Baby & Toddler Sleep

When you bring your sweet new baby home, you may be surprised by just how much of the day they spend asleep. Those newborn weeks and months won’t last forever, of course, and will give way to more time spent awake, alert, and enjoying your company. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you breathe a sigh of relief when your little one is all tucked in and soundly snoozing away!

There are plenty of nursery and sleep accessories that can make your life a bit easier. Some of them are essentials, while others are merely optional but helpful.

Nursery Essentials (and Some Handy Accessories)

  • Bassinet: This is an oval or rectangular shaped portable bed for babies with high cloth or mesh sides. A bedside bassinet allows a new baby to be close to parents by providing a portable sleep space which safely contains them. A bassinet is safe to use from birth until approximately six months, and some pack and plays can be used as both a bassinet and a playpen, saving parents a few much-needed dolalrs.
  • Crib: A crib provides baby with a safe sleeping space, offering a thin mattress that’s padded for their comfort and safely spaced bars to keep them in place. Some cribs can convert into toddler beds, saving parents money in the long run. While it’s safe to use a crib from birth, baby may seem dwarfed by its space — pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals all pose a SIDS risk to newborns. Some parents choose to start with a bassinet for this reason.
  • Best Nursery Glider or Rocking Chair: Whether you’re rocking your baby to sleep, feeding them, or calming their tears, the presence of a rocking chair or glider in your nursery gives you a comfortable place to sit that naturally facilitates a soothing, relaxing motion. If your chair of choice isn’t padded, consider investing in a seat or back cushion, as well as a hassock to prop your feet up on; you may wind up spending more hours in that chair than you think.
  • Best Play Yard: Also called a pack n play or playpen, these units offer a soft play mat that’s surrounded by high, breathable mesh or cloth sides, offering a place for babies and toddlers to safely play and nap. They’re invaluable for those times when you need to be sure your child is contained, and they don’t restrict gross motor skill development like swings and bouncers do. Some pack and plays can convert back and forth to a bassinet, offering extra utility and value.
  • Best Nap Mat: As your toddler outgrows their pack and play, they may want or need a comfortable place to stretch out and nap or sleep either outside of their bedroom or when they’re away from home. Most nap mats are fully washable, have washable covers, or are made out of waterproof materials that can be wiped clean. Some nicer picks are made with dense memory foam and soft outer fabric with high sides that offer a safe, comfortable sleep space.

Sleep Dangers of Swings and Bouncers

Baby swings and bouncers are both great additions to your nursery, and offer safe places for baby to play in the short term. Most have features that will entertain your baby while offering developmental benefits, like rattles and hanging objects designed to engage motor skills and provide sensory stimulation.

The soothing rocking and bouncing motions of swings and bouncers can sometimes ease your baby into sleep. While this is okay for a short time while supervised, baby should never sleep for long periods or a full night in their swing or bouncer. Sleeping in the upright position these devices create puts your baby at an increased risk of SIDS. Padding the swing or bouncer with pillows or blankets increases that risk even further, so it should always be avoided.

Another note on swings and bouncers: while they’re great in moderation, they shouldn’t be used as a substitution for play yards. By keeping baby in one position, they prevent the development of gross motor skills when used for more than an hour at a time.

The ‘Big Kid Bed’ FAQ

When is it time for a big kid bed?

While the typical age for beginning the transition into a big kid bed is between 1.5 and 3 years old, no harm will come to your toddler from sleeping in their crib. Once they start to try climbing out, however, things get dangerous quickly — this is why a bed is a must. If they’re trying to climb, asking for a big kid bed, or are done potty training, it’s a good time to make the switch.

Is a convertible crib worth it?

While regular cribs outlive their usefulness when kids trade up to a bed, a convertible crib does exactly as its name suggests, converting to become a headboard and support for their toddler bed. This means they’re likely to be more expensive, but still typically less so than the combined cost of a crib and bed. It will fall to parents to complete the conversion, though, so those who aren’t about the assembly-required life may wish to skip the convertible crib.

Are rails or bumpers necessary?

Restless sleep can lead to toddlers falling out of bed, causing potential injuries and creating fear that can trigger sleep regression and demand to return to their crib. Rails and bumpers can prevent falls and mimic the contained feeling of their crib, offering comfort. While rails require consideration of bed frame type and bed size, bumpers typically slip right under the sheet of any bed, making them more versatile. Some can even be inflated and deflated, making them perfect for sleepovers and travel.

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