It is a common joke amongst new parents and parents-to-be that babies do not come with an instruction manual. And while there are thousands of books on parenting style, breastfeeding, the 'science' of raising children, and more, none of them cover ways to make life easier. Most parents would happily give up (more) sleep if they just had some clues on ways to soothe, settle, schedule, and survive their child's infancy.
#1: Skip the Sock Bag
Those laundry bags they sell you for baby socks? No one uses them. It takes enough effort to strip your baby, change a diaper without getting peed on, and get them dressed again, that no one remembers to use the little mesh bag. To say nothing of the fact that those little bags don't help with disappearing socks once your baby learns to take their own socks off. Instead, invest in socks that are all one colour. All white or black socks mean that when a sock goes missing, you never even notice. You'll always have, roughly, pairs of socks.
#2: Point DOWN
Bet you think this is going to be the tip you already know about pointing the penis down, right? Close, it is a diaper trick, but nothing to do with little boys specifically. When using disposable diapers, there is an extra inch or so of paper at the waist of the diaper. Fold that in, towards the belly and back. It acts as an envelope and contains any migrating mess. It might even save you from a blowout or two.
#3: The Dreaded Transfer
It never fails. Whether in your arms or a carrier, your baby falls asleep cuddled into your chest, but your arm has gone numb or you need the bathroom (or you just want to not be touched for five minutes) so you go to put your deeply asleep baby down into their crib. Their eyes instantly pop open and they are awake. Instead, try keeping your hand on their tummy with just the smallest amount of pressure, to mimic the feeling of being cuddled on you. Babies wake up when their warm tummy is suddenly cold, like when they aren't on you anymore. Make sure you keep your hand there for at least a few minutes, then gradually lighten your touch and sleep away.
#4: For the Cloth Inclined
If you are using cloth diapers, you might be worried about what happens when you reach the solid poop stage. Skip those expensive (and bad for your plumbing) flushable wipes. Instead, go to the fabric store and buy a yard of fleece or minky fabric and cut it into insert-sized pieces. Place it soft side up in the diaper, and to clean it, just turn it upside down and the mess will peel right off. Then just wash it with the rest of your diapers.
#5: Know the Signs
What was often diagnosed as colic is now being recognized more and more as reflux. While only you and your doctor can determine if your baby actually has reflux, knowing the signs can mean a quicker diagnosis. And if your baby does have reflux, make sure you have a swing. Most reflux babies love their swing.
#6: Make the Bed, Twice
When you change the sheets on the bed, layer them so you actually have two (or more) sheets on the mattress. It should look something like this: mattress, mattress cover, fitted sheet, waterproof mattress cover, fitted sheet. That way, if there is a mess in the middle of the night, you just have to take off the top layer, rather than making up the whole bed in the middle of the night.
#7: Head to Toe
Those funny flaps on the shoulders of onesies? Those are so you can pull the shirt down over the shoulders and not over the head. Why is that important? Blowouts. It's much easier to wipe poop off legs than out of hair.
#8: Say Yes
If someone offers to help, accept. Don't feel bad giving them a specific thing to help with, like the dishes or making dinner. Friends and family want to help during this time, let them! And if you do not have a large village around you, or you want one with fewer opinions, hire a postpartum doula. Some proper sleep, some time alone, a tidy kitchen, and folded laundry, can make all the difference.
Raising a baby is hard work. They don't come with manuals. But every baby is unique and it will not take you long to figure out the best quick fixes for your model. And remember, when it comes to gear and toys, their favourite part is always going to be the box!
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