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Finding Balance

Becoming a mom is a wonderful experience (of course!), but between working, cleaning, and caring for your baby, it can also be time-consuming. Huggies has some quick, easy ways to help give you a break.

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Foods That Give You Energy-Eat Up, New Moms!

Let us guess: You could probably use a little more energy right about now. We can’t give you extra sleep, but we can share the best pep-you-up snacks courtesy of Melanie Zook, R.D., a nutritionist and mom of two in Landsale, Pennsylvania. Choose from among these foods rich in healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and you’ll go, girl!

Trail mix. Combine nuts and dried fruits with a whole-grain cereal and store in a giant plastic bag. It’s one of Zook’s favorite snacks: "When my daughter was born, I’d keep some in the car and some in the nursery so I was never snack-less!"

Oatmeal. Cook up a big pot on the weekend and store it in the fridge. Warm up a portion and top with nuts, dried or fresh fruit, ground flaxseed, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Vegetable soup. Another great make-ahead food, packed with veggies and beans. Though the canned kind is perfectly lovely too.

A green smoothie. Zook’s signature concoction: a blend of low-fat milk, plain low-fat yogurt, bananas, frozen mango and berries, ice, and baby spinach. "The baby spinach is so fresh and tender that other than the color, you’d never even know it's in there," she says. Zook even uses the recipe to make green ice pops for her 2-year-old.

Natural peanut butter on whole-grain crackers. Satisfying yet super-healthy. Breastfeeding women who have a family history of nut allergies may want to avoid peanuts; discuss it with your doctor.

Quickie quesadilla. Whip up a pot of black or pinto beans and refrigerate. When hunger strikes, warm a whole-wheat tortilla and a couple of spoonfuls of beans, then top with avocado slices and a tablespoon of low-fat plain yogurt. Share with your husband…if you’d like.

Energy bars. They shouldn’t be a daily staple because they’re high in calories, but the occasional energy bar can tide you over and keep you from reaching for the candy at the checkout counter.

Hard-boiled eggs. Keep a bowlful in the fridge and have one with an apple, orange, or pear. Or poach an egg and serve over a toasted whole-wheat English muffin

Yogurt parfait. Make a good-for-you version with low-fat plain yogurt and chopped fresh fruit, with a sprinkling of granola or nuts. Enjoy!

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The Most Precious Hug I’ve Ever Witnessed

I’ve never been a hugger. I’m not really sure why, but I’ve just never really loved hugs. I feel loved more through quality time, a well-timed compliment, or a thoughtful gesture. My husband, on the other hand, loves a good hug. My mother-in-law once told me that even as a little boy, he had absolutely no space bubble. He loved nothing more than to cuddle up on her lap, reading books all the live long day.

As you can imagine, my non-hugging ways and his hugging ones are sometimes at odds. Over the years we’ve been married, I’ve become more of a hugger, but even before having kids, he would mention how excited he was to have kids, because maybe — just maybe — one of them would end up being a snuggly, hug-lover too.

About four years into our marriage, our oldest daughter arrived and we became parents for the first time. We were over the moon and completely smitten with her. My husband was elated to be a father and was so sweet and attentive to her every need. As she grew though, as much as she did love her Daddy, she proved that she had taken after her mama in the snuggling department. Much to my husband’s disappointment, she wasn’t exactly the hugger he had been hoping for — though she did have plenty of other redeeming qualities.

I felt a little bit sad that fate had dealt him a raw deal with two loves in his life who did not share his affinity for cuddling, but he held out hope that perhaps one of our other future offspring might fill the void one day. Then, when our daughter was two-and-a-half, we welcomed Baby #2 into the world: our sweet, little Clive.

Clive could not have been more different from his big sister. Where she was often stoic and not easily impressed, he was gregarious and loved being engaged. She didn’t laugh for the first time until she was nearly 6 months old, but he laughed easily and often starting early, before 3 months. She was a curly-haired brunette and he had the lightest blonde, stick straight hair. She was dainty and delicate and more cautious; he was a bit like a bull in a china shop — bulldozing through his days with gusto. The most notable difference though, was that this kid LOVED to cuddle. If he could’ve been snuggled all day long, he would’ve been perfectly happy. He loved to be held and snuggled and would happily sit in our laps for as long as we would engage him. He adored (and still does adore) any and all human contact.

As you can imagine, this development thrilled my husband’s heart. He had finally gotten his snuggly baby, and I will never forget the first time Clive went up and hugged him completely out of the blue and of his own volition.

My husband was making our daily espresso at his coffee bar as we rushed to get ready for church one Sunday morning. As he was distractedly pulling shots and pouring them into cups, he noticed a tugging on his leg. He looked down to see Clive there, putting his arms up saying, “Hug you Dada.” It was such a sweet thing to see, as my husband abandoned his coffee pot and crouched down to our son’s level for the most precious hug I’ve ever witnessed. The pure joy that washed over my husband’s face and the look of complete peace on my son’s face as they shared this hug will forever be stored away in my mama-memory-bank. They hugged for a good 20-30 seconds, and I was able to pull my phone out of my pocket and quickly capture the moment in a photo. I’m so glad I did, because it is one that I look back at often, telling my husband, “Awww! Remember that?”

My husband is so thankful he finally got his “hugger,” and truth be told, our boy’s penchant for nonstop human touch has brought his sister and I around too. Maybe we are huggers now after all.

Image : Disney Baby

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Realistic Parenting New Year's Resolutions

Every new year brings an opportunity to look back and think about the good and the not-so-good moments. When it comes to parenting, there are always times we regret and those we cherish. Making resolutions is an opportunity to move past the ones that weren't your best parenting moments and focus on how to create more positive parenting experiences. Making parenting New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be about trying to be the perfect parent, or molding your child into the perfect kid. Instead, focus on what’s actually in your control and give yourself attainable, realistic goals.

Create more fun.

Most kids will tell you it’s the experiences of childhood they remember the most, not the stuff. Think of ways to incorporate more play and family time into your monthly routines. Put on some music and have impromptu dance parties with your little ones, designate a regular family movie night where everyone cuddles up in their pajamas, or if your kids are old enough, including them in the preparation and cooking of family meals, are simple ways to bring everyone together with fun activities.

Be patient, even with yourself. 

It’s easy to lose your cool when you’re juggling a million different chores, kids, responsibilities and expectations. Something has to give, and it's often your last nerve. Resolving to be more patient can take many forms. Practice taking a step back and breathing deeply when you feel the irritation building, delegate more often, and if your kids are older institute a chore chart so the load is shared.

Keep your eye on the big picture.

You are raising future adults who will hopefully be responsible, kind, smart and hard working. But, they will never be perfect. Most kids go through various phases of behavior and different habits – and not all will be wonderful. However, in the end, they will grow up, and most likely not be carrying their blankie off to college or still crawling into your bed at 12 years old. Try to treasure the great moments and put the not-so-great ones in perspective.

Make “me” time.

It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of parenthood, but the best example you can set for your kids is to show that you value yourself. Whether it’s a monthly book club with your friends and a girls’ night out, or a long bath that is your weekly “do not disturb” ritual, or date night with your spouse, make sure you schedule time that is truly just for you.

Setting small achievable goals, the kind that you can check off on a mental (or physical) to-do list, will be more effective than an all caps RESOLUTION. Think about the advice you give your kids when they want to give up on a new task or hobby. If you practice a little every day, keep trying even when you're frustrated, and reward yourself for incremental successful steps, you will find yourself attaining some genuinely blissful parenting moments.  Or at the very least, joyfully making pancakes together on lazy Sunday mornings.

Image: Getty

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Cleaning up for guests

It's common, accepted advice: Clean as you go. Put away mail as you open it, wipe down counters as you get them dirty, and wash dishes as you use them. But realistically, that's not always feasible. On occasion, you have friends coming over, and you have exactly five minutes to undo two weeks of damage. Don't worry, all is not lost! Remember, it's okay if your house still looks lived in when you're done with these tips.

Hit the bathroom

People can forgive piles of dishes or dusty baseboards, but chances are, they'll have to use the bathroom. Even when it's unintentional, guests always notice a dirty bathroom. Do you really want them making snap judgments about your cleanliness level (or lack thereof)?

For this reason, one of your top priorities should be removing those scummy lines around the tub and in the toilet. You don't have to deep clean — just tackle the dirt with a blast of cleaning solution. And if all else fails, shut your shower curtain. Also, wiping down the fixtures and counter in your bathroom can make a visible change in the bathroom's appearance.

Clear the sink

If you don't have time to run the dishwasher or wash all your dirty dishes by hand, at least make the pile look presentable. Place them all in the sink and consolidate the mess to lessen the overall untidy and cluttered look of the kitchen. On the other hand, if you have a dishwasher, don't be ashamed to jam-pack all your dishes inside, which is akin to sweeping the mess under your bed.

Sweep or vacuum

A pass over the carpet with a vacuum cleaner will pick up dirt you didn't even know was there. This instantly freshens up the room and is especially crucial if people are going to be sitting on the floor. It's unflattering for your guests to notice a clump of hair or a ball of pet fur on the carpet. If all else fails: Go outside.

Host your bash outside, if possible. Avoid the house altogether! An outdoor barbecue party is always fun (weather permitting). Use paper plates and plastic utensils to create the least amount of work when the party is over. Guests will clean up after themselves if it's easy to find a trash can, so place several trash cans and recycling bins where everyone can find them.

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Bringing Sexy Back

Feeling sexy after baby: getting back to you

Pop quiz: the baby's just gone down for the night, and your husband turns to you and gives you...that look. Do you A) whip out your hottest lingerie, or B) roll your eyes and say, "You have GOT to be kidding?"

If your answer is closer to "B" than "A," don't worry, you're not alone. You may have been noticing that when it comes to being "in the mood," an uninterrupted good night's sleep is at the top of your list. Don't fret. It's pretty normal. At some point after their baby is born, many women find themselves wondering if they're ever going to feel amorous or relaxed or desirable again.

Hey, it's understandable. After nine (million) months of pregnancy and taking care of a demanding newborn day and night, it's hard to feel like a sexual being again! You're tired, busy, and you may not be feeling 100% confident about your body.

While lots of new mamas go through a stage where the last thing on their mind is sex, it's important to reconnect with your husband when you're feeling up for it. And if you're starting to wonder if you're ever going to feel up for it, hang in there — there are some painless, baby-step ways to get your mojo back on track!

Indulge yourself

How can you feel sexy when you're constantly working, cleaning and taking care of everyone but yourself? Don't fall into the trap of feeling guilty for taking time away from your child in order to give yourself some attention. It's vital that you give yourself permission to relax and sneak in a little "you time." Ultimately, you'll feel recharged and have more energy for your busy life. After all, the laundry isn't going anywhere (unfortunately).

Here's the deal: it is officially okay to take off that SuperMom cape and focus on yourself. Personal time is important, especially when you need a break from all the demands of motherhood.

Give yourself a fun, feel-good treat: Get your hair done, schedule a full-body massage, get a manicure...whatever lifts your spirits and makes you feel special. A little self-indulgence can go a long way towards reconnecting you with YOU.

Focus on health

If you're feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion, you might need to take a break from your All Baby, All the Time schedule to pay attention to your own needs on the healthy-you front. Are you treating yourself with kindness and care, just like you're doing for your baby? Consider these healthful hints for new moms:

Get your beauty rest. This can be hard with a little one in the house, but after those crazy early newborn months you should be settling into a manageable sleep routine. If you're not getting enough sleep (and let's be honest, what mom is?), try cutting back on the caffeine, even though it may seem counter-productive. Avoid sugar right before bed. Enlist some help from others in your household — maybe someone else can take night duty with the baby for a while.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water truly does a body good. It adds natural moisture to your skin, helps your body flush out waste, and helps rev up your metabolism. If you're not getting enough to drink throughout the day, you're bound to experience some ill effects — dehydration can cause headaches and affect your ability to concentrate. Not only that, but when you're dehydrated, your blood volume is lowered, which makes your heart work harder to supply your body with oxygen. Translation: fatigue.

The "E" word. It may seem like the very last thing you have energy for is exercising, but think of it this way: Getting physical helps you feel more like getting physical (if you know what we mean!). You don't have to launch into a marathon gym routine in order to experience the benefits. You can start by taking your baby out in a stroller a few times a week for a brisk walk. It gets your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and boosts your body image.

Make it a priority

The most important thing you can do in your own personal Bringing Sexy Back campaign is simply to make it a priority. Find a babysitter, and schedule a date night with your husband — no babies allowed! Get dressed up in your favorite wow-'em outfit, even if you'd rather be hanging out in sweatpants. Cut back on overloaded to-do lists if you're feeling like there just isn't time for downtime. Most of all, put your partnership right up there with motherhood. Give it the attention it deserves.

It's not always easy to switch out of Mommy Mode, especially when you might be feeling self-conscious or just plain tired. Remember that keeping your marriage healthy — and feeling good about yourself — is one of the most loving things you can do for your family. Give yourself the gift of reclaiming your inner-babe, because you deserve it!

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Going beyond goo goo

What is baby talk?

It's time to confess. I'm a speech-language pathologist who talks "baby talk" to babies. And not only do I enjoy doing so, I maintain that it's good for them.

Baby talk refers to standard vocabulary words that have been modified by grownups to make them easier for Baby to say. They contain easier sounds, shorter syllables and lots of repetition. For example, the baby talk word for stomach is "tum-tum," for good night, "nightie-night," for urinate, "pee-pee" and so on.

In addition to using different words with babies, it's natural for adults to exaggerate pitch, slow the pace, and simplify sentence structure. When a baby enters the room, note how your pitch gets higher and you begin talking silly. This is an instinctive way of communicating with babies, and it makes learning to talk fun for grownups and babies alike.

Baby talk is a variation of adult language, invented by adults and passed on to each generation of babies; its sole purpose being to teach children to talk.

The science of baby talk

Peter Farb, a linguist and anthropologist, carried out a fascinating study about baby talk. He researched the vocabulary of six very different languages — English and Spanish, two Asian languages, Comanche, and the language of a non-literate community in Siberia.

He discovered that every one of these languages had a baby talk vocabulary. While the actual baby talk words differed, of course, from culture to culture, the themes were amazingly similar.

In all languages studied, the baby-talk words referred to eating, sleeping, toileting, good and bad behavior, animal names and terms for close relatives. These are the types of words that are most important in the life of every baby.

My own experience

When my daughter, Isabel, was just beginning to talk, there were many things she wanted to say but couldn't, because the words she needed contained consonant sounds that were too difficult.

For example, at 18 months, one of her favorite treats was popcorn, but she couldn't yet produce the "kuh" sound. Remembering that one of the rules of creating a baby talk word is to simplify, I began to call popcorn "pop-pop." She loved this new word that she could pronounce, and the power it gave her to get what she wanted.

Often Isabel would take the lead in inventing a baby-talk word. As she turned two, she referred to our pet cat "Smokey" as "Mo." A few months later, she began to call him "Mokey" and then finally "Smokey" as she matured and was able to pronounce more difficult sounds. Baby talk seemed to help her progress naturally from one speech stage to the next.

There are many benefits to the time-honored tradition of speaking baby-talk to children. Babies get practice with simple sounds and short syllables as well as lots of opportunity for repetition. Don't miss out on using these special words with your baby.

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Need a little more oomph?

  1. Prioritize sleep

    Americans, particularly women, are chronically sleep deprived. Inadequate sleep not only sucks the life out of your daily activities, it is actually damaging to your health, too. Sleep experts recommend a nightly seven to nine hours of solid sleep. Adjust your schedule to accommodate sufficient sleep and you'll be surprised how much more energy you have.

  2. Exercise daily

    If the mere thought of exercise tires you, stop thinking and start moving. Believe it or not, expending energy actually begets energy. Physical activity strengthens your muscles and bones, making it easier for you to do your daily activities and it also boosts your immune system, which can protect you from cold- and flu-induced lethargy. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day.

  3. Eat mini-meals throughout the day

    One or two large meals a day is a surefire recipe for fatigue. A large meal requires digestive energy, taking energy away from your brain and the rest of your body, and it causes an eventual blood sugar crash, which will also leave you in a heap of tired. Starting with breakfast, have four to six smaller meals — eating every three to four hours. This will keep you from feeling physically and mentally sluggish and will help keep your blood sugar stable.

  4. Have balanced meals and snacks

    Whether it is a snack or substantial meal, make sure it is comprised of complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits and vegetables), protein (lean meats, eggs, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy), and healthy fats (olives, olive oil, avocado, flax and fatty fish). Having all three nutrients in a meal will better ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs while helping to maintain stable blood sugar.

  5. Stay hydrated

    Dehydration is a common culprit in fatigue. Start your day with a tall, cold glass of water and continue to drink a glass every two hours. (Experts recommend eight (8-ounce) glasses of water every day.) Staying hydrated will not only keep your energy up, it also improves your metabolism and other bodily functions.

  6. Relax and de-stress

    No surprise, stress is an energy-suck. It tires your mind and your body in addition to taking a toll on your immune system and health. Take 20 minutes every day to relax and de-stress. Do yoga, meditation, or simple deep breathing. Get a massage, go for a walk or take a quiet bubble bath. Incorporating daily de-stress measures will unburden your mind and body and help unleash your inner energy.

  7. Give yourself something to anticipate

    Having something fun to look forward to every day will boost your mental — and physical — energy. Schedule a lunch date with a friend, plan a park outing with your kids, make a date with your spouse or significant other — just make sure that you plan something you find enjoyable. That alone will give you an extra push to bound out of bed with élan.

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“The Sleep Deprivation Made Me Do It!”

“I put ice-cream in the pantry once instead of back in the fridge, and looked for it for all day,”

—Laura H.

“I would try to make phone calls with the TV remote.”

—Marie V.

“We were going to some fancy-schmancy event (can’t remember where exactly). Needless to say, we were all dressed up—hair, makeup, etc.—and we drove to the event and I had to tell my husband to go back home…I had left without any shoes!”

—Shelby B.

“I found my keys in the freezer.”

—Stacey D.

“I was napping with the baby and my older children asked if they could go outside. Half asleep, I insisted they walk the fish first.”’

—Denise W.

“I once poured pumped breast milk in hubby’s cereal. And used formula in place of flour for gravy.”

—Samantha R.

“I tried to scramble eggshells after cracking the eggs into the trash.”

—Nanci S.

“One night I was so tired that I actually went to go to the bathroom and nearly used my 2-year-old’s potty chair!”—Sara B. “I put hand sanitizer on my toothbrush. Thank goodness I realized what I was doing.”

—Susan P.

“I was talking to my honey on his lunch break while trying to find my cell phone. I kept telling him I couldn’t find my phone. He asked, ‘Aren’t you on it?!’ I was.”

—Heather M.

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Top 10 Signs You Need A Mommy Break

1. You forget your name.

2. You start to think the smell of spit-up is kind of comforting.

3. You not only talk to the baby, you ask him for wardrobe advice.

4. Your most exciting revelation of the week: The ABC song and Twinkle Twinkle are exactly the same.

5. You refer to your husband as “Daddy.” Even in bed. And not in a sexy way.

6. You water the dog and feed the plant.

7. You have actual conversations with friends about the baby’s toots.

8. You catch yourself wondering if maybe those leftover strained peas would be good in an omelet.

9. Your idea of a fun time? Using shampoo and conditioner.

10. You forget the baby’s name.

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Dealing with it: Top seven mommy stress busters

You’re stuck in traffic. The baby’s crying. And the office is calling. Life with baby is amazing. And amazingly stressful. Here are some of the ways I deal when I feel stretched too thin and ready to crack.

  1. Listen to classical music

    Okay, it doesn't have to be classical if you really don't like it, but I have found that in some stressful situations (exams, work deadlines, etc.) putting some classical music in my iPod really helps me to cool down.

  2. Exercise more

    Exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress your body and mind.

  3. Ditch the bad friends

    There is a great Buddhist master called Shantideva who said, "Bad friends are like rotting fish and you are like a rose. Mix the rose with the fish and soon it will stink too!"

  4. Cut out fatty foods

    Fatty foods often leave you feeling heavy and depressed. They slow down your digestive system and make everything inside you a little bit off. Like a good car, you want to feed yourself quality fuel. This keeps your body and your mind running well. Stick to natural foods like fruits and vegetables as much as you can. You will feel better for it.

  5. Stop putting it off

    When I put things off I get stressed. Whether it is work, tasks, doctors visits or something else, it always seems bigger and scarier when I put it off. If we sort out our problems early we can often avoid the mental activities that go along with that event.

  6. Spa, stretch and massage often

    Women often think of spas and massages as luxury treats but if you are a member of a gym you can get them pretty cheap. It is a great way to relax your mind and allow your body to have some much needed rest time. It can also aid in the healing of muscles and stressed joints. Likewise, stretching during the day can release tension in your muscles.

  7. Sleep better

    Lack of sleep has got to be one of the number one reasons that people get stressed. Sleep is very important to humans. It is the time when the body and the mind process the events of the day and much healing takes place when you are deeply asleep. For this reason it is important to make sure your sleep is not only long enough but good enough.

There are a couple other ones I can think of but didn't add to my list because I have yet to try them out — they include "love" (ahem) and the ability to blow things off. My dominant, type A personality absolutely cannot do this, but it may work for you.

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