“How to get baby to sleep” must be the most googled question during those blurry new-born months. Sleep deprivation is a genuine form of torture and parents will do pretty much anything for some decent shut-eye.
Baby boffins have come to the rescue with ingenious inventions to help little ones get to sleep and stay asleep – we were amazed at how much science is involved.
Professional sleep consultant, Lucy Shrimpton, also known as The Sleep Nanny shared her advice: “A sleep aid like a soft toy or age-appropriate comforter is a great idea. Your baby has control of this and doesn't need you to come and 'do it' for them.
"White noise soothes babies but stay away from intermittent whale or rainforest sounds. These are lovely for a sensory environment but do not have the same effect as soothing a baby.
"I advise against any visual stimulation like mobiles, light shows or anything hanging over a baby's crib. Again, great for sensory time but not for sleep time. The easiest way to decide whether or not something is going to help your baby sleep is to ask yourself whether it is more of a toy or a soother.”
A baby sleep aid can be anything that a parent can use to help soothe their baby and make them more comfortable and calm at bedtime. We selected sleep aids that showcased the wide range of methods on offer so we could see for ourselves how they work.
Once our little testers had full tummies and were burped, bathed and ready for bed, we set up the sleep aids and crossed our fingers for some precious shuteye.
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pNeo baby shusher
Most parents use the ancient art of shushing a restless baby, it is a universal language. This gadget does exactly what it says on the tin – shushes a baby. No fuss, no fuzz, just loud, rhythmic shushing. It goes on for 15 or 30 minutes and you can choose the volume which can be loud enough to drown out the baby’s cries. This sounds mean, but is proven to engage their crying reflex.
The shusher couldn’t have been simpler to set up and the batteries last for ages – we should know because we now use it night and day. It is small so you can carry it with you in the pram or while travelling.
The shushing is loud enough to block out other noises that might disturb the baby. Our baby tester was easily duped into thinking it was us doing the shushing and was instantly calmed and soothed to sleep, while we crept off to enjoy our evening. We loved that it goes on for 30 minutes, giving us time to enjoy a whole bottle – sorry, glass – of wine.
It was the best money we’ve ever spent and worth every penny. Make sure you have a spare one at home; your baby might get very used to it.
Buy now £28.95, Amazon
The gro company Ollie the owl
Normally we don’t give a hoot what a product looks like as long as it helps get our little sleep-thieves napping, but Ollie the owl is exceptionally cute.
Ollie’s repertoire includes a heartbeat, rainfall, white noise and Brahms lullaby. The noises go on for 20 minutes and the soothing light stays on for half an hour. We liked that the volume is adjustable so it can soothe the baby without waking anyone else.
It is by far the cutest and softest sleep aid on the market. It fits in every nursery and is super easy to set up. The best function is the baby-activated white noise which you can leave on for the whole night and doesn’t bother the rest of the family when it turns on as the baby stirs.
Our little tester adored Ollie. The soft light and calming good-quality sound settled him very easily and helped him go quickly back to sleep when he woke.
Ollie the Owl is good value but we recommend using rechargeable batteries because he gets through a lot of them – about four a week. This is because he is always on standby mode, listening for restless babies, even when his light and sound is off. You can turn the battery box off during the day, but you have to to open the owl up to do this.
Buy now £34.99, Amazon
Another way to help babies sleep is to make them as comfortable as possible. Baby cribs are supposed to use firm mattresses and just a blanket without pillows or toys, to avoid suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome. It can feel harsh to expect them to sleep soundly in such a stark environment, but safety is most important.
This product offers comfort and safety, with a shallow memory foam support to help babies sleep comfortably on their backs. It aids sleep by relieving colic and reflux.
It comes folded in half so it was easy to set it up in the cot. It is stylish and super soft, giving that cradle-snug feeling for the baby around the head and under legs, like being in the womb. We loved that it fit perfectly in a Moses basket.
Our baby snuggled in and went straight to sleep, so it was a big success for us and well worth the money. We loved how the legs are elevated, taking pressure off of the spine.
Although we love this, do ask your midwife’s opinion on it if you have a baby who spits up lots of milk as this nest can stop them turning their heads easily.
Buy now £40.00, Jojo Maman Bebe
Infantino 3 in 1 projector musical mobile
Being the rebels that we are, we wanted to test Lucy’s advice about cot mobiles for ourselves. This promised to be a multiway soothing machine and we were most excited about the options for getting baby to sleep (obviously). We tested the soothing music, soothing light, star projector and musical mobile on our little sleeper.
There is a shut-off timer of 20 minutes so we simply set it off and crept downstairs to wait and enjoy a large G&T because tired mummies and daddies need some night-time soothing too.
It was easy to assemble, but if your cot gaps are wider than 2.5 inches it won’t fit. The design is gorgeous and the neutral colour works well in all styles of nurseries.
Our baby tester loved to look at it and certainly seemed soothed and settled. The mobile is very interactive which stopped our baby fussing because they were distracted. We found that using this mobile on an over-tired baby was a mistake however, as the stimulation is too much for them. It goes off after about 20 minutes, so make sure you put your little one down when they are ready for sleep.
All in all it is good value for money as it “grows” with the child and you can take it apart to only use the night light once they are older.
Buy now £39.99, Amazon
Ewan the dream sheep deluxe
This sheep is a household name among sleep-deprived parents. He is soft, woolly and uber-cute. He mimics the “pink noise” that babies hear in the womb with a recording of a heartbeat and shushing. Pink noise is a lower-frequency and popular alternative to white noise due to it being deeper and gentler on the ear. Studies have shown that it is more effective than white noise in helping settle your baby to sleep.
The deluxe version of Ewan has removable electrics so the sheep can be washed which is very useful if you travel with it. Baby was mesmerised by the soothing lights and pink noise which settled him. The best deluxe feature is the new cry-activation so we didn’t need to go to the room to turn it on again, which kept him asleep for longer.
It’s not sheep – sorry, cheap, but is worth the money as there is a built in shusher and nightlight so you only need to buy this one product for the nursery and you can travel with it, no need for an electric socket.
Buy now £39.99, Sweet Dreamers
Shnuggle moonlight nightlight
This resembles a space-age lantern with its carrying strap and warm glow. We imagined we looked like Ebeneezer Scrooge, wandering down the hall in our nightgown, searching for the ghost of restful-nights-past.
It has a “parent mode” and a “child mode”. The first is a soft blue light with three brightness levels, allowing you to creep about in the night without waking anyone else up (lucky them) which is perfect for night time feeds. The carrying strap made it easy to hold when we had our arms full of babies and milk bottles.
In child mode the light gradually dims to simulate a sunset and stays on low all night to reassure the sleeper. There is a room temperature indicator on the charging dock.
We loved that it is portable so it is perfect for night time feeds and nappy changes. It looks stylish and the light is soft and didn’t wake our tester. Although it doesn’t help the baby to fall asleep, it helps them to stay asleep or half asleep during a feed. We found it stylish and good value.
Buy now £29.99, JoJo Maman Bebe
BT smart baby monitor
This monitor promises reassurance for both baby and parent. It soothes little sleepers with five different lullabies and has two-way communication so they know someone is close by. Parents have a five inch colour screen to watch them on with night vision, thermometer, manual pan and zoom, sound level lights so they don’t have to hear every snuffle and it works with smart phones, Alexa and google assistant.
We got this set up with minimal fuss. The monitor is great with strong connection and clear picture even in night vision.
We used the monitor mainly for the camera and sound but love the fact that it also has a nightlight and lullabies to sooth baby, making it a one-stop sleep shop and therefore great value.
Buy now £149.99, Kiddie's Kingdom
Lumie is a Cambridge-based light therapy specialist. It has used its knowledge to help sleep-deprived parents with LEDs chosen to help babies’ circadian rhythms and get them into a regular sleep pattern by mimicking a sunset. Sounds ideal.
It was simple to set up, but it needs to be plugged in to the wall so isn’t portable but doesn’t need to be if you are using it to set a bedtime routine where baby is settled in the same room each night. We loved the sunset light effect and baby found it soothing. We can certainly see the logic behind this, and think it would work wonders when used repeatedly over a few weeks.
Buy now £40.49, Amazon
Baby Annabell sleep well for babies
This Baby Annabell is capable of recording and repeating five minutes of audio, over and over for 30 minutes. We think that this would mean we never, ever slept again but for babies, apparently this is very soothing. Parents can record a song, story or message for a little one.
This baby doll has a soft, washable body which sets it apart from un-snuggly hard plastic dolls. We think it is still too hard for a newborn, but would make an ideal companion for an older baby.
It takes a lot of batteries, most of which we spent on recording hilarious messages to scare our other half. We loved that we could leave a loving message for our baby to hear when we weren’t around – ideal for overnight stays at the grandparents – hooray!
Buy now £24.54, Amazon
We couldn’t imagine anything sleepier than a soft, fluffy cloud that makes soothing noises, and weren’t disappointed when our SnuzCloud arrived. It promised 20 minutes of soothing sounds including pink noise and heartbeat.
We tested it on our little angel with both the pink light as a nightlight and soft white light for dream feeding and night checks without waking them up. Baby loved the good quality sound and seemed to find the pink light soothing.
As per Lucy Shrimpton’s advice, we were conscious of adding too much entertainment to the cot at bedtime, but it didn’t act as a distraction to our baby sleeper, the cloud is subtle and soothing.
Buy now £29.95, Snuz
This is a cuddly bedtime companion comprising a family of bears embedded with a heart-shaped pouch that emits various sleep-inducing sounds.
The concept for My Hummy is based on results of clinical trials, which reveal that white noise, particularly for newborns, has been proven to increase the likelihood of a baby falling asleep threefold.
We were just as delighted as our little one with this lovely, soft bear. The cry-activation is ideal as it saved our legs and also meant we didn’t have to have continuous noise all night while our tiny tester is sleeping in our bedroom and saved battery life.
We thoroughly tested all five different types of sounds and our little one seemed to like the pink noise the best. A nice touch is that the free teether doubles up as a hook for securing bear safely in cot to adhere to safe sleeping guidelines.
Buy now £59.99, My Hummy
Nattou lapidou nightlight
Nattou “lapidou” nightlights have in-built sound sensors and will activate automatically at the sound of a baby’s gurgle or cry, offering instant reassurance. It gives out a soft light in seven colours, with adjustable brightness.
We love the fun and funky style of this light. It would look great in any child’s room. It doesn’t emit any noise though so is more of a night light than a sleep aid.
The cry activation is better suited to older babies who will appreciate the night time reassurance of a light more than white noise and won’t set it off every five minutes. It’s easy to use and is a fun, interactive bedroom accessory that will keep toddlers and older children settled at night.
Buy now £39.99, Amazon
The verdict: Baby sleep aids
When it comes to effectiveness, we found that sound is the most important factor when soothing babies to sleep. The science behind white and pink noise really does seem to work. This is why the pNeo baby shusher is our best buy – it is all about the shush. Cuddly toys and comforters can always be added for snuggle factor. Making baby as comfortable and secure as possible is also important, so fluffy sleep aids and baby nests help, as does a good night time routine. If all else fails, sleep consultants work wonders.