14 Hacks for New Parents Guaranteed to Make Life a Little Easier
You’ve been waiting (and prepping) for baby, but now that they’re finally here, that month-by-month wardrobe organization system you devised doesn’t seem all that useful. What you really need is a fairy godmother to help you get from middle-of-the-night feedings to middle-of-the-day diaper blowouts. Since fairy godmothers are imaginary (sorry!), we’ve come up with a list of genius tricks and workarounds that even some of the most experienced parents haven’t discovered yet. Besides saving you time and your sanity, they’ll help you focus on what’s most important: doting on your new little one.
“Babies are filled with unpredictable needs,” says Time to Parent author Julie Morgenstern, a time-management and organizing expert in New York City. “Automate everything in your life that’s predictable.” This might mean signing up for a diaper subscription service, putting the same 10 dinner options on repeat, and sticking to the same day and time for laundry, for example.
Rocking and snuggling baby not enough to nudge them into la-la land? This is a great time to put your Amazon Echo to use. While your hands are full, just ask Alexa to open the Sleep Little Babies skill. Do not underestimate the power of rain sounds—you might want to have a pillow on hand for yourself.
Who doesn’t have a few ratty, old bras laying around? Remove the straps from four of yours, connect them into a harness configuration and voilà—look Ma, no hands! (See step-by-step instructions here). Another option: Take an old sports bra and snip two holes to fit the breast-pump shields. Now that your hands are free, use this time to do something nice for yourself, like starting on the latest best seller or (finally!) finishing that baby beanie you’ve been knitting for what seems like forever.
You already have a waterproof mattress liner and a crib sheet in place, right? Now put one more liner and sheet over this and you’re set for middle-of-the-night accidents. Simply strip the top layer off and everyone can go back to bed. Do the same for the changing pad, adding two layers of waterproof liners and pad covers.
Trying to pull a onesie off after baby’s diaper blowout is something akin to disarming a bomb—one wrong move and the whole operation turns into a disaster area. Instead of pulling it over their head as you normally do, unbutton the bottom snaps, stretch the neck area of the onesie—that’s what those shoulder flaps are for—and gently pull it down toward their feet.
Whether you forgot to pick up eggs at the store or completely spaced on that pediatrician appointment, you and your partner are bound to be a little more absent-minded than usual while dealing with new-baby sleep deprivation. Digitally syncing your shared lists and calendars will keep you both on track. For Echo users, simply ask Alexa to add items or events that you can both access from anywhere. While you’re at it, ask her to set reminders too, so you’ll never miss another appointment again.
Chances are that in the days and weeks after baby comes home, you’ll be inundated with requests from well-meaning family and friends looking to help out with everyday tasks—which is a good thing! To streamline their efforts, write down steps for everything from laundry preferences to breast-milk defrosting on index cards, recommends Morgenstern. (Alternately, you can use Blueprints for Alexa to create your own custom skill of step-by-step directions.) This way, anyone can help out without bugging you and things will get done your way, making delegating easier.
Those tiny baby booties sure are cute, but they can be a nightmare to keep together in the washer and dryer. When doing laundry, toss all baby socks into a mesh laundry sack. That’s five extra minutes you can spend on going from a messy bun to a polished ponytail.
Morgenstern swears by Fridge Binz, clear acrylic containers perfect for meal prep. As soon as you return from the store—or better yet, after groceries have been delivered right to your front door (thanks, Alexa!)—save time by sorting the next night’s dinner ingredients into two bins: one to hold dry ingredients and one for refrigerated produce and dairy. You can also dedicate a shelf for ready-made healthy snacks. “Grab the first thing you see without having to think or assemble anything,” Morgenstern says. “It’s like stage-managing your life.”
Changing a dirty diaper is one of the least appealing aspects of parenthood. Here’s how to make it less icky: After opening it, use the front (clean) inside of the diaper to wipe baby down, then close the diaper and leave in place to create a buffer as you work those wipes. Lastly, pick up a few diaper cream brushes and use them to prevent getting said cream everywhere (including the sink tap when you go to wash your hands). At the very least, dab on cream with tissues—they do the trick as well.
You’re finally ready to leave the house, only to realize you can’t find your car keys or diaper bag. “With the baby needing your full attention, it can be very easy to lose track of things,” says Joe Mauceri, cofounder of The Dad Habit, a 12-week program to help new dads. Mauceri recommends buying Tile Mate, a Bluetooth tracker that syncs to your phone. (And if you happen to misplace your phone along with your keys, the Find My Phone skill for Alexa can be a lifesaver.)
A stuffed bunny here, a book there—before you know it, baby’s toys start to take over every room of your house. Instead of free-for-all toy bins, give each plaything a designated room and container. For instance, leave blocks and noisy toys in the living room, and keep soft toys and books in baby’s room. This is especially handy when you’re looking for something specific.
Those tiny portable changing pads are no match for the sprawling (not-so-clean) public changing tables. The hack? Tuck a bassinet crib sheet (a king-size pillowcase will work too) into your diaper bag; it should cover the entire length and width of the changing table. Likewise, toss a purse hook into your diaper bag so your tote never has to sit on a dirty restroom floor again.
Helpless as they seem, babies don’t need you next to them 24/7. Once you feed and play with baby, let them entertain themselves in the crib or secure play yard as you indulge in a few minutes of TLC. (Eating cereal in peace can do wonders for your psyche.) Nervous to step out of the room? If you have an Echo Show, sync it to your compatible baby monitor to keep an eye on your little one, even as you scarf down those Cheerios from the next room.