Ask Design Mom: Preparing for Baby – Sleeping

[Note: this is part one of a five-part answer. You can find links to the other parts at the end of this post]

Ask Design Mom Question:
I’m due with my first baby this summer. How do you prepare for a new baby? Any specific gear you like? Thanks so much. — Michelle

Design Mom Answer:
Michelle. Congrats on your baby and perfect timing on this question! Because I went into serious nesting mode this weekend. Seriously serious. I could not stop with the list making. It was a little bit ridiculous. And while there’s a part of me that absolutely realizes people have been making and having babies for eons and that essentially all you need is a piece of cloth (or animal skin? maybe a large leaf?) to wrap this little being in and the human race will survive just fine, the other part of me is a total boy scout and wants to be prepared with all my favorite baby stuff.

The lists I came up with covered: Sleeping, Feeding, Bathing/Diapering, Mom and Clothing. So I thought we could cover one topic every day this week. And maybe by the weekend, I’ll feel prepared to meet this wee one. How does that sound? Let’s start with sleeping.

In the sleeping category, this is what I like to have for a new baby:

-A bassinet (or cradle or moses basket or baby hammock).
You could use a crib right from the beginning, but for the first few months I like to have the baby sleep in my bedroom. And I like the smaller footprint of something like a bassinet. Note: since bassinets are used for such a short time, this is a great item to borrow from a friend or find on Craigs List.

-Sheets for the bassinet. At least three.
If I can’t find the right size for the bassinet I’m using, I buy some fabric and hire a more-competent-seamtress-than-I to whip some up for me.

-A crib.
There are a million great choices for cribs. And the prices vary hugely. We’ve owned a variety of cribs, but our favorite was a wooden hotel-size one we found on the street in New York. (Yay for free!) We had a new mattress cut for it. Scrubbed it up and it was good to go.

-Crib bedding.
Depending on our house and the crib and my mood and whatever else, sometimes I’ve used the full set of crib bedding and sometimes I’ve just used a sheet. If we’re going for full bedding, I like to have a bumper, a bedskirt, at least 3 crib sheets, at least 3 mattress covers, and a blanket. I’m also fine to skip the bumper and bedskirt.

-Blankets. Lots of blankets.
I love to have a good-size stack of receiving blankets and swaddlers at the ready. Ten or more. I especially like having an assortment. Some sweet little felt ones I sewed for my first baby that are soft as can be. An heirloom one from Grandma Lucille that looks pretty in photos. Some fleece for outdoor walks. Oversize cotton ones for swaddling.

So there it is — my “Sleeping” list. People have such strong opinions on baby gear that I’m sure many of you would make a very different list. Feel free to share. What are your preferences? Do you use a bassinet or go straight to a crib? Do you like crib bumpers? Have you ever tried a baby hammock? (I haven’t but I want to. In fact, if you have one for sale — especially the Leander or Kanoe, please let me know…) What works for you?

Here’s a link to answer part two: Feeding.
And here’s part three: Bathing/Diapering.
Part four: Mom’s Needs.
And here’s part five: Layette (or clothing).

49 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom: Preparing for Baby – Sleeping”

  1. Blankets, oh do I agree about the blankets. A good friend of mine bought flannel at the local fabric store and hemmed the edges, easy. They are a full yard of fabric which makes for a much easier time swaddling that sweetie. Good luck to both of you.

  2. We’re in the process of adopting a baby… still in the wait to be “chosen” category… but this list is so incredibly HELPFUL! we have absolutely NO CLUE what to do or what to prioritize! can’t wait to read the posts all week long! thank you!

  3. Love your story about finding a crib curbside. We have a ton of freecycling in my neighborhood and I love hearing the stories of how folks came across their favorite finds as much as how they’ve refurbished the pieces to make them their own.

  4. Go, Melissa! I think adoptive parents are so brave – you have to be ready to dive into parenting on the fly without months of prep! So exciting!

  5. A mattress protector for YOUR bed. I often nursed my babies in bed (even during the day) and learned the hard way that it is no fun when they spit up/throw up all over your sheets, which then quickly leaks through to your mattress. I always recommend a waterproof mattress cover to new friends expecting babes. I am also a sheet-only person in the crib. The less to clean up and deal with, the better in my book! :)

  6. I’m pregnant with baby #2 and thought I’d throw my must-have sleeping item out there… the Miracle Blanket… its almost like a little strait jacket blanket for your baby, but it is truly a miracle! I found that my son quickly wiggled his way out of even the best/biggest swaddling blankets and had a horrible time sleeping with his arms flapping around. The miracle blanket worked wonders. :)

  7. Just thought I’d ditto the sheet protectors – ultimate crib sheets are so so handy. And although not a necessity, both of my babes punched their way out of my own swaddling efforts (guess I’m just not a master and/or they got strong fast!), so I liked having a swaddleme blanket to help in those first few months. Oh, and I wanted my babies in my room at first too, but I just used my pack ‘n play instead of getting a separate bassinet. That said, they both slept much better in their own crib.

    1. I also used my pack n play in my room for the first couple months. The twins were both able to sleep in it. Putting them in their own room helped everyone sleep better!

  8. Miracle Blanket. I will second that over and over and over, so I guess that is more like a third, forth and fifth it.

    Also, I wish I had known about IKEA crib sheets from the beginning because they actually fit the mattress unlike other ones that make you feel like you’ve engaged in a wrestling match with the crib mattress and just barely won.

  9. I love the 45″ x 45″ flannel receiving blankets. Single layer for swaddling, double layer for warmth. They’re so big, they work for much longer than the 30 x 30 ones.

  10. Crib bumpers can be dangerous and shouldn’t be used.

    Current recommendations are that there be nothing in the crib except the baby, so dress her or him warmly, or keep the room warm.

    Waterproof crib mattress covers or pads (or ones for your bed, if your baby sleeps with you for even part of the night) are a must. I liked having two, so that I could catch a breath in terms of laundry and not have to do it every single day.

  11. I borrowed a bassinet when my twin babies were born, but they never slept in it. They ended up sleeping on the couch for two months straight, then in a playpen for a month, and then off to their seperate cribs. Somehow the couch took hold of them much better than anything else; they fit right into where the cushion meets the back.
    Also I’m totally for crib bumpers. My babies snuggle right into them as an all round pillow. Plus my son is all over the place in his sleep – it serves as added protection for him not to knock himself out by a crib bar.

    I’ve never heard of the Miracle Blanket until now….wish I knew about it before. I would have bought it…next baby!

  12. I would be concerned about the crib given the recalls on cribs with the moveable side rail. might be time for a new crib.

  13. I am currently expecting my 4th is September and I have been through the whole bedding “set” to just a sheet, blanket and bumper to just a sheet and handmade quilt for #3. I did invest in a wonderful organic mattress for #3 – totally worth it to me!

    I like to layer the sheets like this: mattress, protector, sheet, protector, sheet, waterproof pad, sheet – it’s work, but in the middle of the night it is priceless to just be able to pull off the top layer and be ready to go with your eyes closed.

    My favorite swaddling blankets are aden and anais. They are muslin and so light and oversized – perfect! They also make double layer blankets for added warmth – i live in FL so the regular ones work perfectly for me.

    I also use the mini cosleeper next to the bed for the first 4 months or so and I’m thinking about a moses basket for the coming babe since we live in a 2 level home and I don’t want to set up the pack and play downstairs – it just takes up too much room.

  14. My 2 favorites:
    A SwaddleMe. I’ve had 2 fantastic sleepers and I’ve used these religiously. I like to have at least 2-3 of them.

    I also love Aden+Anais blankets for spring/summer babies. And I found them at my local Target!

  15. Miracle Blanket!!!! I am totally swaddling impaired, especially at 2AM, and that thing saved my sanity. Also, Shannon, that is genius!

  16. I tried a bassinette with my second baby but I decided it’s not for me. For me, I need everything to be as easy as possible, so introducing transitions so early in life is NOT for me–because transitions with babies are not easy. So I start with the crib from day 1. And I have a secret: double-layer your sheets. Put on a mattress pad and sheet, then do it again. Then when your baby has a blow-out in the middle of the night and you’re too tired to move (let alone change sheets) you just pull off the top layer and the second one is ready to go. Genius. Works great for potty-trainees, too.

  17. Oh, nice answers to the question. I def. need to get more than one mattress cover like you suggested, would be much less frustration when my little girl pees through her sleepers!

  18. Not totally “sleep” related as the other responses are…but with our second we got a video monitor. She is four months old now and has been in her room for a couple of weeks. It’s awesome for me to be able to roll over and flick on the monitor to see where she is or just to reassure myself that she’s fine. So, I guess it helps ME sleep!

    Also love a sound machine – we have a three-year old who is, apparently, physically unable to whisper at night. I’m all for having a baby get used to the noises of the house but when she’s constantly waking up you want to pull your hair out. Sound machine is great!

  19. We used a bassinet with our first and loved it. It was so nice to have her nearby. We also co-slept a lot until she was about 2. I don’t think I’ll do that with my next baby (I’m 4 1/2 months pregnant now) but we enjoyed it and she’s transitioned well to her big girl bed.

    I agree that a sound machine is a must. I also re-organize my nightstand to have water, a coupla extra swaddling blankets, diapers, wipes, an extra night shirt and bra (for breastfeeding issues), lanolin, and an extra paci (if you use them). A soft nightlight by the bed also comes in handy for preventing bumping around in the night when the baby wakes! Have fun nesting! I always love that stage of preparation for the baby!

  20. Oh, my favorite subject. I always stay on top of kids stuff. I love practical, but good quality things. When my second son was born, my first on was still sleeping in his crib, so I had found a perfect basn. by cariboo. I got it used, but it was in an perfect shape. My son used it for a long time. They are light and will go with any decor. I love it. My favorite blanket is by duc duc, the orange one is the best. I got my 1st son bedding collection, off white, natural by natura. It’s great any gender and it’s natural. Hope this helps. And my best investment was Bugaboo BEE. Love it, light and the best stroller. I put one together myself, and got it for less than half a price. Love when you get great things for low price. God bless your little one.

  21. I agree–the Aden & Anais muslin swaddling blankets are the best! They are huge and lightweight, which is perfect for a baby in the spring/summer. They come in really cute patterns and usually in a package of four so you’ll have plenty on hand at all times.

  22. I always had my babies in our bed with us, in the middle, later at one side secured with the nursingpillow, and as soon as I was fed up with being so tight… (depending on the kid that was after 4mths, 6mths, 5mths) they would move to the crib in the neighbouring room. BUT.. we’d always have the natures sway hammock from day one and put them there for naps or to start into the night, when we didn’t want to go to bed yet…

  23. I love our video baby monitor. I spend less time getting out of bed and sneaking into the baby’s room just to make sure everything is OK than I would without it! But I’m a worrier. We used this into toddlerhood with my oldest, and it was fun to see what she was doing in her crib when she was supposed to be napping (playing, singing, gymnastics, taking off her diaper, etc.).

  24. I wish we had invested in a king size bed instead of purchasing a crib…my daughter slept in hers maybe once? If you have a bassinet I think you can totally hold off on a crib until you find out what kind of sleep arrangements work for you ;)

  25. We bought a crib, but ended up using a co-sleeper as a free-standing pack n play, and it’s the best sleep purchase we made. She doesn’t hurt her head, I can see her through the mesh (she’s near our bed, but not attached to it), she can’t chew on any wood, I don’t have to worry about it collapsing on her, and I didn’t have to buy a lot of extra bedding. It was also a smart decision for us because I had to have emergency surgery two months pp, and the Arm’s Reach allowed me to bend down and pick her up without hurting myself. Next baby, I’m skipping the crib.

    Oh, and here’s a link to my favorite baby gear post:

  26. I’m confused about the blanket issue. We received A LOT of blankets as gifts and some were handmade and almost all were absolutely lovely, adorable, soft and cozy. But what am I supposed to do with so many blankets? Even Wren who spit up a lot for the first quarter of her life didn’t really need more than two blankets. Now I have a box of keepsake blankets because I can’t get rid of most of them, especially when they have “Wren” embroidered on them. Ideas, anyone?

  27. Hi Gabrielle,

    This is perfect timing for me! I’m due May 29th with my third and have been making lists (why didn’t I save the ones I had before??) for two weeks now. I keep thinking I’m forgetting stuff… So I’ll keep an eye on your blog this week :)
    Also, I’m with you on the crummy nights, unfortunately.
    I love hanging bassinets, especially these ones since they hang from a spring:

    And you can hang them right next to your bed the first couple of months. Hope you get in a good night tonight!


  28. Swaddle wraps with velcro, for sure. My son can houdini himself out of just about any regular swaddle. The velcro keeps him snug and sleeping a lot longer.

  29. Cosleeping can be a real lifesaver – it was the only way my first ever slept. My second however, slept best in her Moses Basket for about the first 4 months. Now at 6.5 months she started crawling and sleeps best in her IKEA Gulliver crib – with lots of soft blankets, and a bumper to keep her hands and feet from getting stuck in the rails.

    The latest SIDS prevention research out there recommends the use of a fan to circulate the air in baby’s room.

  30. We used all the receiving blankets for a variety of things – coverup when it was cold out and we took the stroller/babyseat combo. It’s also a great way to mark out a play area. She plays with them – peek a boo, snuggle, flopping etc. Later they’ll be part of a fort, capes – the imagination doesn’t end.

  31. I would say that for sleeping, nothing beats sleep gowns or sacks, even for boys. There’s nothing harder than trying to snap eight snaps on a wiggly newborn in the dark while you’re mostly asleep. Yay for sleep gowns, easy up, change diaper, easy down, swaddle, sleep!

  32. I found a pram with the big white ‘bicycle’ wheels at a yard sale and all 3 of my babies slept in it til they were 4 months old. It was great – we attached a length of those plastic links to it and we could rock them practically in our sleep from the bed!

  33. The soothing blankets from Luna Lullaby are a must in the world of swaddling. The are made of 100% cotton muslin which is almost like a gauze. I wouldn’t attempt to swaddle a baby with any other blanket after using these. They are nice and large and stretchy. They are a little pricey but well worth the extra expense!

  34. This doesn’t quite fit any of your categories, though many babies sleep in them: a baby wrap. My son (19 mos) still hasn’t been in a grocery cart! I found the wrap to feel more secure than the sling (many currently recalled), even though it took some practice on the wrapping!

  35. On swaddling your baby at night: most women will tell you that all babies will love to be swaddled. They do it in the hospital, so you think you have to do it when you get home. Try it both ways though. My boy didn’t like it, and started sleeping more peacefully and through the night when we tried not swaddling him. To keep him warm, we got some fleece sleep sacks to zip him up in and them use a heavier blanket over him under his arms so he can’t get it up over his face. He doesn’t move that much at night because he’s sleeping more peacefully than before, but that may not be the case for all babies. That’s my 2 cents! :o)

  36. Love the hanging bassinet. When I had my son I thought about getting just a crib, but friends convinced me to get a bassinet. It was the best decision I ever made. It was perfect and so handy to have the baby in the same room with me. Once, he got older he went to his crib. There are so many things to learn when being a new mom and this help to take some of the stress of me.

  37. Adrienne Conner

    Hi…wanted to throw in my two cents here as a recent new Mama. 6 weeks after my wee little one came into world, we found out she had reflux. As I understand it, this is quite common for babies. The reason I mention this, is that Katie rejected the bassinet and crib immediately and I found out that due to her reflux, she was miserable sleeping flat on her back. I found the only thing that worked for her was her car seat, which I ended up putting in the bassinet so I could still be within arms reach of her. This kept her at the incline she so desperately needed and I have since been averaging about 8 hours of sleep a night!! I also agree with the blankets. I especially love the Aden and Anais Muslin blankets. They’re great for warm weather which allow air to circulate when I need to cover the car seat completely and they also work great for breastfeeding as well as swaddling. Best wishes to you and your bundle to be!!

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