When to Introduce Solid Food for you Baby?

Many mommies feel overwhelmed when the time comes to wean their babies and introduce solid food. It is very normal to go through this emotional phase because every new step we take in parenting is innovative and we do not know where it will lead. Various questions pop into our minds and we wonder if the baby will enjoy the food or refuse it completely. We also worry about food allergies! Most importantly we wonder what type of food should be given first and when can we start with solid food.

Medically speaking there are two types of schools; the old school that encourages parents to familiarize the baby with food at four months. On the other hand, the new methodology stresses on starting at six months due to the high rate of babies suffering from food allergies.

Personally, I take the midway where I start to experiment with my babies’ taste buds around the end of the fourth month. From my humble experience it is evident that a mom can tell if her child is ready for food or not. For example, if the baby is able to sit right and shows interest in what the parents are eating, then having him try a few tastes and nibbles will not hurt. In contrast, it alleviates the baby’s sense of taste. The whole idea on starting early using a spoon is to familiarize the baby with a new way of swallowing since it is completely different from drinking milk – whether it is breast milk or from the bottle. It usually takes me around a month to have my children get used to the idea of having food from a different source. The first few times they simply take one or two tiny spoons. One thing is for sure is that the more they are exposed to different tastes before the age of one the less fussy eaters they become later on. Moreover, and luckily enough, none of my children had any allergic reaction to food, so I could easily experiment and test with all five of them different types of nutrients.

feeding baby

Ten years ago, when my eldest was almost four months old, I was at ToysRUs and by coincidence I came across Annabel Karmel’s Small Helpings cookbook. I quickly flipped through the pages, delighted to know that I have found the ultimate guide for my baby’s food. Her book explicitly clarifies step by step on how to introduce solid food for babies, including the amounts, types of vegetables, meat, poultry, and dietary products etcetera.  There are also recipes for toddlers and children.

AK

With my children, the first vegetable that I introduced was zucchini which I used to mix with some breast milk and a small spoon of baby rice. Out of the five, only two refused it. The main idea is to have the baby try the same vegetable for two consecutive days before introducing another vegetable. The reason behind this practice is to see whether or not the baby has an allergy to this specific type of food.

On the next, I would introduce carrots with the milk and rice. On the fourth day, I mix the zucchini with the carrots. Even if the baby does not really respond easily with you, try to be patient and try again the next day. I used to give them two or three spoons of the food that I have prepared and then I would breast feed them. This tactic decreased their frustration but also stimulated their taste buds. I used this method until they showed complete interest in the food and knew how to swallow well without feeling exasperated.

The vegetables that I introduced from 4 months to 6 months were:

Zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, green beans

Once I am done with the vegetables and my children would have a complete meal of vegetables, I would then introduce fruits in the afternoon. Again, I used to take baby steps at first, having them try two or three spoons of fruit puree then I replaced breast feeding with a complete snack of fruits mixed with baby cereals or biscuits. Here, it is essential to note that it is important to provide your baby with organic biscuits and cereals as they do not include refined sugars. Surprisingly enough regular baby biscuits have palm oil and sugars in their ingredients.

HIPP

Apples, pears, bananas, dates, dried peaches, apricots, mangos, papayas, avocados, and nectarines were the fruits that I gave between the age of 5 and 7 months.

At around 6 months, I used to cook their food with chicken stock which I used to store in the freezer. With every month, I used to introduce a new type of food until they reached the age of one and ready to eat from everything. For example, the twins who are now 13 months old love blueberries!

Another important idea is not to be afraid of handing your baby with as much finger food as possible. The more the baby explores foodstuff on his own, the better eater he will become. I know it is a very messy ordeal, but it is also the best way for a baby to learn how to eat and what to eat. Steamed carrots, cucumbers, pineapple chunks, thin sweet melon wedges, and slices of apples are all excellent examples for them to chew on. On one hand it soothes their gums since they will be teething at that time, and on the other hand it keeps them occupied as they explore and develop their fine motor skills.

organix                         organic

With all five of them, I have always prepared their food at home, and I never used any jarred food. However, a few weeks ago, my friend got me an organic pureed fruit, which turned out a delicious treat for the twins. I find these very practical in case you are traveling or going for a long trip in the car, they come in handy.

puree

In fact there are tremendous organic baby food in the market which might be helpful for working moms. However, they need a budget as they are quite costly.

There is another concern that moms worry about, and it is providing the baby with water. Paediatricians stress on the fact that a mother’s milk is sufficient and a baby does not need to have water. I, on the other hand, introduce a few drops of water in a spoon at around 3 months. Then gradually have them try it in a small plastic cup. By the time they are 6 months, they will be drinking water from a cup. I always try to constrict a bottle to milk and so when it comes to weaning them from the bottle, they already know how to use a regular cup. The picture below shows the cups that I use with my twins. They have a curve on the sides that help them drink properly without spilling water.

cups

Having your baby sit in front of you in his/her high chair gives him/her the first lessons of table manner. It is never too early to teach good manners! While I am feeding them I would be telling them what they are eating, how it tastes, and that I enjoy cooking for them.  I also invent some songs about food. Eventually, they will come to appreciate food and learn about different tastes.

Finally, help your child eat bigger chunks of food as he moves into the tenth month. I know of many moms who suffered with their kids as they continued to blend their food till the age of two. Again, take things smoothly and slowly, and being patient with your child will lead at some point to a better eater.

Feeding babies is time consuming, but soon our cute little ones will be on their own sitting in front of you at the table devouring their plates.

I hope this summary will be of beneficial use to you, especially if you are a first time mother, and please feel free to ask for more details in the hope that I can be of any assistance.

Do Babies Need Pacifiers?

Pacifiers or dummies have been in almost every house for so many years as my grandmother keeps telling me. Sharing her point of view about pacifiers, my granny affirmed that she has never used them with all her eight children. She also told me that back then many moms resorted to pacifiers; they used to add mashed almonds with some sugar so their baby can be soothed.

old paci

Whether you decide to use a pacifier for your baby or not is up to you as it has its conveniences and its problems as well. With my little twins, I am going through the phase of weaning them off the pacifiers which has proved to have its own challenges. In fact, the night I decided to start with the process was when I was putting little Dahlia to sleep and she suddenly held her pacifier and threw it. I took it as a sign to help her and Raphy get rid of it. The first two days were tough on all three of us. It took us a lot of patience and consistency to achieve a great step.

Since all the choices that we make as parents will have their own pros and cons, I will list some of the research I have gathered regarding the advantages and disadvantages of pacifiers. I will also list the different methods I am applying to help my babies move on from pacifiers to avoid its long term effects.

The important advantages for using a pacifier:

  • Soothing effect:

Sucking often has a soothing and calming effect on a baby. Hence when your baby is crying and you know that she is full, has a clean diaper, and not in pain, a pacifier might do the trick to help calm her down.

  • Reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS)

Sucking on a pacifier at nap time and bed time helps in reducing the risk of SIDS by 90% as per latest studies. The pacifier is particularly helpful in this regard during the first six months – even if they were sleeping on their tummy. “A baby who sleeps on his stomach without a pacifier has a 2.5 times greater risk of SIDS,” explains De-Kun Li, a reproductive epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., who led the research. “If you use a pacifier, that baby’s risk disappears.” The work draws on interviews with 185 mothers of SIDS babies and 312 mothers of control infants collected between 1997 and 2000.’ (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pacifier-greatly-reduces)

However, it is always advised that a baby should avoid sleeping on the tummy as much as possible. The reasons of how a pacifier helps in reducing SIDS is still poorly explained, yet evidence from daily life shows that it does.

  • Traveling:

A pacifier helps in reducing ear blocking when traveling in an airplane due to air pressure changes. After all, babies simply cannot intentionally “pop” their ears open like us whether through yawning or chewing, so a pacifier could help reduce the pain.

  • Sleeping time:

Pacifiers can be a good way to have the baby learn to sleep either alone in her bed, or while being rocked in a stroller. Having it constricted to sleep only from an early age helps in weaning the baby from it later on.

  • Temporary distraction:

Many parents use pacifiers as a distraction after blood withdrawal or vaccinations. Personally, I would not go for this option as I would rather hold my baby, soothe him/her through talk and kisses, and try to show them any new item around the room.

  • Disposable Item:

Unlike sucking on a thumb, a pacifier can be thrown away once the baby is weaned from it.

And some of the disadvantages are:

  • Middle ear infection:

Within the six to twelve months age range, doctors advise to reduce the usage of pacifiers. In fact, studies have shown that it helps in increasing the risk of recurrent ear infections known as Otitis Media. The continued action of sucking helps in stimulating the flow of secretions from the nose into the middle ear, which creates infections.

  • Dental Development and effects on speech:

Prolonged daily usage of pacifiers leads to the deformation of the jaw and the malformation of the teeth, especially after the age of four years old. Additionally, a child with dental problems will suffer from speech issues as well.

  • Interference with breastfeeding:

If a mother is breastfeeding, she needs to wait for three to four weeks before introducing the pacifier. Waiting helps in avoiding potential breastfeeding issues and nipple confusion with the baby, who might be sensitive to the difference between the breast and the pacifier or bottle.

  • Attachment to the pacifier:

A baby can easily get attached and dependent on a pacifier where she might wake up on many intervals at night just to have it inserted back into her mouth. On the long run, this will frustrate the parents who will not be able to get enough sleep and rest.

funny paci

 So how can we as parents reduce the usage pf pacifiers?

Six years ago, my third son was completely weaned off the pacifier at the age of one. I do recall that I used to pull it out of his mouth the minute he dozed off. The problem with the twins is that when I do that, mainly with Raphy, he wakes up and we have to repeat the process of sleeping again. Worse is when he wakes up his sister.  I know it will take time because I do not want him to get frustrated, and bit by bit he will stop using it.

Here are the baby steps which I take into consideration when it comes to weaning the baby from a pacifier: [As I have mentioned before, parents know their children the most so what worked for my babies might not work for yours]

  • First I am cutting down on the times that my twins get to use the pacifier. For example, I started by limiting pacifier use to just nap time and bedtime. I usually remove its usage during the day and focus on having them occupied with play. After that, I try to remove the pacifier during the day at nap time. I would give them a toy which they have not played with for some time and they would sleep without the pacifier. It takes more time for them to sleep, and the baby might cry and get really fussy, but patience and comforting the baby are the keys to succeed in this mission.
  • The second tactic I am currently adopting is to keep the pacifier out of sight and reach from my baby. “Out of sight out of mind” as the saying goes, so the baby will be occupied with something else. Babies tend to forget the existence of an object if it is not in front of them.
  • When my twins are frustrated, I try to distract them by giving them special toys, and more cuddles for soothing. I usually hand them a spoon, an old remote control, or an empty plastic box. As a mom you need to improvise and see what attracts your baby’s attention the most.
  • Be consistent! As all parents who adore their children and want them to be happy, it is difficult to maintain our firm decision when we look at those chubby cheeks and teary eyes. However, I always try not to give in directly to my child’s crying and resort to other ways before resolving back to the pacifier.
  • It is advisable to help the baby get rid of the pacifier between 12 and 18 months of age as with time it gets more difficult to do that. However, do not pressure yourselves a lot if it is not working. For example, my baby twin boy still wakes up at night to have his pacifier although he is doing very well without it all day long and during nap times. I will not agonize him and myself in the middle of the night just because I read that I have to stop its usage before the age of 18 months.
  • Finally, I encourage my babies to babble and jabber without having the pacifier in their mouth in order to help them improve their speech skills. When a baby uses a pacifier to sleep, they will sleep quietly while they are busy sucking on it. Once you remove the pacifier, the baby is given a chance to experiment with their voice through babbling, screaming, and cooing. Soon they will get tired and doze off in deep sleep.

Cleanliness and hygiene of pacifiers:

  • In general, pacifiers should be changed every month as bacteria eventually infests inside no matter how well manufactured the pacifier is. The outside layer can be easily damaged or scratched. Hence the baby might be swallowing some amounts of the silicone with which it is composed of.
  • Check expiry date before buying the pacifier.
  • To guarantee good oral hygiene and to ensure its cleanliness during the first 6 months, a pacifier should be boiled in a clean pot or washed in a dishwasher. After the age of 6 months, warm water and soap will do the job just fine.
  • Never clean the pacifier by putting it in your own mouth! Your saliva has microbes and germs that will be easily transferred into your baby’s mouth. Trust me, I have seen quite a few parents doing that and I find it disgusting.
  • Purchase pacifiers with covers and hooks. I recently found one on Instagram (babyfirstmoments) showing a pacifier that covers itself up while falling as shown in the picture below:

blue paci

Babies like adults need time to break up on certain habits. The difference is that they will not be able to do that on their own and they need your support and patience to do so.  Like all parenting issues tolerance and persistence are the keys to successfully achieve your goals. 


pictures were found on the web

Peanut butter Cornflakes Bites

I do not know about your kids, but mine simply adore peanut butter spreads with honey, jam, chocolate – you name it. Last time, I thought of surprising them with those tasty nutty bites. 



All you need is the following:

1/3 cup of brown sugar

4 tablespoons organic corn syrup

1/2 cup of organic crunchy peanut butter

2 cups cornflakes 

Method:

Heat the sugar and corn syrup until the sugar melts completely.



Add the peanut butter and stir until blended.



Mix into the cornflakes and using a fork – to avoid burning your fingers -have them well covered with the peanut butter mixture.



Place them in mini cupcake papers.

The taste of peanut butter with the crunchy flakes is simply a delicacy! 







6 Benefits of Crawling Before Walking

‘Are they walking yet?’ This is the first question people will ask a mother when a baby is almost one year old. As a first time mommy ten years ago, I used to get overwhelmed by people’s comments and questions as where my baby’s development has reached. Funnily enough and with all the effort I invested in them, my three big boys actually crawled after walking! However, by time I gained experience and learned my way through motherhood; it is then that I started enjoying parenting. In fact, I realized how important it is to help my child grow at his or her own pace and I reached a point where I do it with pleasure. Indeed, I appreciate and acknowledge that every child is unique and will meet certain milestones – like walking- when they are ready to do so! No rush…

gifted quote

Unlike my first three children, I decided not to use a walker with my twins hoping to give them an opportunity to explore their own bodies. I really wanted my birdies to work on developing and strengthening their muscles by keeping them on the floor and allowing them to discover their surrounding using all their senses. I am giving them the time and space to grow on their own pace and enjoying every step of the way – starting from the army crawl or bottom shuffling up until they can master crawling! People usually boast about the fact that their babies started walking at a very early age and skipped crawling altogether. However, many studies focus on the importance of crawling and how to help babies enjoy it.

Here is a brief summary on what I have acquired about crawling and would like to share it with you:

Physical Growth:

Physically, crawling helps in strengthening the back, shoulders, and the neck. In fact, the more crawling the baby does, the better and more prepared he will be for walking on two feet. It works on developing both fine and gross motor skills. Interestingly enough, crawling stimulates parts in the brain and help in developing cognitive skills, like comprehension, concentration, and memory. It also improves eye/hand coordination which will be later used in reading, writing, and doing physical activities.

Binocular Vision:

Crawling trains the eyes to look at far distances and then focus back at the hands. Developing the binocular vision at an early stage facilitates catching a ball with ease and copying something from the blackboard when the child starts school. Since crawling is a cross lateral movement, it strengths the connection between the right and the left side of the brain and hence enhances learning later on. The more the baby crawls the more synchronized his skills become.

baby girl crawling towards a toy on the floor

Self-confidence:

Babies who crawl are building self-control and self-confidence as they are making their first decisions in life. By discovering their potentials and learning from their failures, they know where their limitations are and how to approach new challenges. As parents, the more encouragement they get the more self-reliance is established. Here, it is very important that the parents do not overreact when the baby falls and show him that it is ok as they help him to try again.

mini crawling

Sensory processing:

Crawling allows the integration of sensory information. As the baby is crawling he is using the visual, auditory, and sensory systems. By moving along on all fours, he is learning more about his environment and he is using his senses. The more babies crawl and explore their physical environment, the better the development of their logic and reasoning skills become, which in return sets solid foundations for math skills later on in life.

raphy crawling

New communication with mommy, daddy, or caregiver:

As the baby is exploring everything around him, he continues to look back and gets mommy’s approval, encouragement, or warning if in danger. This turning of the head when a mom calls her baby, helps him in developing new communication skills together.

Avoiding certain problems:

There is a thought-provoking theory about a link between the lack of crawling and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. We are born with a reflex named the “symmetric tonic neck reflex” (STNR) which helps us operate our upper and lower body independently. “Usually this reflex is inhibited, or matures, between nine and twelve months. When a child gains independent control of his or her neck, arms and legs, the STNR is matured. This can be achieved through alternate hands and knees crawling for at least six months. When this reflex does not integrate, some of the symptoms are:

  • Tendency to slump when sitting at a desk
  • Difficulty keeping bottom in seat and feet on the floor when sitting at a desk
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Slowness at copying tasks
  • Difficulty copying from a blackboard while at a desk
  • Difficulty with vertical tracking (important for math equations)
  • Poor attention
  • Clumsiness

The book “Stopping ADHD” cites a study by Dr. Miriam Bender who found that at least 75 percent of the learning-disabled people surveyed had an immature symmetric tonic neck reflex contributing to their disability.” (http://www.medcentral.org/Main/Whatssoimportantaboutcrawling.aspx)

It does not mean that if a child has skipped crawling, then he must have these difficulties and learning problems later on. It is still a matter of debate among some medical and research professionals as there is no scientific prove about it. However, since there are many benefits to crawling, parents should work on encouraging their baby to do so.

How to encourage crawling?

  • Place items out of baby’s reach – just at a short distance – and ask him or her to try to get it. For the twins I used to build small towers out of wooden blocks and place them at a small distance, around them, and they used to crawl to reach it and have it fall down. They get triumphant in demolishing it.

blocks

  • Go down on all fours and crawl along with your baby. This can also be done if the baby has siblings since he or she gets encouraged to imitate them. This is one of my boys’ specialties as they love playing with the twins in any possible way.
  • Give plenty of tummy time and have the baby discover his or her own body’s strength.

tummy time

  • Provide the baby with a safe space for crawling.
  • Place the palms of your hands on a baby’s feet when he is on all fours. This gives him support and gives him a starting point.
  • Limit a baby’s time in a walker as it delays both crawling and walking.
  • Know your baby’s limit and do not force him or her to crawl if he or she is not ready to do so.
  • Continue to encourage your baby and tell him or her how proud you are of them…

All babies develop and grow at various stages and at different times. As a mother, you know your child’s abilities and capabilities more than anyone. However, if you have the slightest doubts, you can always seek professional help. A final thought on this matter was mentioned in a parenting magazine and I totally agree with it: “Though there’s little scientific proof that crawling is important, there are plenty of experts who believe it is—so what’s the harm in doing tummy time and letting nature take its course?”

(Check this cute video with the different stages of crawling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3xWaOkXCSQ)

Pictures: personal and pinterest