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!