Product review: Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light — Sea Turtle and Lady Bug.

 

A few months before the birth of the twins, I started looking on Amazon for the essential items we’d need upon their arrival: Bottles, diapers, rectal thermometers. This search lasted about 12 seconds before I sidelined into looking at all of the cool baby toys. Before long, the Amazon Groupthink (a.k.a. user reviews) had me winding my way down a rabbit hole of four and five star-rated products that had been vetted by thousands of customers “just like me” and were practically guaranteed to satisfy.

Near the top of the list was the Cloud b Twilight Constellation series of anthropomorphic night lights. As a casual astronomy buff, this immediately appealed to my sensibilities. What better way for my kids to take comfort in the middle of the night than from the shining of “actual” stars?  The model that caught my fancy was the Sea Turtle. Not only did it project constellations, but also its indigo shell was bedecked with light-up pictures of five endangered creatures from the deep. Astronomy laced with environmental stewardship? Sold!

Plus, the regular turtle’s shell was a drab beige. Bleh.

Strangely, Lara questioned my priorities when we opened the shipping box, removed the plastic air pillows, and pulled out the turtle’s packaging.

“Are they even going to notice this as newborns?” she asked, puzzled. “Aren’t there other things we should get first?”

Nonsense! The picture on the back clearly showed that once placed on the floor, the night light would turn the nursery into a tiny, terrapin planetarium. Its blazing glory might even need to be dialed down so as not to interrupt the twins’ peaceful slumber. I tore it from the package like a kid on Christmas morning and immediately hit my first hurdle. This was my first encounter with “child-proof” battery compartments. They are designed so that even if a baby were to produce and use a screwdriver, he or she would still not have the intelligence or strength to remove the lid. Apparently, I also fell into this category, since I wrestled with the compartment for a half an hour.

The trick is that the screw holding the lid down will never come all the way out. This prevents it from becoming a choking hazard for baby, but it also prevents Daddy from knowing when the lid is free. Instead, it acts and feels like a stripped screw. Finally, though, I figured this out, as well as the fact that you then have to squeeze the screw housing back, like a clip, in order for the lid to come free. I soon discovered that this is the same sort of system used on most electronics for the infant, baby, and toddler set, but the Sea Turtle’s compartment remains as one of the most stubborn (safest?) examples.

Once the three AAA batteries were installed, I closed the nursery door, drew the curtain, and turned off the lights. I hit the leftmost of the three buttons on the rear of the turtle’s shell. A medallion bearing a picture of a leatherback turtle lit up on the front of the shell. I hit the button four more times, and the light rotated around the shell, illuminating pictures of a blue whale, California sea otter, Knysna seahorse, and Vaquita dolphin. Great. But where were the stars?

Upon hitting the middle button, the entire shell glowed a deep blue, with light shooting through small openings on the top of the shell. I looked up, and the night sky filled the ceiling of the nursery. There must have been cloud cover, though, because the stars weren’t nearly as bright as I had expected. Pleasant enough for adult-sized peepers, but I wondered whether brand new eyes would be able to make them out. Hitting the third button helped by adding an aquamarine hue and “additional” stars (actually, slightly offset versions of the same stars from a different colored light source), but I still doubted whether the twins would be able to see them.

When we brought them home for the hospital, we had visions of the two sleeping peacefully together in the co-sleeper next to our bed, reunited after spending their first 13 days apart in the NICU. That dream collapsed almost immediately. Emmeline was such a rowdy sleeper that she constantly woke up Jack, which made everyone miserable. It wasn’t long before we had her sleeping in the nursery. I slept on an air mattress on the floor next to her, but I still feared that she would get scared if she awoke in the night (the crib dwarfed her 4lbs. 6 oz. frame; for all she knew, she could be in the middle of the desert—a soft, flannel desert).

The turtle’s time had come.

Knowing that there was no way she would see the distant flickering on the ceiling, I put the turtle in the crib with her. All the baby books that I read had said that any item in the crib with a baby under six months is a huge no-no, but since she was essentially immobile, I figured placing it near her but out of reach would be fine. She took to it immediately, her tiny eyes locking on to the soft blue glow. As she grew older, she continued to be hypnotized by the turtle. Even if she was fussy when put down for a nap, Emmeline would immediately quiet once the turtle was lit. She even started noticing the stars that played across the wooden rails of her crib, and she soon started nuzzling the turtle’s plush head and legs. And the internal 45 minute timer meant that it wouldn’t go dark until long after Emme had fallen asleep.

Seeing the success of the sea turtle with Emmeline, Lara bought another night light for Jack. This one was the Lady Bug model, which has a few notable differences from the Sea Turtle. It’s slightly smaller; the star holes cover the entire shell because there are no endangered sea creature medallions; and it’s primary lighting color is red. Lara finds the red a bit severe, but Jack seems to like it, probably because its blue and green modes are very muted, especially compared to the Sea Turtle. But the full coverage of the star holes means it has a much wider throw than the Sea Turtle, making for a more encompassing effect.

So would I recommend these night lights? Absolutely, though I recommend figuring out your priorities first. If red lighting reminds you of a horror movie or you’d like to promote animal causes to your kids once they get older, go for the Sea Turtle. It comes with a booklet containing a star chart for the constellations the turtle displays, plus information about the five endangered creatures on the shell, both of which should be fun to share with Emme down the road. If you’d prefer a broader star field for your child that potentially fills his or her field of vision, buy the Lady Bug. Or check out the other models in the line to see if different colors or animals have a greater appeal.

In the end, though, the greatest recommendation comes not from me, but from my daughter. Recently, we were again becoming concerned about the baby book warnings to keep all items out of the crib. She had begun cuddling up to the turtle so closely that fears of SIDS or some other mishap related to impaired air flow began to worry us. So one evening, we removed the turtle and placed it on the hamper at the foot of her bed so that she could still see it but not touch it. We checked on her an hour or so later and this is what we found:

The turtle went back in the crib the next night.

Vicky - September 30, 2012 - 9:07 pm

What an adorable little girl you have! Those pictures are precious.

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