Are Crib Baby Aquariums Bad For Your Baby’s Sleep?

To guard against SIDS, it is recommended not to have anything in the crib with your baby for the first year. But, what about crib aquariums in the crib? Are crib aquariums a good idea or bad idea when it comes to your baby’s sleep? Safety-wise, this is a topic for your pediatrician. This article will explore how a crib aquarium can help or hinder sleep.

Some books will warn against any types of crib toys indicating that if your baby can play, she won’t sleep. Why, that would work against the very goal we are trying to achieve! Or, would it?

For adults, they say that if you have insomnia or difficulty sleeping, you should make sure to have your bed ONLY be a place for sleep. No watching TV. No reading books. I’m not even sure you’re supposed to make love to your spouse! I’m not an adult sleep expert by any means. 🙂 I only know that some adult sleep problems have been tied back to childhood. Yet another reason to help establish healthy sleep habits in your baby!

For most of us, though, do we have trouble sleeping because we might read a book/magazine or watch a rerun of Friends, Seinfeld, or Family Guy before we turn in and go off to snoozeland? Usually not. In fact, it’s fairly hard for me to just put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, hop into bed, turn out the light, and fall asleep. I usually need that “unwind” time before I drift off to sleep and, now that it’s Winter, I need time to warm up my sheets!

So, what about your baby? What does your baby need before going to sleep?

Well, your baby’s temperament and personality will be a factor. Your solid bedtime routine will be his “unwind” time, so perhaps he doesn’t need his personal unwind time. Once you finish feeding him or cuddling, he should be able to drift off to sleep, right?

Not always.

First, if your baby is spirited, he may need a longer than average bedtime routine. It has been very difficult for us to get our eldest son’s bedtime routine under an hour for most of his life as a baby. The more I tried, the longer it would take and the more frustrated I’d we’d get. He’s slow-to-adapt and needs a long wind-down.

Once I accepted it and didn’t try to fit him into the mold of a bedtime routine needing to be less than 30 minutes, we had a much more fulfilling experience. But, does that mean he’d fall asleep right when it was over. Ha! Nice try. Now that he’s older and can talk…A LOT…the longer I stay, the longer it takes him to fall asleep. I guess I am too interesting. 😀 At some point, I have to leave for him to fall asleep, except for rare days when he falls asleep during our “cuddling” stage of our routine.

Second, if your baby is introverted or reflective, she may cherish her “alone time” in her crib or bed before falling asleep. She may want to think about her day (if she’s older) or unwind on her own. I have one client whose daughter takes at least 45 minutes to fall asleep after she leaves the room. She can hear her daughter talking to herself about her day! My younger son, since he was a baby and even now that he’s almost 4, has routinely taken at least 20 minutes to unwind in bed after we’ve left the room.

But, can crib aquariums be bad for your baby’s sleep?

As with many things, what works well for one baby or child will not necessarily work for yours. The bad thing about crib aquariums is that they can be too stimulating. The crib aquarium we had had 3 settings and 2 volume settings, I believe. On the loudest and brightest setting, this was much too engaging to promote sleep. That setting is undoubtedly more geared towards play time in the crib while you’re putting away laundry, for example. This is a good idea for crib transitions to familiarize babies with a new place OUTSIDE of actual sleep.

If your baby is overly perceptive, using any setting with a light is likely going to keep her awake, rather than lull her to sleep. Music, as opposed to white noise, tends to sometimes keep you awake rather than lull you to sleep, too. Music can activate the brain, which goes against what we want: peaceful and restorative sleep.

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How crib aquariums can be good for your baby’s sleep

Crib aquariums can be good, too, though. If you have done your bedtime routine, your baby is content in his crib, but just not quite ready to sleep, playing one or two rounds of the lullaby music may be enough to help him drift off to sleep without your help. With my eldest (who is perceptive), we would keep the lights off and just play the music one or two times (this was after we taught him HOW to sleep, mind you). As he got older, in the middle of the night I’d sometimes hear the music go on to help himself back to sleep. It was great! Of course, as they get even older, they can move the settings around, which isn’t always good. 😀

All in all, crib aquariums are not necessarily going to be the silver bullet to solving your sleep problems. A crib aquarium can simply be one more tool in your toolbox. And, if it does keep your baby awake, simply take it out. It’s that simple. If you would like to get an idea of how a crib aquarium works, you can watch a video demonstration HERE.

Has a crib aquarium been good or bad for your baby’s sleep?

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14 thoughts on “Are Crib Baby Aquariums Bad For Your Baby’s Sleep?”

  1. This post was really interesting and helpful! i’ll make sure to tell my friend about it. I’ll surely come back and check out more posts.

  2. Just wanted to update that as soon as I took the aquarium out, our daughter stopped waking up… I guess it was too stimulating for her!

    Unfortunately it means we don’t have the long wake up – and she is an early riser but I’d still much rather that then the two hour awake periods in the middle of the night!

    • @Carolyn Thank you for coming back and updating us. Not good about the early riser, but much better (especially for her) to not be up for long periods at night. Hopefully you can shift her schedule later or resolve the early rising issue. Good luck and thanks for letting us know what happened!

  3. Such a timely issue for us. We have loved the crib aquarium – when our 10 month old daughter wakes up early, she likes to turn it on and hang-out with it for about 20 minutes… so nice for us to wake up slowly.

    however, for the last few nights she turns it on at 2:30am and then she starts crying about 20 minutes later – for the last two nights for over 2 hours (with me going in every 20 or so minutes) – turns out she just wants to play – she is wide awake. So I’m now wondering if it is too stimulating for her in the middle of the night – waking her up more? I may try taking it out tonight and see how it goes.

  4. Hi Applepie,
    Thank you for writing! Again it really depends on the machine and the baby. Some crib toys are easy for young babies at 6 months or even younger to turn on themselves, while other crib toys are “harder” to figure out, and baby may not be able to adjust settings for a while. It depends on your baby and how involved he is in exploring too! You may have to try and find out if your baby enjoys crib toys, and some trial and error may be involved in finding out if the toys relax him or wake him up further! I wish we had the magic answer, but all babies do react differently. 🙂 Good luck, and I hope you find shat works for you very soon!

  5. How old is considered old for them to start moving the settings around?

    I don’t know if this is a necessity(Probably not). Does it really help them sleep?

  6. Hi, I live in England and although we do have crib aquariums they aren’t as big a deal here as say crib mobiles.

    I had a crib mobile for my baby daughter from birth but realised that it only stimulated her to have toys in her cot when she was tired or overtired. fine, if she was awake and just having fun lying and looking at things but I tended to take some of the more stimulating toys away at nap and bedtime and she has always been great at goingto sleep and self soothing, even to the point of pushing me away as she wants to just go to sleep!

    I’ve always been very careful to try to give her the sleep rest she needs, when she needs or looks like she needs it to prevent over tiredness and minimise night waking.

    Watching her sleepy cues meant that most of the time I could put her down when she was sleepy and she would drift off pretty much straight away with no time for crib play! 🙂

    But I know I was/am lucky in that respect and a lot of children resist sleep.

  7. O gosh! my baby and i love his fish aquarim. he didnt get it til he was 14 mos old(from papa) i had just gotton him on a good sleep scedule and i didnt want to mess anything up. my baby boy would wake up very early and take about 30 to fall asleep. i stuck the aquarim on his crib but didnt use it. then one morning he pointed at it say a-a-a til i pushed the botton he was so excited! so that night he wanted it on agian i put it on the water sound in hopes it wouldnt get him up like music would. he fell right to sleep and still does it every night. cup then blanket then a-a-a for his aquarim. and a bonus he wakes up early and switches it to music and plays. so mom gets a little more rest! love it!

  8. Recently I started leaving my 9 month old baby by himself in his crib. The firsts two days he cried about 20 minutes while my heart was broken and I was in tears myself…until he found his crib aquarium…now he fusses a little bit and he turns the music on, he lays down…if the music stops before he falls asleep he will turn it back on and lays back down until he is asleep for good. Good thing this little device is helping him to fall asleep on his own.

  9. Our crib aquarium works very well for our son, he needs a significant amount of unwinding time after we leave the room and the aquarium is mesmerizing for him, hellps him calm down. On the rare occassions he wakes and turns it on in the middle of the night, he is back asleep almost instantly once it starts playing. I strongly agree that this individual to each baby’s personality, so each will have to decide what works for their child.

  10. We had an aquarium in my daughter’s crib for a while and had to take it out! She would stir between sleep cycles and then wake herself up and make a b-line fir the aquarium. It was bad.

    • @Emily That’s great your daughter was such a good self-entertainer, but definitely not good when it’s time to sleep! 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

      @Angela That’s great that the crib aquarium helps your son feel content and helps him sleep! Thank you for sharing.

      @Cristina That’s great! I’m glad he was able to find something to help himself self-soothe. That is the “interesting” thing about sleep training is that sometimes they just don’t know what to do until they have to figure it out. I guess it’s like walking. If you carry them around, they can’t explore to figure out what to do. It’s not that they won’t walk, eventually, but it would take a lot longer without that period of exploration and trial and error. Thank you for sharing!

      @Amanda Awesome! Getting a few more zzz’s in the morning certainly helps you be a more energetic mom by day, I’m sure. 🙂

      @Phil Yes, some toys are too stimulating, especially for those sensitive to being over-stimulated. That is so great your daughter is such a great self-soother! You are a great Dad for prioritizing her sleep and thank you for commenting!

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