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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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dad feeding baby girl while working on computer

Dad and Baby Bonding Tips

Find out what easy things you can do now with your newborn to establish a long-lasting loving and healthy bond.

Looking for some fun ways to bond with your baby? We've found simple things you can do every day that will help you and your baby develop a happy and healthy relationship that will last for years to come.

Tips to Help Dads Bond with Baby:

  1. Be present.
    Children with involved fathers have better language skills, earn better grades and enjoy better self-esteem than those without one, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

  2. Get close and share “skin time” with your baby.
    Hold him closely and let him explore how you feel and look. “Let your baby feel your whiskers, your mustache, your hands. They all have different feels to them that he will get a real kick out of. Watch out, though. They love to pull chest hair!” shares the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC; fatherhood.gov), a government resource whose goal is disseminate up-to-date research and proven and innovative strategies to support and strengthen fathers.

  3. Take the night shift.
    “Nighttime is usually the ‘fussy’ time for newborns,” says Seth D. Ginsberg, health advocate (http://www.ghlf.org/), social entrepreneur (http://www.sethdginsberg.com/) and new father (http://www.usnews.com/topics/author/seth-d-ginsberg). “Babies are either overtired or overstimulated, and by sundown everyone in the family is exhausted. This is a great time to carve out 1 to 3 hours to devote to calming your baby by rocking him or her, singing gently, walking around, and ‘shhhhh-ing’ — a great noise that reminds them of being back in the womb,” he says. “This is also a great chance to give your partner a few hours to relax after what is likely a long day.”

  4. Read to your baby.
    If you read to your child 30 minutes a day, by the time he reaches kindergarten he will have learned 500 words or more, according to the NRFC. Soothe your crying baby. Crying is not an emergency, it's just your baby's way of telling you she needs something. Figuring out what she needs is a guessing game. “Just calmly try things until something works," says Dr. Jason Guichard, a cardiologist and father of three.

  5. Practice basic baby care.
    “Learn how to bathe, feed, diaper, hold and comfort a baby. All of these activities will build a father’s confidence and enhance bonding with the child," says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.gov).

  6. Take your baby with you.
    Everywhere. Anywhere. “Its important for dad to bring the baby into his life. If he has to go to the bank, take the baby,” says Armin Brott, father and author of several books on fatherhood, including “The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year” (arminbrott.com).

  7. Do diaper duty.
    “During a diaper change is when you have a full, uninterrupted view of your child, and your newborn has one of you,” says Ginsberg, who recommends that you talk with your newborn during changings. “You may want to sing a song, or describe body parts and things to your baby,” he says.

  8. Get down with baby.
    “Tummy time” is important as your baby grows. And during this time, when your baby is on her stomach strengthening her neck and back muscles, give her something to look at by getting down on the floor with her. “Most newborns can only tolerate 5 to 10 minutes at a time, but this is fun to experience and best when you get low on the ground and put your head at your baby’s head level,” says Ginsberg.

  9. Jump in.
    “Nobody ever gets it right 100 percent of the time,” says Brott of fatherhood. “Men and women have the same natural instincts when it comes to caring for babies,” suggests Brott. The difference is most dads must return to work before mom’s maternity leave is complete — preventing them from having the same opportunity as mom to practice baby care skills. The cure? Dads should strive to spend as much time with baby as they can. As Brott says, the only cure for nervous new dads is to jump in and learn from their mistakes.

  10. Share your hobbies with baby.
    It is never too early to start. Connect with your little one through your own interests — like sports. “As long as the baby is healthy and the venue isn't too loud, you can take the baby to sporting events,” Brott says. Take photos and recordings. “Especially of those little ‘coos’ and ‘ahhs” that your baby makes when they try to find their voice,” suggests Ginsberg. “Just like you probably thought the ultrasound heartbeat was the sweetest sound in the world, when you hear those coos you’ll want to capture that forever.”

  11. Be yourself.
    Play and interact with your newborn the way that feels right for you. Don’t be afraid to develop your own parenting style — separate from your partner. You’ll forge a strong and meaningful connection with your baby that’s all your own.

Image: Thinkstock

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Song and dad playing outside together

15 Simple Ways to Show Your Child Love

I love my daughter to the moon and back, but sometimes I wonder if she knows it. Even though she can’t tell me that she understands my love for her yet, there are many little ways that I’ve found to show her my love, and over time I’ve seen in her responses that it’s pretty clear that she knows she is loved.

Here are 15 simple things you can do with your child or grandchild to show them love.

1. Snuggle.

Nothing says “I love you” like a good snuggle session – even the tiniest babies can understand the love behind this. Hugs and squeezes, cuddling in bed in the morning — all of these things are an important part of building a strong bond between you and your child.

2. Drop everything.

We live in a world that is “go, go, go” and I will be the first to admit that I often find myself more attached to my phone, computer, and daily schedule than I should. I realize that work needs to get done, but make sure that sometimes you just drop what you’re doing, put away your phone and computer, and just take time to focus on your child. You don’t have to do anything exciting. Just being there and being present will demonstrate love.

3. Talk.

Just because they might not be able to talk back yet, doesn’t mean you can’t still talk to them. Tell your little one stories of your childhood, tell them about your favorite things – just talking to them is a way to show love.

4. Listen.

This is something I’m working on. I’m pretty good at talking to my daughter, but I don’t always think to stop and listen, since she’s not really speaking many coherent words yet. But, recently, I just stopped to listen, showing her non-verbal signs of active listening and she babbled on and on for about five minutes straight! Give your baby a listen – you’ll both be able to appreciate it.

5. Sing!

Hearing the sweet (at least to their baby ears) sound of your voice is a special and intimate way to show your child your affection. Sing some of your favorites – they’ll stick with your child as they get older. Or, even if you’re not much of a singer, make up a special song for your little one that is “their song” and sing it to them often.

6. Smile.

The simple act of smiling with and at your baby will provide them with non-verbal cues from you that they are loved.

7. Say “I love you.”

There is no such thing as telling your baby that you love them too often. I’m pretty sure I tell my daughter I love her at least 18,000 times a day, but at least she’ll never have any doubts.

8. Have a dance party.

Turn on some fun tunes and dance around with your baby – nothing says I love you like having fun together!

9. Give butterfly kisses.

I forgot all about butterfly kisses, but they are a sweet way to share your affections with your little.

10. Get down on their level.

Compared to our babies we are giants lumbering above them, so take the time to show you care by getting down on their level. Lay down on your belly next to them while they’re having tummy time or sit criss-cross-applesauce on the rug with them while they’re stacking blocks. This will most definitely make your little one feel important and cherished.

11. Go on an outing.

An outing doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, but take a walk around the neighborhood, go visit the neighbor’s chickens, just do something fun and novel together. Getting out and doing activities together is a part of bonding for the both of you.

12. Build a fort.

Even teeny tiny babies enjoy the changes between dark and light, and building a simple blanket fort (even just throwing a blanket over the dining room table!) can be a bit of fun and show love.

13. Explore together.

Walk around your house or neighborhood and check out all the things there are to see. Tell your little one about the photos hanging on the wall or what some of the kitchen utensils in your drawers are used for. This is a fun activity that will also help your little one learn about the world.

14. Be silly.

Have fun together – don’t take yourself too seriously. Be silly with your baby. Make funny faces and do funny voices when you read them stories. Your baby will love it.

Image : Getty

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Screenshot of Smartphone apps page

10 Must-Have Apps for New Moms and Dads

Even before Judah arrived, I always knew I would be the kind of mom who is on the go and plugged in, because I’m simply the kind of woman who’s already on the go and plugged in! In those very early days as a bleary-eyed new parent, when Judah was still just a tiny newborn, my smartphone was a lifesaver.

From my experience, as a total geek mom who loves her gadgets and tech, there are so many apps out there for new moms and dads – and it can feel overwhelming about which app does what, and if you’ll really even need it. After lots of app downloads since Judah’s been born, here are my 10 favorite tried-and-true must-have apps for every new parent: from logging diapers to meals, ordering baby essentials, and even just capturing those one of kind moments to share with family and friends – these apps have it all!

Apps to Keep Tabs on Baby’s Day

Baby Nursing/Breastfeeding

This was, hands down, my favorite, most-used app when Judah was first born. For nursing moms, this free app (with In App Purchases) is an absolute essential. You can comprehensively track your nursing and breastfeeding data, from timed nursing (including from which side) all with just a simple tap on your screen. You can also record your baby’s growth data and store videos, pictures, and sound. The Premium version ($3.99) includes tracking support for Bottles, Diapers, Pumping, Sleeping, Solids, Bath Time, Doctor’s Visits, Medication, and Vaccinations. Available in the App Store and Google Play.

Eat Sleep: Simple Baby Tracking

This free app does exactly what it says: it allows you to track your baby’s diapers, what and when they’ve eaten, and their sleep habits. You can even look at baby’s data over time, from daily, weekly, and monthly views, too. When you’re feeling like a “mombie” with your newborn, a baby tracking app like this is just the thing for sleep-deprived parents! Available in the App Store.

Apps to Help Keep Baby’s Essentials at Hand

Diapers.com

This free app from Diapers.com is perfect for new moms and dads who can barely find time to get out of the house and to the store. You can make sure you’ll always be stocked with diapers for your newborn with this app on your phone, because it makes ordering diapers as simple as just a few clicks! You also get free shipping on all orders over $49 and shipping only takes 1-2 days. And you can get more than just diapers with this app, so it’s perfect for staying stocked up on baby essentials whenever you need them. Available in the App Store.

Babies “R” Us Mobile Shopping App

This free app came in handy even before Judah was born: we could update our registry right from our phones! Once Judah arrived a few weeks earlier than expected, we were able to make updates to our registry as friends and family wanted to send us any essentials we needed for our preemie. In addition to updating your registry, you can find items available for in-store pickup and even order them right from your phone. A handy app to have as you pin down necessities for baby, both big and small. Available in the App Store and Google Play.

Apps to Help Baby Get to Sleep

Sleepy Sounds

This free app was definitely an essential when Judah developed colic, and we had to break out an entire arsenal of new techniques to help him get to sleep. Sleepy Sounds features lullabies, white noise, and nature sounds to help baby get to sleep. You can set a timer for each sound, too. Available in the App Store and Google Play.

La Luna: The Story Project

The one iPad app ($1.99) I have to recommend is perhaps one of the most beautiful on this list. Featuring Pixar’s award-winning animated short, La Luna, the iPad app transforms the cartoon into an amazing interactive storybook where you can watch the film or read a storybook version of it, as well as watch behind-the-scenes footage. With its gorgeous imagery and soothing soundtrack, this app is perfect for bedtime. (Judah loves this app.) Available in the App Store.

Apps to Capture Magical Moments With Baby

Instagram

This free app is perfect for capturing all your magical, precious moments with baby – and add cool filters to them, too! I am a big fan of Instagram, especially as a way of capturing those moments. It can also record up to 15 seconds of video, so Instagram is a great way of creating baby videos that get right to the adorableness without any filler. Available in the App Store and Google Play.

Dayli

As much as I love free apps, sometimes it’s totally worth it to pay for apps that do something truly unique – like watch your baby grow every single day with this amazing photo journal app! You can take a photo of baby’s face every day (or any interval you choose) and Dayli compiles a time-lapse video of all the photos. It even includes guides to line up faces perfectly each time. Available for $2.99 in the App Store.

Apps to Share Your Family Fun

Skype

With family and friends all over the globe, Skype has been the perfect way for Judah to keep in touch with all of the people who love him. Not only does he get to talk with them, he gets to see them too, with Skype’s free video call service. So long as who we’re calling has a webcam or even a smartphone camera, we can have video chat moments together as extended family whenever we want! Available in the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore.

Shutterfly

This free app is a mobile extension of the popular digital personalized photo products and service website. With it, you can easily create personalized photo books and other gifts right from your phone’s camera roll. Trust me, you’ll be taking millions of pictures of your baby, so this is a convenient way to bundle your memories of baby each year – and a super easy way to send out sweet grandparent gifts during the holidays! Available in the App Store and Google Play.

Image : Disney Baby

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Even Ballerinas Need a Hug

The day my three-year-old daughter was asked to leave ballet class I thought I would die of embarrassment. Sure, she and her twin sister had stirred up some trouble in toddler soccer class. It seemed the "coach" didn't appreciate them turning the goal net into a spaceship, much to the delight of the other kids, but not to the other parents. However, ballet was supposed to be the thing my daughters would naturally gravitate towards. Not because they were innately graceful - they weren't - or in love with tutus and princesses - they didn't care - but because I had spent the vast majority of my childhood as a dancer.

The first time Ms. Audrey, the ballet teacher, brought my daughter into the waiting area, she very nicely explained that my daughter told her she didn’t really feel like participating. So the two of us just sat outside the class until she got bored enough to go back in. 

A week later at the second lesson, my daughter spent most of the class underneath the piano, feeling the vibrations that the strings were making, and told the teacher she wanted to figure out how the sound came out.  Needless to say, there wasn’t much dancing to be done that day.

The third class was an all out rebellion.  According to Ms. Audrey, my daughter danced when she felt like it, questioned the teacher’s choice in music, and created a veritable conga line at one point, upending the entire plan for the class. Hence the request to remove my daughter from ballet class altogether. 

All of the other little girls followed the teacher without hesitation – or at least they tried. They pointed and flexed their feet, made giant suns with their arms stretched overhead, and waited their turn to leap across the floor.  Was I proud of my daughter that she was such a non-conformist, literally marching to the beat of her own drum? I am ashamed to admit, I was not.

In that moment when the teacher brought my sullen daughter into the waiting area filled with the other moms and babysitters – all of whom had witnessed my daughters’ previous exiles  I was disappointed. I couldn’t wrap my head around why my daughter just wouldn’t do what was expected, just be like the other 3-year old little ballerinas, yet again. And, of course, I wondered where I had gone wrong.

My daughter climbed into my lap clad in her pastel pink leotard and tights with a giant pink tutu splayed out around her, and snuggled in deep as I wrapped my arms around her in a tulle-filled hug.

“Is there a reason you won’t listen to Ms. Audrey?” I asked her.

“That’s not how I like to dance,” she said.

“OK,” I responded, “but that’s what ballet is. You have to learn the real steps so you can put them together to make one long beautiful ballet.”

I could see her process this idea in her mind. 

She squeezed me tighter.

“I’d rather be out here with you,” she said. Then she looked up at me thoughtfully, “Maybe when I’m six I’ll try again.”

“Sounds like a plan.” I agreed.

Though secretly I hoped that no matter how old she got, she would keep dancing in her own unique way – and coming back to me for a reassuring hug.

Image : Getty

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Mom and baby in playroom with Mickey Mouse doll

5 Things I Do Throughout the Day to Make Parenting Easier

With two little ones in school, Macks at home with me all day, and trying to manage a full-time job from home, I am always looking for ways that I can make things easier on me throughout the day. Our schedule is pretty concrete, so I try to stick to that to make our day go more smooth, but there are also more things that I do to make my life as a mom easier.

1. Keep a changing station in the room you spend the most time in.

We spend most of our time in the living room downstairs. After a couple of days in our new house I was so tired of going up and down the stairs to change Macks’ diapers, so I set up a cabinet in the living room that has diapers, wipes, and a portable changing pad for easy access when he needs a diaper change downstairs.

2. Keep snacks handy at all times using reusable bags.

I love these reusable bags from Bumkins. They come in a variety of sizes so that I can fill them with different snacks for all of my kids. I’ll fill up a couple at the beginning of the day and keep them in my purse so that whenever one of my girls tells me they are hungry, I don’t have to stop and get them something. I just pull out the bag and hand it over.

3. Have toys in a place that they frequent often.

Macks loves to open up cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. I’ve childproofed everything but one cabinet and drawer and I’ve filled those with containers and toys that he can play with while I am in the kitchen. He feels accomplished because he’s opening and closing things and pulling them out and I am able to get things done because he is occupied.

4. Have a bag of necessities that stays in the car.

We’ve only owned a car for about six months since moving from the city and it didn’t take me long to learn that I needed to have a bag in the car that just stayed in there. It’s full of all of my necessities while we are out and about. I have a soft and warm blanket, like this Winnie the Pooh fleece blanket. It’s filled with diapers and wipes, his favorite Mickey Mouse toy to keep Macks entertained, and baby food pouches in case he gets hungry.

5. Write it down.

Because I have so much going on all of the time, I keep a pen and paper nearby or in my purse at all times so that when I think of something that I need to do or something that worked throughout the day, I write it down. I go back to that list each night and catch up and check things off of that list.

What do you do to make parenting easier?

Image : Getty

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Dad and baby in stroller on the sidewalk

3 Simple Tips for Making Your Baby Gear Last

Having a great car seat, stroller, high chair and play yard is essential to a baby registry list. Sometimes, purchasing these pieces for your little ones can seem like an investment. I know whenever we’ve bought essential pieces for Soren, my first thought was, “How can I make this last and stay nice not only for Soren but for future siblings?” Because we all know that babies are MESSY. It’s almost a right of passage as a parent to constantly feel sticky, slobbered on, and have stains everywhere. And I’m sure we ALL avoid wearing white and purchasing any white furnishing for our homes! I know I do! ;)

So, how can we keep baby gear clean and make it last from one baby to the next? Check out these simple tips on making your gear look like new throughout the years.

1. Use Wipes for Everything

I use baby wipes for EVERYTHING now. Maybe it’s because they are also within arm’s reach? In any case, wipes are incredibly useful and such a multi-purpose product. I recommend keeping an extra bag of wipes sealed in the car, in your kitchen, and with your stroller. If baby makes a mess, use wipes to quickly get it up, so you prevent staining and dirt build up. Wipe down straps, buckles, trays, and fabric to quickly clean up small messes when you’re on the go! You can also purchase saline wipes. These work great too. I also recommend purchasing a few travel wipe dispensers and keeping them handy as suggested above.

2. Remember the Power of a Bib!

Bibs are great for keeping baby’s clothes clean, but they are also great for catching things that could potentially land on baby gear. Whether your little one is snacking on the go or eating a meal in his/her high chair, always make sure to put on a bib. Store bibs on a command hook behind your high chair for quick access, and always keep a few in your diaper bag for on-the-go needs! We especially love these waterproof bibs with the catch-all pockets. They are so easy to clean!

3. Give It a Regular Spring Cleaning

Be sure to set aside time every few weeks/months depending on what is needed to take the padding off your gear and run it through a delicate wash cycle. Let these air dry to prevent any shrinking. Don’t forget to use a high chair/gear cleaner to really wipe up messes and make sure your gear is free of anything icky. Maintaining the cleanliness of your gear day by day in simple ways will make it so much easier to keep up with and clean!

Looking for gear to add to your collection? Check out more Disney Baby gear over here!

Image : Disney Baby

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Mom washing baby in specialized crib

How to Bathe Baby After a Blowout (And Other Messy Disasters!)

I love giving my babies baths. It’s a peaceful end to the day, they love splashing around, and there’s nothing like tucking a clean sleepy baby into bed. But sometimes bath time isn’t so much an end-of-day ritual as an emergency situation after a diaper blowout or a self-feeding lesson gone wrong.

In that moment, what you need is a bath that gets them clean (and keeps you from getting soaked!) ASAP.

Here’s how I handle those emergency bath times (and I’ve dealt with several in just the last two weeks):

1. Undress them in the bath tub

Since their clothes are likely really messy, I like to keep everything contained. I lay my baby down in the empty full-size bathtub and undress her there so I’m not getting the mess anywhere else.

2. Grab a towel and baby soap

Before you start the water, grab a towel, some baby soap, and a clean diaper while your hands are free.

3. Use a baby tub to speed things up

When you’re trying to get a big mess cleaned up, you don’t want it spreading all over the adult bath tub or to wait for the whole tub to fill up. I find using a baby tub makes things much faster because I can fill it up in just a minute or two and it’s much easier to clean out afterward than the big bath tub.

4. Throw the baby clothing directly into the wash

Spray some stain remover in with the clothing to keep it from getting ruined and run it as soon as possible to keep the stains from setting.

5. Enjoy the fact that you have a clean baby when you weren’t expecting it!

While a bath may not have been on the agenda, it’s nice to have a super fresh baby to cuddle with after the fact.

And if your baby is a bath-lover like mine, she’ll probably see it as an extra bonus too!

Image : Disney Baby

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Parents playing with child playing with finding nemo doll

The Biggest Signs That Your Family is Complete

After welcoming our fourth baby into the world two months ago, my husband and I have had a lot of discussions about whether or not we feel that we are “done” having babies.

It’s such a foreign concept to me, having had a couple of surprise pregnancies that changed my life in completely wonderful ways, that we could plan such an eventful end. Family planning is such an individualized decision and for me, I’m not entirely sure that I could ever close the door on more babies. I love having a big family, and even when the arrival of our babies seemed unexpected, it always seemed like the most perfect gift once I held them in my arms. How could I ever doubt that?

I’m struggling with any decisions of whether or not we would like more children. We are both young parents and have a lot of years ahead of us where we could grow our family if we choose to do so, but it also feels like a road could be open for us to walk down for growing dreams, careers, or new experiences as well.

Not every mother wavers as much as I do. Kristel Acevedo, a fellow Disney Baby blogger, shared with me her and her husband’s recent decision to move into the next stage of their lives as a complete family of four. “Once [our daughter] Isabel was born, I just knew that was it for us,” says Kristel. “My husband and I are in full agreement that two is plenty for us. It feels like that’s the most we can handle – financially, spiritually, emotionally. We love our two blessings so very much and we feel like this is our family.”

I admit that I have somewhat of an obsession with talking to other moms about how they made the decision on how many children to have. It’s such a personal and widely varying decision. Some mothers have strict ideas about planning their families while other take a more laissez-faire approach and sometimes, the decision is simply out of our hands.

But what I’ve noticed in talking with other moms is that the decision on how many children have isn’t based on advice from a parenting book, or what your neighbors think, or how many children your mother had. It comes down to an inner voice, a feeling of what you and your partner feel is best and learning to trust yourself as a mother. As Kristel describes it, when she and her husband made the decision to be a family of four, she felt perfectly content. “We both feel really at peace with this decision,” she says.

As for me, I am still searching for the feeling of peace, and I’m not sure if I will find it until I hold just one more baby in my arms, but I look forward to what the future may hold for me and my family either way.

What about you? How did you make the decision of how many children to have?

Image : Disney Baby

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Baby in white standing in crib

The Most Helpful Items for 5 Huge Baby Transitions

I always heard parents say, “Time really flies by,” and didn’t think much of it until I had my own kiddos. Turns out, they are right! I can’t believe I now have a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old. My-oh-my, I feel like I just gave birth to each of them a few weeks ago.

With each phase of their lives comes new beginnings, and it seems that they move on to the next steps of life so quickly. I don’t know how I could have gone through all of those changes in such a short period of time without the help of the things on this list.

Check out my list of “next steps” and what we used to help us transition:

1. Bottles to sippy cups.

Bentley is our first little dude who actually likes milk, and we had quite a trying time getting him to give up the bottle — that is, until we got this Mickey Mouse sippy cup from NUK. It has the feel of a bottle and a similar-shaped lid, but the nipple is what sets it apart the most. It has the texture of a bottle nipple and will even fit your existing NUK bottles, but it comes in the shape of a sippy cup spout. This made the transition easier for Bentley to take a hard-topped sippy cup later on, because his mouth was used to the shape.

The NUK cup also has handles on the side so Bentley could learn to hold it on his own. He loves to drink his milk out of his Mickey Mouse sippy cup, and we love that it helped us transition so smoothly.

2. Pacifiers to NO pacifiers.

This one is a bit tricky, because it isn’t always the easiest task getting your baby to no longer take a paci. Both of our boys used them, and Bentley still takes one when he sleeps. I think NUK pacifiers have the best shape for the orthodontic effect on the teeth. Plus, NUK comes in a ton of different sizes for different age ranges.

Truth be told, we got KJ off of pacifiers when he had a fever blister. He couldn’t use one for a few days, so we just took them and put them in a drawer, and he never saw them again. He only asked for them a couple of times the first two days, and then it seemed like it was “out of sight, out of mind.”

And instead of putting a pacifier in his mouth to get him to fall asleep at night, I instead began scratching his back to soothe him to sleep. Now he asks me to scratch his back each night, and I love getting to spend that extra five minutes of quality time with him, helping him to fall asleep.

Reminding KJ that only babies take pacifiers and being a big boy meant that it was time to say goodbye to his pacifier helped us as well.

3. Crawling to walking.

First bit of advice: don’t be in any hurry to get your child to walk. Pushing them to do something they aren’t ready for will only frustrate them more. You can, however, encourage them vocally and with certain items that will aid in the learning process.

The best way to strengthen their little legs is to get them moving! Getting a bouncing activity center like this Minnie Mouse Premier Bouncer is sure to do just that. It has a bounce pad and a seat that spins for endless fun, plus great interactive toys and even a chewable teething toy.

A few months after they start their bouncer adventures, you can move on to a walker, like this Minnie Mouse Bows and Butterflies walker. This helped KJ and Bentley get used to the motion of their legs and feet pushing them forward and backward. It also helped them to strengthen muscles they weren’t using as much while crawling. Plus, it’s loaded with a toy deck to keep their attention. Did I mention how perfect this is to entertain your little one while you cook dinner? And it even has a removable toy tray which is perfect for tummy time!

4. Crib to the bed.

If you’re thinking ahead for this one, then buying a crib that BECOMES a bed, like this Magical Dreams 4-in-1 Crib from Delta, is the right way to go. Not only is it a gorgeous crib, but it converts into a toddler bed and is just as beautiful in each setup.

Regardless of whether your crib converts, or you purchase a new bed for your little one, I highly recommend making it a BIG deal when you get it all set up with its mattress and new bedding. We told KJ that he was getting a big boy bed, that we were so proud of him for being such a cool kid, and that we couldn’t wait for him to see how awesome his new bed would be. That way he was really excited when we got it all set up.

You could even redecorate the room with a new theme. Anything that makes it seem like a big deal will help with the excitement of the transition. And good news: Now you can snuggle your little one while you read stories to them at bedtime. It’s a win-win for your little one and for you!

5. Diapers to the potty.

Don’t fret, this transition takes a while and has many layers. We started by buying Pull-Ups for KJ so that he could get used to the pulling down and pulling up motion when it was time to use the potty. They also have designs on them that are more similar to the designs on underwear so the appearance of them introduced KJ to what underwear would look like.

Our next step was to purchase a potty just for KJ. We actually have two, one at our house and one at Grandma’s house so that he always has somewhere “special” to use the restroom. I love this Jake and The Never Land Pirates potty because it has a comfy seat, removable potty bowl, and a flushing handle on the side. The handle teaches him to flush and gets him used to hearing a noise after he potties. I was always afraid of the sound of a flushing toilet, and although the potty sings a song, it still reminds him that you need to flush and to expect a noise afterward.

Once we got the special potty for KJ, we also bought a potty seat so that he could safely and comfortably fit on top of regular-sized toilets. If you’ve ever attempted to put a toddler on a normal-sized toilet, then you’ve seen the face they make where they stiffen up and think they are going fall in. This potty seat allows them to use any regular-sized toilet while giving them handles to hold onto and a comfortable, smaller seat to sit on. And don’t forget about the step stool so they can climb up to the potty. It can also be used at the sink when it’s time to wash their hands or brush their teeth.

Then, we bought some potty toppers so that he could have a clean toilet seat to sit on when we are out at a restaurant, at the mall, or even at Disneyland! They easily fit in a diaper bag or purse and ensure that your kiddo will be sitting on a clean potty.

As quickly as time flies by, we have to be ready for each stage with our little ones. I am so glad I thought ahead about some of the stages that were coming so that we were prepared as parents to help our little guys along. And I’m definitely happy that KJ is now 3 years old and potty trained!

Image : Disney Baby

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The Power of Hugs

Looking for a reason to give more hugs? We’ve got plenty. Here’s a roundup of recent research on hugs—why they feel so good and why you’ll want to squeeze as many as possible into your busy life as a parent.

Hugs are the ultimate stress reliever.

A simple hug can reap tremendous benefits for both you and your child. In fact, according to Michele Borba, author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, a hug could very well be “the most powerful tool in your parenting toolkit.”

Not only does a hug boost levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin: it also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The result? A less stressed and more blissed out you.

Needless to say, this can have a far-reaching impact on your parenting abilities—great news, if you happen to be new to this parenting thing. Because you’ll be calmer and more relaxed, you’ll find it easier to tune into and meet your baby’s needs. And that, in turn, will result in a calmer and more relaxed baby. It’s the ultimate parenting win-win!

Hugs are good for kids’ brains.

Hugs boost feelings of connectedness and security, something that delivers a powerful developmental boost. After all, when a young child feels safe and secure, he’s more willing to take the kind of risks that lead to learning—like beginning to explore the exciting world beyond your lap. As Borba notes, “The more secure your child is, the more open he’ll be to new experiences.” And the more opportunities he’ll have to develop his amazing brain.

Hugs deliver important health benefits.

Looking for a powerful mood-booster that delivers a smorgasbord of other health benefits, too? Look no further than the closest hug. Hugs can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your heart rate. They can even give your immune system a boost, helping you to ward off the common cold. And it’s all thanks to the stress-reducing powers of oxytocin.

It’s no wonder hugs feel so good. They’re incredibly good for us. It is any wonder we keep coming back for more?

Hugs function as powerful relationship glue.

Hugs help to forge a powerful bond between you and your child. Some people refer to it as an elevating glow because it lifts your emotions. Others think of it as a warm glow because it leaves you feeling warm inside. That’s the hormone of love and connection working its magic, according to Borba. And the truly magical thing about this connection is the fact that hugs offer as much benefit to the giver as they do to the receiver: “It’s not just a one-way street.”

Here’s some final evidence about the far-reaching impact of hugs. The hugs you give your child today are an investment in his long-term emotional health, influencing his ability to give and receive love for many years to come: “What we really want is for our children to become that emotionally healthy, empathic person who can make a difference in the world,” says Borba. “And it all starts with that one-on-one connection—with the power of that hug.”

Image: Getty

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