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.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Newborn Necessities: 10 Must-have Travel Items

Taking your newborn away from home for the first time is loaded with new worries. Will you remember everything? Can you avoid all the germs and dangers? It's not really that bad, and this list of the essentials for getting your newborn out of the house will help.

Of course, it is best to stay home as much as possible with a newborn - but there will be doctor visits, maybe a visit to a relative’s house (but really, have them come over to you), or perhaps an unexpected errand.

By newborn - I really mean a newborn - up to 1 month old. And by essentials - I mean the absolute basics. You may want to look at the 10 Best ‘Nice to Have’ Items for Newborns, as well as the 10 More Nice to Have Items for Newborns to see what else is out there.

And of course, there is much more a newborn needs beyond a good night sleep and a refreshing bath. Check out the Top 10 Feeding and Diaper Needs, Top 10 Sleeping and Bathing Necessities, and the Top 10 Soothing and Illness Necessities for newborns.

Top 10 Items for Traveling with a Newborn

  1. Car seat. Picking a car seat is not a simple task - there are many varieties and costs. I’ve put together a list of 10 Tips for Selecting a car seat to help, but most importantly, make sure it is new. Car seats have limited lifespans, safety generally improves with newer models, and any seat that has been involved in an accident should be discarded.
  2. Stroller. There are many stroller options - I’d recommend one that allows your car seat to snap in. You’ll probably end up getting more than one stroller - like a lightweight umbrella stroller when your baby is older. But for now, get a bulky one where they can lay back with proper head support. You can even consider getting a stroller that has a snap-in infant car seat, such as the Graco Click Connect shown here. This was the staple of our household.
  3. Diaper bag. Stock it well (see our diaper bag must-haves). Diaper bags are as much fashion accessory as functional bag for many moms. Given that fashion is subjective, my advice would be to get one with lots of pockets so you can organize your items. Look for one that has at least one zippered insulated pocket and comes with a portable changing pad. A diaper bag set like this also comes with a purse, making for a convenient option for moms.
  4. Baby Carrier. It's important to keep your baby close, warm, and secure, and baby carriers are great at this! Be careful of baby wraps, however. While they work just fine in theory, there are numerous reports of user error leading to baby injuries. The Baby Bjorn is still the best known carrier, and you can't go wrong with it. It allows for front carrying with the baby facing in or out.
  5. Travel blanket. I know I say it all the time - be careful of SIDS - blankets can lead to suffocation. That said, you can safely use travel blankets in strollers, car seats (put the blanket over the buckles), and in a crib if care is taken and the baby is old enough.
  6. White noise generator. These days, this is an easy one - simply get the White Noise Free or White Noise Lite app for your phone (iPhone link, Android link). You can choose from a variety of calming sounds - my favorite is the “stream water flowing”.
  7. Floor play mat. Keep it thin (in case the baby falls asleep - you don’t want a SIDS risk!). Our kids loved one similar to this one - it kept them engaged and it was fun for us as well. I mentioned this in a previous Top 10 list as well, and include it again because a play mat is not just great for home, but also very portable and perfect for visiting family or to get some protection at a hotel room.
  8. Painter's Tape. It is never too early to teach your baby to paint! No, actually painter's tape is like the duct tape of baby-proofing. This might seem strange, but you can use painter's tape to baby proof unfamiliar rooms (hotel rooms, rooms at family house). Cover electrical outlets, tape pinching hazards like drawers, tape electrical cords out of the way, etc.
  9. Travel Crib. The ubiquitous Pack-n-Play is perhaps the best known, and 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.
  10. Linking Toys. These are staples of newborn developmental play. They're safe, can be used for teething, are fun for kids, don't take much space, and can attach to strollers.

Since this covers newborns up to 1 month, this means you don’t have to worry about solid food or your baby crawling and getting into things yet. However, you probably want to think about that now. See the Top 10 essential babyproofing safety items for a sneak-peak.

Newborn Necessities: 10 Must-have Soothing and Illness Items

You have a new baby on the way - what do you need? This is the list of the essentials for soothing your baby - whether it is medicine cabinet items, or things to just help them settle down.

By newborn - I really mean a newborn - up to 1 month old. And by essentials - I mean the absolute basics. You may want to look at the 10 Best ‘Nice to Have’ Items for Newborns, as well as the 10 More Nice to Have Items for Newborns to see what else is out there.

And of course, there is much more a newborn needs. Check out the Top 10 Feeding and Diaper Needs, Top 10 Sleeping and Bathing Necessities, and Top 10 Travel Needs for Newborns.

Top 10 Soothing and Illness Items for Newborns

  1. Digital thermometer - rectal works best for newborns.
  2. Also have some petroleum jelly at the ready to apply to the thermometer before inserting.
  3. Nasal aspirator, sometimes also called a bulb syringe. When I was a new parent I thought this was totally unnecessary - but it only took a few weeks before we were needing to help our baby clear her nose.
  4. Nail clippers. Get one with a small magnifying glass - you’ll thank me later!
  5. Diaper rash cream. I know, I mentioned it in the diaper top 10 as well, but this is important stuff.
  6. Pacifiers. Some parents are very anti-pacifier, but my wife and I are neutral. We used them with one child, and our second wouldn't have anything to do with them. You may need to try a couple of brands to find ones that work for you - and they do come in different sizes.
  7. Mobile for the crib. Musical ones that automatically move work wonders! This mobile looks pretty nice - multiple music options, animals, and projects images.
  8. Lullaby music - can again work wonders. Your favorite music service, like Google Play, likely has plenty of options. Or you can buy CDs for just a couple dollars at your local baby store.
  9. Infant seat. One that wiggles or rocks and has music is great! The rocker below is a good example, or you can get a cheaper, simpler bouncer.
  10. Floor play mat. Keep it thin (in case the baby falls asleep - you don’t want a SIDS risk!). Our kids loved one similar to this one - it kept them engaged and it was fun for us as well.

Where’s the infant tylenol, you might ask? Well, it is best to wait until at least two months old before using acetaminophen or tylenol.

Since this covers newborns up to 1 month, this means you don’t have to worry about solid food or your baby crawling and getting into things yet. However, you probably want to think about that now. See the Top 10 essential babyproofing safety tips for a sneak-peak.