The market is saturated with baby gear these days, and a lot of the newfangled stuff out there is, well, useless. Bottle warmers? Try warm water. Peepee teepee? Try a towel, or just speed up your diapering. Baby-food maker? Try a microwave and a blender. The human race has survived for tens of thousands of years without all of this equipment; we don’t need it now.
That said, I’m willing to bet that if you offered parents from any previous generation — be it the 1950s, the 17th century, or the late Neolithic — products that would have helped them get a good night’s sleep during those early baby years, they would have jumped all over the opportunity. In fact, even in just the few years since the birth of my wife’s and my 5-year-old son, a number of new baby gadgets have come out that we’re now using at night with our infant daughter. And I can tell you, with the coherence of someone who’s had a good night’s sleep, that these work.
Every night before putting Scarlett, our infant daughter, into her pajamas, my wife or I put an Owlet Smart Sock 2 on her left foot. This tiny little Velcro-secured band contains a biometric sensor that uses pulse oximetry to track her heart rate and blood-oxygen levels. Whenever the Owlet is in place, and the base station is switched on, we know she is breathing well and that her heart rate is steady, which brings immense peace of mind, as a precipitous change in heart rate or a drop in blood-oxygen levels are about the surest possible signs of choking or suffocation, some of the largest dangers any infant faces.
When all is well, the Owlet’s compact circular base station glows green on my wife’s nightstand. If the sock slips out of place, the light turns yellow and the station plays a loud but not alarming song. Were Scarlett ever to be in distress, experiencing a heart or O2-level issue, the light would turn red and an ear-splitting alarm would screech away at us. That has yet to happen, and I hope we use this smart sock for the entirety of its 18-month viability without ever knowing how the Owlet’s alarm sounds. But knowing it’s there is certainly a comfort. There’s also an Owlet app that you can use to track your baby’s biometrics in real time and historically.
It’s kind of amazing how much of parenthood involves simply trying to get your kids to go to sleep. Most of the rest of it? Keeping them asleep. Okay, I’m (more or less) kidding, but seriously, getting babies to fall asleep and stay asleep for long stretches of time is important for their physical health and your mental health. On most nights, one of us will rock our baby to sleep then lay her gently in the crib, but Scarlett, a much lighter sleeper than her big brother, Ben, ever was, usually pops her head back up, looks around, then starts crying. This happens several times over until she’s finally so wiped out that she throws in the towel and sleeps. To help her stay settled on those nights where there’s still too much adult stuff to do to allow for hours of snuggles, we’ve given her a soothing point of interest that helps distract and calm her down into slumber.
The Infantino Musical Soother & Night Light Projector creates a softly glowing light show, projecting dim, multicolored shapes onto the walls and ceiling and illuminating the gently swaying tail of the charming fox figurine at the center of the little tableau. The soother can play calming lullaby tunes for up to 20 minutes (we usually skip those, though, and let the sound machine handle the audio), and the brightness settings are adjustable. And once she’s a bit older, she can snuggle with a removable baby-fox miniature light for better self-soothing.
If you want the most reliably accurate test of a baby’s temperature, you have to use a rectal thermometer. However, in the middle of the night when your baby is sleeping, undressing her, taking off her diaper, and then probing her small body is hardly anyone’s idea of fun, especially the soon-to-be-screaming infant. But if you suspect that your baby is sick, or if you know it for a fact, having tracked the illness prior, regularly checking a kid’s temperature is critical to ensure that their immune system is sufficiently fighting off the illness.
The Gland Electronics Baby Ear and Forehead Thermometer uses an infrared sensor to take temperature readings using only the lightest contact with a baby’s forehead or from brief insertion into an ear. Results are displayed in seconds, and the thermometer has a memory capacity that stores up to 30 previous readings, so you can track the ups and downs of a fever over the course of several days. And best of all, you can check on your baby without waking her up.
You can take it from me that the Adaptive Sound Technologies LectroFan EVO White Noise Sound Machine is a great piece of hardware because I’ve used two of these things, but you can also take it from more than 8,000 people who have rated and reviewed the thing on Amazon, giving it a collective 4.5-star rating overall. While pricey for the category, the LectroFan EVO offers more precise control of settings and more effective sound-dampening options than any such device I’ve ever seen. This sound machine doesn’t just drown out sounds as so many others do, it effectively neutralizes it, as far as the brain is concerned, by creating the exact counterbalancing noise.
The EVO can create 22 different sounds, including white, pink, and brown noises (which are full frequency spectrum blocking, lower frequency blocking, and deep low frequency blocking, respectively — the quieter the ambient environment, the fewer frequencies you need to account for). During daytime naps, we put our baby’s sound machine on white noise, and plenty loud, to block the sounds from the neighborhood and from within our own house. At night, we can step it down some, creating a calm, soothing sleep environment while still actually able to talk or watch a show downstairs.
For a while, I was onboard with using the latest in baby-monitor tech, a unit that connects to your smartphone via app and allows you to keep track of your kid from downstairs, across town, or even from another country. Because that’s cool. But you know what’s not cool? Losing the ability to check on the nursery because the Wi-Fi goes down. That’s why we’ve swung back to a classic monitor-parent unit setup. Fortunately, with the Eufy SpaceView Baby Monitor, that parent unit can be more than 450 feet from the camera and still pick up a clear video and audio signal.
The SpaceView’s camera can pan 330 degrees side to side and tilt 110 degrees up and down, giving a clear view of the whole room. And at nighttime, its infrared sensor creates a bright, clear image. Like any decent baby monitor these days, the SpaceView tracks the ambient temperature and has a two-way talk feature. It also has a programmable Smart Alert function that let’s us choose a decibel level (a.k.a. crying intensity) above which the parent unit will sound an alarm. As if we can’t hear the kid screaming all the way across the house …
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