Category Archives: Frugal Baby Care

The Trouble with Sleep

Ah, sleep. You remember that, don’t you? It’s that 6 to 8 hour period of rest you used to get each day before you had babies. These days, it may feel more like a nightly crapshoot that leaves you groggy, irritable, emotional, and just plain exhausted. The irony is, after giving birth, your body needs time to rest and recuperate. But this is precisely the time when you aren’t going to get anywhere near enough sleep. Go figure.

When my first baby was born, I had no idea what I was in for. He didn’t want to sleep from day one. He wanted to eat and be held around the clock. This grew old fast. I was running on fumes most days and there were times that I would fall asleep while sitting with him in the rocking chair or while playing with him on the floor. I was sleep-deprived and miserable.

I researched all the information I could find on getting a baby to sleep and helping a baby sleep through the night. The problem is, there is a lot of advice out there. There are special CDs that promise to lull your baby right to sleep, there are countless books each with their own unique spin on baby sleep, and elaborate programs that each claim your baby will sleep through the night. Do these programs work? Sure–some programs will work for some babies. And then there are babies like mine.

Of course, part of the problem probably had to do with the fact that I never stuck with any one program! The poor baby didn’t get any nighttime consistency so why would I expect him to sleep well? In the end, I believe it was a combination of a consistent nighttime routine (bath, feeding, singing, rocking) and his age (about 8 months!) that finally allowed him to sleep through the night on a regular basis. Those were a rough few months in the interim, though.

God took pity on me the second time around. When my daughter was born just two years later, I was prepared for the worst. I anticipated months of sleepless nights and sheer exhaustion during the day. But by day three, she was sleeping through the night. It wasn’t anything I did or any program I followed. She was just a natural sleeper.

So the point is, if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, it’s probably not anything you are or are not doing. Sure, are there are techniques that can help but don’t beat yourself up over it. If you want to try the advice of experts, go for it. But only use what feels right for your and your family. Most importantly, remember that you will eventually get a good night’s sleep again.

Keeping Your Baby Safe in the Hospital

When I was taking a tour of the hospital before my first child was born, I was somewhat amused by the extreme measures put in place to protect the newborns from abduction. First there was the electronic anklet that would sound if the baby was removed from the hospital. Then there were the color coded nurses uniforms that let me know which nurses were allowed to take the baby to the nursery. There was also an intricate procedure that visitors had to go through before they would be allowed into the maternity unit.

Honestly, it all seemed a little….dramatic, or something. I remember thinking at the time, “It’s not like there are kidnappers just lying in wait for an opportunity to grab a baby.”

Turns out, I was wrong. According to statistics provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than two-thirds of infant abductions take place in a healthcare facility. Why? Because it’s relatively easy for someone to pose as a nurse and literally walk away with a baby. In the vast majority of cases, this is exactly what happened.

It’s interesting reading, though I’d skip it if you are pregnant–don’t give yourself added scenarios to worry about. Instead, just be aware of your hospital’s safety measures and be diligent about knowing who has your baby and for what purpose. If a nurse comes to take your little one to the nursery for any reason–tests, bathing, weighing, etc.–don’t hesitate to ask to see her identification. If you ever have any doubt or concern, call the nurses’ station. When it comes to the safety and well-being of your child, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Frugal Remedy for Cradle Cap

I was shocked today to discover a cream to treat cradle cap that cost $24! As a dug a little deeper, I found that even the “inexpensive” treatments would set you back $5 or $6. Really?

Both of my babies had cradle cap. And both times, I used the same frugal remedy and it cleared it right up. So before you go out and spend $24 to treat your baby’s cradle cap, try this.

Massage a liberal amount of olive oil or mineral oil into the affected area. Allow the oil to sit for about 15 minutes. Then, take a fine tooth comb and gently comb out the loosened flakes. Next, thoroughly shampoo your baby’s hair/scalp. If there is still an oily residue, shampoo again. Finally, brush your baby’s hair/scalp with a soft brush to help loosen any remaining flakes. If necessary, repeat this process in a couple of days.

Freebie Roundup — Formula, DVDs, Baby Food, and More

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing more frugal than free. And if you’re the parent of a baby, there are tons of freebies to be found. Freebie offers come and go so it’s a good idea to sign up as soon as possible for the ones you are interested in. Below is a list of currently available offers. Come back next month for the newest freebie offers!

  • Free subscription to American Baby magazine — Produced by the same folks who put out Parents magazine, this one often carries the elusive Amazon.com diaper coupons!
  • Free subscription to Baby Talk magazine – Another great magazine, Baby Talk is full of useful information for new (and even experienced) parents.
  • Pregnancy Alert Bracelet — This cute bracelet announces your mom-to-be status, which could be helpful in an emergency situation.
  • Free Pampers Cruisers sample — Proctor and Gamble is offering a sample of Pampers Cruisers with Dry Max upon signup.
  • Lite-Up Baby Clippers — These handy nail clippers have a built-in lite to make it easier to see your baby’s nails.
  • Beech Nut Baby Food — Get a couple of free jars of baby food, a box of rice cereal, plus coupons when you sign up.
  • Baby Formula Sample — Get a free sample of baby formula from Parent’s Choice.
  • Free Potty Training DVD — Get a free DVD to help you potty train your toddler from Huggies Pull-Ups.
  • Free Circus Ticket — Babies up to 12 months of age can receive one free ticket to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
  • Welcome Letter From the President — Receive a presidential letter in honor of your child’s birth. Just send a note with your request and include your baby’s name, age, and address to:
    White House
    Attn: Greetings Office
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
    Washington, D.C. 20500

Crafts for Older Babies and Toddlers

Arts and crafts are great for fine motor development as well as to encourage creativity. The problem is, it can be hard to find craft ideas for babies and toddlers. After all, if you put something in your baby’s hand, he’s likely to put it in his mouth. That kinda rules out crayons, markers, glue, clay, etc.

Fortunately, there are some baby-safe crafts that you can do with your kids. I’m going to share with you some of my favorites. All of these use common household items and they all pass the mouth test. 🙂


Cracker Canvas


 

 

 

 

 

 


What You Need
Graham Crackers
White Grape or Apple Juice
Food Coloring (natural food coloring is ideal)
Small Paintbrushes

What To Do
In small cups or bowls, mix a couple tablespoons of juice with several drops of food coloring. Mix a different batch for each color you want to use. Place a graham cracker in front of your toddler and show him how to paint on it with the juice “paint.” The more food coloring you use, the more vibrant the paint will be–and the messier it will be. The best part is, when he’s done, your little one can eat his painting.


Pudding Paint


 

 

 

 

 

 


What You Need

Pudding
White Paper (finger paint paper is best, but any will do)

What To Do
Give your baby a dollop of pudding and a sheet of paper. Demonstrate to her how to finger paint with the pudding.  Some pudding will get on the paper, the rest will probably go into her mouth. When she’s done, hang up her artwork for the day–then throw it away. You wouldn’t want to attract bugs by keeping the pudding painting for too long. As an optional idea, try using vanilla pudding tinted with food coloring (again, natural is best) to give your baby a variety of colors.


Mouth-Safe Dough

(contains wheat–see below for gluten-free)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What You Need

1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
a half cup of salt
1 tablespoon of oil
1 cup of boiling water
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pumpkin Pie Spice, or Apple Pie Spice (optional–added for scent)*
Food Coloring (optional)*

What To Do
Mix all ingredients–except food coloring–together, first with a spoon, then with your hands once it is cool enough to handle. If using food coloring, add a few drops and knead into the dough. Store in an airtight container. As a side note, you obviously won’t want your toddler to make a snack out of this dough, but if some does wind up in his mouth, at least all of the ingredients are edible.


Gluten Free Dough
What You Need
½ cup rice flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pumpkin Pie Spice, or Apple Pie Spice (optional–added for scent)*
Food Coloring (optional)*

What To Do
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook on low heat until mixture thickens and begins to form a ball (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, knead the dough and then store it in an airtight container.

*Some people use unsweetened Koolaid in their homemade dough recipes to add color and scent. This, of course, adds artificial ingredients into the dough, but it does result in pretty colors that smell good, too. Personally, though, I prefer to use natural colors and scents in my play dough.

Probiotics for Babies?

I am a big advocate of probiotics. I take them regularly to help with digestion and to maintain a good balance of healthy bacteria. When I’m breastfeeding, I add additional probiotics to my diet to help prevent thrush. With thrush in mind, I was interested in reading about probiotics for babies. Here is what Clark Hemsley, a writer and blogger at Probiotics.org, had to say on the subject:

Probiotics are live bacteria identical or similar to the healthy bacteria found throughout the human digestive system. These naturally occurring bacteria play an important role in a person’s overall health. They assist with the complete digestion of food products, aid in the absorption of minerals, and also facilitate the synthesizing of vitamins. Probiotics have been shown to improve digestive processes, increase immune system strength, and increase resistance to certain infections and harmful bacteria. Probiotics serve a vital function in improving health. Since these substances are found naturally within the human body, they can be used safely on children and infants. Probiotics are particularly effective during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Pregnant mothers often suffer from a range of discomforts due to digestive issues. Heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea symptoms can easily be relieved by introducing probiotic-enhanced foods or supplements into the diet. The benefits of the probiotics will be passed on to the baby. An expectant mother can begin to improve and strengthen her baby’s immune system even before the child is born.

Taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding, probiotics stimulate production of immunoglobulin A. This is a crucial component of the immune system that helps defend against allergens. Immunoglobulin A is provided to the baby by blood or by breast milk. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who supplement their diets with probiotic foods or other products will boost their baby’s immune system, aid in proper functioning of the baby’s digestive system, and can help prevent or delay the development of a number of conditions including allergies, colic, diarrhea, eczema, and asthma.

When a baby is born, proper development of the digestive environment is vital to the proper functioning of the immune system. Using probiotics at this time will ensure the proper progress of these processes. By helping the immune system function optimally, probiotics can help infants avoid allergy-related conditions such as asthma and eczema. These health benefits have been proven to continue throughout the child’s life.

One of the main functions of probiotics is improvement of digestion and digestive issues. They will help your baby digest foods efficiently. They are also helpful when your baby is taking antibiotics. Antibiotics wipe out all the bacteria in the body, including the good bacteria. This often causes digestive upset and diarrhea. Probiotic supplements taken during or after a course of antibiotics will help to replace the necessary bacteria and restore proper intestinal balance.

Another important function of probiotics is the breakdown of dietary fiber into fatty acids. These fatty acids create a kind of barrier within the intestines and block harmful substances including allergens and harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream. Food allergies are known to cause a number of harmful childhood conditions including eczema and asthma.

Probiotics can also improve the symptoms of colic. Although the exact mechanism for this is unknown, it is most likely related to the improvement in digestion. Studies have shown that colicky babies who were treated with probiotics were twice as likely to have decreased periods of crying than those treated with over-the-counter anti-gas medicines.

Probiotics naturally exist in foods including most yogurt, kefir, cheeses, and pickles. Other fermented dairy products, tempeh, miso, and some beverages also contain probiotics. Supplements are available in different forms such as capsules and powders. For infants, powdered supplements are best and are easily combined with formula or other liquids.

Many pediatricians recommend using probiotics to treat a variety of infant health concerns. In some situations, such as when the mother’s or baby’s immune system is compromised, probiotics may pose some risks. Before adding any supplement to your child’s diet, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

Stimulate Your Baby–For Free

We all want our kids to grow up with as many advantages as possible. With that in mind, a lot of parents enroll their babies in music classes, sign language classes, or even exercise classes before the child is even old enough to sit up on his own. I get that. I really do. We all want to give our babies a great head start. Unfortunately, I think that parents who don’t or can’t do these types of activities with their infants sometimes experience guilt over it.

Here’s the thing. While some of these classes may be great, you can provide an intellectually and physically stimulating environment right in your own home. And it doesn’t have to cost a thing. A few years ago, I wrote some tips on infant stimulation for Suite101.com. I thought it would be appropriate to share them with you here:

Visual Stimulation:

  • Affix brightly colored shapes to the wall above baby’s changing table.
  • Hang a mobile above baby’s crib.
  • Put something silly on your head or face.
  • Place baby-safe mirrors within baby’s eyesight.

Auditory Stimulation:

  • Play a variety of soothing music for baby.
  • Play a CD of nature sounds such as ocean waves or thunderstorms.
  • Sing songs to baby.
  • Talk to baby with inflection and feeling.
  • Allow baby to make sounds of his own with rattles, pots and pans, and clapping his hands.

Physical Stimulation:

  • Dance with baby, involving him in the motions.
  • Bounce baby in your arms or lap.
  • Provide plenty of room for baby to roll, crawl, cruise, or walk, depending on his developmental stage.
  • Play hand games with baby.

Tactile Stimulation:

  • Give baby large pieces of fabric in a variety of textures.
  • Provide toys with different surfaces.
  • Allow baby to touch Daddy’s face before he shaves.
  • Let baby play on different floor surfaces (carpet, rugs, hardwood, tile, etc.).

 

No matter how you choose to stimulate your baby, you will cherish the time spend with him. Have fun and enjoy these months while they last.

Sun Safety for Babies

Here in my neck of the woods, it’s getting hot. It’s been in the 80’s for a few days now and it’s only just begun. We’re already pulling out the shorts, tank tops, and sunscreen.

Babies and toddlers are especially susceptible to sunburn because they have had limited exposure to the sun so their skin is, in most cases, the fairest it will ever be. Regardless, people of every skin tone can get a sunburn so all babies and children should be protected from over exposure to the sun. Here are the sunscreen recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Babies under 6 months:

  • The two main recommendations from the AAP to prevent sunburn are to avoid sun exposure, and dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. However when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of suncreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. If an infant gets sunburn, apply cold compresses to the affected area.

Babies and children over 6 months:

  • The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • On both sunny and cloudy days use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that protects against UVB and UVA rays.
  • Be sure to apply enough sunscreen – about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Use extra caution near water and sand (and even snow!) as they reflect UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.

The good news is, during this time of the year, sunscreen can be bought fairly inexpensively. Many stores will run sales on it, particularly through Memorial Day and there are already coupons going around for it. I have seen some people getting name brand sunblock for less than $1. If you do find a great deal on it, be sure to buy as much as you can use before it expires. Keep in mind that you should actually put sunscreen on exposed skin year round and not just during the summer months.

 

 

Is This “Bad” Baby Advice?

I read an article on Yahoo’s Shine today that really kind of ruffled my feathers. The article was entitled, The 10 Most Irritating, Least Helpful Parenting Tips Ever. I read it with interest because I, like most moms, have been the recipient of unwanted advice.

I was immediately turned off by the author’s tone. She was unnecessarily sarcastic and spoke of the advice-givers as if they were imbeciles with no basis for the advice. And sure, I’ve received advice from people who aren’t even parents but some of the “bad advice” on her list can come only from those who have been there.

To be fair, there are certainly some tips/advice in the article that are pretty much useless. There were a few, however, that I consider to be good, sound advice. Let me share with you the ones with which I take issue.

Sleep now while you have the chance (during pregnancy). The article’s author makes a joke about hibernating during her last trimester. Look, I realize that life goes on while you’re pregnant (work, household responsibilities, etc.) and I further realize that you can’t store up sleep to use later when your two month old is waking you up every three hours.  But you can ensure you aren’t running a sleep deficit when your baby arrives by sleeping enough during your pregnancy. You can also ensure that you are well rested for the health and well-being of both you and your unborn baby. Pregnant women need their rest and I maintain that they should sleep as much as possible while they have the chance.

Sleep when the baby sleeps. The author makes some slightly disparaging remarks about the folks who offer this tidbit of advice and she goes on to argue that she has other things to do while her baby is sleeping. THAT IS THE POINT! All new moms feel like they should be cleaning the house or doing the laundry or taking a shower while their baby sleeps. The purpose of this advice is to remind moms that some of these things can and should wait. Sleep is so important and most new parents don’t get nearly enough of it. So yeah, you’ll have to sacrifice some things to nap when your baby does but you need your rest to be the best mom you can be!

Relish this time because your baby will grow up before you know it. The author reacts to this advice with gratuitous sarcasm and assures the reader that she is well aware that her baby will grow up eventually. Perhaps she only has a baby. Maybe she’s never experienced the pang of waking up one day to realize that your baby is not a baby anymore. Even though my oldest child is only four years old, I already experience feelings of longing and even regret when I think of the time that has passed us by. Did I spend enough quality time with him? Have I given him a solid foundation on which to grow? Will we still be as close when he goes off to kindergarten? The fact is, most of us are so busy taking care of our babies that we don’t always stop to appreciate the little things. For that reason, I think this is very sound advice from parents who have been there.

So what do you think? Is this good advice or is it better left unspoken? Be sure to read the full article on Yahoo and then let me know what you think!

How To Save Money On Your Hospital Birth

Giving birth in a hospital will probably be the biggest baby expense you will face during your pregnancy and your child’s infancy. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average cost for an uncomplicated vaginal hospital birth is about $9,000. This does not include prenatal care–it is simply what it costs from the moment you walk into the hospital to the moment you leave.

Oh, and it also doesn’t include anesthesia (like the epidural), the cost of your obstetrician, or the cost of the visit from your baby’s new pediatrician. And if there are any complications, your costs can skyrocket. If you have health insurance, it will likely cover a large percentage of these costs. But even if it covers 80%, you’re still coming out of pocket nearly $2,000 and possibly much more.

There are, of course, alternatives to a hospital birth and we’ll cover those another day. For now, lets look at some easy ways to save money at the hospital.

  • Shop around. While the cost of giving birth will likely be similar at all hospitals in your area, check on prices anyway. Most hospitals will tell you what the average cost of birth in their facility is.
  • Ask about discounts. Some hospitals offer discounts for prepayment which could save you a percentage on your total hospital bill.
  • Ask about options. Is a private room standard? Is there an extra charge for the television or the phone? You could potentially save quite a bit of money by opting out of these luxuries.
  • Go as natural as possible. Is it hospital policy to start an IV upon admission? If not, skip it. Considering a natural birth (i.e., no epidural)? It’ll save you quite a bit of money.
  • BYOT (Bring Your Own Toiletries). If diapers, sanitary napkins, and baby wipes are included in the package price for your baby’s birth, great–use them. And, if hospital policy allows it, take home any extras at the end of your stay. If, however, these products are itemized, ask about bringing your own. It will cost you a lot less to bring your own disposable products than it will to use them at the hospital’s inflated rates. You might even inquire about bringing your own tissue, soap, and even plastic cups. Think it’s not worth it? Think again. Some hospitals charge an excessive amount for these items (try a $100 box of Kleenex!).
  • BYOM (Bring Your Own Medicine). Ask your OB ahead of time what kind of over-the-counter medications you will be given during  your stay (often Tylenol or ibuprofen) and then bring them with you. The hospital may charge a few dollars per pill whereas you could spend just pennies per pill by bringing them from home. Also, if you are on any prescription medications, be sure to bring them with you. Otherwise, you will have to pay for a dose or two of the medication from the hospital’s pharmacy (not cheap!).
  • Don’t forget your freebies. Formula and diaper companies often supply hospitals with free diaper bags and samples to send home with new moms. If you aren’t given these items, ask about them. The samples are nice and the diaper bags are usually perfect for dads–plain, neutral colors with little, if any, cutesy designs.
  • Check your bill. You probably wouldn’t pay your server in a restaurant without checking your bill first. Don’t pay your hospital without checking, either. Ask for an itemized bill and then check it and check it again. Errors are extremely common and many people end up paying more than they should as a result. If you have any questions about an item on the bill, ask for an explanation