Baby Needs A Clean Floor

baby needs a clean floor

Image: treehouse1977 on Flickr

It’s a simple fact of life that when you bring a baby into your home, the floors of that home are going to suffer. Big time. There will be spills. If you think formula smells bad now, sniff the carpet where you spilled it in a few days. Yech! The abuse gets worse when they start on baby cereal and solid food. Anything that can be spilled, leaked, flung, thrown, or spit up, will be. Ironically:

  • Your floors get dirtier than you ever thought possible
  • You want them cleaner than ever, for when your baby crawls and plays
  • Because of the baby, you have even less time to clean them than ever.

Our floors are mostly carpet, and the things they’ve absorbed over the past few years are, in a word, horrifying. Keeping the floors clean for our three little ones is a constant battle. Like most battles, we started out losing and only turned the tide after building up some firepower.

The Problems with Vacuuming

A good vacuuming does wonders for baby-abused floors. There are few things as satisfying as sucking up all of the infant formula and smashed Cheerios and ending up with a nice, clean floor. But there are a few reasons we can’t always get the main vacuum out.

1. Babies Afraid of the Vacuum

Many babies and small children are terrified of the vacuum. Ours were no exception. There was one time, when our daughter was young, that I playfully used the crevice tool on her shoes, and she’s been scarred ever since. Her little brothers seem to have picked up on this, because they’re scared too. When we turn on the big vacuum, they all scoot/crawl/run screaming to the far side of the house. Sometimes we just can’t console them.

We solved this problem in a rather simple way: by getting a carpet sweeper. You know, the kind that you push along the floor to pick up crumbs and such. They work surprisingly well, and they’re absolutely quiet. Great for sweeping the carpet after the babies eat, and they’re not afraid of it.

2. The Floor is Covered in Toys

In order to vacuum a floor, it generally has to be clear of objects. If you have young children, good luck with that! They scatter things everywhere, not just their toys but also the mail, couch cushions, napkins, papers, anything they can get a hand on. Trying to do this in the middle of the day is a battle of attrition, because when you pick something up, a child inevitably throws something else down.

Because of this, and point #1, we usually do pickup after the babies have gone to bed. By the time the floor is clear,  it’s usually 11 p.m. and we’re exhausted. Why not nap time? See my next point.

3. Loud Vacuums Wake Sleeping Babies

Most vacuums are loud. It takes a big motor to provide the suction to get all of that powdered formula out of the cracks and crevices. There’s always a risk that the noise will wake a baby up. At night we can usually soothe a baby right back to sleep. But the wake-up happens during nap time, and they’ve been sleeping for a while, guess what? The nap is over.

It got better when we invested in a lightweight stick vacuum. This offered a few key advantages:

  • Quiet. The noise level is about half that of our regular vacuum.
  • Lightweight and portable. It’s easy to grab the stick vacuum for a quick clean-up and then stash it when we’re done.
  • Good suction. It works surprisingly well on carpet and hard floors, and even picks up things that the carpet sweeper won’t (like macaroni noodles).

Protecting the Dining Room Floor

The dining room floor is often ground zero for spills and messes, especially if that’s where your baby’s high chair will be located. When our daughter started eating solid food from her high chair, we took steps to protect the carpet (yes, our dining room is carpeted, against all logic and reason) as best we could.

There’s already an area rug under the dining room table, but we went so far as to bolster this with a protective floor mat under the high chair. It caught most of the dropped food, crumbs, and spilled drinks that were inevitable as our daughter learned to feed herself.

Deep Cleaning the Carpets

As great as our sweeper and stick vacuum were, what really made us feel better about our floors was when we got our own steam cleaner. It seems like a big investment, but we do have a substantial amount of carpet. Mostly, we got this because of spilled milk. You can dry it up with a towel, but that’s not enough sometimes.

The Hoover SteamVac Carpet Cleaner is bigger than most vacuums but it’s pretty amazing. With just tap water and carpet solution, it steams the carpets, scrubs them, and sucks up the dirty water, leaving a super-clean floor behind. We try to do it once a month because the difference it makes is striking. It’s like having new carpet again!

Bissell Dual Brush Carpet Sweeper
• Easily picks up crumbs, cereal, dirt, and more.
• Light weight, compact, and most of all quiet.
• Cleans hard floor surfaces, area rugs and carpet.

 

Eureka Quick Up Cordless Stick Vacuum
Cordless stick vacuum
• Light-weight and cordless stick vacuum.
• Faster with the 10-inch cleaning path.
• Wall-mountable charging stand for easy storage.

 

Jeep Protective Floor Mat
Jeep Protective Floor Mat
Jeep Protective Floor Mat
• 50″ circle protective mat
• Protects floors during mealtime and playtime.

 

Hoover SteamVac Carpet Cleaner
Cordless stick vacuum
• Deep cleans with hot water and carpet solution
• Five spinning/scrubbing brushes.
• Two tanks separate clean/dirty water.

 

Baby Photo Shoot Ideas

baby photo shoot ideas

Original image credit: Flickr user fumpt

Taking baby photos, especially professional ones, is something I wish we’d done more when our children were newborns. We see our friends and relatives posting these spectacular photos with the most adorable baby poses, and we can’t help but feel a pang of regret. Think about it: your baby is changing and growing every day. Can you really afford not to set aside some time for preserving those precious moments?

Done right, your baby’s first photos will be absolute treasures for the rest of your lives. To find inspiration, I collected a number of adorable baby photo shoot ideas on Pinterest. The images below are on Pinterest (not my server), so please keep in mind that some may be subject to copyright.

Once you have your ideas, be sure to check out our article on 8 things to do with baby photos.

Newborn Baby Photos

These precious shots are all about putting the baby in cute little containers like crates, baskets, and suitcases.

baby photo shoot 1 baby photo shoot 2 baby photo shoot 3
A cute pose in a wooden “boat” with knit hat and fish, for your future angler. Baby kissing booth pose… now that’s five cents well spent! A suitcase on a road out in the country. Your baby has to sit up for this one.

Sleeping Baby Photos

A sleeping newborn is a precious (and rare) thing… I love how these babies aren’t all bundled up, so you can see their cute little bodies.

sleeping baby photo sleeping baby photo shoot
I love the pose at the top with the chin in hands… how did they do that? This is a sweet little headband, essentially the same pose done three different times.

Mom and Baby Photo Shoot

Mom and baby poses are ones that you’ll cherish, and great for moms or dads to show off at work.

mom and baby photo shoot mom and baby photo mom and baby photo ideas
Mom and baby pose in yen-yang fashion. Another cute pose; I love the mom’s hair. It helps if you look like a model. But if you don’t, this sweet pose of a mom kissing baby is a classic, no make-up required!

Other Cute Baby Photos

Here are some other cute ideas with props, dads, and clever focus techniques.

Cute baby photos Baby photo ideas
A classy chair out in the forest… there’s something magical about it though I wish you could see more of baby’s face. I absolutely love this elegant old leather suitcase… I’ll bet it’s soft and smells like her dad, which is why she’s fast asleep.
Dad and baby photo shoot Cute baby photo Baby in boots photo
Don’t forget a dad and baby pose; these are super-cute. Everything is soft and fluffy in this photo. Babies in boots = cutest thing ever.
Baby foot photo Baby feet photo ideas
Baby feet with the parents’ wedding rings on the big toes! I love this pose and the monochrome. The same pose, from a different angle. Is that really dad’s ring? Yowza.

What To Do With Baby Photos

free photobook on snapfishSo you’ve taken your adorable baby photos, picked out the absolute favorites, and made all of your friends jealous on Facebook or Pinterest. What now? Sure, you can dump the image files into massive folders on your computer, never to be seen again. But I like the idea of turning a baby photo shoot into a more permanent keepsake in the form of a photobook.

You can design photobooks on Snapfish with your own photos — they let you pick the layout, colors, captions, and everything. It’s a fun way to actually do something with your baby photos, and they make great gifts for friends and family too.

Choosing the Best Sippy Cup

choosing the best sippy cups

Original Image Credit: Amazon.com

Over the course of raising three kids, we’ve come to own a ton of sippy cups. I just walked down to the cabinet where we keep these things, and I stopped counting at fifteen different models. And yet, we only ever need a few of those — the true winners, the sippy cups that won’t leak and are loved by the kids. Finding them wasn’t easy. We had plenty of disasters — cups that leaked, or had too many parts, or made the kids scream with frustration.

The good news for you is that you get to avoid all of that. I’m going to tell you how to choose the best sippy cups for your kids; all you have to do is go and get some.

Features of the Best Sippy Cups

Sippy cups are an important transition from the bottle, and your child may use them for a couple of years. Our 4-year-old still does, not because she’s incapable of using an open cup, but because she tends to spill a lot and her younger brothers (if they get a hold of her cup) will guarantee that this happens. Here are the features that we looked for:

  1. Leakproof. First and foremost, your child’s first sippy cup should be absolutely leakproof. You’d be surprised how many fail this simple requirement. If you lay the cup on its side and liquid comes out, that’s a problem. Why? Because your child will probably be drinking mostly milk, and spilling milk on carpets, furnishings, or just about anywhere is bad news.
  2. Easy to use. During the infant stage, we loved Dr. Brown’s bottles because they seemed to reduce infant gas, but dealing with five or more independent pieces was a real bitch. Sippy cups should have a simple design; 3 pieces (cup, insert, and lid) is about my limit. Any more than that, and I guarantee I’ll never be able to find them all when my toddler is screaming.
  3. Child-approved. This is the most difficult but important test of a sippy cup: whether your child will use it willingly. Sippy cups that are difficult to hold or drink from will frustrate your child and make the bottle-to-cup transition ten times harder.

Best Sippy Cups for Babies

First Years Insulated Sippy Cup The First Years Insulated Sippy Cup
Features:
  • Spill proof and leak proof; one piece lid (no insert)
  • Insulated so the surface won’t sweat
  • BPA-free and dishwasher safe (top rack)

Sippy Cup Review:

These were some of the first sippy cups that we got for our daughter, though ours were Sesame Street and not Disney. I like two things about this one: the fact that it’s insulated, which prevents sweating and keeps the milk warmer longer, and the fact that it has just two pieces: cup and lid. No insert required, which makes this a quick, easy cup to use. The spout is a small hole with a silicone valve; it works well unless the valve gets distorted; we found this out the hard way after putting it on a dishwasher rack too many times.

Buy this Sippy Cup Now

Playtex Sippy Cup Playtex Sipster First Sippy Cup
Features:
  • Two handles for easy gripping
  • Soft, tapered spout eases the transition from bottles
  • Designed by a “feeding specialist”, whatever that means

Sippy Cup Review:

We also have one of these models, which I loved when the babies were little because of the handles. These provide an easy grip, though they hog space in the cabinet and dishwasher. The spout is fairly leakproof yet easy to drink from.

Buy this Sippy Cup Now

Nuby Sippy Cup Nuby No Spill Cup With Reversible Valve
Features:
  • Durable plastic cups in various colors
  • Reversible valve for two flow speeds (slow and fast)
  • Semi-transparent so you can see what’s in them

Sippy Cup Review:

We own more of these cups than any other, because they’re inexpensive and they work. The insert is reversible, so that you can set it for slow (baby) or fast (toddler) flow speeds. They’re pretty durable and bright colors; another advantage of having several is that we can mix-and-match cups, lids, and inserts just to get one together. Fair warning, though, if there’s one cup that can be forced to leak by banging it on the table or high chair tray, this is it. Otherwise we love them.

Buy this Sippy Cup Now

Best Sippy Cups for Toddlers

Gerber Sippy Cup Gerber Graduates Spill Proof Sippy Cup, 7 Ounce
Features:
  • Tapered shape for easy gripping by little hands
  • The lid and patented valve fit other Gerber Graduates cups
  • BPA free, top rack dishwasher safe

Sippy Cup Review:

The best all-around sippy cup that we’ve found for our toddlers is made by Nuk under the Gerber Graduates brand. This model, the 7-ounce, is tapered for easy gripping by those tiny hands. The lids screw on tight, and the whole cup is both hardy and completely leak-proof.

Buy this Sippy Cup Now

Nuk Sippy Cup Gerber Graduates Spill Proof Sippy Cup, 10 Ounce
Features:
  • Hourglass shape for easy gripping
  • Leakproof single-piece lid (no insert)
  • BPA-free and dishwasher safe (top rack)

Sippy Cup Review:

Here’s our current go-to cup, because our toddlers actually drink about 8 ounces of milk at a time, so we need the higher capacity. These use the same lids and inserts as the 7-ounce capacity cups, though, which is handy. The hourglass shape is easy for toddlers to grip and carry around as well. Buy a pair of these and you won’t regret it.

Buy this Sippy Cup Now

The Sippy Cup Holder Strap

Sippy Cup Holder Booginhead SippiGrip Sippy Cup Holder
Features:
  • Unique grip material to hold sippy cup securely
  • Adjustable length (up to 12″) for strollers, car seats, etc.
  • Made from durable, machine-washable materials

Sippy Cup Holder Review:

Last but not least, I thought I should at least mention this clever product from Booginhead. It’s a cloth sippy cup holder that anchors your little one’s cup to a stroller, high chair, or other baby containment apparatus. The part that goes around the sippy cup is made from a unique, grippy material that holds it tight. You can adjust the length of the strap as needed, up to about 12 inches. These are incredibly useful for walks, restaurants, and other places you don’t want the sippy cup to fall to the ground.

Buy this Sippy Cup Now

10 Great Things Daddies Do

10 things daddies do

Original image credit: EtanSivad on Flickr

We love asking our spunky 4-year-old daughter open-ended questions to learn more about how she sees the world. Since it’s Father’s Day, we asked her one of my favorites, “What do daddies do?” Based on her responses, I came up with this list of 10 things daddies do from a child’s sometimes hilarious perspective.

1. Daddies are strong. They carry one or more kids at once, they lift heavy boxes, they lug the stroller or pack-n-play in and out of the car. Theirs is the bike onto which we latch the trailer for the kids. They

2. Daddies fix things. Something shatters, breaks, or comes apart, and Daddy can fix it. He’s a wizard with Scotch tape and superglue. He airs up tires, tightens bolts, and replaces batteries. Millions of dollars are likely saved each year when dads sit down at the kitchen table with their tools and a broken toy.

3. Daddies can reach stuff up high. Compared to a baby or toddler, daddies seem huge. Whenever we need to reach something up high — a bottle in a cabinet, a balloon that’s out of reach, or things on top of the refrigerator — daddy usually gets the call.

4. Daddies kill bugs. Whenever there’s wildlife to be handled, from an ant to a spider to a wayward frog, Daddy usually gets the call. Maybe it’s just a fly, maybe it’s a plague-like influx of junebugs. He may smash it, he may catch and release it, but he’ll certainly get it out of the house!

5. Daddies work outside. They mow the lawn, rake the leaves, and do the most fascinating things with shovels, saws, and other tools. They climb ladders, trim bushes, and clean gutters. They tinker around in the garage for hours. They wind and unwind hoses, dig holes, and sometimes even break out the power-washer.

6. Daddies keep us safe. This is a role as old as the human race, and found across many other species of mammals besides. Daddies keep the bad people and dangerous animals away, they buckle us into our seat belts, they install the child locks and baby gates, and they go to investigate strange things that go bump in the night.

7. Daddies eat a lot. They like the biggest piece of steak, the most mashed potatoes, and seconds on just about everything. If kids need encouragement to grow up big and strong, they’ll take notes!

8. Daddies are fast. They usually win the family footraces. They’re quick to grab a wayward toddler or catch a young ‘un running from threats of bedtime.

9. Daddies take care of us. They help the kids, they help mommy, and they help other families because they understand that everyone needs a hand from time to time. They even help strangers, an example that makes a powerful lesson for those watchful little eyes.

10. Daddies plays with kids like they’re kids themselves. They become the monster in the cave. They take turns giving and taking chases or tickles. They climb up in tunnels, go down slides, and jump in the pool. That may be why kids love daddies so much… they’re fun!

7 Baby Bad Habits for the First Year

bad baby habits

Original image credit: Flickr user mcguirk

Bringing your baby home from the hospital launches what may be the most stressful, challenging, wonderful year of your life. You are now responsible for another human being! All of the baby classes and “What to Expect” books probably got you about 20% prepared for what that first year will entail.

It’s also when you’ll establish some of the baby habits that resonate throughout the first years of your little one’s life. Many of those will be good habits, I hope. On the other side of the coin, here are some baby habits you’ll want to avoid getting into.

1. Baby Sleep Shortcuts

This is an important one, because it ultimately affects your baby’s health, your own sanity, and the peace of your household. Mainly, you get into bad baby sleep habits by taking shortcuts: letting your baby sleep on the couch or in your bed, never establishing a consistent bedtime routine, keeping the little on up too late, etc.

Do yourself a favor: learn and follow good baby sleep training practices. This will pay off big time!

2. Letting the Germs In

baby tiny hands

Credit: Flickr user mcguirk

Babies have a tendency to put everything in their mouth. It starts with their hands, and once they master fine motor control, it extends with anything they can grab. Anything you hand to your baby — a bottle, a book, a toy, a pacifier, needs to be clean. The same goes for your floors, the stroller, the crib, and other places where your baby spends time. Especially if you have pets.

It’s important to realize the most virulent germ carriers that will come into contact with your baby: humans. This includes you as well as all the people who touch your baby’s cheeks or hands or toes.

Don’t worry about hurting people’s feelings. Put your baby’s needs first. If you read my article on what to expect when your baby gets sick, you understand what’s at risk here!

You gotta love it when a friend pets their dog or a relative comes in from the garage and wants to touch your baby without any hand washing. Put up the wall, and offer them some hand sanitizer. There are a lot of germs out there, and most people don’t wash their hands enough.

3. Baby Gear Overload

You know those annoying commercials where “there’s an app for that?”  Baby gear is kind of like that too. They have not just one, but five baby products for just about everything. It’s hard to know this in advance, but there’s a lot of crap out there that you really don’t need. And this might vary from one baby to the next.

For example, our little ones never liked the baby bouncer, the little one on a stand that vibrates and plays music. But some babies love those. The best thing you can do is ask other couples with 1- and 2-year-olds what products they never ended up needing, and what gear they wouldn’t survive without.

4. Giving Up On Nursing Too Soon

Nursing might seem like the most natural thing in the world, but the fact is that it can be hard. It’s difficult to get started, it wears you out, and it’s tough to do while working or traveling. Even so, nursing has countless important benefits:

  • It provides the best nutrition for your baby
  • It confers natural immunity
  • It creates a special bond between mother and baby
  • It saves money, LOTS of money.

So even though it’s tedious and uncomfortable sometimes, don’t give up on nursing. Keep going as long as you can!

5. Buying Everything New

You will need a fair amount of stuff, especially if this is your first baby, but buying it all new is going to cost you. Besides, there’s a lot of stuff — especially big things like strollers and jumpers and play yards — that stays in good shape when you get it second-hand. You can find relatives, friends, or even strangers on Craigslist who are selling these things in good condition for a fraction of the cost. Second-hand baby gear stores are also great for nabbing deals and encountering all kinds of products you didn’t even know existed.

A couple of safety tips if you buy something second-hand, especially from Craiglist. First, make sure the product’s not under re-call, like a drop-side crib. Second, meet the seller in a public place and don’t bring a bunch of cash or valuables with you. There are bad people out there, though most of them aren’t peddling baby gear.

6. Insufficient Babyproofing

baby proofing habitsUndoubtedly you’ve spent some time getting your house ready for baby, especially as he or she enters the scooting/crawling/walking stages. I can tell you right now, it’s probably not enough. Babies are clever and motivated. The moment your back is turned, they’ll be finding the loopholes in your home babyproofing plan. So double-check your home for these gotchas:

  • Electrical outlets. You not only have to cover all of these that are within reach, you have to keep them covered after vacuuming and inevitably losing some of the covers. But this was an easy one; I’m trying to build your confidence.
  • Mini blind and electrical cords. Keep these strangulation hazards up out of reach, and secure them with hooks or twisty-ties.
  • Stairs, ledges, and fall hazards. Babies don’t yet understand gravity, and falls are one of the most common kinds of injury.
  • Tippy furniture and decorations. Tables, bookshelves, vases, grandfather clocks, anything that can be pulled over will be pulled over. You can bolt things to the wall or move them to a secure room, or put them in storage for, you know, years from now.
  • Drawers and cabinets. I hate installing those latches (everyone does) but you’ll have to put in some. As a failsafe, you can sometimes use bungee cords and/or rubber bands to secure some of these; it doesn’t look great but it does the job. Put your sharpest, smallest, or most valuable objects in the best-babyproofed drawers or even better, cabinets up high out of reach.

Good babyproofing requires constant vigilance and improvement.

7. Letting the Time Fly

cherish baby habits

Image Credit: Flickr user ankurp

Taking care of a baby can keep you so busy that you forget to cherish it. Every day, your little one gets older, bigger, stronger, and a little less reliant on you. At some point (if not already) they won’t want to snuggle you any more: they want to roam around and explore the world.

Devote some time — maybe a few minutes each day, maybe once a week — to taking photos, writing down milestones (or first words, or hilarious parent-child conversations), and otherwise making a record of this moment. They’ll never be this little again. One day you’ll look up and realize how much time has gone by already.

So cherish that little baby!

When Your Baby Gets Sick

when your baby gets sick

Credit: Flickr user eurich

For the first three months of my daughter’s life, we kept her sequestered from the world. No baby showers, no family gatherings, no baby play dates. The wonderful result of this self-enforced hermitage was that she never got sick… No colds, no coughs, no anything.

Unfortunately, we did have to take her out eventually, and the world quickly got even. Virtually every time we went to a bounce house or birthday party or other gatherings, our daughter caught something and brought it home. Not that we didn’t try to prevent this. We became germophobes! Spend a few months passing nasty colds round and round your house, and you would be too.

Still, it didn’t matter. No amount of Germ-X or hand washing seemed to stave off the infections. So, against my best efforts, I’ve become something of an expert on what to do when your baby gets sick.

How to tell if your baby is sick

One of the challenges of handling a sick baby is that there’s no early warning system. They can’t tell you about the dry throat or throbbing headache or most of a cold’s precursors. Unfortunately you will probably notice one or more of these symptoms when it’s already too late:

  • Runny nose. Often the first symptom, this one always carries a sense of dread. Is it just from that recent tantrum or a chance event (allergies)? Sadly, it usually isn’t.
  • Congestion. The opposite problem, in a way. We often notice it because a baby breathes audibly or snores, or has trouble drinking bottles because he can’t breathe through his nose. The same holds true with a pacifier.
  • Fever. You may notice this when you touch or hold your baby, but you may not. Some babies always feel warm to me. The most reliable way to tell is with an infrared thermometer. Above 100.3 is a fever. Below is not.

How to help a sick baby

help a sick baby

Credit: Flickr user bengarrison

The moment you realize that your baby is sick, prevention probably isn’t an option. Instead, you can only take steps to make your baby comfortable and help him recover quickly.

  1. Handle the runny nose. You will need many, many tissues and the onus is on you to use as necessary. Expect your little one to turn and/or run away, because they learn to hate this almost as much as you do. Keep tissues everywhere, so that there’s always one within reach. The softer, the better.
  2. Help with congestion. Your options are limited here, because babies don’t learn to blow their nose until 2 or 3 years old. Saline drops up each nostril (especially before bedtime) seem to help. If you have the stomach for it, there is a more direct approach. It’s called a baby aspirator: a tube that lets you suck the snot directly out of your little one’s nose.
  3. Sooth coughs and sore throats. Since you can’t give babies cough drops or syrup, a humidifier might be the best alternative. The moist air soothes an itchy or sore throat, and some machines offer a comforting hum as well. Cool-air humidifiers are finally reasonably priced these days; I don’t know if they offer any medical benefit, but they’re safer to have in the nursery.
  4. Treat the fever and aches. If you’re the kind of parent who believes in modern medicine (which I certainly am), a little bit of baby Tylenol or Advil goes a long way. Either medicine (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) both reduces fever and helps relieve your little one’s achy body. If you do this, use the dropper that comes with the medicine and take your time. Having someone hold the little one helps. Put the dropper inside your baby’s cheek and give a bit at a time — you want your baby to drink it willingly, and this stuff tends to taste good so they usually will.

Intervention is good, but at the end of the day all you can do is make your little one comfortable. The infection will run its course; one day your little one will wake up from a nap with a dry nose, clear throat, and very happy mood. The cough can sometimes linger for a couple of weeks.

When to call the pediatrician

Let me take this moment to remind you that I’m a parent, not a medical expert. Please don’t take my parenting tips for medical advice! However, if your baby takes more than a few days to recover from the cold, or the symptoms seem severe, or you take a temperature of 103 degrees (F) or higher, it’s probably time to go to the pediatrician. They may be able to help, they may not, but you almost certainly won’t regret the trip.

Avoid Getting Peed On and Other Diapering Tips

avoid getting peed on diapering tipsOne of the simple realities of having a baby, as you’ve probably already discovered, is that you’re going to change a lot of diapers. Thousands of them, if you do your share. Depending on your technique, your baby’s gender, and a few other factors, you may also get peed on more times than you’d like to remember. The up-side to this is that it will harden you against life’s disgusting moments, most of which will pale in comparison to changing a 20-wipe blowout diaper that went all the way up your baby’s back by the time you discovered it.

Changing diapers is something you will quickly master from experience, but there are some tips worth sharing… things that can help you avoid blowouts, getting peed on, and other diaper change disasters.

Diapering Basics

Changing a diaper should be a straightforward exercise. You take off the old one, wipe clean, put on the new one, right? Only this can be complicated by lots of things: a squirming baby, a major poopy, an unforeseen shortage in wipes or clean diapers. Here are some basic diapering tips to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Diaper Changing TIps

Diaper Changing Tips from Best of Twins

  • Stock the supplies. Your diaper changing station should have plenty of clean diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and everything you need within easy reach. I know it’s a chore, but being vigilant about keeping everything restocked pays off. You’ll learn this the hard way if you run out of diapers or wipes during a change.
  • New diaper under the old one. Everything in a baby’s diaper, especially at the newborn stage, is fairly liquid. You want a new diaper under the old one to catch anything that could ooze out, and as a landing pad for your baby’s bottom. Getting a bit of “the business” on a new diaper is vastly preferable to a skidmark on the diaper changer cover.
  • Flanges out! The number one mistake we made that lead to leaks or blowouts had to do with the flanges — the soft plastic ruffles along the edge of the diaper. These should face out, meaning not tucked in against the baby’s skin. Run your finger under the edge to be sure. Otherwise, the plastic will chafe and (worse) allow leaks.
  • As usual, size matters. Putting your baby in the correct-size diaper is best, but if you aren’t sure, go with the smaller diaper. This seems counter-intuitive, I know, but a diaper that’s too big will have gaps around your baby’s legs, and that’s bad news. A diaper that’s a bit too small still fits because the tabs and velcro straps provide enough reach to keep everything covered.

How To Avoid Getting Peed On

Getting peed on while changing diapers really has a way of taking you down a peg in life. There is no up-side to it. The wipe count skyrockets, diapers and clothes have to be changed again, and you feel pretty gross.

baby wipe warmer for diapering

Prince Lionheart Wipes Warmer

The way I see it, there are three strategies to avoid getting peed on:

  1. Minimize exposure time. The longer your baby’s parts are exposed to cool air, the greater the urge to let loose. Have the new diaper ready, move quickly, and get the area covered as fast as you can. 
  2. Get a wipe warmer. This might seem like an extravagance to most, but I think that warm wipes really do make a difference and reduce your baby’s urge to pee on you. It seems to work better for girls than boys, but either way, it’s worthwhile.
  3. Get ready to block. If you have a boy, treat every diaper change like a battle. Expect the counterattack, and be ready to block it. Gross? Sure. But it minimizes the splash damage. If you have the new diaper ready, it works well for this.

I have seen, on Pinterest and elsewhere, this little cone-shaped device that’s supposed to prevent a baby boy from peeing on you. After talking to parents who’ve tried them, I think it’s too good to be true. It won’t work any better than a diaper or your own hand.

Handling Diaper Rash

Diaper rashes are common even for the most fervent diaper-changing parents. These things can gross you out, and they can make your baby fairly miserable too. Medically speaking, it’s unusual for a diaper rash to become severe enough that you’d have to go see the pediatrician, but you should take action to resolve it on your own:

diaper rash ointment

The best diaper rash ointment

  • Use a good diaper cream. I personally think the creams work better than gels, and I’ve never found a better ointment than Dr. Smith’s. It’s a bit pricey because it works.
  • Change diapers more often. Any time there’s a wet or dirty diaper, it irritates your baby’s skin further. Change whenever you think it’s not dry.
  • Avoid overheating the baby. This also seems to exacerbate diaper rash, especially when you have them in heavy pants or a warm car seat. Keep them in cool, loose fitting clothing.
  • A bath can help. A nice 10-minute soak in a warm bath (minimum or no soap) followed by patting dry can work wonders, especially right before bed. If you do this, don’t put on the diaper rash ointment… their fresh, clean skin will do better

Buy Diapers in Bulk

Diapers are going to be one of your biggest expenses over the next couple of years. There’s no avoiding this, but you can save a lot of money if you buy them in bulk. We usually shop for the best deal at Sam’s Club or at Amazon.com, both of which offer quick and free shipping. On Amazon the prices get even more competitive if you use Subscribe & Save, which essentially schedules diapers to be shipped to you at regular intervals (you can cancel any time).

Huggies Diapers on Amazon Pampers Diapers on Amazon
Huggies Diapers in Bulk Pampers Diapers in Bulk
Huggies baby diapers Pampers baby diapers
Buy Diapers in Bulk Buy Diapers in Bulk

When the price drops, we really stock up. What’s nice is that they come right to the door — no loading the big boxes into carts or trunks or anything.

The Complete Guide to Baby Shoes

complete guide baby shoesBaby shoes are one of the wonderful things about parenthood… they’re so cute, they’re so tiny, and they’re so… unlikely to fit your baby’s feet. In our boys’ room we literally have a basket filled with pairs of shoes, and of those there are about 3 pairs that actually fit. Until your baby starts walking, he or she doesn’t really need shoes, except for a few limited “special” uses. We’ll walk you through those here, and offer some suggestions about addressing common baby shoe problems along the way.
Contents:
Crib Shoes for Newborns
Pre Walker Shoes
First Walker Shoes
Toddler Running/Walking Shoes
Baby/Toddler Sandals

Crib Shoes for Newborns

converse baby crib shoes

Converse First Stars Crib Shoes

It’s tempting to put your baby in shoes even at the newborn stage. Truthfully they don’t need them for a number of reasons:

  • Warmth. Footed pajamas or onesies are better, and your baby will be swaddled most of the time anyway
  • Just like with hats, your baby won’t give up until he kicks both shoes off
  • It’s just more loose items to lose in the stroller, car, or nursery.
  • Your newborn is a long way from walking or even crawling, so the feet are the last thing that need protection

That said, the thing about newborn shoes is that they’re teeny-tiny and cute. As long as you don’t expect them to stay on, feel free to put on little shoes and snap a few photos. Or even get those little socks that look like shoes.

Pre-Walker Shoes

As your baby starts to move, roll, and crawl, putting him or her in shoes isn’t a bad idea. It will protect their feet and keep them a bit cleaner while they crawl around, and provide better traction as well. When it comes to choosing shoes for your pre-walker, here are some tips:

  • baby pre walker shoes

    Robeez Pre Walker Shoes

    Baby shoe sizes can’t be trusted. They seem to vary substantially between brands and almost never fit your baby’s feet they way they should. Trial and error is usually how we find a pair that fits, and then sticking with that brand usually keeps the shoe sizes consistent.

  • Laces are overrated. Shoelaces look cute because your baby seems grown-up, but they’re a headache for getting the shoes on and off. Slip-ons are good, but velcro is even better.
  • Shoes are short-lived. Few things grow faster than a baby’s feet, or so it seems. Plan on getting a new pair every couple of months. Hey, I’ll bet shoes for your pre-walker don’t seem as important now, do they?

Baby First Walker Shoes

It’s a special moment when your baby starts making those first hesitant, teetering steps on his own. Once that happens, they seem to improve quickly, and you need to start thinking about first walker shoes right away. First walkers are designed to protect your baby’s tender little feet, of course, but also to provide stability and support. This kind of baby shoe is one where the function might be more important than the appearance.

baby girl shoes

Stride Rite Duckling shoes

Case in point: our daughter was a bit of a late walker (18 months). Her first walker shoes were white in color and rather plain in appearance — both of which seem like poor ideas for a baby’s shoe — but they were Stride Rites. This is a premium brand of baby shoe and it shows: the shoes had a nice wide base, were of solid (leather and rubber) construction, and held up really well despite being worn by a soon-to-be toddler.

Toddler Walking and Running Shoes

When your little one starts walking and running with confidence, you don’t have a baby any more. You have a toddler, and this is a game-changer in many ways. First of all, you need to take your babyproofing up a notch because toddlers can reach new, previously-safe places like tables and countertops.

new balance baby shoes

New Balance running shoes

Second, you’ll need to find a shoe that’s durable enough to withstand a toddler’s rambling lifestyle, while still providing good support and stability.

  • Find a pair of shoes that your toddler wants to wear. This is super important, because it’s at around this age that your toddler starts expressing his or her own desires, and if they want the shoes it’ll go much, much easier.
  • Laces are OK at this stage, but slip-ons are easier. There are few substitutes for laces when it comes to keeping the shoes firmly on your toddler’s feet. However, you add 30 seconds every time the shoes come on or off, and that can be 20 times a day.
  • Get the right size. A shoe that’s too big won’t stay on. A shoe that’s too small will cramp your little one’s feet and might do more harm than good.

Sandals for Babies and Toddlers

Last but not least, I should cover the open-toed-shoe department, namely sandals for babies and toddlers. On the surface it might not seem like a good idea to put your baby in a sandal rather than a regular shoe. Will a sandal offer the same support that a baby tennis shoe does? Probably not. But there are still some things to like about sandals:

  • stride rite sandals for baby

    Stride Rite baby sandals

    No socks required. Whenever your baby needs footwear — for a walk outside, or because something was broken, etc. — it’s always the socks that are the killer. We have a drawer stuffed full of them and I can never find a pair of matching weather-appropriate gender-appropriate socks. That’s one great thing to love about baby sandals.

  • Solid materials. Because your baby’s feet are chunky and haven’t grown much, baby sandals actually offer a fair amount of protection. Most of the foot is covered and they’re generally easy to put on.
  • Wet/dry friendly. A very good occasion to put your baby/toddler in sandals is if there’s a pool, water table, puddle, or other source of water nearby. Damp sandals dry MUCH faster than soaked shoes and socks.
  • Easier to fit. If you have a baby with chunky feet, like my older son, sandals offer a bit more room for that chunkiness to spread around.

15 Pacifier Tips

15 pacifier tipsThe pacifier may be the single most important tool in your baby care arsenal. It’s also one of the oldest — the first pacifiers were made of corn cobs and used in England in the 17th century! A pacifier at a crucial moment saved us more times than I can possibly name. Our boys are getting ready to give them up (little do they know), and that will be a sad day.

Call it what you will – a binky, a soother, a paci — this little rubber-and-plastic wonder has helped us ever since our first was born. It can help you, too. Here’s how.

Choosing A Pacifier

There are all  kinds of pacifiers out there, different types and sizes and every color imaginable. Here are a few tips on how to choose one.

1. Start with a Soothie. If your baby is born in the hospital, as most are, that’s probably where he or she will get the first pacifier. Hospitals have these amazing pacifiers (if ugly) called Soothies. They’re disc-shaped and usually too unwieldy to be kept in for long, but your newborn will love them. The nurse who taught our baby classes literally told us to take as many as we could get our hands on.

soothie newborn pacifier

The Soothie Pacifier

2. The uglier, the better.  You know those adorable ones you’ll love unwrapping at the baby shower and capturing in photos. Odds are these will be passed over for an ugly plain-jane pacifier like the aforementioned Soothie. I’m not sure why, but ugly pacifiers always seem to be the favorite with babies.

3. Your baby might be picky. As in most areas of life, your baby will have a preference for one type of pacifier above all. For our boys it was the low-profile Nuk pacifiers. Our niece prefers the Soothie, even though she’s well beyond her newborn months.

Stocking Up on Pacifiers

Pacifier pocket

Pacifier pocket

Pacifiers are like infant formula and diapers in that you never, ever want to run out of them completely. Here are some tips for preventing that catastrophe.

4. Find your baby’s favorite pacifier and stock up. Figure on two for the crib, two for the diaper bag, two for the car, two for the dishwasher, and two to be lost at any given time. That’s ten by my count, and it might just be enough. Be sure to restock when you seem to be running out.

5. Keep extra pacifiers handy. The more you have in reach, the better your chances of finding one when you really need it. We stock them in the diaper bag, glove compartment, on the shelf above the diaper changer, and in the kitchen. In a pinch I’ll even shove one in my pocket as we’re running out the door.

pacifier clip6. Use a pacifier clip. The downside of pacifiers is that they’re small and easy to lose. Nothing’s worse than the sound of a pacifier hitting the floor of a grocery store (or worse, public restroom). A pacifier clip attached to the stroller or your baby’s clothing will keep this from happening. We’ve even used them at night to avoid having to root around in the dark when the baby wakes up.

Pacifiers and Germs

Like anything that goes in your baby’s mouth, pacifiers can be a germophobe’s worst nightmare. Here are some tips for keeping your baby’s pacifiers reasonably sanitary.

pacifier wipes7. Ziplocs to travel. Whenever we’re traveling or taking the babies out in public, we bring pacifiers in a snack-sized ziploc bag. This not only make them easier to find, but keeps them relatively clean no matter what bag or pocket they’re shoved into.

8. Pack cleaning wipes. When a pacifier hits the ground, you have a couple of options. Toss it. Ignore it and re-insert. Wipe it off on something, like your shirt. A better option is to keep a little pack of pacifier wipes around. These single-use, disposable wipes do a pretty good job cleaning/sanitizing a pacifier of unknown cleanliness. In a pinch, hand sanitizer and a wet wipe work too.

9. Watch for mold. Pacifiers spend much of their time in a warm, moist place. Watch for condensation inside the rubber part or mold on the outside. Run them through the dishwasher regularly to help keep them clean.

Pacifiers for Teething

Baby teething pacifier

Razbaby Razberry Teethers

Teething often brings out the worst in any baby — they can’t eat, can’t drink, can’t do much more than fuss all of the time. A pacifier could help, or it could be just another thing that they bat away when you come near.

10. If your baby wakes up crying and refuses a pacifier, teething is usually the culprit. One reason this happens so often during the sleep cycle is that teeth grow at night.

11. Run the pacifier under cold water. The cool and wet pacifier soothes your baby’s gums and sometimes will do them enough to get them back to sleep. I find this works best with a new/clean pacifier, not the one they’re currently using.

12. Try a teething pacifier. They make a few pacifier that are specifically designed to help teething babies. The Razbaby Teether, for example, is textured to help massage the gums when your baby has it in his mouth.

Sleep Training with Pacifiers

A pacifier is incredibly useful for baby sleep training — both in helping your baby fall asleep and for soothing your little one after an unexpected wake-up.

glow in dark pacifiers

Glow in the Dark Pacifiers

13. Make the pacifier part of your bedtime routine. It’s just as important as a clean diaper and soft pajamas, in my book, the very last soothing touch before you leave the room.

14.For older babies, use a pacifier first to wean from nighttime feedings. This is on your pediatrician’s advice, of course, but the pacifier can help soothe your baby back to sleep without eating, a key step in teaching them to sleep through the night. Glow-in-the-dark pacifiers, if you can find them, are much easier to track down in a dark nursery.

15. Hit the snooze button. Countless times we’ve bought ourselves an extra hour of sleep in the morning by offering our early-riser a pacifier instead of getting him up. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s just as good as hitting the snooze button.

Have any pacifier tips of your own that I missed? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Other parents will appreciate it!

Your Newborn’s Crazy Lifestyle

newborn crazy life

Image Credit: Flickr user salim

Bringing your newborn baby home from the hospital is a landmark moment in parenting. It feels like a victory: you managed to get pregnant, carry the baby, give birth, and now your precious little one is coming home for the first time. If the timing goes right, you get discharged on the same day and have the added bonus of leaving backless gowns and mediocre food behind! The baby goes into the pumpkin seat in your car, and then reality sets in.

I hope you followed my advice on 9 things to do before the baby comes. Because your newborn is now in charge.

Sleepless Nights

For the first few months of life, babies eat every 2-4 hours. That’s around the clock, day and night. Sure, they sleep around 18 hours a day, but between the diaper change, feeding, and burping you’re looking at a few hours of sleep in between. Undoubtedly you are in for some sleep deprivation. Try to be patient with your spouse, and don’t make any important life decisions, until you can actually get some rest. Here are some tips for how to catch up.

Sleep Tips for Parents of Newborns

There are two main ways to handle the sleep deprivation a newborn bestows upon your home, and generally avoid becoming a walking zombie:

  1. When the baby sleeps, you sleep. You’ve probably heard this rule already but it’s easy to break… when the baby is asleep, it’s tempting to pick up around the house or watch TV or you know, shower. Keep this stuff on the back-burner (except perhaps the showering) and focus on grabbing an hour or two of sleep. You’re going to need it.
  2. Share the workload. Trading off with your spouse can make a big difference, especially at night. If you work out a schedule that lets each of you bag 5 hours of sleep, it can work wonders. If both of you get up every time, you can take turns with feeding, burping, diaper changing, and tucking back into bed while one of you dozes nearby.

Trying to find ways to keep up on sleep is essential in those first few months; disrupted sleep can cause maternal depression, marital discord, and all-around crabbiness. Snooze when you can and don’t feel bad about it.

Expensive Tastes

Your newborn’s arrival may herald tough financial times ahead. Having a baby is expensive, and I’m not just talking about $20,000 hospital bills (one of the few times you’ll be glad to have expensive health insurance). I’ve heard the statistic that the average expense of raising a child from birth to age 18 is approximately $1 million. When your newborn arrives, you’ll soon understand why. Here are some things to save for:

  • Big-ticket items like cribs, strollers, car seats, and baby furniture, and other baby gear. You may receive some of these from family, friends, or co-workers, and that can save you a nice chunk of change.
  • Diapers and wipes. Figure on 10 diapers a day at the newborn stage. At $0.25 per diaper, you’re looking at $75 per month and that doesn’t even account for the cost of wipes, which run about $0.02 each. As your baby grows, you’ll have fewer diaper changes per day (good) but they are bigger and therefore have a higher price tag. There’s no escape.
  • Infant formula. If you supplement with formula, you’ll quickly understand why it’s the “liquid gold” of baby care. Sure, it provides everything your newborn needs and more, it’s convenient, but it’s also pricey… especially as your baby grows and starts taking 4, 6, or 8 ounces at a time! Try not to think about the cost of each little scoop; it’ll drive you mad!

Money Saving Tips

By the time you’re reading this, it may be too late for me to advise that you save, save, save, before the baby comes. Having some money tucked away will help you avoid that second mortgage. But here are some ways to reduce the cost of all those things a newborn needs:

  • For big-ticket items, complete your baby registry early and don’t be shy about it. When people ask if there’s anything you need, give them the registry. The more you receive as gifts, the less you have to spend on your own. 
  • Buy baby gear second-hand. Craigslist is usually a good place to find swings, strollers, cribs, and other things at less than half of the price. Just make sure the products have all of the pieces and aren’t under recall.
  • Buy diapers and wipes in bulk. We signed up for Amazon Mom and use the Subscribe & Save to get free shipping. We also buy at the big-box stores when there’s a good deal.
  • Generic forms of infant formula are available and usually less expensive, especially when bought in bulk. These are almost identical to the big brands (Similac, Enfamil) and you can even find the specialized kinds (e.g. sensitive). The most important thing is finding one whose taste your newborn likes, and sticking with it. Also, get as much formula free from the hospital as you can… at the NICU they gave us a few containers, one of the many reasons that we love the NICU.

The Newborn Time Is Short

Enjoy these sweet, short months with your newborn. Before you know it your baby will be rolling, crawling, walking, and asking for the car keys. It seems hard now, I know. It might seem like hardest thing you’ve ever done. But in a few months you’ll look back and miss these precious moments with your little baby when he or she is still a newborn.