Why It’s Never Too Early to Introduce STEM to Your Child

Why It’s Never Too Early to Introduce STEM to Your Child

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Why you should introduce your child to STEM and tips for doing so.

If you are a parent to a young child, it’s fun to imagine what career they’ll be undertaking in 20  years or so. It’s fun to get their opinion, too. What do they want to be? Astronaut? Pilot? Vet?

The truth, however, is that many of our kids will be starting their working life in a job we’re only just beginning to imagine. Some of today’s careers will vanish while some will remain (we’ll always need doctors, right?) but will evolve as technology develops further. Other brand new career options will appear, too.

Here’s what experts in STEM education in Dubai predict for the future.


A Future in STEM

The vast majority of new careers will be related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  For today’s working generation, STEM has already opened up countless exciting career opportunities in these fields. AI and robotics, IT, aerospace, medicine, and climate science are just a few examples of areas where people are working right now in interesting, rewarding and well-paid jobs. And the list of STEM job titles will just keep getting longer.

STEM careers evolve rapidly thanks to investment, research and fast updating technology. For example, working in IT today can mean many more things than it did 30 years ago. Think about cybersecurity specialists, app developers, and web analysts — these are popular careers that didn’t exist at all back then. Even just five years ago, the picture looked quite different. For example, in medicine, new lines of diagnostics and treatment have led to a demand for new but highly trained staff in nuclear medicine and genetics.

The argument for encouraging your child to take an early interest in STEM subjects is strong when it comes to preparing them well for the future.


Why start early?

The study of STEM through school and into the college years will help prepare your child for a career in one of these areas. If your child is still a toddler or baby, that time is still a long way off. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to wait to get your child interested in the wonders of STEM. Cultivating this interest and curiosity early on is vital if you want to encourage your child to take the path towards a STEM career. And there are plenty of ways to do it.

Here are important reasons why encouraging a love of STEM from the earliest of ages will pay off:

1. Because young children are incredibly curious

Babies and toddlers are innately curious. If you watch them play with even the simplest toys, you can see that they are trying to make sense of their world. Give the youngest child wooden building blocks, for example, and they’ll experiment with bashing them together, observing the noise that they make. Toddlers may investigate how best to stack them to make the tallest tower.

These are young scientists, engineers and mathematicians at work, making observations, experimenting, testing ideas, and making sense of it all. The more we nurture these skills now, the more inclined our children will be to continue developing them.

2. Because “The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid”

This quote from German philosopher Thomas A. Kempis illustrates perfectly why children benefit so much from higher-quality early education. In fact, children who start formal school with a strong foundation in the STEM subjects, particularly math, tend to do better than their peers throughout their school careers.

One study by researchers from the University of Denver has even found that “early knowledge of math not only predicts later success in math, but also predicts later reading achievement even better than early reading skills.”

So, the more STEM knowledge and skills to be gained by preschoolers, the more they’ll benefit later in life.

3. Because you can help accelerate the development of soft skills

When your child experiments, plays with STEM-inspired toys, and takes part in STEM activities, then they are developing a whole range of skills that will benefit them in the future, no matter what career they go on to choose.

Confidence, problem-solving ability, and adaptability are all vital non-career specific skills that are brought on through STEM activities.


How do I inspire my young child and help them get a head start with STEM?

There are many ways you can help inspire your child to love STEM and start to build the foundations of STEM skills.

1. Use STEM language as often as possible

Getting accustomed to basic mathematical and scientific language is a vital early building block. Try to use these words as much as possible around your child and encourage them to use them, too.

For example, talk about toys and simple items around your home in terms of how many there are, how heavy/light they are, how they are shaped, and how they compare with others.

You could use language like, “Which is the heaviest block? How many blocks are in your tower? Which block is square and which is rectangular?”

2. Read STEM-based books

Look in your local bookstore or library and you are bound to find plenty of books that help children increase their STEM vocabulary or encourage an interest in STEM topics. Here are the kinds of books to look out for:

  • Books that involve numbers and counting
  • Books that teach shape names
  • Books about people who work in STEM (i.e., vets, doctors, astronauts, etc.)
  • Books about robots
  • Books about space
  • Both fiction and non-fiction that might inspire an interest in any kind of vehicle

For all these categories, there should be something age-appropriate for your child, even in baby board book form.

A great option for babies and toddlers are the Baby University book series. There are so many different books that explain complicated STEM topics in easy to understand ways for babies and toddlers. Parents may even brush up on their organic chemistry, rocket science and quantum physics.

3. Encourage your baby or toddler to investigate their world

Why It’s Never Too Early to Introduce STEM to Your Child

Here are some fun activities that will help develop your young child’s curious nature:

  • Water play. Investigate sinking and floating.
  • Color mixing. Play with paints and find out what happens when you mix colors.
  • Build bridges and ramps together to support toy vehicles.
  • Build with bricks. Lego is an amazing educational resource that your child can grow up with. It inspires STEM play, from engineering the simplest structures in toddlerhood through to robotics for older children.
  • Play with your shadows. Shadow puppets are amazing to behold.
  • Get out the bubbles for some cool chemistry fun.
  • For your child’s first piece of scientific equipment, give your child a magnifying glass and encourage them to investigate anything and everything.

As you can see from these activities, introducing the world of STEM to your baby or toddler is fun. It builds on their natural curiosities. It’s also hugely beneficial to their future progress in school. What’s more, it may well set them up for the most amazing career.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Amazing Ways to Travel and Breastfeed at the Same Time

Amazing Ways to Travel and Breastfeed at the Same Time

It is true that we can have it all, especially as breastfeeding moms. If taking a child out to see the world by RV, plane or any other mode of transportation has always been on the bucket list, there are plenty of ways that we can breastfeed and travel at the same time.

Amazing Ways to Travel and Breastfeed at the Same Time

Sure, everyone who is breastfeeding and traveling with their child will need to plan and prepare in advance, but it is completely doable with a few extra steps and some creative thinking. The world has become vastly more accepting of breastfeeding moms, which means that there will be more spaces available and fewer disapproving stares from strangers.

Anyone who is ready to hit the road with their brand new bundle of joy can do so! Just follow these handy tips for a fool-proof plan to see all that the planet has to offer with the bouncing baby in tow.


Set Up Boundaries

Anyone who is traveling to see friends or family for the holidays might encounter those who have trouble taking no for an answer when it comes to the little ones.

These well-meaning relatives and friends might not understand that the baby is on a strict feeding schedule, and will insist upon holding him or her even when the new mom tries to intervene. Save everyone some stress, including the baby, by putting a foot down. It’s important to remember that the baby’s health and happiness come before relatives’ hurt feelings. Most people will understand and apologize.


Keep The Pumped Milk Cold

Amazing Ways to Travel and Breastfeed at the Same Time

Nobody ever knows when they will be able to feed their child, or when they will have to resort to the bottled stuff. This is where pumping and dumping come in handy. Keeping a few extra bottles of pumped milk on hand is a great idea.

The other reason why new moms should do this is that they never know how travel will affect their bodies. Some types of travel are just not conducive to milk production! Having enough supply of pumped milk means that the baby can eat all of the time, but you need to keep it cold.

Don’t let the milk go sour or get too warm. Instead, pack some bags of ice or even medical cooling pads to wrap around the bottles. Keep them in a small cooler to ensure that the temperature stays right where it is supposed to be. Always pack more ice than seems reasonably necessary, as most people underestimate how warm certain types of transportation can be.

Simply planning and packing ahead can save moms tons of time and anguish when it comes to feeding their little ones. All anyone needs is just a little bit of ice!


Stick With A Strict Feeding Schedule

When one is a breastfeeding mom, it pays to travel by land instead of air because they can stick with a strict feeding schedule! RVs are an ideal way to travel for new parents. There’s plenty of space, one can pull over at any time, and there’s no need to try to find a private place to pump or feed.

The American Southwest is a fabulous destination where one can find their perfect RV rental in Las Vegas and see the majority of the country from the comfort of a classic and reliable RV.

Land traveling by an RV is really the best option for many breastfeeding moms out there who want to see the whole world while maintaining the strict pumping and feeding schedule that their little ones require. Cross-country travel is also a great option for those who want to travel at their pace and see the country on their terms.

tips for breastfeeding and traveling

New Positions Could Come In Handy

When we are in the comfort of our own home it’s easy to snuggle up in the favorite chair and feed away, but public transportation is a whole different story. Airplanes are notoriously cramped, and unfortunately, they don’t give new mothers the benefit of a little extra legroom.

As such, the little bundle of joy might be squished or uncomfortable, to say nothing of mom! It makes sense to save ourselves some grief by trying out new positions before getting onto the plane or train. This way, new moms know what works for them and their babies, and positions can be tried out in the comfort of the home. It’s truly a smart strategy for anyone who is planning to hit the road.


Dress For Success

For logistical reasons, it makes sense to dress in clothes that will provide the baby with easy access to his or her food source. When traveling, wear flowy clothes and nursing bras that allow for some semblance of privacy along with ease of access. Some good options include larger shirts and sweaters with deep v-necks and button-down cardigans. It is also a good idea to bring along a scarf or nursing blanket for a little bit of privacy, in case one needs to stop at a rest place or public area to nurse.

Many people realize that nursing a baby is a natural act and would never dream of judging a mother for simply exercising her biological connection with a child, but some are still surprisingly judgemental. There are also plenty of moms out there who prefer to have a little bit more privacy while they are breastfeeding. Nobody knows what mood they will be in at any given time, so it is best to bring along a shawl, blanket or nursing cover just in case.

There is no reason why new mothers can’t see the world with their young children if they’d like to. Today, the planet is friendlier than ever towards nursing moms, and there are plenty of wonderful options out there for road trips, plane adventures, and boat trips.

As long as one plans ahead, there is absolutely no reason why breastfeeding or pumping on the road needs to be a chore, or why new moms and their babies need to be home bound.

14 Secrets to Influencing Gross Motor Skill Development

14 Secrets to Influencing Gross Motor Skill Development

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

If you are a parent with a baby that is more than a month old, you have probably heard about the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3).  This is a questionnaire that you will fill out every couple of months for your baby for the first five years, and it’s designed to screen for developmental delays.  The questions center around development in skills separated into 5 categories – communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social.  Each category contains 6 skills and asks you to rank each one on whether your child does it always, sometimes or not yet.  The score for each category is compared to what is considered average for a child of the same age.  It then is easy to tell if your child is at risk or falling behind in a certain category. 

While all the categories are important, this article answers the question “how to help baby develop gross motor skills” by focusing on activities that can be used to improve gross motor skill development in babies up to 18 months old.

14 Secrets to Influencing Gross Motor Skill Development

My son is one of those kids that is overly cautious and not into working any harder than necessary.  The result is that he has been behind in gross motor skill development pretty chronically for the first 1.5 years of his life despite being on track for the other 4 ASQ-3 categories. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some activities to incorporate to encourage the development of these important skills.  However, before you start, you will want to figure out what motivates your child.  For my son, food and car keys were the ultimate motivators.  Other items just didn’t hold enough appeal to get him to do things he didn’t want to.

Babies Not Yet Crawling

If your baby isn’t crawling yet, then focus on activities that build a strong motor skill base.

            Tummy Time

Tummy time is important from birth.  This is the first type of exercise baby will do start working on those motor skills.  If your baby hates tummy time, don’t be disheartened.  There are ways to do modified tummy time to get baby used to the idea.  Some ways to modify include using a Boppy pillow to prop baby’s chest up and laying on your back and putting baby on your chest.  These methods get baby off her back and used to being on her stomach.  However, it’s important to eventually progress to traditional tummy time for the full benefits.  You should aim for increasing amounts of tummy time (at least 30 to 60 minutes a day), but this can be broken down into sessions that are only a couple of minutes long.  Doing a minute or two of tummy time after every diaper change is a way to get in some good practice.


            Rolling

Rolling is one of the first major gross motor milestones.  Lots of tummy time helps encourage this skill, but once baby develops it, keep encouraging rolling.  Rolling is a great way for baby to start getting from point A to point B before crawling, and all that rolling helps further strengthen the abdominal muscles which are important for the upcoming gross motor milestones.

Baby rolling over to reach a toy is a great way to encourage motor skill development.

            Sitting

Baby will likely want to sit and look around well before she is actually able to stay upright on her own.  Encourage this by sitting baby on the floor between your legs.  Let her use your legs to help balance.  Slowly decrease the amount of support you provide and see how long she can sit before you need to help her rebalance.  At first this will be exhausting for baby but doing this consistently will quickly build up her stamina.

Baby sitting in a Bumbo seat to strengthen gross motor skills.

            Kneeling

Once baby has the core strength to roll over and stay sitting on his own, you can start encouraging him being on his knees.  There are a few ways to go about doing this.  An activity table is great because it’s low enough that baby can kneel and reach the buttons.  However, it’s too high to reach them while sitting.  Putting baby on his knees to balance against the table and play helps him get used to supporting his weight with his knees which is important for crawling. 

You can also help baby get into a crawling position and hold the hands and knees pose for a minute.  This can be done by helping to support baby’s legs in the crawling position and gradually decrease the support as baby gets stronger.

Baby kneeling by a play table helps get him ready to crawl.

            Jumperoos

Jumperoos can be fun for babies as they start to reach the point of having enough core strength to sit up.  These encourage putting weight on the legs and bending the knees to bounce.  However, keep in mind that while the legs get stronger, the support provided by the jumperoo is enough that core strength isn’t developed as much, so it’s important to encourage core strength development through other methods.

Note: Some babies are very interested and willing to get moving.  However, others are more reluctant and would prefer to have mom and dad (or older siblings) move them from point A to B.  Pay attention to your baby’s personality and know that you may have to let him struggle for a bit to learn that he is capable of moving himself.  With my son, he learned to roll, sit and stand while leaning against something.  However, he had no desire to move himself from laying to sitting or sitting to standing. 

A baby sitting in a Jumperoo and smiling.

Babies That Are Crawling (or close to it)

            Encourage Pulling To Stand

Before baby can walk, he has to be able to stand.  Some babies quickly figure out that they can get into a lot more trouble by pulling up on coffee tables and grabbing papers, cell phones or food.  However, if your child is more hesitant, pull out the super desirable object you identified at the beginning and place it on a low table.  Make sure your child is sitting near the table and knows the object is there. For some children that may be enough to entice them to stand.


Couch Climbing

If your baby isn’t willing to pull up on a coffee table, you may need to start with a lower object.  In this case, remove your couch cushion.  Sit baby on the floor by the cushion-less couch and use your tempting object to convince baby to pull up.  You may need to provide a little boost, and that’s okay.  Keep trying and each time provide a little less help.  Chances are good, baby will figure out he actually is capable of doing it himself. 

Once your child is pulling up, you can still use the cushion-less couch trick to teach baby to climb onto things.  A couch without a cushion is the perfect height for a new climber to gain some confidence.


            Playgrounds

Climbing is great for babies to continue developing their gross motor skills.  Playgrounds with play equipment involving steps, tunnels and slides are great for encouraging your child to explore, navigate different terrain and work on those climbing skills.  I suggest finding a playground that has separate play areas for little kids versus older kids.  This seems to keep a slower paced area that is safe for your little one to play without getting trampled by the bigger kids.  These little kid play areas are usually shorter which makes it easier for you to stay close and offer a helping hand while keeping your feet on the ground.

If you are struggling with bad weather, don’t forget to look for indoor playground options.  Many fast food restaurants and shopping malls have indoor play areas.  Many cities have indoor play centers of various designs as well.  These places can be great for getting energy out of a new mover on a rainy day.

Toddler playing at a playground.  Playgrounds are a great way to encourage gross motor skill development.

            Push Toys

Sometimes our kids are reluctant to walk because they lack confidence.  Push toys can be great for strengthening the walking muscles but still providing a secure, supportive feeling.  I really like this Melissa and Doug Alligator Push Toy as a starter push toy.  It’s solid and sturdy which provides a lot of support.  However, once walking with this got easy, a plastic push lawn mower was a good next step.  The plastic push toy wasn’t as stable, so it required more self-support from my son. 

I suggest incorporating a walk with the push toy into your daily routine.  We started walking down the street every day after I got home from work.  My son would push his toy down the sidewalk, and I would supervise and make sure he stayed on the sidewalk.  This helped him develop the necessary muscles while still feeling secure.  I found walking outside was more effective than inside because inside he kept running into things and would quickly get frustrated.


            Toys Requiring Hands-Free Standing

Toys that require your toddler to stand without holding own are great for distracting them enough that they will stand without support.  We got a plastic t-ball set that my son was intrigued by enough that he would stand and take an occasional step without any support. 


            Shopping Carts

This goes along with encouraging more walking.  Some stores have kid-sized carts that are just the right height.  However, if your local stores don’t have these tiny carts, kids can still help push the full-sized cart.  You will need to help, but pushing a big cart makes your toddler feel important and gets in valuable walking muscle exercise while you are shopping.


            Walking While Holding A Hand

Once our son would walk while holding someone’s hand, we started having him walk everywhere holding a hand.  When we went to the store, we would have him walk from the car into the store while holding our hands.  When we run errands, he spends a lot of time in a car seat, so this routine helps him get exercise while we get things done. 

We found that this, plus daily push toy walks and pushing the shopping carts really helped him get the confidence to take his first steps.


            Walking On Uneven Ground

Walking on surfaces that are completely (or almost) flat and hard is a great way to start.  However, to up the difficulty level for your little one that doesn’t want to let go of your hand, go for some uneven surfaces.  Walking through the grass or on the mulch at a playground is a great way to work on stabilizing muscles.


            Tempt the First Steps

Eventually, your little one will need to get brave and take the first unsupported steps.  You will start to notice when your child is ready to take the first steps and just needs to develop the confidence.  This is where you can pull out the shiny object you identified above.  Tempt your child with something they love but usually can’t play with, but only allow them to have it if they are standing unsupported.  You can also encourage them to step forward one or two steps to reach it.  Just make sure that you do provide the reward and let your child play with the object.

We did this with our son and car keys.  We went into the middle of the room and stood him up, then gave him the keys and let him stand on his own.  He was so entertained that he forgot that he wasn’t holding onto anything.  When he would realize and sit down, the keys went away, and we would start over.  We then started getting him to take one or two steps to get the keys.  Once we did that a couple of times, he suddenly realized he could walk and started walking everywhere.

Toddler standing up and looking in a wallet.

Did your child take off walking early or were they a late walker?  What worked for you to encourage gross motor skills?

14 Secrets to Influencing Gross Motor Skill Development

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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How To Manage Living Far From Family When You Have a Newborn

How To Manage Living Far From Family When You Have a Newborn

Depending on who you ask, it can be a blessing or a curse to live far from family when you have a baby.  I spent an entire post outlining the pros and cons of having a baby when you live far from family. However, it may be the situation you find yourself in.  Here are tips for labor, delivery and postpartum when you live far from your family.

How To Manage Living Far From Family When You Have a Newborn

You probably don’t need your family there while you are in the hospital.

Your due date is really just a guess on when your baby will be born.  In reality, it will likely fall somewhere in a 4 to 5-week range.  This can make it really hard for family to plan travel to be there precisely when you are in labor without risking missing the baby entirely. 

Also, while you are in the hospital, you have your husband to help and an entire team of nurses and doctors taking care of your every need.  We didn’t even change a diaper until we got home because the nurses did it every time.  Depending on if you have a natural birth or C-section and what complications occur, you will be kept in the hospital anywhere from 24 hours to 4 + days after giving birth.  There really isn’t much for your family to do other than be in a cramped room.  To solve this, ask your doctor how fast past your due date they will let you go prior to induction.  Have the first family visit take place a week after that date.  This will ensure that baby is here and you are home prior to having family come.


Take advantage of family visits. 

When you live far from family, they are likely planning to visit for a week or more at a time to make the trip worth it.  Take advantage of this to have round-the-clock help.  I wanted my mom to be the first to come visit, and my mother-in-law to be second.  Therefore, I had my mom come 2 weeks after my due date (based on the above formula).  She stayed for 2 weeks.  Then my mother-in-law came and stayed for a week.  During this time, I pumped enough to have a bottle prepared prior to bed each night.  Then our moms would get up with the baby for the 6am feeding.  They were already awake because of the time difference, and it gave us a solid 6 hours of sleep before I needed to be up for another feeding.  The result was we felt pretty human the entire first month.

photo of a grandma with her newborn grandson who is yawning

Practice going out while you have help. 

While you have family visiting, go out to eat, go to church, go to the mall, etc.  Use the extra set of hands to help while you are learning how to juggle a newborn and everything that goes with a baby.  Make sure to get all my tips for going out with a newborn.


Plan for time without family prior to going back to work. 

If you will be returning to work after having a baby, you will want a week or two right before you go back where you don’t have family visiting.  This gives you, your husband and your baby time to figure out a routine that will work.  Check out my other tips for returning to work after maternity leave to make your transition as smooth as possible.


Schedule family visits with a buffer in between. 

When our son was born, the day my mom left, we dropped her at the airport in the morning and picked my mother-in-law up a few hours later.  In hindsight, it really would have helped to have at least a 24-hour buffer to adjust.  I was still emotional from my mom leaving, and not mentally ready for another visitor that fast.  I also wanted time to just hold my son and let him sleep on me without having to share him with family.


Plan the next visit before the current one ends. 

With the emotions after birth, it can be difficult saying goodbye to family.  I found it was easier to know when we would see each other again before the current trip ended.  Sometimes this was our family visiting again, other times, we visited them, or sometimes we met somewhere in the middle for an extended weekend.


Estimate how much time your guests will want you to entertain them versus entertaining themselves or simply being happy to take care of the new baby. 

My mom was happy to go out and do things, but also brought work with her to occupy herself if the baby was asleep and we wanted to rest.  We had other family that wanted time to go do the tourist things in the area and were happy to do this on their own.  Figuring out what everyone wants helps to manage expectations.

photo of parents with grandparents and a baby with napa valley in the background.

Get involved with a church. 

This is a great way to meet like-minded people.  If you find a church full of other young parents, they can be great support for you as you navigate new parent life.


Final Thoughts

If you are pregnant and don’t live near family, there are many pros and cons.  However, it’s important to make the best of it and have a plan in place prior to giving birth.  Consider who will be coming to visit, how long they want to stay, and what order you want them to come in.

Pros and Cons of Having a Baby While Living Away From Family

Pros and Cons of Having a Baby While Living Away From Family

Maybe you love where you grew up and couldn’t imagine living far from the place you have always called home.  Maybe you are on the other end and spent high school counting down the years until you could escape to somewhere more exciting.  Either way, as a responsible adult you are now considering having kids and are wondering if you are better off raising your children near family or farther away. 

I’ve lived on the other side of the country from my family as well as my in-laws while having my first child.  Here are some things to consider about having kids while living far from family.

Pros and Cons of Having a Baby While Living Away From Family

I’m a positive person, so we will start off with the pros of living far from family.

Pros of Having a Baby While Living Away From Family


1. There is no pressure to allow family to be present at birth 

If you live a short drive from family, there is a good chance your mother, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, grandma, or anyone else you can think of may decide they are entitled to be present for the birth of your child.  You may not want an audience, but it can be really hard to tell the well-meaning family they aren’t invited.   If you live a plane-ride (or very long drive) away from the family, you won’t be able to predict exactly when you will go into labor, so they won’t be able to plan a visit without risking their stay ending before the baby is born.  It was really easy to have a labor, delivery and hospital stay without anyone except for my husband.  I was happy to show off our new baby once we got home, but the hospital stay was a whirlwind of recovering and figuring out breastfeeding.  I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else there.

Mom holding a newborn baby in the hospital.

2. You have more freedom to develop your own parenting style 

There are so many opinions on the “right” way to be a parent.  However, the right way for you is the way you and your husband decide to parent.  This should be a decision made based on your preferences and not on pressure from family.  Being far away means you don’t have family around offering their input as often.


3. You have more power over the visit schedule 

If you live near family, well-meaning family may feel entitled to drop by for a visit whenever the mood strikes them.  If they happen to be coming over to clean for you, then it may be welcome.  However, they likely aren’t planning on that.  If you live far from family, it requires planning visits ahead of time.  This allows you to make sure both families aren’t there at once (unless you approve it), and to have buffers between visitors if you desire. 


4. You and your husband learn to rely on each other 

If you have a great relationship with your mom, it may be really easy to get her help and input on every parenting question and call her for babysitting frequently.  However, it can be easy for you to rely more on family than your husband which can make it hard to form a parenting team.  Being far away decreases your ability to rely on family and allows for a stronger parenting team to be formed between you and your husband.


5. When family visits they stay with you 

This means that they are already planning to be present for those 2 am wakeups.  If there is a large time difference, you can utilize it to have family help with overnight feedings or rocking baby back to sleep.  We had almost four weeks of help between our mothers visiting right after our son was born.  During this time, I pumped enough to have a bottle prepared at bedtime each night.  Our mothers would get up with our son and give him a bottle for the 6 am feeding which gave my husband and me a six-hour stretch of sleep before I needed to be up for the next feeding.  The result is we actually felt pretty human during the first month.


6. Your child gets well-traveled at an early age

I believe helps make baby and the parents more adaptable to new situations.  My son went on 10 round-trip flights during his first year.  The first trip was stressful, but after that we got a system figured out and it wasn’t a big deal.  Here are all the tricks I learned for flying with a baby

Dad holding a baby on an airplane.

Cons of Having a Baby While Living Away From Family


1. If you want family present at birth, this can be hard to plan 

Often affordable plane tickets have to be purchased well in advance.  With a 4 to 5-week range around the due date, it’s difficult to pinpoint when people should come to visit. 


2. Family doesn’t get to visit as much 

For your family to visit the new baby, either they need to travel to you, or you need to travel to them.  Also, when they come, they usually stay with you which means extended time with family versus short visits.  Depending on your situation, ever-present family may be a major additional stress when you are already stressed with a newborn. 


3. Family visits can be difficult if you have parents that don’t travel or have health problems that make traveling difficult  

If you are in this situation and will have to be the one traveling, make sure to get all my tips for flying with a baby.  You can also use my Family Travel Planner to make the travel planning process much easier.


4. You might feel like you are missing out 

We lived a 5-hour plane flight from all of our family for almost 3 years.  The only times I really broke down because I didn’t have family nearby was when we found out we were having a boy and when my mom left after visiting right after my son was born.  These were times when I did really want to share them with my family, and I felt like a phone call or FaceTime just didn’t cut it.

A couple holding a baby boy balloon.

5. You don’t have as much help 

When you live near family, they are often happy to babysit or be an extra set of hands.  However, living far from them means that you don’t have these built-in, free babysitters.  Friends can be helpful, but you can only impose on them for free babysitting so much.  Living far away meant we couldn’t go to the movies without paying a babysitter or going when we had people visiting.  We made a point of taking our son out to restaurants, the store and the mall starting when he was only a week old.  Therefore, it became normal for him and us, so going out to eat or shopping with him in tow isn’t a big deal.  Definitely get my tips for going out with a newborn to make your life easier.


6. Holidays can be hard 

For holidays, you will likely be traveling back to family or spending them without family.  Either way it can be hard.  We traveled back to visit family.  Like I mentioned above, traveling itself wasn’t a big deal.  However, with Christmas, it was difficult having to consider luggage allowances and making sure our son didn’t get too many large or heavy gifts that we would need to figure out how to get home.

Baby in a car seat surrounded by luggage.
This was the amount of luggage that we traveled with when visiting family for two weeks over Christmas and New Years.

7. Guilt trips from family about living far away 

You may hear comments from family (likely grandparents) about how they don’t get to spend time with their grandchild because he lives so far away.  Even if you don’t hear these comments, you may feel guilty that your parents don’t get to spend much time with their grandchild.  This is likely to be more significant if your baby is the first grandchild. 


Final Thoughts

Do the pros of living far from family outweigh the cons?  That depends on your family situation.  For us, we made do and logged some serious frequent flier miles.  It was good for my husband and I to grow as a couple and figure out the whole “new parenting” thing.  However, we will now live driving distance to our families.  It’s not close enough that people can drop in unexpectedly, but it’s close enough we can fill an entire car for the holidays and not have to worry about how much baggage we are dragging along.  For us, I feel like that is a good compromise.

What do you think? Do the pros or the cons weigh heavier in your opinion? Let me know in the comments!

Pros and Cons of Having a Baby While Living Away From Family

Tips for Going Out with a Newborn

Tips for Going Out with a Newborn

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Tips for Going Out with a Newborn

Before becoming a mom, leaving the house to go to the store, or a restaurant or anywhere really was easy and took little thought or planning.  However, once you become a parent, leaving the house is a whole new level of difficulty. 

When my son was a newborn, leaving the house looked something like this:

  1. Nurse the baby
  2. Change a diaper and make sure clothing for everyone was weather appropriate
  3. Make sure diaper bag is fully stocked (don’t forget to grab my diaper bag packing list)
  4. Eat a snack/meal
  5. Nurse baby again
  6. Change diaper again
  7. Finally leave the house (~3 hours later)

Obviously, the amount of time it takes to prepare to leave the house can keep many new parents home bound.  However, getting out of the house as a new parent is essential for your sanity!

Unless you or your newborn has health issues or the weather is absolutely awful, I suggest starting to make short outings the first weeks after you come home from the hospital.  Here are my answers to common questions and tips for different activities that are completely doable with a newborn.

Where to Take a Newborn

Newborns are surprisingly portable.  Until about 4 months, they are able to sleep anywhere, and you can transport them both in and out of the car with a car seat and stroller travel system.  You can take a newborn most places that you would go anyway. 

It does take a little practice to juggle all the extra items you need to bring, and plan for feeding sessions. If you have family visiting, enlist help for your first few outings.  It’s great to have an extra set of hands and the person can spend time with you and the baby and no one is thinking about how messy the house is.

During my son’s first 2 months, we went to the grocery store, target, various restaurants, the mall, church, and wine tasting.  Enjoy the portability of your baby now because once they get older they become less portable and require more planning. Follow the tips below, and you can take your newborn out as part of your normal activities.

Taking a newborn out doesn't have too be extremely difficult.  You can do most activities with a newborn in tow.

Taking a Newborn Out Before 6 Weeks

Six weeks seems to be the magic number with babies, but things don’t really change that much at six weeks.  Your baby is still portable, and many children don’t get their first vaccinations until they are closer to 2 months.  The biggest thing that changed for us at six weeks was I went back to work (read more about that here and here).

The biggest concern with taking a very young baby out is that they will catch a virus.  Viruses that are minor annoyances for adults can result in severe illness in babies.  However, a few precautions can greatly decrease the chance of your baby catching something.

1. Don’t let others hold your baby

If someone asks to hold your baby, you are allowed to say no.  Exercise this right!  The less people that hold your baby, the less likely baby will get sick.  This also applies to letting people rub his hair, kiss him or touch his skin.

2. Utilize a car seat cover

Many respiratory viruses are passed through coughing and sneezing.  If you use a stretch car seat cover like this one, you can block respiratory particles from infecting your baby.  It also helps keep people from touching your baby and provides a dark, quiet area for sleeping.

3. Practice baby wearing

If you aren’t planning to carry the car seat with you once you get where you are going, then your best defense is baby wearing.  This keeps baby snug against you and protected from respiratory particles.  It also helps deter people from touching or wanting to hold your baby.


When can you take a newborn out for a walk?

You can take a walk with your newborn as soon as the weather cooperates.  You want to do your walk at a time of day where it isn’t super hot or super cold.  Also make sure to provide adequate warmth and/or sun protection.  Newborns have very fragile skin, so err on the side of too much sun protection in the form of a stroller shade, car seat shade, and/or car seat cover.  If the weather is okay taking the baby for a walk can be great for both of you, and you usually won’t have to fend off too many people.

The best time to take a newborn for a walk will vary by location.  You will want to decide based on the weather and what you feel like.  Chances are good your newborn will sleep for most of the walk anyway, so at this stage, you don’t need to worry about nap times.  Usually, earlier in the morning or early evening work well because the sun isn’t as bright as it is midday.  However, if the sun is out, you will still want to make sure baby is shaded.



When can I take my newborn to a restaurant?

You can take baby out to a restaurant as soon as you are ready to go out.  You will want to make sure your diaper bag is fully packed, so that you are prepared for any dirty diapers or feeding needs.  I found that taking the car seat into the restaurant is the best way to have a calm meal.  Infant car seats generally will fit into the booth and restaurants often have high chairs that when flipped over hold a car seat.


When can I take my newborn to church?

We took our son to church when he was 1 week old.  You will want to follow the tips above about keeping people away, so your baby doesn’t get sick, but otherwise, it’s pretty easy.  We took the car seat into the church and sat at the end of the pew so the car seat could be on the floor next to us.  This also allowed for a quick escape if necessary.  Just make sure you don’t pick a seat right next to a speaker. 

Many churches have a room for nursing mothers.  Scout out the location of this room when you arrive, so you are prepared if necessary.  Churches also usually have child care that extends to infants.  However, I would recommend keeping your baby with you for the first couple of months – usually they will sleep anyway.


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Can I take my newborn to a wedding or other family gathering?

Major family events are often ones you don’t want to miss, but your family and friends likely didn’t plan their special day around the age of your baby.  Therefore, you may find yourself needing to choose between taking your newborn or staying home.  My best friend got married when my son was 4 months old, so off to a wedding (on the other side of the country) we went.  Many of the principles from above apply here.  However, if it’s something that is going to have a DJ or other loud music, make sure to grab a pair of these baby headphones.  Without them loud noises can quickly overwhelm a newborn.  However, with the earmuffs, a party with flashing lights and dancing can be great fun for a baby.  My son loved dancing and looking at the lights with his headphones on.

Taking a newborn to a wedding with noise canceling baby headphones works well.
Photo taken by Josh + Jeanette

Final Thoughts on Leaving the House with a Newborn

Getting out of the house is good for the whole family, so you shouldn’t be scared to leave the house with a newborn.  Just make sure to follow these tips and plan short outings initially.  Pretty soon you will gain confidence and running errands or going places with your newborn won’t be a big deal at all.

Taking a baby out on an airplane doesn't have to be overwhelming.  This infant in a car seat looks very content in the window seat.

If you start getting really brave, you could fly with a newborn.  If you decide to brave that (we did when our son was 4 months old), make sure to read these Tips for Flying with a Baby.

Tips for Going Out with a Newborn

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Giving Medicine to a Baby 101: The Essential Guide

Giving Medicine to a Baby 101: The Essential Guide

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Giving Medicine to a Baby 101: The Essential Guide

We all have our go-to medications stocked in our medicine cabinets for the adult members of the family.  Maybe yours include Motrin, Tylenol, Triple Antibiotic Ointment, and/or allergy medications.  Most of us have a pretty good idea how to use these safely and can follow the directions on the bottle.  However, the game changes when we are talking about babies and toddlers.  They get the same ailments such as pain, fever, and allergies, but the directions on the packaging often don’t cover our littlest family members. Here is everything you need to know about giving medicine to a baby or toddler.

As a pharmacist, I wanted to provide answers to the most common questions parents ask. However, this information should not be taken as medical advice because I don’t know all the details of your child’s illness. 

Each situation is different, so it’s important that you use this information only as a guide and speak to your pharmacist and/or doctor about your child’s specific symptoms, and other characteristics.


When Should I Call the Doctor?

As a general rule of thumb, things are more severe the younger your baby is.  If you have a newborn, it’s a good idea to contact the nurse helpline or doctor whenever your baby is sick.  However, once your baby is a little older, you can treat low-grade fevers and minor colds at home as long as he’s generally healthy otherwise. 

Doctor’s offices will usually have a nurse helpline that you can contact with questions and they can help you determine if your baby needs to be seen.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution and call this number.  It’s free and the worse that happens is you sit on hold for a bit waiting for your call to be answered.


Reading Medication Labels

Over-the-counter medications or OTCs are medications that you can purchase without a prescription.  These are medications that the FDA has determined can be used safely based on the directions on the label. 

Drug Facts

The Drug Facts section on the label is where all the information you need to use the medication safely is located.  This is what the FDA has determined is necessary for you to know to use the medication without a doctor or pharmacist being involved.  It includes 7 sections which I will go over below.

Active Ingredient

The section states what ingredients are included in the medication with the intent of providing the intended action.  The drug is listed by its generic name and the amount and purpose of the medication are stated.  This section is how you can tell the difference between products with similar packaging and names. 

If you see ‘HPUS’ included in this section, it means that the medication is a homeopathic remedy.    Homeopathic remedies are beyond the scope of this article.  However, the basic principle is that illness is cured by giving tiny amounts of a substance that would be toxic in larger amounts.  Homeopathic remedy strength is indicated by HPUS and the less of a substance that the product contains the stronger it is.

Uses

This section lists the different symptoms the medication is likely to work for when dosed based on the information on the box.

Warnings

The warnings section is often the longest, but it’s a very important section.  Here you will find warnings about allergies, when to stop using and when to talk to a doctor or pharmacist prior to using the medication.

Directions

The directions are often what people jump to first, but the above sections are also important to read.  The directions state how much of the medication to take and how often to take it.  This is often divided into sections based on age.  However, you will find that many medications don’t providing dosing for children under 6 months or under 2 years.  This is because the FDA doesn’t think the medication can be safely used in this population without oversight from a doctor.

Other Information

This is other information that may be helpful such as how to store the medication.

Inactive Ingredients

These are the ingredients that aren’t expected to have beneficial effects.  These products are added to help form the tablet or liquid or to add color or flavor.  Medications all contain inactive ingredients in addition to the active one.  You would want to look at this section if your child has allergies as there may be an inactive ingredient that they are allergic to.  However, if you aren’t concerned about allergies, you can generally ignore this section.

Questions or Comments?

The final section is a phone number to contact the drug company if you have any questions or comments about the medication.


Giving Medications to a Baby

Medications for babies are in liquid form.  You will need a method to measure the dose and a method to administer it.  For measuring, you could use a syringe or measuring container.  Generally, medications will come with a plastic cup or syringe for measuring.  These are marked with milliliter or mL.  The directions on the packaging will tell you how many mL to give.  If the medication doesn’t have a measuring device or it gets lost, you can purchase one at most drug stores.

The measuring devices can also work to administer the medication. However, depending on the age of your child, a small cup may not work for giving the medication, but a syringe often works well for giving medication to a baby.  There are many handy devices available if you prefer.  These include pacifiers and tiny bottles that are designed for you to put the medication into them and then baby gets the medication while sucking.


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Giving medication can get challenging though, so parents have come up with some hacks for making the process easier.  For babies, a pacifier with an open back (like the hospital gives you) is about the right size for fitting a syringe into.  Cut a hole in the tip and while your baby is sucking on the pacifier, slowly squirt the medication out of the syringe.

For toddlers that have mastered drinking from a straw, cut the back out of an empty juice box.  Then put the medication in a small cup into the juice box for the toddler to drink from a straw.

What you don’t want to do is mix the medication into a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk or another liquid.  The reason is that often a child won’t drink the entire amount and then you don’t know how much medication was actually consumed.  Also, letting the medication sit in liquid for an extended period waiting for your child to drink it, can make the medication less effective.  If you do mix a medication into a drink, make sure that the entire drink is consumed in one sitting.

Antibiotic-Specific Tips

For antibiotics, you will need to make sure you shake the medication well before measuring out a dose.  Antibiotics come as suspensions which means that when they sit for an extended period, the medication will sink to the bottom of the bottle.  By shaking it, you make sure that the medication is evenly mixed before you measure a dose. 

Many liquid antibiotics need to be refrigerated and they are also only good for 10 to 14 days.  The pharmacist will tell you if it needs to be in the fridge and how long it’s good for.  It’s important that you keep antibiotics in the fridge if they require it.  This can also make it taste better which is a win. 

It’s important that your child take the entire course of antibiotics.  If the doctor prescribes it for 10 days, then you need to give it for 10 days.  Your child should start to feel better well before 10 days is up, but if you stop the medication too early, the infection can come back.  At the end of the prescribed treatment, you want to discard any leftover medication.  Antibiotics aren’t good for very long once they are mixed, so the medication won’t keep for future use.


Over-the-Counter (OTC) Baby Medicines

Baby Medicine for Fever

A fever is the body’s natural defense mechanism and indicates that there is some type of infection the body needs to fight.  Therefore, it isn’t completely bad.  If your baby has a mild fever and doesn’t appear to be too affected by it, then it may not need treated.  However, if a fever gets too high it can lead to seizures.  If your baby or toddler has a fever, it doesn’t hurt to contact the nurse hotline.  They may tell you it’s okay, but it never hurts to check since a fever does mean there is something else going on. 

If you need to treat the fever, the medications that could be used are Infant’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Infant Motrin (ibuprofen).  These medications are both available over the counter.  Make sure to read the directions on the product you are using because there can be slight differences. If you need help figuring out how much to give, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. 

When your baby has a fever, dehydration is more likely.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to have Pedialyte on hand to help encourage fluid intake.

Baby Medicine for Colds

There are a variety of readily available medications for adults with a cold.  However, these are not recommended for use in babies or toddlers.  If you see a product advertised as cold medicine for a baby or toddler, it’s likely a homeopathic remedy. 

Having a nose suctioning device like this or this is helpful to decrease congestion.  For a full list of what you can do to help your baby feel better, check out this post.

Baby Medicine for Allergies

This is another condition where the adult medications are usually not appropriate.  If your baby appears to have seasonal allergies, talk to your doctor about recommendations.  If you are concerned about food allergies, bring your concern up to your doctor prior to introducing solid foods.  Your doctor can recommend something to have on hand in case an allergic reaction occurs.  Benadryl is a common recommendation, but the dosing on the package only goes down to 2 years old.  Therefore, your doctor needs to tell you what dose to give.  It is worth noting that children can react to Benadryl differently than adults.  Adults will usually get sleepy from the medication, but children can actually become excited.  Therefore, this medication should never be used to help your child sleep.


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Baby Medicine Cabinet Essentials

When preparing for a baby, it’s a good idea to have certain medicine cabinet essentials on hand.  The following are the items I recommend having about home before you actually need them.


There are the tips straight from the pharmacist’s mouth.  As you can see, there are a lot of times when you will need to contact the doctor with regards to your sick baby.  You will eventually get a feel for what requires a call and what doesn’t.  I also strongly recommend asking your pharmacist for advice.  These tips are general information, but your local pharmacist can provide more specific information for your situation.

Giving Medicine to a Baby 101: The Essential Guide

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

20 Mom Hacks That Are Pure Genius

20 Mom Hacks That Are Pure Genius

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

20 Mom Hacks That Are Pure Genius

Being a mom is challenging, so as a survival instinct we find the easiest, most efficient way of doing things.  I want to save you the trouble of trial and error, so I’m going to share with you all the worthwhile hacks I’ve learned since becoming a mom.  Read on to learn how to hack mom life.

The Top 20 Hacks

1. Laundry Basket in the Tub

Get a normal, rectangular laundry basket and drill about six small holes in the corners.  Place this laundry basket in your bathtub.  When you bathe your older baby/toddler, the laundry basket gives them support with slates they can grip.  It also keeps the toys contained so that they don’t keep floating out of reach.

The holes drilled in the bottom helps facilitate the water draining out once the bath is over.


2. Bib Storage

Put a large command hook on the back of the high chair.  Use this hook to store bibs.  This frees up drawer storage space and makes sure that you always have a bib handy at meal time.

Bibs attached to the back of a high chair with a command hook.

3. Activity Board

Babies love to play with household items that you may not like them playing with.  Examples include phones, doorstops, lights, and buttons.  One way to satisfy your baby’s curiosity in a parent-approved way is to create a board that incorporates these ‘forbidden’ items.  We created one with doorstops (that don’t have caps that come off), push lights, a big metal hook, a tape measure, and a door lock.  Other things we may add in the future include an old telephone or remote, a magnetic section with large magnets and a curved pipe that a ball can roll through. 


4. The Perfect Storage Containers

Those drink mix packets that you can get at any store, come in plastic containers that are perfect for storage.  These containers fit inside the bottle pockets in diaper bags and are the exact size to fit graham crackers.  You can also store other snacks in them.

Graham crackers spilling out of a drink mix container.

5. Size Up on Diapers at Night

If your baby starts flooding diapers overnight, go up a size or two.  You can do this with normal diapers or use overnight diapers that are a size or two larger for extra leak protection for good sleepers.

Size 5 daytime and size 6 nighttime Huggies diapers.

6. Make Diaper Bag Stroller Straps that Actually Work

Sometimes diaper bags will come with stroller straps, but these seem to always be too short. I bought a hook to hang my bag on but it kept swinging all over the place. The solution that finally worked was to use a thin chain and clip to make hooks for the diaper bag.  These work so much better than the ones that came with my diaper bag.

Stroller handle with chain and clip attached.

7. Use Gallon Ziploc Bags for Everything

Gallon bags are amazing.  They are great to keep in your diaper bag for storing dirty diapers or dirty clothes.  You can also use them when packing.  We use gallon bags for each outfit complete with all accessories.


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8. Clip a Toy to Your Diaper Bag

Diaper bag space is at a premium, but it’s a good idea to always have a toy handy.  Get a toy with a clip or ring and hang it from the outside of your diaper bag. I like this one and this one. This way you always have one, but it doesn’t use up any precious space.


9. Add a Clip to Your Diaper Bag

As a mom you will learn to juggle a million things and keeping track of keys can be hard.  Put a carabinier clip on the outside of your diaper bag.  Then when you get out of the car, hook your key ring onto the clip.  That way your keys are readily accessible but secure. I use a clip with a locking mechanism so that my keys don’t accidentally fall off.


10. Warm Bottles in a Coffee Mug

When you are getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and need to warm up a bottle, you want it fast.  Keep a large coffee mug handy for this.  To warm a bottle just fill the mug 1/3 full of water, microwave for 30 seconds, and then place the bottle in the mug for a couple of minutes while you do a diaper change.  This will warm the milk without causing hot spots.


20 Mom Hacks That Are Pure Genius

11. Store Diaper Change Items in a Top Drawer

Instead of taking up space with a diaper change caddy, use the top dresser drawer to store all the items you need for a diaper change.  Plastic storage baskets are perfect for keeping this drawer organized. This is also helpful when your baby gets a little older and wants to get into everything that is accessible. If the diaper change things are stored inside a closed drawer, the temptation to get into them is removed.

Diaper changing items in baskets inside a drawer.

12. Roll Baby Clothes

Baby clothes are small, so you can fit a lot into a drawer.  However, when you start stacking them the ones on the top get worn and the bottom ones get outgrown without ever being worn.  By rolling clothes to store them, you can fill the drawer and still see everything that’s in there for ready access. Join my organization challenge where I explain exactly how I roll baby clothes to make sure I can see what’s on them.

Rolled baby clothes in a drawer.

13. Create a Dump Bucket

Babies that are just learning to sit-up don’t need fancy toys.  They can be easily entertained with some spoons or fun fabric.  Get a dollar store plastic container and fill it with dollar store kitchen items and other household items that are baby safe.  Babies love to dump the items out and play with them.  Get all the details on how I made one here.

Baby chewing on a plastic spoon surrounded by household items.

14. Use an Ottoman for Toy Storage

Ottomans are perfect for storing toys because they can also double as seating in your living room, look nice and still allow easy toy access.


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15. Roll a Spare Outfit for Your Diaper Bag

Use the rolling technique below to put together an entire spare outfit that only takes up a little space in the diaper bag. By rolling the entire outfit together, you have quick access to a full change of clothes in case of an accident while you are out.

Step by step visual on how to roll a diaper bag outfit.

16. Super Glue Bath Toys Before Use

Those bath toys that have holes to squirt water may be fun, but the inside gets moldy after only a few uses.  To prevent this, put super glue over the hole prior to the first use.  Your baby can still have fun playing with them, and you don’t have to worry about the inside filling with mold.


17. Remove a Couch Cushion to Help Baby Stand and Climb

When babies are learning to pull up to stand, they need something low but sturdy.  The couch with cushions is usually too high, but if you remove a cushion, it’s much lower.  You can then put a favorite toy or snack on the couch and encourage baby to pull up and get it. This also works to teach baby to climb onto things.


18. Decorate the Nursery with Stock Photos

You want to put together a cute nursery for your baby, but after a couple of years they will want a new theme, and this cycle will continue.  Instead of spending a lot of money on prints or painting or using decals on the walls, purchase some simple frames and get prints of stock photos.  These photos tie together a nice nursery theme but are inexpensive.  When it’s time for a new theme, just replace the photos. You can grab great stock photos at Pixabay.

Nursery with animal pictures in frames.

19. Use Expandable Legal Folders to Store Puzzles

Chunky board puzzles are great for babies and toddlers.  However, storing them can be hard.  They don’t have nice boxes like more advanced puzzles and the racks designed for storage take up prime floor space.  Instead of this, use expandable legal folders to store the puzzles.  They can then be placed upright in a decorative box.


20. Use the Baby Story App for Milestones Instead of Stickers

Everyone wants cute monthly pictures, but the stickers don’t stick well and after a couple of months, babies start pulling them off.  Instead of spending $12 on a pack of stickers, spend $6 to get full access to the Baby Story app.  You can use some of the features for free, but the full access gives you everything you could want.  This app provides a variety of monthly “sticker designs” as well as other fun designs and the ability to add text.  It’s really simple to use and lets you customize the color of everything.


There are the top 20 mom hacks that are worth your time.  Did I forget anything?  Let me know in the comments.

20 Mom Hacks That Are Pure Genius

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Starting Solid Food with Your Baby

Starting Solid Food with Your Baby

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Starting Solid Food with Your Baby

The 4 to 6-month mark is such an exciting time because you can start teaching your baby about solid food!  But it can also be nerve-racking as you worry about choking and wonder if your baby will have any food allergies.  Keep reading for information to help you introduce solid food to your baby with confidence and make eating fun.

When to Start Solids

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six month and that solids can be started at the 6-month mark.  However, there are many babies that aren’t exclusively breastfed during this time.  Babies receiving formula may still want to wait until the 6-month mark.

For my son, we ended up starting solids right at 4 months.  At that point, we couldn’t keep him full with only formula and he was showing the signs that he was ready to start solids.  This worked well for us; however, each baby is different.  Check with your doctor to see when it’s recommended to start solids.

Signs Baby is Ready to Try Solids

  • Tongue reflex is no longer pushing food right back out
  • Baby can sit up with minimal support
  • Baby is interested in mealtime (i.e. trying to grab your food)

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Baby-Led Weaning

Baby-led weaning is where you wait to start solids right at 6-months by offering soft finger foods. This means that you don’t need to buy special baby food because your baby can eat many of the same things you are eating.


First Foods

It used to be recommended to start with rice cereal followed by oatmeal.  These foods have a low potential of allergies, and they are relatively bland.  They can also be mixed with breast milk or formula.  Start with a lot of liquid and slowly increase the thickness as baby gets used to it.  This post has a lot of great tips for selecting baby cereal.

Warning: Never put cereal into your baby’s bottle because of the choking risk.  Even when very liquid, use a spoon. 

If you aren’t feeling the baby cereal, it’s now known that other foods can be appropriate.  Avocados, bananas and sweet potatoes all make good options for first foods.  Just follow the same principle and mix with breast milk or formula and slowly increase consistency as tolerated. 

Introducing Common Allergens

It used to be believed that you need to wait until your baby was at least a year old to introduce things like peanuts, eggs, and wheat.  However, if you don’t have any family history of food allergies, then it’s thought to be better to introduce these foods early.  Just keep in mind appropriate consistency.  Peanut butter can be too thick for baby for example.

baby in high chair with food on his face

Consistency

At first foods should be pureed to a drinkable consistency.  As baby gets used to it, you can slowly start thickening the food.  Some babies object to thicker textures, so take this progression slowly.  Once baby can start picking up food between the thumb and forefinger, you can start introducing bite-sized pieces of cooked veggies, pasta, etc.  A good principle is that pieces should be small and cooked enough that they can be easily squished between your fingers.  This means making veggies and pasta well-done. 


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Introducing New Food

It’s recommended that at first, you introduce one food no more often than every 3 days.  This gives you time to make sure your baby doesn’t have a reaction.  During this time, you want to feed the new food, but you can also offer foods that you have previously introduced. 

If your baby doesn’t like something, keep trying it.  It sometimes takes 10 or more times for a baby to decide he likes something.  The various flavors take some getting used to when all you’ve ever had is milk. Some foods that I found work well include zucchini, sweet potatoes, peaches, pears, plums, avocado, and cauliflower.

Baby in high chair eating broccoli

Foods NOT to Try During the First Year

Nuts, popcorn, raw veggies, whole grapes, and hotdogs aren’t recommended because of choking risk.  Grapes can be cut up and other berries like blueberries can be squished to reduce this risk.

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    Amount of Food

    When you are used to looking at adult serving sizes, it can be hard to gauge what an appropriate amount of food for a baby is.  At first, even the small containers of baby food will be too much for one sitting. 

    When feeding your baby, pay close attention to signs that your baby is full.  These signs include, covering the mouth, pushing food away, turning away, getting distracted, and spitting food out.  Signs that baby is still hungry include pulling the spoon to his mouth, focusing on you and the food, getting excited when you provide more food.  When you are feeding your baby, you don’t want to force food in after he’s full.  Once baby is able to feed himself, then it becomes easier to tell when he’s done. 

    Remember that most of your baby’s calories will still come from breast milk or formula for the first few months of solids. 

    For a helpful guide to daily servings, grab my baby meal planner here.


    Other Tips

    Baby Food Storage

    Once you have fed baby directly from a container, you should discard any remaining food.  Therefore, it’s wise to transfer food from its container into a bowl a little at a time.  If you do that, unused baby food can be stored in the fridge for about 24 hours. 

    Baby laughing in high chair with food on his face.

    Utensils

    Baby will not be able to pick up food until he develops the pincher grasp around 8 months.  Until this point, you will need to feed your baby.  Once he starts developing the pincher grasp, cheerios make a good option for practice. 

    Adult spoons will be too big, so make sure to have some silicon or plastic baby spoons on hand.  I find that these spoons work well at first because they are tiny on the end, but they have long handles which allows your baby to help guide the spoon.  However, once your baby starts to want to feed himself with the spoon, these larger ones work a little better.

    Another option is to use a fresh food feeder like this. It allows the baby to chew on foods without the risk of choking. I didn’t find a lot of success with these, but for tips from a mom that did have success, check out this post.

    Keep Meal Time Fun

    For the first few months, your baby will continue to get most nutrition from breast milk or formula.  You are offering solid foods to introduce the concept of foods and the art of eating.  Therefore, don’t worry about how much baby eats.  Likely only a tiny bit will be eaten at first, but this will increase over time.  Keep offering a variety of foods.


    Final Thoughts

    Don’t stress too much about starting solid foods.  Take your baby’s cues and ask your doctor if you have concerns.

    For tips on making homemade baby food and ideas of things that make good first foods, check out this post.

    Starting Solid Food with Your Baby

    Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

    How To Plan a First Birthday Party

    How To Plan a First Birthday Party
    How To Plan a First Birthday Party

    The first birthday is such an exciting time.  It means that your adorable, snuggly little baby is now a toddler, and it means you have successfully been a parent for an entire year.  This means it’s time for a celebration!

    Now the question, “How Do You Plan a First Birthday Party”?

    First, let’s address who this party is for.  Yes, the party is a first birthday party for your child.  However, your child isn’t going to remember the party and doesn’t care one way or another if you throw a big party.  The first birthday is really for the parents, and that’s perfectly okay. 

    I had no shame planning an elaborate first birthday party for my son.  It’s one of the few times I will get to throw him a birthday without him caring what the theme is and what we eat.  Keep reading for my tips on how to make the first birthday party a success.


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    1. Decide on a Theme

    You can go with anything because your baby is too little to care.  Pick something age-appropriate that you enjoy.  Some theme ideas include the number one, books, movies, Disney, trains, unicorns, and many others. We went with a storybook theme.

    Dr. Seuss birthday party invite.

    2. Choose an Ideal Time

    Think about what time of day your baby is happiest.  Is it in the morning?  If so, a breakfast party might be best.  Is it after the midday nap?  Then go for a late afternoon party.  You want the time of day where your baby is most likely to be well-rested, well-fed and happy.


    3. Pick a Date

    If your baby’s actual birthday is mid-week, consider having the party on a weekend to allow more people to attend.


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    4. Determine What You Will Do With Cards and Gifts

    When people come to a birthday party, they plan to bring a card and a gift.  This will result in a stack of toys and clothes and cards.  If you need those things for your baby, then that’s great.  If not, consider alternative options, and make your wishes clear on the invites.  For example, I really didn’t want a stack of cards, so I requested that in lieu of cards people bring a book with a note to my son written inside.  This built his library substantially and won’t just get tossed or thrown in a box like cards would. 

    If you don’t have space for a lot of gifts, suggest that people make a donation to your baby’s college fund instead of bringing a gift.  These donations are tax deductible and won’t add to the huge number of baby items you already have.

    6 science based baby board books

    5. Choose Food That Works for Adults and Your Baby

    The party will likely consist of a lot of adults, but you want food that your baby can eat as well.  You could even add some foods that fit your theme. We tied all the food into different picture books and had a mix of fun snacky foods and sandwiches.


    6. Keep the Smash Cake Basic

    The pictures of a baby covered in cake are absolutely adorable, so it stands to reason that you want to provide a cute smash cake that fits with the theme of your party.  This is fine but know that traditional frosting is a lot better for smashing than fondant.  My son had an adorable, themed smash cake with a fondant design.  The only problem was when he went to smash it, it just bounced because the fondant didn’t smash.  He grabbed a piece of fondant and chewed on the sugar and no interest in the rest of the cake.  At his second first birthday party, his cake had basic frosting and he had a lot for fun smashing it and making a mess.


    7. Keep Your Expectations In Line

    Baby is likely not going to get all that excited about opening presents.  Toys may result in some excitement, but if you open a toy for baby to play with right away, he likely won’t want to pay attention to any other presents.

    Baby sitting with present.

    8. Keep the Party Short

    A lot of people, food, decorations and gifts can be overly stimulating.  Even if well-rested, your baby will likely only be in the mood for a big party for an hour or two.

    Baby crying while sitting next to a cake.

    There you have my tips for planning a first birthday party.  These are all things I learned from experience, so I wanted to share them with you to help you avoid the same issues.

    Your turn – have you planned a first birthday party?  If so, what tips do you have?

    How To Plan a First Birthday Party
    How To Plan a First Birthday Party