we naturally wake after a sleep cycle. And, if your little one is a cat-napper or early riser, your baby will likely have a more restful sleep in a dark room.
Tip: When feeding or changing your baby in the night, use only a dim night light (red light is even better!) so you can see what you’re doing. The goal is for you both to easily get right back to sleep!
When your little one does show signs of becoming afraid of the dark, try to avoid immediately using a nightlight. We want to acknowledge and respect our children’s fears, but we don’t want to validate that night/dark are scary and that a nightlight is necessary to feel secure! And we also don’t want to assume our child needs a night light or that they’re afraid of the dark. Wait until your child brings it up to you, if at all - as it’s generally a learned fear.
A nightlight can also become a sleep association if it's NEEDED to sleep. If your child falls asleep with the nightlight on but it’s off when they wake in the night, they can become alarmed and need the light turned back on.
And, as mentioned before, if the light remains on through the night, kids can become stimulated causing night wakings, or the shadows on the wall could also add to fears. If you must use a nightlight, I recommend using something dim with a red or yellow bulb.
While your baby is a newborn they will likely enjoy being swaddled to sleep, which can help them sleep well and contain their “startle reflex.” However, the swaddle can become a sleep association and your baby will eventually need to be weaned from it, once they begin to show signs of rolling .
A sleep sack can be introduced after the swaddle has been weaned, and is simply a safe wearable blanket that can help keep your baby warm in their crib. The AAP advises against anything in your baby’s crib (including loose blankets), so a sleep sack is a great option for keeping your baby comfortable and sleeping well before they move into a big kid bed !
If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides! They’re broken up by age and provide step-by-step instructions on how to help your baby sleep longer and better over time. Or check out my 1-on-1 email support package for personalized troubleshooting guidance.
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
Want to receive updates from Baby Sleep Dr. straight to your email?
Join my mailing list to receive the latest news, blogs, and updates! Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
I hate SPAM. Your information, for any reason, will never be shared with a third party.