All posts by Kristin Zimmermann

About Kristin Zimmermann

Celeb-obsessed freelance writer Kristin Zimmermann also works as the content and social-media manager for When not writing or reading she is dabbling in floristry, gardening, cooking, and more recently, organic chemistry -- or making her own beauty products with organic ingredients.

An adorable 10 month old baby with his finger in his mouth showing his two new teeth.

Photo Tips for Baby’s First Tooth

Want to know how to make drool look good? Get a grin from a sore-gummed baby? Or capture a professional-grade portrait of that adorable one-toothed smile? Read on. You might not think of a teething baby as being the most photogenic subject, but in a couple of years you’ll be happy to have a visual document of these challenging days. We asked Ana Schechter, a New York City based professional children’s photographer, to tell us some of her techniques.

Make the most of drool. Drool is a plus in Schechter’s book. “A little drool coming off the chin is kind of cute,” she says. “It’s a slice of this exact moment in your baby’s life, and you’ll want to remember it.” Because wet patches on shirts don’t look too good in photos, if there’s excessive drool, try shooting your baby naked.

Don’t forget the hand-in-mouth photos, as well as pictures of your baby chewing on her teethers. In fact, why not try as series of shots featuring all the things that your baby puts in her mouth and chews on: her fist, dad’s fingers, all those teethers, the corner of the blanket…

That unhappy face? Take photos of your baby crying as well as happy – the most authentic shots are the ones that will best remind you of this stage.

First teeth

After the Tooth Erupts

Your baby’s tiny first tooth is hiding in his mouth. How best to showcase it?

Make sure that toothy grin is in focus. One simple way is to be on your baby’s level when you shoot; either lie down on your stomach or sit cross-legged on the floor. This way, you avoid the distorted ‘neckless’ look that can result when you shoot down on your subject.”

Lighting is key. Schechter advises against using a flash, which can add a harsh, fluorescent look to your pics, and says to opt for natural sunlight whenever possible. For indoor shots, face away from or perpendicular to the biggest window you have so the sun streams down in front of you and onto your baby. “The light will splash across your baby’s face beautifully,” she says. If you’re shooting outside on a sunny day, do it in a shady spot. You can also avoid any glaring, too-bright shots by taking your pics between 8 and 10 in the morning, or after 4 p.m.

Get that one-toothed smile Baby isn’t showing you his pearly white (or both of them)?Here’s how to encourage the revealing grin:

• Find an assistant (bigger sibs are perfect for the job) to play peek-a-boo with the baby; have your helper “peek” out from behind you as you shoot so the baby will be looking toward your camera..
• Ask your helper to coo, laugh, or dance a jig behind you, or dangle a toy above your head while you shoot. “
• Try toys – anything that makes noise, but especially anything that crinkles. “That sound is a winner,” Schechter says.

Be patient, but be persistent Take lots of pics. Since digital cameras on automatic have a slight delay between when you press the button and when the shutter actually opens, go with the manual option if your camera has one. And avoid checking your work after every click! Just keep shooting. “If you keep taking pictures for even five minutes longer than you think you should have to,” Schechter says, “you’ll catch a spontaneous moment – something unexpected and fun.”

funny little boy lying on blue blanket with lots of question marks

Is My Baby on Track To Talk?

Babies develop at different rates – some walk sooner than others, some talk later, and many don’t stick to the “official” schedule that parenting experts use as a guideline. Most of the time, the delay means nothing – even if you find yourself worrying once in a while. Sometimes, though, there’s reason to be concerned. Well-meaning friends and family (or even your pediatrician) may try to reassure you that your baby is developing normally – “Don’t worry, my son didn’t utter a word before he was 3 and now he’s a regular chatterbox!” – when your intuition tells you something’s up.

There is a wide range of normal when it comes to meeting milestones, especially for speech and language. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spot a problem early on. Many developmental red flags can alert you to an issue well before your baby even starts to “talk.” For instance, a baby of about 12 months who is not pointing or waving – two important nonverbal ways that babies communicate – could be showing signs of a fine-motor delay or autism spectrum disorder, and babies who don’t readily imitate sounds may have a hearing problem.

We’ve compiled a handy guide to help you keep an eye—and an ear—open for potential problems. If you’re ever concerned about your baby or toddler’s development, call your state’s Early Intervention program to have your child evaluated. The evaluation is free, and you don’t need a doctor’s referral. The earlier a child gets help, the more likely he is to catch up.

Birth Through 3 Months

Newborns are pros at crying to get their needs met, but they soon start to communicate in other ways that help them form social bonds with the people around them.

What’s On Track

Her cries may all sound the same at first, but soon you’ll start to be able to tell which cry means she’s hungry and which one means she’s tired. Beyond crying, her “vocabulary” will expand to include pleasure sounds like cooing, gurgling and the beginnings of babbling. Purposeful smiles – her first real attempts to be social with you – usually emerge by the end of the second month. She’ll also be turning her head toward a sound, like a noisy toy or rattle. She may even recognize your voice and calm down if she hears it.

What To Watch For

  • Not responding to loud noises
  • No purposeful smiles by 3 months

Happy lvoing young african mother having fun with her baby and smile at home.

4 Through 6 Months

This age is a prime time for sound discovery and exploration, as well as understanding and expressing basic emotions like happiness and sadness. Without this most basic “emotional intelligence,” children can’t develop the ability to communicate meaningfully with others.

What’s On Track

The world is a noisy place, and your baby knows it! He’ll start to pay more attention to music now, and even respond to changes in the tone of your voice – a sign that he understands your emotions and is learning how to respond to subtle communication cues. His repertoire of sounds will increase, too, from simple coos to excited squeals and distressed whines. Listen to him babbling: He should make many different sounds, including the consonants P, B and M. He’ll also start to giggle and laugh. He might even begin responding to his own name, as well as when you tell him “no.”

What To Watch For

  • Not turning head toward sound by 4 months
  • No laughing or squealing by 6 months

7 Through 12 Months

During these months, babies becomes more aware of the rhythm and pattern of speech. They start learning to practice turn-taking in conversations. This means being quiet while spoken to and “talking” when the other person stops or asks a question. Now is also prime time for imitating different speech sounds, so first words begin to emerge at this age.

What’s On Track

Your baby probably likes playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, and both games are good practice for anticipating when it’s his turn to say something in a conversation. His babbling should contain some jargon, or sounds with inflection that almost sound like conversational chatter but aren’t real words, and imitation of words you say. He’ll probably be using vocalizations – aside from crying – to get your attention, and these sounds are building blocks for forming words later. Nonverbal gestures like waving, pointing, shaking his head “no” and holding out arms to be picked up are also part of the equation now. His understanding of language is growing, too, and he probably looks at or points to objects (like cup, shoe, book, milk) when you name them. He can also respond to simple verbal requests. Many babies use at least one or two word-sounds consistently by their first birthday, even if they aren’t pronounced perfectly.

What To Watch For

  • Not using actions to get attention by 7 months
  • No babbling by 8 months
  • No interest in games like peek-a-boo by 8 months
  • Not imitating sounds by 12 months
  • No gestures (waving, pointing, shaking head) or any single words by 12 months

Closeup portrait of a beautiful mother reading book to cute baby

12 Through 18 Months

The more words they know, the better toddlers can successfully navigate the world – and the people – around them. During these months, babies’ “receptive language” – what they understand – expands rapidly. As it does, toddlers can follow directions and become more active participants in their daily routine.

What’s On Track

She’s learning what so many words mean, and is proud to show off her knowledge by labeling parts of her body (head, belly, hands, feet, etc.), pointing to pictures in a book when they’re named (“Where’s the dog?”) and following one-step directions. Understanding more means she will be able to better anticipate changes to her routine, too. Her vocabulary is rapidly growing and she says more words every month, even if they don’t sound perfect yet. More beginning consonant sounds are also being added to her repertoire. By the end of this period, she may speak about 20 to 60 words but understand almost 200!

What To Watch For

  • Not saying 3 to 5 words by 15 months
  • Not seeming to know the function of common household objects (brush, phone, utensils)
  • Not knowing how to get your attention to show you something of interest or to request help by 18 months
  • Not imitating actions or words by 18 months.

19 Through 24 Months

Toddlers’ vocabularies expand and they begin to combine words together to more clearly express their needs and wants. Having more words at their disposal also means they can talk about what they observe around them and engage others in conversation.

What’s On Track

Parents, watch what you say—you have a little parrot at home! If he hasn’t already, your toddler will start repeating words he hears in conversation – that’s how he learns the words. He’s also combining two or more words together to ask questions and make requests (“Where mama?” “More milk.”), small ways he can begin to exert a little control of his own. In addition to pointing to an object (or a picture of one) when it’s named, he may be saying them himself now when he points to them. He can also follow two- and even three-step directions now (“Pick up your cup and put it in the sink.”), and will probably love using this newfound skill to help out around the house.

What To Watch For

  • Does not make at least six consonant sounds by 20 months
  • Does not follow simple directions by 21 months
  • Has fewer than 15 words at 24 months
  • Doesn’t point to named pictures in a book by 24 months
  • Doesn’t combine two or more words by 24 months
Happy lvoing young african mother having fun with her baby and smile at home.

Getting Your Baby To Talk with Games

Of all your baby’s important milestones, her first words may be the one you’re waiting for most impatiently. But try as you might, it’s just not possible to “teach” a child to talk before she’s ready. What you can do is encourage her burgeoning language skills through play, says Marian Marcario, a New Jersey based speech-language pathologist.

Peek-a-boo is one of many activities that do much more than entertain your baby, Marcario says. Games that involve eye contact, turn-taking, pointing and other gestures also help babies master crucial developmental building blocks so they can start learning how to communicate on their own.

Here are six fun ways to promote your baby’s language development at home. You don’t need fancy toys or gear – just a few simple and inexpensive “tools,” like bubbles, cotton balls and a baby-safe mirror, are all it takes to help unleash your baby’s inner chatterbox.

Game 1: Body Language

Think of this activity as a lesson in lip-reading and labeling.

Age: 4 to 12 months
Equipment: An unbreakable mirror
Benefits: Focuses baby’s attention on how the lips and tongue move to form words.

How to Play

Sit down with your baby in your lap and hold the mirror in front of both of you (or sit in front of a full-length mirror). Point to your eyes, ears, nose and mouth, telling your baby the name of each part. Then take his hand and help him touch the different parts of his own face, clearly naming each one as you go.
Soon, he’ll be able to identify them when you say the names, and eventually speak them himself. For an extra giggle, amuse your baby by making monkey noises in front of the mirror and see if he’ll do the same.

Game 2: Get Bubbly

Babies can’t help but be attracted to the shimmering movement of a bevy of bubbles. They also love to see them pop.

Age: 6 to 18 months
Equipment: Soap bubbles – store-bought or homemade
Benefits: Encourages baby to practice some of the earliest consonant sounds – P, B and M – and to breathe more deeply.

How to Play

As you blow the bubbles, talk about what’s happening by repeating the words “up,” “pop,” “bubbles” and “more” in short phrases. (“Bubbles go up, up, up! Let’s pop them. Pop, pop! Look – bubbles! Do you want more bubbles? Yes! More bubbles!”)

This game also encourages your baby to point to the bubbles and reach up to touch them. That helps open up her rib cage and in turn encourages deeper breathing and increased vocalization.

Game 3: Get on the Bus

Turn “The Wheels on the Bus” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” into language games.

Age: 6 to 24 months
Equipment: Just you – and the lyrics if you don’t know them, or a recording to sing along to.
Benefits: Songs paired with simple hand movements help children learn the natural cadence and rhythm of language as well as how to imitate gestures.

How to Play

Show your baby how to perform the song’s gestures by sitting in front of her and taking her hands in yours as you move them along to the words. She won’t sing back at first, but the important thing is that she’s watching your mouth move. Later, leave off a word of the song and let her to chime in with what she’s learned.

Game 4: Phone a Friend

The power of make-believe fuels language development.

Age: 6 to 24 months
Equipment: A play telephone or any object that even vaguely resembles a phone
Benefits: Having a pretend conversation might feel silly to you, but it’s the perfect chance for your baby to practice turn-taking—an essential conversational skill.

How to Play

Pick up the “telephone” and greet the caller with an animated “Hello!” Continue the conversation, offering your child the phone (“Here, it’s for you—say hi to Grandma!”). If he hands it back to you, say “Oh, it’s for Mama? A call for Mama?” to help your baby start to identify you by name.

Game 5: The Right Puff

A simple game translates into crucial skill development.

Age: 16 – 18 months
Equipment: Cotton balls or colorful pom-poms. (Remember never to leave a child unsupervised whenith these small objects are within reach.)
Benefits: Coordinating lips and lungs to blow air is a vital skill for making sounds – and it can be tricky for a baby at first. This game is a fun way to practice.

How to Play

Place the cotton balls or pompoms on a table or the floor and show your baby how they move when you blow on them. Seeing them dance away will captivate him, and he’ll want to try and do it himself. You can use your fingers to help push his lips into a rounded position.

Game 6: Hide and Seek

Looking forward to the day you hear your baby say, “Yo, Mama”?

Age: 16 to 18 months
Equipment: A favorite stuffed toy
Benefits: In time, a game like this will help your baby learn how to call someone’s name to get his or her attention. Plus, repetition of words promotes imitation and labeling, and uncovering a toy introduces the concept of object permanence (that people and things still exist even when they can’t be seen, heard or touched).

How to Play

Hide the toy and go on a hunt for it. Call out as if you expect the toy to respond: “Bear! Where are you, bear?” Keep the phrase simple and use the same words every time so that your baby will find it easy to imitate you.

More Simple Steps to Language

  • Give your baby a chance to “talk” while you play together, advises Marcario. By pausing to let her answer (even if she doesn’t have any words yet), you’re letting her know that your turn is over and it’s her turn to make some noise.
  • Be sure to reward every your baby’s vocalizations that your baby makes, says Marcario, even if they’re way off target, Marcario says.. “If you’re trying to get him to say ‘book’ and he says ‘buh,’ praise him and repeat the target word. ‘Book! You said book! Here’s the book!’ You want to build his confidence and teach him that an adult will give him what he wants if he uses language.”
Multi-ethnic mothers chatting while nursing babies outdoors.

Got Vegan Breast Milk?

What’s a vegan mom to do when she’s struggling with breastfeeding? Formula feed? As if! There are breastmilk-sharing options out there, but most vegans strictly avoid animal products and they want to be sure their milk donor does too. Leave it to Alicia Silverstone to fill the void with a vegan breastmilk bank!

The famously crunchy “Clueless” star and mom to a 2-year-old son, Bear Blu, came up with her “Kind Mama Milk Share” when her friend and fellow vegan, Rachel Holtzman, was struggling to produce enough milk for her newborn son. Alicia wrote about Rachel’s experience on her vegan living blog, “The Kind Life,”saying, “She tried reaching out in her community for donor milk, but it was almost impossible to figure out what kind of lifestyle choices the donors had made. And after all that hard work keeping herself vibrant and healthy, she felt she had a right to demand better for her baby.”

She goes on to say, “A lot of women unfortunately have a similar struggle, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to give their babies the most amazing start in life with clean, mean, glorious breast milk. And because we are a community of beautiful souls who recognize the importance of food as health, I say we help support those mamas and babies who need a hand during one of the most important times in their lives.”

Breastmilk sharing is a great option for moms who are unable to breastfeed, but still want their babies to reap the benefits of breastmilk. And I can understand how a mom who is adamant about avoiding animal products would want to be sure that the milk she is giving her baby came from someone who is just as adamant. But there are safety issues when it comes to sharing breastmilk that moms should be just as concerned about.

I was shocked to hear Rachel Holtzman say, “Instead of having to ask really probing, very personal questions, going to a place like “The Kind Life” took that out of the equation and we could make the safe assumption that the person on the donating end valued those things as much as we did.” I appreciate wanting to use a donor who has similar values, but I don’t think making a “safe assumption” is enough when it comes to your baby’s health. Someone might be vegan and very strict about avoiding animal products, but that doesn’t mean that person hasn’t unknowingly been exposed to a communicable disease.

Breastmilk is a bodily fluid, which means it can carry viruses like H.I.V. and hepatitis. It’s important that breastmilk is screened before use. Organizations like The National Milk Bank require donors to complete a thorough screening process before donating any milk. Some breastmilk is even pasteurized before it is distributed.

I do applaud Alicia for recognizing a need, staying true to her beliefs, and helping other moms do what’s best for their babies, but I think any mom, vegan or not, who’s looking for donor milk should research all her options.

Celine Dion

Celine Dion is Not A Cool Mom

Every mom has been there or will be there eventually… And pretty much everyone remembers that time period in their life….

When their mom was SO NOT COOL. It often starts in junior high or even the later years of elementary school. Your mom drops you off at school and you rush out of the car without letting her kiss you goodbye and hope no one saw you. Your mom was just not cool, no matter how hard she tried and you were embarrased by everything she said and did.

Well, guess what? Even a superstar like Celine Dion is just a dorky mom, according to her 12-year-old son, René-Charles. Get this: She is not even his favorite singer! What?! Celine revealed in a recent interview with Access Hollywood that her son prefers Eminem.

However, when René found out his mom’s newest song, “Loved Me Back to Life,” was written by a star who’s more his speed, Sia Furler, who’s worked with Rhianna and David Guetta, he took notice. Celine said her son “couldn’t believe it because I’m not cool, and I’m not Rihanna.” She said he went on about how it must be a mistake because Sia is too cool to be writing songs for his mom!

As for Celine? She is appreciative of Sia’s help, saying, “It’s like, thank you, Sia. Maybe this will help us!”

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie Wins Another Oscar

Just for being her saintly self!

You have to hand it to Angelina Jolie, she’s pretty much superwoman. Besides being an award-winning actress with model good looks and a gorgeous boyfriend with whom she’s raising their six — six! — children, she also somehow finds time to do a whole lot of good in the world.

If you haven’t heard, Angelina has been chosen to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her volunteer work. Jolie’s work includes risking her life to bring much-needed attention to refugees of war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. She also, along with her family, created the Madox Jolie Pitt Foundation, which is “dedicated to eradicating extreme rural poverty, protecting natural resources and conserving wildlife.”

Talk about an overachiever! But seriously, she really deserves this award, and I hope there is a lot of hoopla around this news because even with the bright light of Angelina’s star, not nearly enough attention is paid to the suffering of innocent people in this world. It’s fun to read and write about what celebrities are wearing and who they’re dating, but at the end of the day, none of that frivolity matters. But when a celebrity goes out of their way to help others, they deserve to be recognized and honored.


A Blunt-Krasinski Baby is On The Way!

On the 12th anniversary of 9/11, the memories are still so clear, it’s like it was just yesterday. Yet somehow all these years have gone by since those horrific attacks permanently marked this day and changed us all.

Hearing joyous news on a day like today is like seeing sunshine peeking out of the clouds. I literally cried when I read on that actors John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are expecting their first child. They are adorable, and two of my favorite stars. They will surely have a beautiful baby and make a sweet little family. But the best part of the whole story, this happy reminder that life goes on, is how Emily described her relationship with John:

“Meeting John really changed my life… When I feel the support I have from him, I feel invincible. There’s someone behind you on your good days, and someone in front of you on your bad days.”

What a lovely thing to say about your significant other. How lucky she is to feel that way and to have that kind of love. She also at one point said she is not sure what they’re future holds but she is a “hopeful person.” I love that attitude. Congrats to this adorably happy couple and best wishes on their new baby and beyond — may their apparent wedded bliss last a lifetime.


Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani Expecting Third Child at 43!

I just read that rockin’ mom Gwen Stefani, 43, is reportedly expecting her third child with her hot fellow-rocker husband, Gavin Rossdale. So exciting! Wait, Gwen Stefani is 43?!

Damn, Gwen looks GOOD. I thought she was in her late 30s, MAYBE just 40. And as with most things Gwen does, pregnancy after 40 would be awesome. Although it’s entirely possible to get pregnant and have a healthy baby well into your 40s (hello, Halle Berry!), it’s not as common, and often not as easy, as getting pregnant in your 20s and 30s.

Hopefully she gives new hope to women who are struggling to get pregnant and those who are maybe late to the game in getting started.

But seriously, can we focus on what matters here? Gwen looks GORGEOUS. How does she do that? She needs to publish the book on how to stay young and fabulous because she certainly wrote it.


Actor George Clooney attends the opening night

Sandra Bullock’s Son Has a Heckuva Role Model

Sandra Bullock makes single motherhood look easy. Heck, she makes life look easy! Yes, she’s hit some rough patches as we all do, but she also hasn’t aged a day since Speed and owns an Oscar for her incredible talent. So it doesn’t surprise me that this lucky lady is friends with George Clooney…

For a single mom of a little boy, George is male role model gold. Apparently little Louis even requests “man time” with George! How sweet is that? George Clooney is a stand-up guy. He does a lot of good around the world to help people and to bring attention to worthy causes. He is also a wonderful actor and director with a lot of great connections in Hollywood. He’s even in with the President!

I just love the idea of this larger-than-life guy spending time with little Louis. The more solid rolemodels kids have when they’re growing up, the better. Louis can learn a lot from a guy like George, and maybe George will be someone Louis can go to when he gets older and doesn’t always want to talk to mom about everything.

I am always amazed by single moms and how they are able to get it all done. It’s hard enough when you have two parents. I know of one single mom who has said it’s not easy and it would be nice to have someone to share things with — the good and the bad. But I know she is also extremely thankful for the family and friends she has in her life who help her with her young son and make her feel like she’s not alone.

I am sure Sandra feels that way about George and reading the story about George hanging out with Louis warms my heart. I’m also hoping George and Sandra get together and become the most adorable family of three ever… And it looks like my wish might just come true…

busy phillips with baby

Busy Philipps Says Second Baby is a Breeze!

I think it’s safe to say that most women who are pregnant for the first time are a little nervous. Maybe not noticably anxious, but there’s a lot to think about and do before your due date — and then there’s the baby to take care of! It can be pretty stressful even if you’re laid-back Lilly. But the second one? Fuhggedaboudit!

Busy Philipps is living proof of the theory that the second time’s a charm. The Cougar Town actress recently gave birth to her second baby girl, Cricket, and has been quoted saying, “I’m way more relaxed. I was a total basket case with my first child, and I wouldn’t even put her down or let anyone else hold her. I was just so terrified, and now I know that it’s okay. And I can let other people hold the baby.” 

It’s funny how that is. With the first one you want to do everything perfectly and you’re afraid anything and everything you do will affect the baby for the rest of its life. Cloth diapers or disposable? Breast or bottle? Homeschool or public school? Organic or not organic? The questions are endless and at the end of the day the choices you make could determine whether or not your child is successful in life. Kidding! But really, I think that’s how moms feel sometimes because everything just seems so HUGE when you’re bringing this tiny, perfect, unadulterated being into the world. There are a lot of choices you make as a parent and with all the conflicting information out there, it’s easy to feel like you’re making the wrong one.

But somehow with the second baby you start to realize that no matter what you choose, as long as your child is loved, healthy, and happy, and you know in your heart you’re doing the best you can, it’ll all work out. It’s the second-child confidence. I wonder if that’s an actual thing in psychology… hmmmm….