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 a few tried and tested items that can be supportive for 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 wrong. I couldn't understand how a company could ethically make a toddler pillow with such strong chemicals that it needed a period of off-gassing for up to 2 weeks (which essentially means airing out until the chemical smell goes away).  Nowhere on the packaging did it indicate this, plus even if it did there was no way I would ever want to use this pillow for my son who at the time spent over 50% of his day sleeping on it. It was a scary experience and I felt terrible, but ultimately this experience sparked an interest to educate myself about bedding materials and share this knowledge with my clients. Here are a couple of things I have learned in the process:

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".  

Synthethic pillow materials are not good for your health.  Pillows made from memory foam, or with features such as being "flame retardant" or "water proof" are highly processed and synthetic. These products 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). Considering adults spend 1/3 of their lives, and toddlers 1/2 of their lives with their heads on pillows it is worth investing in products with healthy materials. So what do you look for?  Well, turns out

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

So which pillows fall into this category?  In my search I came across three main options for toddlers, buckwheat, down-filled, or 100% natural cottons/wools/rubbers.  I tested the buckwheat but I found it quite loud and a bit too soft, it is essentially little pellots (similar to bean bag) and I was unsure how my son would like this.  There were also 100% natural down-filled products, they are known to absorb water which can easily lead to bacterial and mold growth and using animal feathers seemed unnecessary to me.    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 pass the information along!