How to Establish a Good Bedtime Routine for Baby

Don’t hate me for saying this, but the best bedtime routine we’ve adopted for our baby is from Daniel Tiger.

(We have a love/hate relationship with that show. Our 4-year old daughter has loved it her whole life. It teaches some good lessons, and explains some difficult concepts for kids in a way that helps them understand. There are some strange and incredibly annoying things about the show as well, but I digress.)

Creating a routine is critical for babies to go to bed without a fuss, and a simple one that lets them anticipate what’s next and feel comfortable and relaxed before falling asleep is not difficult to achieve. It will take some getting used to, as do all changes and new routines. But once your baby knows what happens after dinner, knows what happens after bath time, knows what happens after their story, they will be ready for bed.

Okay, ready for it? Our simple, universal, Daniel Tiger-inspired bedtime routine is:

  1. Bath time. We bathe our kids every night, or almost every night. Even if it’s not a full-on bath, they know the wipe-down is coming because they always, inevitably make a mess at dinner. So whether it’s a legit bubble bath or just a clean-up after dinner, they know this is part of the routine, and that it’s leading to them being put in clean clothes.
  2. PJ’s. This also means clean, fresh diaper for the baby so he’s dry and clean for the night.
  3. Brush teeth. Even if they don’t have teeth, using a wet washrag or special gum brush is a good idea to get them in the habit of brushing their teeth, and will prepare them for good teeth hygiene once they come in.
  4. Story and song. Sing the same 2 or 3 songs every night. You’ll be surprised that at only a few months old, your baby will know the song. Here’s how you’ll know: start singing it differently. For example, I always sing “You are my Sunshine” to my babies. When my son was only 6 months old, I paused in the middle of singing it, and he started laughing. If that were the first time I sang it, he wouldn’t have laughed because he would’ve assumed that was how it went. I experimented with the 2 other songs I often sang and, sure enough, singing them with pauses here and there resulted in adorable baby laughs. I always read the story with the light on, then turned the light off and rocked them while I sang a song or two. Worked like a charm.
  5. Time for bed. Once the story and songs are done, it’s time to lay down for bed. Once my baby is laid in his crib, I slip the Owlet monitor on his foot while he’s tired and will hardly notice it, then close the door.

So there it is: Bath time, PJ’s, brush teeth, story and song, then time for bed.

But STOP! It works better when it’s an annoying song that gets stuck in your head for eternity, so go here and listen to the song, and then come back.

 

There.

Now you might hate me because this song will be sung in your head every night for the rest of your life, but if it helps you adopt and maintain a bedtime routine then it’s worth it. That’s the whole love/hate thing with Daniel Tiger. So clever, so annoying.

The trick is to do this from the time they are born. Sticking to a consistent, calming routine will help your baby learn when it’s time to go to bed, and make connections between the events leading up to bedtime. They may fuss at first, but after a while, maybe even a few weeks, they will learn that once the story is done, they will be laid down in their crib where they will be expected to fall asleep. Your efforts at sleep-training, meaning how you handle night-time waking and crying once they are old enough to sleep through the night without feeding and changing, can be a lot easier or even nonexistent if a good bedtime routine is established and your baby has no health issues or other issues that could interrupt sleep.

The steps for the bedtime routine can also be used as calming mechanisms once your baby has associated them with winding down for the night. On a trip, after a doctor’s appointment, or after a long day, these activities can help calm and soothe your baby.

Would you add anything to the list? Is there anything specific that made your baby know it was time to go to bed?

 

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6 Must-Take Pictures of Baby this Valentine’s Day

Oh-me, oh-my! Is there anything more adorable than baby photo shoots?! Nope, there’s not. And not that you need an excuse to stage a ridiculously adorable photoshoot with your baby, but Valentine’s Day provides an extra chance for cuteness with the fun props and backdrops you can use.

Here are some ideas for a Valentine’s Day photoshoot you can have with your baby:

1. Valentine’s Day Sign

Since your little sweetheart might not be able to verbally express his/her feelings yet, make a cute heart-shaped sign for them to hold for a picture!

 

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Photo by Diane H Photography

2. Balloon Backdrop

A simple backdrop for Valentine’s Day photoshoot is pink, red, and/or white balloons! You can get them from just about anywhere, and babies will be so happy and distracted playing with them that you’ll easily get plenty of happy, candid photos out of your adorable baby.

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Photo by Rachel Vivienne Photography

3. Use Photo Props

You can buy or make your own photo props for some adorable and creative photo poses with your baby! Big lips, hats, and glasses all make for great photo props, especially on Valentine’s Day.

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Photo by Jami West Photography

4. Photo Collage

The only thing better than a Valentine’s Day picture of your baby is 4 Valentine’s Day pictures of your baby! Pick up a few inexpensive monogram letters from any craft store and let your baby play with them while you snap away. You’ll love the variety of cute faces you’ll capture as they explore their fun new “toy.”

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Photo by Love at First Sight Photography

5. Angel/Cupid Baby

Oh. My. Goodness. This little angel came straight from heaven, and can totally be re-created with your own little angel. Most costume stores sell simple wings or you could even find DIY tutorial on Pinterest. Add a cute homemade bow and arrow made from sticks and you’ll be swooning for years as you make this part of your annual Valentine’s Day decor.

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Photo by Limelight 31 Photography

  6. Covered in kisses

Now you have an excuse to kiss that baby all over! Get out that bright lipstick and get to kissing, because this kissy picture might be the easiest but most irresistible picture you’ll ever take. Baby will likely be in great spirits after all that love, making the smiles come natural and the photo shoot that much easier.

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Photo by Rachel Vivienne Photography (@rachelvivienne)

 

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8 Photography Tips for Parents

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We’d be lying if we said we didn’t have hundreds and hundreds of photos of our little one on our phone or computer. All parents can likely relate. So, whether you’re shooting from your iPhone or actual camera, here are tips to ensure that those hundreds and hundreds of photos look great:

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  1. Use natural light

For this one, you’ll obviously need to take pictures during the day time. Find a corner of your house that lets the light in- not the harsh bright light, but the soft reflecting light. Lay your baby down on a cute blanket, or prop them up in their bumbo, and snap the pictures there. Be sure your flash is turned off to get beautiful lighting that will make your photos that much more amazing.

  1. Use your real camera

Do you have a real camera? If so, use it! Keep it in a spot that is easily accessible and snap away. These photos do not have to be for a full-on photoshoot, but rather, everyday moments with your baby that you don’t want to forget.

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  1. Take photos of the everyday little things

Play time, feedings, nap-time- all of these activities may seem repetitive and non-important, but trust us, when your baby is 5 years old, these are the times you’ll want to remember. Snap pics of your baby using their bottle. Take a shot of your baby’s eyelashes when they are perfectly still and sleeping. Or get a close up shot when they are chewing on their favorite chew toy. The everyday may seem mundane but years from now they will be cherished memories.

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  1. Include mom and dad

It’s easy to snap away and take pictures of your baby all day, every day, but when they are older, they’ll want to see YOU in the pictures with them. Have your significant other and you take turns snapping pics of you with the baby, utilize the timer on your smartphone, or how about a selfie, anyone? The point is that your kids will want to see you taking care of them and smiling with them in these photos.

  1. Take close ups

When your baby is a newborn, all of their features are just so… tiny! When they get home from the hospital, take pictures of their hands, feet, ears, and toes. You won’t believe how much they will change in just a few weeks!

  1. Snap away

Do not be afraid to take as many photos of your baby as you’d like. Remember, the camera you are most likely using is electronic, so it can save many, many images on the device. Go crazy with capturing your baby’s perfect little nose.

  1. Change perspective

When you are taking photos of your baby, try changing perspectives or angles at which you are shooting from. If your baby is laying in their crib, grab a chair to stand on so you can shoot from up high to be able to fit your baby’s whole body into the entire frame.

While your baby is doing tummy time, get down low and right by their face so you can see their sweet expression up close and personal. Get creative with the angles that you take your photos.

  1. Use apps

Nowadays, there are so many great apps to download to enhance your smartphone’s camera. Here are just some suggested apps that can really make your photos pop:

+ Camera Plus Pro ($1.99), especially great for their burst mode option

+ Instagram (free), for the fun filters

+ Adobe Photoshop Express (free), a great editing app that is super easy to use

Now, go ahead, snap away!

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The Ultimate Gift Guide for the Mom-To-Be

Owlet

The key to giving thoughtful gifts is to be observant to what your loved ones subtly mention they want or need. For example, maybe you overhear your buddy saying he’d love to go to a Cubs game someday, or your mom say she’d love to try a new restaurant in town. Then you act accordingly, surprising them with what they really want and scoring major points in the relationship.

But with the pregnant women in your life, it’s not that easy. Mostly because if you’ve been paying attention, their subtle desires have sounded something like, “I wish I could eat pizza without getting heartburn,” or “ugh, I wish I could have just ONE day without nausea,” or maybe, “one night, just ONE NIGHT of sleep without getting up to pee every half hour is all I ask.”

What can ya do.

Maybe you can’t magically expand her bladder or reduce her acid production, but getting her one of these thoughtful and unique gifts will still score you some major points.

Movie tickets

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Sometimes you just need an excuse to get out, and buying movie tickets ahead of time is a great way to muster up that motivation to leave the house, especially when you’re super pregnant or have a newborn. To this end, it might be a good idea to get general movie tickets that can be redeemed for any show time to accommodate her health and energy levels.

Clothing Gift Card

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Newly-pregnant mamas will be excited to build up their maternity wardrobe, and newly-postpartum mamas will be excited to get out of their maternity wardrobe and get back into regular clothes. Either way, a gift card to their favorite store for buying clothes is a win-win for your expecting lady. And it’s a much better option than buying the clothes yourself, lest you buy the wrong style or, heaven forbid, the wrong size.

Owlet Baby Monitor

Remember how what she really wants is sleep? Well, you actually can give her not only more sleep, but better sleep with the Owlet monitor. Owlet tracks baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels and is designed to notify you if either fall out of range. After months of restless nights during pregnancy, and now stressful nights of worrying about baby, she just might cry when she sees you got her the Owlet monitor. Or, if you’re looking for baby shower gifts, add Owlet to her registry through BabyList here.

Ultra-plush blanket

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I was never a blanket person until I was at a friend’s house and they had one of these super-soft ultra-plush blankets. Then my world changed. One wasn’t enough – I had to have several, and the bigger the better. And I had to get one for each of my kids and family members. I quickly learned that the benefits of swaddling were not limited to infants. I made my husband tuck it around me every night during my pregnancy and, oh my lanta, it felt like being wrapped in a heavenly cloud. Then after my baby was born, curiosity got the best of me and I discovered the burrito roll: lie on one side of it, grab the edge with your hand, then roll up in it like a burrito. It may sound strange, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Moral of the story: these are the perfect gift for the pregnant women in your life. And for their babies to snuggle with them. And yourself, and your parents, and your friends, and heck even your dog would love you more if this was gifted to them.

Ultrasound frame

 

This is one of those things that I had every intention of getting with both of my babies, but never did. I would’ve loved this when I was pregnant, because all of my ultrasound pics ended up in a memory box. This would be a very meaningful and thoughtful gift that would likely be displayed in baby’s nursery. Here is a cute one from Target that she would love:

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Surprise Family Member Visit

Back to being observant to what she says she wants – has she mentioned missing someone? Wishing she could talk to someone, or has she been reminded of someone special lately? An amazingly incredible gift would be to reach out to a longed-after family member or friend, and see if they could swing a quick surprise trip to visit. She would probably cry, she would probably tell you that you’re the most thoughtful person ever, and this gift would go down in the best-gifts hall of fame forever.

Car detail

Once the baby is here, cleaning the car is going to be difficult for her to accomplish. Finding the time to do it on her own is one thing, but finding the time to take it in to have it professionally cleaned and detailed, while having to wait with a baby, will be next to impossible. And babies become master car-destroyers in an impressively short amount of time. So surprise her with a gift certificate to have her car detailed or, better yet, take it in early one morning so when she wakes up and gets in the car, she’s happily surprised with a gleaming, shiny ride.

Blue Apron subscription

Hooray for freezer meals and casseroles from neighbors… (insert eye-roll here). A better option for easily-prepped meals for those early postpartum days, or even those tired pregnancy days, is a subscription to Blue Apron. All of the ingredients delivered fresh to your doorstep. No grocery shopping. No spending hours prepping freezer meals. No eating lasagna or tuna casserole for 4 days a week. Easy, delicious, and nutritious meals will be an extremely welcome gift for the pregnant in your life.

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