11 Baby Hacks for New Parents

11 Baby Hacks for New Parents

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It’s scary bringing that little one home for the first time. At least in the hospital, the nurses were right there to help you out — telling you how much was appropriate to feed your baby, reminding you when another feeding time had arrived, instructing you in the ways of changing diapers and getting him to latch, and intervening if something didn’t seem right. But once you sign those discharge papers, you’re on your own.

Even I, a third time mom last fall, had to seek some advice when it came to all things baby as I had forgotten so much in the four years since we’d had our last one. Which is why I’ve decided to write it all down here in an attempt to help the other parents out there struggling with a new baby. I present you with 11 Baby Hacks, some you may know and some you may not, for New Parents.

1. Relieve constipation with Karo syrup. Karo syrup is not just useful when it comes to baking a killer pecan pie. It can also help “move things along” for a constipated little one. Simply put a little bit (one squeeze ought to do it) in a bottle with formula or breast milk, shake it up really well, and feed to baby. Within a couple hours, you should see some back door action.

2. Relieve constipation with a thermometer or Q-Tip. If baby still appears to have clogged plumbing, grab a thermometer or a Q-Tip and smother it with Vaseline. Stick it in baby’s rectum in the same way you would take a rectal temperature. DON’T GO UP THERE TOO FAR. Just the tip should suffice (get your mind out of the gutter). It’s important to be gentle here. And careful. Very, very careful. Sometimes the little nudge this provides helps to get things flowing again. WORD OF CAUTION: This method can have immediate results — and by immediate, I mean immediate. Have something at the ready to catch the mudslide you are likely going to release.

3. Relieve pain or discomfort with a pacifier dipped in sugar. This is a little trick I learned when my second son was in the hospital NICU after birth and the doctors had to keep inserting needles in his head for blood drawing and monitoring purposes. They put some glucose on a pacifier and gave it to him, and I swear to you, he didn’t make a sound the whole time they worked on him. Once we came home, I adapted the method slightly and dipped a wet pacifier in some sugar and gave it to him whenever he was inconsolably uncomfortable from teething, gas, or an ear infection (which I obtained antibiotics for as well), among other things. Worked like a charm for him and still works for my third son.

4. Relieve teething pain with a frozen teether or washcloth. Grab a teether (preferably one with the liquid inside) or a clean washcloth rolled up and dipped in water on one end and place it in the freezer for a bit. Once it’s pretty solid, take it out and hand it to baby to gnaw on. Something about the way the cold feels on their irritated gums is satisfying to them.

5. Safely bathe baby in a laundry basket. That period between newborn and sitting up alone is a tricky one when it comes to bathing baby. She’s too big for the infant bath but not quite big enough to sit up on her own in the regular bath. Instead of spending a fortune on a transition tub she’ll be in for a few short weeks, simply repurpose your laundry basket by placing it in the regular tub and plopping baby inside. Her back will be supported by the edge of the basket, and the holes in the basket will allow the water in around her. But remember: just because she’s supported doesn’t mean you can leave her. You still have to be there to keep her from falling over or slipping down, both of which are still possible depending on the size of the basket you use.

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6. Cure cradle cap with olive oil and a soft-bristled baby brush. Cradle cap, no matter how much you try to prevent it by either bathing baby more frequently or bathing him less, is still inevitable for some infants. Help baby get through this phase by washing his head well with baby shampoo just a few times per week, adding just a little olive oil to the area after his bath to moisturize (emphasis on just a little; you’re not sauteing him here), and brushing his scalp with a soft-bristled baby hairbrush to remove dried flakes when they appear. Sure, he may smell like dinner for a few weeks, but at least he won’t look like the poster child for a baby dandruff shampoo commercial.

7. Encourage solo sleeping with a heating pack. If you have more than one child, chances are you’ll get one who does not, no matter what you try, tolerate you putting her down. Being close to her mom or dad provides warmth and security. Unfortunately, you will eventually need to sleep as well, which means at some point you’re going to have to place her in her own bed to rest. You can encourage her to sleep solo in small increments by putting a heating pack in her cradle with her. I recommend the ones you can microwave, as there’s nothing electric to worry about, but if you opt for a heating pad, just be sure to unplug it before dozing off yourself. And make absolutely sure the pack or the pad setting is not so hot it will burn baby or so close to her face that she could smother on it. This part is SUPER IMPORTANT.

8. Relieve cold symptoms with Vicks BabyRub and a sock. OK, I fully realize this one sounds wacky, but I promise you, it works. Rub Vicks BabyRub on baby’s chest and smear a little bit on a sock. Then secure the sock around baby’s neck with a safety pin. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. You will not strangle baby as long as you make sure it’s not too tight and as long as you keep an eye on baby the whole time. My grandmother swore by this method when I was growing up, and you know what? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. It really does help with congestion and general cold and flu malaise. Just be sure to remove the sock before heading to bed or leaving baby by himself to nap.

9. Relieve croup symptoms with the steam from a shower and/or the cold air from a freezer. Croup cough is nasty, and if your baby spends any amount of time at daycare or around other little ones, chances are good she’ll contract it. You can help ease a coughing fit and make breathing through one a bit more tolerable by turning the shower on hot and hiding out in the closed bathroom with baby for about 15 minutes. You can also try standing in front of the open freezer with baby (or heading outside if you live in a cold climate), letting her breathe in the cool air for the same amount of time. Both are effective at helping that cough subside. For a little while, at least.

10. Help a barfy baby sleep by propping up the mattress with rolled receiving blankets or towels. Some babies are what I like to call “spitty.” They spit up all the time, no matter how recently or long ago they’ve eaten, either because they have reflux or because it’s just the way they do. This constant spitting up can cause them to choke, particularly when they’re on their backs, making sleeping very difficult for them. If you don’t have a Rock ‘n Play, don’t feel like forking over the cash to purchase one, or have a child who has outgrown it, you can place rolled receiving blankets or towels under one end of baby’s mattress to create a bit of an angle so baby doesn’t choke on that spit-up in the night. Just be sure not to create too much of an angle. You don’t want baby rolling down to the bottom of the bed or winding up in a heap in which he might smother.

11. Help a colicky baby sleep by swaddling. Swaddling seems obvious, I know. Many babies like the warmth and restriction it provides. Some don’t, however, which is why when we brought our third son home, I was open to the possibility of not swaddling him after battling my second son, who absolutely hated being swaddled, until I gave up and let him sleep with his arms free. Unlike my other two boys, though, my third son had serious digestive issues, which resulted in almost constant pain that prevented him from sleeping. He was up all night, tossing and turning and crying out, which meant so were we. I had stopped swaddling him shortly after bringing him home from the hospital because, like his brother, he also seemed to want his arms free. And then a friend of mine, whose daughter had had a terrible case of colic as a baby, suggested we try the swaddle again, and OHMYGOD, it worked. For some reason, it provided him with the comfort he needed to sleep through his tummy troubles. It’s certainly not fool proof, parents, but it’s worth a try. Anything for a little shut eye.

And there you have it. Just a few of the baby hacks I’ve picked up during my six years of motherhood. Got any other baby hacks to add to the list? Leave them in the comments below.