Multiple nighttime feedings and check-ins are a reality for parents of newborns. The use of a softly-lit night light will keep you from tripping in the nursery, or unnecessarily waking your sleeping baby by having to turn on the overhead light.
We tested nearly three dozen different night lights over the course of more than 30 hours of research and testing. We tested night lights from different major manufacturers, putting them through real-world tests like how well they lit a completely dark, 175-square foot room , while speaking to certified sleep experts and scouring reviews on Amazon and other retailers. If I were buying a night light for my baby today, I'd buy the KinderGlo Fun Safe Portable Night Light because it offers just the right amount of light, has auto-off and all-night options, and is rechargeable. Plus, it's cute and affordable
Who Should Buy a Night Light?
Parents of newborns have to go into the baby's room multiple times during the night and will do anything to get the baby back to sleep as soon as possible. There's the night time feedings, diaper changes, and the ever-present parental pull to take one more peek. Parents will want a gentle light in the nursery to clear the way so they won't trip or wake their sleeping baby.
It's not for the baby, though; most babies aren't afraid of the dark. Typically children won't have nightmares, or be afraid of monsters under the bed, until 2 years and older.
Is a night light a must-have nursery item? The sleep experts that we talked to, agree that a dark room is best for a nursery, however, they also agree that parents need to see what they are doing in the baby's room. It's up to you. That said, we suggest using a night light with an auto shut-off feature.
It's important to establish sleep patterns early on in the babies life and some parents are worried about disrupting their baby's sleep cycle. "Our circadian rhythm (a fancy name for our body clocks) responds primarily to light and dark. Your baby's circadian rhythm is still developing over these first few months," wrote Andrea Strang, Certified Gentle Sleep Coach and a Birth and Postpartum Doula at SleepBaby.com. In the article, Strang recommends to "keep your baby's room dark and quiet at night to help promote sleep.Use dim (or ambient) lighting when tending to your baby's needs at night. Use only the minimum amount you need to see what you're doing. A small flashlight, night light, or the light from your phone would work great."
We talked with Alanna McGinn, Founder and Senior Sleep Consultant of goodnightsleepsite.com, and busy mom of three, who agrees to leave the choice of a night light up to the parents.
"We all sleep better in a darker environment," said McGinn. "Darkness is what cues our brain to release our natural hormone melatonin, which prepares our body to sleep. That being said many parents like to include a dim night light so that they are able to see what is going on in the nursery when checking on their child."
She cautions, "but if a night light is interfering with sleep, whether it's because the environment is too light, or your child is playing too long because they can see all their toys, then it's time to turn it off."
We also spoke with Kim West, a licensed clinical social worker, author of the book Good Night, Sleep Tight, and mother of two. She's known to her clients as "The Sleep Lady." West confirmed our findings and recommends, "dim night lights in nurseries are mainly for the parents who will be attending to their baby during the night."
The parents I spoke to agreed they want some light in the room so they can see when the need comes to go to the crib.
A safe night light is paramount. Safety isn't something you may think of when buying a simple night light, however it's important to be aware of a few key items. First, make sure the light doesn't get too hot.
"Keep night lights away from drapes or bedding where they could start a fire. Buy only cool night lights that do not get hot" says HealthyChildren.org, a website from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Another safety reminder: newborns shouldn't have anything in the crib with them while they are sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics says to keep all soft objects out of the crib, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says "bare is best" when it comes to items in the crib. Because of this, we set our criteria for the best night light to be used outside the crib, out of reach of the baby. While doing our research, we found some night lights recalled due to long cords, so we chose not to test any that had cords that would hang from a wall.
Both sleep experts we spoke to warned us away from blue lights, saying "I would recommend to stay away from night lights that include blue LED lights. This suppresses our melatonin and turns the sleep switch off. A night light with a white light of no more than 4-to-7 watts is fine," McGinn says. She gives a tip in an article on BabyPost.com to use a regular bulb instead of LED lights, while West recommends particular light bulb that "helps screen out blue light." (If you aren't leaving a night light on all night, it shouldn't be a big deal.)
What Makes a Good Night Light?
A good night light shouldn't cost a lot of money, however there are a ton of options to discover. There's more than just those classic models that plug into the socket.
Yet it's worth the time to know what separates a good night light from a bad night light: things like safety, product quality, light brightness, ease of use, cord vs. battery, and as always, price.
And it's easy to get confused and even overwhelmed with all the added bonus features on night lights in the market today. Things like plush casing, music, sound machines, and even room temperature readouts. The additions can generally be ignored: they aren't necessities to lighting the room at night enough for the parent to see. Many of these are great features for an older child, but won't help you during that 2:00 a.m. feeding.
We determined that a night light that relies solely on batteries wouldn't fall into the good category for the simple reason that the parent will have to unscrew that bottom with one of those teeny, tiny screwdrivers to get to the battery compartment and replace the batteries. Can you even imagine having to do this in the middle of the night? This is more work than necessary for a night light—and who can find a set of batteries when you need it anyway? Unfortunately, this crosses most night lights off our list. But because so many night lights on the market do operate by battery (for safety reasons) we have included the best ones in the also great category below.
A good night light should have a bulb that is readily available in stores and easy to replace. We found that all of our top contenders use LED lights. "LED lighting can be more efficient, durable, versatile and longer lasting," according to the Energy Star website. The site also explains that "LEDs typically do not 'burn out' or fail. Instead, they experience lumen depreciation, where the amount of light produced decreases." Simply put, this means that the light should last a long time. The KinderGlo website contains a video about how easy the light is to use and mentions that the LED light might even last until your child "has a mustache." But this is also true of all the night lights we tested. The LED feature is what also makes these lights safe to the touch. They don't heat like a traditional bulb. (With the rapid decrease in price for LED bulbs in general, it's likely you'll be replacing all your household lights with LEDs in the next few years. Might as well start in the nursery!)
Night lights can be as cheap as $4.99 for ones that plug into the wall, and up to nearly $100 for a luxury decor item (seriously!), but we found the sweet spot to be between $8-$35. Over $40 all you were really getting were extra bells and whistles that a baby or parent doesn't need.
Finally: Is it cute? After looking at tons of night lights, I've seen some really ugly ones. Truly. I didn't think it was possible, but trust me, they're out there. A great night light is cute and adds to the decor of the room.
We considered music as many night lights on the market have this feature, but feel while great to have, it's not a necessity and usually increases the price. And the music feature would need to have certain features such as volume control and a timer. In an age when nearly every gadget can play or stream music, we don't see the need for a night light that does it, too.
How We Tested
There are hundreds of different night lights. Some big, some small, some regular—and lots and lots of owls. It seems owls are a trend right now. (That's okay. We like owls!)
In total, I reviewed 32 different night lights in a variety of categories: plush animals, night lights that plug into the socket, those that project on the ceiling, some that hang on a wall, and those that you can carry around. Using the criteria for good and great night lights, I narrowed the field to seven top contenders to conduct more research. You'd think there'd be more that seven great night lights, but it was relatively easy to narrow it down based on our criteria. And after looking through product websites, scouring customer reviews, and matching the products against our criteria list, the list was narrowed to just four to test in real life.
We put all four night lights through a test of night time use over a period of one week (using the favorite for an additional two weeks.) We took one light each night into my children's bedroom and turned it on in complete darkness. We determined if it was bright enough (or too bright), how easy it was to operate, and if it was attractive in the room. Then I read a bedtime story, tucked the kids in, and left the room. An hour later I went back to the room to see if the light was still on. All but one light was off each night. Three of the four lights that we tested have automatic shutoffs between 20-45 minutes. Only two have the ability to stay lit all night, something we deem critical in a nursery night light. Only one—our pick, the KinderGlo Night Light—has the ability for auto shut off or to stay on all night. When we re-tested the KinderGlo Night Light we made sure to choose the all night setting, making sure it stayed on all night as promised. We also tested the recharge ability on The KinderGlo. It passed all our tests.
After three solid weeks of testing, I'm confident to report that the KinderGlo Night Light is the one to buy, because it stays on all night, is rechargeable, has a dim glow with multiple color options, is cute, and is a fair price.
With a full charge (approximately 8 hours), it stays on for 8-10 hours, which we've determined is absolutely critical in a night light for a nursery. There will be no tripping or having to turn on an overhead light with this night light. Parents can simply set the light to stay on the entire night. This is the only night light we tested that had this option. And, an added benefit, is that you can also set this light to automatically shut off after 30 minutes.
The KinderGlo Night Light comes with a base that plugs into a standard electrical outlet. This cord can be easily tucked behind a dresser for safety, and the night light placed on the base during the day to charge. At night, just turn the light on and set it anywhere in the room you want. As your child grows, the KinderGlo Night Light will most likely become a favorite night time toy that is safe enough to take to bed with them. Because it uses an LED light, it's never hot to the touch.
The light on the KinderGlo Night Light is dim enough to suit the desire to keep the room dark for baby, but bright enough to satisfy a parent's need to see enough to feed the baby. When we tested this light in complete darkness, I could still see all the objects in the room and could maneuver around with ease, yet it never felt too bright. I loved thinking that I would be able to feed the baby without it completely waking up and not being able to get back to sleep.
There are multiple color options for colors on this night light. Parents can choose an option for the light to fade through the "colors of the spectrum," or can set it to stay on either red, green, or blue. We must note that since we know about blue lights, we would recommend you not utilize the blue feature of this night light. Since the KinderGlo Night Light offers multiple color options we feel this isn't a deal breaker.
The price is right, too. At $25—and available in nine character choices—the KinderGlo Night Light is more expensive than two of our top four, but when you consider not having to purchase batteries, it makes this the most economical of the top contenders.
The KinderGlo Night Light is non-toxic, phthalate-, BPA- and lead-free.
We also like the fact that a 90-day warranty comes with the KinderGlo Night Light to ensure good working order for your new purchase. Some reviewers complained about the fragility of the night light, making this pick better for infants than for toddlers (scroll down for our toddler pick).
Using the timer: If you want the night light to turn off in 30 minutes, just make sure the timer light is on. It's a small red light on the bottom of the night light. If you want the night light to stay on all night, hold the light button down for 3 seconds. The small red timer indicator light will go off, indicating to you that the night light is set to stay on all night.
The KinderGlo Night Light description on Amazon says it has a "soft touch," but I disagree with this description. It's not a soft, pliable toy. I would call it solid, yet not rock hard.
There is one thing that isn't great about the Kingerglo Night Light: it has a small on/off switch on the bottom of product. And, it's not intuitive to get the light in the setting you want. It's not the end of the world—once you get the hang of it. Pushing the black "light button" on the bottom of the night light will turn on the light. It's also is the button you use to select the color—"continually changing colors or a constant single color of blue, red, or green." The easy way is to just push keep pushing the button until you get the color you want. There is a handy chart in the instruction manual, if you simply can't figure it out.
Who Else Likes It?
Kelcey Kintner from AlphaMom.com lists the KinderGlo Night Light as an "Alpha Mom Favorite," and put it on its Best Night Light for Kids list, saying, "I feel like it's a great light for a preschooler or for a baby's room because it gives you enough light for nighttime changes or feeding."
On Amazon, the KinderGlo Night Light has a score of 4.1 out of 5, with over 280 reviews. One customer says "My son (now 11 months) LOVES his elephant night light. When we put him on the changing table in the morning, he usually screams, but when I give him his night light, he happily plays with it (and tries to eat it). It is quite bright, which is great for middle-of-the-night feedings or trying to find a pacifier in the crib. However, we felt it was a little bright for sleep, so we actually put it under the crib where it can cast a glow in the room without shining in the baby's eyes."
Streamline's White Owl Night Light—This is an adorable night light. It's much smaller in person that what it seems online, but it's powerful just the same. The best feature is that the light taps on and taps off. The ability for a parent to easily tap the little owl's head to turn the light on make this the the best on/off switch of all that we tested (even better than our pick) — the light stays on all night too. And, at $13.48, the price is right. This is a great night light, and it was hard to choose between this and our pick. The main drawback was the fact that it's much brighter than the others we tested. We feel many parents may think it's too bright for babies. It uses batteries which wasn't as good as the recharge ability of our pick. I also should note that when I opened the box, I noticed a large warning on the box saying there is a choking hazard and that the product is meant for children 6 on up. I questioned the company about this warning label, as I didn't see anything different about this product than from the other night lights we were testing. The company responded by saying, " The Choking hazard statement is mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it must be on all products that contain any small parts like a screw or even a piece of an item that can break off, so since our push on night lights contain small screws, they must carry a Choking Safety Warning. Although we must place this warning on our lights, they are not any more unsafe than other night lights available, the screws on our lights are firmly installed, however we are again just adhering to regulations." And, I must say that the other battery-operated night lights on this list do also contain the screws on the battery compartment.
While we ultimately landed on the KinderGlo Night Light for its ability to stay on all night and the fact that it's rechargeable, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge how good the Munchkin Light My Way Night Light is. It was very close throughout most of our testing, but ultimately the ability to stay on all night made us go with the KinderGlo Night Light. The Munchkin Light My Way Night Light owl is one of the cutest we tested and was an immediate favorite — and is priced exceptionally well as it comes in at $8.96. The owl's big eyes make it irresistible: My 5-year-old daughter fell in love with this little guy. And, it's lightweight and has a handle so young children can easily carry it anywhere. It's even easier to carry than our pick! What we didn't like as much is the on/off button on the bottom (you need to depress a tiny button), it requires batteries which we don't want to have to deal with in the middle of the night and it doesn't stay on all night. This light would be useful for parents only if they carried it into the room themselves, otherwise you'd have to walk to the room and turn the night light on in order to see. If you decide to go with the Munchkin Light My Way Night Light, though, we can assure you that you'll be happy with it. It's adorable and will last throughout your baby's childhood years.
Best for Toddlers
The Cloud B Turtle is also a great night light, and it one of the highest-rated night lights we found through our research. This night light was a favorite of my kid's during the testing period. It's a soft, lovable animal that lights the entire room with stars and a moon. You can switch between colors, but the light shuts off automatically and there isn't an option to keep it on all night long. This is an excellent choice for an older child. It's more expensive than our pick, at $33 too. There is also a Cloud B Turtle with more features, but we chose to review the basic version because it's very highly rated.
We considered these alternatives from manufacturers, but can't recommend them.
- Boon Glo night light—This night light is highly ranked all over the web. It didn't make it to the testing phase for our guide because many reviews said the balls are like glow in the dark toys that don't retain the light long enough. Plus, at $54 it's a little steep for a night light.
- Projectables LED Plug-In Night Light—These night lights project an image onto the ceiling and do light up the room enough to see at night. For older kids, there are cute pictures like the sea or a favorite cartoon character. The main drawback is that they need to plug directly into an outlet and be positioned exactly to get the image on the ceiling where the child can see it properly.
- Summer Infant Summer Babies—We only reviewed one stuffed animal-type night light and the Cloud B received better reviews, and is a great night light.
- PDXD Kids Honey Bee—While this night light gets good reviews, it has a long cord that dangles from the night light on the wall. Many resources we found warn to stay away from dangling cords in a child's room.
- Great Value's Auto On Night Light—There are several night lights like this brand. They just plug in the wall and light a small area. While they're great for a bathroom, or a hallway, we felt they aren't what a new parent is looking for in a nursery night light due to the lack of light and where the plug is on the wall.
Care, Use, Maintenance, and Repair
Here's a few best practices for keeping the KinderGlo Night Light clean and in good working order. The instruction manual says you can use a damp cloth and even mild detergent to clean the outside of the KinderGlo Night Light. I think this goes without saying, but the user guide does say "do not immerse KinderGlo night light in water. It should not be used as a bathtub toy." There you have it.
The company also notes to "not service the product yourself as opening or removing covers may damage the product or expose you to hazards." So if it breaks after the 90-day warranty it looks like you'll have to buy a new one. That's not great, but not untypical for products in this price range.
Wrapping It Up
From the choice to have the light stay on all night, or choose to have it auto shut off, to the rechargeability, plus the way it performed in our testing, it's clear the KinderGlo Night Light is the night light of choice for now. I'd bet new parents that use this night light will have it for years to come and it will be a child favorite.
- Alana McGinn, Should I Use a night light in My Child's Room?, BabyPost.com
- Andrea Strang, 8 Strategies to Improve Infant Sleep Naturally, SleepLady.com
- Email interview with Alanna McGinn, Founder and Senior Sleep Consultant, GoodNightSleepSite.com, 2014
- Email interview with Kim West, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, SleepLady.com, 2014
- Make Baby's Room Safe, HealthyChildren.com, 2013
- AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction, HealthyChildren.org.
- Safe Sleep: Bedding, Pillows, Safety, and More, OnSafety Blog of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- IKEA Reannounces and Expands Recall of Children's Wall Mounted Lamps Due to Strangulation Hazard, IKEA.com, April 29, 2014
- Learn About LEDs, EnergyStar.gov
- KinderGlo Fun Safe Portable Night Light, KinderGlo.com
- Best Night Lights for Kids, AlphaMom.com
- Email with Sophia Senderovich, StreamLine, Inc., 2014
Alicia Lewis Murray is a social media consultant and freelance writer with a background in digital media, and higher education. As the mother of two young and energetic children, she also blogs about work life balance.
If you enjoyed this guide, find more at TheNightlight.com.