Showing posts with label Cleaning. Show all posts

Potty Training in an Apartment with One Bathroom

If there was a top five list of parenting tasks that I wish I could outsource, potty training would probably take up 3 of the items on that list. (The other 2 places on there would be devoted to cleaning up other bodily fluids in the middle of the night and dealing with children during daylight savings time mayhem).

The conventional wisdom in the US (potty training is a developmental milestone highly influenced by culture) is that most children potty train some time between 2 and 3 years old.  I took that recommendation as a directive to spend the entire year panicking about... were we starting too late? to early? did we miss a window? how about now? does a window exist? do we have enough cleaning supplies? is there really NO way to outsource this? pretty please with a cherry on top?

When one considers this complete panic and barrage of confusing information, it was a super convenient excuse that our second child didn't sleep at all as a baby.  "We're too tired to deal with this" we told ourselves every time the topic came up for discussion.  Then finally, the baby started to sleep and we were ready to face my daughter's upcoming 3rd birthday.  We decided to our big parent pants on and just do it.  We signed up for a class at a local parenting center (The Loved Child, for the local crew), we bought some gear, and we got down to business.

Now because things on the internet are forever, I'm not actually going to discuss the details of potty training.  I will say however, that it went far more smoothly than I would have guessed.  I will tell you about gear you may need before you start, especially if you live in a house with only one bathroom and/or don't want to be trapped in your house for a month.

Potty seat for families with only one bathroom

When choosing a potty accommodation for your little one, there are many options, but all of them basically solve 2 problems - the kid is too short to climb on the toilet by herself without assistance and the kid's backside is too small to sit comfortably on an adult ring without falling through.  So here are the options we considered and what we ended up with:

  1. 1. Standalone kids' potty (for example). 
    1. Pro - it's easy for the child to get on and off by themselves and it adds a 'second' bathroom for those times, especially in the beginning, when the child is having to go constantly.

    2. Con - you have to clean it and god forbid it gets knocked over.

  2. 2. Separate child's seat for toilet and a step stool (screw on version, removable version, folding step stool).
    1. Pro - I think the screw on option is awesome if you have a dedicated bathroom for your kid and the folding step stool is easily operated by the child.

    2. Con - If you only have one bathroom, as we do, having an extra ring on the seat seems like a pain as does having 2 removable parts.

  3. 3. Ring and step stool combination (Mommy's Helper is the one we have)
    1. Pro - It's one piece of equipment that's foldable and easily operated by the child. It can be stored folded when not in use, thus not interfering with adult bathroom use.

    2. Con - It's a larger item to store than a ring and stool. Also the kid can and will figure out how to bang the stool legs on the floor while sitting on the potty. 

    3. That said, this is the set up we've been using for months and we've been quite happy with it.
You may also need other equipment for your bathroom - such as a separate step stool for your sink (if you go with the seat/stool combination or stand alone potty) and/or a faucet extender.

And finally, as with all child related things, you may have found the perfect piece of equipment for you only to find it rejected by the child.  Thus, the best potty set up is the one your kid is willing to use.

Teaching your child the potty ritual (aka "for the love of god wash your hands!")

There's a lot to learn when becoming a person. Things that are obvious to you - why you shouldn't dip your hair into the toilet - are not obvious to a child. It's helpful to have a couple books on hand when climbing this mountain.  Personally we've enjoyed The Potty Book for Girls (there's a boy's version too). Also the Daniel Tiger episode about going to the potty is particularly instructive (Season 2, Episode 10 - available on Amazon Prime Video).

Potty seats for families on the go

So that's all great but what do you do if you ever want to leave the house? I really recommend getting a portable, folding potty seat. (Note: Amazon has a bunch of identical seats like this one - down to the singing teddy - by purportedly "different" manufactures. It seems fishy to me and I'm guessing my link will be broken shortly. Regardless, the seat is good)  This seat folds and thus easily fits in your diaper bag or purse for convenient transport.  And it makes the child comfortable and confident in unfamiliar settings. It's also hard plastic and thus easily wiped down.

And with that - may the spirits of good hygiene and compliant behavior be with you!


Getting Chores Done with a Toddler

I have two facts for you today:
  1. 1. Chores are REALLY hard to get done when kids are awake and generally being kids.

  2. 2. Toddlers LOVE doing what adults are doing.
So let's take advantage of these two facts, get some quality one-on-one time with your kiddo, and teach a bit of responsibility and/or life skills while we're at it.

The way we split up our household duties, I generally have the most Sisyphean of tasks: dishes and laundry. Forget any old gender-normed jokes - anyone doing a family's dishes can safely be called Dishyphus. Anyway, their frequent repetition (and in the case of laundry, spread of the task throughout the day) and extreme similarity from day-to-day makes them great places to solicit some toddler help.

Why have your toddler help? Won't that just make moderately unpleasant tasks unbearably sloowwwwwwwww?

Yes, it will be slow. Of course, just about anything your toddler does is slow, so this isn't really much of a change. But, more importantly, this is a key case of "compared to what?"

Can you empty the dishwasher by yourself in less than an hour? Of course, but do you want to spend your precious time when the children are asleep doing it? Or, more realistically, you can now spend their sleeping time doing the inevitable additional dishes (there are always more dishes), but with a much smaller stack.

And even if it does take an hour to do "together," so what? My daughter pretends in her ever-elaborate toddler ways to do the dishes anyway. Why not at least play together and wind up with some clean real dishes at the end?

Also, of course with practice, they'll need less supervision and be faster. Continuing with the emptying the dishwasher example, we've approached a speed pretty close to having me do it alone, but with all the benefits of having her help too.

How about just playing with your kids? 

So first, who says that play and chores aren't the same thing? But even if I accept the premise, kids and family and chores and everything else live in the real world. Dishes and laundry and grocery shopping and cooking and all the other things have to get done. I'd much rather live in a world where we have a good time doing these things together than have the weight of the list on my shoulders while Trying Very Hard to HAVE FUN and then having a million things to do after bedtime and no time to relax. Less anxious parents are also better parents.

PLUS... the line between play and work is pretty fine for kids of this age. Left entirely to their own devices, kids playact the things they see in their lives. Just today my daughter has, when playing, pretended to cook dinner, wash dishes, bring all her dolls to the bathroom, and have them line up for the potty just like they do at daycare.

And if that wasn't enough convincing (and let's be honest, anyone who knows me knows that I don't understand the concept of "enough convincing"), experts and even science agrees with me. One-on-one time, even when done as a joint project, or smooshed into other activities gets the approval of Dr. Harley Rotbart (of No Regrets Parenting, a book I haven't read, but have heard of) and this New York Times article. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal cites multiple studies, scientists, and experts who find kids who do chores (and start them earlier in life) are more empathetic as well as more able to be self-sufficient.

So let's give this a shot, what kinds of activities do you do? How do keep it useful, safe, sane?

Laundry

From about when she could walk, our daughter was interested in watching and helping with the laundry. Given that it's a long series of small tasks, it's pretty easy to find something for almost any age kid to do for at least part of the cycle.

Sorting

  • * Do they know clothes types? "Put all the socks in this bin," since they're all washed warm anyway.
  • * Do they know their colors? "Help me find all the white shirts and put them in this pile."
  • * Working on shape recognition? Learn the laundry symbols together! "Can you count the dots or lines on this tag?"
  • * Early reader? "Can you find the word 'Warm' or 'Cold'?"
  • * Plus a dive or two into a pile of dirty clothes is admittedly pretty fun, and no grosser than anything else they'll do.

Filling the machines

  • * Living on one floor, with hardwood floors, and with low-friction laundry baskets, our daughter started insisting on dragging the (lighter) hampers to the laundry room on her own before she was two.
  • * She's also found great joy in me turning the hamper on its side, her crawling in, pulling out a few items, and placing them directly into our front-loading washer. It's slow as hell, but my back has also found great joy in this too!
  • * If she can put them in the washer, she can take them out and hand them to me to put in the dryer (stacked way too high for her at this point). My back thanks her again.
  • * Like all modern washers, ours has a multitude of buttons. For now, I do all the setup, but she knows where the start button is and when to press it. She's also getting the hang of the soap dispenser; she's not quite ready to empty soap into it or pour from the bottle (though she offered this morning). Depending on your interface, you may have other buttons or knobs that you can use to match the laundry labels or practice some reading.
  • * While I haven't done this one yet, I remember the first thing my parents had me help with is cleaning the lint trap. I think I'll wait until she stops sucking her fingers before teaching her this one...

Putting away clean clothes

This may be something you only want help for the kids' loads, but it's another great way for them to take some ownership of their lives and to give you a hand.
  • * Sort the clean clothes into what goes into the closet vs. the drawers
  • * Sort own clothes from any applicable siblings
  • * Learn to fold pants
  • * Match socks!
  • * Or even just hand you one item at a time to hang, again helping out your back.
We just lowered the baby's crib, so maybe this back thing is just me...

Dishes

Just because you're doing chores,
doesn't mean you can't wear a fun hat!
Obviously the dishes present more safety challenges than the laundry, but there's still plenty to do. First, and most important, we put her cups and bowls in a bottom drawer of our pantry so that at mealtime, she can get her own things out and help us set the table.

Because of this, our first stage of helping with the dishes was putting away her own clean plates, bowls, and cups (after washing her hands, of course). I'd take them out of the dishwasher and put them somewhere she could reach (first placing them out one at a time, and then later in a stack). Busying herself running back and forth to the pantry one plate at a time bought me lots of time to empty out the rest of the dishwasher.

Next, she's started helping put away all the silverware, which is frequently all I have left after the time she spent putting away her own things. After I first put away all the knives, she sits in one of our high stools and matches forks and spoons from the dishwasher basket to what's in the drawer. As of right now, she still doesn't have much intuition for what goes where, but it's a great opportunity for me to suggest she "run a experiment to see where it fits."

With that under her belt, she became more interested in how things get put into the dishwasher. So now, when I start loading the dishwasher (usually while she's still sorting cutlery), I set aside two piles:
  1. 1. I place all the dirty cutlery (except knives) on the open door of the dishwasher for her to place back into the basket once it's empty and returned to the dishwasher 

  2. 2. Her plates/bowls/cups for her to place where I point to in the dishwasher.  

Other household tasks you can do together

  • * At the grocery store, help steer the cart (this also helps them stay close with a hand on the cart).
  • * Also at the grocery store, carry the box/can/etc. to the cart and place in or hand to another adult. Helping at the grocery store is also a good way to keep little bodies active and little minds from getting bored enough to start causing mischief.
  • * Help set the table for dinner. Even if you don't want her carrying your fine china (you don't), she can place napkins, bring over her own plates and cutlery, and as you trust her more, carry small containers of food or toppings/condiments to the table. 
  • * And as you loyal readers know, they can help cook!

Carrying cheese home from the grocery store

The Caveats

Ok, so, after all that discussion of my amazing help with chores, I have to remind you, this is the real world with a real kid. 
  • * Some days she disrupts my ability to get anything done. She's a toddler, and like all parents, I do some combination of roll with the punches (preferred), fume (acceptable backup plan), and actively get frustrated at her (we all do it sometimes). 
  • * Some days she has no interest in helping and prefers to play by herself while I get some things done. This is obviously fine and the fact she can articulate her preferences and feel confident playing alone is great! 
  • * Some days she will want to help with one step of the process but not others. That's fine too; we're still too young for these to be chores/responsibilities and we're not forcing her to do any of it, so if she wants to help sort but not fill the washing machine, that's great. I got help sorting!
  • * Something will get broken at some point. Life will happen.
Regardless, the final upside to all this is that my child has some basic understanding of what it takes to run a household - clean dishes and clothes don't just appear out of thin air, and neither do groceries or dinner. In our house, they take work. At this age she can help or she can entertain herself while that work happens. Either way, she sees that the world doesn't entirely revolve around her moment-to-moment desires.

And, of course, we get to spend some great one-on-one time that fills her need to feel like a big girl and my need to have clean pants for work.

If you live in a small space you need a plan to deal with diapers

Diaper pail, seen in the background of this heartwarming
parenting moment... smells not included
I think diaper disposal methods are one of the lesser known battlegrounds of the parent internet (just Google "do I need a diaper pail"). Lesser known... but no less important or full of smug self confidence.  There are definitely those, otherwise of sound parenting judgement, who do not believe in "fancy diaper disposal" systems and tell you to use a garbage can. I think the diaper pail denialism stems from two places.

  1. 1.Different lifestyle.  Meaning, some people either live in large enough homes that they cannot smell the horror, or they run every poopy diaper to out to the garage once their kiddo starts solids (breastmilk fed babies have slightly less foul smelling diapers... slightly being the operative word). Of course, not everyone has a garage (I don't) and some of us live 2 floors up from the big garbage bins that would remove the diaper from our actual living space.  Walking down and up 2 flights of stairs every time the kid poops seems... impractical at best.

  2. 2. The belief that diaper pails don't do anything to control the smell. Having been around some different diaper pails, I would say that this is true if you buy a not great diaper pail and/or don't buy the bags that are designed to go with it.

I personally only have a lot of experience with the Dekor Diaper Plus Diaper Disposal System so I suppose I cannot speak so authoritatively to the efficacy of other systems (I have been in other people's houses though).  That said, we picked the Dekor for its excellent Amazon reviews and the glowing write up in the Baby Bargains book. Having now used it for almost 3 years, I will say that while not perfect, it totally 100% cuts down on the smell A LOT. I will also say that I like how easy it is to put the diapers in one handed (pretty much no different than a regular garbage can with a push lid and a foot pedal). I also like that it doesn't look like a baby item because once the kids are out of diapers, this bin will take regular garbage bags and can be used as just a trash can in their room (it now also comes in so-called "Designer Colors" if you want to match your decor better).

Don't be tempted to use the regular garbage bags with diapers though - the refills are made out of special plastic that is much better at controlling smell than regular garbage bags.  Using regular garbage bags will totally defeat the purpose of buying the pail in the first place.

This brings us to the lifetime operating cost of the pail, a.k.a. "omg how much does a refill cost?" How the refills (or bags) work was very unclear to me before I bought the Dekor and I  just assumed that I would pay a fortune for bags and that's that.  Not so! Yes the refills aren't cheap, but 1 refill does not equal 1 regular garbage bag.  This is because each refill cartridge is used to create many many bags by tying off and disposing of a Dekor-full of diapers each time the can fills. Even with 2 kids in diapers, it takes us about a month to go through one cartridge. Coming in 2-packs, $7 a month for diaper pail bags is not cheap, but definitely not that bad.

Finally, this is another one of those great items to register for (and don't forget to put the refills on the list) because it is pricey enough that getting it as a present is awesome.

  

Using a baby feeder: Review of Munchkin vs. Kidsme

Using a Munchkin feeder to smear blueberries everywhere,
occasionally even in the mouth...
As a first time parent, introducing solid food to your baby is probably equal parts daunting and exciting. You may be thinking:

  • "My little tyke is becoming a person!"

  • "Am I qualified to be in charge of a person?! I just barely have the hang of this baby thing..." (Yes you're qualified - you'll do great!) 

Once you actually start feeding, you may be surprised at how much the baby loves food, or hates it, or is indifferent to it (because I think all parenting firsts are ultimately a surprise, or at least they were to me...). Regardless, before you know it, your baby may be ready to self feed at least a little. As early as 6 months, your child can certainly bring a toy to their mouth to gnaw on - a fact that has surely not escaped your notice.  And as such, even if they haven't developed that fine motor pincer grip yet, they can self feed with a little help from a feeder.


Baby says "Squash in a Kidsme feeder is fun!"
A feeder is a plastic handle that comfortably sits in your baby's hand and has a strainer of some sort attached. You put soft chunked food in this strainer (ex. baked yams, banana, avocados, blueberries, etc.) and the baby essentially turns that food into puree by chomping on it. We have had the opportunity to use two different brands of feeders - the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder and the Kidsme Food Feeder.

The Munchkin one came into our possession from a work baby shower. Our baby instantly loved it and it made family dinner so much easier since everyone - both parents and children simultaneously - was feeding themselves. Unfortunately, it was super hard to clean. Yes I soaked it in hot soapy water, yes I ran it through the dishwasher, yes I tried a soft brush... All per the instructions on the package. It was still really hard to clean. The mesh strainer doesn't detach from the plastic frame and has seams that are perfect for holding on to little bits of food. Bananas were the worst.

Then one day I was discussing this with another parent at our day care and she said she had just ordered a different brand of feeder that was silicone! I honestly went home that night and did the same. Yes the Kidsme feeder is more expensive but so worth it. The silicone piece comes right out and has no seams for things to get stuck on - woot!  That 20 minutes several times a week I used to spend cleaning the feeder gets you a lot of blogging time. (Kidding, I actually write a lot when I pump... But really I can find some use for the time.)

Bibs for eating out (aka limiting the grossness in your diaper bag)

A couple months in your parenting gig you may feel like you've more or less gotten it together.  In fact you may get so cocky that you start venturing out to eat in places that are not your house.  You may even consider bringing your baby to these places... your baby who may be eating food him/herself by this point.  Woah!

You'll want to be prepared for this and bring along some things to make it easier for both of you -  such as a cup they're used to using at home, a small toy, and of course, a bib. We've covered our favorite bibs on this blog before, but we quickly noticed with our oldest the following sequence of events when eating out:
  1. 1. Bib goes on baby.

  2. 2. Baby smears food all over the bib.

  3. 3. Bib gets folded yucky side in and placed in the diaper bag.
Eons of time pass
  1. 4. Bib gets discovered in the diaper bag after a geologic age has passed.  It is now super gross and has fostered new life.
Having gone through the experience described above several times we hit upon a solution one day when out for breakfast at a local diner. We noticed another family was eating with their toddler but the child had on a disposable bib. I don't know why we'd never seen such a thing, but we immediately accosted the family and interrogated them to soak in their wisdom. Since then we've been keeping a couple of Disposable Bibs by Mighty Clean Baby in our bag (in the interim, Munchkin Disposable Bibs has come out with their own version that we haven't tried yet, but has great reviews).

And we've never again had to reach into our diaper bag only to realize we are touching week old banana that's been smashed into a bib... and we've all lived happily ever after!

Striking the balance between street urchin and sterile bubble kid

Stock web photo, not my kid.
We are big believers in giving our children the freedom to explore their environment.  I've read the studies on germs being good for kids.  I know all this and yet when I see my toddler covered head toe in god knows what (escalator grease? mud? sand from the sandbox?) I see it as a prime opportunity to practice my deep breathing or lose my shit entirely.  So we do our best to enforce the following rules.

  1. 1. You can play with anything on the playground, touch every bush on our walk, etc.  However, if you do this, no putting your hands in your mouth.

  2. 2. Should you wish to put your hands in your mouth we have to either wash them with soap and water or wipe them with Munchkin Arm & Hammer Pacifier Wipes.
We never use these for wiping pacifiers both because we use pacifier clips when out of the house and because we just pick the pacifier off the floor and put it back in the baby's mouth when we're home (see: lazy, germs are good).  I think we sterilized them when we first took them out of the package, per the instructions, and then again a couple months later when we had a bout of thrush in the house. 

However despite being called pacifier wipes, these guys are perfect, in my opinion, for wiping hands when out and about.  The wipes are wet and just have baking soda on them so we are not constantly rubbing anti-microbial agents on the kids.  Because they are labeled as pacifier wipes, we know any other stuff on them is safe to put in the mouth.  It seems like striking the right balance between the conflicting pull of not wanting to see your kid eat dirt and freaking out if you do.



Cleaning your breast pump parts without losing your mind (home edition)

I often lament to friends that I wish breastfeeding could be a casual or part time activity.  I love nursing my children when they are around me.  However, unfortunately, being able to nurse means having to pump every 3-4 hours whenever the children have done me the courtesy of being elsewhere. (How long one can go without expressing milk depends on how old one's baby is and one's own feelings of discomfort.  Many lucky people can go longer than I can.  Also, once your baby is over 8 weeks, you don't have to pump at night if they sleep in blessed longer chunks.)

When I pump at home I do not use the same products and methods to clean the pump parts as I do at work.  This is because I do not need to minimize the time I spend in my kitchen cleaning this equipment for privacy reasons in my own house.  It is also because I try not to use disposable products (like the steam bags and wipes) when it is perfectly convenient to use something else (in this case soap and hot water)
.
The most efficient method I've found for cleaning my pump parts when in the comfort of my own home is this.

  1. 1. I boil water in my electric kettle.  I often start the kettle boiling before I sit down to pump for the last time that day (I keep my pump parts in the refrigerator between sessions if I am going to pump at home more than once in a day).  What's great about using an electric kettle is that you don't have to wait for the water to get hot enough in your sink, nor do you have to get up to turn the stove off as you would with a stove kettle.  My kettle very politely turns itself off when it's done (automatic shut off is also a convenient safety feature for those times that you start making yourself a cup of tea 4 times without actually completing the task because... baby).  We have a Medelco Cordless Glass Electric Kettle.  It's efficient, has automatic shut off, and is pretty and glass, though as previously mentioned any electric kettle with automatic shut off would work just as well. 
  2.  
  3. 2. When I'm done pumping, I take apart the parts and dump them all into a bowl in the sink (pictured). I then add some dish washing soap into the bowl.  You don't need anything fancy here (or ever) like special "baby dish-washing soaps".  Just a good fragrance free soap that you use for all your dishes will do (we use Palmolive Ultra Pure and Clear Dish Liquid because I find that it gets grease off things with the least amount of scrubbing). 
  4.  
  5. 3. I then just dump the kettle full of recently boiled water into the bowl and go do something else for 5 or more minutes.  The beauty of this method is that soap + *very* hot water, means that all the milk dissipates off the plastic by itself and I don't have to go over anything with a brush.
  6.  
  7. 4.  If I'm going to rinse the parts right away, I turn the faucet on after 5 min and run enough water that I can reach into the bowl without burning myself.  I then rinse each part and place it on my drying rack.  Otherwise, I just come back to the bowl, sometimes even hours later to rinse and dry.
 That's it - the simplest method to clean your stuff while using the least amount of mental energy possible.  
   

Cleaning your breast pump parts without losing your mind (work edition)

If you're going back to work after having your baby, it is almost surely a mixed bag of emotions.  You may be terrified of leaving your baby with someone who doesn't know how to interpret their every muscle twitch (even if that someone is your partner or mother or exceptionally well rated day care).  You may be thrilled about the prospect of taking as much time to go to the bathroom as you damn well please.  You may be devastated about the fact that you won't be able to cuddle your baby for hours as you have him or her fall asleep on your chest.  You may be feeling all of these things and a million others, all within a matter of seconds.  And yet, one thing I can almost guarantee you is that you are NOT relishing having to trudge to the company kitchen 18 times a week to scrub down your breast pump parts while looking over your shoulder to make sure the overly friendly guy from PR hasn't followed you in there... again.

Some people deal with this conundrum by bringing their pump parts home every night.  This to me seems like extremely risky business.  What if you forget them at work one day?  What if you forget them at home?  You may be slightly more absent minded these days than you're used to.  So play it safe and follow this step by step guide for how you can quickly sanitize your pump parts at work.


  1. 1. You only have to wash the parts once a day if you keep them in the fridge between pumping sessions.  I recommend getting a storage container or disposable bowl you can pop in the fridge  until you've pumped for the final time that day (hopefully you have a dedicated fridge at your job for pumping mothers).

  2. 2. Once you're ready to clean the parts, grab your Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bag  and your Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump and Accessory Wipes and head to the kitchen.  You want to wipe down each part with a wipe, rinse under running water and place in the steam bag.  If you truly want to minimize the time you spend in the kitchen, you can even wipe the parts down in your pumping room (then all you have to do is rinse and place in the bag once you're out in public).  I know some people online say that they use Munchkin Pacifier Wipes to wipe down the parts but honestly, I don't know how they do it.  The Munchkin wipes are much smaller, thinner and less wet than the Medela ones.  One Medela wipe is enough for me to clean the full set of parts I use in a day, whereas when I tried to do the same with the Munckins I was using approximately 5 to do it.  This method of using wipes and the steam bag (each steam bag can be used 20 times, i.e. for a whole month of an average work schedule) allows you to clean the parts at work without needing brushes, a bowl of soapy water, or 20 minutes.  Everything comes out sterile in approximately 5.  They can also be used with almost any commercial personal breast pump (a couple of the Freemie parts are the only exception to this that I've seen - some of them are not rated to be steam cleaned).

  3. 3.  Once the steam bag is done in the microwave, simply dump the water into the sink and the parts back into the now rinsed container you had been keeping the parts in while in the fridge.  Store the container open to the air overnight (hopefully in the pumping room) to give them a chance to dry out.

   

Baby is ready to drink from a cup but you're not ready for a milk flood...

Suddenly you look at your baby and realize that they've become a toddler.  Suddenly the kid is walking (maybe independently).  Suddenly they're grabbing food off your plate to shove in their little mouth.  Suddenly, everything is different.  With all these changes going on you may be unprepared for the fact that day care and/or your pediatrician suddenly wants them to drink out of a cup.  You look at your wee babe and think "my whole house will be covered in milk, won't it?".  This is the point in time where in years past, parents were simply handed a sippy cup and all problems were solved.  But you may have heard the recent recommendations against them.

And so begins the search for a straw cup that won't spill, won't mold (yes this is a real problem with these things), and that your child can actually drink out of.  On this topic we have 2 recommendations.

1 year old, carrying Avent Straw Cup.

Best spill-proof cup

Our favorite is the Avent Straw Cup.  It cleans easily (including in the dishwasher) and absolutely won't spill even if turned upside down.  Also, I can say that after fully more than a year of use, the cups are still in good shape and for the inexpensive price that is quite something.  You can also buy extra straws if you lose some or your toddler likes to chew on them a bit too much.

For full disclosure, there are a couple of things to watch out for.  First of all, because they are spill proof, they require the child to suck pretty hard to get anything out.  Once they get the hang of it, it's not a problem but it can require a bit of parental miming to get them to do it (don't expect them to drink lots the first couple of times).  Second of all, if you take these guys on an airplane and then open them once you're in the air, you should open the lid first to equalize the pressure (otherwise all the liquid will come squirting out of the straw).  Sometimes this pressure differential can also occur in every day life if you put, say, cold milk into the cup on a hot day and let it sit out.

Straw cup is on the right, ignore the wine

Second best but still good cup

The other cup we've enjoyed using is the THERMOS FOOGO Straw Bottle.  These cups are certainly prettier and just as easy to clean as the Avents.  However, they do drip slowly if you turn them upside down and thus are not completely spill proof.  In our house we pretty much only put water in them for this reason. On the plus side, they don't require quite as much suction to drink and thus may be a better starter cup.  They are also basically twice the price of the cups above (especially if you pick any of their "cute" designs).

Additional care tips

You can certainly use the drying rack you already own after you wash your newly acquired cups.  However, we have found that the baby bottle dishwasher caddies just don't do well with the straws.  For this we recommend getting the OXO Tot Mini Silicone Dishwasher Basket (this has technically been discontinued but is still occasionally available on Amazon).  Also, to properly clean out the straws by hand you're going to need some Munchkin Cleaning Brushes.

Welcome to the next stage of your life - your little babe in arms is becoming a little person!

    

But my kitchen is full already, thanks

It turns out that even breastfeeding is not as simple as "insert tab A into slot B".  As mentioned elsewhere on this site, it often requires equipment.  Even if your baby consumes exclusively breast milk, you will likely pump at some point (or daily if you work outside the house) and have some other person feed your baby (if your baby is formula fed, I imagine you will have that many more bottles to deal with).  This means you then have to clean and dry bottles on a daily basis in a way that will often seem sisyphean.  So what can you do to simplify this and where do you put it all?

The Dishwasher is Your Friend

Whenever possible, put things in the dishwasher (assuming you have one).  Babies who are born at term and are otherwise healthy do not need their bottles sterilized and the soap and hot water of the dishwasher will do the trick just fine.  However you will likely have small parts such as nipples, bottle caps, and possibly others if you go with Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Bottles (I have no experience with this brand of bottles, I just know they are popular).  The best way to avoid having to wash these small parts by hand is to get a dishwasher caddy.  I highly recommend the OXO Dishwasher Basket for Bottle Parts.  The way the lid opens is genius because the small parts in the lid do not fall out every time you want to add something to the big compartment.  Unfortunately for us, we bought this product and realized that it was too tall for the top rack of the dishwasher.  Thus it sadly resides at grandma's house and I sigh every time I use it there and am not frustrated.  We ended up having to go with the Munchkin Deluxe Dishwasher Basket.  Though it is highly reviewed, I find it irritating to use when I have already placed some parts in its top and want to put something in the bottom.  Other than that, it is perfectly adequate.

Bottle Brush

If you don't have a dishwasher and will have to wash bottles and parts by hand then you definitely want a great bottle brush.   We don't use ours terribly often, but do need one when for some reason a bottle does not come out of the dishwasher clean. Here, once again the OXO Bottle Brush wins over the Munchkin Bottle Brush.  I find the bristles on the OXO to be so much more efficient at getting stuff out of the bottles.  Also, I don't get the purpose of the soft top of the Munchkin brush, it doesn't seem to do anything as far as I can tell.

Practical Drying Rack


Once you're done cleaning your bottles you will need a drying rack for them.  This is where the Munchkin Sprout Drying Rack really gets my vote.   It's quite compact and can fit a ton of stuff on it while taking up relatively little counter space.  It also has a tray on the bottom to catch run off so it doesn't just go all over your counter.  To the right is a picture of it in action, drying all the infant bottles and toddler straw cups that came out of one dishwasher load.

The main competitor of this as far as I can tell is the Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack, which I personally dislike (though I haven't used it myself).  It seems to take up more horizontal counter space to store the same amount of stuff and needs extra parts like the Boon Twig Grass and Lawn Drying Rack Accessory to accommodate all the small parts.  Yes, it is very cute looking, but I prefer to save my counter for the important things... like my french press.

Create a Storage Shelf

Finally, if you're looking at your cabinets and trying to figure out where all this stuff is going to go, you may benefit from a product like the Seville Classics Expandable Kitchen Counter and Cabinet Shelf.  This allows you to split an existing tall shelf into two shorter shelves.  This is how we've managed to fit our new baby's equipment into our kitchen, which had to accommodate all of the toddler's things already.

    

Photo credits - Baby Stew under a Creative Commons license.

Cleaning

So you're having a baby but want to maintain some level of cleanliness in your life?  It is a noble goal...  There are a couple of things you may want to consider getting, possibly before your bundle of joy (and fluids) arrives.

1.  A hand held shower.  I don't have a specific brand recommendation, we have the $15 version from the hardware store down the street.  You will want this.  If you're still pregnant with your first, take a deep breath as you read the following (I promise it will all work out).  At some point you'll have to hose down your poop covered baby, a vomit covered high chair, or both at the same time.  (Once again, I promise, you won't die and neither will the kid... somehow this will all work out).  The easiest way to hose down things and people is with a shower you can hold in your hand and point at something... that is all.

2. Lysol Dual Action Disinfecting Wipes.  This is important.  Get the "Dual Action" ones.  You'll want a way to disinfect surfaces someone may or may not have pooped on (remember the deep breathing).  You'll also want the scrubby side of the wipes to scrub down surfaces that have dried because you may have missed them on the first go around.

3. Babyganics Stain & Odor Remover Spray.  This is great for spraying on fabrics (like clothes and sheets) that have been soiled.  Just spray and throw in the laundry and the stain is much less likely to set even if you wait a week to wash the thing.  And as a side note, here is another tip we got from our dry cleaner a couple of years ago.  If you put something through the wash and the stain is still there (or you're not sure), don't put it in the dryer - let it hang dry.  If you haven't applied heat to a stain, you're more likely to be able to get it out via some other method in the future.