baby sleep

Creating a Healthy Sleep Environment

Think of your child’s bedroom or nursery, what does it look like? Is it bright and colorful? Are there toys all over the place? A mobile hanging over the crib? One of the most exciting parts of decorating a room for a baby is making it friendly and inviting- a place that every baby would love to fall asleep. But what happens when you get your baby home from the hospital and they don’t sleep? As adults, we can block out a lot of outside distractions when we are tired, but that’s very difficult for children.

When a baby first comes home from the hospital, they seem like they can sleep through anything. You can run the vacuum beside them, have a loud conversation over dinner, pass them from one person to another and they will not stir. That doesn’t mean that they’re sleeping, it’s called habituation. It is a baby’s way to block out the stimulation; a form of self-soothing that most babies have until they’re about 6-8 weeks old. After that time, they will need more assistance to help block out the noise and distractions. This is where sleep environment comes in, and where a soothing setting helps your baby to cope with stimulation.

1.     Light: During the day, when babies need to nap, we need to help them by blocking out the light. has great blackout curtains available, but if that’s not in your budget, you can try tinfoil, black trash bags, or even pinning a dark flat sheet over the window. When the room is nice and dark, your baby will be better equipped to block out stimulation. The same applies to toddlers sleep; if you want to encourage naptime, try making the room nice and dark.

2.     Sound: Are you constantly worried that someone is going to ring your doorbell or the garbage truck is going to wake-up your sleeping baby? A white noise machine can help. Babies are used to lots of noise in the womb, the outside world is very quiet to them in comparison. By adding white noise to their sleep environment, it helps them to block out the intermittent noise, and encourages them to sleep.

 Here’s a good place to compare white noise        machines: 

3.     Distractions: The mobile that’s hanging over your baby’s crib may be too much for him. Instead of soothing him to sleep, it may be keeping him awake. There are some babies that are so focused on what’s going on that mobiles distract them. Even sheets that have a pattern on them can be too much for some babies, their eyes focus on the pattern and they can’t shut it out. It may seem silly to you, but plain sheets may make all the difference to your baby. Is your toddler’s room covered in toys? That may be too much for them. If their room is full of toys, put them away in bins before naps, where they won’t distract them from sleeping.

4.     Personal Preferences: Pay attention to your child and you will learn what they like and what they don’t. My first son loved cozy spaces, so for the first few months of being in his crib, I halved it and made it feel smaller by using the bumper to create a smaller space. He loved this and he transitioned much better into the crib. What does your child like? Does she seem to calm when you press your hand to her tummy while she’s falling asleep? Swaddling or Magic Sleep Suits provide deep pressure sensations that can be calming and comforting for some children.

Get to know your baby or child and adapt their sleeping environment to what will work best for them and their personality. Sometimes creating a healthy sleeping environment is half the battle of good sleep!

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Best Baby Products

When I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I went to Babies R’ Us and basically registered for every product that looked cool. Bottles, fancy pack n’ plays, pacifiers, swings, bouncers, wipe warmers- I wanted them all! After about 6 months, I realized that most of what I got was unnecessary and I could have saved 100s of dollars!! Now, I tell friends and parents what works and what I think is a waste of time. Here’s my list of favorite products:

1.)   Miracle Blanket (

-        This blanket saved my life! Babies are strong, they can Houdini themselves out of things that you wouldn’t believe! Before having my son, I learned how to swaddle with a blanket- what a joke! He could bust out of any blanket within minutes, which would then lead to him waking up after hitting himself in the face. When your baby is finally asleep, you want them to stay asleep, this blanket helps!

2.)   Dr. Brown’s Bottles (

-        I basically thought that all bottles were created equal before having kids. They are not! This brand of bottles is the absolute best and helps decrease gas, so that after feeding, your baby is comfortable and they spit-up less.

3.)   Magic Merlin Sleepsuit (

-        With my second son, he refused to sleep in the crib. I tried every technique I had used for my older son- warming the mattress before putting him down, putting his head in the corner of the crib so that he felt cozier, purchasing a better crib mattress- nothing worked!
Then I stumbled upon the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit- this thing is a miracle! On the first night, he was in it, he slept for 8 straight hours in the crib- he had never slept in there for more than 20 minutes. It was amazing. If your baby has trouble sleeping in the crib, try this product, it may work like magic for you, too.

4.)   Fisher Price Rock n’ Play (click here)

-        I am a huge fan of this device. I am a sleep coach, but for the first few months of life I believe in doing what you need to do to get your baby sleeping and yourself sleeping (as long as it’s safe!) This product is amazing. I don’t necessarily like the new ones that have all of the bells and whistles, but the standard Rock n’ Play that does not vibrate, rock on its own, etc. is amazing. It feels cozy, and the slight incline makes it easier on babies that may have reflux. I am a huge fan! Plus, you can rock it when your baby stirs, without holding your baby so that they learn a little bit of self-soothing with a little bit of help.

5.)   Basic Pack n’ Play (click here)

-        There is no need to spring for the fancy pack n’ play, the basic one does the trick. If you are going to spend money on something, invest in the mattress that comes with it, so that your baby is not on the super hard mattress that’s included. I never used all the vibration/music options that came on my fancy one- it was a complete waste.

6.)   Wake up clock (click here)

-        When my son was 2 ½ years old he began waking up at 4:30 in the morning for the day. I was terrified at the prospect of waking up at 4:30 am when I was 8 months pregnant with #2. I scoured the internet for a clock that would be easy for him to understand and bright enough for him to see. I settled on this one from the UK, it’s amazing and both my sons still use it every morning. They know that when it turns yellow, they can come out of their room and start their day.

7.)   Breathable mesh bumper (click here)

-        I like bumpers because they make the crib feel a little cozier, and they also help with keeping the pacifiers in the bed. The thick cushy bumpers can be unsafe in the crib. I found that a breathable mesh bumper creates a cozier environment, while still being safe.

8.)   Cloth diaper for burp cloths (click here)

-        Forget those pretty burp cloths that don’t absorb anything- they are not worth it. Instead, get the plain old cloth diapers- they are amazing and absorbing spit up, spills etc. They are the absolute best!

9.)   Aidan & Anais Blankets (

-        Not only are these blankets pretty but they are also super functional. You can use them to cover your baby if they’re cold, use them to cover yourself if you’re nursing, use them to swaddle your baby if needed- they are super functional and beautiful. 

What does “drowsy but awake” mean?

A key part of sleep coaching your child is putting them down drowsy but awake, but what does that mean? How do you know if your child is too drowsy or too awake? A lot of parents I talk to are confused by this term and what it actually means, they find that they aren’t exactly sure of when they should be putting their babies down to sleep.

Many parents wait until their child is fast asleep in their arms before putting them down in the crib, they do this for each nap, bedtime and night waking. The problem with this technique is that their child will become dependent on being held to sleep and need help to fall asleep each time they wake up. Instead, I tell parents to put their child down “drowsy but awake”, this way he or she is falling asleep on their own in their own bed. Picture a 1-10 scale, 1 being wide awake and alert, and 10 being in a deep sleep. Your goal should be to get your child to about a 7 or an 8 on the drowsiness scale- basically, they should be sleepy but still aware that you are putting them down into the crib. If you put your child down and they fall asleep very quickly, say in 5 minutes or less, then they were probably too drowsy. The next time you put them to bed, put them down a bit earlier. Again, the goal is for them to be alert enough to understand and recognize that they are going into their crib, so that they put themselves to sleep. If your child is waking up multiple times in the night, it could be attributed to the fact that he’s going to sleep too drowsy at bedtime, and when he wakes up at nighttime, he has no idea where he is or how he got there- he needs you to come back and hold him, walk him, rock him etc. to help him resettle. Work on cutting back on the holding, rocking, walking, swinging, so that he’s less drowsy and more alert when you put him down. Begin by cutting back the time gradually, by a couple of minutes every few days so that he is calm and drowsy but not sound asleep.

If you often nurse or feed your baby until they’re asleep, you can try feeding them with a light on to keep them more alert. Or, try changing the order in which you do things. For instance, if your baby’s routine is: diaper change, book, song, and then nursing, it makes sense that they would often fall asleep while feeding, making them too drowsy when you put them down for bed. If you were to change the order of the routine to: diaper change, nursing, book then a song, the interruption between nursing and bed with the book and song may help to keep your baby awake.

Experiment with timing, routine and lighting and see what works best for your baby. Rocking, holding, walking etc. are all great tools to soothe your baby, but for babies 6 months and older, we need to give them a chance to self-soothe so that they learn this vital skill. Give he or she some help, but then allow them the independence to put themselves to sleep by putting them down drowsy but awake.


Travel Tips for Tots

My husband has a job that has our family traveling a lot. We move every 2-3 years, and although it can be exciting, it also comes with its difficulties. Now that our boys are 3 and 5 weve had a lot of experience helping them adapt to new places. Whether we are moving or traveling for vacation, Ive discovered some tips and tricks that have helped over the years.

Here are a few things you can do, to try and avoid a sleep regression:  

Keep a similar routine when traveling. This is so important and the most difficult tip to follow. When youre traveling, the routine is obviously going to be different, but try and keep naptimes and bedtimes to around the same time as you would at home. If your child misses a nap due to travel, put them to bed earlier than you normally would. You can help them catch a nap on the plane or car by trying to keep their naptime routine the same. Bring your child's favorite books to read on the plane, sing their favorite songs, and then give them their lovey and tell them its time for sleep. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt, but its worth trying! When you get to your destination encourage your child to nap at their usual time each day, if that's not possible, rely on the earlier bedtime. If youre traveling through time zones, it can be difficult, but aim to wake your child up at what would be their regular wake-up time, and try to keep them up until their regular naptime. This helps ease the transition and makes for a faster transition to the new time zone.

Bring their crib sheets and blankets. This is such an easy but important thing to remember. Kids like to have their bed smell and feel familiar. By taking their unwashed sheets and pillows, youre helping to recreate their same sleeping place.

Bring their essentials. Try to recreate your childs sleep space in a new setting. You can bring some plastic garbage bags or tinfoil to cover the windows, to ensure that the room is dark enough- there are also great travel blackout products available. If your child normally sleeps with a white noise machine, you can download an app on your phone.  Bring your childs favorite: books, toys (a few), pacifiers and lovey.

Acclimate to the room & crib. When you arrive at your destination or new home, let your child explore their new sleeping space, this will help if they wake-up in the middle of the night and dont know where they are. Whenever my family is staying in a new home or vacation house, I try to choose the smallest room available for my kids. Children seem to react better to small spaces, and large rooms can make some kids feel uneasy. Try putting their crib, pack n’ play or bed in the same corners that they are in at home. If your children share a room at home, keep them together in their new home or hotel room. This will make them feel more secure and help them adapt more easily.

Dont avoid travel or vacations out of fear of sleep disruptions, use these tips to help ease the transition to a new home or a temporary vacation spot. Travel with kids can be difficult, but with some small tips and tricks you can help them (and yourself!) have an easier time adjusting to a new situation!