Celebrate Your Baby’s First Birthday Without a Party

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No, you don’t need to throw your baby a first birthday party to have a special day. If a party isn’t your thing, try these fun party alternatives to celebrate your little one’s first year of life. Invite relatives or friends, or keep it immediate family only.

photo: iStock

Balloons!
On the big day, gather the best elements of a birthday party and have a family day celebrating with them. We're talking things like balloons, streamers, music, cake and lots of hugs and kisses. You'll make the day special for both of you and have lots of photo ops without all the stress and expense of a party.

Fishy Fun
Dive into a day of birthday fun with a trip to your local aquarium. Your baby will be mesmerized by all of the watery sights and sea creatures. (And mom and dad will be mesmerized watching baby!) Watching fish float by is fun, but we bet the dolphins, seals, sea otters and other marine mammals will be the biggest hits of the day. Don’t forget to visit the tide pool animals, too. Bonus: Children under two are usually free at most aquariums!

Festivals
Scope out local festivals, and then head out for a day of fun. (Red Tricycle's city guides always keep you in the know. And check local websites or Facebook groups for event calendars.) Your child will love taking in all of the sights and sounds that accompany a street festival. Music, people watching, new foods—the event promises to be as fun for mom and dad as it is for baby.

photo: Suzanna Palmer

Go Wild
Your little one’s first birthday is the perfect time to head to the zoo. Kids love seeing animals they've read about in storybooks and making animal noises with you as you view the exhibits. All the new sights, sounds and smells will likely keep baby’s senses engaged, but bring a stroller or carrier for naps. Best spots for photo ops: The petting zoo, tram, carousel or kiddie train.

Art Project
Channel your little one's propensity for making messes into a work of art with a painting session. Gather some basic painting supplies from your local art supply store, like a small canvas, washable paints and a smock. Then, secure baby in a high chair and let the fun begin. Note the date and occasion on the back of the work of art; then find a place of honor to display baby’s first-birthday masterpiece. 

Seasonal Celebration
Baby born during the fall? Head to an apple orchard where you can bounce along on a hayride and sip apple cider. If you have a winter baby, take a walking tour of your area’s best holiday lights. For babies born during spring or summer, visit an outdoor concert or botanical garden to celebrate the season along with baby's birthday.

photo: Suzanna Palmer

Let Them Eat Cake!
Just because you aren’t planning a party doesn’t mean you should skip a cake. Having a smash cake sesh might just be the highlight of your little one’s day, and yours. Your baby is more likely to feel at ease—and dive face-first into the goodies—without dozens of eyes and cameras peering at them, like they'd have at a party. So bake up your favorite cake or pick one up at your local bakery and then dig in, baby!

Park It
Scope out the local parks for baby-appropriate offerings, such as bucket swings and paved walkways for strollers. Bonus points if the park has a water feature, such as a fountain or pond for fish, turtle or duck-watching. Pack a blanket and a picnic and enjoy a relaxing day together as a family.

Low-Key Playdate
Get your mommy & me crew together for a casual playdate at one of your usual haunts. Bring a snack (cupcakes, cookies or fruit) as a nod to the birthday babe, and let the kids play while you and the other moms celebrate that you got through your first year as a mom.

—Suzanna Palmer

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10 Reasons Why It’s Great to Be an Older Mom

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If you’ve birthed a baby past age 35, you’ve undoubtedly heard the super-flattering phrase “advanced maternal age.” (Don’t even get us started on the “geriatric pregnancy” label.) While these terms may not give you the warm fuzzies, we’re here to share the good stuff about taking on parenthood later on. Sure, it may come with a few extra fine lines here and there, but it has compelling benefits too. Read on to find out why being an older mom is the bomb.

photo: iStock

1. You make the most of the moments.
If you have more than a few years of adulthood under your belt, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the feeling of time passing more quickly. While the moments speeding by in a blur can be vexing, it also creates an acute appreciation of the preciousness of each moment. As an older mom, you tend to slow down and take it all in—to breathe in the baby smell, long and deep, to soak in those sweet smiles and linger over the crib long after baby’s fast asleep. 

2. You take a relaxed approach.
The awareness of time has another effect as an older mom: recognizing that milestones don’t need to be met in a rush. As an older mom, you will likely be more comfortable easing up on expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and weaning a baby off of a bottle or potty training doesn’t have to happen overnight either.

3. Confidence comes more naturally.
While having a baby in your later years may mean you do it with a few gray hairs, it also comes with an extra dose of mom-fidence. You’ve released that inevitable, youthful striving after an ever-elusive image of perfection and learned to be comfortable in your own skin. You pass on the hot-button topics (breast or bottle? Co-sleeping or not?) and settle into a routine that works for you and your baby—no explanation or apology needed.

photo: Christy Blevins

4. You have to buy less baby stuff.
If you jump on the baby train a few years after your friends and family, you may just experience a flood of hand-me-down baby clothes and gear. Many parents pack away totes of tiny jammies and stash bigger items, like a crib, stroller and highchair, away in the attic in case of a “surprise” baby scenario, but after a few years, they may be ready and willing to hand over the goods and regain their storage space. Brand new baby and a bigger wallet, what’s not to love?

5. You can skip the maternity section.
That nugget about friends and family members setting aside tiny jammies just in case? Same goes for stretchy-topped jeans and nursing tops. Besides the obvious savings, shopping for maternity clothes in a friend’s closet is way more fun than hitting up your local store anyway.

6. You don’t sweat the small stuff.
A blow-out as you’re walking out the door may set you back a few minutes, but it won’t throw your whole day out of whack. With age comes a honed ability to put things in their proper perspective. As an older mom, you may find you’re able to keep your cool when facing the everyday frustrations of life with a baby (think: nap strikes and messy meals). As you take things in stride, you and your mini-me will benefit from this more chilled-out parenting approach.

photo: iStock

7. You’ve been around the block, and now you can show baby the way.
Being an older mom often means you’ve had the time and opportunity to explore different paths—from career choices to hobbies—and have developed your personal interests and strengths. Those added experiences will inevitably inform your motherhood and allow you to pass on that wisdom to your child's benefit. Say hello to baby Einstein!

8. You’ve been there, done that.
Having experienced a few years of adult life before baby’s arrival may help you freely focus on your baby without regret. Once you’ve checked the box next to some life goals—from career mile markers to travel aspirations—you’ll be better able to settle into the routine elements of motherhood without the FOMO that may have struck in your youth. In the same vein, if you’ve spent more than a few years with your partner during that time, your relationship will have had time to deepen and mature before baby makes three. A win-win! 

9. Fewer stresses from finances.
While this doesn’t apply across the board, studies show that women who enter motherhood later on often benefit from more financial stability than their younger counterparts. This is often the result of older moms having had the chance to spend additional years developing their careers and building up a comfortable savings. This extra cushion can allow you to take more time off from work, hire help or even embrace experiences, like international travel, that may have been out of reach in your younger years.

10. Gleaning from seasoned moms is a breeze.
When you’re a young mom, getting advice from moms in your peer group can be tough, as everyone is navigating new waters. But when you experience motherhood for the first time a bit later in life, calling your crew to get the low-down on anything from sleep training to the best baby sunscreen will easily yield tried-and-true advice.

—Suzanna Palmer

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Once you see how fast your baby can cruise around, the phrase “slow to a crawl” will never again make sense to you. To keep your kid from cruisin’ for a bruisin’, you’ll want to do more babyproofing and try some new tricks to keep your child safe and happy. Here are our favorite tips and tricks.

photo: iStock

1. Safety First
A crawling baby means a new round of baby-proofing. Padding furniture corners, covering electrical outlets, tying up loose cords and installing stairway gates are a great start, but there are plenty of less obvious spots that need to be secured. Add locks to toilets and cabinets or doors that conceal electronics, toiletries, cleaners or glassware, and secure large furniture to the wall to prevent them from tipping over. Pro tip: To get a better sense of what could harm your baby, sit down and lay down on the floor to see your home from a baby's level. You’ll discover sharp edges, dangling cords and other potential hazards more easily. 

2. Toilet Paper Tube Trick
Crawling babies have more access to items they can put in their mouths, whether that’s dog food or an older sibling’s LEGOs. Not sure what's a choking hazard? Use the toilet paper tube trick. If the item fits through the tube, it should be kept out of baby’s reach.

3. Skin Saver 
Hard surfaces can damage a crawling baby’s delicate skin. Rough floors, concrete playgrounds or even carpet can cause scraped, bruised or raw knees from frequent contact. Save your baby’s knees—and pants—by slipping leg warmers or baby knee pads, like the cute ones above from Simply Kids, over baby’s legs. Pro tip: Baby knee pads are also good protection for wobbly toddlers who take frequent tumbles.

4. Staying Alert
Baby-proofing your home is the first step in keeping baby safe, but any time you venture out and about with a mobile baby, you’ll have to stay on kid watch like your baby's life depends on it (because it does). Even new crawlers are shockingly quick. If you have any doubts about whether you can stay fully focused on your little explorer, play it safe and strap baby into a stroller or carrier.

photo: iStock

5. Try Redirection
A crawling or toddling baby can leave quite a trail as they explore everything in reach. To keep them occupied with safe items, keep a small basket of baby-safe toys and books in each room to capture their attention when necessary and keep them away from cereal boxes, markers and other major messes.

6. Timing Is Everything
If you find yourself having trouble accomplishing tasks with a baby on the loose, try adjusting your schedule. For example, cut down on time in the kitchen by relying on quick prep or slow cooker recipes. Consider showering at night after baby's bedtime and saving certain tasks for naptime or moments when you have someone else to watch your little mover.

7. Get Germ-Aware
Keeping a crawling baby clean when you're away from home can be a challenge. Keep a stash of wipes and sanitizer in your diaper bag for your outings, and a change of clothes in case of bigger messes.

8. Keep a Surprise Toy Stash
How can you entertain your little cruiser when you need to shower, take a phone call or respond to emails? Keep a stash of “surprise” toys that stay out of your regular toy rotation. Pulling out the basket of “new” trinkets can keep your mobile mini-me entertained for a few minutes while you take care of business or relax for some much-needed me time.

photo: Eva Cerise

9. Plan a Pool Party!
Turn your blow-up pool into a ball pit by adding colorful plastic balls. Your child will have room to move freely while exploring, and you’ll rest easy knowing baby is contained and entertained. 

10. Cook Up Some Quiet
If trying to prep pasta primavera with baby running amok (or attached to your leg) sounds like a recipe for disaster, let your wee one hang in the high chair and watch you. You can sing songs, tell stories, or offer an assortment of finger foods to keep them entertained.

11. Relocate Your Belongings
If you find yourself frequently cleaning up a certain area—whether baby is obsessed with pulling books off of your shelves or shoes out of your closet—save yourself the constant cleanup and move your belongings upward on higher shelves. Consider this the flooding stage of parenting. As your baby zooms through the house like a force of nature, you move items upwards to keep them out of baby’s wake.

12. Repeat After Us
If snagging your baby inches from the curb for the millionth time or baby-proofing has you ready to pull out your (now graying) hairs, remember: It’s just a phase. Trust us, "It's just a phase," will become your new favorite parenting mantra. Bonus: This useful phrase is surprisingly versatile! You'll likely be using it for one thing or another for, oh, the next 18 years or so.

 

—Suzanna Palmer

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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Childbirth

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If you’ve attended a childbirth class or talked with a brand-new mom, there are plenty of things you’ve undoubtedly heard about—from pain-control options (hello, epidurals!) to that sweet moment you first hold your baby—but you might be surprised to learn there are details about giving birth no one seems to talk about. Keep reading as we shine a light on ten of those rarely discussed labor and delivery secrets.

photo: iStock

1. Anyone may deliver your baby.
Okay, not literally anyone…unless, of course, you have a side-of-the-highway baby. (Quick! Knock on wood.) But keep in mind that your OB or midwife may not be the person to deliver your baby. Because of how doctors and midwives schedule their shifts, it’s possible that someone you have never met may be on call on D-Day. Rest assured, you’re in good hands, and though it may seem hard to believe now, when you get to that stage of labor, you won’t care who delivers your baby.

2. Your birth plan may take a turn.
When you’re expecting your first baby or two, you may head to the hospital with a birth plan in hand, typed clearly and concisely in 12-point font detailing all of your wishes for the birth. But don’t be surprised if at some point in your labor, all of those “musts” seem to fade into oblivion and are replaced in bold font, all caps with GET THIS BABY OUT.

3. Total strangers seeing you totally naked will seem totally normal.
Unless your past includes time spent in a nudist colony or you have a special affinity for skinny-dipping, chances are the thought of being bare-butt naked in front of strangers probably makes your toes curl. But when the transition phase of labor hits, we can all but guarantee you’ll throw caution—and your hospital gown—to the wind. If the thought is discomfiting, take heart: Baby will be in a birthday suit, too, so at least you’ll be in good company.

photo: iStock

4. You have an alter ego.
When your labor amps up, you may find you have a hidden drama queen or foul-mouthed sailor living inside of you. You might make animal noises so impressive you would put a drama student in a performance of the Lion King to shame. (Yes, growling or even roaring like a ferocious animal happens in the delivery room.) Or, you might find that you suddenly have a new and expanded vocabulary not fit for tiny ears. (Don’t worry, baby is well-insulated in the birth canal.)

5. The nurses may ask if you want a mirror.
And, they aren’t wondering if you want to check your makeup. In the middle of the most dramatic, life-changing (not to mention painful) moment of your life, a nurse could ask if you would like a mirror to see baby crowning. Some women do; some women really don't. You do you.

6. Everyone poops.
Especially moms in labor. While you may feel nonplussed at the thought now, it’s actually a good thing! It means you’re using the right muscles to push that baby out into the world. In the moment, it won’t even register on your embarrassment radar, and your childbirth team have seen it all before.

photo: iStock

7. You go through delivery twice.
We’re not talking about twins! If you’ve ever sat through a childbirth video, you know it typically ends a few moments after baby enters the world. So what you don’t see (and your OB or midwife may never mention prior to delivery) is that you will have a baby-size, liver-like organ come out of you within an hour of your little one making his or her entrance into the world. But don’t worry, though mildly uncomfortable, the placenta-expelling process only lasts a minute or two. (Also, be prepared for the nurses to ask if you would like the save the nutrient-rich organ. Post-hospital placenta smoothie, anyone?)

8. You don’t leave the hospital wearing your own underwear.
We’ve all seen those photos of a celebrity walking out of the hospital after giving birth, holding a newborn baby and sporting perfectly coiffed hair and heels. (Kate Middleton, we’re looking at you!) It’s easy to forget that underneath that glam exterior is sure to be…mesh, boy-short-style underwear. Yep, it’s true. The reason? You will likely bleed for weeks after delivery. Mesh panties, giant maxi pads and postpartum cold packs, also known as “padsicles,” will become your new BFFs. And, while you may have heard about the possibility of going period-free for a while after giving birth, keep in mind you could get your period as soon as four weeks post-partum.

9. How quickly you may (or may not) forget.
People like to say that you quickly “forget all the pain” once baby arrives. For those who don’t experience that euphoric selective amnesia, the events surrounding your labor and delivery, particularly if complicated, may stay fresh in your mind for months or even years after. That clear recollection can trigger a sort of PTSD (not to be confused with postpartum depression) that includes emotional distress, flashbacks and even physical responses, like sweating, nausea or trembling. Apparently, birth is the one time a forgetful memory is a positive thing!

10. Everyone bonds differently.
The first moment you hold your baby may be forever etched in your memory. Or, it may be a blur. You may be instantly overcome with love for your baby, or it may take time to develop a connection with this new human being. There is no right or wrong way to experience motherhood. Every baby is different. Every mama is different. And how you experience each other for the first time through labor, delivery and those first moments of your new life together will be, too. 

—Suzanna Palmer

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Summertime Essentials: Top 10 Outdoor Baby Toys

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This is it, parents: the ten toys you’ll need to keep your little one entertained this summer and autumn until the weather changes. Water, bubbles, balls and active play will keep kids happy and wipe them out for naptime. We’ve also offered product suggestions to make your shopping easier.

1. Splash Mat

Introduce your child to the old-fashioned fun of playing in the sprinklers with a tot-size splash mat. All the fun of a public splash pad—with none of the big-kid crowds. Splash mats allow babies to stay cool and interact with water without having to be submerged in it. We love the HALOFUN Sprinkle and Splash Play Mat ($6.99) for its fun shark theme and gentle spraying action.

2. Baby Pool

Here’s an equation for summer fun: an inflatable pool + a few inches of water = hours of fun for your little guppy. For wee ones, we like the Playkids Fill 'n Fun Water Play Mat ($10.99). For bigger babes, the Babymoov Aquani Protective Pop-Up 3-in-1 Portable Baby/Toddler Pool Play Area ($84.99, pictured above) is a winner thanks to a built-in sunshade, removable mosquito net and attached toys.

3. Water Table

Made for fun in the sun, a water table is an ideal toy for encouraging little ones' imagination, developing early motor skills and introducing water play. The Little Tikes Fish 'N Splash Water Table ($46.99) features a fishing pole, net, cup and colorful critters to play with. 

4. Sand Table

If you can't get to the beach, bring the beach to your baby. Not only do tots have a blast, but they'll be touching, digging, burying and pouring their way into important sensory experiences. Add small tools like shovels, cars and miniature animals to up the fun—and learning—factor. This cute SOWOW Water Table Sand Table by Step2 ($41.99) will have baby feeling anything but crabby. 

5. Toy Ball

When it comes to your babe's outdoor toy lineup, basic can be a good thing. There are few things more fun for a little one than tossing, bouncing or throwing a ball. (No wonder "ball" is a common first word!) The Edushape Sensory See-Me Ball (from $9.99) fits the bill by being able to do all the things a conventional ball can do, plus it has a nubby texture that makes it easy for tiny hands to grasp.

6. Toy Truck

Giving your child access to simple toys that encourage creativity and imagination is a smart parenting move. Plus, it's a universally known fact that kids love filling up and dumping things out of a toy dump truck over and over (and over). And because you never know what babies might put in their mouth, this Green Toys Dump Truck ($19.14) is made from recycled plastic that is free of BPA, PVC and phthalates.

7. Bubble Machine

No matter what stage of development your baby is in, we can guarantee one thing: They love bubbles. Blow a few into the air and watch infants become mesmerized by the floating orbs and older tots go into chase mode, complete with giggles and waving arms. Save your breath with a Little Kids® Fubbles™ Bubble Blastin' Machine ($17.99). Thanks to the placement of the bubble wands, bubbles tend to blow at baby's level rather than high into the air out of reach. Because we all know that popping them is half the fun!

8. Baby Swing

Depending on their mood, your babe will go swinging into high-energy fun or chilled-out bliss with an outdoor swing. Swings give alert infants and older tots a chance to take in the sights and sounds of the surrounding world from a safe perch, and they give tired or fussy babes a dose of soothing comfort thanks to their gentle, back-and-forth rocking motion. We like the TP Quadpod Adjustable 4-in-1 Swing Seat ($61.48) for its cocoon-like shape, safety bar and straps. There are cheaper swings on the market, but this one can be reconfigured to support kids comfortably up to age 8, so it's worth the extra investment.

9. Slide

A slide may seem like a simple toy, but it is actually a powerhouse in the outdoor toy lineup. Besides offering your little one a fun ride, slides help kids develop balance, coordination and visual skills. Choose a slide that's low to the ground to keep things safe for littles. The Little Tikes Hide and Seek Climber ($79.99) is an all-time favorite thanks to its gently sloping slide, rock wall and low-profile design.

10. Ball Pit

Babies don't only have a ball in a ball pit, they also have the chance to work on their coordination and visual skills. The Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play Activity Gym ($79.99) sets up (and folds up) easily and allows babies to exercise their hand-eye coordination by sliding, dropping and popping balls into the four activity stations.

—Suzanna Palmer

featured image: Playkidz

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Babies are lots of things—precious, sweet, funny, adorable, the list goes on. But one thing they are not? Easy. And that applies whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro at the mom game. The good thing is, you’re not alone in navigating the crazy, messy, amazing journey of being a baby mama. Those who have gone before are always ready to offer their best advice. Here are 25 short-and-sweet parenting tips on everything from sleep and must-have baby gear to self-care.

photo: iStock

1. Go slow and spend lots of time at home. It will keep mommy and baby healthy.

2. Have a routine and stick to it.

3. When in doubt, put them on the boob or add water (bath, shower, sprinkler, hydrate).

4. Don't scroll Facebook while you nurse in the middle of the night. It’s harder to get back to sleep, and you’ll miss out on savoring the time with your baby. It really goes by so quickly, although it doesn't feel like when you're nursing several hours a day!

5. Never wake a sleeping baby.

photo: iStock

6. Oldest and best advice in the book: Rest when they rest. Housework can wait.

7. Babies get bored, too! A change of scenery, like a walk around the neighborhood, can work wonders on a grumpy baby.

8. Find your village and ask for help. And if someone offers to come help if you need a shower or a nap, or to do the dishes, take them up on it!

9. There is no such thing as holding your baby too much. Embrace the little moments, be present, and enjoy that little person.

10. If the baby is fed, clothed, and loved, you’re doing everything right. There will be a million opinions on your parenting, so be kind to yourself as long as you know you’re doing your best.

11. Be patient with yourself and baby. You are both new at this. It takes time to get into the swing of things.

12. Tomorrow is a new day.

13. Take time for yourself. When your needs are met, you are more centered, patient and compassionate.

14. Don’t spend tons of money on baby clothes right away. There is ALWAYS a mom who is desperate to get rid of all the cute little outfits she sadly never got to use because babies grow out of things so fast.

15. Electric nail file. #gamechanger

16. Onesie pajamas with zippers only…unless, of course, fumbling with snaps when you’re bleary-eyed and half-asleep during middle-of-the-night diaper changes sounds like fun.

17. Try out different baby carriers until you find one that works for you, then baby wear as much as you can. It makes things so much easier.

18. Velcro swaddlessafe and snug.

19. Gripe water!

20. If you have anxiety while baby is sleeping, get an Owlet or other sleep monitor. Your rest is worth it.

21. Go with your instinctsthe mom gut is always right.

22. It’s said often because it’s so true: The days may seem long, but the years are short.

23. Do what works for your baby, and don't worry about what anyone else says or does. What’s good for one person’s child may not be good for yours.

24. Don’t compare your baby’s milestones to those of other babies.

25. You are all that your baby needs!

Suzanna Logan

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Best Buddies: 5 Ways Having a Pet Benefits Your Baby

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When you have a baby or toddler at home, the thought of adding a pet to the mix might seem overwhelming. After all, owning a pet means having another living creature to feed and clean up after. But, trust us on this one, the responsibilities associated with having a pet will dim in comparison to the joy of watching your little one grow up alongside a furry best friend. Read on for a list of light-hearted benefits you can expect from welcoming a pet into your home. 

Every pet parent has a long list of questions about their furball, including how to keep them happy and healthy! Hill’s provides science-backed nutrition to help your best friend be their best self. Learn more about how Hill’s helps pet owners stay a step ahead.

1. Pets Are Good Snugglers

As a parent, you know that having your little one give you a hug, cling tight to your leg, or sit on your lap can be the sweetest feeling in the world…but it can also lead to feeling touched out. You know, that cringe-y feeling you get when you’ve been cuddled with, laid on, stepped on or whacked by your toddler 389,752 times in the last 60 seconds. Well, good news! If you’re suffering from touched-too-much syndrome, there is an antidote. The right family pet—a particularly affable dog or unflappable cat or guinea pig—will not only take over a fair share of cuddles from your little one, they will love every minute of it. And, bonus: Your brain will get a blast of feel-good dopamine from watching the two cutest creatures in your house snuggle together.

2. Pets Provide Entertainment

It’s no secret we all love watching cute animals. There’s a reason why cat videos rule the internet! But while observing animals online is fun for a while, getting a dose of the warm and fuzzies from the real thing is even better—especially for babies and toddlers, who are supposed to avoid screens until after age 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If not yet mobile, your little one will enjoy watching the movements of your pet from the safety of a bouncy seat or exersaucer. Once crawling and walking, your mini-me will squeal at the fun of chasing (and catching!) their four-legged family member. Plus, with all of the adorable entertainment in real life, you’ll be less likely to get sucked into an endless loop of Internet cat videos the next time you log on to "check email really quick."

3. Pets Teach Responsibility

While your child may not be old enough to solely manage pet care, even the youngest toddlers can contribute. Young children love to deliver treats to thankful pets, brush their fur (also develops fine motor skills!), and toss a toy or ball for a game of fetch. Bonus: They don’t even seem to mind the slobbery ball, probably a result of recently having been prone to drool themselves.

4. Pets Are Good for Your Health

If you need another reason to welcome an animal into the fam, consider this: Household pets can have a real, measurable impact on your child’s health. Studies show that playing with a dog releases oxytocin, which lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. As a result, children who live with a dog are less likely to suffer from anxiety. In addition, children who are exposed to a dog in the first year of life have reduced rates of asthma and allergies.

5. Pets Make Great BFFs

We've all heard the story of the little boy who, when asked by his parents whether he wanted a baby brother or a baby sister, responds with, “I want a puppy.” Well, it looks like he was on to something, after all. A University of Cambridge study found that children reported having higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of conflict in their relationships with their pets than with their siblings. They may say “a dog is a man’s best friend,” but as it turns out, a pet really is a child’s best friend.

—Suzanna Palmer

 

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Looking on the bright side is a smart way to weather the wild ride of infancy. This applies to everything from blowouts (a chance to wear another outfit before baby outgrows it!) to the arrival of Daylight Saving Time, also known as National Mess-with-Your-Baby’s-Sleep-Schedule Time.

In the case of DST, you have an extra hour of sunlight at the end of each day, so there’s an actual bright side. But parents know it takes some effort to see the bi-annual shuffle in a good light. With these parent-tested tips for helping baby adjust to Daylight Saving time, your child’s bedtime routine—and your sanity—can be saved.

photo: smpratt90 via Pixabay

Start Early
The best way to keep Daylight Saving Time from throwing your baby’s routine out of whack is by preparing for the change well before it hits. Successful approaches vary, but most experts suggest moving baby’s bedtime by 15 minutes every other day in the week or so leading up to the seasonal shift. So, if baby typically goes down around 7:30 p.m., shift bedtime back in quarter-hour increments until you reach the “new” bedtime of 6:30, which, with the time change, will actually still be 7:30 p.m.—your child’s original bedtime. Adjust naps the same way. Starting early gives you some leeway in case life makes it tricky to keep shifting every other day.

Go Dark 
Light exposure has a direct influence on the body’s circadian rhythm (internal biological clock). Less light signals our body to become sleepy, while more light stimulates us to feel awake. As the new bedtime hour approaches, close the blinds and dim the lights in your home so it feels later than it is. 

If you haven’t already invested in blackout curtains, snag these miracles from heaven in fabric form. Keeping baby’s room dark will help your little one settle into sleep, even with the sun in full force. Pro tip: If light seeps in around the edges of your nursery windows, attach double-sided adhesive Velcro tabs to your wall and to the back of your curtains. Then, simply press to seal the edges and block out more light. Take that, sunshine! 

photo: iStock

Sound It Out
Invest in a white noise machine. It’s not realistic to expect the rest of the world (or even the rest of your family) to slip into silence to preserve baby’s peaceful sleeping environment post time change, but a white noise machine will preserve the illusion of silence.

In addition to tuning out folks enjoying the extra hour of light, many parents find that the steady hum soothes baby right to sleep. Pro tip: Place the sound machine at least three feet away from your baby’s sleep space to keep cords out of reach and to lessen the impact of the noise on baby’s developing ears. And set the machine to a low volume on the shortest timer (or switch off manually once baby is asleep). Check out our favorite white noise machines and other baby sleep aids.

photo: Joko_Narimo via Pixabay

Give It Time
Here’s the hard truth: Some babies are particularly sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule, and it can take a few weeks for them to adjust to a new one. So if your little one fails to get with the program at first, even after trying the above steps, hang in there. Within a week or two, baby’s sleep schedule should catch up. then

Roll with It
In the meantime, if you have a wee one who isn’t cooperating despite your best efforts, try to look on that bright side. If baby used to go down at 7 p.m. but has temporarily shifted to 8 p.m., use that additional hour for stories and snuggles. With a little luck, the new evening routine will give you the chance to sleep in an extra hour in the morning. But, if baby still wakes up bright-eyed at the pre-time-shift hour, remember: This won’t last forever. As they say, the hours surrounding DST may seem long, but the years really are short.

—Suzanna Palmer

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11 Things Every Mom Learns with Her Second Child

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Having a child is the best and hardest thing in the world. When you double down (literally) on your parenting skills with a second child, you quickly realize that having two children is the best and hardest thing in the world…times two. Adding another little to your brood means not only having a whole new human to get to know, it also means lots of lessons coming your way. Here are 11 things every mom is sure to learn the second time around the mama-hood.

photo: Christy Blevins

1. No two babies are alike.
When you’re a mom of one, it’s easy to assume every baby is pretty much the same. And, in a sense, it's true. They eat. They sleep. They smile. They cry. But any mom who has experienced a second baby knows that while what they do is the same, how they do it can be wildly different. One baby loves to be swaddled; another prefers arms out. One baby likes a pacifier; another is team thumb. These kinds of nuances in preferences and personalities are what make each baby a totally new adventure. (Note: They may be different on the inside, but on the outside, matching outfits for the win!)

2. Your sanity is worth every penny it will cost to buy double.
Sure, sharing is important—and as a mom of two, you want to instill those life skills…eventually. But for the first few years, it’s better to buy two of every toy, bowl or cup in the exact same color to avoid ending up with a ROY G. BIV-induced toddler meltdown every. single. day.

photo: Haley Ross

3. Energy-saving mode is a thing.
When you’re a mom of one, you have a whole bunch of extra energy to devote to things like battling a toddler over dressing themselves and wearing a ballerina outfit to the grocery store. When you are toting two, your now-more-relaxed self says, “Go ‘head! Rock that, tutu, girl!”

4. The eyes have it.
When you have two little ones heading in a different direction, you quickly realize that popping out a second kid should automatically mean you’re gifted with pigeon-like vision, because, girl, you are going to need eyes in the back of your head to catch all the shenanigans. You won’t be able to stop every fall or prevent every mess, but as a mom of two, you know that staying alert is your first defense against total chaos.

photo: Maddy Riddell

5. Babywearing isn’t just a cool party trick (Look, Ma, no hands!).
Once you’re outnumbered two to one, carrying baby hands-free isn’t a bonus convenience that frees you up to double-fist your coffee, er, be more productive. It’s a basic necessity that allows you to hold baby close while making lunch for a hungry toddler, wiping a bum, or hiking up a mountain. Check out the latest and greatest baby carriers.

6. Life with one kid was easier than you realized.
When you had just one baby, you swore you had no downtime and meant it! But now you realize those precious naptime hours with one were the stuff (sleepy mom) dreams were made of. For solidarity's sake, this one is meant to be experienced, not shared. So, please, mums the word to mums with one baby!

7. Being a baby-stuff snob is a must.
With two kids in tow, having the right gear is essential. For example, when you have one baby and go grocery shopping, plopping the car seat into the cart or even schlepping baby through the store on one arm works fine, but with double the fun, you’ve gotta up your gear game. (Like with the nifty Binxy Baby grocery cart hammock!) At the same time, some gear is non-essential (wipes warmer, we’re looking at you!), so you've got to draw the line before you run out of room.

8. Two kids are twice as nice loud.
Remember those sweet moments during the day when baby #1 was peacefully napping? Welp, unless you’re one of the .001% of parents to have children who nap in tandem, you can say so long to mid-day silence. But that doesn’t mean peace and quiet are gone forever; you may just have a little extra company and cuddles during your afternoon cup of coffee.

photo: Dianne Booker

9. Mom of two=superwoman.
Being a mama to two little humans has tough moments—juggling schedules and emotions (theirs and yours), for starters—not to mention when you're actually juggling both kids, one under each arm or balancing them both on your lap. You’re basically a champion multitasker and queen of productivity now, or a fun circus act. But it’s precisely those moments that show you just how strong you are. 

photo: S. Palmer

10. There's no sweeter sight in the world than watching your children love each other. 
Seeing your kiddos interact in a loving way (whether it's a game of giggles or a sincere hug) is the fuel that feeds a mama's heart. Suddenly, having to referee the occasional squabble doesn't seem so bad. There's no better reward to being a mom of two than watching your children's sibling bond blossom into friendship.

11. You’re an old-pro, and a newbie, too.
Sure, you were already in a routine of feeding, changing diapers and doing bedtime, but a new baby—with his/her own needs and wants—entering the scene means starting over. Siblings need the same things: their basic needs met and love tanks filled. But they don’t always need them done at the same time or in the same way. It's the oldest, most important job in the world that teaches you something new every day.

Suzanna Logan

featured photo: iStock

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Newborns are wonderful at all times of year, but a winter baby comes with its own special kind of warmth. Read on for 18 reasons to appreciate your cold-weather cutie!

photo: iStock

1. After a long night with baby, it is socially acceptable to wear pajamas 24/7 or curl up in an oversized sweater and leggings day after day after day. (And yes, we know, 2020 insured most of us were doing this anyway). 

2. If baby arrives by the holidays, you’ll get to show off the best gift ever. And you have a good excuse for not cooking, cleaning or hosting.

3. No guilt for not socializing! Chilly weather, COVID and other people's colds are just two great reasons to stay in and snuggle in front of the fire.

 

photo: iStock

. You could join a pit crew with your diaper-changing speed. Can’t let that baby get chilled!

5. You’ll never "get" to host a summer-birthday pool party with a dozen short, noisy humans who think of a pool as a giant collective toilet bowl.

6. That super-attractive sweat trail from the back to the ankles that baby-wearing moms get in the summer? Yeah, you don’t have it right now.

 

7. You know that true happiness is curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket and warm bundle of baby, aka your own portable heat source.

8. You secretly gloat over how your feet never swelled up like giant pufferfish during the last months of your pregnancy.

9. You’re probably still wearing stretchy pants, so indulge in that yummy holiday food you only get once a year.

10. Seasonally spiced hot lattes are the order of the day (literally) when you’ve been up all night with a newborn. All those still-pregnant spring and summer mamas will be jealous you're enjoying caffeine again.

11. Baby hats. There are few things cuter than newborns in ridiculous winter hats.

12. You have a perfect excuse to stay inside and nap with baby when any snow falls.

photo: iStock

13. You can think less about how your post-baby beach body is going to look come summer (that's months away!) and more about what warm, delicious comfort food is in your immediate future.

14. You’ve already got plans for that extra tax break (assuming baby was evicted before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve).

15. You don't have to stress about slathering sunscreen on a newborn.

photo: iStock

16. You can breastfeed without feeling like a sweaty dairy cow in summer's heat.

17. Those tiny-baby-in-a-giant-snowsuit photos are one of a kind.

18. By the time spring comes, your baby will be more mobile, and you can enjoy the longer, warmer days outside. Bring on the long walks and park outings!

— Suzanna Palmer

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