There are plenty of products aimed at parents looking to create the right mood in the nursery to send little ones off to sleep.
Parents of wakeful or colicky babies should talk with their pediatrician. And the first rule is not to put anything in the crib of a baby under a year old, says Deborah Pedrick, founder of the Family Sleep Institute in Stamford, Conn. (www.familysleep.com) She notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that any loose articles, such as blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals, be removed from a crib, although a pacifier is OK.
After a year, however, many parents do like to give babies comfort objects. Retailers and manufacturers are happy to oblige.
Land of Nod has super-soft plush blankets that have animal head shapes, so children can cuddle elephants, rabbits and lambs. (www.landofnod.com)
Pillow Pets, those soft plush toys that double as pillows, include unusual animals like koalas, buffalo and elephants, as well as dolphins and dinosaurs. A lighted version, Dream Lites, projects a starry night sky on the wall for 20 minutes. (www.mypillowpets.com)
Projectors that display starry skies and frolicking sheep, and pillows that glow in the dark, have caught on in recent years.
Elizabeth Pantley, author of "The No Cry Sleep Solution" (McGraw-Hill, 2002), says darkness is nature's way of signalling that it's time to sleep. The projectors or glowing pillows can be part of the bedtime ritual, she says, but then turn them off. Or put them behind furniture so the glow isn't as strong. (www.pantley.com)
Many of the projectors do come with a 20-minute programmable shut-off.
White noise can be relaxing for many babies and children, Pantley says, especially a steady, unobtrusive, relaxing sound, such as rainfall, ocean waves or, for newborns, a heartbeat.
Homedics' SoundSpa collection includes machines that play sounds of nature including moving water, crickets and heartbeats. There's a portable clip-on model for travelling. The Graco Baby Sweet Slumber Sound Machine is a veritable sleep disco with 12 different sound options, MP3 port for customizable plug in music and a night light. Duux makes a cool-mist humidifier shaped like a mushroom, with an aromatherapy option (www.homedics.com; www.toysrus.com; www.duux.com )
You can personalize your child's bedtime routine by downloading songs or stories to Cloud B's menagerie of soft sleep critters. The company also offers the Lullabag, a soft, baby-size zippered sleeping bag. (www.cloudb.com)
If high-tech peace of mind is important, check out www.safetosleep.com: They offer a sleep mat integrated with a fiber-optic system that monitors baby's breathing and movement. You can also record your voice or lullabies.
For troublesome sleepers, Pedrick likes the Sleep Buddy system, which consists of a blue light projector, a storybook and a reward chart. Stickers are awarded for nights when kids don't get out of bed; after consecutive successes, small prizes can be offered. (www.sleepbuddy.com)
Brooklyn, N.Y., mom Betsy Bradley dealt with her daughter Phoebe's colicky early months by using a Metropolitan Museum of Art lullaby CD and one of Miracle Baby's swaddling blankets. The one-size-fits-all shaped cotton blankets wrap baby snugly so she can't twitch and startle herself. (www.miraclebaby.com )