18 of the best parenting hacks
The been-there tips, clever tricks, and baby gear every parent needs on their registry.
When it comes to creating a baby registry, there are the basics (think: stroller, crib, bottles) and then there are the game-changers. These little extras can make sleeping, feeding, traveling, and even cleaning up after your baby easier, so you can feel prepared for what’s ahead.
help for hanging out(side)
- Apply sunscreen the easy way.
Nothing ruins a fun day outside faster than a sunburn. Stick to the shade when possible (that stroller canopy will come in handy), and dress your little one in a brimmed hat and lightweight clothing that covers their skin or, even better, clothing with built-in SPF protection. For babies under six months, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s ok to apply a small amount of SPF to their face and hands if you can’t avoid the sun. For kids over six months, you’ll want to slather it on, which is easier said than done on a squirmy kid. Try this trick: use a makeup sponge to apply SPF to their faces and play connect the dots on the rest of their bodies. Just remember to reapply every two hours. Set an alarm on your phone so you don’t forget.
High chairs are for more than meals.
A portable high chair is worth the trunk space when you’re spending the day outdoors. It gives kids a place to eat—so you can, too. But you can use it for more than just meals. When you need a safe spot, just buckle them in and set them up with some entertainment, like their favorite tabletop toys or baby books. An outdoor playard or dome will also keep your little one safe when you need some hands-free time.
Bring your own soft surface.
A waterproof outdoor blanket is useful in so many settings, from the backyard to the park to the beach. Simply roll it out for an instant safe surface for baby to lay or crawl around on and for you to pop a squat.
- “Bring a wagon on wheels–it makes it easier to lug items (and kids) around, plus it can act as a clean changing table or picnic spot if the rest of your gear gets dirty.”
-DR. WHITNEY CASARES, MD, MPH, FAAP, AND BUYBUY BABY PARENTING PRO
Take stroller breaks.
Whether you’re day-tripping or running errands, a little planning can keep everyone from losing their cool. A lightweight stroller is key for when little legs get tired. If your day out includes a mix of car time and sidewalk time, a travel system will make transfers easier for younger babies. Just pop the seat into the stroller and go. If baby is staying in the car seat, a car seat cover not only keeps baby protected from the sun, it also keeps them protected from strangers’ fingers.
Do like the kangaroos.
When you’re navigating tighter spaces or want a hands-free option, a carrier will keep your baby close and safe. A structured carrier is supportive for longer babywearing (think longer hikes or sightseeing), but a wrap-style carrier is small enough to stuff in a diaper bag or stroller pocket. Bring a muslin blanket—you can add it or remove it easily as temps change throughout the day.
Pack wipes—lots and lots of wipes.
Once you become a parent, you learn to appreciate the many uses of a baby wipe, from wiping your baby’s bottom, to cleaning off a surface for lunch, to removing yesterday’s mascara.
keep it clean
Catch flying food.
Breaking news: Not everything you give your baby to eat will end up in their belly. The rest, if you don’t have a quick-acting dog, will end up on your floor. Spend less time cleaning. Pair a bib that catches crumbs and a vinyl floor mat to make clean-up easier. Stay-put serveware keeps food from flying in the first place.
Store tub toys upside down.
Bathtime is as clean as it gets, right? Well, where there’s wetness, there’s the opportunity for mold. "Gross, but true. Get in the habit of quickly drying wet bath toys with your baby's towel before you hang it it up, then place them upside down along the sides of the tub to finish drying overnight. You can also schedule regular “bleach baths” for your bath toys to keep them clean. By adding this to your routine, you’ll avoid having to toss their fave toys in the trash.
There’s a brush for that.
Pump parts are another potential breeding ground for ick. The CDC recommends washing parts after every use. To avoid contamination, use a separate wash bin and make sure you have a bottle brush for parts and bottles only. Let them air dry completely before storing them in a dedicated bin. Have extra parts on hand so you can use them when the other parts are drying. If you’re bottle feeding, label your bottle brushes so they don’t get used for anything else.
Messes happen overnight too.
Have a backup waterproof mattress cover at the ready, so when accidents happen you won’t have to wait on the laundry before going back to sleep.
breast kept secrets
Try a warm up.
Moist heat and massage can help stimulate milk production, according to the National Institute of Health. Take a warm shower or try slipping a warming lactation pad into your bra, especially during those early days of breastfeeding.
Don’t waste a drop.
Silicone hand pumps are another valuable tool for breastfeeding moms. Suction the pump to one breast, while your baby nurses on the other. When your letdown starts, you’ll collect every last drop.
- Make any shirt breastfeeding friendly
by adding a nursing camisole underneath. Then you can lift your shirt without baring your postpartum belly.
Stash diapers in every room.
You’ll be changing a lot of diapers—we’re talking eight to 12 a day for newborns. Make the task more convenient at home by stocking a portable changing station wherever you spend time with baby—especially if your nursery is on another floor. A playard works well for this and also saves you the trouble of bringing your baby upstairs for each nap.
Stop smells before they start.
Let’s be honest: diapers are stinky. A diaper pail with a carbon filter can help neutralize the stink, or try tossing solids in the toilet before tossing diapers in the pail. Voila! Smell is flushed.
Prep for unexpected changes.
Always keep a disposable changing pad in your diaper bag and your car. You’ll be surprised how few places there are to change your baby’s diaper outside of the house.
Use a newborn nightgown instead of pajamas
for easier overnight changes. No snaps, zippers, or button-fumbling required.