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!
- If you need to elevate your head while sleeping, consider using a boppy instead of buying a bed wedge or similar.
- The curved shape works particularly well for side-sleepers
- You can re-use the boppy with the baby for sitting/play, but see the bitty baby section about a better nursing pillow – My Brest Friend
- As a pharmacist, I don’t believe in multivitamins – There are too many internal interactions, often they contain more than you can actually absorb, and a lot of people have side effects from them.
- Consider taking just the nutrients you need. Consult with your OB, but these are the critical vitamins:
- Folic Acid – a must for neural tube development
- Calcium & Vitamin D – take together, but away from Iron/C
- Iron and Vitamin C – take together, and with food, but not at the same time as the Calcium/D. Iron is a prime suspect for problems with tolerating prenatal vitamins, so separating it out and finding a dose that works for you is better than not doing it at all. If you cannot tolerate a supplement, see below.
- Iron-rich foods
- I couldn’t find an iron supplement that didn’t make my reflux 1000 times worse, so I focused on nutritional sources. Other than the obvious red meat options, consider:
- Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Grape Nuts Cereal (seriously, 90% of your RDA!)
- Other iron fortified cereals
- Blackstrap molasses – check the labeling, but some have very high iron content and are delicious
- Milk alternatives – check the labeling – pea milk often has high iron content
- I couldn’t find an iron supplement that didn’t make my reflux 1000 times worse, so I focused on nutritional sources. Other than the obvious red meat options, consider:
- Reflux and Nausea
- I had terrible reflux and nausea that was only relieved with thick, chalky beverages but not cow’s milk. Try pea milk (Ripple) or oat milk options.
- Also talk to your doctor about Diclegis – it is a prescription anti-nausea medication with a good safety record. DO NOT shell out to buy it though – you can get the same ingredients over-the-counter and cheaply. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for how to hack it from cheap generic drugs.
- Vision Health
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding played havoc with my eyes. If you are having difficulty, see your optometrist. Check your insurance – many have clauses providing extra exams and glasses/lenses/contacts during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- GLOW IN THE DARK frames! Seriously life changing hack with my second – I am blind without my glasses and it’s frustrating to be flailing around in the dark when the baby is up (again) in the middle of the night. I got some glow in the dark frames because they were my favorite color of green and I thought they would be funny… I wish I had done so earlier! Check the kid’s section, especially if you have a smaller face. I got mine from Zenni. My prior hack had been a tag of glow in the dark tape on the earpiece of the glasses, but this is more fun and easier to find.
- Dental Health
- While we’re at it, make sure you are taking good care of your teeth too. Making and having babies can mess up your teeth and many insurnace plans will providing extra exams and cleanings during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- 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 grocery stores or drug stores.
- 1mL syringes are only useful if baby needs a very small volume medicine. 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/obtain a box to have on hand in advance of any need.
- Order from Amazon or other online retailer. Target has started carrying it in some stores.
- 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.
- Onesie removal
- WHO KNEW THIS AND DIDN’T TELL ME? Seriously, this is a second-kid discovery.
- You know how the onesies have those little flaps at the shoulders so that you can get them over the kid’s enormous nugget? You can ALSO use that to take the onesie OFF by rolling it DOWN the kid’s body. Nasty blowouts don’t need to go over the head – they can just be pulled down and off!
- Mind. Blown.
- 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 edge of the nightstand, 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.
- Spill-proof water bottle
- You’re going to be up at all hours and underslept. Do yourself a favor and get a spill-resistant beverage container (bonus if it is insulated to stay cool) so you can stay hydrated without risking making extra work for yourself. You’ll get good mileage out of this as your baby becomes a grabby-handed toddler, so get something nice. 🙂
- 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.
- 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.)
- If you need extra attachment points, consider suspender clips that can latch on to any garment to provide an easily removable attachment point.
- 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. 😀
- Pump hoses
- Pump hoses are often maddeningly short and you keep pulling them out when you move around. The hardware store sells tubing for carrying water into an ice maker in the freezer. Bring your tubing in and see what sizes would work – you can usually by them in 10 foot lengths! Definitely not a manufacturer authorized upgrade, but it’s food-safe plastic and doesn’t actually touch the milk anyway.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In-the-bed baby bassinet/co-sleeper – we did not do this with #1 (she hated all sleeping surfaces other than her crib) and tried it with #2. GAME CHANGER. Everyone is getting more and better sleep. Notes: I did choose to self-exile to the nursery, so it is just me and the baby in the bed. It sucks not to sleep with the husband for a few months, but if it is the price for everyone sleeping, it’s worth it. I started out with a random co–sleeper, then ordered the Snuggle Nest Dream because it was the longest one I could find (we have a very tall baby) and it has tall firm sides. #2 was prone to inch-worming her way out of the co-sleeper with short walls. The Snuggle Nest Dream has tall walls, but they are well ventilated to prevent smothering and there is a soft section in the middle, so baby cant escape, but it is comfortable to drape your hand there if you need to do some midnight patting.
- 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
- Swaddles – get some with velcro or zippers so they are foolproof. You can use blankets, but it’s hard to get it tight enough to be safe without making it so tight the baby is uncomfortable. Just cheat and get ones with built-in fasteners. Even if baby hates them when they are applied, they often sleep better when they are prevented from hitting themselves in the face periodically.
- 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. (November 2021: This is currently off the market because they ran into some issues with the FDA saying it was acting/being marketed too much like a medical device. I do hope it comes back in some form because we found it so helpful.)
- 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.
- Small stoller with wide base – After some troubles with the stroller for #1, for #2 I found a stroller with a very wide base that is bigger than a standard umbrella stroller, but not a behemoth either. It has a generous basket underneath, the handles are high enough to be comfortable for my 6’4″ husband to push, and the seat flips around for infant use. The wide wheelbase means that the stroller doesn’t tip over if you put a purse or diaper bag on the handles, but I do sometimes kick the base when pushing it – I think that’s a reasonable trade-off. The model I found was the Urbini Reversi, but others out there may also work.
Big Baby and Toddler
- 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.
Little Kid Hacks:
- Adventure bag – it’s nice to be hands free and not have a purse flopping around or a backpack making you sweaty (especially if you have one or more kids in a carrier). There are “tactical” bags that attach around the waist and the thigh and are a great option. They are larger volume than a fanny pack and are out of the way of carriers but still have a pretty good volume and often have or can add extra water bottle attachments. If you don’t want to go with the “military” look, there are some cute steam punk type styles as well. Diapers, first aid kit, a few snacks, a water bottle for each person, and off you go.
- You don’t have to want to do it, you just have to do it… – This is SUCH an important phrase in our house and for some reason it works. Acknowledging that the kid doesn’t want to do the thing but making it clear that the thing WILL be done stops so many arguments and temper tantrums. A few seconds of commiseration over something distasteful but necessary (like getting clipped into the car seat) goes a long way toward preventing epic battles.
Little Kid Endorsed Products:
- Content coming soon
Advice on Books for Mom and Dad:
- Mayo Clinic’s Pregnancy and Childhood books – These are much better than the ubiquitous “What to Expect” books and without the scaremongering and patronizing tone.
- Anti-recommendation – “Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” had a lot of discussion about how to talk without screaming or hitting your kids… That’s really not the baseline I want to be working from. 🙁 This book just made me mad.
More to come!
because these kids keep changing…
and I am Bossy and have Opinions! 🙂