The right technology can make anybody's life easier, so even if you haven't yet mastered the art of sitting up, there's sure to be some gizmo or doodad that strikes (or wipes) your fancy.
Although researchers have yet to design a smartphone that babies want for more than just oral stimulation or an e-reader that doubles as a changing table, there are plenty of gadgets out there designed to appeal to parents and their newborns.
Here's a list of our favorites -- including a device that'll keep bottles warm on the go and a stuffed toy that helps your infant rest easy.
Even the staunchest environmentalist will turn tail for a box of disposables at the thought of placing dirty diapers in the wash. Even though most washing machines have no trouble eliminating your baby's waste (as long as you rinse the diaper first), many parents don't like the idea of cleaning their clothes in the same machine that scrubs their baby's stained bloomers.
Go miniature! There are several mini washing machines on the market that are perfectly capable of handling modest-sized diaper loads. Although they're not made for cloth diapers specifically, these little machines offer an environmentally friendly solution for poopy-paranoid parents. They're small enough to fit on a countertop, and they're easy to travel with. So when you're on the open road, your mini will save you the embarrassment (and dirty looks) of taking your baby's soiled garments to a Laundromat.
Babies cry when they're wiped for obvious reasons. Besides the unpleasant feeling of a full diaper, most wipes are pretty chilly. While cold wipes are hardly dangerous, they must be uncomfortable, and the shock of one being swiped across a dirty bum will fully awaken any drowsy baby.
Thankfully, wipes warmers allow you to clean your infant's tush with anti-microbial wipes that are warmed for comfort. They're not very expensive, and while your friends might think it's a needless item for spoiled babies, you'll be grateful for the extra luxury during those middle-of-the-night diaper changes.
This one isn't cute or fun, but it's important. Under-the-mattress movement sensors pick up even your baby's faintest movements, including breathing, and will alert you if your child becomes completely still.
SIDS is scary, and a movement sensor can let you know the second there's a problem, which is often minutes or hours before you would otherwise find out.
If nothing else, this gadget will allow you to sleep easier while your newborn is resting.
They may be small, but infants take up a lot of space. Almost as soon as the baby comes home, areas that used to be yours are quickly overrun with their toys, playpens and gadgets. One of the most bulkiest additions is the cumbersome baby bathtub, a necessary tool that parents not residing in a multi-story home have trouble finding a place for. This is where collapsible baby bathtubs come in.
Collapsible baby bathtubs are exactly what they sound like: a portable tub that can be folded down and kept under the bed. Some units consist of a fold-out chair that fits into the sink for washing, while others are actually little plastic or inflatable basins. All are designed to keep your baby comfortable and to save space, which is something every parent could use more of.
It's a problem for almost every parent. You're out and about with your infant, and there's nowhere to warm up his food come feeding time. Since some of us might feel a little weird about using a convenience store microwave to heat up a bottle of breast milk, it can be extremely difficult to get a temperature-sensitive baby to eat whenever you're not at home. But this isn't a problem if you've got a bottle and baby food warmer in the car.
Car-ready bottle and baby food warmers are easy to use -- just plug them into the auxiliary and go. Most models are designed to fit inside a standard cup holder and can quickly warm up bottles and jars of different sizes. A safety switch prevents overheating, so as long as you remember to pack the kid's bottle, you should be good to go.
If you'd like to keep a constant eye on your slumbering babe, pick up a portable video monitor.
Unlike regular baby monitors, which typically feature cheap, one-way walkie-talkies that will only alert you when your little one starts wailing, portable video monitors let you check up on your baby wherever you are in the house. Screens often include speakers, ensuring that you'll know the second your baby needs anything, even if your eyes are temporarily diverted. Many units come with two cameras, which is great for multiples or if you'd just like an extra viewing angle on that solo bundle of joy.
A video monitoring system lets you to see and hear your baby all the time, but it's not going to tell you what he's fussing about. For that, you need a baby crying analyzer. We know, this is another one of those gadgets that might make you think of spoiled babies (or their parents), but the device is actually pretty handy. After all, unless he's got a full diaper, it's not always readily apparent what the problem is.
The analyzer reads the pitch of your little one's wailing to determine if the child is hungry, bored, stressed, sleepy or annoyed.
Sure, all of these symptoms can be handled by a bottle, a changing or a cuddle, but it's still nice to know why he's upset.
Did you know that a stuffed animal could help your baby sleep better? Of course, we're not talking about just any old plush bear. These are called audio pacifiers, and they're like the aural version of those rubber nipples infants love so much. Besides being soft and cute, these stuffed creatures comfort your little one with the sounds of the womb, which, for newborns, can be very reassuring. Many babies have longer, more restful sleeping sessions when listening to an audio pacifier, which is great for Mom and Dad, too.
Running errands with a baby can be overwhelming. With strollers, car seats, bottle warmers and everything else you have to cram into your vehicle, a simple trip to the mall might make you feel as if you're packing for an extended, out-of-state vacation. But you don't have to start loading luggage just to buy some groceries, at least not if you use a transforming stroller. No, we're not talking about robots disguised as baby gear -- we're talking about strollers that transform into car seats, which, besides saving you a ton of space, are extremely convenient.
Models range from typical, four-wheeled baby carriages to off-road-ready trikes. Many transforming strollers include an additional larger seat to use when your baby becomes a toddler, which will save you at least several hundred dollars in a few years.
If you're already dreading the thought of pushing a stroller for the next several years, the Roller Buggy is for you. It combines a baby stroller with a scooter -- that's right, a scooter! -- and looks a little like a skateboard with a handle.
The Roller Buggy allows metropolitan parents who'd rather roll than walk to coast past conventional Moms and Dads and their push-propelled strollers. But this gadget isn't without controversy. Although the Roller Buggy comes equipped with brakes and a seatbelt, experts still have some major safety concerns about the product. Many believe that it would be easy for speedily scooting parents and babies to collide with foot traffic -- or worse, vehicles. The product is still a concept and has yet to be approved for mass production. However, should the manufacturers incorporate additional safety measures into the design, there's a good chance that city sidewalks will be filled with speeding infants before your baby is old enough to take a stroll on his own.
HowStuffWorks reports on ChatterBaby, an app developed by a UCLA scientist and mother to take the guesswork out of a baby's cries.
- Amazon. "Prince Lionheart Ultimate Wipes Warmer." 2010. (June 24, 2010).http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Lionheart-Ultimate-Wipes-Warmer/dp/B00008ODBG
- Ask Dr. Sears. "Pregnancy and Childbirth: 7 Ways to Bond with Your Preborn Baby." 2006. (June 24, 2010).http://www.askdrsears.com/html/1/t010608.asp
- Babies Travel Lite. "Munchkin car Bottle and baby Food Jar Warmer." 2009. (June 25, 2010).http://www.babiestravellite.com/MCBW.html
- Baby Center. "Baby Sleep Basics: Birth to 3 Months." Feb. 2, 2007. (June 24, 2010).http://www.babycenter.com/0_baby-sleep-basics-birth-to-3-months_7654.bc
- Consumer Reports. "Babies & Kids Blog: Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: Getting Started." July 8, 2009. (June 25, 2010).http://blogs.consumerreports.org/baby/2009/07/cloth-vs-disposable-diapers-getting-started.html
- Genius Babies. "Sleep Sheep with Mother's Heartbeat Sound." 2010. (June 24, 2010).http://www.geniusbabies.com/sleep-sheep.html
- Glover, Eleanor. "Introducing the Roller Buggy: the Pushchair that Changes into a Scooter!" Daily Mail. June 4, 2010. (June 24, 2010).http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-459800/Introducing-Roller-Buggy-The-pushchair-changes-scooter.html
- Healthwise. "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Topic Overview." WedMD. Sept. 15, 2008. (June 24, 2010).http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids-overview
- Parker, Steven, MD. "How Can I Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?" WebMD. 2010. (June 24, 2010).http://www.webmd.com/video/parker-understanding-sids
- Mayo Clinic. "Baby Bath Basics: A Parent's Guide to Newborn Baths." 2010. (June 25, 2010).http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/pr00041
- Prince Lionheart. "The Original Slumber Bear." 2010. (June 24, 2010).http://www.princelionheart.com/site/n_bc_0016.html
- R., Mark. "Roller Buggy Raises Safety Concerns." Coolest Gadgets. 2010. (June 24, 2010).http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20100519/roller-buggy-raises-safety-concerns/
- Robledo, S. Jhoanna. "Music and Your Unborn Child." Jan. 2004. (June 24, 2010).http://www.babycenter.com/0_music-and-your-unborn-child_6547.bc
- ThinkGeek. "Why Cry Baby Analyzer." 2010. (June 25, 2010).http://www.thinkgeek.com/geek-kids/newborn-infant/bea5/?cpg=wnrss