Disaster and Emergency Prep for Families

disaster prep kits for familiesFew places in this world are safe from the kind of disasters that Mother Nature likes to throw at us. There are hurricanes and tropical storms. There are earthquakes. There are tornadoes and flash floods. Before kids, safety in these kind of emergencies was mostly common sense. You go to the most sheltered place and ride it out. No big deal.

When you have kids, the whole disaster paradigm changes. Your previous emergency kit (which was probably a bottle of water, a flashlight, and two twinkies) isn’t going to cut it any longer. Here are some of the things that you (adults) will tolerate, that your little ones probably won’t take well:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night, which is when most natural disasters seem to strike
  • Spending a lot of time in the dark, and the quiet.
  • Staying entertained without TV, movies, or internet
  • Living on bottled water and canned food.

Let’s be honest: the safest room in your house — low to the ground, away from windows — is probably some kind of storage area. Maybe it’s a basement or finished lower level or extra bedroom. It’s probably not the play room, heck, it’s probably not even babyproofed! It’s time to talk about a basic disaster and emergency prep kit for families.

Home Emergency Kit

Last year, after several close calls with tornadoes and other weather events, we finally buckled down and assembled a serious emergency kit. It’s in a 10-gallon clear rubber tote, and we keep it in our bomb shelter. That way it’s easy to find, and we can also find what we need in it without too much trouble. So what things do you need in a disaster?

For the Adults

Preparing for an emergency is not really rocket science. Just picture yourself living in a small, dark, cramped space, and make sure you pack the following:

  • Water. We stocked bottled water, which seems more portable and easier to dole out as needed. It’s also useful for pouring, in the event that you’re mixing baby formula or cereal in the dark.
  • Food. Non-perishable food items keep best, obviously. We’ve stocked things like granola bars, sealed snack-sized bags of chips/crackers, etc. For a longer haul, we also packed some canned goods, a stainless-steel container, and utensils.
  • Light and warmth. A butane lighter (or waterproof matches), candles, and an emergency blanket all take up a tiny amount of space, but provide a lot of comfort when the power goes out.
  • Tools. What if something breaks, or the door gets jammed? A couple of screwdrivers, pliers, a saw (a wire saw is especially compact) and a utility knife are good additions to the kit.

For the Kids

Rule of thumb: take the amount of stuff you have for yourself, double or triple it, and that’s the amount you’ll need for your kids. This applies anywhere, even in the emergency kit. For those little ones, be sure to pack:

  • Formula or cereal, if they’re still eating it. In airtight containers, with smaller containers or bowls (and spoons) for mixing. Yes, you’re essentially writing this stuff off because it’ll expire eventually, but if you end up taking shelter, you’ll be glad for it!
  • Pacifiers or soothers, to help keep the baby calm even if there’s noise or commotion
  • A little blanket and stuffed animal, because most basements/storage rooms have nothing but hard surfaces
  • Heavy socks. Your baby probably sleeps without socks, and he or she might need something protective when crawling/toddling around. Shoes they’ll outgrow too quickly, but heavy socks last longer and provide those tootsies some warmth, too.
  • A few small but entertaining toys. Imagine keeping your kids occupied with no electricity, cell service, or anything. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Stashing a few toys now will save you from having to let them play with, say, the screwdriver instead. Because that’s just not going to end well.

Communication: Crank Weather Radio

emergency-radio

Midland emergency Radio

If you’ve dragged the kids down into the basement or bomb shelter, you can assume things are pretty bad out there. You’ll probably want to know what’s going on, but what if the power’s out? A weather radio is a good choice here: it picks up the NOAA live weather broadcasts, which run on a loop and are updated constantly.

Battery-operated is OK, but I like the weather radios that can be powered by manual crank as well, like the Midland Emergency Crank Radio. It has AM/FM bands, weather bands, and a built-in flashlight. They can be powered with the A/C adapter (included) or by manual dynamo crank.

The First-Aid Kit

Homemade first aid kit

First Aid Kit (credit: Sarah with an H)

Your emergency kit should have medical supplies, too. You can buy first aid kits anywhere, but I don’t like those ready-made jobs and here’s why: they sell it as a 120-piece kit or 240-piece kit, but 100 of those “pieces” are tiny band-aids. That’s ridiculous. Sure, we use band-aids quite a bit, but they’re also not going to treat more than a boo-boo. Get a nice airtight/waterproof case or tackle box, and stock it with:

  • Hand sanitizer, for whoever is going to play doctor when someone gets hurt.
  • First aid spray (i.e. Bactrim) or hydrogen peroxide spray, for sanitizing things.
  • Ace bandages, tape, and a good pair of scissors
  • Diaper rash cream, antibiotic ointment, and burn cream
  • Teething gel, if your little one hasn’t gotten the two year molars yet
  • Band-aids in various sizes
  • Cottonballs and Q-tips for cleaning/applying creams

Don’t forget aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, or whatever you take for pain. Because if you’re really going to spend hours in an enclosed space with your kids, you’ll probably need it.

 

27 Fun Facts About Babies

Fun Facts about babies

Credit: Flickr user festivefrog

Babies are some of the most wonderful things in the world, aren’t they? At first they seem so helpless, so incapable of taking care of themselves. What many parents may not realize is that it’s all an act. Babies know exactly what they’re doing. Here are some lesser-known facts about babies for you to enjoy.

Babies Have Strange Abilities

In addition to their well-known talents — putting things in their mouths, causing diaper blowouts, and generally being cute — babies also have some strange abilities that go away as they get older.

1. A baby can breathe and swallow at the same time.

Notice how they can chug a bottle, seemingly without stopping? They can breathe and swallow simultaneously until about seven months old. This unique ability can be defeated by a stuffy nose, which is why babies just hate getting sick.

2. Most newborns cry without tears until they are three to six weeks old. 

When they do learn to turn on the waterworks, their tears contain stress hormones. So the act of crying actually helps calm babies down. That’s the science, at least. Sometimes it sure doesn’t seem that way.

3. Babies are born with natural swimming abilities.

They can hold their breath, too. I have the feeling that this is related to spending so much time in the womb. The down side is that this ability quickly disappears.

4. Most newborns will lose all the hair they are born with in 3-4 months.

All right, so hair loss isn’t really an uncommon talent (especially among older men), and babies generally don’t have much hair to begin with, but I still found this interesting. And I know of at least two babies where the hair fell out and came back a different color.

Babies At Birth

The very fact that a baby has arrived is a miracle of biology, and that’s just the beginning. Here are some lesser-known things that are true about your baby on day 1.

5. A baby’s brain contains about 100 billion neurons.

Now you can understand why they pick up on everything. These neurons are pretty much what babies will have to work with throughout life. They will grow and change (and some may die) but new neurons generally won’t be made.

6. Approximately 80% of babies are born with a birthmark.

According to WebMD, There are two main categories of birth marks: red birth marks, which take their color from blood vessels and may even appear shortly after birth, and pigmented birth marks, which are always present at birth.

7. A newborn’s kneecap is made entirely of cartilage.

It won’t even show up on an X-ray for a few years. The cartilage is softer and facilitates growth. After three or so years, bone begins to replace cartilage, and by young adulthood, most of the cartilage is gone.

8. A baby’s heart beats 180 times per minute at birth.

This drops to 115 beats per minute at 1 year old. Within a few hours, it drops to 140. By adulthood, the typical resting heart rate is 70-80 beats per minute.

A Baby’s Senses

The senses are how babies learn about the world, but some are more keen than others in the first year of life. Here are just a few examples.

9. Babies are born nearsighted.

At birth, their vision is roughly 20/400. They can focus best on things about ten inches from their noses. Just the right distance: their little hands, and their mother’s face while being held. They’ll reach 20/20 vision by about six months of age.

10. Babies are born with sophisticated hearing. 

They can work out where a sound is coming from just 10 minutes after being born. They can also recognize their mother’s voice, often on the day they’re born. In contrast, it takes about two weeks for the baby to recognize daddy’s voice.

11. A baby’s sense of touch develops from head to toe.

This is also one of the most advanced senses at birth. The mouth is the first region to become sensitive, which is why young babies put everything in their mouths.

12. A baby’s strongest sense is smell.

Babies can recognize their mothers by scent alone. Wonder what happens to this super-sense when they have a poopy diaper.

13. Babies like high-pitched singing.

Research has shown that babies prefer women’s voices to men, and high-pitched singing to low-pitched singing. You’ll also notice that you (and most people, by the way) tend to use higher tones when talking to a baby. That’s no accident: it’s an adaptation to the fact that you get a better response from a baby if you use a higher-pitched voice.

Some Facts About Parents

Let’s not forget those two amazing people who brought baby into this world: mom and dad. You’ll remember them as the dazed, sleep-deprived, yet mostly ebullient folks who probably haven’t showered or shaved recently.

14. New parents in the U.S. typically spend $7,000 in a baby’s first year

This doesn’t count medical costs, of course. But the formula, diapers, day care, and other costs begin to pile up rather quickly.

15. A new baby takes one night of sleep per week from its parents. 

A new baby usually deprives each of its parents around 350-400 hours of sleep in the first year. That works out to around one nights sleep lost per week, per parent. You can begin to imagine why we devoted an entire web site to baby sleep training.

16. The average woman changes a diaper in 2 minutes and 5 seconds. 

At that pace, the average mother spends 120 hours per year changing diapers. Interestingly, the average man does it in 1 minute and 36 seconds. So men will usually change a baby faster. But the real question is this: do they change it better?

Facts About Preemies

I heard this year from the president of the March of Dimes that pre-term birth has surpassed birth defects as the most common cause of infant mortality and morbidity in the western world. It’s a serious problem, and one the March of Dimes hopes to confront head on. That said, even preemies have some interesting facts to offer.

17. One in eight babies is born prematurely in the United States.

That’s about half a million babies each year! Low birth weight rate has increased 9% since 2000 and 24% since the mid 1980s.

18. Premature babies don’t sweat.

Infants born more than 2 weeks premature don’t sweat at all, even when too warm. In older infants, sweat developers first on the forehead, then on the chest, and later on the arms and legs.

19. Many famous writers, artists, scientists, and world leaders were preemies.

Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir, Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill are a few examples.

Your Growing Baby

I know that you’ve heard, over and over, that babies grow up fast. Let’s actually put some hard numbers behind that bit of village wisdom.

20. A baby will eat an estimated 15 pounds of cereal per year.

This obviously doesn’t start until your baby is old enough to eat cereal, which is typically around 6 months of age. Once they figure it out, babies seem to love cereal. But then again, who doesn’t?

21. A newborn baby will triple its weight by twelve months.

Between birth and the end of its second year, an infant will have quadrupled in size. If they carried on that rate, babies would weigh over a thousand pounds by age five!

22. By twelve months, a baby’s foot size equals half of their adult foot size.

Since babies that age usually have feet shaped like blocks of cheese, I believe this refers to length, not width of the foot.

23. A baby’s head is proportionally huge, being 1/4 of the total body length

Compare that to the head:body length ratio for adults, which is roughly 1:8.

How Babies Have Grown-Ups Beat

In addition to default adorability, babies have some advantages over us grown-ups — in addition to the fact that we pay the bills, feed them, change diapers, etc. Here are a few examples.

24. A baby has 300 separate bones at birth, but adults have only 206.

That’s almost 50% more! Several bones will fuse together as the baby grows. For example, the skull at birth comprises several bones that actually overlap one another during birth to help the noggin squeeze out. Amusingly, the researchers who discovered an essential protein for the fusing of skull bones named it noggin.

25. The brain of a newborn accounts for 10% of body weight. In adults, that’s just 2%. 

It’s useful to keep this little statistic in mind when you’re amazed at how quickly your baby learns. If you’re worried that you’ll forget these numbers, just ask your child to remember them for you.

26. A baby has around 10,000 taste buds, far more than adults

They show up for the third trimester, not just on the tongue but also on the sides, back, and roof of the mouth. That’s allegedly why trying diverse foods during the third trimester is important for mom. Eventually these extra taste buds disappear.

27. Babies laugh on average 300 times a day, adults only 60.

All right, so that number only applies once babies learn to laugh. Still, it’s a reminder that babies probably enjoy life and take things much less seriously than we do. Probably because they don’t know about nuclear missiles or income tax. Still, when it comes to laughing, it’s advantage baby.

Sources:

How to Give the Best Baby Bath Ever

best baby bath how toGiving your baby a bath is one of those things that seems like it should be so simple. A little water, a little soap, a soft washcloth, and you’re done, right? Unfortunately, lots of things can go wrong. Giving the perfect baby bath is important, because it will make your little one look forward to baths instead of dreading them. Babies all react differently to water; you want this to be as comfortable and fun of an experience as possible. Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way about giving the perfect baby bath.

Bath Safety Tips

First, a few things that you probably know already about baby bath safety:

  • Never, ever leave your baby alone in or near the bathtub while there’s any water in it. Babies can drown so quickly, and so easily. Promise yourself that you won’t leave to answer the phone or the door, to do a load of laundry, or anything. Besides, you should enjoy your baby’s bath time, too.
  • baby bath spout cover

    Whale Spout Cover

    Probably the biggest threat to your baby’s head is the big metal water spout featured in most bathtubs. It’s right at the level where your baby will crack his or her head (or get poked in the eye). Get a playful spout cover — like the ever-popular whale — and then the spout becomes a toy instead of a hazard.

  • Watch for slips and falls. Wet, hard surfaces in the bathroom can cause either you or your baby (or both) to slip. The bathtub and floor are the most common slip areas.

Setting Up the Baby Bath

It’s always better to get the bath set up ahead of time, so that you’re not juggling a crying (and possibly naked) baby while trying to get everything ready. We usually divide and conquer: one of us goes up to get the bath ready, while the other starts herding the kids upstairs.

The Baby Bathtub

Baby collapsible bath tub

Collapsible Baby Bathtub

Until your baby reaches the toddler years, you’ll probably want a little baby bathtub that you can set on the table or inside the larger bathtub. I’ll give you a few reasons why:

  • Baby bathtubs are softer than the hard ceramic/porcelain tubs, so they’re safer against bumps and bruises.
  • They take much less water to fill, so it’s a faster and easier process.
  • Only the baby fits in the tub, so his or her parents/siblings/pets won’t get it dirty

Of course, you do have to store the baby bathtub, which is why I like the Naked Baby Collapsible Tub from Boon.

Get Yourself Comfortable

Baby bath elbow rest

Bathtub Elbow Rest

One of our biggest complaints about giving the baby a bath is that it’s physically demanding: you have to kneel on a hard surface, bend over the tub edge, lift a wet squirming baby… it’s a lot of work. Therefore you’re better off making the bath as comfortable for you as it is for the baby.

I highly recommend getting a thick floor mat or the whale bath kneeler shown in the header image to save your knees. Equally useful is a bathtub elbow rest that cushions your arm while you bathe and lift the baby.

Find the Right Water Temperature for Baby

Baby bath thermometer

Baby Bath Thermometer

Getting the water temperature right is probably the trickiest thing for me personally. Maybe our faucet just doesn’t have the finesse of control necessary to hit that perfect temperature, which is generally between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

A good baby bath thermometer like the Aquatopia audible thermometer is a must for each and every bath; sure, it will tell you if the water’s too cold, but more importantly it will tell you if the water is too hot for a baby. The wrong temp either way is going to make the bath uncomfortable. Keep in mind also that bath water will cool over time, especially if you spend a lot of time playing.

Giving Baby the Bath

Penguin soap dispenser

Penguin Soap Dispenser

Now that the bath is ready, the water’s just right, and you’re as comfortable as possible, it’s baby time! Here are some tips for getting the most out of the experience:

  • Ease your baby in, feet or bottom first. Let them play a bit before getting them wet. Usually you want to save the hair and face washing for the very end, as most babies won’t enjoy this.
  • Soaking the bottom is one of the most important parts of the bath. At least five minutes in the warm, soapy water will help with diaper rashes and other discomfort.
  • Use a soft washcloth and make sure you get all of the nooks and crannies, especially under the chin and around the neck, as well as the diaper area (under and around everything). Ask your spouse for guidance if the anatomy of what needs to be cleaned is, you know, not as familiar.
duck baby wash mitt

Duck Wash Mitt

The washing part can be a lot of fun for you and your baby, especially if you have a cute wash mitt like the ducky one at left. You get to tickle and wash your baby at the same time. Remember, you want this to come off as a fun and special activity, not a chore.

Bath toy organizer

Bath Toy Organizer Set

Don’t forget to have some fun bath toys to pass the time as well. We like the soft, squeezy ones that are shaped like different animals (each of which can have a different voice and personality, if you’re into that sort of thing). Remember to squeeze all of the water out and hang them up to dry when you’re finished. Munchkin’s bath toy organizer set is a good choice for this, because it includes a drying net that hangs in the corner.

When the Bath is Over

hooded baby bath towel

Lion Hooded Towel

It’s tempting to make the bath go too long, especially when you and your baby are having a lot of fun. But once the baby is clean and the water starts to cool, it’s time to wrap up. If your baby protests, it’s a good thing – it means you’ve made the bath an enjoyable activity, and it will be welcomed in the future.

There may be some crying, especially when you pluck your little one out of the warm water. The most important thing to do is have a soft, fluffy towel waiting. We love the hooded animal towels because they keep the head warm. After that, the most important thing is to have warm milk waiting at the diaper changer. This comforts and distracts the little one while you get him or her dried off, diapered, and dressed.

Within a couple of minutes, your baby will be comfortably snuggled in bed. Probably fast asleep. Remember to hang the toys, wash cloths, and towels up to dry afterward.

Why not take a bath yourself? You deserve it!

 

Babyproofing Your Home: 18 Tips

babyproofing your home tipsBabyproofing your home is a rite of passage for new parents, the beginning of a transformation that will ultimately bring an end to your stylish, grown-up decor. Unless you live in a studio apartment, this isn’t a one-hour, single-day job either. It’s a constant process similar to keeping velociraptors as pets: your baby keeps finding new areas to exploit, and you locking them down.

Drawer and Cabinet Latches

Most new parents tackle this first, because drawers and cabinets are both accessible to babies and filled with all kinds of things they’re not supposed to have. Get them locked down with latches and magnetic locks.

babyprooing cabinet latches babyproofing magnetic latches babyproofing side-by-side latches
Long Cabinet Latches
Be sure to get “long reach” cabinet latches like these; they work on drawers, too.
Magnetic Cabinet Latches
Magnetic cabinet latches are essentially tamper-proof; you use a “key” to open locked cabinets
Side-by-side Latches
When you have double-door cabinets, these side-by-side latches work very well.

Door Locks and Baby Gates

Once your baby figures out how to move, he or she will immediately head for the stairs, the bathroom, and other hazardous, hard-to-babyproof areas. Contain their movements with door locks and baby gates.

baby proofing kit Lever handle door lock Baby proof gate
46-piece Babyproofing Kit
Your basic get-started-babyproofing kit with latches, door knob covers, and electrical outlet covers.
Lever Handle Door Lock
Lever-style doors are the easiest for a toddler to master, and they need a special kind of door knob lock.
Walk-through Baby Gate
Forget those cheap plastic gates… for staircases and key doorways, invest in a metal walk-through baby gate like the Regalo.

Babyproofing the Kitchen Stove

The kitchen is a critical area for babyproofing because it’s filled with sharp or dirty or boiling-hot things that a baby shouldn’t touch. Of course, it’s also where you tend to be, and that draws the baby in like nothing else. Now that you have the cabinets and drawers latched, it’s time to tackle the next big hazard: the stove.

Baby stove guard Clear stove knob covers Black stove knob covers
Prince Lionheart Stove Guard
Prevents your toddler from reaching up to be burned on a hot cooktop or pull down pots/utensils from the stove.
Clear Stove Knob Covers
Especially important if you have a stove with knobs on the side rather than the top. Toddlers will turn them!
Black Stove Knob Covers
Parents with modern-style kitchens might prefer these black stove knob covers instead.

Preventing Baby Injuries

Babies are generally unaware of their own mortality, and they also tend to be a little bit clumsy. We ended up at the emergency room after our oldest son fell and hit his forehead on the corner of our kitchen wall. As soon as your baby is mobile, take these steps to minimize the chance of injuries.

Baby edge corner cushion kit Baby fireplace guard Furniture and appliance bracket
Edge and Corner Kit
Tables, bookshelves, and other furniture with sharp edges below 3 feet tall should be padded at the baby’s crawling stage.
Baby Fireplace Guard
A must-have for homes with hearths or fireplaces. These edge and corner pads prevent baby injuries from those hard, sharp edges.
Furniture/Appliance Bracket
Make sure heavy furniture and appliances won’t tip over. Especially critical when your baby starts pulling up on things.

Babyproofing Electronics and Appliances

Some of the most expensive and hazardous things in your home are probably plugged in. Babies don’t understand electricity or the cost of an LED TV, so it’s best to take precautions.

Baby proof power strip Flat Screen TV Brace Appliance Latches
Power Strip Safety Cover
Power strips are a necessity in our electronic world. Keep little fingers away from plugs and cords with this power strip cover.
Flat Screen TV Brace
This brace attaches secures your flatscreen TV to a wall or entertainment center, preventing any tip-overs by little hands.
Appliance Securing Latches
Secure your refrigerator, dishwasher, entertainment center, or other open-and-close items with latches like these.

Keeping Baby Safe Outside the Home

At some point you’ll have to let your baby outside the sheltered security of your home. Stores, restaurants, and even your front yard have hazards to watch out for. Here are some good safety tips.

Baby high chair cart cover Kid safe driveway guard Kids playing sign
High Chair / Shopping Cart Cover
People are always asking where we got these… they protect your child from germs and hard edges on shopping carts or high chairs.
Kidsafe Driveway Guard
All right, so it’s more for toddlers and their ride-on toys, but I think this “driveway gate” is an excellent idea.
Children at Play Sign
This bright orange sign will advise drivers to slow down and pay attention. Also provides some toy storage inside it!

Your Baby’s First Halloween Fun

Baby's first halloween fun

Image Credit: surlygirl on Flickr

Halloween manages to be our favorite holiday every year. There are just so many things to love about it: the change of seasons, the costumes, the parties, and of course the free candy. Maybe it’s the simple fact that there’s no gift-giving or mandatory family get-togethers. No matter the reason, your baby’s first Halloween will be a milestone event.

First, you should be aware that this Halloween celebration will be unlike the others you’ve known. As a kid, you probably remember trick-or-treating with friends and stuffing pillow sacks full of candy. As a young adult, it was more about Halloween parties: drinks, socializing, and wearing costumes that were clever or funny or just scandalous. Maybe scaring the bejesus out of some neighborhood kids by jumping out of bushes.

Your baby’s first Halloween will be fun, but it won’t be the same as before. Trick-or-treating is out… let’s be honest, it’s just you carrying your baby up to someone’s door and asking for candy. Parties going to be different: you won’t get as wild, and probably shouldn’t dress as slutty, as you have before (now that you’re all grown up and a parent and everything). But here are some great ways to enjoy it.

Halloween Photo Shoots

baby halloween photo

Credit: nerdcoregirl on Flickr

We’ve already written about traditional baby photo shoot ideas, so the Halloween version is the first thing that comes to mind. Fall offers many colorful backdrops for photos:

  • Pumpkin patches
  • Piles of leaves in the backyard
  • Tractors and farm fields

Be sure to bundle your little one up to stay warm in those crisp fall breezes. Take lots of photos, post online to make others jealous. Now you’re getting into the spirit of Halloween!

Baby Pumpkins for Halloween

baby halloween pumpkin

Credit: surlygirl on Flickr

There is one requirement for your first Halloween as a new parent, one simple rule that must forever be followed because it’s just so previous. You need to, at some point, dress your baby up as a pumpkin.

This is easy to do, all you really need is a pumpkin hat and an orange onesie. There are little pumpkin costumes for newborns, too. It’s super-cute because babies are kind of pumpkin-shaped anyway, and as a bonus, these tend to be low-maintenance and warm costumes.

Alternatively, you could go with the equally amusing but slightly messier option of putting your baby in a large carved pumpkin. Not for more than a few minutes, of course. They usually hate it.

Baby Halloween Costume Ideas

Last, but certainly not least, are the baby Halloween costumes. This might be the most fun you’ve had in a long, long time. So many cute ideas! If you play your cards right, you can showcase your little one in two or three different costumes this year: one for visiting family or neighbors, one for the Halloween party, one for the trunk-or-treat… you get the idea. I picked out some of my favorite cute, warm, snuggly baby costumes from Walmart:

Baby Oatmeal Bear Halloween Costume Baby Little Lamb Halloween Costume Baby Cow Halloween Costume Baby Cookie Monster Halloween Costume
Oatmeal Bear Pink Lamb Baby Cow Cookie Monster

Pick Your Baby Costumes Now

One bit of advice: don’t wait until mid-October to start looking for a baby costume, because virtually every store within 100 miles of you will be ransacked. You’ll be sifting through trampled piles of mismatched costume pieces, plastic swords, and broken magic wands.

Finally, here’s your bonus idea: find a group costume idea that you and your baby can share. Once we went as Prince Charming, Cinderella, and the “Pumpkin” carriage. For this year we’re looking at video game characters, cowboys, pirates… anything that five people can do. Halloween only comes once a year, so we’re going all out!

Halloween Baby Foods

winter squash baby foodUnfortunately, your baby’s probably too little to enjoy the sweet side of Halloween. But if your little one is on solid food, you can both enjoy the fall season by making your own baby food. All you need is a baby food grinder and some storage tubs/bowls/tupperware. Take a trip to the fruit stand or farmer’s market, and load up on the harvest: yams, acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, and other fresh vegetables make easy, inexpensive, and nutritious baby foods. You can make a huge batch of it and freeze the containers, enough to last you through the winter. You know, like a squirrel.

Making your own baby food is a topic we’ll have to cover in another article, but it’s certainly one way you should try to make your baby’s first Halloween fun!

How and Why to Use A Diaper Genie

how and why to use diaper genieIf you don’t currently own a diaper genie, the concept of one could seem a bit puzzling to you. What is this strange device that swallows diapers and outputs long chains of shrink-wrapped bundles like sausage links? It might seem like one of those frivolous baby products, a needless or pointless expense. But it’s not. Your diaper genie will become one of the most important things in the nursery.

At the newborn stage, babies are on, essentially, a liquid diet. Their poops are almost cute. There are much darker days ahead. Between the introduction of solid food and potty training, you will encounter things in diapers that are unspeakable. Unless you want your home to smell like a public outhouse, you’ll want a diaper genie right next to the diaper changer. Aside from taking every single diaper out to the outside garbage cans after every change, there is no substitute. And let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen when you’re changing 8-10 diapers per day.

how diaper genie worksHow a Diaper Genie Works

The Diaper Genie is essentially a self-closing, odor-neutralizing, sophisticated trash can. You open the lid and push the rolled-up diaper down into the plastic. This separates the clamp, allowing the diaper to drop into the plastic bag in the body of the diaper genie. Then the clamp pushes the plastic closed again, essentially sealing the soiled cargo off from the world, which is a very good thing.

The Diaper Genie II (also called the Diaper Genie Elite) functions in a similar manner, except that you don’t have to lift the lid. Instead, you push down on the foot pedal, which simultaneously lifts the lid and opens the clamps. Then you drop the diaper in, lift your foot, and it closes back up again.

Emptying the Diaper Genie

When the Diaper Genie is full, you’ll know it because you won’t be able to shove any more diapers down in it (or you can, but then it won’t close). At this point you have to open it by pushing the button on the front-middle. You use the built-in cutter to cut the plastic a few inches above the top of the diaper roll. Make sure you leave enough for you to tie it off.

replace diaper genie bag

Emptying the diaper genie

Then you lift out the diaper sausage, and (importantly), tie the bottom of the open plastic before closing the genie. If you don’t do this, the diapers fall right through and you probably won’t realize it until the next time you change it. Bingo! Your Diaper Genie is now ready to accept another load of stinkers. The one you removed should be tied at both ends (we usually call this a “diaper sausage”) and should be taken as far away as soon as possible.

Why the Diaper Genie Works

There are essentially two reasons that Diaper Genies are so popular and so essential (in my opinion) for day-to-day baby care. We even take ours along for weekend trips; that’s how important it is.

  1. Odor control. The clamp mechanism is a big part of that, because it seals off the diapers and doesn’t let much air escape (I still recommend holding your breath when you add a diaper to a near-full genie). The plastic refills are a big part of this too; usually they have additives that help neutralize odors.
  2. Dirty diaper stash. It’s good to have a single, central location to put your dirty diapers. That way, you never forget one in an odd place only to find it days or weeks later. Yech. And it also puts the diapers out of sight, too, which everyone in the house appreciates.

Diaper Genie Tips

diaper genie refill

Diaper Genie Refill Pack

Our kids have collectively been through around 15,000 diapers. That’s not a ballpark, that’s a real calculation based on diapers per day and age of potty training. Since we’ve had a couple of Diaper Genies and obviously used them quite a bit, I can pass a few tips along.

  • Wrap diapers first. After removing a diaper, I wrap it around itself into a tight ball and use the velcro straps to hold it. This takes up much less volume, which translates to more diapers in the genie.
  • Beware the loose bag. If you forget to tie the bottom, or the knot comes undone, the diapers will disappear but the odor won’t. If you smell strong odors from your genie, double-check the bag by popping it open.
  • Empty early and often. It’s always tempting to stuff a few more in, but when the genie is full (or reeks) you gotta empty it. Luckily it takes only a minute during which you’ll probably want to hold your breath.
  • Stock up on refills. There really is no way to estimate how much plastic you have left on your refill ring. All you can do is be prepared and make sure you have another one to put in after that.

Choosing A Diaper Genie

It might surprise you to learn that there are a couple different kinds of diaper genies. There’s your classic diaper genie with the lid that you lift. The middle option is an “Elite” pail with foot pedal that comes with a bonus mini pail. Then there’s the Diaper Genie II which has a foot pedal and a higher diaper capacity.

Diaper Genie Essentials Pail

Diaper Genie Essential

Diaper Genie Elite Pail

Diaper Genie Elite Pail

Diaper II Elite Pail

Diaper Genie II Elite Pail

21.7 x 11.8 x 10.5 inches 22.3 x 11.0 x 11.1 inches 27.1 x 11.8 x 10.5 inches
The original Diaper Genie with flip-up lid. This is the one we use on a day-to-day basis; it doesn’t have the big capacity but it works well for odor control. And it’s durable: ours has lasted 4 years. The Elite pail features the foot pedal that lifts the lid for hands-free operation. This one comes with a bonus mini pail that you can take on trips or leave with grandma & grandpa. The Diaper Genie II is the current top of the line. It’s got the foot pedal, the 5-layer odor control with double-lock seal, and perhaps most importantly, it’s about 5″ taller so it has more capacity.
Buy Diaper Genie Essential Buy Diaper Genie Elite Buy Diaper Genie II

Breathe easy and good luck! May your diaper sausages always be well-tied.

Do I Really Need A Video Baby Monitor?

do i need a video baby monitorThe world is filled with baby products, and it seems like they get more advanced (and expensive) every year. Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between necessity and extravagance. I mean, do we really need a pacifier with a built-in thermometer? And does it work? But video baby monitors are a different sort of debate. They obviously have a real, tangible benefit, but they also cost a lot of money. I’ll break down the basics of video baby monitors compared to audio-only monitors, and then we’ll look at three or four of the best options.

Key Features of Video Monitors

If you’re thinking about a video monitor for your nursery or play room, here are some things you should know about:

  • Video. The obvious feature of a video baby monitor is that it gives you a live image of your sleeping (or more likely, crying) infant. It might be a high-definition video, though that’s really not necessary.
  • Audio. Just like traditional monitors, video monitors give you an audio feed from the nursery so that you can hear when your baby wakes up, fusses, or babbles. The bonus is that most video monitors have two-way audio, so you can talk to your baby through it.
  • Night vision. Most of the time you need it, your monitor will be in the dark. So it needs night vision (infrared). FYI, this will give you a black-and-white image. All of those delightful color images you see on the box were taken in unrealistic daylight.
  • Wireless. Usually the transmitter (in the nursery) plugs into the wall, and your receiving unit is battery-operated / rechargeable. They communicate on a wireless frequency (often 2.4 Ghz). Is it secure? That depends on the monitor (see below).
  • Pan, Tilt, & Zoom. Some monitors are fixed, while others have remote control movement in the form of pan (left or right), tilt (up or down), and zoom.
mom with baby monitor

Yes, she looks like a mom to a newborn. Or not.

The Arguments Against Video Monitors

We should keep in mind that video monitors have only been around for a few years. Here are some of the reasons that we survived so long without them:

  1. Cost. Compared to the cost of audio monitors, these cost three or four times as much, depending on the model.
  2. Hassle. Yet another kind of baby gear that can be difficult to set up, get working, and fiddle with when you really should be, you know, showering or napping.
  3. Privacy. There is the possibility that videos from your nursery could be intercepted — if not during transmission, maybe to a hacker or laptop thief. It seems like an invitation to a privacy violation.

The Arguments for Video Monitors

Two way video monitorWhen you start to think about it, there are lots of good reasons to want a video baby monitor. Some of these include:

  • Safety. You can literally see your baby breathing, monitor the temperature, and watch for any hazardous situations.
  • Soothing. With two-way audio, you can talk to or play lullabies for your baby without going in. On some models, like the Motorola MBP36, you can even play lullabies using the receiver.
  • Watchfulness. If you hear your baby fussing, a glance can tell you if he or she might go back to sleep, or if (due to a dropped pacifier, leg stuck in the crib, etc.) you’re going to have to go in.
  • Remote monitoring. For parents who work or travel out of town, some monitors allow you to monitor your nursery over the internet. Check in when you’re not even at home.

Four Top Video Monitors

If you’ve come this far, you must be serious about getting a video monitor, so let me tell you about the four bestsellers on Amazon.com.

Infant Optics DXR-5 Video Baby Monitor

Infant optics video monitor
Buy this video monitor
This has been one of the bestselling video baby monitors on Amazon for more than a year, probably because it works well and is affordable (under $100). It has the essential features: a handheld unit with color screen, automatic night vision (infrared), and FHSS technology to keep your transmissions secure.

Features: •  2.4 TFT color screen with built-in microphone
•  Voice-activation power saving mode
•  Automatic infrared night vision
•  2.4 GHz static free digital wireless transmission, range 150-800 feet
•  FHSS ensures privacy for your transmissions
Reviews: Infant optics baby monitor reviews

Dropcam HD Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Camera

Dropcam video monitor
Buy this video monitor
This is a unique take on a baby monitor: an easy-to-set-up, high-definition (720p), wireless camera. It uses your wireless connection to securely upload the video to the cloud, where you can get a live feed on your smart phone or computer, as well as review and save videos. The camera itself is pretty nice, with infrared night vision, a motion sensor, and digital zoom.The main difference of this monitor versus the others in my review is how easily it integrates with the web. That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the bright side, it’s incredibly easy to set up and get a live feed with the smartphone app. On the bummer side, uploading streaming video is a burden on your internet connection, and you might bump up against your monthly quota. And the DVR service seems like something they’d love to upcharge you for. That said, with almost a thousand reviews and 4/5 stars, it must be a pretty good deal. And as a bonus, when your child is older you can use it as a nanny cam, pet cam, or security monitor.

Features: •  Use as a baby monitor, security camera, or pet cam
•  Two-way audio so you can talk to baby
•  High-def (720P), digital zoom and infrared night vision
•  Mobile alerts and free smartphone app
•  Dropcam DVR – Secure offsite recording
Reviews: Dropcam Wireless baby monitor reviews

Motorola MBP36 Remote Wireless Video Baby Monitor

Motorola video monitor
Buy this video monitor
This is your top-of-the-line video baby monitor, and it’s from Motorola. I’ve seen one of these in use and it’s simply awesome. A big (3.5″) screen, two-way encrypted communication, remote pan/tilt/zoom and lullaby playing, and night vision make this everything you could want in a video baby monitor. It also monitors the room’s temperature so you can ensure that your baby never gets too hot or too cold.

Features: •  3.5″ color lcd screen and up to 25 fps
•  Night vision with remote pan, tilt, and zoom
•  Two-way communication and 5 built-in lullabies
•  Encrypted 2.4GHz FHSS wireless technology
•  Range up to 600 feet with out-of-range warning
Reviews: Motorola MBP36 baby monitor reviews

Samsung SEW-3037W Wireless Video Monitor

Samsung video monitor
Buy this video monitor
I included this relative newcomer because it’s by Samsung, and their reputation with other video technology is outstanding. Their video baby monitor includes a 3.5″ color screen, the same size as the Motorola, and the camera has remote control (pan/tilt/zoom). Plus, you can remotely trigger the night light to either soothe the baby or have a bit of light on before you enter the room.

Features: •  3.5″ high quality color LCD display
•  Remote night light and camera pan/tilt/zoom
•  Night vision and quiet mode to remove white noise
•  Secure and interference free 2.4Ghz signal
•  Low battery warning, Flip stand with belt clip
Reviews: Samsung Wireless baby monitor reviews

Fussy Newborn: 8 Causes

causes of fussy newborns

Image credit: mcguirk on Flickr

For the first three months of life, babies have very few ways to communicate. Generally, they let you know of their unhappiness by fussing. Most of the time, it’s cute. At 4 a.m. when you have to get up for work in three hours, not so much. Having raised three little ones, and spent many hours puzzling over the reason a newborn is fussy, I’ve come up with this list of usual suspects.

1. Hunger

Newborns eat about every 2-3 hours, day and night, nonstop, for the first few months of life. If your newborn starts fussing, and you haven’t just physically removed a nipple from his or her mouth, it’s probably feeding time again. This one is easy to test for, fortunately — you just offer something to eat and see if the baby takes it. Just try not to get into the habit of feeding your newborn every half hour.

2. Indigestion (i.e. About to Spit Up On You)

Many newborns — and preemies especially – are born with immature digestive systems. In other words, they spit up. A lot. They need to be burped. And when their tummies get upset, they fuss. The best way to handle this kind of situation is to get out in front of it. Burp early, burp often. Keep your little one upright for a bit after feedings.

We had some success with Mylicon, whose active ingredient (simethicone) is a sort of soap that helps bubbles in the tummy merge together so that they can be burped out. We also tried Gripe Water, which did seem to calm our fussy baby sometimes, though it’s inexplicably pricey.

3. Time for a Diaper Change

We might as well follow the digestive tract down to usual suspect #3, a wet or dirty diaper. Modern diapers are pretty amazing in their ability to absorb things and wick away moisture, but even so, they have their limits. You’ll develop a good sense for detecting when it’s time for a diaper change, but once in a while we’ll still miss one. Then we check just to be sure, and have to admit, “Oh, so you did have a dirty diaper.” It happens.

Watch for Diaper Rash

On a related note, if your newborn develops a diaper rash, it can easily cause fussiness. Even if the diaper is clean, the irritated skin causes discomfort, so they’re just not happy. Especially in the car seat or Bumbo or any sitting position that puts pressure on it. There are about a million different topical creams for diaper rash. Hands down, the best one we’ve ever used is Dr. Smith’s. When that runs out, we prefer the “cream” treatments over the gels.

4. Sleep Problems

Humans in general tend to get cranky when they don’t have enough sleep, and this is certainly true of newborns. Probably because they can’t have coffee. You’ll be keenly aware of this fact if your newborn gets off of his or her normal sleep schedule. Babies need 14-18 hours of sleep per day, and when they don’t get enough, they let you know about it.

Newborns tire quickly. It’s easy to keep them up a little bit too late, which gets them over-tired, and then it’s harder to fall asleep even though they need it. A little bit of baby sleep training will go a long way.

5. Infant Colic

A colicky baby is, by most accounts, one of the most difficult challenges new parents can face. The medical definition of colic is a baby that cries for hours at a time, at least three times in a week. Surprisingly, we don’t know much about the actual cause of infant colic. There are many theories. Even if we don’t know the cause, we know the effects: a baby that cries constantly and can’t be soothed.

There also seems to be a “witching hour” for newborns (colicky or not) at around 5-6 p.m. when nothing seems to make them happy. Our pediatrician mentioned that it’s probably a combination of hunger and end-of-the-day tiredness that brings this on. A good napping schedule, timely dinner, and an early bedtime are probably the way to go.

6. Different Personalities

Even at the newborn stage, babies can have very different personalities. I know this quite well because I have twin boys and they couldn’t be more different. One was relaxed, laid back, and completely calm about everything. Slept wonderfully. Rarely cried. The other was high-maintenance enough for both of them. So personality does make a difference, and sometimes (by the luck of the draw; it’s not your fault) you get a fussy, needy baby. I’d love to tell you that they grow out of this completely as they get older, but ah, well, you’ll see.

7. Loneliness or Fear

Newborns are quick to recognize their parents, to become familiar with their face, scent, and the sound of their voice. They have a pretty good idea who loves them the most! And their vision isn’t very good for the first couple of months. So if they can’t see or hear you, they might fuss a little. Just to get some attention. The good news about this is that picking them up for a snuggle usually does the trick.

8. Teething or Sickness

There are occasionally real, medical/developmental causes of newborn fussiness. Teething is one that you generally don’t have to worry about until 3-6 months, but an early tooth coming in will make them fairly miserable. See our baby teething guide for some help there.

Alternatively, you might be dealing with a baby who’s got a little cold or stomach virus. A sick newborn is a rough experience, and I hope you don’t have to go through it. Those who have begin to understand the “Have you washed your hands?” onesie.

Baby Teething Questions Answered

baby teething questions answered

Image Credit: Festivefrog on Flickr

If there’s one experience that will be mutually disagreeable to both you and your baby, it’s teething. While we all agree that little babies with teeth are just adorable, the process of each tooth coming in is a rough one. Worse, sometimes your baby is teething and you don’t realize it. You just thing that something is terribly, terribly wrong.

In this article we’ll provide some useful answers to common questions about baby teething, in hopes that it makes the process go a bit easier for you.

When Do Babies Start Teething?

Most babies cut their first tooth between 3 and 6 months, and have a full set (20 teeth) by age 3. The graphic at right gives you an idea of the typical teething order. Your baby might have two or four coming in at once, usually every couple of months.

when babies start teething

The Order of Teething

The two bottom teeth and two top teeth are first, and they’re also the easiest to spot. Honestly I think they are the least painful. When your baby’s cutting four molars at once and you aren’t even aware of it, your life is going to suck. Because you have all of these symptoms to enjoy.

What Are Teething Symptoms?

The signs that your baby is teething can be subtle, because they overlap quite a bit with an infant’s general behavior and fussiness:

  • Drooling is the big one to watch for, and in my opinion one of the most reliable signs. All babies drool a little bit, but teething really pushes it to a new level.
  • Rashes around the mouth, chin and neck area sometimes result from the irritation of all that drooling. Yeah, it’s gross.
  • Swollen gums. If you can manage to get your baby to hold still long enough to look in his or her mouth.
  • Refusing to eat. The pain of eating/chewing often outweighs the hunger, and this usually makes the baby miserable.
  • Refusing the pacifier. Same cause, different source of baby crankiness. Ours always loved their pacifier, so when they spit it out we knew things were serious.
  • Chewing and biting. At the same time, a teething baby might chew on just about anything — crib rails, toys, their hands, your hands — and the distinction is that they’re biting down more than usual.
  • Fever / runny nose. These seem to coincide with teething sometimes, though they’re difficult to distinguish from a little cold.
  • Wake-ups at night. Because teeth grow at night, that’s often when they cause the most pain. So occasionally your baby might just wake up screaming for no apparent reason.

There’s also the general symptom of increased fussiness, at least in babies that suffer from teething discomfort. They’re just unhappy.

What Teething Remedies Work Best?

The suffering that teething causes for babies — and by extension, their parents — has been around as long as we have. In the time of my grandparents, the trusted remedy was to rub a bit of gin along the baby’s gums (according to my parents, anyway). If rubbing it on didn’t numb the pain, I’ll bet the booze itself had a calming effect. Sadly, those day are gone and we have to find other teething remedies that are less likely to result in a call to Child Services.

Here are the remedies I’ve found to be the most effective, in order of preference.

1. Baby Orajel / topical pain reliever

We are big believers in modern medicine, and Baby Orajel often provided the relief that let our baby sleep and preserved our last bit of sanity. You can apply this mild topical anesthetic with a Q-tip or finger tip. It works quickly and effectively; we found it most necessary at nap time and bedtime.

2. Frozen Waffles

This was a recommendation from our pediatrician, and one of the reasons that we love him so much. Frozen waffles offer three benefits: they’re cold, chewable, and also a source of some nourishment. Obviously this is for babies that have started solid foods. It’s just as good as a freezable teether toy, with the advantage of being edible.

3. Freezable Teether Toys

There are a ton of gel-filled rattles and chew toys available specifically for teething; I like the kind that you can put in the freezer to keep cold. The cold numbs the pain and also makes it interesting for your baby (rather than just something to chew on).

teething pacifier

Razbaby Teething Pacifier

4. Teething Pacifier

There’s a unique kind of pacifier made for teething babies by Razbaby, called the RazBerry teething. It’s specially textured to massage the gums while the baby sucks on it, and there are a lot of moms that swear by it.

The pacifier is BPA-free, non-toxic, and made from medical-grade silicone. You can freeze it, too, for a bit of extra comfort.

baby-gum-massagers5. Baby Gum Massagers

Sometimes you can tell your baby’s in pain, and maybe see the swollen gums, and really want to do something to help directly. For this I highly recommend the Zo-li Gummy Stick Massagers. These  toothbrush-like gum massagers let you gently rub the parts where teeth are coming in. It can really make a difference.

Watch your fingers; they will bite you! It’s adorable only until they have about 4 good teeth.

6. Baby Tylenol or Advil Pain Relief

When our son had about four teeth coming in at once, he suffered pretty badly. The Baby Orajel worked a little bit, but with his gums completely swollen, a slight fever, and a runny nose, he was just miserable.

baby teething necklace

Chewbeads Teething Necklace

7. Chewable Teething Necklace

What about a wearable fashion accessory that’s also a portable teether for your baby? These baby teething necklaces are all the rage. I haven’t tried them, but I certainly like the idea because it’s portable and in the right location when you’re holding your baby against you.

Surprisingly, there are more and more of these teething necklaces for moms, in a wide variety of styles. It’s a functional accessory, right? Better they chew this than your clothes or shoulder.

 

 

8 Things to Do with Baby Photos

8 things to do with baby photosA simple fact about having a baby — as most of your childless friends will probably tell you — is that you take an unprecedented amount of photos. Since the invention of the digital camera, probably more photos have been taken of babies than any other subject. Depending on your level of obsession, you might take hundreds or thousands of baby photos in the first year.

Importantly, and I’m sorry to have to tell you this, a lot of them will be crappy. The odds of capturing your baby’s adorable smile or first steps or sleeping face in a good photo are usually 1 in 10 at best. But that’s no problem, because digital photos are essentially free so you can just keep snapping until you get all of the ones you need. That’s what they did at the photo studio where you probably dropped some serious dough.

And if you read our article on baby photo shoot ideas, you probably got some adorable ones. But once you’ve inundated Facebook and the e-mails of everyone you know with photos, once the refrigerator and walls are covered in your favorites, what the heck do you do with all of the rest? In this article, we cover some helpful and creative ways to deal with baby photo overload.

1. Three Words: Baby Photo Calendar

baby photo calendar ideas

Photo Calendar on Snapfish

You might love kittens, or The Far Side, but nothing beats a calendar featuring your own cute baby. On Snapfish, you can design and order custom desk or wall calendars with lots of different backgrounds, color photos, and my favorite feature: custom date marking (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).

They’re very fun to design and make good Christmas gifts, too. If you really want to impress, use a baby photo taken each month in next year’s calendar.

2. Organize Your Photos

Simply managing thousands of different image files can be a difficult task. Ideally, you’d like to tag and rename and sort every single baby photo, but let’s be honest: you have way too many photos and far too little time. Realistically, your best shot is to organize photos by putting them into a bunch of folders, centered around events or periods of time.

If you do this whenever you download the photos to your computer, then you can sort the folders by creation date and thus have a decent organization system.

3. Give Framed Photos as Gifts

At some point you’ll run out of room in your own home and workplace to keep those adorable baby photos. Now it’s time to inundate the empty spaces of others. A cute baby photo in a decent frame makes a nice little gift, especially for grandparents and godparents. If you have a photo featuring both your baby along with those godparents/grandparents, it’s sure to be well-received.

4. Print a Photo Book

baby photo booksOne way to capture special events — like your baby’s homecoming, or first Halloween, or special play dates with friends/cousins — is to print a little photo book. This is my absolute favorite thing to do with baby photos, because photo books:

  • Are easy to make. It takes about five minutes to design a photo book on Snapfish, with adorable layouts and captions and everything. 
  • Use many photos. A dozen or more of your favorite photos become immortalized together, in one place.
  • Are inexpensive. You can print a 5×7″ photo book for about $12, and they occasionally go on sale. Not a bad deal for the number of photos one book contains.
  • Store easily. No wall space or refrigerator frontage is required; you can literally store them on a bookshelf, which is what we do.

5. Back Up Photo Files

photo backup driveIf there’s one thing I’ve learned about owning various laptops and hard drives over the years, it’s that they are unreliable. Hard drives crash. Memory cards are damaged or lost. Laptops are stolen. A relative of mine had years of photos on his smart phone, but never backed them up, so when he left the phone in a cab, he lost everything.

You need to back those photos up, somewhere safe, and on a regular basis. So what are your options?

  • Dropbox offers secure online file backup and sharing. The bonus here is that you can backup from one device (i.e. your computer) and access or share the files with another. Free accounts start at 2 GB, which is something like 1,000 photos.
  • If you need more backup space (i.e. for photos and videos), a backup hard drive, like Western Digital’s My Passport, is the way to go. You connect them to your computer by USB and it will backup whatever you want on a regular basis. Then just keep the drive somewhere safe.
  • photo dvd burnerWith an AmazonBasics DVD burner you can backup your photos and videos to DVD. You can buy a pack of DVD-R discs for about $6, and each one holds about 4.7 GB (2500 photos) or 120 minutes of video. This is a nice option because you can store the DVDs in a safe or filing cabinet for safekeeping.

Don’t rely on social media sites — such as Facebook and Flickr — or e-mail as a backup method for your photos. They usually shrink the images for display on the web, which means the quality isn’t enough to print. Also, they (and not you) are the owner of content that you upload, so if the company goes bankrupt or changes its policies, you could be hosed.

6. Mugs and Mouse Pads

photo travel mug

Travel Photo Mug

Some might find this cheesy, but I love taking favorite photos and turning them into every day objects, like mugs and mousepads (and even T-shirts). For an unusual take on the photo mug, take a look at Snapfish’s commuter mug, which is a 13-ounce, stainless steel, spillproof travel mug for hot or cold beverages.  If you’re a coffee drinker, which you probably are since you have a baby, you can never have enough of these.

The best part is that you have less chances of losing it, since your average kleptomaniac will be unlikely to take a mug with someone else’s baby photos on it.

7. Screen Savers and Desktop Backgrounds

Another little way to put your baby’s cherub face all around you is the screen saver. Electronic screens are everywhere these days, and most of them — laptops, televisions, smartphones, iPads — can have a custom screensaver. I use my laptop for presentations at work, and hey, if my co-workers spend a few seconds looking at my cute kids, I figure it brightens their day.

8. Baby Photos as Art

baby canvas art

Wrapped Art Canvas

I saved one of my favorite baby photo ideas for last: turning your favorite shots into actual art. On Snapfish you can upload a photo that will be printed onto a wrapped artistic canvas so that it almost looks like a painting. They come in a variety of sizes and are ready to hang on the wall.

It does take wall or shelf space, but the printed canvas is a clever and unique way to show off your favorite photos. They’re good for taking to work, too, or giving to grandparents.

That’s it for our 8 things to do with baby photos. Have another clever idea that we forgot? Please leave a comment below!