All parents learn tricks to survive the years when their children are little… and sometimes it really does take years to get to a place where you don’t feel like you’re in panic mode every second. Or is it that you just get used to panic mode? Regardless, tricks, and not the magic kind, do help. Every parent figures out what works for their family, but sometimes those insights are transferable. I had so many to share that I am breaking it up into two posts, part 1 and part 2. Please share your helpful tricks in the comments section so others benefit from your discoveries!
Here are some that have been helpful for me:
1. Dressing a baby. Putting a shirt on a child with an enormous head is about as easy as a city girl trying to lasso a cow (not that I know how to do that). But nature already has this all figured out. Put the shirt head hole on the crown. If that’s the easiest way to push a huge baby out of a small hole, it’s gotta be the best way to get their shirt on. For the rest of the clothes, give them a toy for distraction and good luck.
2. Get a binder! For the health records and developmental records for each child you have. My sister has four children and the most amazing thing she did for me when I commenced parenthood was to give me a binder, labeled it with my child’s name, and put some page covers in it. I didn’t understand why she frantically ran to Target before our first doctor’s appointment saying “I have to get you a binder!” Now I do. Three years later, that binder has everything I need to recount her medical history. The vaccination record is in there, growth charts, assessments, and all the prescription drug labels so I know where to look when a doctor asks what medication they’ve had.
3. How to keep a child to still for a diaper change. Getting my child to stay still for a diaper change has always taken some inventiveness. When they are young enough, a silly song mixed in with a zerbert worked. Pretending to sneeze on them repeatedly always gets them to laugh. But when they get to be about 15 months, those tricks get old. I googled “how to keep my child still for a diaper change” and the best advice I saw was to have stickers by the changing station and put one sticker on the back of each of my child’s hands. They spend the time it takes to change the diaper trying to peel the stickers off. This works like a charm.
4. How to keep track of breast milk. I would use a tiny piece of tape to label my breast milk bottles with the date I pumped, but finding and getting the tape and then writing on it was annoying. Eventually, I realized I could just use one of my two-year-old’s washable crayons. It stayed on, and easily wiped off for next time. Eurika.
5. Giving the baby a bath in something other than a portable Jacuzzi. I used a special baby bathtub for my first, but it took up so much space and always made a mess. The second time around, I bought a piece of foam made for bathing (they are usually in the baby isle) and laid it in the bathtub and then just put in an inch or two of water. Lay the baby on top and give her a bath like normal. Ring it out to dry and set it upright. It saves you from having a huge piece of plastic and from having to clean it out. Here is a link to one for $6 on Amazon
6. Getting the baby out of the tub. Getting the slippery baby out of the tub by yourself and finagling with the towel can be another tricky maneuver. I learned that it works well to put the hood of the towel between your teeth and the other two corners can be tucked into your armpits. Then you can pick the baby up and wrap them with your two free hands.
7. If your baby cries all the time, or has colic (like mine did), try bouncing on a yoga ball. It’s literally the only thing that would stop the crying. And now we can say we lived on a yoga ball for three months. And a note from my husband: “If you or your partner are tall – make sure you get the larger one and your bouncing will be better!” The other best thing for colic is to get a really good quality baby carrier and wear that child everywhere.
8. If you mostly breastfeed, use “On the Go” formula packets rather than buying a whole formula container. The containers, though cheaper by ounce, go bad after just one month of being opened. I wrote a whole post about this here.
9. Get a high chair you love. The first one I bought just because it was on sale. Then I realized it would not only be the focus of my homes’ decor, but I would be using it five times a day for years. After much hesitation, I splurged on a chair I actually liked and functioned well. Best money I ever spent. I really like chairs that don’t have cloth covers, so I can just wipe them off (and not put it in the laundry), and that have an adjustable foot rest. The following are examples of what I’m describing. Yes, expensive, but you can resell them on Craigslist or Ebay for a good price.
Abiie Beyond Wooden High Chair with Tray (it’s just pretty)
JOOVY Wood Nook Highchair (if you need something that folds out of the way)
Keekaroo High Chair (best value for wood and adjustable footrest)
Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchair (this is my dream high chair, but with all the accessories, the price tag gets a tad scary)
10. To help your sore back. You’re going to have a sore back, a sore neck and probably sore boobs if you’re nursing. THE BEST way to help a sore back, neck, or boobs on the fly, is to put hot water on a disposable diaper and just plop that thing on your ache. The same goes for cold. Put a wet (with water please) diaper in the freezer and use it as an ice pack. Heat and ice on and off will help. Try wearing this to the grocery store just for fun.
As some of you know, having a new baby is not as easy as all those sleepy newborn photos make it look. A few weeks ago I posted Tips and Tricks for Babies Part 1 and because the list was so long, I created Part 2. Here is some unsolicited advice, since you didn’t ask!
11. When buying furniture, think about how it will fare with milk and blueberries. Leather works well. Or, don’t buy nice furniture until your kids move out. I can’t count the cups of milk that have been dumped on our couch.
12. If you’re going to sleep train try doing it very gradually before they can jump out of their crib; in my humble opinion, between six and eight months. This is after they are out of the “fourth trimester” but before they can stand up and fall down to hit their heads. This is a very tricky topic, and you know your child best, so trust your instincts.
13. Best sleep training books. Another note on sleep training. Because sleep is a VERY big deal. After unsuccessfully trying to sleep train, we co-slept until about 15 months, but couldn’t take it anymore because she wiggled and pulled my hair all night. I read a ton of sleep books (usually at 4 am) and found a combination of ideas that worked best for my kids. We ended up with a modified Ferber method, meaning we had a bedtime routine (bath, milk, brush teeth, stories, songs, bed) and laid our daughter in her crib awake so she could learn how to put herself to sleep. But rather than waiting longer and longer to respond to their cries, we went in and picked her up every 3-5 minutes. We put her back down after a minute or two of reassurance, crying or not. We found consistency to be the most important thing but wanted to avoid the stress that some say raises cortisol levels in babies (here is an extreme and a moderate view for more info). For our second child, we started earlier and laid him down awake as an infant (after a routine), and he didn’t need much sleep training. Here is a list of books I found helpful:
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber
Health Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
The Sleepeasy Solution: The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5 by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack
14. How to survive on little sleep (since we are on the topic). With two little ones, I would get so ticked when people would say “sleep when the baby sleeps!” because, well, there are two of them and they never slept at the same time. Here are some ideas:
- Coffee, if you’re nursing baby allows it. Mine didn’t for the first 8 months (the repercussions were worse than the benefits). But after my son grew out of whatever digestion issue he had, coffee kind of made me a better person.
- Just decide to keep going. You have to. And complain to your friends.
- Fake it till you make it. Sometimes the only thing I could do was just pretend like I got a full night of sleep so I didn’t have the lack of sleep AND the self loathing.
- When things get really bad, I waited till the baby was napping, then put on TV for the toddler and slept in the same room as her.
- Make a plan with your partner on how they can help you get some rest, even if it’s only on the weekend.
15. For nursing without a cover but with some modesty, wear a cami under your shirt, and then just pull your shirt up and the cami down. You’re basically covered. Forget the nursing cover after the first few months. Babies hate them and our society needs to get over the fact that boobs have milk in them.
16. Potty training. According to the potty training guru who wrote “Oh Crap. Potty Training” potty train between 20 and 30 months. This way they are old enough to obey, but young enough not to protest. We waited until the 30 month mark and the method proposed in “Oh Crap. Potty Training” worked fast and very well. I’m talking four days from diapers to undies with a rare accident.
17. Consider letting your baby sleep in the pack-n-play. I know it sounds ghetto, but we lived in a small space and I didn’t like that my baby would hit their heads on the wood of the crib when learning to crawl and stand. A pack-n-play is all mesh! I bought a special mattress for it to give it a bit more softness. Plus, when we traveled, our son was still in his own bed.
18. Babycenter.com filled in the gaps in teaching me how to be a parent. Try signing up for their monthly update on what you can expect developmentally from your baby. It’s free.
19. Find lots of parent friends and schedule play dates a couple of times a week. It will help you stay sane to know that other parents are feeling the same sense of craziness. Look for free parent education classes, Meetup.com groups, or mommy and me classes. Put your shyness or pride aside, parents need community. I love my mommy friends (near and far)!!!
*Some links are affiliates, some are not, but either way, it’s all my 100% honest opinion. I don’t make enough money blogging to buy a stick of gum, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a money-making venture :).
Please share your tips in the comments so the rest of us can benefit from your clever self and your hard earned experience!