Out of all the stereotypes that ring true, that of new parents are probably the most accurate. We are sleep deprived, shell shocked and wondering if life will ever return to normal again – remember leisurely brunches and mini breaks?
But sleep deprivation is probably the most uniting element for new parents. According to a recent study, parents lose 50 hours of sleep in the first 12 months of their child’s life. We just want to know how to get our babies to sleep, and we spend a lot of time talking to other parents about this.
And while developmentally young babies probably won’t be able to sleep for huge chunks of time – their tiny tummies digest food very quickly, meaning they wake to feed a lot – there are some things you can do to help them get the hang of sleep.
There’s a plethora of products to help babies sleep, from mobiles and projection shows to cocoons and cuddly toys that play songs or soothing noise. But what really works?
“Baby sleep aids that play a lullaby or pink noise can be handy as part of a bedtime routine,” says Katie Palmer, a sleep consultant at Infant Sleep Consultants.
She adds, “They can help your baby create a sleep association. If you do a bedtime routine and, as you’re doing it, you always play a certain noise, your child will begin to associate that with sleep. It does create that right atmosphere.
“I tell parents to avoid the white, blue or green coloured lights. They’re really bad for sleep. So if you use a nightlight, then go for orange, red or pink.”
So with that in mind we tested a range of baby sleep aids, looking at how well they helped our bedtime routine and the general sleep of our baby, as well as how easy they were to use and the longevity of the product.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
It’s technology to the rescue with this ingenious little box of tricks. While it has loads of functions to read audio books to your child, it’s also a super little sleep aid. You pair the box with your phone and then can select a different colour light for nighttime and daytime (we went for red and yellow at night). You can even set the colours change to change depending on the time of day – particularly useful if you want older children to stay in bed longer in the morning.
It also has a sleep radio function within the app, where you can play a mix of sleepy tracks, or noises including white noise as well as rain, hedgerows and even camping in rural France. All of which you can switch on and off with your phone so you don’t need to go into the room and disturb your snoozing baby.
Once your child is older, you can also buy stories or guided meditation cards for your player, which you insert into a reader and it’ll then gently chat your child to sleep. We loved all the flexibility this product gave us. It had our baby and older testers snoozing peacefully, and we were really impressed with how this innovative product can grow with your child.
Buy now £79.99, Yotoplay.com
Babymoov doomoo organic cotton cocoon
This cosy little nest is designed to keep your baby snug and secure as they snooze. A tube-shaped pillow loops around your baby to create an enclosed feeling like they had in the womb. The cocoon is great for moving about the house from inside a crib to on the sofa (with supervision). We loved this flexibility as we didn’t have to resettle our baby if we needed to move them. And most importantly our newborn tester found it very comfortable.
We liked that the cover is removable and easy to wash (key when babies seem to make an untold mess) and easy to put back on again without too much of a fight. The fabric is made from breathable mesh, specifically chosen to prevent overheating and suffocation. The cocoon is good quality and also extends as your baby grows, meaning it should see your baby through to about six months.
Buy now £59.99, Asda.com
The White Company kimbo noise soother
This cute little elephant is so soft and squishy, and has those classic good looks of all The White Company products. This little guy makes a range of noises if you press his ear, with different sounds suited to babies and toddlers. We found, much like with Ewan the baby shushing sheep (£39.99, Sweetdreamers.co.uk), our little testers quickly accepted that Kimbo’s noise meant it was time for a snooze, so it certainly worked. Kimbo’s tummy also lights up, with changing colours – if your baby is one of those sensory soothers Katie talked about, then they might love this.
Buy now £32.00, Thewhitecompany.com
This is one of these innovations we’re kicking ourselves we didn’t think of – it’s so simple yet brilliant. The NapNap mat goes inside a cot or crib and gently vibrates and emits white noise to soothe your baby to sleep. Although we found it too big for our Moses basket, it fits nicely in a bedside crib or cot. The mats pack down really small and come with a cloth carry bag, so it’s easy to take with you if you’re away from home.
There are six modes, including a “mummy mode” – place it on your legs and it’ll give you a gentle massage. Not quite like being at a spa, but nice enough for a vague break. We found that this definitely soothed our baby during testing, and gave our arms a much-needed break as our baby didn’t seem to notice they’d been put down. A big win. The mat is charged via a USB cable, and then runs off batteries turning off after 20 minutes to conserve energy.
Buy now £120.00, Napnapuk.co
Munchkin Shhh… portable sleep machine
We thought this lightweight gadget was perfect for holidays, as it’s smaller than most of the others we tested and easy to throw into luggage. The machine has three sounds to choose from – a “shh” noise, which we dubbed “The Darth Vader”, white noise and a heartbeat sound. The white noise did the trick with our little testers, and they were soon dropping off to sleep.
There is also a soft light function on it, should you want a night light, plus a timer so you can set how long the noise goes on for, up to 30 minutes. It takes two AA batteries, which in the world of children and baby gadgets isn’t too bad and means it doesn’t have to be within reach of a socket. A relatively simple choice, but we felt it did the job well with very few unnecessary frills.
Buy now £19.49, Amazon.co.uk
Babymoov sleepy night light
This tactile little pebble is another great portable sleep aid for little ones. It’s about the size of an adult hand, and simply emits a soft orange glow and/or a soothing noise. You can choose from seven different sounds including the rain, the ocean, a vacuum cleaner and our particular household favourite, a hairdryer. We really liked the simplicity of this battery-operated device and found the white noise did the job of getting our babies off to sleep nicely. You can also set a timer, or use it continuously – which we did on noisy nights in our home, and it covered up the background sounds nicely.
Buy now £20.00, Laredoute.co.uk
Pip the Panda travel sleep aid
This fuzzy little friend is designed to be taken out and about with you – for travel or just when you’re in the shops. It straps to a pushchair if you like, but we didn’t try this after heeding Katie’s warning about putting sound machines too close to babies’ tiny ears. Equally it works at home, of course.
It features six soothing sounds including a range of lullabies, rushing water, heart beat and the white noise favourite. It also has a CrySensor, which means it starts playing if it senses your baby is crying. We really liked that this one was rechargeable via a USB cable, which means no restocking batteries and it’s more lightweight for it.
Buy now £24.99, Tommeetippee.com
Lumie bedbug bedtime light
This friendly little chap claims to provide sleep-optimised lighting to help prepare your child for bed. It has a low blue light and a 15-minute sunset function to gradually fade and gently let your child wind down for bed. You can also use it as a night light throughout the night, and it provides a warm orange light that makes the room feel cosy and safe. Switching between modes is easy thanks to some large buttons on the front, which also let you adjust the brightness of the lamp.
We really liked this light for helping us find things in the middle of the night without waking the mini testers – it would be great for night feeds. And although it didn’t get our children off to sleep per se, it definitely set the tone at bedtime, making the room feel calm. It is mains powered, which brought us joy as it didn’t eat up more batteries – but might be a pain if you’re travelling or have limited sockets.
Buy now £53.96, Bodykind.com
Ewan deluxe baby shushing sleep sheep
This adorable little sheep offers a range of marvelous functions to help your little one drift off. Each leg has a button where you can activate sounds and lights and he can emit a soft pink glow from his tummy, which apparently mimics the comfort of the womb. While we cannot attest to that, it is useful for giving a bit of light during a midnight dummy hunt. Another leg squeeze has Ewan making a variety of different noises that you can choose from – heartbeat and womb swooshing, or shushing, rainfall and harp.
We have to admit even the parents got a bit addicted to these noises. Click the moon on the front leg and the “smartCRY sensor” activates – this listens for four hours, and if it hears crying it automatically plays a soothing noise to your baby. Sadly it doesn’t locate missing dummies though. We found our babies really loved the noises, and it definitely did help settle them. We used it to resettle at night, during naps and when we put our baby down at night and our little ones definitely formed a sleep association with it very quickly.
Buy now £39.99, Sweetdreamers.co.uk
Babymoov cosydream sleep support
This ergonomic cocoon is designed to fully support your baby and help with issues such as colic and flat head. We found this fitted neatly into our Moses basket with the lower pillow section removed and our newborn tester snoozed away in it very happily for a good few hours. It supported their head really nicely and although it’s early days, there’s no sign of a flat head.
We added bonus points too because you can chuck the whole thing in the wash with no need to battle with removing the cover – ideal if you have a sicky baby. It also packs up small so it’s easy to take with you on the road, which we liked, should we ever get to go anywhere.
Buy now £39.99, Babymoov.co.uk
Shnuggle moonlight portable nightlight
We were impressed with how this nightlight grows with your child. For young babies you can use it in parent mode, which means the squashy light emits a soft glow that’s the right brightness for middle-of-the-night feeds and changes. All you have to do is nudge it (or fumble for it in the dark) and it lights up. When it’s in parent mode you can up the brightness by turning it over and it then remains on for 40 minutes before fading out. We found the nudge function is very sensitive.
When in child mode it comes on at the brightest level for 20 minutes before fading into a soft night light mode. We liked that this could grow with your child, becoming a nightlight in their room once the night feeds are behind you. The carry handle is perfect for older children to grab it for illuminating the way to the bathroom in the night. The light docks into a charging station, which doubles as a room thermometer, which shines different colours to let you know if the room is warm, cold or hot.
Buy now £29.95, Jojomamanbebe.co.uk
BT smart video baby monitor
This monitor lets you keep an eye on your snoozing baby, so you can sort out any issue before they wake. This amazingly intelligent monitor sends an alert to an app on your phone if your baby’s room gets too hot or cold, and if your baby moves or makes a noise (don’t worry, you can adjust the settings so it doesn’t ping you all night long with non events). You can also watch the monitor while you’re away from home (handy if you’ve left your baby with a babysitter) and even talk to your baby through it while you’re away.
If that sounds a little too creepy for you, there is a regular screen you can use while you’re at home. We found the range on it pretty decent, even when we were in the garden, and you can select for it to play tunes to your baby if they wake or while they go to sleep. Overall while not a cute and cuddly option, we did find this monitor gave us peace of mind and helped us all get a better night’s sleep.
Buy now £133.99, Johnlewis.com
SnuzCloud baby sleep aid
We really loved the design of this little cloud – when the light function is switched on his little cheeks blush red, and who can resist a blushing cloud? The light was about the right brightness for us – not too in your face, but enough to check on our mini testers and see what they were up to (sleeping, with any luck). The sounds the cloud makes are white and pink noise, a lullaby and waterfall, all of which are gentle and not irritating in the slightest – plus the volume is adjustable.
The cloud takes three AAA batteries, but does seem to burn through them relatively quickly. There is a strap to secure the cloud to your cot, but even then it should be kept far away from your baby at all times. We think this little chap definitely helped our testers drop off to sleep, and probably us parents too.
Buy now £22.95, Amazon.co.uk
The verdict: Baby sleep aids
We were truly wowed by the functionality of the Yoto player and how quickly it became a part of our bedtime routine. Both grown up and mini tests thought it was great. Although it’s slightly more expensive we think this product gives good value for money as it grows with your child. If you’re after something cuddlier, Ewan is a smart yet cute option that got everyone drifting off to sleep.
From cot beds to co-sleepers, read our guide for everything you need to know before buying a baby bed