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Even if you live in a house full of early birds, the chances of your morning running smoothly from wake up to out the door aren’t always guaranteed. However, you can do things to make sure the wee hours don’t have to be a lesson in chaos. Scroll down for 12 things you can do to make sure everyone gets out of the house on time.

photo: iStock

1. Make sure the kids get enough sleep. Simple fact—kids who don't get the right amount of sleep aren't going to be thrilled when the light pops on in the morning. Check out this handy chart from the Sleep Foundation to see how much shut-eye your little needs on a nightly basis.

2. Prep backpacks the night before. Nothing beats the tried and true method of getting homework done and in the pack the night before. It means one less thing to do the next morning, and when everyone’s in high gear, it helps preserve the flow—and your sanity. 

3. Wake up at the same time every day. Who isn't tempted to hit the snooze button once (or twice)? The best morning people wake up at the same time every day so your internal body clock knows exactly when it's time to rise and shine. Even if you love sleeping in on the weekends, your best chance for weekday morning success is rising at the same time every day.

4. Let the light shine in. Once the alarm goes off, open the window shades and welcome the morning sun. Our bodies wake faster in the light rather than dark. Have your kiddos open their blinds or curtains as soon as they wake up. If you're awake before the sun isn't quite ready to come up, hop out of bed and turn on the light.

5. Start with a power jam. There’s something inspirational about theme songs. Whether it's their current fave or a classic like Eye of the Tiger, simply blast it at o-seven-early to rally the troops. Use the same song every day or make a playlist to rotate favorites throughout the week. Let’s get this a.m. party started!

photo: iStock

6. Set out clothes the night before. The last thing you need in the morning is your kid spending an enormous amount of time choosing between polka dots and stripes. Add this task to your bedtime checklist, and you'll save yourself the style struggle in the a.m.

7. Take up a collection. Every parent is familiar with those last-minute necessities that always slow kids down when you’re trying to shuffle them out the door. Shoes, jackets, backpacks … the items that often take a search party to locate. Collect them all in cubbies, baskets, bins or lockers kept right by the door. They’ll be the last things the kidlets grab before it’s off to school!

8. Eat in the car. Seriously. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But we don't always have time to get something nutritious in, especially if your kiddo is slow to rise or doesn't have time to finish their breakfast before the bus comes. The solution? An on-the-go snack with lots of staying power.

9. Have a posted morning routine and schedule. Kiddos (and adults) work best if they know what's expected of them. Post a morning routine poster on the refrigerator, or hang a chore chart on the kitchen wall. Even if the routine contains simple steps like make your bed, brush teeth and wash your face, the act of checking the chart and crossing off the items helps every family member know what's expected of them and keeps the morning on track.

10. Make morning time electronics-free. We all know phones and televisions are distracting. Keeping the diversions to a minimum will help everyone stay focused on the tasks at hand and keep the morning focused on getting ready and out the door. And yes, parents, we're talking about you too! Put the phone away until the morning hours have come and gone.

11. Recruit the kids. Have you ever noticed how younger kids seem to be in awe of the big kids? Use that to your advantage. Find a responsible older child to be your kid’s morning buddy and hire them to wait with your child at the bus or walk them to school in the morning. It means more time for you and your kid will be delighted. Big kids for the win!

12. Give them five. A familiar concept from elementary classrooms, Give Me Five takes five simple tasks and associates each with a finger. It’s as easy as turning Thumbkin into the “get dressed” reminder and Mr. Pointer into “eat breakfast.“ By the time it’s Little Pinky’s turn, your mini-me should be ready to board the bus. Carry the theme through with a high five after each completed task and it’ll be smooth sailing for everyone!

—Leah Singer with Heather Dixon

 

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School mornings can be a busy and sometimes stressful time when your kids are little. But as they get older, there’s a whole bunch of things they can be doing on their own to help out! Not only does it make your morning run a little smoother, but it also helps kids develop necessary life skills, gain confidence and become well-rounded, competent adults. Read on for a list of things they can definitely handle on their own each school day by the time they’re 10.

photo: iStock

1. Get out of bed on their own. When they’re babies, going in to get your kids out of the crib and up for the day is a sweet moment. But if you’re still going in and waking up your kid long after the wee baby stage, you may want to pass that task over to them. They can—and should be able to—get themselves up for school independently. Every day. And if they’re late? It’s not your fault, mom.

2. Get dressed. This sounds pretty obvious, but getting dressed with zero micromanaging from you is key. It may be tempting to check and see if your kids remembered to put on underwear, or if their shirts and pants match, but this is another skill they can totally master on their own. Besides—letting them express themselves with their wardrobe is fun!

3. Make their breakfast. Again, it sounds like an easy task. But encouraging your little scholars to make healthy choices and take control of their breakfast from a young age is the best way to help them eat well—plus it frees up your morning!

4. Make their own lunch—or at least help. Younger ones (like kindergarten-aged kids) may need some help with this. But for the most part, getting your kid involved in choosing and making their own lunch means they’ll likely eat the entire thing! It’s also a great opportunity to teach them about balanced diets.

5. Tidy up their own mess. So they’ve made breakfast and packed their lunch, and now there are dishes everywhere! Kids need to know they need to tidy up after themselves as well. This is great for helping them develop important life skills.

photo: iStock

6. Pack their school bag. Kids will sometimes tell their teachers “Oh, my mom forgot to pack <insert various items here> in my backpack today.” And teachers generally respond with “Did your mom forget it? Or did you?” Gotcha, kid! If they need to remember something, they need to put it in their bag themselves.

7. Keep track of their library books/homework, etc. If it’s library day and suddenly your kid's book is missing, it’s not your job to find it. They’re definitely old enough by now to keep track of all their own things—including where they left their homework.

8. Decide what outerwear they’ll need that day. Arguments over appropriate footwear and outerwear for all types of temperatures are never fun. Let your kids decide if they need that spare pair of mittens in the winter. One cold, wet, miserable day without them, and they’ll likely make good decisions!

9. Brush their teeth. Despite needing a billion and one reminders when they’re little, as they get older, kids should really be able to remember to brush their teeth—and do it properly—before each school day.

10. Get out the door on time. Getting out the door seems to be one of the toughest tasks when the kids are really young. But as they get older, this is another task they should be able to handle themselves. It’s really all about raising our kids to be competent adults one day—and that means that they’re going to have to arrive at places on time.

—Heather Dixon

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Embarking on a long road trip with little ones can make even the most seasoned parents nervous. But having fun and keeping everyone entertained (without plugging in) is easier than you think. Here are 22 boredom-busting activities to ensure backseat moaning and groaning is kept at bay. Screen-free fun for the win!

 

photo: iStock

1. Plan it out. Before hitting the road, catalog the kitschy, the weird, the wonderful sights to see along the route. World’s largest ball of twine, anyone? Wall Drug pit stop? You bet! Then, make sure to stop and gawk a while so the kids can stretch their legs and you can grab a few family selfies to post. Find memorable roadside attractions that made our list or choose your own landmarks.

2. Keep little hands busy. A toddler's hands are best kept busy between those hypnotic highway naps. A large plastic yogurt container with a rectangle cut out of the top combined with a Tupperware full of colorful pom-poms—little hands love to stuff fuzzy balls into the container. Or, try threading oversized buttons onto a ribbon when the second wind hits.

3. Map out your trip. Pick up a few of the classic, old-school paper maps (one for each kid) and let them mark it up, highlight routes, check off milestones—whatever they’re interested in—as you go along your trip. It’s a great way to get them involved in the journey, instead of just focusing on the destination.

4. Play 20 Questions.
This classic game is easy even for your tiniest passenger. Make sure the answers are only yes or no and keep the answer simple for toddlers (in fact, give them a hint ahead of time: family pet, relative, favorite toy, etc.).

5. Pack a building kit. Building toys like LEGO are always an awesome and fun way to keep kids happily busy. But on road trips? That can be a challenge. This little container not only has a small drawer for important bricks, but it also has a handle and a building plate on top, which is ideal for car or plane travel. Buy it here.

6. Dress up dolls. Paper dolls sure have come a long way, baby. But what hasn’t changed is the way they engage the imagination over and over again. That’s why we love them for travel. Usborne Books makes a wide variety so everyone in the car can play.

7. Fold paper. Hit the craft store before hitting the road to snatch a pack of origami paper for the six and up gang. Make sure you have a flat surface, and you’ll be swimming in Chinese stars, fortune tellers and pirate hats before you’re even out of town!

8. Bring travel games and toys.
When it comes to the toys you'll bring along for the journey, there are a ton of fun classic and new options to choose from, like marble runs, magnet learning letters and more. See our favorites by clicking here.

9. Let them decide. Kids love having choices and being involved in decisions. Give them an hour or so out of each day of your road trip and let them dictate where you stop and what you do (with certain limits, of course). It may mean taking a whole bunch of extra stops, but it’ll be worth it to keep the peace. Plus—sometimes it’s just fun to say yes a lot more than you say no.

10. Stick it up. When you see windows, think blank canvas for your littlest road trippers. Dollar Store gel clings and window markers work great when the only view around is farmland and open country. You can even break out a pack of removable stickers to kick it up a notch if you’re feeling brave.

11. Make them work. Okay, so maybe not work, but put them into action with a scavenger hunt—like this easy printable one from Schooling a Monkey. It’s a fun way to keep kids busy searching for water towers, purple cars, a flock of birds—you name it! Grab stickers to check off the squares as you go, then sit back and watch how excited your kids get when they spot things like farms and traffic signs.

12. Play the counting game.
From big rigs to farms or flags, there's plenty of things you can count on while driving. Let your kid decide, and you can even make it harder by narrowing the category (red cars instead of any car!).

photo: iStock

13. Play classic road trip games. Three words: License Plate Game. Bring this vintage fave back into fashion with your mini crew. Find plates from all 50 states (C’mon Alaska and Hawaii!) or modify it into an alphabet game starting from A to Z, using the plates you pass along the interstate. See our other favorites here

14. Tell a tale. Spin a yarn to rival Homer’s Odyssey by creating an epic story-in-the-round with your little literati. One person begins the story (think once upon a time or in a galaxy far, far away…) and takes it to a cliffhanger moment (gasp!) before passing it to the next bard of the car. Keep it going as long as you can. Imaginations, engage!

15. Play with puzzles. These super cute magnetic wooden blocks from Tegu help pass the miles for the preschool bunch. Plus, they win the road trip trifecta. Easy to pack? Of course. Great for open-ended play? You bet. Tons of fun in a small space? Check!

photo: iStock

16. Get crafty. Make your preschool teacher proud and pull out felt boards for your journey. These individual boards (look for them at your local craft store or indie toy shop) lend themselves well to car travel. Scenes can be continually recreated and the felt sticks to itself, but nothing else.

17. Listen up. There’s no better time to sit back and get comfy for some good old, mesmerizing story-telling than on a long road trip. Queue up a few great audiobooks beforehand. Or, lend an ear to a few awesome (and kid-oriented) family podcasts. Check out the newest family podcasts before you head out on the highway. With a mix of something for everyone, the entire family can get in on the fun!

18. Go old school. A good retro road trip deserves good retro toys. Thank goodness so many are making a comeback. Etch-a-Sketch equals mess-free drawing (and a whole slew of questions about how it works) for the older bunch, and a View Finder takes the edge off for the kids who want to watch something.

19. Start clicking. Unearth grandpa’s old Polaroid camera or get a few disposable ones before the trip. Have your kids snap pictures when the mood strikes. From the car, at a rest stop, when there are just 10 miles to go. Then, use these photographic masterpieces to create a journal of the trip when you return.

20. Hide trinkets. Set up your own Hidden Object game around the car before heading out. Place little trinkets (think leftover plastic spiders from Halloween, colorful paper clips, vintage buttons) in plain view around the car. Then when your road trippers are getting antsy, challenge them to see how many they can find.

21. Tell more stories. Get inspired to tell tales along the road by using story blocks. Make your own ahead of time or grab an adorable set, like these wooden story blocks from HABA. What you do from there is as open as the road. Pick them randomly from the tray they come in and let fate determine the direction of your story, or let the munchkins lay them out first and create a story from there.

22. Hand out rewards. Inject a little motivation into the trip with a prize box. Try playing the quiet game if things get too loud. Or offer a dip into the prize box if they can make it 10 more miles without a squabble. Prizes can be simple like getting to pick the next song or choosing the next activity, or you can stock up on a few dollar store items before heading out of town.

 

—Allison Sutcliffe & Heather Dixon

Featured image: iStock 

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Best Holiday Books for Babies & Toddlers

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Reading these books with your child will get both of you to get into the holiday spirit. Whether you want to relive a holiday classic (like The Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas) or find a new festive read, you’ll find lots of great options in our favorite Hanukkah and Christmas books for babies and toddlers.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry

Join Little Bear in smelling the wonderful smells associated with Christmas in this sweet, scented storybook. As you scratch and sniff apple pie, Christmas trees, hot chocolate and more, you and your child will share the Bear family's excitement about the upcoming holiday.

Available at amazon.com, $8.89.

Baby's First Hanukkah by DK Children

Show a child the magic of Hanukkah traditions and festivities with this sturdy board book designed with rounded corners and a padded cover for safety. Using real-life photos and simple language, this book shares the miracle of the oil, the lighting of menorah candles, the dreidel game, and the yummy treats of the holiday, from chocolate coins to latkes.

Available at dk.com, $5.99.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

Bear’s friends are determined to keep him from hibernating through the Christmas festivities this year. Mouse, Raven, Badger and more favorite characters from this book series take Bear to find a Christmas tree, help him decorate for the holidays, and enjoy spending time together. There’s even a visit from a certain special guest in a red suit.

Available at amazon.com, $7.44.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Is there anything more exciting for a child than being welcomed aboard a train heading to the North Pole? We love this classic story that takes you on a mysterious and magical trip to the north. It’s a beautiful book for the holidays and sure to be a favorite among everyone in your home.

The 30th anniversary edition is available on amazon.com, $7.89.

Jonny Lambert's Ten Little Reindeer

Renowned artist Jonny Lambert lends his engaging style to this holiday-themed counting book. Count from ten reindeer down to one and then back to ten again by lifting the flaps to see the reindeer checking gifts, powering Santa's sleigh and having lots of fun along the way. The flaps and pages are sturdy for small hands and help kids develop fine motor skills, while the counting rhyme helps with number skills and language acquisition.

Available at dk.com, $12.99.

Pete the Cat's 12 Groovy Days of Christmas by Kimberly & James Dean

Pete the Cat is a very groovy guy who goes on lots of adventures, making friends and learning new things along the way. And he’s at it again in this holiday story, rockin’ around while he counts down the days until Christmas. Kids will love the fun rhyming and silly twist on the classic Christmas carol—and you’ll love their giggles.

Available at amazon.com, $5.84.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

It just doesn’t feel like the holidays without the Grinch! This Christmas classic is fun and heartwarming in pure Dr. Seuss style for you and your little Whos. It’s as much a part of the season as candy canes and mistletoe and brings with it a heartwarming message about the Christmas spirit.

Available at amazon.com, $7.64.

D Is for Dreidel by Greg Paprocki

With a retro-cool illustration for each letter of the alphabet and Hanukkah-themed items such as latkes, the menorah, and dreidels, this book is a fantastic and fun way to introduce your little ones to Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights.

Available at babylit.com, $9.99.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

Eric Carle's unique style in bookslike The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?is well known and well loved by little ones. Dream Snow has the same gorgeous illustrations and beautiful language, but with a holiday twist. In this story, an old farmer settles down for a nap on December 24th and dreams about a snowstorm. It’s available in board book format with lift-the-flap reveals or in hardcover with glossy flaps and music at the end.

Available at amazon.com, $15.69.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Reading this whimsical holiday poem by Clement Clarke Moore is a time-honored tradition in many families.  It's widely available and has been since it was first published in 1823! This oversized heirloom edition features a four-page gatefold and beautiful illustrations.

Available at amazon.com, $12.23.

Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer

Olivia is one adorable little piglet who is pretty excited for Christmas. In this story, Olivia is busy with all things holiday—helping set up the tree, hanging stockings and watching her mom make dinner. The cute story and beautiful illustrations make this board book a great holiday tale for little ones.

Available at amazon.com, $7.74.

Elmo's Little Dreidel by Naomi Kleinberg

Okay, this is cute. Elmo wants to know what a dreidel is, so he finds out by celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with friends. From learning Hanukkah songs to lighting the menorah, this book uses a classic and well-loved character to introduce toddlers to the traditions of the Jewish Festival of Lights.

Available at amazon.com, $5.99.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

The Llama Llama series of books is well-loved for good reason. The rhyming language and the super-cute story with an even cuter main character make all the Llama Llama stories both fun to read and listen to. In this Christmas tale, Llama Llama learns a heartwarming lesson just in time for the holidays.

Available at amazon.com, $7.67.

Construction Site on Christmas Night by Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford

If you have little ones who love Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Mighty, Mighty, Construction Site, this holiday book will bring them just as much construction joy! Characters like Excavator, Bulldozer, Crane, Dump Truck and Cement Mixer are sweet, and the illustrations are vibrant. Definitely a fun read for you and your child.

Available at amazon.com, $8.49.

Heather Dixon & Eva Ingvarson Cerise

featured image: iStock

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The Basics of Brushing Baby’s Teeth & Gums

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Think it’s too early to brush baby’s teeth? Think again. Even before the first tooth breaks through, it’s a good idea to establish oral hygiene habits. If your little one is used to teeth-brushing as a part of the daily routine, you may have fewer battles later on. If you’re not sure when or how to get started, here are helpful tips on brushing your baby’s adorable little pearly whites.

photo: grabease; the Double Sided Toothbrush

1. Start before baby’s teeth come in.
Keeping your baby’s mouth clean even before the first little tooth pops through is an important beginning step. Wiping gums after feedings will help to remove surface bacteria. To do this, wrap a clean, wet washcloth or a piece of clean gauze around your finger and wipe those toothless gums.

You can also try brushes designed for gums, like The RaZ-Berry Baby Toothbrush or the adorable finger-puppet brushes The Brushies.

photo: RADIUS

2. Choose the right toothbrush.
Once babies have teeth, it’s time to introduce a toothbrush. You’ll want to look for one with soft bristles, a small head and a large handle that little hands can holdand you’ll want to replace it every three months or so.

The Double Sided Toothbrush from grabease (pictured at top; for kids 6+ months) has a tapered brush head, a wide handle for little hands to grip, and bristles on two sides to make it easier and faster to get those teeth brushed. The handle sports a choke protection barrier for safety, so your little one can safely practice brushing.

The Pure Brush from RADIUS (pictured above; for kids 6-18 months) has a small, cornerless oval brush head that’s designed for babies’ mouths, with soft bristles. The handle is tapered to fit in baby’s hand, and the entire brush is free of BPAs, synthetic dyes and harmful chemicals.

3. Help them out.
Since baby’s fine motor skills aren’t fully developed yet, it’s best if you brush the teeth. Since that doesn’t always go as smoothly as we’d like, take a “Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) turn, and then your turn” approach. Continue to supervise the process until your child can rinse and spit without help.

photo: jennyfriedrichs via Pixabay

4. Talk to your dentist about toothpaste.
It’s a question many parents wonder about: Should I use a flouride or flouride-free toothpaste? The answer depends on many factors, including whether your water is flouridated, so your best bet is to ask your pediatric dentist. Whichever you choose, experts recommend brushing with toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.

5. Take your baby to the dentist.
The American Dental Association recommends that you take your baby to the dentist for their initial visit no later than their first birthday. However, you may want to ask your pediatrician’s opinion.

You can choose a pediatric dentist or kid-friendly family dentist to make the experience more comfortable for your little one. Some are equipped with TVs or colorful art and give kids treats. Since baby teeth are important because they hold the spot for permanent teeth, be sure to take care of them by scheduling regular visits.

Heather Dixon & Eva Ingvarson Cerise

 

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10 Ways to Achieve a Work-Life Balance as a New Mom

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Whether you’re full-time momming or work out of the home, there’s something we can all use as new moms: balance. The best way to achieve it? It all comes down to time. Here are 10 great ways for you to get more time back in your day so you’ll achieve that illustrious, sought-after work-life balance we all dream about.

photo: Derek Thomson via Unsplash

1. Get into meal prep & make-ahead meals.

Planning and prepping is one of the best ways to save yourself some time in the long run. Plan out your meals for a week—including lunches if you can—and you’ll spend less time wondering what to make, trying to find the right ingredients or running to the grocery store for key ingredients. If you have school lunches to make for older siblings, pre-make foods that can be frozen and taken out of the freezer to pop into lunches the morning of. They’ll thaw out by the time lunch rolls around! Here are some great make-ahead meal ideas to get you started.

2. Have a packed diaper bag ready to go at all times.

Another great time-saver is packing up all your essentials—diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, snacks and whatever else you need regularly—and keeping it in a diaper bag, ready to go at a moment’s notice. This helps save time scrambling for everything when you have to get out the door fast.

3. Do a mom/childcare swap.

Find a fellow mama you trust and offer to take care of her child for a few hours once a week, and then swap with her. Your child will have a playdate friend once a week, and you’ll get a few hours to yourself that you can count on and plan for. What you do with that time (catch up on work or emails, get some “me time,” clean, etc.) is totally up to you!

4. Simplify your mornings.

Mornings can be one of the most hectic parts of the day. Try doing the bulk of your prep the night before—get school or daycare bags packed and ready to go (this is where the packed diaper bag also comes in handy!), have lunches made, and prep whatever you’ll need for your own appointments or activities.

5. Keep a family calendar.

With all the things going on in your life, you need to keep track of it each day (maybe even each hour!). If you’re a fan of seeing everything set out in front of you, get an old-school calendar or planner and write it all out. Or, keep a family calendar on your phone and share it with your partner. Either way, be sure to include every detail, appointment, activity, and plan.

photo: neildodhia via Pixabay

6. Start a family night tradition.

When you do have some time outside of work or after all the regular household and child duties, it’s time to have some fun! Set up a family tradition that you do weekly or monthly. Whether it’s movie night or game night or dining out at your favorite family restaurant, just make it all about you and your family and good old quality time.

7. Work out with your wee one.

A great way to feel more balance and calm in your life is to get in a workout. Do it with your little one instead of trying to find time to sneak out. Walking, jogging, stroller fitness classes and mom & me classes are all great ways to exercise while spending fun time with your little buddy.

8. Divide & conquer.

Splitting up the household and baby-care duties between you and your partner is another important way to give yourself more time and balance in your hectic life. Make a plan or schedule it out based on what you’re good at or interested in. If you loathe cooking but don’t mind laundry that much, offer to divide it up that way.

9. Turn off notifications at night.

There’s something about always being on that’s draining. When you’re home with your family, make it all about family. Turn off your notifications, or put your phone on silent and tuck it away for the evening. You’d be amazed at how much quality time you have when you’re not distracted by your phone.

10. Carve out time for yourself.

Another great way to feel balanced is to give yourself a little time to feel human again. Lose yourself in a book before bedtime, treat yourself to a spa day, make time for a hobby, or meet up with a friend for a coffee date. It can be as small or as elaborate and planned out as you need. The important thing is to take care of yourself.

Heather Dixon

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Baby Sleep Success

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There’s no shortage of information out there on the topic of getting your baby to sleep, because – let’s face it – being sleep deprived is not fun. From sleeping through the night to nap routines, schedules and even self-soothing, there’s a lot to know about sleep when it comes to your baby. To help you wade through a bit of the confusion (and avoid that overwhelmed new parent feeling), here are a few do’s and don’ts of baby sleep that we’ve found helpful.

seth-baur-via-flickrPhoto: Seth Baur via Flickr

Do: Let them sleep as much as they want for the first 3-4 months. Really.
When babies are newborns, their circadian rhythms aren’t fully developed. They sleep a LOT (around 16-20 hours a day!) – but in an irregular pattern. That means it’s pretty tough to get your baby on any kind of routine or schedule. So try to cut yourself a little slack and don’t obsess about sleep times and bedtime routines and all that just yet. Let your wee newborn sleep as much as they want, whenever they want, for the first 4 months or so. It may mean some rough patches with days and nights mixed up – but in the end, it really pays off to let them sleep.

Do: Set up a consistent place for them to sleep.
Once you and your baby are ready for a bit of a routine and schedule, setting up a consistent place for them to sleep is definitely key. Sure, it’s great to let them sleep on you while you’re watching TV, or in the swing, or wherever they want. But once they get past that itty-bitty newborn phase, having them go to sleep in the same place consistently will help them associate their sleep environment with bedtime – and you’ll all be getting the Z’s you need! Try setting up a room with a few safe sleep essentials essentials like a crib, blackout shades or blinds for a darkened room and a white noise machine. And put them to bed there regularly for naps and at nighttime.

Don’t: Keep them up late in order to try and get them to sleep in.
It just doesn’t work. We’ve tried. When babies are tired, they need to go to sleep because, more often than not, they’re going to wake up at the same time every day. It’s got something to do with their little internal clocks. If you keep them up late in hopes of a longer sleep-in, you’ll likely just end up with an overtired and grumpy baby. Not fun for anyone.

scott-via-flickrPhoto: Scott via Flickr

Don’t: Ignore tired/sleepy cues.
If your baby is rubbing his eyes or yawning, that’s usually your first sign that it’s time to get him off to bed. If they’re getting whiny or cranky, that’s another sure sign. Once you start noticing the things your baby does when he’s tired, try your best to get them to bed as soon as possible to avoid an overtired or overstimulated little one. There’s nothing worse than missing a tired baby’s window!

Do: Develop a bedtime routine.
It may seem very minor, but wind-down time right before bed is key for babies. Your bedtime routine can be as simple as a bath, a cuddle and a story, then off to bed. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent so that your baby knows it’s time to relax and drift off to dreamland.

Do: Use that routine at nap time, too.
Naps can be tricky because babies and kids seem to hate them, parents love them – and everyone needs them! So, if there’s anything that can be done to help encourage your baby to nap, we’re all for it. Take a few key things you do before bed every night and try your best to do those same things consistently at nap time. Anything they can associate with sleep will make it easier on you and your baby.

Don’t: Rush in the second your baby makes a little noise.
Babies tend to make a lot of noise when they sleep. But just because they’re fussing a little, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to get up. Even though it’s pretty much a burning instinct within us to pick our baby up as soon as she cries, try stopping and waiting and listening to your baby before running into their room to get her up. She may be trying to self-soothe. You’ll likely know the difference between a really upset baby and one who’s just fussing a little. Trying your best to let her practice falling back asleep on her own is a huge help in the long run.

mother-elzambo51-via-pixabayPhoto: elzambo51 via pixabay 

Do: Whatever works for you.
You can try following every sleep tip and trick and schedule and philosophy under the sun when it comes to sleep. In the end, you’ll find that whatever works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for you and your family. So go ahead and read as much as you can, gather all the advice from friends and family – we really do believe that knowledge is power. But at the end of the day, you decide what works for you and your baby. And that’s all that matters.

What’s your key to baby sleep success? Share your secrets in a comment.

–Heather Dixon

featured image: smpratt90 via Pixabay

9 Summer Essentials Every New Mom Should Carry

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It’s warm and you’re ready to get outside and play. Up your outing with these stylish and practical products that do everything from keeping your babes cool to protecting them from the sun. Scroll down to see our sunny-weather picks that’ll truly make your summer.

1. CB GO Wipes Case by Chewbeads
Wipes may do a dirty job, but that doesn’t mean they can’t look chic. Chewbeads’ 100% silicone wipes case fits 25-30 wipes on one side and has enough space on the other side for necessities like keys, diaper cream and your phone. There’s an adjustable strap to attach to your stroller, bag or wrist, depending on how light you want to travel.

Available at chewbeads.com, $28.

2. Grab & Go Hide & Chic Nursing Scarf by Skip Hop
If you prefer to cover up while nursing, this versatile scarf pairs modern style with soft, breathable fabric. It has a mesh window so you can peek in on your baby without flashing everyone around and can be worn as a poncho or over one shoulder.

Available at skiphop.com, $30.

3. Reusable Storage Bags by Stasher
Elevate your snacks with these reusable silicone bags, which come in bright colors and hip designs. The storage bags are lightweight, portable, reusable and dishwasher-safe. You can also pop them in the microwave or freezer, opening up your snack options.

Available at stasherbag.com, $9.99–$11.99.

4. Original Aviator Sunglasses by Babiators
Protecting your little one’s eyes from the sun makes both practical sense and fashion sense. Slip these shades on your babe—they come in a variety of colors—and you have an instant photo op. Babiators provide 100% UVA and UVB protection, flexible frames, and impact- and shatter-resistant lenses.

Available at amazon.com, $20.

5. Yoee Baby Toy by Yoee
These adorable critters are a feathery toy, teether and rattle in one, so you don’t need to load up your bag with other playthings. Yoee Babies come in monkey, puppy, lion and kitty versions and offer a variety of ways to play so they’ll grow with your baby.

Available at yoeebaby.com, $24.99.

6. Disney Baby Swaddles by Aden + Anais
Aden + Anais muslin swaddle blankets are known for their soft, breathable fabric that helps keep babies cool in warm weather. With their new Disney Baby collection, featuring Mickey, Minnie and Winnie the Pooh, they’ve added subtle patterns of kid favorites to dress up a summer day. Use them as a stroller cover, burp cloth, a blanket to lay on or a nursing cover.

Available at amazon.com, $39.99–$54.99.

 

7. Sun Hats by iPlay
These wide-brimmed sun hats feature a strap to keep them on your baby’s head, regardless of the wind gusts or tiny hands that try to knock them off. The quick-drying material is UPF 50+, easily packable and available in a variety of colors and patterns. They also coordinate with iPlay swimsuits for a cute head-to-tush look.

Available at iplaybaby.com, $14.

8. Insulated Stainless Steel Sippy Cup by EcoVessel
These sleek insulated sippy cups (for kids 6+ months) are stainless steel with a silicone spout, and come in four bright colors. They keep water cold for hours without chilling little fingers in the process.

Available at ecovessel.com, $21.95.

9. The Pop Pacifier by Doddle & Co
If dropping pacifiers drives you crazy, you’ll love this. When dropped, the nipple pops back into its own self-protective bubble so the nipple doesn’t come in contact with the dirty ground. With less washing and no need for paci cases, this compact soother is perfect for when you’re on the go.

Available at doddleandco.com, $9.99.

What other products are a must-have in your summer baby bag? Tell us in the comments!

—Heather Dixon

Best Baby Gear for Small Spaces

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Babies may be tiny, but they need a lot of big gear. From cribs and high chairs to bouncers and play mats, smaller spaces can fill up fast. If you’re a city dweller, a minimalist or have packed rooms already, you’ll love this list of awesome baby products that are big on features but small enough to fit in most spaces.

 

The Sleek Bouncer That Folds Up Flat: BabyHome Wave Rocker
This lightweight bouncer is modern, stylish and folds easily for storage. It has a front-to-back rocking motion to soothe your wee one, plus a stationary option. There are two reclining positions, so you can choose the one that suits your babe best.

Available at amazon.com, $175.

 

A Playard, Changing Station and Napper in One: Graco Pack ‘n Play
We love great, multi-functional baby gear. And this playard with a removable rocking seat, changing station and newborn napping area is just that! As your baby grows, remove the extra features and use the full-size playard as a safe napping space, play area and travel crib. The playard is on wheels so you can move it if necessary when space is tight.

Available at amazon.com, $180.

 

The Sleep Station That’s Handy for Awake Time: DockATot Deluxe Dock
The DockATot can be used as a sleep positioner, portable crib and bassinet. Some parents love it for co-sleeping as well. It’s pricey but versatile, as it also provides a soft, cozy spot for tummy time and diaper changes and is lightweight and convenient for travel.

Available at amazon.com, $199.

 

The Bed That’ll Last You 10 Years: Stokke Sleepi Crib
This adjustable crib transitions from a mini crib to a standard-size crib to a toddler bed and junior bed (with separate conversion kit). The oval design and wheels help you reposition it around a smaller space. While it has a hefty price tag, it also has longevity, as it gives your child a comfortable place to sleep from birth to age 10.

Available at amazon.com, $799.

The Foldable Jumper: Fisher-Price SpaceSaver Jumperoo
Is there anything cuter than a baby in a jumper? Seeing their little legs fly and their eyes get wide with delight makes this toy a must-have for many parents. But jumpers can take up a lot of space. This space-saving version features legs that fold up for easy storage and travel — without sacrificing any baby fun.

Available at amazon.com, $32.

A Tiny Tub You Can Tuck Away: Puj Flyte
Skip the bulky infant bathtub for this awesome mini tub. It fits in your bathroom sink to create a safe and comfortable cradle for babies up to 6 months. The tub works in a wide range of sinks and folds up for storage or travel. Plus, it’s easy to dry and clean, which makes bath time a breeze.

Available at amazon.com, $34.99.

A Transportable Seat With No Floor Space Needed: Phil & Teds Lobster Clip-On Highchair
We love portable high chairs like this clip-on model from Phil & Teds. It attaches onto counters or tables, takes up no floor space and folds compactly into a carry bag you can travel with and take to restaurants.

Available at amazon.com, $89.99.

A Pocket-Sized Stroller: gb Pockit Stroller
Named the world’s smallest folded stroller in the Guinness Book of World Records, this ultra-compact ride is handy for urban families and avid travelers. It stands upright when folded so you can tuck it into a closet at home and find space for it in a restaurant. It even fits into an airplane overhead compartment. And at 9.5 pounds, you can cart it around wherever your travels take you. It’s meant for babies 6 months and older, so it doesn’t recline for newborns.

Available on amazon.com, $179.99.

 

What are your can’t-live-without baby products for smaller spaces?

— Heather Dixon