Showing posts with label Bath and Health. 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!

Get ready for summer! (aka how to apply sun screen to a squirmy baby, toddler, or child)

As we approach Memorial Day weekend here in the US, we can officially declare summer to be upon us.  If you live in the Northeast, where winter this year has been mild but very very long, it's about dang time. Perhaps only a week or two ago, you were likely still wrestling your wee ones into their jackets, and may have been caught off guard by the sudden switch to needing sun gear.

And so, we come out of our hibernation (as in we've recently gotten some actual sleep) to tell you everything you need this summer to keep your kids outside instead of destroying your house.
  1. 1. Sunscreen for home.  Putting sunscreen on a baby is really hard and it doesn't get easier as they get older.  Let's face it, kids are squirmy at all ages and the last thing they want to do is stand perfectly still while you make sure every nook and cranny of their delicate skin is covered in cream.  For that reason, I could not recommend using MD Moms Baby Sunscreen Wipes highly enough.  Are they a little expensive? Yes.  Totally worth it? Also yes.  One wipe has a ton of cream on it.  Enough, to put on big sister, little brother, mom and dad.  It requires much less cooperation from the littles, gives you peace of mind, and stores easily and cleanly in your diaper bag. In my book, this is a baby product totally worth throwing a bit of money at.

  2. 2. Sunscreen for day care.   Did you already buy sunscreen and are totally regretting it because you hate the 20 minute fight to get it on your kid and have only just found out about the wipes? Send the tube of cream to day care and go buy yourself some wipes. Fact - day care teachers are ninjas! They somehow magically get 8 kids to line up peacefully and stand there while they douse them from head to toe.  I don't know how they do it, but I'm so happy they do.  And for that reason, we do not splurge on wipes for day care. Instead we buy tubes of Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen

  3. 3. Hat. Hats and jackets are items that somehow invite the general public to comment on your
    child's attire.  If you thought you were done with community comments when you were done being pregnant,  you were wrong.  Be prepared for every little old lady on the street and bus to helpfully chime in when they think your child needs one, whether they actually do or are willing to wear one. Some kids just hate hats and others love them. If you have the former, don't worry, I promise they'll survive childhood somehow. You on the other hand, should do your best to let go of the guilt over that.  If your kid loves hats, or is willing to wear one, nothing beats the wide brimmed comfy ones of iPlay. They come in a variety of colors and prints, are adjustable, and offer a lot of sun protection.

  4. 4. Swim/water wear.  Once again, this is a place where iPlay just dominates. Their bathing suits with built in swim diapers are a must for hitting the beach.  I would also recommend getting some swim shirts and shorts (often sold as "rashguards") to reduce the area on which sunscreen needs to be applied (see photo to right for one of their shirts).  And as always, these are the kinds of things that are best purchased at the end of the season for next year if you want to save some money.
Happy summer everyone!


Toddlers and Toothbrushing a.k.a. Baby's First Toothbrush

So kids and oral hygiene is not exactly the world's most fun topic, but like needing to know how to clean poop off things and picky eating, it comes with the territory. And since we've had to think about it, we're here to tell you what has helped us.
From the first week or so of toothbrushing.

Our favorite baby book (Baby 411) will remind you that one really should start wiping down a newborn's mouth after every meal and switch to a toothbrush as soon as they get their first tooth. I suppose I just reminded you of that too, but also, it's more-or-less as realistic as when your dentist tells you to floss after every meal (or the even more laughable advice to floss your kid's teeth after every meal)... So let's get real...

We added toothbrushing to the bedtime routine at around 14 months, when our child could reliably climb up the stool, stand in front of the sink, and do something that approximated the motor control consistent with tooth brushing.

So, When Do I start Taking my Child to the Dentist?

Referring to the American Association of Pediatric Dentists, approximately 12 months is when you should first take your child to a dentist. Even without necessarily tons of teeth, the reasons are pretty good 
  1. 1. Someone can check for unlikely, but important medical issues regarding her teeth.

  2. 2. It gives your child a "dental home" in case you do have some urgent/acute need later on. 

  3. 3. It helps your child acclimate to a strange (and often scary) environment. Because very little needs to happen medically on the first few visits, it allows time to see (and hear) the equipment and doctors and everything else. We picked a pediatric dental practice which has been amazing. She has a great time and has been surprisingly compliant with all of their requests.

Toothbrushing Routine

Yeah, talking a toddler into toothbrushing, even with the promise of something that tastes like "Bubble Fruit," is not easy. For a while we got away with with making up relevant verses to "If you're happy and you know it." (If you're happy and you know it get on the step stool... if you're happy and you know it brush your back teeth... And now you know how your parents went from the normal people of their 20s into the crazy people you know today.) When that stopped working, we started to make nightly use of our Time Timer, setting 5 minutes for toothbrushing at the risk of losing a bedtime story. This strategy, learned from 1-2-3- Magic, generally works well enough that we're not messing with it for now. Perhaps someday we'll write up the whole bedtime routine for those interested.

Children's Toothbrushes

To make things a bit easier and fun for her, we went with the Baby Banana Toddler Toothbrush. It's made of silicone so it's ok for teething kids to chew on, and, of course, looks like a banana. We went through a couple of these as her chewing eventually began to take a toll on the bristles. After her 2.5 year dentist's appointment, we officially switched to the regular style (kid-sized) toothbrush she picked out there.

Obviously after letting her have some fun chewing on the brush, we'd do some actual brushing on her behalf, but the practice is paying off. At 2.75 years, she now does something that's pretty darn close to brushing her own teeth with some follow-up from Mom or Dad.

Kid's Toothpaste and Fluoride

Now what to put on the brush? If you're like me, you have vague memories of very sweet "Children's toothpaste" one could smear everywhere and was OK for kids to swallow as it had no fluoride. Those products still exist, but the latest recommendations from the AAPD suggests all kids use fluoridated toothpaste from the beginning. Of course, fluoride is still not great to swallow so the official guidance is to use a "smear" or "single grain of rice's" worth of toothpaste for kids under 3.

That said, we're still using a children's fluoridated toothpaste for the sweet flavor (and slightly higher fluoride content per volume). One smear at a time, it's taking us quite a while to get through the tube. In fact, we're still using the first one we bought a year and a half ago. I'm pretty sure we picked whatever sounded like the least disgusting flavor available at the CVS we stopped by, but for what it's worth, we have the Colgate Kids oddly-titled Bubble Fruit flavor.

Avoiding Anti-Science

It wouldn't be an authentic blog post by me if it didn't include some righteous indignation. Today's target is the anti-science wing of the natural/organic folks. Long ago, on my first foray into the parenting blogosphere, I read a website I had previously assumed to be reputable - BabyGizmo.  I then discovered a pseudo-science review by them of a toothpaste "so natural, you can swallow it." It was a perfect storm of anti-science fallacious thinking. (Let's start with the fact that fluoride, the reason you shouldn't swallow too much toothpaste, IS A NATURALLY OCCURRING ELEMENT. I could go on, but will not.) I found myself commenting and engaging them on Twitter. When their response was effectively "it's what the manufacturer said, don't blame me," two things toward this blog were set in motion. 

  1. 1. I realized I could not trust BabyGizmo as they apparently uncritically passed along manufacturer-speak, leaving us with one fewer source of reasonable information on baby gear. 

  2. 2. Our previous one-way love affair with Grounded Parents became two-way as they published an article on the topic. Since then, I've been lucky enough to guest post my own rant there too.

In any case, find a dentist, listen to the folks at the AAPD, find some ways to make it a fun part of your nightly bedtime, and toothbrushing won't be at all like pulling teeth </dadhumor>.


If you're a parent, why I'm begging you to buy life insurance!

If you're a person who's naturally prone to anxiety, the internet can be a scary place. Without even looking for them, horrible stories find their way to the page directly in front of your eye balls only to come haunting your dreams later in the day.  Often the scenarios described are not something you can reasonably protect yourself from, short of locking yourself in a bunker. Even locking yourself in a padded room eating nothing but toast won't protect you from some of the heartbreak that is an inevitable part of the human experience. 

A year ago, this month, I came all too close to heartbreak with the near death of my husband. This essay is a result of that experience. It is a plea for all parents everywhere to buy life insurance.  And before I go on, please do know that everything in this story ultimately turned out fine and my husband’s life insurance policy remains uncashed. (See the many posts he's written for this site). So here goes.

The unexpected can happen to anyone

When I was 24 weeks pregnant with my second child (my daughter was just shy of two years old at the time), my husband had a heart attack.  It was a total and complete shock.  He was 32 and a vegetarian from childhood. 

He woke up one night with searing chest pain and made his way to the Emergency Room not too long after. It took the doctors 2 days to determine that the crisis he had experienced was indeed a heart attack, that the the heart attack was severe, and that he would require open heart surgery. With someone so young and fit, the labs can often tell a very confusing story and that was the case with him. The 10 days my husband spent in the Intensive Care Unit - waiting to figure out what happened, waiting for bloodwork compatible with undergoing surgery, waiting to be stable enough to go home after - were the darkest days of my life. I am so lucky that during that time, and in the many weeks of recovery that followed, I had an amazing community of family, friends, and even acquaintances that went out of their way to provide us with childcare, home cooked meals, help around the house, and countless hours of support, love, and friendship.

This essay has taken me almost a year to write, and the words are still hard to type. During that year, I have had the time to consider what happened from every possible angle.  The initial terror I felt that my husband may not get through the 6 hours of surgery, never hold my hand again, never meet his son growing in my body, grew into a jumble of other emotions. I have felt angry, confused, and helpless.  I have been grateful beyond words for how our village swarmed in to help. And I will admit that I felt a glimmer of relief that we had purchased life insurance the year before all this took place. It provided a small nugget of certainty for me to cling to as I stared into the abyss.

Of all the infinite possibilities I worried about in the days and weeks that followed the heart attack, money was not one of them. Should the worst have happened, I knew that I could afford to pay the mortgage and keep my family living in our house. I knew that I could have kept sending my daughter to the daycare she had attended since she was a baby, the school where she was loved and cared for and happy to go to on a daily basis.  I knew that if I needed to, I could have taken a long time off from working to tend to myself in order to recover from the meteor that had just struck my family.

Prepare for the unexpected

The meteor is what life insurance is for, but there are many barriers that keep people from acquiring it.  So here I offer some advice about how to work through several obstacles and come out the other side with peace of mind.

  1. 1. Money. The cost of a life insurance policy depends on the health of the individual (and of course on how much insurance you want). If you are in good health, now is the time to buy it for a low price. It is absolutely worth it to inquire how much it would cost for you.  If you have health conditions that make it more expensive than you are able to afford, it is often possible to buy extra insurance through your employer, regardless of health status, and even keep it once you leave a job by continuing to pay the premium. Finally, it’s important to consider realistically what financial resources you or your partner have access to, should the worst happen.  It is worth making some sacrifices to know that your loved ones would be taken care of in that scenario.

  2. 2. How much do you need? If you're a household with two working parents, could you afford to pay for your housing and child care on one salary? If one of you stays home with the kids, think about how much it would cost to purchase the services currently provided by the stay-at-home parent (child care, household care, etc.). Everyone’s needs are different, but we roughly figured out the cost to pay off the mortgage, allow for the surviving parent to have a year with no salary, and to ensure that one salary would be enough for the long haul with a little bit of additional savings.

  3. 3. Choosing where to buy. Life insurance policies are largely interchangeable but life insurance companies all calculate your risk differently. As a result, it's worth applying to a couple of them to get the best price. The easiest way to do this is to go through a broker that provides the service of matching you, free of charge.  I went to AccuQuote*, filled out a simple web form, and after a brief phone call with a broker was recommended 3 companies that best matched my health profile.

Many people don't want to spend the money to face their own mortality and if this is you, I urge you to reconsider.  I know it's hard, but picture the practical aspects of what you would need should an accident befall you or your partner. The last thing you probably want to do in that scenario is to have to move out of your house, or further disrupt your children's routines by pulling them out of school. If you’re a single parent, knowing that whoever takes care of your children will have the finances to do so is even more important.

Nobody wants to think of the scary things, but as someone who's had no choice but to face the darkness, I implore you to make a plan for the worst case scenario.

* Most links on this site pay an affiliate commission. However, this topic is serious enough I don’t want anyone to think we’re doing it for the kickback. While we used AccuQuote (who is NOT paying us), I really don’t care who you go with, but please do go with someone. 

What do I do to help a toddler with a stomach ache?

Prior to having kids you probably thought you knew the answer to a lot of questions.  Possibly this very accumulation of knowledge is what prompted you into thinking that you were ready to take the plunge into parenthood.  Fast forward to actually having kids and you suddenly realize that the number of questions without answers is much bigger than you could have possibly dreamed.  Questions like...

"Can this much fluid really be contained in such a small human?" 
"How many times a day can a toddler ask you for a cookie and expect the answer to change?" 
"Will you ever feel not tired again?"

Then, of course, there are the factual questions... such as

"What do you do for a toddler with a stomach ache?"

In the last couple of years drug manufacturers have added Aspirin to pretty much all of the over the counter stomach drugs like Pepto which means they are no longer appropriate to be given to children.

This is exactly the problem we faced recently when a stomach bug made its way around our day care. Luckily for us, a Swiss friend of ours had given us a cute hot water bottle with sleeve as a "welcome baby" present (we were told this is a traditional baby gift in Switzerland).  The brand of bottle we got cannot be easily purchased in the US but there are a number of similar, well-reviewed products like it are available on Amazon (Classic Rubber Hot Water Bottle w/ Cute Knit Cover and Children's Rubber Hot Water Bottle w/ Cute Knit Cover are two examples).

What's great about the bottle we have (and the ones I'm linking to) is that it's smaller than a full-size 2 liter bottle. The cute cover is fun for our toddler and is easier to keep on than just a towel. Of course, it also provides her with comfort. A hot water bottle is good for a stomach ache both because warmth can help relax a cramping stomach and also because it provides some measure of "doing something" placebo effect for the child.

I really recommend getting one of these because like a thermometer, diaper rash cream, saline solution, and other first aid staples, this is the kind of thing that's good to have in the house as a "just in case" (this is NOT a good time to head out to the drugstore and Amazon just can't deliver that fast). Because, of course, the ultimate question without an answer is
"When will my child be sick next?"

Walking the line of pregnancy and fitness (Guest post)

I am super excited to run our very first guest post, written by my good friend Alice. I invited Alice to write this post because my own exercising tastes run far more mainstream (I heart pre-natal Yoga) and this is a very important topic for pregnancy. So without further ado, take it away Alice…


Everyone will tell you that exercise during pregnancy is great! Wonderful! Essential! Walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga are the best! But if you're pregnant and want to get exercise in a less orthodox way, it can be difficult to sort the fear mongering from the science. Before I got pregnant I lifted weights, played ultimate frisbee, biked, and went rock climbing. I didn't want to stop all of those activities as soon as I got a positive pregnancy test. Since the scientific research is minimal to nonexistent, I relied largely on other people's stories and on listening to my body to decide what was safe. (I, of course, discussed all of this with my doctor and got her OK. My pregnancy was low risk and I picked a data oriented doctor who is on the relaxed end of the spectrum.)

According to my doctor, contact sports are a risk after the first trimester. She explained that since the uterus moves up out of the pelvis at that point, serious impact trauma can harm the fetus. Because of this, I didn’t play Frisbee after 12 weeks, though I know some women who played in low key games all the way through their pregnancies. Some ab exercises are likely to be a problem. Everything else, however, still seems to be up for debate.

Surprisingly, the exercise that I found most comfortable and kept up most consistently during my pregnancy was climbing. People hear climbing and think of mount Everest, which is far cry from what I do, pregnant or not. The place I went was my local friendly climbing gym, complete with comfy plastic holds, a readily accessible bathroom, and even the occasional other pregnant lady to commiserate with. Top roping with a pregnancy harness from Mountain Mama felt safe and (relatively) comfortable into week 39, and I trusted my partner to give me a tight belay, so I wouldn't have any big falls.

So maybe heights aren't your thing, but if crossfit or archery or tennis are - don't let anyone's knee jerk reaction keep you from doing what you love. And, of course, take everything you read with a grain of salt. In searching for rock climbing resources I found several sites that told me to avoid climbing stairs while pregnant. I’m curious what those people would suggest to those of us whose apartments are on the second floor. It's pretty hard to get more fear mongering and less practical than that!

Alice is a software engineer, mom, and obsessive gym climber. She lives in Boston with her husband and son, in a small apartment increasingly overflowing with toddler paraphernalia. To talk about sports and pregnancy, or to chat about the local climbing scene, find her at

Giving babies medicine, while minimizing the sad

Most medicine for babies comes with convenient droppers, syringes, or dispensers. This is definitely true for the most common things that get administered such as most antibiotics, Tylenol, and Tri-Vi-Sol.  However, should you find yourself unlucky enough to have to administer something slightly more exotic, you may need something like the Safety 1st Bottle Medicine Dispenser.  This medicine dispenser came in a set that was gifted to us before our daughter was born and we didn't think much of it.  Unfortunately we had to use it during two separate episodes in her infancy.

Iron for Anemic Babies

All children get tested for anemia (low iron levels) at their 1-year well child visit.  Children who are thought to be at risk for some reason get tested at 9 months.  If a child is determined to be anemic, a high dose iron supplement is prescribed along with a recommendation to dissolve it in juice that's high in vitamin C.  The juice advice is both for taste reasons (liquid iron tastes pretty rotten) as well as for improved absorption reasons (vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron more efficiently). However, when my daughter was prescribed this at 9 months, she had never even had water, let alone juice, and she certainly didn't know how to drink out of anything other than a boob or a bottle.  This is where the Safety 1st Bottle Medicine Dispenser came in really handy.  It allowed us to present her with a familiar drinking mechanism (a nipple).  By filling this tiny bottle with juice and iron solution we could be sure that she could finish the whole thing thus getting the entire prescribed dose.

The Truly Exotic

When my daughter was five months old, someone walked into the office building that houses her daycare with an active case of tuberculous. This caused the Department of Public Health to mandate that all the children in the day care receive two months of prophylactic drugs. The closest I've ever come to quitting my job and moving to a ranch with a shotgun was when we had to figure out how to procure and administer drugs not designed for babies in the US. Nothing makes you question your life choices more than attempting to grind 1/4 of a pill into your previously perfectly cherubic child's milk. This was the first time we remembered about the medicine dispenser as we were specifically instructed to dissolve it in less than an ounce of milk. I understand that this situation is blissfully unique, however, should you find yourself needing to dissolve something in a small quantity of liquid to administer to your baby, this may very well save your sanity.


How you feel about bibs in part depends on what your baby is like.  When my daughter was a baby and the avalanche of clothing gifts descended on our house, many of the outfits included bibs. Since my daughter hardly ever spat up more than a tiny amount, all those bibs sat in a drawer taking up space and being useless.   Then we started solids, the bibs came out, and we realized that most of them were even more useless on the baby than in the drawer. Most novelty bibs that come with outfits are small and not at all waterproof, which means they hardly offer any protection. So, after having to change her clothes every time she ate, I went out and bought some Green Sprouts Waterproof Absorbent Terry Bibs.

These are great for a number of reasons. They have cloth on the outside (both sides, they are reversible) so they feel nice to touch and can be used to wipe the baby's face. But, they have a waterproof lining in the center which means that even if your kid dumps an entire spoonful of soup on herself, her shirt will remain intact.  And, unlike their plastic counterparts, these are machine washable. This means cleaning the bibs is no extra work (you do laundry every other day anyway, right?). The absorptive fabric/waterproof combo also comes in handy for that charming month or two in your baby's life when rivers of drool are constantly coming out of their mouths.

Now I have a second baby who, wonder of wonders, is a totally different child. We haven't started feeding him solids yet. However, we've already had to break out the bibs due to the massive quantity of spit up he produces. And let me tell you, despite the number of novelty bibs in my drawer growing with the number of children, I pretty much always still reach for the green sprouts.

Thermometers - speed is of the essence

When picking out products as an expectant parent, the sheer number of decisions you have to make quickly becomes overwhelming.  You are tasked with selecting all the personal items, large and small, that a little creature is going to use, and you haven't even met him/her yet!  So when picking a thermometer you may be wondering what criteria you could possibly be selecting on.

Let me make this really easy for you - you want the fastest thermometer you can find... full stop. You may have figured out by now that you will be taking that child's temperature rectally.  (You may have read that you can take a baby's temperature in the ear as well... this is baloney.  If you take a baby's temperature in the ear and call your pediatrician they will politely ask you to retake it elsewhere.)  So, holding down a potentially sick and definitely angry kid is going to be unpleasant.  Do yourself, your kid, and your neighbors a favor and get the fastest thermometer you can find.  On this score we have tried 2 different brands: the ADC ADTEMP V Fast Read Digital Thermometer and the Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer.  I can tell you with full certainty that the Vicks Thermometer is very much the winner here on speed.  Other than that, they're both totally adequate, but really, speed is your friend here.

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.

Wipes (to go!)

When imagining the acquisition of children, I often found it hard to imagine having a kid bigger than a baby.  It's almost impossible to imagine how quickly they grow and turn into little people.  It seems like in the blink of an eye they go from tiny mewling kittens to walking, talking, mini humans.  Thus it is even more difficult to imagine how quickly one goes from changing a baby's diaper 20 times a day at the newborn stage to changing it just 5 or 6 times a day once they hit 6 months or so.

We started out using the OXO Tot On-the-Go Travel Wipes Dispenser for diapering when out and about.  It worked great at first.  However, as our baby grew and we were no longer using the wipes on a weekly if not daily basis, we noticed they were often drying out between uses.  This is a mostly solvable problem, of course, since usually one is changing diapers in a bathroom and thus can re-wet them slightly in the sink.

However, we recently came upon an even better solution.  When our second child was born, we took home the package of wipes the hospital had been using.  We then realized that they didn't dry out, despite living in our diaper bag for about two months before running out.  Thus the executive decision was made to switch to the Medline Aloetouch Personal Cleansing Wipes permanently for use when not at home.  Generally I wouldn't recommend a disposable solution when a reasonable reusable one exists, but with 80 large wipes per bag (you would rarely need more than 2 for a diaper change) I doubt we'll be using more than 3 packages a year.  This way, there is also peace of mind that a wet wipe will be available, even if I haven't checked the bag in a long long time.

Also, we haven't started potty training yet (heaven help us) but I expect having permanently wet, large wipes with us at all times will be helpful in that endeavor.


Sleep like a baby? You mean terribly?

Anyone who's ever used the expression "sleep like a baby" has clearly never met a baby.  Human newborns, due to a quirk of biology, are all born premature compared to other mammals.  In particular, when it comes to sleep, newborns have underdeveloped nervous systems which is why they have trouble settling themselves.   For a more in depth discussion of this check out the sleep chapter of Baby 411. However that is not the topic of this post.  The topic of this post is how to set up a great sleep environment for your child to help stack the odds of everyone in the house getting some shut eye. 

Black out curtains

Once you've read up on sleep, you'll notice that almost everyone recommends that the room where the baby sleeps be dark.  Often this means acquiring some black out curtains.  However, most people have the baby sleep in the same room as themselves for at least the first 6 weeks if not longer (this is both for SIDS prevention reasons and convenience of night time feedings).   As such, you've probably already acquired whatever curtains you're using for your room.  You may not want to mess with the decor of your room to accommodate its temporary occupant. Likewise, you may have found the perfect cute curtains for your children's room, only to realize they do nothing to shield the room from any light (cough cough... I may or may not have done this...).  Have no fear, this is not a trade off you have to make. You just need to get yourself some Thermalogic Ultimate Window Liners. The great thing about these guys is that they get attached behind your existing curtains. This means you get to keep your decor and have a pitch black room - score!  Additionally, if you've had to get some for your room, you can use the same set for the kid's room once you're ready for them to be on their own.

White noise

Turning on white noise for the baby is another super common (and excellent) recommendation. Not only will this help mask the sound of you shuffling around your apartment while the baby sleeps (and any street noise as well) , but it will also help build some sleep associations for him or her to signal that it's time for sleeping.  For this many people use things like the Sleep Sheep or myBaby SoundSpa.  We, on the other hand, have decided to go in another direction.  We've taken an old, no longer used, cell phone and downloaded a white noise app on it (we use the airplane noise setting but there are many options).  We prefer this solution for a number of reasons.

  1. 1.  You don't have to buy anything new - woot!

  2. 2.  Cell phones are much easier to pack than sleep sheep. (If you're going to stay at someone's house you may not have to pack anything at all if they have an old phone lying around).

  3. 3.  If you forget to pack the spare old phone you normally use for the kids, it's easily replaced with your cell phone. Sure it sucks to have to give it up for the night, probably starting at 7pm (most children's bedtime), but it sucks a lot less than no one sleeping.

  4. 4.  You can also use the old cell phone to play music to your baby (any music you want, not just whatever, if anything, came with the thing you bought). We've found for some reason that our second child naps better with lullabies playing than white noise (though we still use the white noise at night).  This was a trivial accommodation to make using the phone.
And one more bonus suggestion. If your old phone's speakers aren't great, you can always hook it up to a speaker in the kid's room.  We found an adorable GOgroove Portable Stereo Speaker Panda (other animals available) that we've been using for the past 2+ years when we're home (on the road we just use the phone as is).

Good luck, and may the sleep gods be on your side!

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.

Diaper rash is like taxes

Both are largely inevitable. Oh sure, there are magic babies who never get it, along with ones who nurse like a champ, sleep through the night at 6 weeks, and pop out after 10 minutes of labor because you sneezed. (That said if you have an in with a higher power, I recommend asking for the other stuff first since diaper rash is relatively easy to deal with).  In any case, because this is the kind of thing that can happen rather suddenly, it's good to have diaper rash cream on hand when the baby comes home or soon after, just in case.

Diaper rash happens because the acid in pee and poop can eat away at a baby's skin. Obviously the best thing you can do is try to prevent it by changing the diaper once the baby poops (modern diapers are pretty absorptive so they move pee away from the skin really well) . However if your child has sensitive skin like both of mine do, it's just something that's going to happen from time to time. Once the rash develops you need to apply a barrier cream to help the skin heal.  The active ingredient in pretty much all diaper rash cream is an inert mineral called zinc oxide. The more zinc oxide in a product, the stronger the barrier and the faster the skin will heal. Most creams top out at about 15% zinc oxide. To get something more concentrated than that, you pretty much have to go to a paste. Personally I find paste annoying to carry around and apply (it gets under my nails, which are short).   So I was really excited to find a brand that makes a high concentration cream version (25%). It's called Booty Goo. (Why yes, it IS a terrible name! Have you noticed how baby product manufacturers assume you have no dignity?).  Remember to put it on thickly (think spreading it like icing).

And here is one more tip for the road that was given to us by our pediatrician and has worked wonders. If the diaper rash has gotten bad enough that the skin has broken (the baby screaming bloody murder when you apply rash cream is usually a sign that it has), apply neosporin to the area first and then slather the cream on top. And finally, if you're in the throws of a bad outbreak and are having trouble wiping the cream off at diaper change, give the baby a bath with a bunch of baking soda in the water.

Good luck, and whatever you do - DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGES OF DIAPER RASH.  It looks much less scary in real life.

Photo credits - DEATH and TAXES under a Creative Commons license.

Equipment for your super special children's bathroom

Obviously you have a bathroom just for your kids right? That's a whole other room in your house you have to decorate. Just kidding.  We live in a condo and we only have one bathroom.  When we had our first child we had to figure out how to fit all of her stuff into our already complete bathroom.  The biggest thing you're going to have to find space for is a bathtub (eventually toys too, but that is a topic for another day).


Tiny baby's first bath
We love our Karibu Folding Bath Tub.  It grows with your baby (no additional parts needed) and it folds flat so it can be stored out of the way.  It's pretty big, which means we were bathing our
daughter in it until she was 2 without having to fill up our whole tub (saving water - woot).

What about the competition?  Below are my opinions about some of the other popular options out there and why we rejected them.
  1. 1.  The Fisher-Price Whale of a Tub and The First Years Tub with Sling are the most popular tub choices out there.  They do not fold.  There was simply ZERO places for me to put this in my one and only bathroom other than the middle of the floor. Also, both of these have pictures of people bathing their kids in the kitchen sink.  Who does this?  Is anyone's kitchen sink clear enough for this? Mine sure never ever is.
    Giant 1 year old toddler

  2. 2. The Puj Tub.  This tub does fold but requires a very specific configuration of your bathroom sink where you have a very high faucet for the baby to fit under it (not me!).  Alternatively, you can use your kitchen sink (again, ha! no).  Also this will only work until your baby is 4-5 months old.  At this point, if he or she is sitting reliably, then I guess you can fill up the big tub?  Otherwise, I don't know what you do.

  3. 3. The Boon Naked Collapsible Baby Bathtub.  For some reason all the baby stores around here carry this one.  It is foldable and it does accommodate a baby bigger than the palm of your hand.  However, if you read the reviews a number of people are complaining about it being slippery and babies sliding under the water - scary...

Odds and Ends

We found the Skip Hop Dunks Stacking Bath Toys really helpful for washing our babies.  You also want to get some wash clothes and hooded towels.  As for soap, we like Baby Shampoo and Body Wash by MD Moms.

You may also want a pad to kneel on for yourself if your knees tend to hurt.  We actually have the Aquatopia Deluxe Safety Easy Bath Kneeler, but I can't exactly recommend it.  When we got it, I didn't think about the fact that the part that hangs in the tub will constantly get wet because the tub is not just used for baby.  This means we end up only taking it out when we're giving the kids a bath, so the organizational potential of it is completely wasted on us.  Thus, if I had it to do over, I would almost certainly get the Skip Hop Moby Bath Kneeler instead.