Even though some of my mothering skills came naturally, like realizing I could nurse my newborn son, Conrad, while walking up the spiral staircase, my confidence as a new mom was hard-won. I always assumed there was a book, or a gadget, or one of Angelina Jolie's nannies, who knew how to do everything better than I could. Worse, I thought my lack of mothering-nerve was a blemish on the image of the perfect mom I wanted to be. (I hadn't yet realized that trying to be perfect was ridiculous.) I kept my insecurities to myself and continued to shop for stuff I didn't need and buy tomes that were better used as stacking blocks.
Then I got a card from an older family friend, and all she wrote was this: "One day you will feel like you know what you're doing." Six years, many mistakes, and another baby boy later, I do. But that card let me start to trust myself more every day. Well, dear reader, consider this your own card from an old friend. We've gathered the best, most ingenious it-worked-for-me tips from moms and childcare experts to help you sail, not sob, through all the small but significant day-to-day acts of being a mom. Confidence, here you come.
3 Insta-Soothers You Can Count On
Try The Triple Play Rub lavender essential oil on the back of your neck for a calming scent (feel free to swipe your kid's Johnson & Johnson lotion). Then wrap your baby in a blanket and gently bounce on a fitness ball or the edge of the bed, suggests Jill Wodnick, a doula in Montclair, NJ, and mother of Nathaniel, 7, Sebastian, 4, and Emerson, 2.
Head To the Loo Need help fast? Run the bathroom fan and faucet. Low, droning noises remind your little one of hearing your heartbeat in utero, says Dr. Altmann, mother of Avrick, 4, and Collen, 2.
Create a Toddler Cocoon "When toddlers throw tantrums, they often need to block out stimulation in order to calm down," says Corinne G. Catalano, school psychologist at the Ben Samuels Children's Center at Montclair State University. So instead of picking up your tot, make a "cave" or cocoonlike space by throwing a blanket over a small table and allowing him to climb under it. If you've got a pop-up kid tent, that will work, too. Give him his lovey and a pillow, and he'll have the soothing sanctuary he needs to regroup.
Help the Medicine Go Down (or In)
Who hasn't squirted Motrin into her toddler's ear when he's putting up a feverish fight? Take a cue from Mary Poppins and mix a dose of medicine with chocolate syrup, suggests Tanya Altmann, M.D., author of Mommy Calls. For toddlers and older babies on solid foods, medicine will seem like a treat! Another option: Refrigerate OTC meds. Cold can mask the taste. For eyedrops, lay your baby on her back and put a toy on her belly so she'll look down. If she's old enough to follow directions, just tell her to close her eyes. Place a drop on the inner corner of the eye, right by her nose. When she looks up or opens her eye, the drop will fall right in. (Works for drowsing pets, too!)
10 Things You Never Knew You Could Do With One Hand
feed a pet
wrap a present using a mini-shopping bag, tissue, and a stick-on bow
brush an older child's hair
fold baby clothes and put back in drawers
repot a plant
write thank-you notes
whip up a smoothie
tend to husband's personal needs (if you know what we mean)
Happier Hair Washing
Turn this often torturous process into something your toddler will look forward to: Treat her to a salon visit right in your own home, suggests Parenting Mom Squad expert Denene Millner, of Snellville, GA. What to do:
1. Talk in a fancy voice and ask her to lie down on the kitchen counter, with her head hanging over the sink, just like she would if she were sitting in the shampoo chair at a salon.
2. Roll Up a towel and ut it under her neck for support.
3. Let her lean back and enjoy. Use your fingers to give her a head massage while you shampoo.
4. Rinse, wrap hair up in a turban.
5. Accept kisses as tips.
Better Bangs: The unfortunate hallmark of an at-home trim is poorly cut bangs. The secret? Don't cut them from ear to ear. Instead, trim them in from the outside edge of each eyebrow.
Car Seats on the Fly
Many a parent has suffered a long flight with a crying baby only to discover that she can't get the car seat out of the airplane seat. Because airline seatbelts open with a pull lever, the belt can easily get wedged in the car-seat back once it has been tightened. If you can't pull the lever, well, you're stuck. Avoid this problem with two solutions that are FAA compliant: Ask your airline attendant for a seat-belt extender, suggests Troy Lanier, coauthor of DadLabs Guide to Fatherhood. The extender attaches to and lengthens the belt so you can reach the buckle when deplaning. If you can't get their attention in time, simply turn the buckle over so that the clasp opens in a different direction.
How to Defuse Road Rage
We've all been there: You're making great time on a trip home from the mall and then, bam!, traffic. Your child, who was happy moving at 50 miles per hour, is hysterical when your speedometer drops below 10. Some quick tricks to avoid crying jags.
Turn on cool tunes As soon as you see a stream of brake lights ahead, pop in a customized CD that sings your child's name in every stanza ($14.95 to $19.95; mymusiccd.com). "When my girls hear their names in a song, they instantly stop crying," says Tomlin, who's the author of Chaos 2 Calm: The Moms of Multiples' Guide to an Organized Family and mom of 3-year-old twins, Peyton and Sydney.
Dial it in Low-tone cell-phone ringtones can be calming, says Catalano. And that's why when Nancy Caron's 18-month-old son, Parker, is inconsolable, she whips out her cell phone and plays tones that are heavy on the drum and bass. (If she's in the driver's seat, she pulls over first!)
Stash some magnets Dig out an old metal cake pan or small cookie sheet and load it up with large magnetic pictures or letters (they should be larger than 1 3/4 inches in diameter). The magic of magnetism can keep them entertained for hours (okay...many, many minutes).
3 Nighttime Tips
Think Big To avoid 2 a.m. diaper leaks, Brooke Harmon of Phoenix puts her son in a diaper one size up: "It absorbs all the pee and never makes a mess."
Go Backward Tonia Tomlin of Plano, TX, got so tired of her twin daughters' late-night ritual of ripping off their pj's that she put their footless zip-up sleepers on backward.
Do Diaper Prep Pre-fill newborn dipes with ointment before bed to save time during middle-of-the-night changes.
Better Mothering Through Technology
Heather Gibbs Flett and Whitney Moss, authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook, offer up four ways to convert your iPhone into the ultimate mother's helper.
Make It a Baby Monitor You're at a dinner party and are worried you won't hear your sleeping baby in your host's bedroom. Download the application at codegoo.com/page/baby-monitor ($4.99), then stash your phone near the babe. If he stirs, your phone will call a number you've chosen (e.g., Daddy's cell).
Let it Lull Download the white-noise ambient application ($1.99; tmsoft.com/iphone-whitenoise.html) and place the phone in your baby's car seat or stroller. The app also offers a variety of sounds, including some as quietly calming as lapping waves and rain.
Turn it into a Tracker Log your baby's diaper changes and feedings with the applications at andesigned.net (99¢, $7.99). Both store a history of your data, in case you need to share it with your doctor.
Have it Wooo Them Download the Wooo Button (iphoneappreviews.net/2008/08/01/wooo-button). It's simple: You press a button and a man shouts "Wooo!" Kids love it, and it's so harmlessly addictive that you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
Now that you have a kid, you'll never get to go to the bathroom alone again. How to master the pee-and-feed with ease.
1. Wear elastic-waist pants or a comfy skirt you can lift with one hand.
2. Get the babe happily latched on.
3. Do your business.
4. Flush later—no need to chance a startle.
Tasty Teething Trick
Frozen washcloths are great, but your baby may stay at it longer and get more relief if you add some flavor into the mix. Try putting large chunks of these in a mesh teether:
Sour pickles (surprised? kids adore all things tangy)
Stand-Up Comedy (aka the Vertical Diaper Change)
1. Wrap one arm around your child's belly to hold him still, then tear off the old dipe.
2. Ask him to touch his toes if he can, then use your free hand to wipe.
3. Place new diaper over the front of his body, push it through his legs, and then over his butt.
4.Secure tabs. Hike it up gently, then adjust tabs again if necessary.