Sunday, December 4, 2016

10 Cheap and Free Ways to Entertain and Engage Babies

Being a parent is expensive! Further, marketers and stores know that parents will spend and spend to feel like they are being the best parents possible. They will try to make you feel guilty for not doing everything in your power to make your baby safe, smart, and well adjusted.

I won't get into the science of marketing (which does leverage every psychological hook possible to get you to spend money). Instead, I'll just show you some fun, easy, and CHEAP ways to engage your baby, helping them learn and grow.

In fact, I plan to make these money-saving posts a common feature in the future. Please leave feedback on topics you'd like to learn more about!

10 Inexpensive Ways to Play With, Engage, and Entertain Baby

  1. Sorting Laundry. It might be a couple years before they can productively help you sort laundry, but in the mean time, give them a stack of towels or clothes and let them put it in the basket and take it out. Babies love to imitate, so be sure to join them with their pile, or by working separately on your pile.
  2. Pillow Play. Stack up a bunch of pillows on the floor and let them role around, fall into them, and just have a good time. One word of caution - make sure you have a nice soft floor or put something soft down (like a sleeping bag) - they can sometimes get a little crazy!
  3. Pots and Pans. This is an age-old noise-making fun idea. Get a few old pots and a wooden spoon, and let them go to town exploring the noises. Join in with some beats of your own!
  4. Cardboard box houses. Cut a baby-sized hole and let them play like the box is a house.
  5. Cardboard box coloring. Our kids loved to sit inside the cardboard box and scribble crayons or markers. As they got older they started drawing windows and other house features.
  6. Mylar Balloons. Babies love to watch those shiny Mylar balloons - especially if they have fun characters on them. Even better, attach the balloon to something that moves or rotates (like the cage of a oscillating table fan) and they'll be entranced by the balloon. Some parents have told me that they will clip the balloon on babies pant leg near the ankle, and baby will kick and move the balloon. That makes me a bit nervous since the balloon has a string (choking hazard!), but under close supervision and while baby is not crawling or rolling, it might be OK for short durations.
  7. Watching leaves and trees. Take baby outside on their baby blanket (or in a Pack-n-Play) or even in the grass and lay them down so they can stare at the rustling trees. Mesmerizing for baby!
  8. Empty and Fill a box. There are many toys around the concept of emptying and filling, like this Piggy Bank. Our kids loved it! And you can make your own with an old coffee can or a Kleenex box. Just make sure the items you use are non-toxic and too big to be a choking hazard. 
  9. More fun with kitchen items. Use stacking/nesting plastic bowls so baby can stack and nest them, building dexterity. Use muffin tins or egg cartons for sorting items. Get creative - use plastic easter eggs for sorting, or toilet paper roles (you can cut them into threes to make them go further and fit better). The ideas are endless!
  10. Water Play. If you don't mind a bit of a mess and a wet baby, water play can't be beat. Put some water in a bowl, in a plastic pitcher, get some measuring cups or other plastic cups, and let baby go to town!
Of course, the options are almost infinite. Hopefully these get the ideas flowing, and you and baby will be off to a day full of fun and learning.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

10 Fun Gifts for New and Soon-to-Be Parents

Becoming a parent is (obviously) life changing. And no matter how much someone thinks they know how their life will change, it is always's deeper, more profound, more difficult than one can imagine.

If you know a new parent here are a few gift ideas to help soften the blow.

10 Great Gifts for New and Soon-to-be Parents

  1. Baby Safe Handling Tips. My favorite part is the "wheel of responsibility" on the front, but the contents are funny!
  2. Go the F**k to Sleep. Made famous by the Samuel L. Jackson reading, this book has been described as 'pitch perfect' for weary parents. Warning: language may offend.
  3. If You Give Mommy a Glass of Wine. This is another fun children book parody, sure to make wine-loving moms smile.
  4. My Quotable Kid. Kids say the funniest, most unexpected things. This journal book gives parents a reason to write it down before they forget it! 
  5. Mr Food Face Plate. Every parent knows how hard it can be to get your child to eat. Mr Food Face can be a special occasion plate or a frequent go-to to make meal time a fun time.
  6. Graphite and Snap-off Floor Nails. A great gag gift that is actually useful. Every parent knows the horror of finally getting baby to sleep only to have a squeaky floor or door wake them up! These useful tools will solve your sleep problems.
  7. A Woombie or a Sleep Sack. These are safe ways to keep your baby warm and secure - keys to a restful night. New parents will thank you!
  8. Dads - give Mom a spa day, a massage, or other relaxing gift like a movie with friends where she can spend a few moments on her own.
  9. Moms- give Dad some relaxing time away - let him go on a hike, spend time gaming, a movie with friends, or going to watch the big game.
  10. Of course, the best gift of all might be for friends and family to offer to baby sit for a day! As a parent PLEASE consider this option. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

10 Tips for Choosing a Car Seat for Your Child

Being a new parent can be so difficult. You operate on a sleep deficit, face new challenges on a daily basis, worry about every little item, have to fit in tons of pediatrician appointments, and make decisions on a continual basis.

One of the major decisions you can make before your little one arrives is the car seat that works best for you. There are many options, but the selection and options reduce when you consider your child's age and weight.

There are still considerations, so here's a checklist to help you choose the best car seat for your situation.

  1. Read your car owners manual to see how car seats can be attached. You'll find there are two options: LATCH and the seat belt method. LATCH is intended to be easier, and thus, some think it is safer because the chance of making a mistake is reduced. However, LATCH systems always have weight limits, so many parents just default to using seat belts to avoid the chance of forgetting to change later. A properly installed seat using a seat belt is just as safe. Find more at the "car seat detective".
  2. Newborns and Infants must be in rear-facing seats. In fact, read-facing is always safer, and you should keep your child rear-facing as long as possible.
  3. Decide if you want your seat to attach to a stroller (sometimes called travel systems). Graco, Britax, and others make "quick connect" systems that allow you to easily remove your baby from the stroller and connect them to the car seat base.
  4. Decide if you want an "all in one" seat that can mount read and forward. These are good values, but won't connect to a stroller (at least I haven't seen any that do). My wife and I ended up choosing a 'travel system' for the first several months, then transitioned to an "all-in-one" for the next couple of years.
  5. Consider the space you have in your car. It's best to place baby in the rear middle seat - will the seat encroach on other passengers? You can usually find the specifications of the seat, and try googling various forums to see what others have experienced with your seat and/or car. And if you already have a car seat and are shopping around for a car, test fit the car seat in the cars you look at.
  6. Make sure the harness is a 5-point harness (this is pretty much standard these days) and make sure it is adjustable.
  7. Make sure it is easy to clean. You WILL have to clean it...a lot...and often it will be gross messes that you want to clean well. Some "luxury" seats are actually more difficult to clean with more easily stained fabrics. Sometimes mid-tier IS better.
  8. Check for any safety recalls. Stores are usually good about pulling products from their shelves when recalls are issued, but it is always better to double check. is an excellent resource to keep up with safety recalls on all kinds of children products.
  9. Get physical when installing your seat. We used the seat belt installation method, and I'll tell you - I'd get very physical to attach that belt as tight as possible. Don't worry - you can't break your seat belt, so get in the car, use your feet to anchor the seat down, and PULL on that belt as hard as you can. Of course, follow the install instructions of your car and the seat, but make sure you give it every once of muscle you have.
  10. Consider a car seat protector. Children spill things, spit up, and the pressure of the seat itself can damage your car, so you may want to consider a seat protector. However, make sure it doesn't affect the integrity of your installation of seat safety. They should also attach to the seat securely.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

10 Steps to Baby Proofing Your House

It's easy to baby-proof for a newborn - you pretty much just need to worry about where they sleep.

But before you hardly blink, your baby is scooting, then crawling, then pulling themselves up, then walking! All sorts of trouble ensues. Simple everyday things become choking hazards, pinching hazards, crushing hazards, a source for cuts and other wounds. It's quite scary!

Never fear - the key is to 'stay ahead of the curve'. When baby starts to crawl, you'll want to contain them to safe spaces and remove choking hazards from their reach. When they start to pull themselves up and gain dexterity, you'll want to watch for sharp corners, reduce pinching hazards, protect electrical outlets, and make sure there are no crushing hazards (tall bookcases, for example, should be attached to the wall).

copyright Michael Hawk
And when they suddenly walk - look out! Actually, by this stage you should be in pretty good shape if you've kept up.

When you go to the baby stores you'll find all sorts of crazy baby safety items. They market to our fears - if there is something you *can* do to protect your baby, you should - just imagine how you'd feel if something tragic did happen?

Of course, there is a happy medium - and nothing replaces watchful, vigilant adult supervision.

But remember - every house is different. For example, we were able to easily gate off the kitchen - one of the most dangerous areas of a house. But this can be difficult with some floorplans, meaning you'll need other precautions.

Anyway, here we go...

10 Steps to Babyproof Your House

  1. Remove choking hazards. Babies love to stick things in their mouth - this is a basic way babies start to learn about the world. Make sure you don't have cat toys, older children's toys, knick-knacks sitting on tables. Crawl around on your hands and knees and see what you can find. And don't forget to check any drawers that may be within reach of baby.
  2. Remove pinching hazards. This is a hard one because there are so many! For example, spring-type door stops should be replaced with solid ones. We had a coffee table with lots of drawers - I simply removed the handles to make it difficult to open. Step trashcans are very dangerous - move them. The step is a major pinching hazard, and if they are stainless steel they are baby magnets - they love to see their reflection.
  3. Contain the chaos with gates. Baby gates are a great investment - just make sure you can install them securely! Some are pressure-mounted, others can be mounted with screws. The choice really depends on the surface you are mounting them to. For example, if you are mounting to a slick surface like polished wood, pressure mount probably won't hold.
  4. Protect Electrical Outlets. There are lots of different styles of outlet plugs. Some are just basic plastic plugs, others have a small button you must push to release them. My experience is that the basic ones are good enough.
  5. Cover plugged in items. Blocking unused electrical outlets is easy - but what if you are actually using them? First, hide electrical cords (and any other wires) as best as possible. Get a cover such as the one pictured below. And if you can cover power strips, too.
  6. Contain the chaos with door knob covers. Door knob covers can help keep baby from getting into closets, bathrooms, or out the front door! 
  7. Prevent tipping/crushing hazards. Babies love to pull themselves up on anything they can reach - bookshelves, TV stands, etc. Often, these items are top-heavy and even the weight of a baby can pull them over. Attach them to the walls with safety straps - a double good idea in earthquake country. Make sure to secure your TV, too.
  8. Secure your kitchen. If you can't keep baby out with a baby gate, or if you want an extra layer of security, consider cabinet locks and . You can get magnetic key cabinet locks, or cheaper but harder to install plastic ones. An oven lock may also be a good idea. And always keep panhandles pointed in (away from where a toddler may grab it). Consider a lock for the refrigerator as well.
  9. Soften those corners. When baby starts to pull herself up and walk, you'll want to be extra careful with hard, sharp corners on furniture. There are many corner protectors for different applications. 
  10. And all of the other things. Even with protection in place you want to make sure you reduce risk. Move cleaning chemicals out of reach of baby - don't just rely on a cabinet lock. Move glass items elsewhere. Keep tall lamps or other items out of reach - behind furniture or in other rooms. Keep dangling chords on curtains or blinds tied up and out of reach. Consider a 'defense in depth' strategy. For example, even if you bathroom door has a handle cover on it, someone may forget, so lock those cabinets as well, and consider a toilet lid lock.

Remember the old saying - security is the inverse of convenience. Keep this in mind, and remind yourself that it is only for a short while.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

10 Safety Tips to Avoid SIDS

It is every parent's worst nightmare - SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS is an unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby - usually during sleep. Following certain practices can reduce the risk and help you rest easier as well.

To be technically accurate, a case is not considered SIDS if a cause of death can be determined. For example, if a baby monitor or autopsy shows suffocation to be the cause, the case would not be considered SIDS, but rather, a SUID - Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. I mention this because you will find the terms interchanged, used loosely, and find conflicting statistics since some people continue to lump known causes into the SIDS bucket.

When suffocation is eliminated from the picture, the leading theories on truly unknown death causes have to do with brain development and illness. For that reason, general healthy practices are shown to reduce risk (no smoking or drinking during pregnancy; no smoking in a house with babies; breast feeding, etc).

Whatever the cause, over the years much has been learned. For this article, we'll consider suffocation and strangulation risk in the SIDS bucket.

10 Safety Tips to Reduce SIDS Risks

  1. Place baby on their back when sleeping. "Back to Sleep" is the mantra to remember this. Infants can't role over, and have very heavy heads, so if they end up face-down, it can impair their breathing or lead to suffocation. Don't place baby on her side, either. It is too easy for momentum from a movement to cause her to role over. The graph below shows the correlation of the 'back to sleep' campaign and awareness with the drop in SIDS cases.
  2. Use firm mattresses only. In a worst-case where baby ends up face-down while sleeping, a firm mattress will allow some airflow. Note - this is a good reason not to put baby into the parents or siblings bed - often these mattresses are too soft, and have other suffocation risks.
  3. Remove loose blankets from the crib or bassinet. You might be thinking "my baby can't role over yet, so I'll put a blanket on her". Don't. The risk is too high. Some day your baby will role over, and regardless, one mistake where you leave a blanket too close to the babies face would be one mistake too many. Use a sleep sack to keep baby warm.
  4. Don't Smoke. Causation has not been entirely established, but there is a correlation of SIDS with both households that have smokers, and with mothers who smoked during pregnancy. 
  5. Breast Feed. Another correlation seems to be a reduced risk of SIDS for breast fed babies.
  6. Never Let Baby Sleep in Adult or Sibling Beds. There are too many risks - soft surfaces and blankets lead to suffocation risks. Many parents use sleep positioners thinking this helps - but they have their own risks. Headboards can cause babies to get trapped or injured. Older siblings may not remember baby is there and injure them. Bottom line - keep babies in bare cribs and on mattresses designed for baby
  7. Pacifiers May Help. According to WebMD, sucking on pacifiers is correlated to reduced SIDS risk - but if you are breast feeding wait a few weeks to establish a nursing routine. 
  8. Don't Keep Your Baby TOO Warm. This falls inline with avoiding blankets, but also, there seems to be some hypothesis that overheating can lead to breathing or other regulatory disruption. Again, a sleep sack is a good way to keep baby covered and warm enough.
  9. Have Baby Sleep Next To Your Bed. For the first several months use a bassinet or crib so baby can be in your room, next to you. Again, NOT in your bed, however. Having baby in your room is convenient for night time feedings and soothings, too.
  10. No Canopies on Cribs or Bassinets. These items can fall or get knocked over, leading to strangulation or suffocation hazards. As baby grows, she may start exploring and pull it down on her own; or your pet cat could knock it loose. Just save your money and avoid the canopies.

References for more information on SIDS
  • WebMD
  • CDC
  • - a nonprofit dedicated to the reduction of SIDS through research, education, and support.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Top 10 Board Books For Your Baby

Board books are a staple of baby development. They introduce the idea of books and reading, stimulate the mind, and provide an excellent avenue for parents to talk (or sing) to their baby.

Given the age, board books are sturdy, hard to tear, and can withstand an occasional chew as your baby's teeth come in.

When buying books, get a variety. Goodnight Moon helps put children at ease at night; some of the books below teach vocabulary with excellent photos; others teach about baby's body. Get a book with textures, a book with rhymes, and books that are just plan fun. Try to fill each category with at least one option - and most of all - read everyday to your baby!

The list below tries to hit most of those categories, and includes classics and a few other fun ones that our children really enjoyed.

Top 10 Board Books for Baby

  1. Goodnight Moon. This is a classic that helps build vocabulary and give your baby or toddler comfort in knowing what is around the room at night.
  2. First 100 Words. Our kids wore this book out! Lots of fun pictures, and great vocabulary practice! You can also get the First 100 Animals - same author and format, and also lots of fun.
  3. Baby Animals. A Little Golden Book classic in board book format.
  4. Guess How Much I Love You. An enduring classic - my five year old still sometimes likes to read this book! 
  5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - The Eric Carle classic. As a kid I loved the holes the caterpillar chewed into the pages, and I'm certain it helped me learn my numbers and days of the week much sooner.
  6. Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed. Full of rhyming and fun illustrations, kids love this one.
  7. Good Dog Carl - A wordless board book about a dog and a baby - wonderful illustrations and it creates a lot to talk about with your baby.
  8. From Head to Toe - Eric Carle has three books on this list for a reason. This is another fun book, helping children learn and interacting and learning their body. 
  9. The Wheels on the Bus - this is a very small board book - thus inexpensive and very portable. Based on the classic song, it makes this book a can't miss.
  10. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? - Another classic from Eric Carle, with lots of repetition that babies and toddlers love.

And as a bonus:

  • Animals - Baby Touch and Feel - babies love texture books, and this one has plenty!
  • Farm Faces - it's a book of masks! Each page has an animal face, with holes drilled through where the eyes would be so you and baby can hold it up to your face like a mask! Tons of fun! You can also consider Zoo Faces and Goodnight Faces from the same company.
  • Where is Baby's Belly Button - this is a lift-a-flap style book, so be prepared for baby trying to tear the flaps. That said, it was one of both of my children's favorites!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

How to Transition Your Baby to Solid Foods in 10 Steps

When I was a new parent, I was surprised to learn that solid foods included pureed and blended 'mushed' food. But yes, we all start somewhere, and even semi-liquid mushy food is no longer purely liquid - and thus, considered solid.

This all becomes very evident the first time you feed your baby a jar of baby food. Make sure you have your camera ready - the reaction will be priceless!

Before you jump to a jar of baby food, there are transition steps. Here's your list of steps to take to make the transition a smooth and spit-up free as possible.

How to Transition Your Baby to Solid Foods in 10 Steps

  1. First, is your baby 4 - 6 months old? If so, this is usually when they are ready to start - the reflex of pushing food out with their tongues begins to relax at this age. BUT...check for other signs they are progressing. Some babies just take longer.
  2. Aside from the 4 - 6 month age, other indicators are - is your baby acting interested in what you eat? Can they sit up (supported) and hold their head up and still? If they can't do that, they are not ready.
  3. If you think they are ready, start by mixing baby cereal into their formula or breast milk. Your pediatrician should give you their recommendation, but often you start by introducing this in just one feeding a day.
  4. When you feed solids (i.e. cereal when you start) - feed from a bowl with infant spoons. This makes sure your baby understands the difference and learns the process of taking food and swallowing. Note, however, some pediatricians do recommend mixing small amounts of cereal in the baby bottle first - especially in the last feeding before bed. The logic is that the baby will remain full longer, and you'll be able to introduce this new food as well. There is mixed opinion on this - we did it, but I'd recommend you consult your pediatrician first.
  5. If your baby doesn't want solids, that's OK. Simply wait a week and try again. This is true throughout the process - when you introduce jar foods later in the process, your baby may reject that as well.
  6. Always wait 5-7 days between introducing new foods. Your baby may be allergic to, or simply not ready for certain types of foods. If you introduce too many new things too quickly, you won't know which one caused the problem. So, introduce one at a time (make sure each one is a SINGLE ingredient), pay close attention to their poop, spit-up frequency, and wait 5-7 days before moving to something new.
  7. Add pureed vegetables, one at a time. Your baby might reject certain flavors - be prepared for that. For example, one of ours loved carrots, the other would NEVER eat them. Sweet potatoes and peas were favorites for both of ours. By the way, different companies make different levels of puree. You can start with very liquid purees and gradually work your way up to chunky purees. More on that below.
  8. Add pureed fruits, one at a time.
  9. Add pureed meat, one at a time. If you want your baby to be a vegetarian, consult with your pediatrician to ensure baby is getting all the essential nutrients for cognitive development.
  10. Around 8-9 months, offer combinations. Around 9 - 10 months you can move beyond puree and start to introduce chopped soft foods (small, finely copped, that is). Of course, every baby is different - yours may be ready at 8 months, or need to wait until 12 months. These are rough guidelines.
After this, you can start to introduce puffs, and then foods like cheerios. Ah, life gets easier and cheaper. :)

There are a ton of great references for transitioning your baby to solids. Here are a few good ones:

Momtastic has a nice chart.
And of course, BabyCenter always has good information.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

10 More Nice to Have Items for Your Baby

We’ve already run through the most important items your newborn needs for sleeping and bathing, feeding and changing, soothing, and travel. We’ve even discussed what NOT to get, plus some bonus items.

Today i'm running through another 10 "nice to have" items that I felt were worth mentioning, but definitely not on the required purchase list.

10 More Nice-to-Have Items for Your Baby

  1. Bottle warmer. We got away without a bottle warmer with our kids, but I'm certain we would have had less spit-up and a few less cries with a bottle warmer. The trick with a bottle warmer is making sure your sized bottles will fit. This Dr Browns bottle warmer has an adjustable basket that fits most sizes.
  2. Video monitor. For many years parents survived without monitors - then audio-only monitors. Now with internet connected video monitors you can see your precious children from anywhere
  3. Music box. These days almost every baby item has some integrated music function. Baby swings, mobiles, play centers, etc have will play music. But a music box often has fun movements that can almost hypnotize your baby or toddler. Most music boxes are not made for babies to actually touch, so you need to keep them at a distance where they can be seen, but not touched. But the Munchkin Mozart Music Cube, pictured below, is a fun compromise - your baby can play with it to your heart's content. And this cute Owl music box/night light is another fun option that babies and older kids alike enjoy.
  4. Mamaroo infant seat. Upgrade your infant seat to the mamaRoo - it mimics parents natural movements, and can be controlled by your smartphone.
  5. Wall Appliques. Customize your nursery with cute and engaging wall appliques. I'm partial to owls in particular, and this owl and animal applique fits the bill, but there are many options.
  6. Teething toothbrush. This fun item works as a teether (supervised, of course!), and helps get baby used to the idea of a brush.
  7. Baby Bottle Drying Rack. If you're like us, you'll have bottles of different sizes and shapes constantly being washed. We hand-washed our bottles because our standard mid-priced dishwasher simply didn't do a good job getting them clean. A rack was a wonderful luxury, saving time and difficulty in trying to dry those narrow bottles. (Note: some dishwashers have special bottle jets - if you're buying new, look for this feature! It will serve you well for years, not only for baby bottles, but also water bottles made by thermos, contigo, etc).
  8. Diaper Wet Bag. Of course, you can get away with taking plastic trash bags with you, or you can buy a specially made washable wet bag for wet and dirty items.
  9. Security Blanket. Actually, this is probably as close to a must-have as you can find. Our children, and almost every child our friends have had love a nice, small, security blanket either made of silk or with a silk edging. You won't be sorry. There are many varieties, with animals built-in, chewy corners, and more.
  10. Baby Gate. This is a 'luxury' item for newborns that quickly turns into a necessary item once baby is mobile. Start looking for sales, coupons, or other deals early, because you'll probably want a gate sooner or later. Make sure you consider the width of the spot you plan to attach it - you might need to purchase an extended or two to make it fit. Also, think about the best place to put a gate - especially if you have pets that need to reach food, litter boxes, and water. One other idea - you can consider a pet gate for your baby, and might be able to find a better sale from a pet store. BUT, make sure it doesn't have any features that could be pinching hazards or dangerous in other ways.

Monday, October 10, 2016

10 Nice to Have Baby Items

We’ve already run through the most important items your newborn needs for sleeping and bathing, feeding and changing, soothing, and travel. We’ve even discussed what NOT to get.

Now it’s time to move on to the “nice to have” items. Perhaps these aren’t true necessities, but they’ll make your life easier, stimulate your baby more, and may be worth the added expense. If you like these, you may want to check out our list of 10 Luxury items for your newborn. OK, luxury is a bit of an exaggeration - but there are likely some things on that list that you’ll want as well!

Top 10 Nice-to-Have Items for Your Baby

  1. Glider (gliding chair). This may cost a few hundred dollars, but it was well worth it to my wife and I!  You need a place to feed your baby, so it might as well be comfortable and soothing for you and baby. We spent countless hours soothing our children on our glider - we had a Dutailier brand with a matching ottoman, and were very happy with it. It was comfortable for us, and the babies loved it. If you have a Baby's R Us or similar store nearby, I'd recommend a visit to help pick one out. You'll find some are more comfortable, some are more adjustable, and will have pockets and other nice features. Make sure both chair and ottoman lock into place to avoid a pinching hazard!
  2. Humidifier. Babies have very sensitive skin, and many end up with eczema. A humidifier really helps with this - and is also a nice to have when your baby catches a cold. Keep in mind that you will need to clean it frequently, and replace the filters. My experience has been that the smaller humidifiers for single rooms seem to have planned obsolescence, so after a couple years you may not be able to cheaply find the filters. Keep this in mind - you might want to stock up on a few extras. You might want a vaporizer or mister, which put out more humidity - but beware - these can put out too much water and be bad for the furniture and walls.
  3. Baby monitor. These days you can go WAY overboard with baby monitors. We kept a simple audio-only monitor, but you can also get video monitors, or even use internet-enabled services like the Nest Dropcam.
  4. Bath Toys. These may not be useful for a newborn, but will add lots of enjoyment to baths as they age. Most bath toys have educational elements - you can teach colors, numbers, and help them with different sensations and textures. Babies love toys that squirt water (though beware - they get mold inside them pretty easily). And you can never go wrong with toy boats!
  5. Sunshades for your car. Keep that bright sun out of their eyes and help them sleep. Just be careful not to obstruct your own view! And keep your car cool with custom-fit sunshades for the windshield. I've bought mine from AutoAnything, and while they do cost a bit more they are great for hot climates.
  6. Portable play yard, such as the Pack-n-play brand. This is a lifesaver when visiting family and friends who do not have cribs. I’d even use it on our shaded back patio to give our baby some outdoor time with me. You can get a basic Pack-n-play model for $50 or less. Or, you can spend an extra $30 or $40 and get a deluxe pack-n-play that has a changing station and 'napper' that lets you save your back by having the floor of the crib raised up.
  7. Rattles. Babies learn all the time, and rattles that make different noises or have different textures are the cornerstones of baby toys. You might also try soft blocks and links. These rattles have crinkly sides too - babies love that!
  8. Cloth and tactile books. Get them used to the idea of books early. Some books even have chewy corners, crinkley edges, and other fun parts that make reading optional! Jellycat books are great options.
  9. Baby swing. There are many options - good ones play different songs and have different speeds. Some even convert to seats, but our experience was that the swing was really what was most important.
  10. Sleep Sack Swaddle. Babies love the comfort of being swaddled, and the sleep sack swaddle is a safe way to give them comfort and warmth.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Top 10 Items NOT to Get For Your Baby

I've been focusing a lot on what you need for your baby - but there are several things your should NOT get. First and foremost, I want to keep your baby safe. Secondly, I want to save you money. Put those two things together, and here’s your list.

Before diving in, take a moment to bookmark so that you can keep track of product recalls. You’d be amazed at the safety hazards that exist - from dangerous baby monitor batteries, to malfunctioning cribs. You can even sign up to receive recall notices by email.

Top 10 Items NOT to Get For Your Baby

  1. Used car seats. Simply put, you can never trust a used car seat. They are specially constructed, and even one minor accident can render the car seat unsafe for future use.
  2. Used cribs. This falls into the ‘better safe than sorry’ category. You never know if the crib is missing an important part that affects safety. Cribs are also frequently recalled for safety concerns - without specific purchase information (like brand, model, date purchased, etc) you may not know if your crib is safe.
    1. Drop side cribs are also not recommended.
  3. Pillows. Keep the pillows away from babies until they are at least 18 months, according to the CPSC.
  4. Sleep positioners. These are marketed to keep your baby in-place and safe, but it’s the same risk as pillows.
  5. Mattress padding - another SIDS risk. Mattresses should be firm, and bedding tight fitting.
  6. Car seat toy bars. These seem like a great idea - but can be a terrible safety risk if you have an accident.
  7. Walkers. It’s great to give your baby a chance to exercise those legs, but instead get a stationary activity center or stationary jumper. They’ll love them just as much! Our kids loved the Exersaucer type, which can be converted to an activity table when they outgrow the first stage of its use.
  8. Better Bumbo - has a strap
    Old Bumbo seats. Bumbo seats allow very young babies to sit up - and they love it! Unfortunately, active babies can rock their way right out and fall over. Worse yet, there were many cases of parents placing the bumbo - baby and all - on counter tops leading to dangerous falls. If you use a Bumbo, get one with a strap, and keep it on the floor at all times. In fact, Bumbo even markets these as 'floor seats' now - hopefully parents can follow the rules!
  9. Bath seats. These often secure to a tub with suction cups, and can tip over. An infant tub is still the best way to go.
  10. And a couple other crib items to think twice about - crib bumpers (SIDS risk) and crib tents are both considered dangerous.

Also, in addition to and the CPSC, you may wish to read this fine article on dangerous baby products from Consumer Reports, outlining some of the risks I mention above, but in more detail.

10 Must-have Diaper Bag Items

Traveling with your newborn is a lot of work - and believe me - it is EASY to forget important things.

Just the act of leaving the house can be chaotic - especially if you have more than one child. With that in mind, it is best to always have some important items pre-packed in your diaper bag. Of course, the longer the trip, the more you’ll need to add. But these basics will get you started. And check out the 10 Most Important Travel Items for important things that don't fit in your bag.

Top 10 Items to Always Keep in Your Diaper Bag

  1. Diapers. Don’t forget the whole reason you have the bag in the first place! Always bring more than you expect you’ll need. I also liked to stash a couple spares in both of our cars.
  2. Baby wipes and diaper rash cream. A small baby wipe carrying case is very handy. And if your diaper bag didn’t come with a changing pad, you may even want a small kit, such as this one. And just like the diapers, make sure you have spares stashed in your car.
  3. Changing pad. Like I mentioned, many diaper bags come with these, or you can buy the kit mentioned above. Or, just get a simple flexible padded mat.
  4. Change of clothes for your baby. You never know when an accident will strike - and any form of accident can strike. In fact, you may even want a spare shirt for yourself!
  5. Small trash bag(s). You need a place to store those dirty clothes!
  6. Bibs, Burp cloths and receiving blanket. Our babies would sometimes get motion sickness, so these come in extra-handy. The receiving blanket is one of the most flexible items - use it as a blanket, changing pad, to keep your baby warm, or as a towel. Try silicone bibs, traditional terry cloth bibs or the more flexible waterproof bibs.
  7. Food. Take more than enough formula or milk with. Make sure you keep it cool in an insulated bag - along with an ice pack. If your baby is on solids, take spoons, a jar, and take some puffs or other snacks with too if they are old enough.
  8. Toys. Always have a couple small toys or books with you. Linking Toys, board books, and tactile books are great options. Make sure one of those items doubles as a teether if your baby is of age (or just get a teething blanket).
  9. Hand sanitizer. Yes, you need to stay clean too.
  10. Sun protection. Sunscreen and a sun hat are must-haves - even if you think sun won’t be an issue.

Bonus Items - if you have room and want to be extra-prepared:

  1. Painter's Tape. No, you shouldn’t have your baby helping with your next DIY project. Instead, painter’s tape is handy to keep to help baby-proof hotel rooms or wherever you’re staying. Cover light sockets, tape drawers shut (pinching hazard!), tape electrical cords out of the way, etc.
  2. Pacifiers. If your child uses them, make sure you have a spare. Pacifiers are like socks in the laundry - one is always missing.
  3. Nursing items (if you’re nursing). A cover and pads are probably most important.
  4. Large zipper-shut plastic bags. These can be helpful to prevent leaks and store messy items.
  5. Of course, all of the other items you’d carry with in your purse - wallet, keys, sunglasses, phone, spare phone charger/battery, pen, paper, tissues, etc.