Baby!

Jean’s BabyHacks!

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Now that our girls have arrived and we have some experience being Parents (who thought that was a good idea?), we have some advice and babyhacks to share. This will be a living document, organized by age group. Some items carry over from one age group to the next but are mentioned in the youngest applicable category.

Enjoy or ignore!

Bitty Baby

BabyHacks:

  • Dosing syringes and medication bottle adapter
    • This handy rubber adapter fits into the neck of a medication bottle and makes it easy to withdraw a dose with an oral syringe without spills or mess.
    • Get extra oral syringes and draw up doses to go or the doses you will need overnight so you don’t have to try to do it sleep deprived and at 3AM.
    • Available on Amazon and at Woodmans.
    • 1mL syringes are good for simethicone. 3mL, 5mL, and 10mL syringes are good for pain medications and antibiotics.
  • Infant acetaminophen suppositories
    • There will come a night when the baby needs pain or fever medication and WILL NOT take the syrup.  They are sort of expensive (about $1.50 each) but will be SO WORTH IT when you need it.
    • Having this out is an amazing option, but they are generally not stocked in local stores, so before you have a midnight need, order a box to have on hand.
    • Order from Amazon
  • Rectal thermometer 
    • The rectal temperature is more accurate and reliable than the axial (armpit) or forehead temperature. Even the ear drum temperature can be hard to take correctly for kids. However, be safe about taking rectal temperatures. Follow your doctor’s directions or read up about it first.
    • Don’t guess whether you have the oral or the rectal thermometer – mark it with a big “R” in Sharpie
    • Don’t guess about whether you have inserted it too far – also use the Sharpie to mark the recommended insertion depth. (This is usually 1/2 inch, but check the directions on the thermometer.)
    • Warning! Taking a rectal temperature sometimes results in impressive bowel movements!
    • Consider thermometer covers, even for a dedicated rectal thermometer so you can throw the soiled layer away.
  • Puppy pads
    • As in-labor upholstery insurance – keep some in the car for the drive in. Even if you don’t need them for labor, you can use them later.
    • As on-the-go changing pads – you will be changing this baby all sorts of places and the most unexpected places won’t have changing tables. (A family restaurant. With FAMILY in the name. No changing table!) It’s nice to have a disposable option to put down on the floor before you change the baby.
    • As biohazard tarps – Blowouts happen. Keep some in the diaper bag and within easy reach of the home changing table too. When you know that the baby has committed war crimes in their diaper, toss down a puppy pad first so you can toss out at least some of the mess.
    • Available online (search for chux pads or puppy pads) or in pet supply stores (but they are often more expensive there).
  • Lingerie bag 
    • Babies create a lot of laundry. A lot of TINY laundry. Hang a lingerie bag on a hook next to the laundry bag and put all the really little things in there – tiny socks, washable breast pads, tiny mittens, etc. Zip it shut and launder it with all the other laundry without needing to hunt all over for the missing mate or going to work with a tiny sock stuck to your sweater.
    • Speaking of laundry, just park a big bottle of spray pre-treater next to each laundry hamper. Baby mess doesn’t just stay on the baby and you won’t remember it later. It’s good they are cute.
  • Glow-in-the-dark tape
    • You are going to be spending a lot of time stumbling through the dark toward a howling baby. Make it a little safer for yourself and stick a little piece of glow-in-the-dark tape on corners you are likely to clip, the doorknob in your bedroom, and next to light switches.
    • If you wear glasses, put a little tape flag around one of the earpieces. It looks stupid, but the kid is the only one who will see you and they are in no position to judge.
    • Put a little flag around the business end of your phone charger and the baby monitor charger so you can plug things in without turning the light on you sleeping partner. (Jerk.)
  • Cloth handkerchiefs
    • You will go through a ridiculous number of tissues and they often make baby’s nose chapped.
    • Cotton or linen handkerchiefs are re-usable and nicer on baby’s nose.
    • Pre-wash a few times to improve the absorbency.
  • Insulated bottle/thermos
    • Once you are offering formula instead of breast milk, it is great to pre-measure formula into dry bottles and then fill an insulated bottle or thermos with hot water. When you need a bottle in the middle of the night, just mix and go – no waiting for the water to heat up!
    • If you make up bottles of different amounts, mark the tops with a dry erase marker so you know how much water to add.
  • Dry erase board 
    • Speaking of dry erase markers, use a dry erase board and markers to keep track of who has given the baby medicine and when.
    • Best practice is to have only one parent be the “medication parent,” but even the parent on duty may need a reminder if there are multiple schedules for different medications or if the illness means no one is sleeping.
  • Kits
    • Make a kit for everything you do on the regular to keep you sane. you may not be thinking clearly, but if there is a “going to daycare” kit, a “going shopping” kit, a “going out to eat” kit, etc, you’ll at least look like you have your poop in a group.
    • Each kit should have a dedicated, visually distinct bag.
    • One kit should absolutely be the blowout bag that lives in the car – complete change of clothes for baby and parent, three diapers, wipes, two puppy pads, a spare bottle, two individual packets of formula, and a small amount of cash ($10-20).  That should see you through 95% of disasters and, if not, you have enough cash to get a drink.
    • Just remember to refill/reorganize each kit at the very next opportunity after use.
  • Mini Diaperbag
    • Find a tiny bag, ideally one with a handle that can clip to your beltloop or stroller handle and stock it with the bare essentials for a quick run out.
    • I can pack an insulated bag meant for a single bottle with a sample size pack of wipes, 3 diapers, a small tube of diaper ointment, a disposable bib, a disposable placemat, a small spoon, a small toy, a roll of diaper disposal bags, and a pack of Kleenexes and be ready for anything.
    • Speaking of diaper disposal bags – the ones in the baby aisle are a scam. Pick up rolls in the pet aisle of the dollar store. They are rolled and so pack compactly and use less plastic than grocery bags but are still big enough to contain the evidence so you don’t kill the other people who have to use that stall later.
  • Belt Pouch 
    • A small bag that clips to your beltloops or belt like a Renaissance Faire pouch is AWESOME for collecting bulky baby items, anything you want to be able to grab quickly, or those things you just really don’t want in your pocket. (See used handkerchiefs.)
    • Just beware as baby gets older – they are easy to pickpocket
  • Baby sign language 
    • Babies understand language long before they can produce it. Teaching them very basic sign language allows them to communicate needs and reduces frustration and tears – theirs and yours.
    • Start early and keep with it. You really only need about six to ten signs (milk, diaper, mama, daddy, sleepy, water, more, food, etc.) so focus on the basics, at least to start. It doesn’t seem to go anywhere for a long time, then it is super worth it!
  • Small caddy
    • Get a small caddy with a central handle for carrying things from room to room. Babies (and new mommas) come with a lot of accessories and being able to carry all the bits and pieces in one hand and the baby in the other is a huge lifesaver. I particularly approve of the ones that have a slot the right size to hold a cup or can – it improves stability of your beverage or the just-pumped milk when you set it down next to you on a couch, bed, or other not-quite-flat surface.
    • They can also be set up as a mobile changing essentials kit – diapers, puppy pad, butt cream, thermometer, etc.
    • You can often get them at the dollar store or grocery store and they are well worth the investment.
  • Binder clips 
    • Use binder clips with the stroller to affix lightweight blankets in place, either as extra sunshades or to keep baby from kicking the blanket off and into the dirt.
  • Breastfeeding woes 
    • Baby will sometimes develop a favorite boob. In case this happens, always start on the less favorite boob instead of alternating – this preserves the supply on the less-favored side and keeps you prepared for an abrupt change in boob preference.
    • Choose patterns and medium or light colors for you and baby as this will disguise leaks and spit up. I’m generally gothy and suddenly get very floral when breastfeeding. 😀
  • Baby sizing
    • Baby clothes and diapers are eve worse than women’s clothes. The size printed on them is apparently random. If you have multiple brands, hold them up together to decide which ones are actually the smallest/biggest. Gerber brand Onesies tend to run smallest and sometimes a 3 month Gerber garment will be smaller than another brand’s newborn size. Check this so you don’t miss out on the window where baby can wear that extra cute outfit.
  • Burping
    • I discovered with baby #2 that an unusual burping technique worked really well for her. I lay her on my lap (with burp cloth right under her chin!) and slowly raise her up, as if she is doing a sit up. I slowly have her do 2-3 sit ups, which usually produces a burp. If not, I pick her up under the armpits, giver her a little jiggle, and then burp on my shoulder. 95% success at getting bubbles out!
  • Hand and foot prints for the baby book
    • Babies are squirmy and this is super hard to get right. Give yourself extra chances by cutting pieces of cardstock or posterboard to a size approximately double of the spade you will need, a separate one for each appendage and one or two extras.  This gives you the real estate to get the print and then trim it down and to try again if it is a disaster without ruining your baby book pages. The slightly firmer paper is easier to get a good print on. Of course, use nontoxic ink. Trim the prints and paste them into the book when you get them right.

Endorsed products:

  • MyBrestFriend – stupid name, excellent product! This is a nursing pillow that is firm, flat, and straps to you so that floppy little newborn doesn’t slip in between you and the nursing pillow like other nursing aids that shall not be named. Bonus – the back strap provides lumbar support and there is a little pocket for all the essentials – lanolin, a snack bar, your phone, whatever. I loved the twins version for middle of the night nursing when I was worried I would drop the premie. 10/10 recommend.
  • Costco diapers – excellent, and cheap
  • Costco formula – good quality – made with milk, not sugar like a lot of brands
  • Nosefrieda – disgusting and vile like a neti pot. Also like a neti pot – extremely effective and worthwhile. Essentially, it is a tube for sucking snot out of your little darling’s nose. There’s a filter to keep you from directly inhaling snot, but… yech. Use with a nasal saline mist for best results. The use of this item will cause your baby to shriek like the damned. Still worth it.
  • Toy leashes – these keep you from losing toys or even just reduces the number of times you need to pick the things up from the potentially filthy ground.
  • Indestructible books – lightweight, flexible, and – as advertised – nearly indestructible. Great for the diaper bag and the going-out-to-eat kit
  • Wrap or baby carrier – find what works for you and baby and they are magic
  • Owlet – unless your baby has health issues, this is unnecessary and paranoid… but it is unnecessary and paranoid with DATA. It’s super cool to see how your baby sleeps through the night on a good night and feel validated that you did, indeed, get up 17 times on a bad night.
  • Baby monitor – someday you will go somewhere in the house other than directly to bed. It’s good to be able to hear/see the baby from the basement or garage.
  • Spectra pump – if you are breastfeeding and pumping, I found the Spectra to be vastly superior to the Medela and Lansinoh pumps. It was quieter and more effective for me. The blue model has an on-board battery offering better portability. However, their pumping bottles and horns were crap. Adapters to use Medela and other brands of pumping supplies can be found online.
  • Freemies – so, these never worked as well as the standard pumping horns, but they don’t stick a foot off your chest either. They are not “discreet” as advertised – you end up looking like Barbie with giant, pointy, plastic boobs. However, they are great for pumping while you need to be doing something else, like typing or holding the baby. They say not to pump while driving, but I got in two extra “free” pumping sessions on my commute with the Spectra and the Freemies. You completely shouldn’t do that, but it was great.
  • Haaka pump or silicone pump – this is a simple one-piece device for extracting moderate amounts of milk. It essentially acts as a suction cup on your boob and collects milk in the reservoir. This is super useful if you are prone to leaking on one side while feeding on the other. It essentially gets you a “free” ounce or two without taking any more time. Warning – Baby can (and WILL) kick the pump loose, so you do need to keep an eye on it. Also, the cheaper versions are made of a thinner silicone – they don’t pull as much milk, but can be useful if you find the firmer ones uncomfortable.
  • Lanolin and gel soothing pads – another thing to order before you need them and at some point you are going to need them. Get the Lansinoh Soothies – they are more expensive, but last three times as long as the Medela pads. All of the lanolin ointments seemed to be fine.
  • Baby scale that reads in grams – if you are concerned about how much your baby is eating or how fast they are gaining weight, being able to frequently and accurately measure their weight can bring great peace of mind. Get a scale that can weigh in increments of no less than 5grams.
    • If you weigh baby immediately before and immediately after a feeding, 1mL of milk weighs approximately 1gram, so the difference in the baby’s weight will be a good estimate how much she drank.
    • If you are weighting a baby frequently to track growth, remember to have a standard state that the baby is weighed in – before a feeding wearing just a clean diaper, for example. This will provide a more accurate record of her growth as opposed to the size of a feeding, the thickness of a sleeper, etc.

Big Baby and Toddler

ToddlerHacks:

  • Area rug under the crib 
    • At some point, your angel is going to puke all over their crib and, if you are super lucky (you are!), on the floor too. Put an area rug under the crib to make it easier to clean if you have wall-to-wall carpeting in the room.
    • Choose a rug that is washable and ideally not a solid color.
    • Consider keeping the baby tub when your baby grows out of it – its great for ground zero-to-laundry room transport of soiled linens.
    • Keep a dedicated bucket somewhere handy too.
  • Umbrella Stroller Containment
    • Umbrella strollers SHOULD clip shut, but they never do, and they are a giant pain in the ass to carry while folded. They can also be easily damaged when they catch on something in transit – either in your car or when gate-checked at the airport.
    • Camping chair bags are usually big enough to contain the bag and have carrying straps. (The bags always last longer than the chairs, so ask around, someone you know has hoarded extras.)
  • Bibs with Sleeves
    • Toddlers are messy eaters, yo.
  • Simple Booster Seat
    • Get one without a lot of cracks and crevices, as these are a disaster to clean out when the inevitable spills happen. A folding travel booster may seem like a good idea, but there are So Many Places for milk to drip and stink.
  • Egg timer or tiny “hour”glass or visual countdown on your phone
    • Toddlers are not good at telling time and letting them know that we need to be done in X time is effectively meaningless to them and doesn’t prevent tantrums. Being able to show them the timer spinning, the sand falling, the line disappearing, etc. on your timer of choice helps.
    • Alternatively, pick a “timer” song and use that as a cue. Three “Itsy Bitsy Spiders” doesn’t take too long or grate too badly on momma’s nerves, but provides a good cue to the little people.
  • Shoe organizer
    • A shoe organizer on the back of a closet door is great for storing accessories, out of season clothes, etc. Keep the items you want the kid to reach in the lower pockets and other items higher up. getting one wit clear pockets makes seeing what is stored in each pocket simple, otherwise label each pocket.

Endorsed Toddler Products:

  • “Monkey trap” cup – the little snack cups with split silicone or plastic tops so the kid can only get out a small number of crackers at a time. Brilliant! (At least until they figure out how to peel back the petals and  dump everything out at once…)
  • Silicone sheet – these are sticky on one side and create a clean eating surface wherever you roam. They can be rolled up again – dirty side in – for cleaning once you get home.
  • 360 Sippy cup – these are great – the kid can drink from any portion of the rim, it is supposed to be better for their teeth, and it is pretty leakproof unless the cup is dropped. (And of course it will get dropped. This mitigates mess, it doesn’t entirely prevent it.)
  • CiaoBaby high chair – if you are regularly on the go at places that may not have a high chair – family’s houses, parks, camping, festivals, etc., this is a great gadget! It folds up like a camping chair and stows into its own carrying case. I like it better than the clip-on booster seats because it feels more secure and not everywhere I go has tables much less tables that accommodate a clip-on booster. The plastic-covered tray is easy to clean and it even has a drink holder for a sippy cup.
  • IKEA toddler beds – they have several that are twin-width but the length is adjustable, from about crib-length to standard twin length and all the mattress pieces are included in one package.
  • Easy “bedrail” – stick a thick dowel in the hole in a pool noodle and tuck it under the fitted bed sheet. The kid can get out of bed safely when they are awake, but it prevents most accidental rolling out of bed accidents, This works particularly well with the IKEA bed which has partial fixed bedrails to stabilize the pool noodle in place.
  • Folding potty seat – for the kid afraid of falling in, these fold up to the size of about a paperback book and come with their own carrying pouch. Maybe not worth it to bring with on EVERY errand, but awesome for early potty training and times where you’re spending the day in a location without other toddler residents. Search Amazon for options.

Favorite Toddler Books:

  • Little Owl series by Divya Srinivasan – adorable paper cut out illustrations and simple but fun stories about Little Owl exploring the forest. She has also done collaborations with other artists, including Neil Gaiman.
  • Gossie and Friends series by Olivier Dunrea – cute illustrations, nice messages about being a good person/friend.
  • Corduroy series – there are only two books by the original author – Don Freeman (Corduroy, Corduroy Finds a Pocket) and one additional by B. G. Hennessy (Corduroy Lost and Found) that are good and faithful to the original. Many of the other new Corduroy-themed picture books are AWFUL. There’s a newer volume Corduroy Takes a Bow by a third author that is supposed to return to the original quality, but I have not yet seen it to review.
  • The Mitten and other Jan Brett books – detailed, gorgeous pictures in a Scandinavian style paired with traditional stories.
  • Llama themed: Llama Llama, Red Pajama; Are you my Mama?
  • Bedtime books: I’m not sleepy by Trish Holland
  • Dr. Seuss: The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and other titles remain solid. However, use some caution – some of the less common titles have some questionable depictions of racial and ethnic groups. If you can lay your hands on a copy of “My Many Colored Days” it is very highly recommended, discussing different feelings kids can have on different days.
  • Sandra Boynton: pretty much all of her stuff is fun and popular with kiddos.
  • Michael Rex: mostly parodies of classic kid’s books. Our favorite is Goodnight Goon (spoofed from Goodnight Moon, which we hated, oddly enough).
  • Jamberry by Bruce Degen – a silly poem about a boy, a bear, and berries. Very fun. You will end up memorizing it, but not hate yourself for having done so.
  • Oliver’s Tree by Kit Chase – a sweet story about an elephant who wants to climb a tree and his friends who help him do so.
  • Recordable books – they are expensive and a little saccharine since apparently Hallmark has the patent on them, but fun for pre-readers, kids who have loved ones far away, or kids who NEED a parent to read to the before bedtime if that parent cannot always be there.

More to come!

because I am Bossy and have Opinions 🙂