I was excited about this book because Giordano’s sleep-training method, which involves getting (and keeping) children on a schedule, worked beautifully for my sister’s two girls. It worked so well that as they got older, they actually looked forward to going to bed and often initiated their bedtime routine when they felt tired.
“Wow, I hope my kid will be like that!” I always thought to myself when my nieces asked to turn in for the night.
But then I had my daughter and sleep deprivation happened. In a MAJOR way.
New parents or the walking dead?
On our second full night home from the hospital, I’ll never forget looking over at my husband as we sat in our disheveled living room. Our daughter, in my arms, was crying — again — and we didn’t know how to make her stop, even after trying everything they tell you to do when your baby cries.
Each of us had only slept for a couple hours here and there. He looked sooooooo tired and helpless as we tried to care for our days-old daughter. We were beyond exhausted. Something had to give.
That moment made me realize that as soon as our daughter was old enough, I would train her to follow a sleep schedule. Now almost three years later, I can honestly say it was one of my best parenting decisions — so far!
Do what’s best for your family, but here’s what worked for us
I know I’m blessed that my daughter took to a sleep schedule so well and that she actually sleeps great for us, too.
Some doctors believe that structure actually improves a child’s brain. I would tend to agree since my daughter seems to thrive on the familiarity of a regular routine. In fact, seeing how well a sleep schedule worked for my daughter actually inspired me to create my own grown-up bedtime routine.
At the end of the day, you have to do what feels best for your family, but I’d like to share the routine and sleep aids that have worked for my daughter, who is still taking a 2-hour nap each day at age 2.5.
I hope these suggestions help and inspire other new parents who may be struggling with encouraging their toddler to sleep.
After all, a good night’s sleep (for baby and you) is PURE MAGIC!
8 Sleep Aids for Children
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Parents, start by taking a look at The Baby Sleep Solution by Suzy Giordano on Amazon, request it at your local library or see if a site like PaperBackSwap has it. Though technically not a sleep aid for your child, the information in this book was invaluable in helping me create a bedtime sleep routine for my daughter.
1. A calm, low light environment 30 minutes before bedtime
This is one of the easiest (and free!) sleep aids on the list! About 30-45 minutes before my daughter’s bedtime, we begin “family quiet time.” This means we dim the lights, pull the shades and/or close blinds throughout the house to create a low-light environment. We started doing this after I read several articles about how melatonin and light impacts sleepiness.
Family quiet time also means no more use of electronics or technology (no TV or music). Usually, we begin our “no screen time” policy after dinner for our daughter. My husband and I try to minimize use of our mobile phones during this time, too. The 30 minutes prior to her bedtime is all about helping my daughter relax and follow her bedtime routine.
2. Great story books to read
After dimming the lights, we all sit down to read several of my daughter’s favorite story books before bed. The exact number we read depends on the length of the books that she chooses. I’m finding that we are reading fewer books than we used to now that she is showing an interest in more complex books (think paper pages over board books). Some of her favorites to read at the moment are Doc McStuffins “The Mermaid Dives In,” “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and Mouse’s First Summer.
3. A pacifier, binky, soothie or whatever pet name you call it!
To paci or not to paci — it can be a heated debate among parents on the Internet. I didn’t plan to use a pacifier with my daughter, but the first night in the hospital … she. wouldn’t. stop. crying. So I caved and asked the nurse if she had one. It helped my daughter sleep that night, but more importantly, it helped me and my husband get some much needed rest, too.
Since then, we’ve been pretty strict in terms of when she can use the pacifier. At home, she only gets it for sleeping during naps and bedtime. When she was a baby, I used to give it to her during car rides, too… otherwise she would scream her little head off! But we stopped giving it to her in the car a long time ago.
We tried several different brands and styles of pacies but my daughter prefers the NUK “Puller” Pacifiers.
4. A musical tool for self-soothing
My mom bought a pink Soothe and Glow Seahorse for my daughter before she was even born. When we began sleep training, we used the seahorse to soothe my daughter, but its music plays for only six minutes. The book recommends an item that will play soothing music for about 20 minutes.
So we ordered the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium from Amazon because it plays music for 18+ minutes. The aquarium was pricey but a worthwhile investment for us. My daughter loves it and still uses it today at 2.5 years old when she wakes in the middle of the night.
The same year we bought the aquarium, my daughter also received the Fisher-Price SnugaMonkey Sleepytime Plush in an Easter basket from a relative. We began using the monkey — which plays music for 20 minutes — interchangeably with the aquarium.
The monkey, aquarium and seahorse are the three main sleep tools my daughter has been using for the past two years. All were excellent investments for us and her. Even when we travel, they go with us!
5. Room darkening curtains
It was my husband’s idea to use pink blackout thermal curtain panels in our daughter’s room. At the time, I didn’t realize what a lifesaver these curtains would be!
In the summer, when the sun doesn’t set till after 9pm, these curtains dim her room enough to encourage our daughter to sleep at her normal 8pm bedtime. We use six panels — three on each window — with double curtain rods. We stretch one panel out on the entire length of the inside curtain rod (the one closest to the window). And then we use two on the outside curtain rod. Using them in this fashion makes the room even darker!
Even during the twice-a-year time changes for daylight saving time, my daughter experiences minimal sleep interruption during the time changes because of the room darkening curtains!
6. Swaddle blankets or a sleep sack
Shortly after my daughter’s birth, I took a parenting class that discussed Dr. Harvey Karp’s soothing techniques for a happy baby. Swaddling, which comforts and calms a baby, is one of Karp’s recommendations, and initially we used muslin swaddle blankets until we discovered that my daughter was a wiggle worm and wouldn’t stay wrapped in them all night.
We transitioned to a HALO SleepSack Swaddle which worked perfectly for my daughter’s nightly sleep. By six months of age, my daughter no longer needed her arms swaddled, so we switched to a regular HALO SleepSack. She used that style until just recently when we moved her to a toddler bed and bought her the HALO Big Kids SleepSack with foot openings.
Why not ditch the SleepSack and just use a blanket now? My daughter LOVES the sacks. They comfort her, I think, in much the same way the other soothing tools do. She even insists on wearing the sacks during the summer, so I usually buy the cottons ones for the warmer months.
7. An aromatherapy diffuser
It seems like everybody is talking about the aromatherapy benefits of essential oils these days. I’ve been an essential oil user for years so it was a no-brainer to incorporate them into my daughter’s sleep routine.
We’re currently using the Samyo aromatherapy diffuser and air humidifier in her room. This diffuser has a color changing light and shuts off automatically when the water gets too low, which is a safety feature I love!
Each night I fill it with about 200ml of water and add a drop of lavender essential oil. After my daughter is dressed in her pajamas, I turn on the diffuser and she gets to choose the color of the light by pressing the button to rotate through the colors. (She usually picks a color that matches her PJs, it’s too cute!)
The lavender oil creates a calming effect in her room as she drifts off to sleep each night. When she feels under the weather, I usually add eucalyptus essential oil to the diffuser instead, or mix a drop in with the lavender.
8. Calming and protective crystals
This last sleep aid for children probably doesn’t make most lists, but I believe in the vibrational healing energy of crystals and gemstones. When my daughter was old enough to not want to put the rocks in her mouth, I introduced her to several crystals that are known for their calming and protective properties.
Amethyst was an easy choice. This protective stone is well-known as a natural tranquilizer of sorts, blocking negative energies in the environment. Jet — which is formed from fossilized wood — draws out negative energy and alleviates unreasonable fears. Pink Calcite is thought to release fear and bring in love. It also helps prevent nightmares. Polished malachite is another protective stone, though it should be handled with caution (use only in polished form and wash hands after handling). I keep three malachite stones in my daughter’s room: One above her doorway and one above each of the two windows in her room.
If you’re curious about crystal healing energy, you can “Google” a local rock shop to browse stones in person, or read a copy of The Crystal Bible, or browse an online shop like Sage Goddess, which is my favorite online store for buying crystals!