Parenting Hacks for the First Two Years of Your Child’s Life

Save your time, your money, and your sanity!

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My baby Willow, photo courtesy of Vagabond Art

I’m a mother and a self-proclaimed “shortcut taker”. I always look for ways to make things go smoother, quicker, and easier.

As parents, we have many balls in the air, some are heavier than others, so why make life difficult for ourselves?

I have some tips to share that I’ve picked up in the first couple of years of my daughter’s life that keeps our household running smoothly.

Laundry day

This is something I learned in the second year of my daughter’s life. I was so bummed when I learned this one because it could’ve have saved me days of folding laundry.

You do not need to fold your baby or toddler's clothes!

Baby and toddler clothes do not wrinkle. Pants, shirts, and sleepers can be laid flat in their drawers.

They will stay wrinkle-free and it’s easier to find what you need to pair an outfit since it’s all laid out in front of you.

Dresses and rompers can be laid flat, but I hang those up because some materials do have a tendency to wrinkle.

I wish I had known this when I had a newborn and was using cloth diapers! It is a big time saver.

The cheapest teething tricks

My friend Rachel taught me this tip. We were at her house for a barbecue and willow was teething. She was only a few months old (her teeth came in very early), and I didn’t bring any of her teething rings with me.

Rachel is a mother of two and knows her stuff!

She took a few pieces of ice, put it in a baby facecloth and secured it tightly with an elastic. Willow loved it!

Now that Willow is a toddler, I freeze a bag of baby carrots and give those to her to relieve teething pain. This trick will work for a teething puppy as well!

It’s important to always supervise your child when they are chewing on a teething aid.

A frugal alternative to a baby bathtub

When we had Willow, I wasn’t working and we had to cut corners. We avoided purchasing things that took up too much space and were unnecessary. A baby bathtub was one of those items.

We used a large, rectangular laundry basket with holes as a baby bathtub. This works great because the water flows into it and keeps your baby safely contained. We always held her upright as we bathed her until she could sit up on her own.

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Photo courtesy of walmart.com

Willow used this “makeshift bathtub” until she was a year-and-a-half old! We were always right beside the bathtub in the event that it tipped. As she got older, she liked to stand up in the bathtub, so it was essential to be very close by.

A laundry basket can also double as a bassinet for a newborn while in a pinch! We used one for a bed for Willow during naptime at nana’s house. She slept very well, it was the perfect size for her to sleep in.

Make immunization day a breeze!

At our doctor’s office, we have a nurse practitioner as well as a family doctor. The nurse practitioner gives kids their needles and is wonderful with Willow. She has given us a tip that really helps ease the pain of immunizations.

There is an over-the-counter patch called the “Emla” patch. It is a lidocaine patch that is completely safe for babies. We used this every time Willow had needles.

An hour before your appointment, you cut one patch in half and stick it to the outside of each thigh to numb the area and ease the discomfort of the needles.

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Photo courtesy of BC Health Link

As always, please check with your health practitioner before trying Emla and inquire about where on the body to place the patch. This is a suggestion that may make needle day easier on your little one. However, only you and your doctor know if Emla is right for your baby.

Dealing with nightmares

If your baby or toddler is having a nightmare, walk them around the house (in low light). Show them your pets, talk to them softly. This will help bring them back to reality.

Most toddlers love stuffed animals and have an overabundance of them! We have Willow’s stuffed animals in a special place and when she wakes up in a bad mood or is having a hard time sleeping, we bring her over to her “stuffies” and let her pick one out.

What’s old is new again! She doesn't play with these toys during the day so it’s as if we are giving her a surprise. She will usually go back to her crib happily with her “new” toy.

Make sure you never put your baby to bed with anything until they are at least one-year-old. Always check your stuffies for choking hazards before giving them to your toddler.

Housekeeping tips

  • Struggling to keep things organized? Go to your local Dollartree or Dollarama (Canadian Dollartree) and pick up some plastic baskets in a neutral color. These are perfect for storing your baby's toys, lotions, wipes, and diapers in.
  • I place baskets with changing supplies and hand sanitizer, in the bedroom and living room for quick access.
  • I buy two plastic wipes containers and then buy the wipes in the packaging. Then I refill the container after it’s empty.
  • For cloth diapers, I use regular powdered “Tide”. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t cause irritation on Willow’s sensitive skin. Make sure you do an extra rinse cycle and hang diapers to dry afterward. The liners can go in your dryer.
  • Keep books everywhere! Let your baby look at them, chew on them, and play with them. This will increase the likelihood of them being interested in reading as they age.

Feeding tips

  • I use the sanitize function on my dishwasher to clean your bottles and nipples.
  • If you breastfeed, invest in “Dr. Jack Newman’s All-Purpose Nipple Ointment”. This stuff is heaven-sent for nursing moms with sore nipples. In Canada, you need a prescription to purchase it but I think you can purchase it over-the-counter in the United States.
  • I used muslin swaddles as breastfeeding covers. They’re long enough to wrap and nice and cool in the summer.
  • Fed is always best! Rather you use a bottle or your breast, this is your choice!
  • Homemade baby food is easy and fun to make! We would spend Sunday mornings making Willow’s food and freezing it. It is much healthier and frugal to make your own. We used plastic cube containers, they’re freezer and microwave safe!

Babycare tips

  • In the first few days the baby is home and beyond, make noise as she sleeps. Vacuum, open doors, and talk around him or her. This will get them used to noise while they rest.
  • Start brushing your baby's teeth very young, this way they get used to the sensation early. I started brushing Willow’s “tooth” at 4 months and she brushes her own teeth at 2-years-old. She even opens the toothpaste container herself! Flouride free is the safest toothpaste option, but as always consult your dentist first.
  • Nail clipping is intimidating when they are newborns but I promise it gets easier. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will get. Now, I can cut Willow’s nails in under two minutes.
  • If your baby or toddler has a diaper rash, Aveeno makes an incredible oatmeal bath powder that works very well on rashes. I highly recommend it!
  • Check your thermometers regularly for signs of low battery. You never know when your little one will spike a fever, and need his or her temperature taken!

“Sleeper tricks”

My mother taught me how to put a sleeper (one-piece long sleeve PJs) on Willow quickly and easily. Note: I didn’t use this trick until her neck was strong enough to support her head.

  1. Lay baby down
  2. Insert baby’s leg into the side of the sleeper with more material, then insert the other leg into the other side
  3. Slip the arms and back of sleeper underneath the baby and put their arms in and zip it up. Easy peasy!
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Photo courtesy of reddit.com

The first two years of your baby’s life are amazing, fun, and exciting. They are also exhausting and expensive. I hope you found these hacks helpful!

If you see a new mom or dad struggling, offer them tips and offer to help them. As parents, we should never be afraid to reach out or listen to parenting advice from other parents.

“ It’s awful, awful, awful. Then a small moment happens, that’s so magical. That makes it all worthwhile”- Playground dad, from the film “The Backup Plan”

Amy Cottreau is a freelance writer who hails from a small city in Atlantic Canada. She enjoys interacting with fellow writers, dreaming of ideas for her next article, and researching a myriad of topics.

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Wife, mother, and researcher of a myriad of subjects. I love to write about anything and everything! Writer for The Startup, Better Marketing, & The Ascent👊

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