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

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

Choosing the Best Sippy Cup

choosing the best sippy cups

Original Image Credit:

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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