If you’ve read my earlier post then you’ll know that in the early months we had real problems with my daughter L’s sleep. In comparison, my son J is a great sleeper (he was just born that way). During our desperate sleep-deprived search for something to help L sleep through the night we tried a number of infant sleep aids. Whilst all babies are different, I’ve put together a list of some of the aids we tried and what we liked or didn’t like about them, to hopefully help other parents desperately searching for a few hours of sleep!
The Good – Dummies and the Sleepyhead Deluxe
Dummies (Pacifiers to our North American friends)
There seems to be a bizarre amount of embarrassment around the use of a dummy. We feel the need to justify it ‘he only usually gets a dummy at night-time but he’s teething today’ or to explain ourselves ‘I know she shouldn’t really have a dummy and I try not to use it too much but it’s the only way she’ll sleep’. People tell us that it will interfere with speech development or that we’ll never wean them off the dummy. Really? Never? So she’ll be twenty and heading off to college with a dummy will she?! Unlikely.
Frankly if you want to use a dummy and your child will take one then go for it. Obviously don’t go completely overboard and make your child live their entire life until school age with a dummy in their mouth, but a baby using a dummy to help them sleep at night isn’t the end of the world. Most evidence of potential harm is in children over one year and I haven’t found any studies that demonstrated harm in babies only using them for sleep. Here is a link to a summary of current opinion on dummies.
I used a dummy with both of mine. L settled better for naps and at night-time with it and I used it to calm her if she was upset. She didn’t have it much when she was awake unless she was distressed and not settling. I don’t think it caused any problems with breastfeeding as I assumed she was hungry if she was due a feed and fed her instead of giving her a dummy… that seemed like the obvious thing to do. She also started talking at eight months so it can’t have delayed her speech too much.
The only problem we found with it was that sometimes she woke in the night looking for it and it then had to be found and given back to her, which did disturb our sleep. I met a mum who scattered eight dummies through the cot each night so her little one was likely to find one unaided if he woke in the night. We didn’t go to quite that extreme but I understand the urge that prompted it!
We took L’s dummy away just before her first birthday and expected all the doom-and-gloom prophesies to come true – she barely seemed to notice. I strongly suspect this was luck but do wonder if the younger they are the easier it is to wean them off the dummy.
J lets me know he’s tired by opening and closing his mouth until I give him his dummy. He then spits it out just before falling asleep and doesn’t seem bothered about it when he wakes in the night. He’s only three months though so I’m currently living in fear that he’s just lulling me in to a false sense of security.
Obviously there has been a lot of controversy around sleep positioners/nests/pods etc. Here is a link to a great article that discusses the safety concerns in detail.
Essentially the Sleepyhead Deluxe isn’t included in the current list of banned items, BUT it doesn’t meet the Lullaby Trust guidelines on sleep, which are that baby should sleep on a firm, flat mattress with a waterproof cover and that cots should be empty, with no soft toys or cot bumpers. The Sleepyhead has raised edges and so doesn’t meet these criteria.
Like everything, you have to weigh up the pros and cons and make the choice that’s right for you. Personally, I love our Sleepyhead and have used it with both of mine. The main benefit is that it’s essentially a portable bed – mine have slept in it in restaurants, in our kitchen, in the living room, in their next-to-me cot at night… we’ve used it when travelling to save having to take our bulkier travel cot. Even L slept better in it when she was small than she did on a normal mattress.
It also eased the transition in to her large cot-bed in her own room, as we used the Sleepyhead in the cot-bed for a few months to get her used to the new environment, before removing it to let her sleep freely.
There are downsides – they aren’t cheap and L outgrew hers by about four months old. There is the option to move on to a Sleepyhead Grand but I wanted her to have the option of moving around more at night so we didn’t upgrade to this. The cost of extra covers for the Sleepyhead deluxe is really expensive and changing the cover is hard. We avoided this altogether by simply putting a fitted pram sheet over the Sleepyhead and changing that.
On balance though I still love our Sleepyhead and it does seem to help babies to feel safer and sleep better.
The Bad – Fisher-Price ‘Rainforest Peek-A-Boo Leaves’ Musical Mobile
Now this isn’t a bad product, but we bought it because I read several reviews that claimed it helped babies to sleep. L was about a month old and I was knackered, so I phoned round until I found a shop that had it in stock and then drove to pick it up. This was the days before Amazon Prime and the idea of waiting 3-5 days for delivery filled me with despair – I needed sleep!
Now this is a lovely mobile – bright and colourful, a choice of 3 songs or you can opt for ‘rainforest sounds’, lovely moving animals to look at and the mobile part detaches so you can just use it as a music box on the cot for older babies.
However, it is a bad, bad sleep aid. It’s loud (even on the quietest setting), the whirring of the animals is loud, the music is stimulating rather than soothing, the animals are absolutely fascinating to little ones. Both of mine have loved it but it hasn’t sent either of them to sleep (even J who can sleep under almost any conditions). I used it to keep them happy for twenty minutes whilst I had a shower or made lunch and I actually really like it, but I definitely purchased it under false pretences as a ‘sleep aid’. I have since had a couple of people recommend the grow-with-me version, which is supposed to be quieter and more sleep-inducing, but I haven’t personally tried it!
The Frustrating – Ewan the Dream Sheep
I actually really loved Ewan in some ways – L definitely settled better with his white noise on, he was cute, his light seemed to be almost creepily hypnotic to babies (which I was tired enough to count as a plus) and I liked that he could attach to the cot or pram so he didn’t get lost.
However, Ewan had two major flaws – he had to be manually turned on and he was ‘sponge clean only’. The first point was a problem because he only stayed on for 20 minutes. This is great if you have a child who falls asleep within 20 minutes, but L sometimes took hours to fall asleep. There were nights where my husband and I used how many times we had to turn Ewan back on as our indicator of how long we’d been trying to get L to sleep.
She also wanted him on every time she woke so every time she woke we had to get up and reactivate him. This created a bit of a love-hate relationship with him as he was helping L to sleep, but not so much us!
L adored Ewan and he went everywhere with us. I sponge cleaned him regularly but he could never get wet as the electronics are integrated in to him. It was only when I bought Ewan as a gift for a friend and saw the pristine white new one next to my daughter’s grey and worn one that I realised how ineffectual the sponge cleaning was. Sponge cleaning is never going to be enough with messy infants.
However, a new ‘Ewan deluxe’ model has just been released, with a motion sensor and removable electronics so that he can be machine washed! I haven’t tried a new Ewan yet, but I suspect that given his price of £39.99 for the deluxe model, he has just become a more affordable alternative to the myHummy!
The Absolute Best – myHummy’s ‘Snoozy’
When J was born my brothers and sisters-in-law got us a ‘Snoozy’. It has now become my absolute favourite infant sleep aid and is indispensable to us. If I was only allowed one sleep aid I would choose this every time. You can read my full review, but essentially it’s like Ewan with his two flaws fixed and it works like magic on our entire household, kids and adults!
No Day is so Bad it Can’t be Fixed with a Nap – Carrie Snow
Sleep is a fundamental need and parents can base their lives around the quest to obtain some. There isn’t a solution that works for everyone but I hope that this quick look at some infant sleep aids will help you in your quest. Godspeed tired parents!
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