raisingkidswithlove

You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby


Our daughter Kelsey loving her solid foods!  She was needing a dunk in the tub after this meal!

I can remember the excitement of introducing the kids to their first tastes of “real food”.  The camera was ready, they were sitting up and eager, and that first bite often resulted in the funniest look as they had that first taste.

I know that starting solid foods often comes along with many questions.  What food is first?  What about allergies?  How much?  When?  And the list goes on and on.  To be honest, there are not many hard and fast “rules” that come with starting your little one on solids.  As with many issue of parenting, you may see many different suggestions and contradictory information which can increase your anxiety.    Like many of my parenting tips, I start by saying “Relax!”  There really is not a “wrong” way to do this!  So get your cameras ready….the introduction to solid food is a milestone for every parent and baby, and is darn cute too!

When is my baby ready?

The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents that solid foods should be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.  At any point between 4 and 6 months, it is just fine!  More important than age, we like to see that the baby is developmentally ready for solids.

Why should I wait until my baby is 4 to 6 months old?

Ideally, breast milk or formula should be the main nutrition for a baby’s first 4 to 6 months.  The foods that you introduce after that are really just supplemental to the nutrients in the breast milk and formula.  Solids are really an education in taste and texture for the first year of life.  Breast milk or formula is the core of your baby’s diet for the first full year providing at least 75% of your baby’s calories.  After a year, your baby will start to meet more and more of their nutritional needs through solid foods.  By age 3, a child should only be getting about 10-20% of their calories from milk, and the rest from solid foods.

Isn’t this different from when I grew up?

Maybe.  The school of thought regarding solids has changed over the years.   In the 1920’s, solid foods were seldom offered to babies before a year.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s solid foods often were fed to infants in the first three months.  There are pictures of me being fed rice cereal at just a few weeks of age.  (I AM pretty old!)  Moms were often told then that the cereal would help a young infant sleep through the night.  I promise it doesn’t!   Slowly, we have come almost full circle with the recommendation now to wait until your baby is at least 4 months old.

Why do we wait now?

We have learned that babies are just not developmentally ready for solids.  More important than actual age is your baby’s development.

  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s digestive system is too immature for solids.
  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s throat muscles are not developed for swallowing solids and there is a tongue thrust…food that is placed in the mouth is pushed back out with his tongue.  Most babies no longer have this tongue thrust by 6 months.
  • Before 4 months of age, your baby has no ability to tell you that he is full.  Until around 4 to 5 months, babies will not turn their head to refuse food.
  • Before 4 months of age, solid foods will result in your baby taking less breast milk or formula that has the correct amount of nutrients and fat for growth.
  • Solids should be introduced no later than 6 months.  Waiting too long for the introduction of solids can result in a delay in your baby’s eating and chewing skills, and recent studies now show that waiting longer than 6 months of age may actually increase food allergies.

What are some signs that might show my baby is developmentally ready for solids?

  • Your baby is between 4 and 6 months in age.
  • Your baby has at least doubled his birth weight.
  • Your baby can sit with support.
  • Your baby has good head and neck control and is able to turn his head to refuse food.
  • Your baby’s tongue thrust reflex is diminishing.
  • Your baby is breast-feeding more than 8 to 10 times a day and still wants more or your baby is taking 32 to 36 ounces of formula and wants more.
  • Your baby is reaching for your food, or shows an interest when you are eating.

What food should be first?

Traditionally babies have been started on an iron fortified, easily digested cereal, like rice.  This is because at 6 months of age, a baby’s natural iron stores from Mom are beginning to diminish.  So, most parents start with some type of cereal, often rice.  Other than the iron, there is not much nutrition in the rice cereal. I feel that a white rice cereal is not the best choice for a first food….there really is no hard and fast rule regarding what food you should start first.  There are many good options such as:

  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Pears
  • Applesauce
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Strained meats
  • Whole milk yogurt if a baby is 6 months of age or older

First foods should be single ingredients.  Foods should be introduced one at a time with a couple of days in between each new food so if there is any type of reaction you will know which food is likely the culprit!

Some will suggest that a parent introduce vegetables before fruits so the baby does not taste the sweet food first.  I don’t feel this is necessary.  Babies who are breast-fed have tasted sweet…breast milk is sweet!  No matter if a parent introduces fruits or vegetables first, babies will always prefer the sweeter taste.  So, it really doesn’t matter!  Introduce a vegetable, then a fruit, then a meat….whatever works for you and your child!

How do I start?

  1. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of a single ingredient pureed food.  It should be a liquid consistency in the beginning.  Your goal is not to fill up your child’s tummy, but to expose him to the new taste and texture.  Be careful not to substitute food for breast milk or formula.  During the first year babies should still have 4-6 breast feedings or 24-36 ounces of formula in 24 hours.  If milk consumption drops, you may be feeding too many solids.
  2. Use your finger as the first spoon and have your baby suck the food off your finger.  You then can move to a rubber coated spoon.
  3. Offer the first meal when you are not in a hurry and your baby is not overly tired or too hungry.  I suggest you nurse or bottle feed first, and then an hour later try the solids.
  4. Always offer the new food in the morning so if your baby would have any kind of reaction or upset tummy, it doesn’t happen at night!
  5. Watch your facial expressions.  Babies learn what foods you like and don’t like!  Everything should be yummy!
  6. If your baby makes a face or gags with the new taste or texture, it does not mean that he doesn’t like the food.  It takes at least 10 to 15 introductions of a food before a baby can develop a like or dislike!  We want our babies to have a wide taste pallet!  Don’t limit your baby to only the foods you like, especially if you are picky!
  7. Watch carefully to see when your baby has had enough.  A baby may turn his head, close his mouth, bat the spoon away, or become fussy.  Do not force food.  Remember, the majority of your baby’s calories should be coming from breast milk or formula.
  8. It makes no difference to a baby if he gets green beans for breakfast!  There is no right or wrong food for each meal.
  9. Start with one meal a day and then move to twice a day.  By 9 months of age, most babies are enjoying solid foods and are eating 3 meals a day.
  10. There should be “dinner and a show!”  Babies like smiles, airplane spoons, songs, and fun with the meal.  Enjoy it!

Tips for making mealtime easier?

  1. Show your baby how you take a bite and enjoy your food.  This may encourage a reluctant eater.
  2. Use the upper lip to sweep food off the spoon.
  3. Dress yourself and your baby in clothes that won’t be hurt by a messy eater!  Many times I stripped my little ones down and sometimes a bath was necessary after the meal!  Babies are messy eaters….no way to get around that!
  4. Use suction cup bottomed bowels.  Keep your baby’s hands busy, give him a spoon to hold too!
  5. No pressure.  It is O.K. if your baby misses a meal.  If your baby is fighting the solid foods, skip a meal or two and then try again.  Remember, solids are mainly an education to taste and texture.  Your baby should be receiving most of his nutrition from breast milk or formula.

What about water and  juice?

Babies do not need any other liquid besides breast milk or formula for the first 4 to 6 months.  This means no juice or water.  Once solid foods are introduced, a baby should be introduced to a cup.  Water may be given in a cup with a meal.  Your baby will probably just take a few sips.  Juice is not recommended for the first year.  Juice provides very little nutritional value and has a lot of empty calories.

What about allergies?

Some health care providers may suggest waiting to start foods like eggs, fish, or peanut butter until your baby is older because of the risk of food allergies.  Studies have shown that avoidance of foods does not prevent the allergy and may actually increase the incidence of food allergies.  In January of 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines recommending that foods should not be avoided unless there was a significant family history of food allergies.  Check with your health care provider regarding his or her suggestions about these foods.

One food that should be avoided until after the first birthday is honey.  Honey carries the risk of your baby developing botulism.  This does not include honey that is in foods like crackers or cereal, only pure honey.

How will I know if my baby is allergic to a food?

If your baby has vomiting, diarrhea, a new diaper rash or skin rash including hives, or develops wheezing, then this could be a food allergy.  If your baby has gas, or a tummy ache it may just be a food intolerance.  If you think your baby has had an allergic response or an intolerance, you should stop giving the food to your baby.  You might try the food again in a couple of months if the reaction was mild and your baby may do just fine.  If there was a more severe reaction like vomiting, hives, or wheezing talk to your health care provider before giving the food again.

What about homemade baby food?

Some parents choose to make baby food.  To be honest, if you are waiting to start solids until your baby is 6 months old, your little one will not eat true puree food for very long.  Most babies will start finger foods at about 8 months and are eating mostly table food by  11 months of age.    It is not terribly difficult or time-consuming to make baby food.  You may choose to make all of your own, or use some store-bought and some homemade.  Your baby will also do just fine if you choose to use all store-bought.  Here are some tips for making your own.

  • You will need something to grind or puree food.  You might use a blender, food processor or simply a fork as your little one gets used to texture.
  • You will need storage containers like ice-cube trays or something similar.  There are trays made just for baby food, but ice-cube trays will work just the same.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and fresh, or frozen for the best nutritional value.
  • Wash your hands well.
  • Wash the fruit and vegetables well!
  • Bake, boil, or steam the vegetables or fruit.  You then can mash or puree using water or breast milk/formula.  If you boil the vegetables/fruit, use the leftover liquid to mash the food to prevent loss of nutrients in the water.
  • Peel and pit fruits and vegetables and strain if necessary.
  • You can use seasoning!  Babies like flavor!  Try to stay away from salt.
  • Remove skin and trim fat from meat.  You can puree cooked meat, or grind it, or simply cut it up into very small pieces for an older baby.
  • Freeze the food  in ice-cube trays.  Remove the cubes of food and store in labeled freezer bags.  One cube is about 1 ounce of food.
  • When ready, thaw the amount you will use.  If your baby does not eat all the food prepared in the dish, it must be thrown out, it cannot be saved.
  • Use caution heating with a microwave.  Microwaves can cause hot spots..be sure to stir and test the food.

There are many books with tips and recipes for making baby food.  Some of my favorites include:

Super Baby Food   By:  RuthYaron

Baby Bites   By:   Bridget Swinney

Top 100 Baby Purees:  100 Quick and Easy Meals for a Healthy and Happy Baby   By:   Annabel Karmel

So, the introduction of solids really should not make you anxious, it should be exciting and fun!  Enjoy this milestone for you and your baby!  Your baby’s first taste of solid food only happens once!  Don’t over think the process.  Get ready for dinner and a show!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics

www.askdrsears.com

www.napnap.org

www.superbabyfood.com

www.wholsomebabyfood.com

 

How much juice? None if under age 1!


Why would your child need a glass of juice?  The short answer that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) gives is almost never.  While a juice box of 100% juice for an older child isn’t the worst thing to have, it certainly isn’t the best choice.  The AAP recommends even stricter guidelines for juice in a child’s diet.  The new pediatric recommendations for juice is NEVER before the age of one and very limited intake through the age of 18!

Fruits are an essential part of a child’s healthy diet, but juice is not.  Even 100% juice!  Juice has very little nutritional benefit, it is basically water and natural sugar.  It is high in calories and low in nutritional benefit.  A piece of fruit is eaten slower, has healthy fiber, and is more filling.  Often we forget to count the calories of a drink, and a child can “fill up” with those quick calories and then decrease the amount of healthy food that is eaten. This may increase the risk of unhealthy weight gain.

If 100% juice is not the best choice for children, then fruit drinks are even worse!  To be labeled fruit juice, it must be 100% juice.  Any other drink or “juice box” that is not labeled 100% juice really is no better than soda.  Many labels try to  “fool” parents by stating it contains 100% juice!  If it is not 100% juice it really is a sugar sweetened drink with high calories and no nutrition.

So what should our children be drinking?

  • Breast milk or formula for the first full year of life. No juice, period. Small amounts of water can be introduced in a cup when solid foods are started.
  • Children age 1 to 6 should consume no more than 4 ounces of juice a day in a cup with a snack or meal. Toddlers should not carry a sippy cup around with juice as it can result in dental decay.  Fruit should be encouraged rather than juice. Water and milk only are adequate for fluid intake for toddlers and young children.
  • Children age 7 to 12 can consume up to 8 ounces of juice a day, but fruit should be encouraged over juice. Water and milk are adequate for fluid intake for older children.  Sports drinks usually are not necessary for most activities, they are high in sugar and calories.  

What does this mean?

  • Juice has no nutritional benefit for children younger than 1.
  • Fruit is always a better choice than 100% fruit juice.
  • Fruit drinks that are not 100% juice are no healthier than soda.
  • Juice is not a good fluid choice for rehydration for a child who is dehydrated or has vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Drinking too much juice may increase the risk of obesity in children and may decrease the amount of healthy food a child eats.
  • Children over the age of 1 can drink 100% juice as part of a balanced diet that also includes whole fruits if they stay within the recommended amounts by the AAP.

So don’t introduce juice to your infant and offer it sparingly to your older children.  Remind your children that low-fat milk and water are always the best choice.  “Take back the snack” and encourage “snack parents” to provide water for young athletes after practices and the games.  Control your refrigerator and cupboards, make fruit available and low-fat milk and water more available than juice.  Make it easy for you and your child, steer clear of the “juice box aisle” at the store!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Keep your precious cargo safe by using a car seat correctly!


Parents must be sure that their child’s car seat is being used correctly…we all have precious cargo!

I read an study recently in the Journal of Pediatrics which really shocked me.

A total of 291 families (81% of those eligible) participated. Nearly all (95%) CSSs were misused, with 1 or more errors in positioning (86%) and/or installation (77%). Serious CSS misuse occurred for 91% of all infants. Frequent misuses included harness and chest clip errors, incorrect recline angle, and seat belt/lower anchor use errors. https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(15)01459-6/fulltext

95% had errors in car seat installation of positioning! That is such a scary thought since car accidents are the leading cause of death for children.  But to be honest, car seats are not easy to install correctly!   The manuals are long and sometimes confusing, there are different recommendations by auto manufacturers, and I know the installation of a car seat has caused many an argument between Moms and Dads!

The newest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that until at least age 2 your child should sit in a rear facing seat and preferably a child should be rear facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer (that means your child most likely will be older than age 2 and still rear facing).  Children over the age of 2 may sit in a front facing seat with a 5 point harness until their weight and height exceeds the car seat’s recommendation for the seat.  A booster seat should be used until a child is 57 inches tall, which is the average height of an 11-year-old (wow…bet you didn’t realize that!)  No child should sit in the front seat until age 13! 

Types of car seats:

  • Rear facing only

This seat is used for infants up to 22 to 40 pounds depending on the seat.  They are small and have handles to carry the seat.  Some have a base that can be left in the car.

  • Convertible seats that can be used for rear facing

These seats can be used rear facing and then “converted” to forward facing when your child is older.  They are bigger than infant seats and do not have handles or a separate base.  They often have a higher rear facing weight and height limits which is great for larger babies.  They should have a 5 point harness.

  • 3 in 1 seats

These seats can be used rear facing, forward facing and as a booster.  They may be used longer by your child. (But remember every seat has an expiration date…about 5-6 years)

Installation for rear facing

  • The shoulder straps should be at or below your baby’s shoulders.
  • The straps should be snug (you shouldn’t be able to pinch any slack) and the chest clip should be at the nipple line.
  • The seat should be tight in the car.  You should not be able to move it more than an inch side to side or front to back.
  • Never put a rear facing seat in the front seat of a car!
  • Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your baby’s head does not flop down.  Many seats have an angle indicator or adjusters that can help with this.
  • I recommend having a certified car seat technician help install the car seat.  This will help with the many questions parents have and may even prevent Mom and Dad from having an argument!  🙂  Check out this website for great information on car seats, car seat recommendations and locations of car seat technicians in your area.  It is an excellent resource! http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm

Common questions parents have about car seats:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx

Rear Facing Seats

  • What if my child’s feet touch the back of the car seat?

No problem…your baby will cross his legs and find a comfortable position.  There are few reports of leg injuries from a crash with a baby in this position, but a leg injury is a much less severe injury than a head and neck injury which you are helping to prevent by keeping your child backward facing until age 2 or older.

  • What do I do if my baby is slouching in the seat?

You may put blanket rolls on both sides of your baby and a small cloth diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your baby for a while until your baby grows a bit.  Do not ever put padding or blankets or anything behind your baby or add any car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the car seat.  Any additions to a seat may make it work a bit differently and provide less protection for your baby!

  • What do I do about winter coats?

Remember that thick winter coats, blankets, or clothing should not be put under the car seat harness or straps.  Dress your baby in thin layers and then tuck a blanket around your baby over the harness straps if necessary.

Installation of forward facing seats

  • Always know the restrictions of your model.  Know the maximum weight and height limits for your seat!
  • The shoulder straps should be in the slots that are at  or above your child’s shoulders. (This is the opposite from the rear facing position)
  • You may need to adjust the angle of the seat when you turn it to forward facing, check your car seat manual.
  • Choose to use the LATCH system if your car or van has it OR the seat belt.  Do not use both.  Check your car or van manual and your car seat manual for proper installation with the LATCH or seat belt. Latch does have a weight limit of 65 lbs total, meaning the weight of the car seat plus your child.  If the car seat and your child together weighs over 65 lbs, then you must use the seat belt to secure the seat.
  • Use a tether strap.  This is a strap that attaches to the top of the seat.  It is often on the seat back of the car or van.  This gives extra protection by not allowing the car seat and your child’s head to move too far forward in a crash.  All vehicles manufactured from 2000 on have them.  Check the weight limit for the use of the tether anchor.

Common questions about forward facing car seats

  • Where is the safest spot for the car seat in the back?

The safest spot is where the seat can be installed properly, it is convenient for you to use safely every time.  Some LATCH systems are only on the sides of the back seat.  Some car seats only fit well in the middle.  It depends on your car seat, your vehicle and the number of children you have on where is best for the car seat!

  • Should we use a car seat on a plane?

Most infant and convertible car seats can be used on planes.  The seat must have a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval label on it.  The FAA and the AAP recommend that children use car seats when flying until age 4.  This keeps your child safer during takeoff and landing and in turbulence.

So much information…but so important to keep your child safe.  We will continue the conversation over the next few days with more tips.  What car seat do you use?  Why do you like it?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Celebrate Dad…he is very important!


brad at the beach

  Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads who make such a difference in their kids’ lives!!

Celebrate Dad this weekend…and celebrate BIG!  Dads have such an important role in families, and often we don’t recognize the importance.  Research tells us that both sons and daughters are better adjusted, more successful in school, build better relationships, and are more productive adults when Dad is involved in their lives throughout their childhood.  Male role models are essential to both girls and boys and as a society we need to encourage and support good fathering.

I don’t have to read any study to know this truth, I see this truth in my own life and in the lives of the young families I work with.  My own Dad has given me many gifts, but the greatest is the example of what a loving, strong, sensitive, supportive man and father looks like.  Because of his example, I married a loving, strong, sensitive, supportive man who is a wonderful father to our children.  Children, both boys and girls, NEED Dads to set this example of  real manhood in their lives.   Dads influence their daughters’ choice of their future mates and they influence the inner character development of their sons.

Dads are different from Moms, not better, but different.   A Dad’s parenting complements a Mom’s and children thrive with both styles of parenting. The easiest way to see the difference is to watch the reaction a child has when an involved Dad begins to play.  Dad’s play is usually more active, less controlled, often involves a challenge and problem solving and usually results in an increase in laughter and squeals.  (This often resulted in a later bedtime in our house!) Moms’ play is usually more measured and planned. Different play resulting in different accomplishments.

Over the last several decades, there has been an increase in the amount of involvement fathers have in parenting their children.  This is a very good change for our children.  Too often we as a society do not offer enough support to our Dads. New Moms often act as “gatekeepers” and prevent Dads from fully participating in the care of their newborn which can result in a Dad who is not confident in his role. Television shows often depict Dads as clueless in their role as a parent, and as a society we often offer more support groups, books, and events for the empowerment of Moms leaving out Dads. If we truly want to give our children the best start in life, we need to be sure that Dads and male role models for our children are supported, encouraged, and given the time they need to interact on their own with our children.  Yes, Dads are very important.

So, stop for a moment and thank all the Dads in your life; make sure they know how important they are in your life and your child’s life.   Go make that newspaper crown, fix his favorite meal, let him put his feet up and let Dad be “King for the Day”….he deserves at LEAST that!  Happy Father’s Day to all those strong men who embrace fatherhood with love, this includes my own Dad and my wonderful husband!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Cars and Planes….Entertaining Your Kids for Happy Travels!


family vacation

So, you have your vacation booked, you are packed, and now you are thinking about how you will entertain your child in the car or on the plane! 

Long trips are even longer when you have children who are fussy and bored!  We traveled to the beach each year by car, and took the occasional flight when our children were young.  I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to keep everyone content (at least mostly content) on the way.  Early on we learned that the trip to and from our destination had to become part of the “vacation”.  In other words, we had to have that vacation mentality and enjoy that part of the trip too!  You can have fun driving with a carload of kids I promise!

Traveling by car allows you to see some great areas that you may not experience if in a hurry.  During our yearly trip to the beach we found small towns, festivals, touristy attractions, and great parks for picnics.  We soon learned that getting out of the car and enjoying the trip made it much more fun for everyone.  Lunch is much better in a park where everyone can run and play than sitting quietly in a restaurant!  Leaving early in the morning and stopping early in the late afternoon allowed the kids to play, swim, and become familiar with the hotel we were sleeping in that night.  We learned the hard way that pulling into a hotel after a long day of driving at bedtime only resulted in crying children and frustrated parents.  An early stop always resulted in kids settling in for the night easier and an earlier start the next morning.

Entertaining kids on a flight or in the car sometimes takes some creativity.  A mixture of new toys and old favorites usually works.  Some toys were “special” vacation toys that were only used on long trips.  We didn’t have the DVD players so common now, but our kids were very excited about the special travel toys we kept just for our long trips.  You might think about using your DVD player for that purpose.

Here are a few ideas that may work for you.  I found packing the toys in a bag and getting them out one at a time as needed worked well.  Sometimes even wrapping the new ones made it so much fun to unwrap and see the new surprise toy!  A trip to the dollar store or the Target Dollar Aisle is a great place to pick up some of those new items.

  1. Travel sized magnetic games.
  2. Travel sized Magna Doodle or Aqua Doodle.
  3. Sticker Books
  4. Activity Books
  5. Crayons and markers (remember to bring the crayons out of the car if it is warm weather…trust me they can melt and make a mess!)
  6. Reusable stickers or “clings” that can be put on car or plane windows.
  7. Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners
  8. Painter’s tape (makes great “roads” on tray tables, fun to tear and stick, easy to remove, great for childproofing in hotel rooms!)
  9. Finger puppets
  10. New books and favorite books
  11. Favorite music
  12. Movies
  13. Bubbles (fun to blow in the car!)
  14. Small cars, favorite dolls, stuffed animals
  15. Cookie sheet with magnets
  16. Water paint books
  17. Reusable sticker “clings” for windows or “Colorforms” type books

Treat bags became a vacation tradition with our kids.  We always packed a few snacks, some healthy and some special treats.  To this day, I pack a “treat bag” even for my husband and me when we head out on a road trip!  Slow down, stop, let your child out to run and then provide a quiet activity once back in the car seat or on the plane.  Take a deep breath and enjoy having your family contained in one spot…something that, believe it or not, you will look forward to when your children are a bit older and busier.  Talk, sing, snack, and maybe even nap on the way (not the driver of course!!) :)…Family vacations are simply time together, time together doing something different….so be sure that your vacation begins when you leave your house.  The trip to and from your vacation CAN be fun too! What do you bring to make your travels more fun?  Share your ideas!!!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Protecting your child from bug bites


Protection from ticks and mosquitoes is important for your child!

Today is beautiful, and I hope most of you have your children outside at some point!  Children both love and NEED to be outdoors.  Outside activity is an important part of a healthy child’s life, and it helps children get good and tired too!  I know one of the biggest reasons I encouraged outdoor play was that it provided me with a good long nap from my children in the afternoon.  A method to my parenting madness!

With spring and summer upon us, the pesky bugs will soon be too!   Not only are these insects just plain annoying, they can carry dangerous diseases to your children.  Most children have mild reactions to bug bites, but some children (are they just sweeter?) really seem to attract those insects and those bites result in large red welts that make them miserable.  West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and the recent outbreak of Zika Virus are diseases that could result from insect bites too.  So, if we want our children outside and we don’t have a protective “bee suit” in the house…what are we to do?

The use of insect repellents are recommended by the American Academy of  Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control.  Although most of us hate to put chemicals on our children, DEET used correctly is one of the best protectors for your child.  The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from less than 10% to more than 30%.  Studies show us that the higher concentrations of DEET protect for longer periods of time, but not more effectively. So a repellant with 10% DEET will protect for about 2 hours, 24% about 5 hours, and at over 30% there is very little increase in protection.  The AAP recommends using a concentration of DEET between 10 and 30 percent.  Most of our children will not be outside in an area with biting insects more than 2 hours at a time…so 10% DEET should be enough the majority of the time.

How to use insect repellent safely:

  • Always read the label.
  • Do not use DEET on children under 2 months of age.
  • Do not use a concentration of DEET greater than 30%, usually 10% will be adequate.
  • Only apply the repellent to the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
  • Use a small amount just to cover the area, thicker layers are not more effective.
  • Do not spray repellents on your child’s face.  Put the repellent on your hands and rub on your child’s face being careful around eyes, and mouth.
  • Do not put repellent on your child’s hands.  Do not apply to open areas like cuts.
  • Spray repellents in open areas, do not breathe them in.
  • Wash your child with soap and water to remove the repellent when he comes inside.  Wash your child’s clothes before he wears them again.
  • Do not use sunscreen/insect repellent combinations.  You will need to reapply the sunscreen and the repellent should not be reapplied.
  • Cover your child’s exposed skin with long pants and sleeves if you know he will be in an area with a lot of biting insects. This will decrease the skin area that will need repellent.
  • Try to avoid dusk, the “buggiest” time of day!
  • Remember DEET is NOT effective on stinging insects like bees and wasps.

Repellents that do NOT work

  • Wristbands with chemical repellents
  • Dryer sheets pinned to your children (A big trend a few years ago!  I once saw an entire preschool class of children on a playground all equipped with dryer sheets!)
  • Garlic (would keep other people away! )
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves
  • Bug zappers (may actually increase insects in the area)

Other repellents:

So the bottom line is, insect repellents are a better alternative that the potential complications from a disease carrying insect. Be smart and use repellents safely.  Protect your child with clothing and by avoiding the time of day/night and areas where insect bites would be more common.  Check your child for ticks daily and remove any tick with a tweezers and clean with soap and water.  Lastly, put this at the bottom of your worry list….outdoor fun is essential for children!  Protect them with common sense and enjoy the outdoors…don’t let the bugs scare you off!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Reference:  www.healthychildren.org

 

Packing tips for traveling with kids…having what you need but keeping it simple.


Vacation season is here! With kids, gone are the days when you can throw a few things in a suitcase and go!  There is a bit more to pack with kids…it seems like you will need everything!  Making a packing list will help.  I often would start a packing list several weeks in advance and as I thought of things we would need, I would add it to the list.  Packing can feel overwhelming when you are planning for kids.  Just remember, you can usually always wash at your destination if necessary and unless you are going to the outback, there are stores!  Don’t try to think of every scenario and try to pack for it!  Once you have a list that works for you, save it on your computer for the future!  Try and keep it simple!

Packing Tips:

  • Plan for one outfit a day per person.  Think about mixing and matching and bringing a couple extra tops.
  • Think layers…be sure you always have something warm…weather is temperamental and restaurants are cool.
  • Plan for at least 3 pairs of PJs per child.  You will always have accidents and need at least one extra pair until you can wash.
  • Pack total outfits in large freezer type zip lock bags.  Top, bottom, undershirt, and socks all together.  This makes it easy to find each outfit and helps keep things organized.  You can grab a zip lock bag and throw it in your diaper bag when you are on the run and know you have everything you need for a quick change.
  • Extra shoes.
  • Sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses.
  • Plan a diaper an hour for transit and about 5 to 6 diapers a day.  Remember, there are Walmart Stores and Target Stores everywhere…don’t bring things that are easier bought at your destination.  Think about having Amazon or Target ship your diapers to your destination when taking a long trip.  www.jetsetbabies.com or www.babytravelite.com are another great way to ship baby gear ahead!
  • Bring several receiving type blankets and a larger blanket for your baby to lie on and stretch.
  • Diaper rash ointment, acetaminophen, thermometer, small containers of shampoo and lotion.  You never want to be out looking for an open pharmacy at night!
  • Keep a list with emergency numbers in your bag.  Include your doctor’s phone number and local pharmacy number.
  • Pack a night-light.   It is nice to have a little light in a strange room!
  • Baby Monitor.
  • Child proofing kit.  This would include twist ties to tie up cords, duct tape to tape over outlets, and antibacterial wipes to wipe down TV remotes and phones.  Blue painters tape is a great way to tape things up, cover outlets etc. and kids LOVE to play with it too.  Easy to remove from anything also!
  • Straw cups, pacifiers, bottles, and enough baby food for transit and to get you started at your destination.
  • If traveling by car and you will be spending a night on the road, pack a separate bag for the hotel.  Only pack what you will need for the one night on your way to your destination.  This is much easier than carrying all of the luggage in for a one night stay!

Pack a small backpack with essentials that are within easy reach in the car or plane:

  • A change of clothing for you and your child.
  • Extra zip lock bags.  (Never can have too many!)
  • A diaper an hour and wipes.  (Never can have too many wipes!  They are NOT for just diaper changes!)
  • Pack an extra “portable” bag with a single diaper, diaper cream, and small package of wipes.  You can take this small bag into the restroom without bringing the whole diaper bag or backpack.
  • Fold up potty seat for a toddler. Post it notes to cover the electronic eye on self flushing toilets…keeps the toilet from flushing and scaring your toddler!
  • Extra “lovey”…always have an extra!
  • Two straw cups (one to be dirty one to be clean), snack cup, wipeable bib, portable snacks, small fork and spoon, any other necessary restaurant item.
  • If you are formula feeding, bring powdered formula.  Make up a couple of bottles with the powdered formula so only water needs to be added.
  • Baby food for use that day.
  • Zip lock with thermometer, travel sized acetaminophen, ibuprofen, band aids, Benadryl, nasal saline drops, and any other medications your child or you are taking.
  • A mix of new and old toys…plan for an activity per hour at least.  A sample “fun bag” will be posted later.

So, pack smart and start early.  Make a list and check it twice, but remember, the only real essentials are items that cannot be bought at your destination…so relax, if you forget something, thank goodness for Target and Walmart….I know you can find either at your destination!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Loving Touch is Important at Every Age!


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Recently I visited with our twenty something son. As he walked in, he gave me a big hug and I kissed him on the cheek.  As I was preparing for my parenting groups this week I was thinking about that moment.  The hug and kiss of my son, who is definitely a young man now, was as sweet ( albeit a bit more scruffy and I was on my tip toes) as the snuggle I would have with him as a baby.  Loving touch with your child is at the center of a parent and child bond.  The connection  between child and parent through touch is undeniable.  I am a firm believer in the importance of touch and our children….from birth, to toddler years, preschool, school age, and yes even in the awkward teens.  Continuing the physical hugs and kisses are important for your child and you.

Snuggles and touches are natural for most parents with an infant.   Infant massage has been proven to provide many benefits for babies.  Routine loving massage can help an infant

  • Gain weight
  • Calm
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve their latch for nursing
  • Increase bonding
  • Improve neurological development
  • Improve their immune system
  • Decrease teething pain
  • Decrease congestion
  • Learn body awareness
  • Learn that touch is a loving expression
  • and the list goes on…..

Getting started…

  • Turn off th TV, cell phone and other distractions.  This is time to concentrate on your baby alone.
  • Warm up the room and your hands.
  • Lie your baby on his/her back a warm towel or blanket.
  • Use a vegetable based oil.  (if you could eat it, then it is OK)
  • Make sure you are calm.
  • Make eye contact with your baby.
  • Ask permission to touch, show your baby your hands.
  • Lay your hands on your child lovingly.  Often babies prefer touch on legs and feet first.
  • Use light gentle touch, but not a tickle touch.
  • Move from the center out…upper thigh to foot.
  • Give equal treatment to both sides of the body!
  • Movements should be slow and relaxed…like a lullaby.  Sing while you do it!  🙂
  • Start with a short session and watch your baby’s cues.  If your baby wiggles away, fusses, looks away, then stop and try again at another time.  As your baby becomes accustomed to massage, the length of time may increase.  You don’t have to massage your baby’s whole body, just the parts that he or she enjoys!

Technique:

  • Make eye contact with your baby and sing or talk to him–or play music.
  • Breath, relax yourself
  • Hold one foot in one hand and use the other hand to milk the leg.  Squeeze thigh to foot, this is the “milking” motion.
  •  Roll leg between hands from thigh to ankle, like you are rolling dough or clay.
  •  Finish with long strokes from thigh to foot.
  • Press the sole of your baby’s foot with your thumbs.  Massage each toe.  Play “this little piggy”.
  • Repeat on other leg.
  • Follow same process of milking, rolling, and stroking on the arms.
  • Press the palm of your baby’s hand with your thumbs.  Massage each finger.
  • Slide your palm and fingers in a circular motion from the ribs downward.  Then move clockwise around the tummy.  Smooth the chest like pages in a book.
  • If you have used massage for a while, some babies will allow you to massage their face.  Massage face with light fingertips stroking across the forehead from the center to the sides.  Massage tears ducts.  Move down nose and on the sides.  Use a circular motion from the temples down the side of the face.
  • Massage shoulders and use long strokes down the back and on the bottom.

Remember…the intent of your touch is much more important than your technique!  Just relax and enjoy!!

I Love You massage for colic or gas

  •  Trace the letter “I” on the right side of your baby’s tummy.  Start just under his ribs and move down to your baby’s hip.
  • Now stroke from left to right on your baby’s lower tummy making the long part of the letter “L”.
  • Make a short downward stroke on the right side of your baby’s tummy making the short to complete the “L”.
  • Complete the “I love you” by making an upside down “U” starting at your baby’s left hip and circling along the top of the tummy and down the right side.
  • Continue these strokes to help calm a gassy tummy.

Massage can continue to some degree all the way through childhood.  There were nights that I sat on the side of my children’s bed and massaged an aching tummy or head, and I have massaged sore muscles after a big game or meet.  The continued touch with your child will keep you connected in many ways.  There were certainly times when I hugged my children in those teen years and I got an eye roll too…but because of those continued “loving touches” through the years, the hugs in the stands of a high school football games, college track meets, quick weekend visits at school, and now when our “adult” (they will always be my kids) kids visit those hugs and kisses  continue.  Don’t underestimate the value of teaching your child the benefits of touch as an expression of love.

Check out your local hospital for classes on infant massage.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Get a little dirty…it is time to garden!


 

It is that time of year when I am doing a bit of grumbling about all the yard work, but also looking forward to getting my perennial beds cleared and blooming, my cut flower bed planted and preparing my vegetable garden for this summer’s crop of tomatoes, beans and of course sunflowers.  I definitely am not a Master Gardener, but I have a special place in my heart for gardening and getting a little dirty.  I have very fond memories of my Grandfather and his vegetable garden and beautiful roses.  I would walk through his garden when I visited and help water and weed.  With his garden gloves on and a hat perched on the back of his head, he was a true farmer at heart.  He showed me how to eat a fresh tomato right off the vine and how to pinch a peach so the fuzzy skin would pull back and I could eat the sweet inside.  I guess my love of gardening started by watching my Grandpa and then my own father take pride in their gardens.

So many of our children have no idea where their fruits and vegetables come from or even what a fresh tomato really tastes like! With the new fruit and vegetable pouches, I sometimes wonder if many toddlers even know what a real vegetable LOOKS like!  There are many life lessons that can be taught by simply taking a small plot of land or a small container and growing something with your child!  There is no better way to instill a love of nature and to encourage healthy eating than growing a fresh fruit or vegetable as a family.

Children are natural gardeners—they are curious, they learn by doing, and they love to play in the dirt.  Gardening is good for families, it gives your family time together outdoors, and time to let your child get dirty for a purpose!  Children love to look for worms, love to plant seeds, water,  watch plants  grow, pick their crop and even try the harvest they have grown.  What a great way to get them to try green beans!  This helps cultivate their curiosity about nature, the earth and maybe even foster a love of gardening.  Children will also love the special time they spend with you.  Gardening teaches patience, responsibility and is like having a science lesson without even knowing it!  You might even find yourself feeling a little proud and definitely loving the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato!

Tips on gardening with children.

1.   Plan a small container garden or a small plot of land that is theirs.  Talk about a plant’s  need for sun, water, and food.  Put the garden in an area that can be seen easily by your child.  A plastic storage bin or any other container with holes poked in the bottom for drainage works great for this!  Keep it near your back door so your child can see it often.  Tomato plants or lettuce can actually be grown in just a bag of topsoil that you open and plant the seedlings in the bag.  What could be easier?

2.  A “yardstick” garden is plenty big for a child.  Take a yardstick and measure a garden that is 3 foot square.  A young child can reach all sides of the garden and will take pride in that little plot he can call his own.

3.  Gardens do not have to be square.  A “pizza” garden can be planted with wedge sections.  Put different plants in each wedge.  Plant ingredients that would taste good on a pizza!  This is a great way to grow an herb garden!

4.  Use a little imagination, children will love a sunflower house!  Plant large sunflowers in a semi-circle.  As they grow, tie the top of them together and your child can have a “secret” hiding place in your garden!

5.  Watering and weeding is not as much fun as planning and planting ( I don’t like it as well!).  For older preschoolers or school age children, put a gardening calendar in the kitchen or in your child’s bedroom with tasks to be completed.  Don’t force it, remember you are instilling a love of gardening!  Keeping your child’s portion of the garden small should keep the time necessary to only a few minutes a day.  Using a container garden really keeps it easy!

6.  Child sized garden tools make it easier and more fun. I have seen tools in the dollar area of Target!  I know if I had young children, the gardening boots and clogs I have seen would be a must, so cute!!  A gardening hat is a necessity,  protect yourself and your child from the sun.  What is cuter than your toddler gardener in a wide brimmed hat!  Don’t forget the sunscreen too.

7.  Let your child dig the holes for the seeds or the plants that have been bought.  Digging holes is a natural for kids!

8.  Encourage your child by planting seeds that mature quickly and are easy for them to handle.  Radishes and lettuce are great.  They germinate in a couple of days.  Bean seeds and sunflower seeds are easy to handle.

9.  Be sure to put the seed packet on a stake in the garden to remind them what they have planted and what it will look like.  Some discount stores even have little garden stakes that your preschooler could decorate!

10. Children love the unusual.  Many vegetables are available in different colors or sizes.  Speckled beans, red carrots, miniature cucumbers and pumpkins, purple beans, and grape tomatoes are just a few examples.  Try something really unusual by taking a cucumber or pumpkin bloom and placing it inside of a 2 liter bottle.  Shade the bottle with leaves from the plant and let the pumpkin or cucumber grow inside the bottle.  It is a great “show and tell” item when there is a large cucumber or pumpkin inside the bottle!

11. Add a bird bath  to attract birds.  Children can be responsible for refilling the bird bath!

12. Think about planting bright colored flowers that are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Exploring the garden for butterflies, bugs, worms and caterpillars is great fun!

13. You might want to set a part of the garden for digging all summer.  Put your sandbox in the middle of your garden to make your garden kid friendly.  There were always a few cars or trucks around in the dirt of our garden.

14. You can have your child  make garden stones or markers for the garden.  Find larger stones and let them paint designs on the stones.  These make great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gifts for Grandparents!

15.  Have your child help build a scarecrow for the garden.  This can be a fun activity for late summer especially.

16.  Measure the sunflowers that you plant once a week and chart their growth.  If you have older children, planting sunflower seeds that mature in about 90 days is a great way to measure the length of summer.  When they bloom, it is time to go back to school!

17.  Try to grow organically as possible.  Mulch is a great way to cut down on weeds which will prevent the need for weed killer and mulch will keep the soil moister during dry spells.  Mix compost and/or topsoil into your garden each year to provide nutrients needed for plant growth.  By growing without chemicals, your child will be able to eat a tomato right from the vine…there is nothing better!

18.  Let your child harvest their own vegetables.  There is nothing better than picking your salad fixings for the day!  This will encourage your child to eat their vegetables I promise!  Your child will love to eat “garden to table”!

19.  Keep it fun…start small!  Most new gardeners try something too big and then quickly become discouraged with the experience.  Just grow one tomato plant and supplement your “garden” with a trip to the Farmer’s Market!  We always had enough green beans from our small garden for at least one dinner.  The kids would always ask, “Our these our beans?”  With a little white lie, our kids ate green beans the whole summer!

There are some great children’s books that can be fun to read with your child as you start your garden:

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer
Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Alison’s Zinnia by Anita Lobel

Get a little dirty….plant a few seeds and you will see your child’s excitement grow as the plants grow, and who knows you might just raise a kid that likes his vegetables!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

The pitter patter of feet and other bedtime challenges


Must have been a good night…all smiles to start the day!

Ahh there is nothing sweeter than the pitter patter of little toddler feet, unless it is two minutes after putting them in bed or you wake to that sound at 2:00 am!  Once toddlers figure out that they can get out of a bed, why not pay Mom and Dad a visit?  Going to bed is such a disruption in their life!  They would much rather be with you cuddling back to sleep or seeing what fun things you are doing while they are in bed!

It seems harmless enough to bring them back to bed and lie down with them until they sleep or to throw your covers back and let them crawl into bed with you….that is until you wake up with a toddler’s feet in the small of your back or lying on your head!  Toddlers need to learn to separate and sleep on their own!  It is a life skill for them and makes your evenings and nights so much more restful.  So, what is a parent to do when they hear the pitter patter of little feet?

Toddler’s who get up during the middle of the night:

  • The key is consistency…the same response EVERY time
  • Take your child by the hand and walk quietly back to his or her bedroom.
  • Tuck your child back into bed, give a kiss, and say ,“It is night-time, you sleep in your bed.  Love you.”
  • Walk out, no further discussion.  You want your response to be very boring! Your little one has to realize that there is no benefit at all in getting up, not even a long explanation of why she should stay in bed!
  • It is likely that your child will return in a few minutes…follow the same routine with no other discussion.
  • This may happen many times the first night, and your response should be exactly the same.  No yelling, no punishment, no rocking, no cuddling, no crawling in bed with them.
  • The second night you may hear the pitter patter of little feet again, follow the same routine.  Most likely it will be fewer times.
  • Usually by the third or fourth night your child will stay in bed when he or she wakes and self comfort back to sleep, if you are consistent and do not give in!  If you give in and rock, cuddle, or allow your child to sleep with you; then you have sent a very confusing message to your child.  Your child will think, “If I get up enough, then mommy or daddy will let me sleep with them!”
  • There are times when your child is ill or when your child is very scared that you might give in to letting your child sleep with you, but the quicker you go back to this technique, the easier it is for you and your child!
  • An alternate response could be to keep a sleeping bag in your room.  You can tell your child that if he or she is scared and wants to sleep in your room, they can pull out the sleeping bag and sleep next to your bed.  This will give them the opportunity to be close but not in your bed. Some parents have liked this option.  Once again, consistency is the key.

Toddlers who get up as soon as you put them in bed:

  • Option one is the one above.  Continue to walk your child back to bed without much interaction, no cuddling, no rocking, no yelling.  Place the child back in bed and leave.  This may happen 10 times and with a lot of crying, but if the response is exactly the same each time.  Your child will eventually fall asleep on his or her own.  This usually takes about 3 nights if you are consistent!
  • Option two works well when you have just transitioned from the crib.  Sit next to your child’s bed.  Do not look at your child or speak to your child.  If your child is chattering with you, respond with “It is bed time go to sleep.”  No other words or explanations.  Place your hand on your child and make no eye contact.  Every time your child tries to get up, gently lie them back down.  Sit with your hand on your child the first couple of nights.  After the first few nights, move your chair to the foot of the bed.  Same position, same words if your child is talking, if your child starts to get up, respond with “It is bed time lie down.”  Speak very calmly with no other words.  The next night move your chair to outside of the door and look into the room.  Respond exactly the same way every time your child speaks or tries to get up.  This will eventually teach your child to stay in bed and settle to sleep if you are consistent!
  • Option three can be used too, there is nothing wrong with putting a gate at your child’s door.  If your child tries to climb the gate it is not a safe option.  Do not lock your child in their room, this can be a safety issue.  The first two options are better learning techniques for your child.
  • Option four is better for older toddlers, at least age two or older.  Depending on your child’s temperament, a reward system may be all you need.  You can devise a sticker chart and let your child place a sticker on the chart for every night or nap he or she stays in bed.  Sometimes toddlers prefer to wear their sticker!  A single sticker may work, or you might have an incentive of two or three stickers and then your child is rewarded with a small treat or something fun to do with you.  Then move the number of stickers required to get their prize up until you no longer need the incentive.
  • Option five is good for three and older.  You can give your older toddler or preschooler a “free pass”.  Make two “passes” using 3×5 index cards.  Let your child help you decorate them.  Tell your child that they have two “free passes” to call you and you will come in and see what they need.  Once those passes are gone, you will not come into their room and they will not be allowed up without a consequence the next day.  Most children will start out using the passes and then quickly start saving at least one “pass” just in case.  Eventually you can give your child just one “free pass” to use.  Most of the time this breaks them from calling you or getting out of bed.  This gives them some control of the situation.

All these techniques will help your toddler learn to fall asleep on his or her own, make the bedtime process much more enjoyable for you and your child, and give you time to have an evening to recharge and get a good night’s sleep without a toddler spread eagle in the middle of your bed!  Remember, teaching your child to sleep on his or her own is a necessity!  Happy sleeping!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

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