Much as we love our quality time with our babies, we also love having them sleep. As in sleep. Not just 15-minute catnaps, but two-hour dozes and 12-hour night stretches. That's why the best baby sleep aids on the market today are such a godsend. Because sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), rocking, singing, and dimmed nursery lights just don't cut it.
Even chronic night owls (*raises hand*) who assume they'll be able to handle the sleeplessness of parenthood often find themselves wiped out when they realize how much a wakeful baby can take out of you. 2:00 AM feedings and mornings spent bouncing a fussy infant are way different from staying up to binge-watch The Crown. And while most babies are able to sleep through the night by 6 to 9 months, according to BabyCenter, that doesn't mean they always do; it just means they're physically capable of it. The book Go the F**k to Sleep wouldn't have been such a runaway sensation if we all had kids who magically dropped off at 7:00 a.m. sharp.
For parents who need something more than lovey-blankets and lullabies to help themselves — um, I mean their little ones — get a good night's sleep, it's time to go shopping for one of these awesome and parent-tested products. They might seem silly at first glance, but you could find yourself thinking very differently as midnight approaches.
1. Sleep Sheep
This lovable lamb does more than just sit there and look cute; it plays your choice of four restful sounds, including one that mimics Mom's heartbeat in the womb. Its tummy also acts as a soft nightlight. No worries about having a toy in the crib, either; Ewan attaches to the crib bars, so your baby's face never gets near enough to block breathing. Users rave that it "works like a charm" and that it helps their babies sleep longer.
2. Snooze Scent
Granted, the price is a bit steep for a bottle of scented spritz. But you're not just buying a restful night's sleep, you're also getting the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have an all-natural product with ingredients safe for babies over 6 months. The combo scent of lavender, chamomile and vetiver helps relax baby enough to settle into dreamland.
3. More Than A Nightlight
Only in the 21st century: For the tech-loving mom comes this programmable nursery light that can be operated through your phone. Set the color of the light (the red tones are recommended for sleeping), and the sound you want played (from a choice of 11 songs and white noises), adjust the volume and brightness to your specs, and let baby rest easy. Parents of older children can program it for bathtime and wake-up hours; when the light turns green, they know it's okay to get out of bed. (No more 4:30 AM surprises!) Of the more than 1,300 users who reviewed it on Amazon, 83 percent gave it a 4- or 5-star rating.
4. Snuggle Time
Not just your average onesie, the Baby Merlin is a "swaddle transition" garment that's designed to help babies adjust to sleeping without being totally wrapped up. Its padded design provides the sensation of being cuddled, while still allowing your little one to move their arms and legs in the back-sleeping position. It wins raves from moms, including one mother of a 5-month-old who said her baby fell asleep on her own from the first day in the suit. Need more convincing? The designer is both a pediatric physical therapist *and* a mom of four.
5. Twinkling Cube
Send baby off to sleep with this combo music player/projector; you can position it to display twinkling stars in your choice of three colors on the ceiling or wall. You can set it to play one of two lullabies or a heartbeat sound, which will play continuously for 20 minutes; the stars shine for 40. Users like its versatility, size (it's easy to take along to daycare or to Grandma's), and volume control (similar products have just one setting).
6. Bedtime Music
When my oldest was a baby, I played lullaby CDs in his nursery at bedtime, and he learned to associate the music with sleeping. This is a wonderful multicultural collection featuring songs from Japan, Brazil, South Africa, and other nations. Putumayo also has several other lullaby sets from specific regions, such as Asia and Latin America. Need a more versatile option? The album can also be streamed on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon.
7. Off-The-Wall Stories
When your baby is a little older, stories can (and should!) be a part of the bedtime routine. The Moonlite projector helps enhance the experience. The projector attaches to the flashlight on your phone, and the story reels snap into the projector, allowing you to display illustrations from classic stories such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" onto the wall or ceiling. The kit comes with an activation code for the Moonlite app, which will allow you to download the stories onto your phone for easy reading. Amazon users say it helps engage children who get squirmy over books.
8. Sea Sounds
Who doesn't love the soothing sound of the ocean? Your baby certainly will, with this clever toy attached to their crib. The mini-aquarium can be adjusted to make the animals move, play a classical melody and/or ocean sounds, and display soft lights. The sounds gradually get quieter at 10-minute intervals to settle baby down. Older babies will soon discover the starfish on-off button, so if they wake during the night, they can activate the aquarium to help themselves go back to sleep.
9. Hushing Machine
Are you going hoarse from all the murmuring and hushing you're doing to settle your sleepless lamb? Let technology take over the job. Using an actual human voice, the Baby Shusher will play up to 30 minutes of continual hushing, and the volume control will help ensure that the machine doesn't keep you awake. Convenient enough to take along in the car or grocery cart, too. As one Amazon user's testimonial put it: "I admit, it seems like a silly thing to drop 35 bucks on, but I assure you, it is totally worth it, and you'll be glad you did!"
*The* baby product of the moment is this high-tech bassinet, developed by noted pediatrician Harvey Karp, MD (of "Happiest Baby on the Block" fame). Its combination of motion, white-noise sound, and sleep-sack swaddling virtually guarantees quick and sound sleep for babies up to 6 months — and more restful nights for Mom and Dad, as well. Even better: For parents who can't swing the $1,300 price tag, the Happiest Baby website offers a rental option: $149 a month gets you all the equipment, plus you can keep the swaddles, sheet and mattress after you return the SNOO. Through the end of February, the first month is only $99, a rep confirms.
11. Sleep Pro Help
When all else fails, go to the pros. Just as you might hire a KonMari expert to declutter your home or a lactation consultant to check your nursing technique, you can hire sleep consultants to help work up an individualized sleep plan for your wide-awake baby. The Baby Sleep Site, established in 2008, offers a variety of service options ranging from short-term and unlimited email consultations to phone-in sessions with trained pediatric experts. Costs vary, but expect to pay between $180 and $260 depending on your need. (Financial assistance plans and military discounts are available.)