When I was pregnant with Lainey and started thinking about buying baby gear, I wasn’t particular about a lot of things except when it came to a baby book. I wanted a really nice baby book. Always a bit of a documentarian, I cared a lot about the structure of where I’d store milestones and memories. And if the baby book is the last thing you thought about when you were pregnant, I totally get it. Most people laugh about the fact that the first three pages of their kid’s baby book are filled with details and photos and all the things, and then crickets for the rest of the book. I think a lot of “failed baby books” are due to standards we set that are way too high as well as poorly structured baby books prompting you to tediously record details of things you’re not going to care to recall someday. You don’t need to remember what date your kid’s lateral incisor came in, Gina. And by Gina, I mean me because look what I wasted time writing when Lainey was a baby. A diagram and everything!
After having Nella and understanding the beauty of “Delayed milestones don’t really matter!”, I have a whole new perspective on questions like “When did Baby roll over?” or “When did Baby sit up on her own?” These kinds of questions also make it likely for you to fizzle out on documentation. If you miss recording a couple months of these, it’s hard to go back and write them down later and easy to close the book and quit recording for good.
So what are things that are important to write down? What are you going to wish you recorded? I’m not an expert on baby books, but I have really enjoyed keeping them for each of my kids and can at least tell you from experience how I eventually tapered things down to preserve really special things I know my kids will be happy to read someday. When I say “tapered down,” I mean I figured out by the third kid that not everything is worth saving. See Figure A:
But first, let’s start with the basics: How do you choose a baby book? What should you buy?
Tip #1: Splurge on the Baby Book
If you are at all into the whole documentation thing (and no worries if you’re not–skip it, your kid will be fine!), splurge on a baby book. Strollers and car seats and cribs cost a pretty penny these days, and yet you’ll only use them for a few years. A baby book? It’s the one baby item you’ll actually use and save forever. Spend the money to buy one you’ll love and be motivated to use.
Tip #2: Buy a Baby Book with Loose Leaf Pages
I highly recommend 3-ring binder style baby books with loose leaf pages. It gives you a lot of control over the book and allows you to add your own pages and slip in things the book prompts may have left out. I have added so many of my own pages and clear pocket sleeves that make great places to store all the overlooked things that are fun to save–things like hospital badges from visitors who came to see the baby.
My kids’ baby books are made by Marcela, and I love them. I bought them from a local boutique where I was able to customize the insert pages (I had the pages from another book taken out and swapped with the cover I wanted–more likely allowed at a local boutique where they’ll work with you). Another great loose-leaf baby book is Artifact Uprising’s The Story of You – clean, simple and beautifully laid out. C.R. Gibson offers a more inexpensive loose-leaf option.
Tip #3: It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect!
Say it with me, perfectionists: You can keep writing in your kid’s baby book even if your hand slipped and that H looks like an A. You can keep writing in your kid’s baby book even if you started with a blue pen and now all you have is a black pen. Make mistakes and write a little bit messy right away so you set the tone for easy, soulful documentation and not perfection. See look! Mine’s sloppy and carefree! But there’s gold in these scribbles and crooked envelopes slapped on with whatever tape I could find.
Tip #4: Use Envelopes
When you use a 3-ring binder type of baby book, you can slip in blank pages. A lot of these blank pages in my books have envelopes taped to them. This is a great way to store the family Christmas card, birthday invitations, folded pictures they drew, hair they cut out themselves, photos, ultrasound pics, etc. I tape a lot of photos down in my books as well, but the envelopes are great for storing multiples of photos as well as cards.
Tip #5: Create a Baby Book Writing Ritual
The best way to not fizzle out on keeping a baby book is to make it fun. If it feels like a chore, forget about it. The only reason my kids’ baby books are filled is because I loved the ritual of doing it. For their first year of life, I worked on their books once a month (in between, I’d jot things down on paper and just shove it in the book to store it until I dedicated the time to write it in the book). I’d make sure any photos I wanted to include were printed ahead of time and then I’d gather the book, the notes I had scribbled, a couple good pens, some tape and a glass of wine; and I’d put a movie on and enjoy the process of catching up on the book. After the first year, I worked on the books more infrequently; but to this day, I still shove scraps of scribbled notes in each of their books until one night when I’m feeling nostalgic and return to put it all in its proper place.
Tip #6: Record the Things You Would Have Loved to Have Known About Yourself When You Were Little and the Things You Would Have Loved to Have Known About Your Mom’s First Year of Motherhood
The big question is–what to record. If you’re going to make the space to write down things about your baby’s life, let them be important things. First of all, the first year of a baby’s life isn’t that much unlike the first year of any other baby’s life. We all think our own babies are so special and full of unique personality, but there’s not that many things you can say about babies that don’t apply to all babies. I actually have a paragraph in Lainey’s baby book under “Month 1” dedicated to her amazingly unique personality trait of “likes to eat.” Um, every baby likes to eat. She wasn’t a shining star. A more interesting and unique approach to recording the first month would be to record Mom’s new take on motherhood. Looking back on my own baby book, I give ZERO effs about the fact that I woke up at 2:00, 4:00, and 6:00 (who am I kidding–it was 1978, and I’m the last baby–I didn’t even have a baby book). But I would have loved to have known what overwhelming postpartum moments made my mom cry or what the first song she sang me to sleep was.
So here’s the things I’ve recorded in my kids’ books that I’m so glad I have written down. I don’t consider any of them milestones. I consider them little love stories.
Favorite Toys and Toy Stages – The kids love hearing about these, and they will be fun to come back to someday at the Thanksgiving dinner table when they’re all in their twenties. “What was that toy Lainey was so into in second grade? Mom, go get the baby book! Oh my God, Squinkies! That’s right! I forgot all about those!” Even better, save those most loved toys. I have a little box with all of the small toys my kids were once obsessed with. One rubber band loom bracelet Lainey made, three Squinkies, a handful of Shopkins, the green bean rattle Dash loved as a baby, a squishy laced with strawberry-scented chemicals and Nella’s original Barbie, Poop I.
Places We Visited and Loved – At the end of each month’s page in my kids’ books, there’s a prompt that says “Places We Visited.” I didn’t realize how special this prompt was until I recently looked back at some of the early years and noticed how many special outings I would have completely had forgotten about. It’s also a great way to prove to yourself how much you really do get out when it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. Our lists include things like “Third Street Farmer’s Market, Vanderbilt Library, Brunch at First Watch with Mommy’s friends, Captiva Island day trip with the family.”
Unique Favorites or Dislikes- Funny little quirks are always fun to remember. Think beyond my genius “likes to eat” documentation and get specific. You love when we rub the little space above your nose between your eyes, and it always makes you fall asleep. You love my yellow earrings with the dangly beads and always try and rip them off when I wear them which is why we’ve put them away for a while. You love the Elmo pop-up book and have ripped his eyes off three times, and we keep taping them back on.
Stories Behind Firsts – The dates on firsts don’t really matter, but you’ll want to remember the story behind them. Where were you when they took their first steps? How did you react? How did Dad react? I don’t know when Lainey lost her first tooth, but I definitely remember we were at the fair, and it fell into a pile of teeth-looking white shell bits. I remember her crying that we wouldn’t be able to find it (we never did) and then convincing her that we’d sell the tooth fairy on a piece of broken shell that looked like a tooth. Record the stories. You will think you will remember them, but unless you write it down, you’re going to forget more than half.
People in Their Lives – Who came to their birthday parties, who their favorite friend in preschool was, which neighbor they always want to stop and talk to on family walks. People come in and out of our lives. I love looking back at my kids special moments in life and remembering who played a role, who showed up, who made an impact.
Letters – If you fill out nothing else in the baby book, write them letters. Tell them what you are learning, how much you love them, what you worry about, how special they are.
Funny Things They Say and Mispronunciations – This one might be my favorite thing to remember and what our whole family loves to talk about the most…the funny things our kids said, invented phrases they coined, mispronunciations, imaginary friends (Lainey had one named Sankalinka), what they named their fish. You’ll forget if you don’t write them down. Dash could have a three-volume book on these alone. I posted something on Instagram a couple months ago asking what favorite mispronunciations your kids have, and I swear I’ve never had so many comments on one post. We love this stuff. We want to remember it. Just yesterday, I wrote down 2 things Dash says right now that I know I’ll forget if I don’t write it down. “Pizuzz” for “Because.” “Yoom” for “Room”
And if all this feels overwhelming? Skip the baby book and buy a beautiful memory box. Scribble whatever you want on scraps of paper, date them and throw them in the box. No rules.
Is there anything you’re glad you recorded for your kids that I didn’t include? Do you wish you would have written down more? Less? Kept a baby book in a different way? Do tell.
*I edited the photos in this post on an old computer that desperately needs its screen recalibrated, so apologies for the off colors.