My top tips for new parents

By admin
18 July 2013

Celeb blogger and dad of two Mark Pilgrim has picked up a few parenting tricks – from dealing with sleep issues to toddler behaviour – and he’s prepared to share.

Being a dad of two young girls (Tayla-Jean, above left, and Alyssa, above right), I’m often asked by other dads if I have any advice for new parents. There are some things I wished other parents had told my wife Nicole and I that would have made our life a little easier. I’m not talking about big things such as the type of cot or pram to buy, but rather the smaller things, like the best way to heat up and prepare a bottle, or how to handle baby poo.

So here’s a guide as to what we did. It’s not a definitive guide, nor the ‘‘correct’’ way of doing things. It’s simply what worked for us and might help you a little in time of need!

Get baby (formula) bottles ready in an instant

When your baby wants a bottle, he or she wants it NOW! Also, at 3 am you don’t want to have to worry about going into the kitchen to make it. Yet, you can’t pre-make it and leave it in a bottle warmer all night as the milk starts curdling after an hour or so and expires.

Nicole and I prepare about five bottles with boiled and then cooled kettle water. Only ever boil kettle water once, because if you continually re-boil the same water it starts losing some of its hydration abilities. We then take the cooled bottles to the baby’s room and they stay ‘‘fresh’’ there for the whole day and to do this you need a decent bottle warmer that can heat the bottle to about 40 degrees.

Place one bottle in the bottle warmer (just water in the bottle, not mixed with powder). That bottle can stay there for hours without expiring as you haven’t added the formula. Next to the bottles, keep pre-measured containers of your formula.

When you need that bottle in a rush, simply pour the powder in the warm bottle, shake and you’re ready to feed the little one with a freshly mixed bottle. Just remember that if the baby doesn’t drink everything and you want to put it back in the warmer, you can only use that bottle up to an hour or so later otherwise it starts curdling.

When you’re all done, simply pop another bottle with only water in to the bottle warmer and you’re ready for the next feeding session without having to dash to the kitchen at the last minute with a screaming baby in your arms.

Stop the room smelling of baby poo

For about two years we used the special baby poo bins with the circular bin liners. For three reasons though we didn’t like them.

Firstly, the thought of fermenting poo sitting in the bin for up to a day right next to our baby wasn’t appealing. Secondly, no matter how scented the bin liners were, the bin inevitably stank. Thirdly, the bin liners can be quite pricey.

We found an easier and simpler solution. Most baby shops and some supermarkets sell poo bags (branded as Nappy Sacks) in boxes of 100 (like a tissue box). They’re like plastic shopping bags but much thinner and some are scented. You simply put the dirty nappy in the bag and toss it in the bin outside. Eureka . . . A clean smelling room!

How to make nappy changing less messy

This is one dads will love. Just like a tissue box, pharmacies sell disposable latex gloves in boxes of 100. We have them all over the house, because when you change a nappy the last thing you want is your baby’s poo all over your hands and under your fingernails.

With a glove on, you can get ‘‘right in there’’ without any fear and once you have the poo nappy bundled in your gloved hands, use your other hand to pull the back of the glove over your ‘‘nappy hand’’ and the nappy is then inside the actual glove and well-contained!

When baby sleeps in her own room from day one

This is not for everybody. I’m a light sleeper and would never be able to sleep with a baby in our room, especially not in our bed. From the day they came home from the hospital our girls have always slept in their own rooms with the lights off.

So how did we keep an eye on them? Easy, with the help of technology we were able to hear and see them all the time. Firstly you need a good baby room monitor.

I have two brands at home, and find the Angelcare range to be the best, both in terms of connectivity and also what is displayed on the monitor. During the night you want to be able to glance at the monitor to make sure the baby’s room is not too hot or cold (books say the room should be 18 °C. We’ve always kept our room at about 23 °C). The Angelcare monitor is readable in the dark. The Angelcare also comes with a sensor pad that you place under the baby. This pad detects breathing. We stopped using the sensor pad on both our girls at about 12 weeks though, because it would regularly give a false positive (it would not pick up movement and trigger the alarm, yet the girls were fine).

The second thing you want these days is a ‘‘visual’’ into the room. You can either get a baby monitor that comes with a camera, or if you have wi-fi at home, buy any IP camera that connects to your wi-fi and lets you view the image from any web browser on your computer or phone. (Go to for more affordable generics or for higher quality ones).

We have nine of these cameras in our house, and can view them externally so we can check up on the kids when we’re not home. Many people get by with just audio into the room and no visuals, but once you have a camera, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Whose turn is it to get up and feed the baby?

Nicole and I have always played a game of tag. If the baby monitor is next to your side of the bed when the baby wakes up, you’re ‘‘it’’. When you’re done and come back to the bedroom, you place the monitor on your partner’s side and then they’re ‘‘it’’ if the baby wakes up. No arguments. Simple.

Keeping baby warm in winter

Ever wondered how to keep your child warm in winter without worrying about a blanket that they often kick off? Up until about 18 months we put Tayla-Jean in a type of sleeping bag. It fits the torso like a jersey but is actually a sleeping bag. There are many on the market, and here is an example of one of them we use (you can order them here:, at other online baby stores or specialised baby shops for various styles and sizes).

Getting them to sleep through the night

 At about a year old we found that Tayla-Jean was still waking up wanting a bottle in the middle of the night because she was hungry. The same happened with Alyssa. Every young parent dreams of a solid night’s sleep . . . this might help! An author of a popular baby book recommended that from a year onwards, instead of giving the baby a normal evening bottle at 6 or 7 pm, change that specific bottle to one containing PediaSure. This is a nutritional supplement for kids from 1-10 years old. It contains more carbs and keeps them fuller for longer.

This product might not be for everyone, and chat to your paediatrician first, but it worked wonders for both our girls. By the second night of giving PediaSure they were both sleeping through the night.

White noise

Another little trick we use is white noise. Both my girls have iPods in their rooms which plays the same track 24 hours a day. White noise is essentially a constant hiss, like a TV when you are trying to tune it. Played softly in the background it drowns out all the other extraneous house noises that might otherwise wake the child up. It’s so effective we always keep a fan going in our room (even in winter), which has the same effect.

There are many great CDs that have white noise on them. The one we use is tailor made for babies as it also subtly has the sound of a heart beating, which is very soothing for the baby. It’s available on a CD called Baby Sense: Womb to World.

Finite choices

As Tayla-Jean got older (about two years) we found that she often said ‘‘no’’ to us. Would you like to bath now? No. Please get into the car now? No.

On the recommendation of a child psychologist we started giving her finite choices that empowered her (as she was making a choice), but was also a win-win for us. For example, instead of asking her if she is ready for a bath, we now say: ‘‘Do you want to bath in 1 minute or 2 minutes?’’. So whether she opts for 1 minute or 2 minutes, she feels like she’s made the decision and you still get her in the bath.

With the car example, it’s now phrased: ‘‘Would you like to get in the car by yourself or do you want me to put you in the car? You can decide’’. It sometimes needs to be reinforced with, ‘‘If you don’t choose then it means you want Dad to choose for you’’.

Another game I started playing with Tayla-Jean was the stopwatch trick. I use an iPad app called Minu Timer. It has a big red circle that closes as the time runs out. We start the timer and see if we can get things done, such as brushing teeth, before the time runs out.

Getting your toddler to be good!

It’s amazing what a little validation can do. How great do we feel at work when (if ever) the boss comes up to us and says well done on an excellent job! It’s the same with kids.

We have a ‘‘star chart’’ and Tayla-Jean gets so excited when she gets another star. It’s really just a sheet of laminated paper with about 20 blocks on it. Whenever she’s been exceptionally good, we take a little star sticker and place it in a block. Every day we count the stars to see how many she has (even though she KNOWS exactly how many she has at any given time).

How to stop your 3-year-old  waking you up too early in the morning

I have placed a night light in the passage outside Tayla-Jean’s room. Using a regular plug timer, it switches on at about 6 pm and switches off at about 6.30 am as the sun comes up. My daughter knows that if she wakes up and sees the light on (through the crack under her bedroom door), it means it’s still night time and she should stay in bed. It works so well and we aren’t woken up with her next to our bed at 5 am anymore.

On the dot though at 6.30 every morning she comes into our bedroom and wakes us up with the words: ‘‘The light is off!’’.

Here’s hoping these few tips can help make things a little easier for moms and dads.

- Mark Pilgrim

* Mark Pilgrim is a freelance radio and TV presenter and is a DJ on 94.7 Highveld Stereo and 94.5 Kfm.

Follow Mark on twitter: @MarkPilgrimZA


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