Dr Seeley's Favorite Things 

If you have worked with me before, one thing that you might already know is that I try to avoid having parents buy unnecessary items and "sleep stuff". With that said, it is normal for newborns, infants and toddlers to need a little support. Below I have put together a list of my favorite items for supporting sleep and that I personally recommend to my clients.  

1. Zen Swaddle and Sleep Sac​​​​​

Within the first 3 months of life, it is very common for newborns to be active sleepers. Unlike adults who produce a chemical called glycine that paralyzes our body during REM sleep, newborn babies lack this chemical and it takes around 3 months to fully develop, making them quite active little sleepers in the first 3 months!  A study out of ​​​ Pediatrics found that swaddling newborns decreased the amount of startles during a nap and increased the amount of REM sleep, showing direct evidence that swaddling can be an effective way to help your newborn during the early months until their brainstem and REM features are more developed. 
One of my favorite swaddle sacs is the ​​Zen Swaddle by Nested Bean.  Not only does it have an adjustable size and last twice as long as other swaddle sacs, an arms-in and arms-out option (which is great for safe gradual transitioning out of the swaddle and sleepers that love their arms out), it also has a weighted pressure that mimics touch to help your little one sleep longer. Many studies show that weighted pressure can have a calming effect on the nervous system and improve sleep quality, and there is no better person to need this added support than a newborn!  So if you are in the market for a swaddle this is the one I always recommend to clients (especially clients with particularly active little sleepers!). 
Once your little one transitions from a swaddle  they will be ready for a ​Zen Sleep Sac or some Zen PJ's, both of which provide supported weighting while being safe to use for babies who can no longer be swaddled (for more information on swaddle transitions you can take my online Newborn Sleep Workshop). To check out the these products and get your sleep on, click on the link below! 

2. Obasan crib mattresses, protectors and toddler pillows

As a sleep researcher and academic one thing that I had never put much thought into was the quality of my bedding material. I usually bought whatever pillow seemed comfy, and was a sucker for memory foam and materials that I now know are very unhealthy.  This all changed the night my son had an unexpected asthma attack induced from his toddler pillow. He had been showing signs of being ready for a pillow so like many parents I jumped on amazon to find what I thought would be a great pillow for him.  I ordered an "all natural bamboo memory foam pillow" it arrived one night after dinner so we opened it quickly, threw it in his bed and said good-night.  Later that night I woke up at 2am to my son coughing heavily and wide awake, I had never experienced him so wide-eyed and his breathing was very laboured and heavy.  In an attempt to try and calm him I laid my head on his pillow to pretend to sleep, but as soon as my head hit the pillow I inhaled the strongest odour of paint and without even thinking I picked up the pillow and threw it out of his crib.  In the morning I called the company, to only be informed that I should have "off-gassed" the pillow for 48 hours prior to using it. My immediate response was

"Off-gassing a pillow? 
Why would anyone make a toddler pillow that needs to be off-gassed?"

This seemed so wrong. Why would a pillow need a 2 week period to air out toxic chemicals? ​​​

After this experience I decided to educate myself and do some research to find bedding materials that will be safe for my son.   This is what I learned. 

1. Don't be fooled by the word "natural" in the title.  Turns out, there is no regulation behind using the word "natural". A product could have 0.01% natural materials and 99.99% synthetic material and can be advertised as "natural".  

The best products to look for should be labelled 100% natural. 

2. Synthethic pillow materials are really not good for your health.  Synthetic pillows, such as memory foam, or any pillow with features such as being "flame retardant" or "water proof" are highly processed and full of toxic chemicals. The materials they use release chemicals into the air and have been linked to a whole host of health problems such as cancer, neurotoxins, hormone disruption, headaches, ashtma, and insomnia (which seems counterproductive to what a pillow should do).  Most toddlers spend 13-15 hours with their head on a pillow per day so if you are going to splurge on safe products, make it their bedding. 
I found 3 pillow types that are 100% natural and non-synthetic.  

Buckwheat:   I tested the buckwheat but I found it quite loud, as it is made of small pellots.  I was unsure how my son would respond to this.  I also found this particular pillow a bit too soft so I opted against it. 

100% natural Down-filled:  There were a few reasons I avoided down-filled pillows.  First, they are known to absorb water easily, which can  lead to bacterial and mold growth. Also, using animal feathers seemed unnecessary to me, especially considering there were some other more ethically sourced materials to choose from.    

100% Natural Cotton and Rubbers: My perfect pillow ended up coming from an Ottawa based company called ​​ Obasan,  which makes bedding and pillows made from 100% natural organic cotton, wools and rubber.  This means the materials are unprocessed, non-toxic, safe. They also breathe well leading to less mold and bacteria growth. We ordered the Terra Nova 6.0 Organic Rubber Toddler Pillow and my son absolutely loved it (it was also chiropractor approved and had the perfect mix of soft and firm for my little guy).   

I began raving about the company online and creating educational videos for families. As a result, they sent me unliimited $50 and $100 gift cards to give to my clients or anyone who would like to purchase an item from their website.   If anyone is interested in a gift card code, has questions, and wants to make a switch to more natural bedding don't hesitate to email me directly at [email protected]  ​and I'm happy to send you a code to recieve $50 off pilllows and bedding and $100 off mattresses. 

Wondering if your toddler is ready for a pillow? 
Want to learn more about pillow material safety?  Check out the video below!

3. Good Night Fairy Book Series 

 ​             ​​The most common questions I get from parents of toddlers and children are,  how can I.....

 help my child fall asleep faster

                                                                            help my child stay in bed .

                                                                         reduce nightmares and fears 

Many cultures around the world use stories as a way to communicate messages to children at bedtime. Stories can be a very powerful tool to help shift behaviours, motivate changes and calm the busy mind of a child. Solving the toddler sleep puzzle can involve many things, including schedule adjustments, syncing circadian rhythms with sleep, reducing overstimulation,  setting boundaries, or gradual methods to change bedimte associations. One thing I often use as in conjunction to this, are stories.  The great thing about children compared to babies is that we can communicate to them and engage their imagination. We can involve them in the process and help them understand it. It really is amazing the power that stories can have in changing bedtime behaviours. 


                                                  This is exactly what the Good Night Fairy book series aims to do.   

 The Good Night Fairy Book Series includes 3 books that can help target specific difficulties that parents often encounter,

1. Falling Asleep

The newest edition to the series "Avery Sleeps More Readily" is the first childrens book to use Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (known as ASMR), which is a unique sleep-inducing phenomenon that is becoming widly popular and has research evidence to show it helps with sleep onset.  In this book Avery, a young boy who has trouble "shutting-off" gets a visit from the Good Night Fairy. Through this visit, parents go through a series of sleep-inducing techniques that are known to elicit feelings of relaxation including sshing, touch, sound. It is the perfect book for parents to become aquainted with techniques of AMSR and gives all the tools to start practicing it at home with your little one. Every parent should understand this technique!

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2. Staying in Bed

The first book to kick-start the series was "A Visit from the Good Night Fairy". This book uses rhymes to tell the story of a little boy who overcomes his fear of sleeping alone. Through gentle words from his mother he practices calm breathing before bed, thinks happy thoughts about his day, and we are introduced to the Good Night Fairy, a bright-eyed red-haired fairy who looks over children while they are fast asleep in bed. The author uses this character to help bring the boy the reassurance that he is safe and the motivation and encouragement to stay in bed throughout the night. This book is great for any child having difficulty needed a little extra comfort at bedtime! 

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​3. Nightmares  

Did you know that your child can learn to change their dream content through visualization and practice during wake?  In "The Good Night Fairy Helps Via Change her Dreams", the author uses child-friendly rhymes to help a little girl Via take control of her dreams.  In the book, Via gets a visit from the Good Night Fairy plus a few new friends named alpha, beta, delta and theta, (named after the brain wave activity during sleep stages).  These charming characters use a 'crown of control' to help VIa realize that she can take control of her fears through visualizations, and change her dreams from negative to positive. What I love about this book is not only does it help children learn to take control of their thoughts, but research shows that thought content before bed, reflects thought content during dreams.  It is a wonderful tool to help families practice positive visualizations and give toddlers the sense of control they often need to feel safe.  The book also  includes a foreword with additional information on how you can practice lucid dreaming with your child. 

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Overall, what I love about these books is that they  help communicate messages in a way that children will listen while helping educate parents using research-based evidence. They are the perfect addition to a bedtime routine! 

Find out more about the Good Night Fairy by clicking here! 

Need help with your toddlers sleep?  Find out more about my toddler support package  here!