Parenting

Tips and Tricks

Every so often, parents ask other parents, "How did you...?" or "What do you do when...?" This section of the website is a compilation of FAQs, journalistic endeavors, and "hey, this is what worked for us." Note that each family, child, and situation is unique... so what worked for us may not work for you. But we're happy to share some things that helped us along the way.

Things: Buying, Organizing, Using

Miscellaneous Useful Items

Last updated: February 2014

  • Avent Soothie pacifiers. Many babies will want to suck on something to be soothed, even when they aren't necessarily hungry. These pacifiers have an open back, which lets you stick your finger into the nipple and wiggle it around, convincing a crying baby to suck on the pacifier and quiet down. Touching the pacifier to the roof of the baby's mouth will also encourage the baby to accept the pacifier.

  • Pacifier clip. We like JJ Cole pacifier clips, which have an easily-attached non-metal clip, which is like a chip-clip.

  • Naspira Snot Sucker. The concept sounds a bit gross -- use your mouth to suction out your kid's snot -- but they have a filter to prevent mucus from going through the tube, and you're able to control the power of the suction, which makes it quite handy and portable). Before using the snot sucker, it helps to put a few drops of saline into your kid's stuffy nose, so that the boogers become a bit more liquid-y and easy to suck out. Unlike the other popular brand, Nose-Frida, this Naspira has a "real" filter (not just a sponge), and collects the snot in a clear silicone squeeze-bulb, so that you can see how much comes out, then squeeze out the snot into a tissue. The tip also detaches, so it's much easier to wash out. You can sterilize it using a microwave.

  • Breastfeeding pillow. Whether you plan to breast or bottle feed, you can usually position a few pillows under your arms so that they don't ache too much from supporting baby... but these cushions are specifically engineered to wrap around you so that you can focus on cuddling your baby (for example: My Breast Friends pillow or the Boppy pillow). Once your baby starts doing tummy time, these pillows are also useful to lay under their torsos and encourage them to prop themselves up.

  • Burp cloths. These cloths are for you to place under your newborn's chin when feeding, in order to avoid getting spit-up on baby's clothes. Place them over your shoulder when burping baby to avoid getting spit-up on your clothes. You can use clean cloth diapers for wiping up after baby. Washcloths can also double as burp cloths. After about three months, you'll probably want to fasten a bib on baby to catch the continuous drool.

  • Bibs. These really come in handy when baby is around three months old, and the drool really starts flowing. Babies start teething / putting things in their mouths between three and five months old. There are several types of bibs; the ones we found useful had an absorbent front to soak up the liquid, and a plastic backing to prevent the liquid from getting onto the baby's clothes. (For example: these waterproof terry bibs are designed specifically to guard against drool on the shoulders as baby twists and turns.)

  • Electric bottle warmer or hot water dispenser. Generally, babies aren't too good at regulating their temperatures, so you should feed your newborn formula or breastmilk that's warm or at room temperature. Some parents like to warm up their children's food with a bottle warmer. If you're mixing formula, you can also get a hot water boiler and warmer and mix 1 part hot water to 3 parts cold filtered water (e.g., from a refrigerator).

  • Thermos for carrying hot water on-the-go. TommyTippy makes a nice one with a detachable container to hold the bottle and hot water.

  • Fitted crib sheets. Get a waterproof pad like this one for any accidents, and fit a crib sheet over them. Some folks like to put two layers on, in case of a late-night accident, so that you only have to strip off the top layer (instead of stripping off the layer, hunting around for new sheets, putting them on, etc.)

  • Baby nail-clipper or emery board. Baby fingernails are sharp! When they're just born, you can usually put socks over their hands to prevent them from cutting themselves. After a few weeks, though, you should encourage baby to discover her hands and play with them. You can file nails down with an emery board, or cut after bath time, when they're soft. They grow quite quickly, so you'll probably need to cut them a few times per week.

  • Aquaphor. Once baby starts drooling/teething, her cheeks may get a rash-like red from the chafing. Wash baby's face with a washcloth+water in the mornings and evenings, then coat her cheeks and any dry spots with Aquaphor, vaseline, or any other lotion that will prevent drying out. Note that before trying any new product on a baby's sensitive skin, you should apply a little on her back first, then wait a few hours or monitor the area for a day to see if there are any adverse reactions. With any rash, call your pediatrician with any questions.


Clothing/Covering

  • Footed pajamas (so you don't have to bother with socks, or two pieces of onesie + pants), which either zip up or have a lot of snaps, so that you don't have to remove the whole thing while changing (for example: this somewhat unisex outfit). Newborn clothing is usually for babies that are 5-8lbs, so a lot of kids outgrow these outfits within a few weeks. We recommend buying clothing for older kids (i.e., 6 months or 9 months -- and "6 months" sizing usually means "for the child to wear until he reaches 6-months-old").

  • Swaddle blankets (especially important in the newborn days, when swaddling is key); we received these Carter's Swaddle Blankets as a gift, and they're soft, large, and able to stretch over a baby... we also got a Miracle Swaddle Blanket, which worked wonders for getting our baby to sleep in the first few weeks.

  • Sleep sacks. These are especially useful for newborns, since you don't have to actually worry about their legs -- just zip them up into a sack... for example: these cute zoo animals from Carter's. As an added bonus, these can cover children from 0mos to many months older, because the sack is a fairly flexible fit.

  • Socks. These are useful not only as socks, but as gloves to keep baby's fingers warm, and to prevent baby from cutting herself with her fingernails). If you do want to use socks as gloves, make sure that the inside of the socks doesn't have a lot of loose strings, since these can tangle up baby's fingers and potentially cut off circulation.

  • Hats. Keep your baby's head warm. As your baby's head grows, the hats will need to get bigger. (for example, we used this Circo headwear set from 2.5 months to 5 months, which comes with socks that aren't very fuzzy on the inside, and have less loose strings for baby's fingers to get tangled in).


Travel

  • JJ Cole Bundle Me. This is a comfy and warm cover for a stroller. The cover lets you zip up your child inside a fleecy lining -- especially useful for tucking in your baby during the chilly wintry months.

  • Travel system stroller. These travel systems have an infant carrier that you can put in the car and then click directly into the stroller). It's best to go to an actual store (Babies R Us, Bye Bye Baby, Target, etc.) and try these out to make sure you can maneuver the strollers around. Make sure that both Mom and Dad are able to lift the car seat portion in and out of the stroller -- some of these things are heavy, especially when you add an 8lb baby.

  • Gate check bag for stroller. Usually at the airport, you can take your stroller through security (on the conveyor belt), but you'll have to check it at the gate. (At your gate, you'll have to ask the customer service desk for a gate-check tag.) To protect your stroller from dirt, you can use a simple bag for your stroller and/or carseat. There are other models that offer more padding, too. Before going to the airport, practice putting your stroller or carseat into the bag, to make sure you'll know how to do it in a hurry, and to make sure your particular stroller/carseat actually fit in the bags. Sometimes, if the plane isn't full, the airline will let you fasten your child in the infant carrier or car seat in the airplane seat.


Hygiene

  • The Diaper Dekor Disposal System. This really does a great job of containing the stench from smelly diapers... newborns don't stink up the room too much, but, as they get older, they start getting progressively stinkier!

  • Chux. You can get either small or large. These have a cotton fluff layer and a polyproplene backing, so it's soft on baby's skin, but doesn't let anything leak through (we put these on our changing pad at home, and on surfaces when we need to change baby on the go). Doctors' offices often use these when weighing naked babies, to contain any accidents.

  • Diaper cream. Desitin and Butt Paste are popular brands (for preventing diaper rash; essentially creates a barrier between the wet poo and the sensitive bum).

  • Travel changing pad. You can get travel pads from companies like "Skip Hop," which sometimes come as a "changing station" with a travel pocket that can contain wipes and diapers.

  • Baby bath tub. You'll have to sponge-bathe baby until the umbilical cord falls off, but a lot of kids love water. Target and Wal-Mart sell cheap tubs that fit over kitchen sinks. Another alternative, made of foldable soft firm foam, is the Puj tub. Don't forget to get some hooded towels (to keep baby's head warm when you pull him out of the tub), washcloths, and baby bathwash (this often serves as both shampoo and soap).

Stuff to Put in the Diaper Bag

Last updated: February 2014

This will change as your baby grows older. For example, as baby gets potty trained, you may need fewer diapers and more extra undies.


Useful on-the-go items:

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Travel tissues

  • Diapers (1 per hour that you'll be out + 2 extra)

  • Wipes

  • Diaper cream

  • Changing pad (or changing station)

  • Blanket (useful if you have to lay baby down on a surface)

  • Chux (useful if you want to contain any leaky liquids when changing baby)

  • Formula/Milk (along with bottles, nipples, a freezer bag to contain the fresh milk, and a bag to contain the used items)

  • Bottled water (for you or for mixing powdered formula)

  • Nursing scarf (if you're breast feeding)

  • Burp Cloth(s) and/or Bibs

  • Snacks (for your toddler or for you)

  • Pacifier (at least two -- you never know when baby will drop one or both of them)

  • Pacifier wipes (useful if you drop the pacifier and want to clean it before putting it back in baby's mouth)

  • Pacifier clip (attach to your clothes so if baby drops it, it won't go far)

  • Extra outfit for baby

  • Extra outfit for you (for those inopportune moments when baby poos through her clothes)

  • Plastic bags (ziplock bags and grocery bags, for soiled diapers, soiled clothes, soiled baby blankets... there are special Diaper Genie or Munchkin bags that are coated w/ baking soda and contain the stink a bit)

  • Paper, pens, your wallet

Babies also love things that light up (like this activity pad with a piano) and make noise (like this rattle snake). And some mobiles (like this one) offer music, moving animals, and a projector that captivates babies from a few weeks to several months old. :)


Some people make their baby registry lists via Amazon.com, which make it much easier for people to get stuff, since most folks already have an Amazon account. Amazon has a registry completion bonus, too, with a discount if you want to buy other things on your registry after your due date. If you join Amazon Mom, you get more discounts and Amazon Prime (free two-day shipping) and video streaming.


Some other tips on baby-must-haves are listed on BabyCenter, which also has nifty videos on how to bathe your baby and how to change a diaper. You can use their pregnancy calculator to see the size of your developing baby in comparison to fruit, and they can email you various milestones/fun facts during pregnancy and beyond.


If you're curious about other facets of life, the JHPDA website has a section on Families, along with a few links to articles like traveling with a two- to eight-month-old.


This is by no means a complete list, so please feel free to comment and add more advice! :)

Gifts at Various Ages

Here are a few of the gifts that we've enjoyed giving (and receiving)...

For Babies

  • Indestructible book (Baby Animals) - made of Tyvek, so kids can chew on it, drool, wrinkle, etc., and you can even stick it in the dishwasher

  • Naspira snot sucker - transparent, one-way filter, and clear squeeze bulb lets you squeeze out the snot; you can also take it apart and clean thoroughly, and/or microwave to sterilize

  • Philips Avent soothie pacifiers - our kids tended to love these, because you can stick an adult finger through the hole and kind of wiggle it around so the kiddo gets interested in this squishy thing

For Two-Year-Olds

For Three-Year-Olds

For Four-Year-Olds

  • Legos

For Six-Year-Olds

For Seven-Year-Olds

Books

We are always on the look-out for good educational books, books that have diverse protagonists and feature multicultural kids, and books that react when you do something (like press a button).

Diversity

Multicultural

Pictures and a few complicated sentences


Asian

Toddler Picture Books

Toddler Music Books

  • Bao Bao Learns Chinese (blue) - features a soothing voice that sings nursery rhymes in Chinese, with classic children's songs from America and China: I'm A Little Tea Pot (我是一个小茶壶), Good Baby Rabbit (小兔子乖乖), If You Are Happy And You Know It (如果感到幸福你就拍拍手), Happy New Year (新年好), My Dear Mama (我的好妈妈) and You Are My Sunshine (你是我阳光). Our 3 y/o and 7 y/o loved these and memorized all of the songs in a few weeks.

  • Bao Bao Learns Chinese (red) - features a soothing voice that sings nursery rhymes in Chinese, with classic children's songs from America and China: Itsy-Bitsy Spider (小小的蜘蛛), Two Tigers (两只老虎), Row Row Row Your Boat (划, 划, 划小船), Find A Friend (找朋友), Mama is the Best In This World (世上只有妈妈好) and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (一闪一闪小星星).

Beginning Reader (e.g., a few sentences per page)

  • Round is a Mooncake - describes shapes in the context of Asian culture/things you may find around the house

  • Red is a Dragon - about colors in the context of Asian culture

  • Sparkle Town Fairies: Alice the Amber Fairy - Alice and her family look Asian; the book is about Alice the inventor being true to herself amidst the family tradition of winning a prestigious music contest; also features a lot of fun sounds

Early Chapter Books

Bilingual


Hispanic

Toddler Picture Books

  • Numeros

Complicated Picture Books

Bilingual


Nonfiction

Science

For Kindergarten to 3rd Grade

Parenting Practices

When I bring baby home... what do I do?

Sleeping: Parents

After Mommy recovered from her C-section, each parent alternated -- one would stay downstairs in the living room with baby in her bassinet, and one would get The Night of Rest in our master bedroom upstairs.


Sleeping: Baby

For the right-before-bed feeding, we gave our babies formula. This took longer for them to digest, and they usually slept 2-3 hours. The rule of thumb is #months + 2oz, so a newborn would at most drink 2oz of formula. Around 2.5mos, our baby was gaining weight, healthy, etc. So when she woke up at night, we started giving her a pacifier instead of a bottle. And she slept for 6-8 hours. It was lovely.

Babies tend to have a "happy side," where they lay down on one side of their head. If you turn the baby every so often, you can avoid her getting a flat head. No need to use a helmet, though -- I hear that those things can hurt if the baby bonks Mama on the head.

We put baby#2 in a crib in our room when she was about four months old.

Feeding

For baby #1, I had a pretty intense delivery, and wasn't really able to produce much milk afterwards. (My pump also wasn't particularly great -- the Ameda came with our Insurance at the time, and the parts quickly lost their suction.) So baby #1 had mostly formula.

For baby #2, the nurse put her on the breast within an hour after the C-section. We let her suck, then I'd pump. We gave her formula in the hospital to make sure she was hydrated and gaining weight, and I worked on the pumping at home. I opted to not get up during the night to pump, so there would be twice as much in the morning. I pumped for 11 months and nursed baby for about 13 months. We still gave baby formula right before bed and sometimes when we were out, since it's so much easier to open a bottle of instant / ready-made formula (or pour a set amount of formula into a bottle that had a pre-poured volume of water). I breastfed in public a few times when I didn't have time to pump (e.g., a play house at Dutch Wonderland), but I always found it to be somewhat awkward. Getting enough water / staying hydrated also made a huge difference.


Schedule

For our own sanity, we adopted a schedule as soon as possible.

When baby #2 was 1 month old, this was our schedule: We currently feed c every 3-4 hours of breastmilk during the day. Usually between 7-8am, 10-11am (sometimes I breastfeed), 1-3pm, 4-5pm, 8pm formula or breast milk, 10pm two oz to help her go to sleep or 12am 4oz, then when she wakes up between 2-5am, then starting the cycle again. She naps either between 7-10 or 11-2.

At two months old: These days, she often feeds between 9-10:30pm, sleeps until about 3:30 am (and sometimes we give her pacifier while we mix formula -- I gave her pacifier last night at 2:30 and she slept until 3:30), then she sleeps until about 7:30 then maybe from 8-9:30. We feed her some time between 10-11, between 1-2, between 4-5, between 7-8. She's also been quite calm about going to sleep. We lay her in bassinet between 10-11 and she may vocalize a little but quiets down and goes to sleep. Wow! According to "What to Expect the First Year" (book), at 2-3 months, baby naps 3-4 sessions for 4-8 hours a day, sleeps 8-10 hours at night, and sleeps 14-16 hours total per 24 hours. Breast milk should include 8-10 nursing sessions in a 24 hour period, or 12-32oz per day; formula is 4-6oz per meal, 6 meals per day, 24-36 oz per day.

At three months old: I think every kid (and parent) is different, but I can tell you what's worked for us, if it's helpful. For the past few weeks, Baby has been sleeping from about 10pm to 8am, which I attribute mostly to her pacifier. When she fusses at night and her eyes are still closed, we give her the pacifier, and she sucks on it heavily, then keeps sleeping. If her eyes open and she starts talking or crying, we feed her. (Before she was 8 weeks old, she would feed around 11pm, 3am, and 8am.) We also try to give her breastmilk during the day, and then give her formula for her last feeding, since it takes longer for her to digest. She'll also sometimes nurse before bedtime, but usually falls asleep (which makes it hard to tell how much she actually ate.) We aimed to get Baby on a schedule as soon as possible, so we feed her 3-5 oz every 3-4 hours, aiming for 18-25oz per day. When she was younger, if she was fussy or seemed to want to eat before 3 hours, we would give her the pacifier to see "is she really hungry, or does she just want to suck on something / be comforted?" This usually helped her nap to get to the next feeding. That said, she usually takes catnaps for 30 min to 1.5 hours, for a total of maybe 3.5 hours during the day (which is a bit short). I read in the "What to Expect the First Year" book that if the child stays up a lot at night, she may be sleeping too much during the day, so the book's advice is to not let them nap for more than 3-4 hours per nap.


Tummy Time

I started tummy time a little before baby was 1 month old. I found it really helped to prop her up with a Breast Friends breastfeeding pillow, so that her arms were resting on the pillow, and she only had to raise her head a little bit to look around. (This is safest when baby is on the floor, preferably on a blanket.)


Songs to Sing to Your Baby

At two months, ours loved:

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

  • ABC

  • I have two hands (the left and the right...)

  • Baa Baa Black Sheep

  • ABC in Spanish