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Sunday, February 9, 2014

109 Life Hacks for Parenthood

I've learned first hand that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. Over the past few years, I've met hundreds of amazing Mothers through online forums and chat groups. The wealth of knowledge and experience is staggering! If you've got a question or problem, chances are someone has dealt with it and can at least commiserate with you, if not give you the perfect solution. I asked them what their favorite newborn, infant, and toddler "hacks" were and this is what they told me.

What's a hack? According to Wikipedia, a "Life Hack" refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way.

Sounds like exactly what parents need. So, here they are; 100 Moms (and one Dad) spoke and these are their favorite hacks. Some are Pinterest inspired, so I've included links where appropriate.

Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeting
  • If formula feeding - don't heat up the water, just mix it with room temp. If baby has never had warm milk they won't demand it ever! - Kate
  • I always kept my pump parts in a plastic bag in the fridge so I didn't have to sanitize after every pumping session. I also had 3 sets of pump parts so I never ran out. - Jessica S., MO
  • Test your frozen breast milk stash occasionally, to make sure your LO will take it, otherwise you're taking up freezer space for nothing... -  Michelle M. 
  • Put all of the supplies you need to breastfeed (breast pads, a snack, lanolin, water bottle, etc.) in a little tote so you can grab everything with one hand when you sit down to nurse.  
  • When my son was nursing and used a nipple shield, I kept it in my nursing bra so I never had to run and get it, and it kept it warm. - Kate 
  • Put a clock in babies room so when you doze off during a midnight feeding, you'll know how long you were asleep. - Lisa B. 
  • Our Keurig is fantastic for reheating breast milk. It makes a cup of hot water in under 60 seconds; just pop a bottle in there and its warm in a few minutes. 
  • Freeze bags of breast milk laying flat, then store them standing up. Baskets from the dollar store work well to organize everything by date. 

Starting Solid Food
  • Use a travel formula dispenser for baby cereal. It makes mornings quicker when you can just dump and go. 
  • Attach a Command hook to the back of the high chair to store bibs out of baby's reach, but within yours. - Erin, MA
  • When you make purees, store it in ice cube trays and throw it in the freezer. Then you can just thaw out individual servings when you're getting ready to feed your baby and it doesn't take up much room! - Alissa W.
  • When they are learning to eat solids you can shred a lot of food with a cheese grater. It makes prep super quick for apples and carrots or anything hard you are afraid they might choke on. - Jamie S. 

Toddler Feeding
  • I slice up veggie strips (green peppers, carrots, etc.), put them in a snack cup and take that as our on the go/car snack. He's a captive audience then and it's in a fun "snack" cup so he's more likely to eat them. - Lauren R., GA
  • Put rubber bands around a cup to create more grip for little hands learning to drink from an open top cup. 
  • When eating a popsicle, punch the stick through the middle of a muffin cup to catch drips.
  • Be creative! If your toddler wants to eat in the high chair and pretend to be a baby, but it helps them to eat their dinner, go for it! Offer to add "sprinkle" (parmesan cheese) to their veggies. Play a game where they close their eyes and guess what the bite of food is, etc. - Becky M.
  • Carry a pair of kitchen scissors in the diaper bag for cutting up toddler food on the go. You can cut a slice of pizza in a fraction of the time.
  • Use a toothbrush holder to store bendy straws in the diaper bag. Most restaurants don't have them, but they make it much easier for a toddler to drink from a cup.  
  • Sprinkles make anything "magic" and special. Even if its a just a muffin or smoothie.

Diapering & Potty Training
  • You can pull most onesies down, instead of over the head, for an explosion/leaks. - Lauren M., CA
  • Double (or triple) wrap sheets/mattress pads. It makes middle of the night accidents a lot easier to deal with! - Jessica K., FL
  • Line potties with disposable grocery bags. - L.P.
  • If you are potty training a child you previously cloth diapered, the microfiber inserts from the diapers are great for soaking up accidents from the carpet. 
  • Skip Pull-ups (there's no motivation to stay dry) and go straight to undies, ones they choose from the store themselves. - Nicole
  • I warmed baby wipes in my cleavage for my little one. Lol, weird but he didn't scream for changes if I did that. - L.P.
  • For road trips we kept the kiddie potty in the backseat so I wasn't taking him in and out of nasty rest stop bathrooms. We would pull over at a rest stop and he could go in the parking lot. - Christie H. 
  • When potty training, instead of rewarding with candy give them gummy vitamins. We did sticker for pee, vitamin for poop. - Rachel M, MA
  • Put a line on the wall under the toilet paper roll (painters tape is good) to help little ones grab just the right amount of toilet paper they'll need. 

  • Keep extras everywhere. Diapers, clothes, snacks... keep them in the car, some in different rooms in the house, makes for less mad scrambling when you have a blow out or forget a diaper bag. - Paige H., NC 
  • Keep a pad of sticky notes and pen in a central location of your house to jot down "milestones and memories" with the date. Compile into the baby book as you have time. You may not have time until baby is 7, but at least you have the sticky notes! - Michelle M.
  • Put your babysitter information sheet in a picture frame so you can update the information (when you'll be back, what number to call, the kids' bedtime, etc.) with a dry erase marker. 
  • We keep art supplies in empty wipe boxes. One has markers, another chalk, another crayons, and another stickers/pompoms etc. could use formula tubs too. - Erica, CO
  • Get a Planet Wise wet bag and keep it in the diaper bag for soiled clothes. - Becky M.
  • When you get a new toy, count all the pieces and write the number on the bottom of the box or bin. It makes clean up a lot faster when you know if you've got all the pieces.  
  • Take pictures of clothes and baby gear that are lent to you by family and friends. You'll know what goes back to whom when its outgrown. - Mary M., VA 
  • Over the door shoe racks can organize anything! Art supplies, dolls, trucks, etc.
  • Take pictures of your kid's artwork so you can save it without hoarding a pile of construction paper cut outs and finger paintings. 

Baby Proofing
  • Cut a piece of pool noodle about 6 inches long, then slice down one side to open it up. Stick it on a door to create a slam proof finger saver.
  • Put jingle bells on a few branches of your Christmas tree. It will alert you to curious hands getting into the ornaments. 
  • Use ribbon on plastic ornaments for branches that are in reach of the kids. 
  • Before your baby becomes mobile, have a toddler come over and play for an afternoon - they'll quickly show you things you might want to consider baby proofing. 
  • For a longer term fix, cut a door in half creating a "Dutch door" instead of using a gate. 

Cleaning & Laundry
  • Put a lingerie bag in the hamper for socks. Haven't lost one yet!! - Lauren M., CA
  • Baby wipes will take most food/formula stains off microfiber furniture. Test it first! But it hasn't failed me yet.  
  • Use diapers to get spilled coffee/liquid of carpets. It gets sucked right up! - Catherine G.
  • If you have a particularly nasty poop accident and can't get the raw sewage smell out, soak in water and a little Dial soap for 1-2 hours before laundering normally. - Christine H. 
  • Vinegar and hot water sanitize washable toys easily and effectively without the use of bleach.
  • Laying stained clothes out in the sun will help remove stains from poop and puke. Wash them first, then lay them out while they are still wet.
  • A hair dryer can help get stickers off places that shouldn't have been stickered. 

  • If you're going shoe shopping without your kids (lucky you!!) trace their feet so you can get them sized appropriately. 
  • Write down your child's size in various clothing items and corresponding seasons when you go to a consignment sale. It can be so hectic, you could forget what you're looking for.
  • Organize your toddler's clothing by outfits, making it easier for them to pick things out in the morning.
  • Keep space in your child's dresser (or somewhere in the room) exclusively for outgrown clothes. Having a place to put them when you realize they're too small keeps them from showing up back in the cycle of outfits.
  • Use a barrette to pull together the straps on the back of a tank top or bathing suit that is too loose. 
  • Cut a sticker in half and put each half inside your toddler's shoes. It'll remind them to put the shoes on the right feet. 

First Aid
  • Organize kid medications and first aid in a tackle box or caboodle. It will be easy to find things in the middle of the night or in a pinch. 
  • We sometimes store his extra little lovey blankie in the freezer. Even though he has a boo boo bunny, he much prefers the cold lovey. - Lauren R., GA 
  • Make a baby heating pad with rice and an old sock, heat in microwave about 10 seconds. Work wonders on colicky/gassy babies. Test it before putting it on baby!! The rice will cool slowly so it isn't hot hot. - Kristen K., IL
  • Use a red washcloth on a skinned knee or any injury involving blood. It disguises the blood, helping keep the child calm. 
  • Keep track of medication dosages on a white board somewhere highly visible. It prevents double dosing or forgetting meds. 
  • My son often gets dry/chapped lips, but doesn't like the Aquaphor/Vaseline feeling on them, which is really the only thing that helps. I wait until he falls asleep, sneak in with a nightlight and put it on him while he's sleeping. Never knows the difference! - Lauren R., GA
  • We do something similar, except mine get eczema really bad on their hands. I sneak in after they're asleep and put cortisone on (it's their RX), and then aquaphor on top and put socks over their hands. It helps it soak in, and they don't take the socks off since they're asleep already. Their hands are so much better in the morning. - Regan G.
  • For teething, put a dab if applesauce in a washcloth, twist the cloth and freeze. - Anita L. 

Bath Time & Hygiene
  • Use a laundry basket in the bath tub for when baby is still wobbly sitting up. It also keeps their toys within reach! - Mary M., VA
  • I use a peri bottle in the bathtub to keep the water out of her eyes when rinsing. Also, to get off nasty poops! - Amanda H. 
  • If your little one doesn't like their hair being rinsed, put a small poster or picture on the ceiling for them to look at while you rinse. 
  • Find a toy that plays a short song and keep it on the bathroom counter. Use it to time teeth brushing - much more entertaining for busy toddlers.
  • Clip your toddlers nails during story time. My son is usually calm and ready for bed by then, so its easy to clip his nails without too much fidgeting. 

Baby Sleep & Soothing
  • Doesn't work for every baby, but if you're out of ideas and the baby is still crying, show them the ceiling fan. It's somehow mesmerizing. - Sara F., OH
  •  You can download tracks of vacuums and hair dryers to play for colicky babies. Don't blow out your vacuum running it 6 hours a day.  
  • Get a comfy rocking chair (think big la-z-boy recliner/rocker) for the long nights when Your child won't sleep anywhere but on you. Your butt and back will thank you. - Jill, CA
  • Keep your birthing ball - its great for bouncing baby to sleep. - Amanda H.
  • If you're trying to rock a baby to sleep, don't hold them tightly. Let their head kind of loll back and forth as you rock and that will put them to sleep faster. It really does work! - Jillian, NJ
  • Lay a heating pad (on warm, not hot!) where baby will lay down. After you feed/rock them, remove the pad and place them down. The warm sheets will help them get comfortable. - Kristin R.

Toddler Sleep & Naps
  • If she's having a hard time settling in at nap or bedtime I threaten to (and sometimes do) take away her barbies or stuffed animals because she's "keeping them up and they need their sleep." Works like a charm! - Sheri B. 
  • Listen to the same song/few songs (that you like) over and over again while you are pregnant and in the newborn phase whenever baby is sleeping. Playing the song/songs when the baby is older will help to calm them (great for in the car!) - Astrid, NY
  • Stick a pool noodle under your toddler's fitted sheet, along the side of the bed, to act as a roll off guard while they're learning to stay in the bed. 

Travel & Outdoors
  • Small to go containers (usually used for dressing or condiments) are the perfect size to hold a pacifier and keep it clean in the diaper bag
  • Keep a swim diaper/bathing suit and towel for each kid in the car during the summer. You never know when you'll stop for a quick dip.
  • For playing in the snow, put them in a one piece fleece footie PJ under their snowsuit. Keeps their legs from getting exposed and they stay plenty warm! - Beth L., NJ
  • When traveling, pack kid outfits in quart size zip lock bags - clothes, socks, and accessories. 
  • Keep extra clothes in a Ziploc bag in the diaper bag. That way you have some where to put wet/messy clothes to keep them contained. - Lisa B., WA
  • If you use a swim diaper and it wasn't dirtied, you can dry it out and use it again.
  • Practice using the car seat before the baby is born, use a stuffed animal that has a vaguely human shape so you can get a feel for maneuvering arms and legs. Do it over and over and make everyone who will do it practice and then check each others work. - Jennifer W. 
  • Baby powder will take sand off little feet and legs.  
  • Use painters tape to baby proof a hotel room. It can keep drawers closed and cover outlets without damaging surfaces. 
  • Put small ankle weights on the front wheels of your umbrella stroller so the diaper bag doesn't tip it backwards. 

Toys & Play
  • Buy batteries in bulk! Baby toys take odd numbers of the most random battery sizes. - Jill, CA
  • Use a fine point Sharpie to write the amount and type of battery a toy takes on the compartment cover. You'll know what batteries to grab (and if you actually have them) before you undo the 40 tiny screws to open the compartment. 
  • When they are really tiny, have a place in every room to safely set them down. No need to lug the bouncer all over creation. - Lisa B.
  • Empty ketchup bottles make for easy toddler "water guns" without the difficult trigger or need for a "gun."
  • Put paper and finger paint in a zip lock taped to the window, that way it's contained but they can still create master pieces. - Regan G.
  • Tape over small empty cardboard container lids (soup, cereal, cocoa) and let them use it in play kitchen - Catherine G.
  • Egg cartons hold paint for projects, then can be thrown away. 
  • If you don't have the space to build a permanent play area for baby, get a big tote bag and throw all the stuff you use for floor play in it and keep it in the corner. It makes it easy to set up and break down and doesn't leave a mess. - Jennifer W.
  • My daughter watches me get ready in the morning. I sit her outside the bathroom door and hand her her toothbrush. She will often "brush her teeth" while I do. - Kerry D.
  • Get cheap laundry baskets and split up your kids toys and rotate out laundry baskets so they have 'new' toys every week or two so they don't get bored with the toys they're playing with. - Jill B. 
  • Take the batteries out of a video game controller and let them play along side you. Chances are, they'll never realize it. - Jeff

Toddler Behavior & Independence
  • At the grocery store I let them pick a fruit pouch and if they hold onto it the whole time they can eat it when we get in line. Keeps little hands from grabbing things and keeps them occupied in line. - Erica, CO
  • Let your toddler pick out his/her clothes in the morning to avoid a meltdown and give them some independence. - Jacqueline W., RI
  • Practice writing by putting worksheets (you can find a ton of free ones online) inside a page protector and letting your toddler user a dry erase marker to trace the letters. They can erase and try again and you don't waste paper. - Becky M.
  • When a new baby is introduced to the family, make big brother/sister a helper. They are so willing to get diapers or binkies and they feel important. - Jacqueline W., RI
  • Make chores the reward - "if you are really good I'll let you take the trash out." - Michelle B.
  • I put tights under leggings (or regular weight pants if it is really cold) to prevent lost socks on my almost 2 year old. Try as she might, she can't get them off. - Michelle G., WV
  • When teaching my son how to put on mittens we do "thumbs up" and put the thumb on first. - Christie H. 
  • Find toddler sized chores to keep them busy. Toddlers can dust, match socks, put away silverware, clean up their toys, feed the pets, etc. 

  • Let your husband help in the beginning, let him do it his own way. He will find a groove for himself and baby and the more you help the more he feels pushed aside and retreats back.  - Kristin K.
  • Instead of trying to guess what diapers and formula 'might' work for new baby (and then having to store it all!) pick a store and invest in gift cards. Instead of buying a case of diapers each week while preparing for baby, get a gift card. That way you can choose what you want, when you want, and gift cars take up basically no space! - Denise H.
  • Research everything and then go with your gut. If you try to listen to all the advice and tips you get you will go crazy! - Jill B.
  • Let your husband have a "thing" so that he has a little one on one time with baby. Since I breastfed, he wanted his own special time too, so the first 5 months bath time was HIS time. - Shaylynn T.
  • In all expectations and consequences, be consistent. It's hard when you're tired and worn down but you will reap the rewards if you remain consistent. - Chanda H.

Have any to add? What are your tried and true parent hacks?


  1. I'm having my first child next month--these are all great tips! Thanks!!!

  2. Great ideas! I'm a fan of having my daughter watch me get ready in the morning too:) More on that, and a link to this super helpful post, here: