Updated February 2019
- Newborn Sleeping Spots
- Linens and Mattresses
- Keeping Warm
- Night Lights
- Baby Monitors
- Sound Machines
Ahhh, sleep: the first leg in the holy trinity of babydom.
As a new parent, this is the part of your life that will be most affected by having a newborn baby.
Newborn Sleeping Arrangements
No matter which sleeping method you choose, your little lamb will need a safe sleeping venue. I recommend a crib for the long-term, BUT… don’t be surprised one bit if you don’t use it at all during the first few months. In fact, most parents end up with their baby in their bedroom for the first few months, which I highly recommend (as do virtually all modern-day pediatricians).
You certainly can, by all means, use the crib right away if you choose, but most parents find putting their tiny, helpless newborns into giant, spacious, jail-like (yet well-appointed!) cribs just doesn’t feel right: it’s a bit overkill for a newborn.
Having your baby close by usually feels more reassuring than having her off in a separate room. In addition, practically speaking, middle-of-the-night feedings – whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding – and diaper changes are WAY easier if your baby is right in the same room, nearby, versus having to schlep all over the house. Therefore, I highly recommend a temporary newborn sleeping venue that can go in your room.
Keep in mind that “bassinets” (small baby beds with low walls) can only be used until 6 months or so; once your baby can sit up (around 6 months…), she’ll have to go into something with higher walls, such as a Pack ‘n Play or a real crib.
So, what should you use: a bassinet? A Moses basket? I say neither. Sure, those will do the trick, but I’m not a big fan of expensive items that only get used for a few months.
We’ve broken down your rooming-in options into 5 basic categories:
- Portable Bassinets are, well, portable. We’ve zeroed in on the most portable options, though, and put a lot of emphasis on pricing for this category. This group of sleepers is the “quick and dirty” route to securing a place for your baby to sleep in your room (that you can also move around your home quickly and easily). These are essentially our budget/economy picks.
- Play Yards are the pack ‘n plays and similar products. Your mom probably calls them play pens, lol. These are also economical, but more cumbersome to move around frequently. Whether you use one for everyday overnight sleep or not, you’ll want one anyway (for travel). Trust me on that.
- Co-Sleepers are bassinet-like, but they are distinct because they’re designed to be right with you, i.e., immediately adjacent to, if not attached to, your own bed.
- Bed-sharing doesn’t require anything (and in many ways using nothing is ideal), but there are a few products that tend to make bed-sharing families feel more secure and comfortable.
- Bassinets are your classic, old fashioned in-room sleepers. This category is a little more costly, and less portable, but because they are more “permanent,” you might get a little more use out of them. Plus, they’re pretty – haha.
By the way, if “co-sleeping” and “bed-sharing” sound like a foreign language to you, don’t worry. The differences between co-sleeping, room-sharing, and bed-sharing can be confusing, so here’s a quick run-down on the latest infant sleep terminology:
- Co-sleeping is when parents and babies sleep very nearby, often close enough to touch, either on separate or the same surfaces. It includes both room-sharing and bed-sharing; thus room-sharing and bed-sharing are both types of co-sleeping.
- Room-sharing is when parents and babies sleep in the same room, but on separate surfaces.
- Bed-sharing is when a baby shares its parents’ bed.
The Latest on Safe Sleep
In its 2016 safe sleep guidelines, the AAP actually acknowledged the reality that many parents in the U.S. bed-share, and offered those families some guidance for establishing safe bedtime routines and environments. You can read the AAP’s full policy on this here. For more information on safe bed-sharing, you can also check out these guidelines from the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame University, run by James McKenna, a scientist who has been studying SIDS and bed-sharing for decades. He’s an expert. You might also want to read the FAQ, or just peruse the site.
The first and most important recommendation is to always lay your baby to sleep on his or her back; the next is to always use a firm sleeping surface. The sleeping surface should be firm, flat, and empty (no blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, etc., and no hammocks, swings, seats, etc.).
According to the guidelines, that sleeping surface should be in your room, near your bed. If you do bed-share, one key theme is to plan ahead for it by enacting as many other safe sleep measures for your own bed as possible. *Avoid sleeping with your baby on couches/sofas/chairs, because these spots are particularly high-risk…. more on bed-sharing in a bit.)
Other (at least *somewhat* controllable) ways to reduce the risk for SIDS and other kinds of infant sleep-related deaths include breastfeeding (exclusively, if possible), not smoking, getting prenatal care, and offering baby a pacifier.
The guidelines are not perfect, and even if you follow them to a tee, you can’t protect your baby 100%, but knowing what you can do—and doing it—might help you sleep a little better. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I repeat, the most important things you can do are to lay your baby to sleep on his back, and use a flat, firm surface.
Taking care of a new baby is all about striking a balance and finding what works for you, right? I ALWAYS followed these tenets for overnight sleeping, but when my son fell asleep during the day in his bouncer or his swing, I let him sleep, and I kept an eye on him. Maybe that decision didn’t adhere to the “correct protocol,” but I wasn’t about to wake him up. Knowing what I know, I’ll probably try harder to follow the guidelines better during the day with my daughter… but I’ll see what happens.
~ Brittany Cowgill, SIDS researcher
Now…back to your registry…
Option 1: A Portable Bassinet
$ — Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Portable Bassinet ~ $77 – Economy pick
Starting with the cheapest and easiest solution, the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Portable Bassinet is lightweight and very easy to move around. This is the ultimate cheap-and-dirty solution for room-sharing in the first few months, and it will only set you back about $60. 0-6 months only.
Closely related to that is the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper ($60) – or Auto version ($80) – which is semi-reclined. Please note that using the Rock ‘n Play semi-reclined sleeper for overnight sleeping is super controversial: some docs hate it (because it’s not totally flat and firm), yet many parents swear by it. The portable bassinet described above is the “flat-surface” version of the rock ‘n play sleeper. If you have questions or concerns about your baby sleeping in a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper (the semi-reclined version), please talk to your pediatrician.
$ — Baby Box ~ $70+, or free, depending on where you live
Baby boxes are making quite a splash right now. If you don’t know what they are, they’re pretty much just what they sound like: boxes for babies. For safe sleeping.
Born from a “beautiful tradition” in Finland (although the whole program is quite different as applied here in the U.S.), the boxes are all about providing a safe, economical, ultra-portable place for babies to sleep. The foremost manufacturer (although there are now a few others) is the Baby Box Company, and it’s trying to democratize safe sleep.
The company’s Baby Box University provides access to free information and resources on safe sleep, and for people living in certain areas (with established baby box public health programs), anyone who completes the education program can score a free baby box. (Sign up or check here to see if there’s a program in your area.)
The boxes are as simple as it gets—durable cardboard boxes with a mattress. The big difference in this simple box is that it’s on the floor, whereas the other items here are elevated in some way. This is conceivably a major downside, because it means lots of getting out of bed, standing/crouching down, and picking up baby from the floor overnight, and it might also be an issue for families with other young children or dogs who can easily reach the box on the floor. Nonetheless, the box is a great option for anyone with very limited space, or those on a tight budget. We’ve got a full review coming soon, so check back for more.
$$ — Tiny Love 3 in 1 Rocker/Napper ~ $99 – Can sit up or lie flat
A great alternative to the Rock ‘n Play is the Tiny Love 3 in 1 rocker, loved by pediatric occupational therapists because, unlike the Rock ‘n Play, it can lie completely flat. We love that it’s a bouncer/rocker, feeder, and a bassinet (hence, 3 in 1).
It easily (and without waking the baby) adjusts position from sitting to reclined to sleeping.
It has a toy bar that can be moved aside or removed altogether, features 9 different melodies, and has a vibration setting. It’s also lightweight(ish) and can be easily moved to different rooms or to grandma’s house. Some parents have had an issue with the strap for the bouncer being very small/short, or with the quality of the bouncer component (specifically, its “rockiness”), but overall this is a great pick for a bassinet with added perks, and is generally well-liked by users. (For our prime-time overview on bouncers, read more here.)
$$$ — Fisher Price Soothing Motions Bassinet ~ $150
This new bedside bassinet by Fisher Price has become a quick hit. It’s simple, cheap, looks nice, and has some fun bells and whistles (a nightlight, a music player, ceiling star lights, a mobile, etc.).
The sides are all mesh, so it’s breathable and see-through. Parents specifically note that the bassinet is super-easy to set up and sturdy.
The downsides: the big complaint is that it’s very difficult to find sheets for this (and there’s no good way to wash the mattress pad); another common complaint is that baby can wake him/herself by her own movements (which jostle them awake). FYI, it runs on C batteries (three of them), so stock up.
In this same price category, we also recommend the more reliable Arm’s Reach Clear-Vue Sleeper ($199).
Option 2: A Play Yard
You might hear a play yard called a “care station” or in-room nursery station – one that’s equipped to handle newborns.
In my opinion, the play yard solution is better than a bassinet or cradle because you can use it for years to come, and it’s a must-have for travel. In fact, I don’t know a single parent that doesn’t own one.
By comparison, you will use a bassinet or cradle for 5-6 months (max), and then what? Store it away, sell it… use it as a planter?
$ — Graco Pack ‘n Play
In the economy category, our favorite brand is the Graco Pack ‘n Play—one that comes with a “Newborn Napper” or “Cuddle Cove” feature. The Napper (pictured below) sits on top of the Pack ‘n Play and cups the baby on all sides; it’s like putting an egg into a carton. It’s perfect for the first couple of months.
You can move the Pack ‘n Play around your house fairly easily and it assembles and disassembles in about 30 seconds. When taken down, it folds into a nice, portable, rectangular package that you can easily take anywhere. Far and away, it’s the most useful baby item we have bought to date (and no, Graco doesn’t pay me to say this stuff).
Graco makes a zillion different versions of the Pack ‘n Play with different trim levels and features, but don’t get overwhelmed. At the end of the day, a pack ‘n play is a pack ‘n play is a pack ‘n play. They’re all pretty heavy and clunky (25-35 pounds), but there’s a reason Graco’s got a corner on the market…
At $99, the Graco Pack ‘n Play with Reversible Changer/Napper is definitely a best buy. It’s your classic play yard plus an optional newborn bassinet and a changing table. You can’t go wrong with this. The new edition of this play yard has “quick connect” technology that allows you to take the bassinet piece on and off the play yard in a jiffy and move it around.
If you want more bells and whistles, the Pack ‘n Play with Cuddle Cove Rocking Seat (~$199, below) has all of this plus storage for diapers and an electronics module with music/soothing sounds and vibration.
Like we said, there are a seemingly infinite number of PNP options and upgrades, but, for use from birth, these are the all-around favorites.
Now, there are a few options beyond just Graco:
$$ — Chicco Lullaby Baby Play Yard ~ $199
Another favorite play yard of mine. It’s a durable, well-made (and well-liked) play yard that assembles quickly and easily. It comes with room for storage, a changer, and a bassinet…but it does run very heavy (weighing in at about 40 pounds), so it might not be the best pick if portability is your top priority.
$$$ — 4moms Breeze ~ $300
It’s costly, but moms really love this thing. It’s super easy to assemble and disassemble – seriously, it’s “insanely easy”… it almost makes the PNP’s look like rocket science. It’s a sturdy, durable product (one mom on Amazon even said she crawled in with her baby sometimes), and it comes with a bassinet insert, which is great for longer-term use (first as a bassinet and then as a play yard).
The downsides: some parents complain that the sheets required are pretty pricey ($30 for one for the bassinet and $40 for one for the play yard). If you have the budget for this, or are planning to use it with multiple kids, it’s a great option. (Note that they also now make a play-yard-only version, without the bassinet, called the 4Moms Breeze GO, for $249.)
Over 6 Months Old
If you’re in the market for a play yard for use beyond/after 6 months of age, you no longer need the newborn or bassinet features, so you can just get the standard PNP for travel, called the Pack ‘n Play portable playard, which makes it fold more compactly. Plus it’s a little lighter, about 20 pounds. Pick it up for a mere $54.
BTW, if you end up using your play yard in the long-term, or if you just want a more comfortable “mattress” than what comes with it, you can purchase a separate more permanent/comfortable mattress made by Dream on Me for around $35. (The same company also offers a foam version for about ten bucks more, if you prefer that.)
[More about travel-specific cribs.]
- Graco also makes a smaller version of the PNP called the Travel Lite Crib. My friend with twins has two of these and they fit nicely in her bedroom. Parents love this option as a bedside bassinet, and it’s easy for traveling.
- If you are a grandparent, a Pack ‘n Play or a 4moms Breeze Playard is a must-have for VISITS!!! The 4moms Breeze is much easier/more intuitive to set up and take down and a bit more elegant, but heavier and much more expensive. Take your pick.
Option 3: A Sidecar Co-Sleeper
$ — Arm’s Reach Clear-Vue Co-sleeper ~ $169
If you want something that attaches to your bed like a “sidecar,” check out the Arm’s Reach Clear-Vue Co-sleeper.
It’s a play yard with a removable drop side that you pull up next to your bed. The whole unit secures to your own bed with a strap that anchors to the adult bed frame (it goes underneath your mattress and attaches to the opposite side of the bed). With all-around mesh siding, it’s always easy to see baby next to you. Parents who love this sleeper rave that you can easily reach for your baby to nurse at night without even having to get up (score!). The underneath storage is generous, too, so it’s great for storing middle-of-the-night essentials like extra burp cloths, swaddles, or diapers. Lastly, you also have the option of using it as a traditional bassinet. (Although, note that the drop side might be cumbersome to operate in the middle of the night since it relies on Velcro, which can be noisy.) The downside to this option is that, again, it’s a 0-6 month item; you won’t be able to use it later as a play yard for travel and whatnot (like you can with a PnP).
$$ — Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper ~ $199+
This Bassinest is a good-looking co-sleeping option for those who can afford the price tag.
The Bassinest swivels over your bed so baby is still close to you, and the fact that the sides bend down even enables you to scoop up the baby for middle-of-the-night feeds without having to stand up — yess!!!
It has mesh sides so you can easily see the baby, and you can also adjust the height to fit with your bed. The swivel feature makes it really easy to get in and out of bed instead of having to scoot to the base of the bed to get up (major plus). FYI: the “Essentia” version ($209) is just the Bassinest itself; the “Premiere” version ($249) comes with a little control panel that includes a night light, sounds, a nursing timer, and vibration. IMO, the vibration option is a nice last resort for a fussy baby, but the other features are not all that impressive.
Admittedly, the HALO Bassinest is one of those high-priced, short-lived items, but it’s great looking and moms really, really love it. See it in action here (seriously, the video does a really nice job demonstrating the HALO features). Bassinest, FTW!
Note: HALO also makes a separate, machine-washable newborn insert for the Bassinest ($52) now, if you are looking to minimize empty space for your baby. (It’s for babies up to 15 pounds.) The idea behind the product is that newborns are most “settled” in snug spaces…some moms swear it helps their babies sleep; others think it doesn’t make any difference, so it seems to be a little hit-or-miss. A few people also note that the insert negates the whole see-through feature of the Bassinest, so if that is a top priority for you then the insert might not be the best idea.
*Top Value Pick! Halo Bassinest Glide Sleeper ~ $169
Hooray! Halo now makes an even more affordable option that glides across the floor (yes, that includes carpets) so you can push the whole apparatus away from the bed and pull it back towards your bed quickly and easily (using the little handle at the base of the bassinet). The Bassinet itself is the classic Halo hourglass model, with the mesh lining and drop-down side for easy scooping up of babes. If you’re looking for a great, safe, practical bedside co-sleeper and don’t specifically need or want the swivel feature, this is a wonderful option. (Note that this glider, like the Essentia swivel Bassinest, does not come with the additional control panel that includes a night light, nursing timer, sounds, and vibration.)
Arm’s Reach came out with the Versatile Co-Sleeper ($229) to mimic some of the HALO Bassinest features.
Like the HALO, the versatile co-sleeper can adjust to fit the height of an adult bed and can slide under a raised bed to bring the baby as close to you as possible. Also like the Bassinest, the co-sleeper has mesh sides for breathability and easy viewing, and it comes with a couple of the add-on features that you only get with the pricier versions of the Bassinest: a music box and a mobile. But…the Bassinest still has some unique hallmarks that distinguish it from this new competition: the swivel feature and the easy-to-bend siding. Because of these two convenience features, we’re guessing that moms are going to continue to prefer the HALO Bassinest, but that’s not Vegas odds or anything.
$$$ — Babybay Bedside Sleeper ~ $365
Looking to stretch your dollars beyond the first 6 months? Made in Germany, the Babybay Bedside Sleeper is a sidecar sleeper that later converts into a crib as you transition your baby out of your room. (The conversion kits are < $85.) Made of 100% Beechwood, these bedside sleepers are sustainable and naturally antibacterial. (Although it isn’t formally approved in the U.S. for this, in Europe the Babybay bedside sleeper has been tested with up to 300 pounds weight…as an adult bench. Wow. Needless to say, even though technically it’s only sanctioned for up to 6 months here, many parents abroad use it for their child’s full first year. You probably could too, just saying.)
Those few items are just about all you’re going to find on the market in the U.S. when it comes to side-sleepers, mainly due to the fact that manufacturers are terrified of making baby sleeping venues due to the litigiousness (is that a word?) of our society. You can find a better variety in Europe.
Option 4: Bed Sharing
If you’re sleeping with baby in your bed, as many people do, you may be better off with a shielded area for baby, in my humble opinion. This will protect your baby from pillows, duvets, and other bulky bedding items that are known to be a risk factor for SIDS. While “rollover” accidents are actually quite rare (a parent accidentally squishing baby in their sleep), I promise you will sleep better knowing your baby is protected. That said, these products are super controversial, even polarizing, among parents. If you choose to use any of them, make sure you use them safely.
Note that we have virtually no comprehensive data on these kinds of products, as the AAP specifies in its safe sleep guidelines: “There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of devices promoted to make bed-sharing ‘safe.’ There is no evidence that these devices reduce the risk of SIDS or suffocation or are safe. Some products designed for in-bed use (in-bed sleepers) are currently under study but results are not yet available.” As per the CPSC, there have been a number of fatalities with infant sleep positioners, though, and the CPSC, the AAP, and the FDA all warn against them, so we don’t recommend any positioners at all. If you want more information on safe bed-sharing, you might be interested in reading James McKenna’s suggestions, and you should absolutely talk to your pediatrician.
For an in-bed sleeper, there are a few solid options; they’re all pretty straightforward. Note: these all take up more space than you might imagine, so they’ll be tight in queen sized beds, you’re better off if you have a King!
$ — SwaddleMe “By Your Side” Sleeper ~ $39
It’s super-portable. A similar choice is the Brica Fold N’ Go Bassinet (~$35).
$$$ — Dock-A-Tot ~ $175+
A related, very contentious cult-favorite item. The Dock-A-Tot is a pillow-like structure designed to keep babies from rolling over and is marketed as a “baby lounger.”
There are a number of safety concerns associated with the Dock-A-Tot (not least of which is that it’s a pillow), but some people—ahem, Kim Kardashian [puke]—swear by it. **Please note that the Dock-A-Tot cannot be used safely in a crib, and the manufacturer recommends it for use only with adult supervision. Some parents love it, but at the end of the day we’re left wondering why a pillow that’s unsafe for use in a crib would be any safer in an adult bed?
Option 5: A Bassinet
Last but not least, you can buy a regular, single-trick bassinet. Some of these last for less than 6 months, then you’d transition your baby into a crib (in his own room) or a regular Pack ‘n Play with taller walls if he’s going to stay in your room.
$ — Chicco LullaGo ~ $99
Can be used in your room and is also great for car travel. Also available in the “Nest” version ($129), which has a canopy.
$$ — Graco Dream Suite ~ $169
A pretty cool bassinet and changer combo in the economy category. The bassinet flips over to function as a changer (but note that you need two hands to do this), and there’s some storage underneath. You can wheel it around (and lock the wheels so it stays in place), and it has two vibrating options for soothing.
$$$ — Baby Bjorn Cradle ~ MSRP $349/$279 on sale
Another solid option. It has mesh sides and is really well-built (for being just 13 pounds, it’s surprisingly solid). The Bjorn Cradle is simple, stylish, and safe; parents really love it. It also sways a little (manually), and you can run the mattress through the washing machine.
$$$ — Lotus Bassinet Bundle ~ MSRP $359/$299 on sale
Although it’s technically a travel product, this is definitely worth a look, if you can afford it. The bassinet is super portable, and the beauty is in its simplicity: it’s safe, sleek, and minimalist. It’s easy to set up, low-profile, and lightweight (13 pounds), and can transition into the Lotus Travel Crib, which is our top pick for a travel crib. Parents are loving it so far for its ease-of-use and versatility.
$$$$ — Harvey Karp’s SNOO Bassinet ~ $1295
Last and perhaps least, Harvey Karp’s new SNOO bassinet is getting a ton of buzz right now. It’s going for $1295, pretty steep!! The contraption is meant to mirror Karp’s famous 5 S’s.
If you have no clue what this is, it’s Karp’s five ways to soothe babies by mimicking conditions in the womb: swaddle, hold them on their side/stomach (DON’T lay them to sleep like that, though), shush (white noise), swing (move them), and suck (give them something to suck on).
The five S’s were made famous in Karp’s book The Happiest Baby on the Block, but I think the Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep is a more worthwhile resource.
Anyway, the SNOO is designed to apply (some of) these strategies to help babies sleep better. It has built in vibrations (more like jiggling), sounds, and a matching swaddle (the SNOO sack). The noises and jiggling elevate through progressive stages to calm fussy babies to sleep (the latter ones are apparently pretty intense), and it’s all “smart” – you can control everything from your phone.
It’s supposed to be like a nanny stand-in…it claims to do everything short of feedings and diapers when it comes to bedtime. Thus, if it doesn’t “work” to get the baby to sleep, that means the baby needs something besides comfort and soothing (spoiler alert: when babies cry at night, 97% of the time, it’s because they need to be fed)…. (this thing is not going to feed them…). I also hate to imagine what kind of sleep crutches are being established here.
So far, some parents are raving about it and swear the SNOO was the best baby purchase they made, but others don’t think it’s worth the price tag. Shocker. Karp’s website offers a 30-day trial/guarantee, though, so if you can swallow the expense and want to check it out, go for it! But don’t expect any miracles.
Up in tha Crib
Most parents keep their munchkin in a crib well into the second year (2 years old, or even 3) before transitioning to a “big kid” bed. The majority of cribs on the market are regular, non-morphing cribs, while others can transition from a baby crib to a “railed” toddler crib to a regular bed, which means you can use it well into your little one’s childhood.
Without getting too bogged down in furniture, I’ll mention a few crowd favorites.
IKEA Gulliver Crib ~ $99
If money is tight, this crib is safe and simple.
DaVinci 4-in-1 crib ~ $179
An example of such a “convertible crib.”
Oeuf Sparrow ~ $820
For those more keen to a modern aesthetic. Also, check out Stokke cribs ($799).
You might also opt for a mini-crib, which are becoming increasingly popular. The idea is that “regular-sized” cribs are way bigger than they need to be, and most kids transition to a big kid bed by the time they outgrow the mini-crib.
Parents love them because they are small enough to use as an in-room bassinet (they’re almost the exact same size as a pack ‘n play), and sturdy enough to move into the baby’s room and use as a full-time crib until around 2 years or so.
Bloom ~ $340
Other solid options, like the Delta, can be found at a cheaper price point ($124).
*It’s true that drop-sided cribs were banned in the U.S. altogether due to defects that led to suffocations. You see, many years ago, a lot of manufacturers switched from metal hardware to cheaper plastic hardware and less expensive wood (ahem, “wood”). The plastic hardware gave way, which caused the sliding gate to come apart from the crib and allowed babies to fall between the mattress and gate and suffocate.
If you are considering using a hand-me-down, drop-side crib from someone else, check the quality of the hardware and wood. If it’s cheap, plasticky stuff, just say no (of course, if you’re buying a new crib, this is all a moot point). The same idea goes for buying a used crib/bassinet/cradle of any kind. In particular, many “vintage” or “antique” products, though beautiful, don’t meet the current safety standards, so just be on the lookout for that.
Swaddle or else…
You probably want to swaddle your newborn, at least if you have any hope of sleeping. Yes, MacGyver, you can tie a swaddle with a regular blanket, but as a practical matter, it just doesn’t work very well. First of all, 97% of the baby blankets out there simply are not big enough, are not shaped correctly (rectangular, what?), and/or do not have the right amount of stretchiness to tie a proper swaddle.
Second, your baby just has to squirm a little to break out of a blanket swaddle. To re-tie the mother effer (the swaddle, that is), you have to turn the lights on, re-position her, blah blah blah — it’s not something you want to be fumbling with at 3 am when you’re sleep deprived and ready to get the potato back in the oven. (If you’re still hellbent on swaddling the “authentic” way, keep reading to see our favorite blankets.)
Keep in mind that the recommendation for swaddling has changed to include a warning against wrapping the legs/hips too tightly, which can lead to hip dysplasia. Essentially, you don’t want your baby’s legs to be forced down straight; rather, they should be loosely wrapped to stay in the “M” or frogged position, as they were in the womb.
What about the arms? Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends swaddling with arms down by the sides. Others prefer the arms to be crossed over the chest to replicate the conditions in the womb. Still others advocate for arms to be up such that baby can have her hands by her face (this is often the position used for preemies). The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter; use whichever arm position your baby likes the best.
That said, here are some of our favorite swaddlers. (*Note that these are only used from 0-4 months, or as soon as your baby can roll over.) You might find that certain swaddle products work best for your baby at different ages—your favorite newborn swaddle, for example, might not be the same as your favorite 3-month-old swaddle.
Our Favorite Swaddles
The Summer Infant SwaddleMe Original Swaddle ~ $34 ($18 on sale)/3-pack
The SwaddleMe is a pouch with wings that velcro together to create a tight, fool-proof swaddle. You can get cotton or microfleece depending on the season. Size small fits up to 3 months and is even a little big for a newborn. That’s okay, just fold the neck part down so it’s not over the baby’s face. The only downside is that opening the Velcro can be shockingly loud and alarming.
Please RTFM on this one: it’s important that you properly velcro the LEFT flap to the middle part, otherwise your little Houdini will bust out with the jailbreak maneuver. Seriously, get two or even three of these things so you always have one handy. You can’t beat the price!
*Another option for brand newborns, is the SwaddleMe Pod ($19/2-pack). This swaddle doesn’t take any thought, just zip it up.
The Woombie ~ $28 ($20 on sale)
If you have a real Houdini on your hands, I highly recommend the Woombie. The Woombie is a simple zip-up suit made of very snug yet stretchy material. This lesser-known swaddle was the key to sleeping success for many of my friends-who-had-tried-everything-else. (Some parents report that their babies are still able to wiggle their fingers (and hands, arms) out the top, though. Sneaky babies.) There are a few different versions, click here to pick the right one for you.
Ergobaby Swaddler ~ $25
Ergobaby now has a swaddle—and we like it a lot! Don’t laugh; the arm pockets look like a baby straight jacket, but that’s what makes it so effective! The bottom allows for baby’s legs to be ergonomically correct and the leg pouch gives you easy access for a diaper change. See it in action here. Huzzah! *These run a little big.
Love to Dream Swaddle UP ~ $29
The Swaddle UP is an easy, no-fuss zip swaddle that allows for arms-UP swaddling, which is apparently more comfortable (“natural,” the makers say) for many babies. Parents are absolutely gushing about this swaddle. It might be an especially great option to try if you have one of those babies that just seems to hate being swaddled, since it changes up the baby’s body position.
Other bonuses with the hands-up feature: babies have the ability to gnaw/suck on their hands (which is self-soothing), you can strap a swaddled “up” baby into a carseat, and you can continue swaddling longer since swaddled “up” babies can use their arms. Lastly, you can un-zip from the bottom, which makes for easier diaper changing. *Comes in different materials (lite, organic, extra warm, etc.).
The Miracle Blanket ~ $29
Like rolling up a fat burrito (…or something), this blanket makes for a pleasingly tight swaddle. It may even be better than Velcro swaddlers because there are fewer opportunities for busting out (plus there’s no pulling-off-the-velcro noise involved). On the downside, some complain that the Miracle Blanket is too complicated to roll up, but those who love it, love it.
Little Lotus Swaddle ~ $75 each/$130 for 2
Little Lotus swaddles and sleeping bags use phase-change technology (originally developed for temperature control for NASA astronauts!) to keep your baby at the perfect temperature. Yes, they are pricey, but if you are one of those parents who obsesses about whether baby is too hot (or too cold—especially parents of preemies), I think you will fall in love with Little Lotus.
Little Lotus is super easy to get on and off. The shoulder snaps and zippers provide easy in & out access as well as a “do not disturb” diaper access zipper. The swaddles also have multiple shoulder snaps for neckline adjustment, a distinct wing design for the perfect swaddle, and high quality velcro for quieter application.
Sheets ‘N Things
For your crib, you will need:
1. A mattress
While your baby might not care which kind of mattress he sleeps on, most parents do. With more and more parents opting for organic mattresses due to concerns over chemical flame retardants, we decided to cover them separately (see best organic crib mattresses).
No matter what brand of mattress you pick, you want it be FIRM. If it feels uncomfortable to you, that’s good. And remember, babies weigh nothing (comparatively) and don’t exactly have back or hip pain like us old geezers, so their mattress needs are quite different (in response to a lot of emails asking, “won’t it be too uncomfortable for him?”). Stay away from anything cushy or plushy.
If you’re in the market for a “regular” mattress, our favorites are:
$ — Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams ~ $52+— Economy Pick
$$ — Sealy Baby Posturepedic ~ $119 ($102 on sale) — Great Value
$$ — Baby Trend Respiro ~ $100 — New on Our Radar
We’re really excited about Baby Trend’s new crib mattress. It’s totally different than any other kind of mattress out there. It’s empty — check it out:
The Respiro isn’t stuffed with anything, so it doesn’t need any synthetic flame-retardants or other chemicals, is totally hypoallergenic, and carries virtually no risk for allergens or bed bugs and the like. It’s also double-sided, with different firmness levels for babies and toddlers, so you can use it beyond infancy. The mesh covering is totally breathable, machine-washable, and the whole mattress can be folded up for easy travel.
The Respiro is a bit unconventional in terms of how you “use” it, since it’s not designed to be used with sheets, and we think there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out, but we’re keeping an eye on this one. If you’re pregnant now, generation 2.0 might be ready for prime time — we’ll have our full review coming to you shortly :).
$$$ — Little Dreamer from Moonlight Slumber ~ $196 – Dual Firmness Mattress
Little Dreamer is a neat mattress with two sides: a firm “infant” side for safe infant sleeping and a softer “toddler” side for a cozier night after the days of SIDS danger are over. (Other companies make this type of dual-sided mattress as well, for cheaper, just FYI… like this one, from Safety First, for about $75).
$$$$ — Newton Crib Mattress ~ $299
There are so many good things to say about this mattress — the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) gave it the 2015 innovation award.
This mattress is known for its breathability and temperature regulation. Wovenaire technology means that it’s made of safe, food-grade polymer that’s free of biocides, toxic fire retardants, foam, latex, springs, and glue…meaning, it’s not off-gassing and it’s completely hypo-allergenic.
The best part is that this mattress is fully washable (say what?!). Yes, the whole thing. You can remove the zipped cover and and give the mattress a bath. Yes, like… in the bath tub. With soap and water. Great for passing down to younger kids. You can also recycle it at the end of its life. Love the Newton!
2. Waterproof mattress cover(s)
Get at least two. American Baby Company pretty much owns the market in this category. They’re great and well loved. We like their Organic Waterproof Quilted Fitted cover for about $29. If you’re looking for another option, parents seem to like the Waterproof Bamboo cover from Swaddlez for about $25. Note, the Swaddlez also comes in a mini/portable crib size as well, which is really hard to find!
3. Crib sheets (the fitted kind)
Get at least three good quality crib sheets because you’ll use them for the next 2-3 years and they’ll take a lot of abuse along the way. The sheet that parents can’t live without is the QuickZip Crib Sheet ($45), which can easily be changed (at 3 am) without having to remove the whole damn crib mattress. Just get one QuickZip Crib Sheet (which includes the Drop-In Base and one Zip-On Sheet) and multiple QuickZip Crib Zip-On Sheets ($26 each).
The Zip-On Sheet can be easily swapped out for another one when dirtied (see the product video here.) Don’t forget to purchase the matching flat waterproof mattress pad ($29) that goes with the QuickZip system. The flat pad lays right under the sheet and if it gets soiled, you just pull it up—no need to deal with lifting the mattress.
If you’re not into the QuickZip system, you can pick up regular, run-of-the-mill fitted crib sheets for a cheaper price.
5. A “breathable” crib bumper (for 5+ months)
Listen up. People tell you not to use a crib bumper as it could cause suffocation (Jesus, again?!). In fact, the AAP said, “Don’t use crib bumpers” (you should also read this article on SIDS), but don’t throw away the cute bumper that came with your bedding set. You’ll want it later!
You don’t need a crib bumper for a newborn…, BUT after about 9 months, when they are flipping over vigorously and breaching like Shamu, they will get all manner of body parts stuck in between crib slats (someone should make a crib without slats, but I digress).
This leads to the high-pitched “Help me, I’m stuck and the wolves are coming to eat me” cry, which has you sprinting into their room, extracting said limb from slats, drying their tears, and promising it will never happen again.
Check out the Breathable Bumper. We had it. It does the trick. It’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but who cares? The AAP includes ALL bumpers on their no-no list until 12 months (which many find overly restrictive), but understand that 90% of SIDS occurs before 6 months of age with the peak occurring between 2-4 months, so as an educated adult you can make this decision on your own.
After 1 year, it’s officially okay to say you can use a bumper on a baby board without the safety police scolding you for it (oh wait, they’ll still do it then too! LOL). I personally find soft bumpers wonderful because they soften and warm up the crib environment, which is pretty hard and jail-ey.
Yes, you’ll want a lot of blankets. Half of them will be in the wash covered in spit up or poop at any given time.
Muslin blankets are a must-have; they’re very thin, stretchy, and great for warmer weather. If you’re going to tie a swaddle with a blanket, this is probably your best bet (let your man know, he’ll be super excited!).
There are lots of cute blankets out there — check out our favorites on Pinterest.
For the first 3-4 months, your baby will (most likely) be swaddled to sleep. This swaddle serves as a blanket as well.
When your baby is post-swaddling age (about 4 months), you’re not going to be putting blankets on them to sleep because they’ll get kicked off in about 30 seconds (and, OF COURSE, they are a suffocation hazard when placed in the crib — mwwwaaaaaa), which leads me to…
After 4 months, most parents use a wearable blanket or “sleep sack.” Think of a Snuggie with a zipper up the front. These are must-haves.
These pouches are usually sleeveless (with rare exceptions) to prevent overheating; you can always put a sweater under it for extra warmth. The go-to is the Halo SleepSack for around $22, but there are other good ones, especially for colder climates. Check out the full Wearable Blanket Smackdown.
Wearable blankets are completely indispensable, although not something you need right away. See also: Winter Weight Sleep Sacks.
With a newborn, you’re going to be up in the middle of the night.
A lot, I’m afraid.
You have to strike a balance between running into walls in the dark (which you’ll do anyway) and over-stimulating your baby (and yourself) with a bright, glaring light.
Research tells us that white and blue light wavelengths suppress melatonin (the sleep hormone) the most, which is the opposite of what you want at night. Longer wavelength light, such as amber light, interferes with your sleep the least, yet many night light makers use blue light. Go figure.
I much prefer a night “lamp,” which is a cordless, rechargeable lamp you can walk around with. Sadly, OXO doesn’t make the Tooli or Zoom anymore, which leaves us with slim pickings…
The perfect night light for toddlers — or moms trying to nurse and change diapers in the middle of the night. We like this night light because it turns off after 20 minutes (if you pass out before you shut it off) and is cool to the touch. (It’s battery operated.)
Another favorite is the LumiPets Night Light. Yes, this thing is designed for little kids, but works great for parents as a nursing/up-at-night light. Choose from 8 different colors (including red, yay!). This silicone night light has different brightness levels, can be turned on/off by tapping (this is optional), has a long-lasting rechargeable battery, and has different auto shut-off options.
Hatch Baby Rest ~ $59
It’s a night light, sound machine and ok-to-wake indicator in one that’s controlled by your smart phone. We love it!! Check out our full review of the Hatch Baby Rest.
We are not recommending the Mobi TykeLight due to quality concerns. Not recommending Boon Glo Nightlight with Portable Balls because it doesn’t give off enough light to change a diaper, etc.
If you have some distance between you and your baby, you probably want to invest in a baby monitor of some sort. However, if you have a small house or apartment, it may not be necessary. In fact, we never had a monitor when we lived in our little city apartment; it simply wasn’t needed. Now that we have a two-story house, it’s wired up like Guantanamo Bay.
Monitors have come a long way in the past few years, with many parents opting for higher levels of surveillance. Movement monitors (which are marketed as a mechanism to help prevent SIDS) are becoming more and more popular, as companies reap the profits of our paranoia. Other recent advancements include Wi-Fi capabilities and networking features. In fact, simple audio monitors are becoming harder and harder to find, not to mention more expensive.
Parents: don’t feel like you have to go crazy with a monitor. Buy the type that best suits your “need-to-know.” Me, I prefer less information; but I know others that desire to monitor their child’s every heartbeat. Go with your gut on this one and please don’t feel the need to over-monitor your baby. On the other hand, if you are worried about SIDS and want the peace of mind, there is technology available to you.
SIDS — For the Record
For the record, baby boys are more likely to die of SIDS than baby girls. SIDS occurs most commonly between 2-4 months of age, with 90% of SIDS deaths occurring before the age of 6 months.
SIDS is why you shouldn’t put your baby on his or her tummy to sleep—babies who sleep on their stomachs have anywhere between a 1.7 and 12.9 times higher risk of SIDS. The most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS is put your baby to sleep on his back. In fact, 74% of babies that die of SIDS die while tummy-sleeping. Yes, many babies sleep better on their stomachs, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Scientists today believe that SIDS is multifactorial, and sleeping “too deeply” might actually be problematic, because babies’ brains (and abilities to wake up) are still developing. (Tell this to well-meaning grandparents who insist that, “we did it with you and you turned out okay!”) Flat head is a bitch, I know, but it can be prevented. “Back is best”—it’s true!
Do you need an audio monitor or a video monitor? It depends…
Many people like being able to see why baby is crying. Maybe her binky has fallen out or her leg is stuck in the crib. If there is a lot of distance – or even a flight of stairs – between you and your baby, a video monitor may be well worth it. It might save you a lot of running up and down the stairs when you’re trying to squeeze in an episode of Game of Thrones from your living room while hearing phantom cries.
If you’re sticking to a sound monitor, you also have to decide between an analog monitor and a digital one, analog being more susceptible to interference with other electronics in your house (and your neighbor’s home!). Analog monitors are cheaper.
Note that there have been a few recalls recently due to strangulation deaths as a result of the child units being placed within baby’s reach. Never, ever place a monitor within reach of your child because they can grab the cord and (somehow, Lord knows) get it wrapped around their neck. Stipulations for proper placement can be found in the monitor’s instructions.
Whichever type of monitor you choose, get a good one. Sleepless nights are difficult enough without worrying about poor reception, feedback, interference, excess beeping, or lights-that-are-too-bright.
Budget Category ~
I’ve used both of these and they’re okay, but I wouldn’t recommend either as your primary monitor (we use them for travel). After some time, both of them stopped transmitting properly and would begin beeping “out of range” for no reason. (Of these, the Vtech gets better ratings from parents and has a range of 1000 feet—more than a football field.)
For the record, THERE IS NOTHING MORE ENRAGING THAN BEING WOKEN UP FOR NO REASON BY ERRANT BEEPING. Makes me stabby.
Another highly-rated audio monitor with a few more bells and whistles is the Angelcare Baby Sound Monitor. This unit has VERY good range, a built-in night light, and a thermometer. Heck, we took this monitor with us on a beach trip and I had the “parent” unit… AT LEAST 100 (perhaps 200) yards from the base and it worked like a charm. Especially for the price, it’s a great sound monitor. My only complaint is that the light on the parent monitor is quite bright, so I turn it to face the wall so I don’t feel like there’s a flashlight in my face (it’s STILL bright, but whatever).
And finally, the top-rated full-featured sound monitor is the…
Philips Avent DECT Monitor ~ $149 ($111 on sale)
The one and only. This has been the top audio monitor for as long as I’ve been doing Lucie’s List (since 2010!).
This monitor self-selects from 60 channels, so it won’t interfere with other appliances. It includes a temperature sensor, built-in lullabies, a night light, and a talk-back feature, which allows two-way communication.
With a range of 1,082 linear feet, you could go down the street to a restaurant and still hear your baby at home (kidding)… (or am I…?). This monitor also encrypts the audio stream, so neighbors and passersby can’t eavesdrop (although I can’t imagine WHY anyone would want to do that, but whatevs). If you’re the paranoid type, this is the monitor for you. For real though, this is the best audio monitor on the market.
You’re welcome 😉
Video monitors consist of one or more cameras (with many, you can add cameras to capture different angles or for multiple kids). They also come with a “parent unit,” which has a display screen with audio output. What varies between them is the quality of the resolution, the signal range (how far it broadcasts), the size of the screen, the ability of the camera to pan/tilt/zoom (some cannot) and the ease of use, especially during setup. Some even have voice activated mode (i.e., it “sleeps” when no sound is detected) and the ability to use it as a two-way walkie talkie (you can threaten older children this way, which is a very handy feature) (kidding)… (I’m not really kidding, actually).
A more affordable, portable version of the Infant Optics DXR-8 (below) is the DXR-6. Portability means the screen is smaller (2.4″), as it’s really designed to be carried around the house (i.e., you won’t be able to see as much detail). Think of this as the “sport” version — it may even fit in your pocket.
- 2.4″ color TFT screen
- Voice activation and auto-mute mode
- Screen off, audio on mode
- Automatic IR night vision
- Expandable up to four cameras
Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor ~ $229 ($165 on sale)- Top pick
This monitor from Infant Optics is our top pick. The unique feature of this monitor is the ability to use different lenses (normal, wide angle or zoom 2x). This allows you to get the best picture quality depending on the layout and shape of your baby’s room and crib area.
The display is 3.5″ (vs 5″ on the Samsung, see below), so it’s a good bit smaller.
- 3.5″ display
- Remote pan/tilt/zoom
- Invisible IR night vision
- Two-way talk
- Remote temperature display
- Expandable up to 4 cameras
For the tech savvy, another option is to buy a camera (only) that communicates directly with your favorite iDevice (or PC).
A couple of favorites:
For a fraction of the price of a traditional “baby” monitor, the Foscam is a favorite among parents. If someone in your house is tech savvy, this is a great (and cheap!) alternative to a traditional video monitor system. Note: This is not a baby-specific product, but it doesn’t really matter. *If you’re not tech savvy, please don’t…
The Nest Camera ~ $169
The Nest is a higher quality camera that gets excellent reviews. This camera works wonderfully… assuming you have fast wi-fi service. It allows you to monitor your baby from any smartphone or tablet, has great video/sound quality, good battery life, and now works with Amazon Alexa, too. It also operates well as a (non-concealed) Nanny cam — you can say hi to baby on your lunch break 🙂
FYI: If you ever need a baby monitor in a pinch and you have an iPhone… there’s an app for that! There are several available, but a very popular one is a video monitoring app called Cloud Baby Monitor.
There are a few options available to monitor your baby’s movement, breathing and even his pulse. Please note that none of these consumer devices has been proven to reduce SIDS; although in fairness, they haven’t been proven to not reduce SIDS either. Like I said, if they allow you to rest easier at night, go for it…
Under the mattress monitors:
Angelcare Movement and Sound ~ $129
We like its regular sound monitor, but Angelcare is actually known for its “movement” monitors, which detect a baby’s movement, or lack thereof. The Angelcare movement monitors come with a sensor pad that is placed under the crib mattress and will alarm if no movement is detected within 20 seconds. The idea is that a parent could rouse a baby from her too-deep sleep and prevent the baby from dying of SIDS.
This is all theoretical and has not been proven in any kind of trials. Remember again, these are not medical devices, and therefore are not subject to the FDA’s approval process. Anecdotally, many parents swear this monitor has prevented the death of their baby by allowing them to intervene when baby has stopped breathing.
The Angelcare Movement and Sound Monitor includes both the voice monitor and the movement sensor equipment.
Angelcare now offers the only wireless movement sensor pad on the market (AC417 & AC517) and uses new activity analytics to track baby’s movement level. The only difference between the two is the screen size and pricing.
All of Angelcare’s monitors are very highly rated. The benefit of these Angelcare products is that you get a sound or video monitor included and don’t have to buy one separately (as opposed to the others listed below). The sound or video monitor component can be used after the scary SIDS days are over, which makes it a better value.
The Babysense 7 movement monitor is the new-and-improved version of the very well-rated Babysense 5s. It’s an “under the mattress” monitor that’s very easy to set up and provides reliable service. The device sounds an alarm if it detects a stoppage or irregularity in breathing patterns, and the 7 is distinct from the 5s for its enhanced sensitivity. If you already own a sound or video monitor and are only looking for a movement monitor, definitely check it out. Again, we think the Angelcare is a better value because you don’t have to purchase an additional sound or video monitor.
Another type of movement monitor is an attachable device: these units are small, battery-powered, and clip directly onto the diaper or the baby. They are also much more likely to fall off or become displaced, which means you’re going to get a lot more false alarms. The benefit is that they’re great for travel or “sleeping around,” especially if your baby doesn’t sleep consistently in the same place.
Snuza HeroSE ~ $109
The Snuza clips onto your baby’s diaper and monitors abdominal movements. If movement stops, it vibrates to rouse your baby, and when this fails (three times) it will alarm you. Since it attaches to baby’s diaper, the Snuza can be used anywhere baby happens to be sleeping (as opposed to the Angelcare, which is permanently(ish) installed under a mattress); this makes it great for families who travel a lot or use different sleeping surfaces around the house. *However, since it can pick up on external movements, the Snuza is not designed for bed-sharing, or use during motion (i.e., in a stroller or car seat). Generally speaking, parents are very happy with the Snuza. Go on Amazon to read some of the testimonials and tell me if you don’t get goosebumps….
Owlet Baby Monitor ~ $299
Yet another step up (technology-wise) is the Owlet Baby Monitor. Owlet uses a soft sock (the Smart Sock) that goes on baby’s foot, which uses pulse oximetry to monitor your baby’s blood flow and oxygen saturation.
Pulse oximetry uses a small light that shines through the skin to estimate the amount of blood flow; oxygen levels are estimated based on how much light is transmitted to the sensor. It sounds an alert to your wireless device (iPhone, etc.) if your child’s heart rate dips too low, rises too high, or if her oxygen level drops below a certain threshold.
The new kids on the block are the true “movement monitors” that offer your classic video/audio features plus other smart data and sleep tracking. The Cocoon Cam ($149/$125 on sale) is a smart audio, visual, movement, and breathing monitor that syncs with your phone and sends you notifications when your baby wakes up, falls asleep, cries, etc. It’s not a great pick for traveling, but it might be a good option for parents who want a little more information while baby is sleeping. Read more: Our Cocoon Cam Full Review.
The other option, the Nanit ($249/$199 on sale) is of a similar vein, minus the breathing monitor. The jury is still out on these smart movement monitors, folks, but we’re keeping tabs on them… Stay tuned for more.
Again, I don’t consider any of these to be must-haves, but get one if it will help you relax — and don’t apologize over it 😉
White Noise/Sound Machines
I’m a big fan of white noise/sound machines.
They make all the difference in drowning out loud neighbors, cars, sirens… other siblings (ahem). For white noise only, the runaway favorite is the Marpac Dohm ($50). This dual-speed “sound conditioner” has an actual fan inside, which creates the soothing sound of rushing air. Yes, we own 3. Cannot. Live. Without.
The LectroFan ($49) is another crowd favorite. It has a wider range with 20 non-repeating sound offerings and multi-level volume control (from whisper to very loud).
If you want the pony to do more tricks, check out the Cloud b Tranquil Turtle Sleep Machine ($45), which has natural sounds, lullabies, a rotating projector, and an on/off timer.
Another similar, but cheaper option, is the Summer Infant Slumber Buddies ($24) – check it out here.
Lastly, there are a handful of noise machine apps that you can use too, if need be; White Noise is an all-around favorite.
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Ok, good. Let’s talk about poop. You know you want to.