We’ve all been there: You’re super sleep deprived as a new parent. Your infant has nursed (or bottle fed) themselves to sleep, and they’re peacefully sleeping in your arms. You can’t wait to put them down so you can grab a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, and as you put them in their crib (or bassinet, or wherever they are sleeping) they wake up! And start crying. 😫(A slient “noooooo” goes off in your head). So you go back to rocking, bouncing, holding them, and every time you try to put them down, they wake up! (ahh!) OR – they go to sleep just fine but wake up every 3 hours at night! Baby sleep is one of the most common topics I get asked questions about. The “12 hours a night” baby seems like one of those elusive goals many of us are chasing after. And I get it – lack of sleep can make you CRAZY. Many of you know that I have two kids (Layla – 5 years old and Ayan – 17 months old). What you might not know is that both kids were terrible sleepers for the first 8 weeks of their life. Layla, for example, did not sleep from 9pm to 4am every single day for 8 weeks straight. No matter what we did, she never slept. She didn’t sleep in the car, on a plane, or in the stroller from the moment she was born. It was ridiculous. My husband and I were so tired we started hallucinating (and trying to pick up) imaginary babies in our house! It was crazy. Ayan fell asleep just fine but woke up every 1-2 hours for the first 8 weeks of his life. His longest stretch was 3 hours, and while that might be normal, I was starting to lose my mind with all the middle of the night feedings. That is when we knew we needed to get creative when it came to getting Layla (and eventually, Ayan) to go to sleep. So, for all those sleep deprived parents out there, here are my baby sleep essentials to help even the WORST sleeper!
The Miracle Blanket Swaddle is the #1 item on my baby sleep essentials must-have list for babies 0-3 months. The name is not overstating things, it really is a miracle!! We bought 4 of the Miracle Blanket Swaddle and never regretted it. They come in lots of colors too which is nice. All of the other swaddle blankets were useless for us. Both Layla and Ayan got out of them in 0.5 seconds and did not sleep. This was the only swaddle that both of them stayed in. They would fight it when we were wrapping them, but as soon as they were in the swaddle and being rocked they calmed down instantly. The Miracle Blanket Swaddle suppressed both of my kids’ startle reflex and calmed them down when they were sleeping or upset.
#2 | Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit
This is basically the miracle blanket version for babies older than 3-4 months! As soon as Layla and Ayan started breaking out of the Miracle Blanket (around 3ish months) we transitioned to the Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. They have two sizes, 3-6 months and 6-9 months. It looks ridiculous but works like a charm and is great for transitioning out of the swaddle. Again, both kids would immediately calm down in it, and we sleep trained Layla in it (for Ayan, we sleep trained him earlier at 2 months so he was still in the miracle blanket but more on that later!) Both kids slept 12 hours straight through the night in their crib from 4 months onwards with Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit, making this another baby essential must have!
#3 | Other Swaddles
The below swaddlers come highly recommended by many people. However, they did not work for us, but I wanted to throw out a couple of different options for you to look into!
The Aden + Anais Swaddles
The Aden + Anais Swaddles are totally useless as a swaddle (IMO), but great as a baby blanket. So even though we didn’t use these for a swaddle we loved using them! We would put them on both kids when they were in the carseat or stroller, to block the sun when they were in the car, or even as a makeshift nursing cover when we were out. These swaddle blankets are the perfect blankets for babies in those hot months in warm areas!
The HALO Sleep Sacks
The Halo Sleep Sacks ended up collecting dust at the bottom of Layla’s dresser. Sometimes we used them for Ayan as a sleep sack but not as a swaddle, or we’d use them as a blanket when we were out and about if it was a particularly cold day, but we couldn’t really find a great use for these. I’d suggest you buy the Miracle Blanket first! You can always transition to the looser swaddles (Aden + Anais, HALO) as your baby gets older.
#4 | Fisher-Price Cradle & SwingThe Fisher-Price Cradle and Swing saved our lives because it was literally the only place Layla would sleep. We would swaddle her, put her in the swing and turn it on. The Fisher-Price Cradle and Swing was a miracle worker. We went from short stretches of sleep at night to Layla sleeping 10-12 hours at night without waking up (around 8 weeks old!) Note: before you use your swing for overnight sleep, talk to your pediatrician and watch this video and read these two articles (article 1, article 2) on how to achieve safe sleep in the swing.
I think the Fisher Price Cradle and Swing taught Layla how to sleep through the night at a young age because the rocking motion of the swing would put her back to sleep if she woke up. I don’t know what we would have done without this amazing device. But Ayan wasn’t a fan of the swing, he actually liked to be still when he was sleeping, but this isn’t true for most babies!
Even if your baby is a good sleeper, the swing is a great place to put them if you need some hands free time! The rocking motion + music + mobile in the swing are all helpful in keeping your baby entertained and relaxed (whether they are awake or asleep!). So, this is a definite must on my baby sleep essentials list for the worst sleeper!
#5 | Rock N Play
We used this for both Layla and Ayan – for Layla it was more for just a place to put her during the day when she was an infant, but for Ayan he slept in this for the first 6 weeks until we transitioned him to the crib. We didn’t buy a bassinet because it just felt like an expensive purchase for something we wouldn’t use for very long, instead we used the swing, rock n play and their crib for sleep!
#6 | Marpac Dohm-DS Sound MachineWe used the Marpac Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine from Week 1 onwards for both kids. It fills the room with a neutral, calming sound that is really relaxing and it has two volume levels. This is another must on my baby sleep essentials list! Layla has always been a light sleeper so we still keep it on in her room to drown out outside noise so she doesn’t get woken up!
This is a great solution if your baby is older than 3 months old. All you have to do is put 8-10 drops of this oil into your diffuser and you’ll fill your baby’s room with a calming scent guaranteed to help them relax and fall asleep. I still use this in Layla’s room on a regular basis!
#8 | Video Monitor
When Layla was born, we bought this video monitor from Motorola on a recommendation from a friend. What’s funny to me is that it doesn’t have great reviews on Amazon but we have had literally zero issues with ours. We have had it for 5 years and it’s still going strong! Super durable and reliable. But because of the reviews, I did some research and it looks like this monitor from Infant Optics is a great option, and for something more affordable I’d recommend BabySense or ANMEATE. I prefer a video monitor over just audio, especially when kids begin sitting/standing in their cribs. And it’s a great tool for sleep training!
#9 | Baby Bjorn Travel Crib
We used the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib over a traditional pack and play, because it was much more lightweight, compact and easier to assemble than a pack n play. The Baby Bjorn Travel Crib serves all of the same functions that a pack n play does (e.g. a play yard if either kid was awake, but needed to be in an enclosed space so I could get some stuff done). We got a ton of mileage out of this because Layla would use it as a toddler bed when we traveled until she was 3, and now we use it for Ayan when we travel! We also liked this option better than the Lotus, which I found more cumbersome to assemble.
#10 | Sleep Training Books
Now, I know sleep training is a controversial topic, and it’s not for everyone. But for us – it was 100% the way to go for both of our kids. And even though both Layla and Ayan had different sleeping temperaments, it worked for both of them! I’m going to write a separate post about the process of sleep training, pros/cons, etc. but if you are thinking about it and want some good resources, these are the books I’d recommend reading:
- Precious Little Sleep – I have heard so many great things about this book from other mamas, especially about how the advice is practical and easy to implement!
- 12 Hours of Sleep by 12 Weeks Old – This one is great for parents who don’t want to just straight cry-it-out. Think of it more as a limited crying solution that you start slowly and progress over time with!
- Baby Wise – Written by a pediatrician, this is one that has been really popular in many mom groups I’m in
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child – A good book if you’re looking for more information on cry-it-out from a pediatrician with over 30 years of experience.
- Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems – This is Dr. Ferber’s book, who is famous for the”Ferber method” of sleep training.
- The No Cry Sleep Solution – The title says it all. If you don’t want to use cry-it-out for sleep training, this book is for you!
- How to Teach a Baby to Fall Asleep Alone – A reader recommendation who swears by it! 🙂
Was this list of baby sleep essentials helpful? Be sure to grab our guide to your baby’s first year where we share all the essentials worth having as well as other helpful tips!