Babies and sleepless nights go hand-in-hand. It's one of the first truths of parenthood that new mums and dads learn from the moment their little one comes home.
Reasons for discomfort, like hunger pangs and soiled diapers, can rouse them from their slumber and send a frenzied, bleary-eyed parent straight to the crib. While such needs must be met at any odd hour, mums and dads can greatly benefit from certain tools to help their babies stay asleep for longer.
We spoke with Dubai-based experts about baby sleep essentials that they've tried and tested, as well as recommended to parents. From cosy sleep sacks to warm night lights, discover must-have items and how to put them to use for a good night's rest.
Why is it difficult to sleep train babies?
For the first few months, babies follow an irregular sleep schedule because they can't tell night from day. Erica Lish, midwife at Dr Mariam Awatai Clinic, Dubai, with over 40 years of experience, told Gulf News: "Newborn babies have their own schedule: they sleep for 12 to 15 hours a day and need to be woken up every four hours to breastfeed. Parents should set up a bedtime routine right from day one, by differentiating between day and night, where you darken the room and let them know nighttime is for sleeping and daytime for playing."
And therein lies the parents' first task. You can gradually lead your little one into a state of drowsiness with the help of a warm bath, comfy pyjamas, bedtime stories, soothing music and more, adds Lish. An ideal sleeping environment for the baby means a relaxed room and a crib that feels safe.
What are some dos and don'ts of sleep training babies?
Parents should be prepared to conduct in-depth research, before taking on sleep training. Over at Savvy Sleep, a Dubai-based paediatric sleep consultancy that's helped over 500 families, partners Isabel Page and Sara Nanetti have learned that mums and dads know very little about the science of infant sleep.
"It's very rarely talked about in prenatal classes. Most parents will wait for their kids to display tired cues, but by this time, it means they're over-tired. Babies can only handle 30 minutes of awake time, during which they should be fed, changed and put back to bed," said Nanetti, who's a certified paediatric sleep coach, baby language educator and a mum of three.
Mums will often want to breastfeed their baby to sleep, though feeding in this way can delay independent slumber. "Feed them when they wake up, not when they're about to fall asleep. Once the mum goes back to work, it might get tricky, since the baby will rely on breastfeeding to fall asleep," explained Nanetti.
Items in the crib
Toss out anything that can pose a safety risk for your child, says Lish. "Don't put soft toys in the crib. The only thing that should be in the cot is your baby. Make sure your baby's feet are the bottom of the crib so they can't slide down under the covers. One light blanket should be tucked underneath the armpits," she added.
Do mind the temperature in the room. Lish said: "Your baby always needs one more layer than you, if you've got the air conditioner on."
Some babies do find comfort in sucking on a pacifier, as they get ready for bed. But, Lish advises putting off the introduction for as long as you can. A pacifier could cause confusion during the breastfeeding phase.
Instead, tools that can promote a cosy, drowsy atmosphere for babies are listed below. Both Lish and Nanetti share tips on the right way to put these gadgets to use, along with baby brands that Nanetti has had a great experience with. Our essentials list starts out with items for newborns all the way to toddlers.
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1. Best Swaddle: Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original, Grey
Does your newborn like to be swaddled? Lish says that not all babies prefer the sensation, so it's up to the parent to find out. Swaddling prevents your baby's arms from shooting up into the air and startling them awake mid-sleep, also known as the Moro (startle) reflex. According to Nanetti, constrained arms can help kick in their soothing reflex. While the baby is traditionally swaddled in a blanket, there's a good chance of the wrap becoming undone. Love To Dream's Swaddle UP Blanket solves this with a patented wings design. Babies are zipped into the snug swaddle, with enough room around the shoulders to let them self-soothe by touching their face and sleep with their arms up. A roomy hip area also allows for leg movement. Happy five-star reviews attest to little ones sleeping longer in the swaddle, especially restless sleepers. Nanetti adds that swaddling should be stopped once the baby is eight weeks old, as that's when they start rolling over.
2. Best Sleeping Sack: Molis & Co Baby Sleeping Bag Sack, 8-36 Months
Older babies can transition to a sleeping bag or sack, says Nanetti. Parents also tell Lish that they have had great luck with these in lieu of a blanket, because the fabric doesn't go over the head. "But you have to make sure it fits the baby, and that the feet are at the bottom of the crib," advised Lish. Molis & Co offers a lightweight collection of sleeping bags for the summer, which Nanetti loves. This 0.4 TOG cotton bag is extremely breathable and wears light in rooms with temperatures over 24 degrees Celsius. It has a two-way zipper to make nappy changing easier. Reviewers vouch for the soft fabric and how it holds up against multiple wash cycles. They find their babies falling asleep faster inside the sack.
3. Best Blackout Blind: Tommee Tippee Sleeptight Portable Blackout Blind, Large
If your room isn't already equipped with blackout curtains, get this Nanetti-recommended portable blind by Tommee Tippee. Machine-washable and adjustable, the blind creates a blackout using strong suction cups. The best part is that parents can set it up and take it down in minutes, so their baby's sleep routine is well-maintained wherever they go. Our pick is large but it can be reduced to a third of its size to fit different windows. Mums and dads in the reviews put the portable blind to use on vacations, and note how they and their babies slept longer. They add a few pointers, however: The suction cups work better on freshly wiped glass, and the placement of cups doesn't allow for 100 per cent darkness.
4. Best Night Light: Tommee Tippee GroEgg2
- Built-in thermometer reads room temperature
- Soft dimmable light
- USB-powered means no battery replacements
- Comes without a plug
- May be too dim for bigger nurseries
Another fantastic sleep essential from Tommee Tippee is the GroEgg Night Light. Nanetti said: "The recommended night light shade should be in the red, yellow and orange light spectrum, as it has less impact on melatonin (sleep hormone) levels. The GroEgg is very useful - it not only lights up in the reddish spectrum but also signals the temperature of the room for swaddling." It's a USB-powered egg-shaped device that glows a soft light in shades ranging from blue, when it's 16 degrees Celsius and below, to red, when the room is 24 degrees Celsius and up. Parents welcome the peace of mind they get knowing what the temperature is at a glance. Reviewers also love that the light can be dimmed. As an alternative, Nanetti suggests the Shnuggle night light for nighttime feeds.
5. Best White Noise Machine: Marpac Hushh White Noise Sound Machine
- Three different white noise sounds, including womb sounds
- Great for newborns and older babies
- Long battery life
- Small and portable with hanging attachment
- Needs switching off every 14 days to ensure full functionality
Pure white noise can help mask any sound disturbances in the baby's environment, and most machines are able to play looped tracks that they might find comfort in. Nanetti recommends the Marpac Hushh sound machine: "Newborns will like the heartbeat and waterfall sounds that remind them of the womb, while older babies (four months and up) can fall asleep to proper white noise that blocks other noises." The Hushh device comes with three sleep sounds - bright white noise, deep white noise and gentle surf - playable at a maximum volume of 85 decibels. However, safe volume levels for babies should not exceed 50 decibels, cautions Nanetti. It even carries a built-in, soft amber night light. Parents can hang the compact machine from a nearby nightstand or the foot of the crib using the lanyard, making it completely portable. Reviewers take it outside the nursery and attach it to the stroller when out and about. They add that it has an instant calming effect on their child.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh29 and two years for Dh41.
6. Best Baby Monitor: Lollipop Baby Camera Monitor, Cotton Candy
- Flexible mounting stem
- High-quality video stream
- Two-way audio
- Pairs with iOS and Android devices
- Video recording requires subscription
Having a baby monitor installed means fewer check-ins during the night. It's an essential tool for sleep training, allowing mums and dads to observe cries from afar till the baby self-soothes and returns to dreamland. Lish said: "They give that added bit of security for parents - if the baby is having a problem, the monitor will wake them up. Some don't even need to be plugged in so you can use them all over the house." While any indoor security camera could work, Nanetti suggests the Lollipop baby camera to parents. It's also our best portable pick for baby monitors. Connect the device to your phone and let the camera detect crying and large movements for you. Concerned parents can speak to their baby or the nanny via the two-way audio feature, which can also double as a white noise player. It live-streams 1080p footage to Android and iOS devices, even in night vision. Reviewers in the UAE vouch for the customer support with five stars, as well.
Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh54.08 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh40 and two years for Dh57.
7. Best Toddler Clock: Learn & Climb My Good Morning Buddy
- Colour-changing clock
- Child lock setting
- Comes with reward stickers
- Lights are not too bright in a dark room
- The cord needs to be handled with care
"Toddlers tend to have a habit of waking up early in the morning," said Nanetti. "This is because as the night progresses, melatonin levels decrease and cortisol levels rise." A toddler clock wins you and your baby a few more hours of sleep. Like the Learn & Climb gadget, colour-changing clocks offer toddlers an easy visual guide to waking up times. With the My Good Morning Buddy device, kids are encouraged to stay in bed with the red light, while yellow tells them they've got a bit more time until the green light comes on. Parents in the reviews can't stop raving about how the clock has taught their toddler when to wake up, and the children are always eager to comply with their sleep buddy. For some, it has worked overnight!
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two years for Dh17.
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