I like to sleep. And I am really good at it – just ask anyone who knows me. I can’t think of any sports, hobbies or academic interests that I am adamant my children inherit from my husband or me. But, I am determined to share the “talent” of good sleep with them. I’m in the midst of this right now with my almost 5-month-old daughter and she’s really got a knack for the Zzzzz’s! But, oh my, when my son was about 3 months old we were all in a desperate state of sleeplessness. He was awake every 90 minutes at night and wouldn’t nap during the day unless someone held him while bouncing on a yoga ball. It was Crazy Town at our house and we had no idea how to get the heck out of there. I called in an expert: Vivian Sonnenberg, Infant Sleep Consultant.
Sleep is one of those hot-button parenting issues (right up there with vaccinations and discipline) that I believe deserves this blanket statement/disclaimer: every parent needs to do what is right for their family. So, without getting into the nitty gritty of our sleep approach, I would like to share some of my favorite products and mantras surrounding serene sleeping:
Keep It Simple and Stay Consistent: Vivian emphasized from the get-go how crucial it is to create a consistent sleep routine. It’s important for little ones to be able to rely upon a familiar routine, and it’s important for us to not unintentionally overstimulate them in the process. So pick something that works for your family, keep it brief, and stick with it.
- “Anti-Stimulation” Nursery Design Tip (pretending that’s a word): hang a mobile over your changing table instead of the crib. A curious baby will forego sleep to gaze & squeal at a mobile, but those same mesmerized reactions will serve you well during diaper changes!
Make It Cozy & Natural: There’s a difference between being snuggly and just plain sweating. So many sleep sacks, footed pajamas and baby blankets are made of synthetic materials. I don’t know about you, but my skin can’t breathe in 100% polyester, so I’m pretty sure my kids suffer the same plight, just without the capability to tell me about it. Cotton against skin is soft and breathable. Here are some favorite cozy finds:
The Kangapouch might be the most amazing sleep item on the planet! Yes, you are seeing it right. That is a down comforter sleep sack! This badboy has been a sleep staple in our household. During the colder months, a long sleeve cotton t-shirt or onesie and socks serve as the perfect undergarments. (If you live in a colder climate you could add pants, but the company recommends just a long sleeve t-shirt for a bedroom temperature of 65-degrees Fahrenheit) During warmer months we simply forego the socks. And the dual-zipper system is brilliant; emergency diaper changes are just a quick unzip from the bottom corner. *Tip: no matter the height of your baby, order a “Tall” so that your child doesn’t outgrow it before you are ready.
I adore Aden + Anais products and have a new love for their crib sheets. As soon as they could roll, both of my kids “chose” to sleep on their tummies. So I’ve learned to forego the sheet that matches the decor best in favor of the one that is softest against their little cheeks. A+A has solid colors, cute patterns, and also offers organic (sheets, blankets, etc). My only complaint is now I also need them to make a twin-size fitted sheet for my muslin cotton-obsessed toddler!
If your toddler or older child sleeps in footed pajamas (the most popular brands are synthetic material), consider a cotton layer underneath so at least the layer the skin touches is breathable. Costco sells great organic cotton pajamas for just $12.
Keep Mommy Calm: Establishing healthy sleep habits takes patience, consistency, and a means for you to maintain your sanity (no, I’m not going to list my favorite red wines in this section…though it’s tempting!). I’m not sure how Vivian would feel about the following products, as some could be seen as sleep “crutches”. They serve as my safety nets and, therefore, I am a more relaxed and confident sleep counselor.
The blackout shades in my kids’ rooms are worth every penny we spent. They let enough sunlight in to convey when it is daytime (so as not to reinforce that infamous nighttime-daytime infant confusion). But it’s wonderful to let them wakeup naturally rather than with the sunrise. The shades also keep the rooms amazingly cool in the hot summer months of our no-a/c home. We buy ours through Interior Style Designs and have loved the products and the service.
I heart my white noise machines. I know, a blacked-out room and white noise – am I crippling my children instead of boosting good sleep habits?! Here’s the thing: I live in San Jose, CA and I think there might be 25 feet between my kids’ windows and those of our neighbors’. This particular neighbor is not awesome, from a mother-of-young-kids viewpoint. I never know when the grown son is going to throw a party, and I guess I’ve never been hip to what time of day or night might be deemed appropriate to work on the engine of a motorcycle. So, little machine of magic (aka the Marpac Dohm Sound Conditioner), I thank you for keeping me from scaling my neighbors’ fence.
- Incognito Tip: after tripping over my sound machine for 2+ years, I saw the recommendation on another blog to put it in the bottom dresser drawer…brilliant! Now I just open the drawer during naps and bedtime and otherwise have it conveniently tucked out of sight. Don’t have dresser room to spare? It doesn’t need it’s own space – my sound machine works perfectly even all nestled in with little tiny sweatshirts and other bottom-drawer kids clothes.
And, finally, the product that keeps me happiest during nap time: my “don’t knock the freaking door because my dog will go ballistic” sign! Etsy artist, ThePrettyPearl, has such a cute take on this tactful way to ask folks to swing by later. I love that, all for one price, the other side of the sign can be designed with your family name to display when quiet time is over. (please note, at the time of this posting the owner of ThePrettyPearl is on leave to welcome her second child! You can follow the link above and request an email notification for when she’s back for business. Or if you are reading this after she has returned, the link should take you directly to her shop page)
I wish every parent could have their own Vivian – that person who is just the right fit for their family to help them through the perils of babies learning to sleep on their own. I hope some of these finds and regurgitation of her wisdom are helpful. Just remember during those endless middle-of-the-night hours or failed nap attempts: you are doing something difficult but so important. You are giving your child the gift of sleep: an empowering talent they will have for their entire lives. So teach them well. And show ’em how it’s done!