Category: Baby

Natural Colic Calming Remedies

A mama knows her kids. Or so we like to think, anyway. I, for example, knew my newest little addition in utero — I mean, we spent a lot of time together… time at the gym and prenatal yoga, time doing crosswords at 3am when i couldn’t sleep, time sharing in the trials and tribulations of everyday life — all of this before he ever saw the light of day. We were connected. And I decided, from this place of deep connection, that I could feel his personality (I still, by the way, believe this to be true.) When pregnant with my first son, I had accurately predicted him to be gentle and sweet-tempered, but shy perhaps, and stubborn as a mule. (I gleaned much of this from the way he adamantly and predictably refused to move even a millimeter when anyone would put a hand on my belly, even if he had been doing intra-uterine gymnastics before…it was as though he was saying, “mama, I’m no dancing monkey.” Lo and behold, he came out and for nearly two years was wary of strangers — and, on occasion, his poor, solicitous dad.)

Flush with the success of my predictions with Aidan, I confidently gave it another go with Ammie — ‘he’s good-natured, unusually good-natured, social, and, yes, mellow, definitely mellow’ — he moved only gently and easily day and night, and when he did kick, would happily kick away under the expectant hands of family and strangers alike. Their colors show themselves immediately, I believe, and if they don’t, I liked to believe my happy predictions anyway — because who wants to believe they are about to give birth to a little hellion?

Imagine my surprise then when, after a first few newborn weeks that neatly fit my expectations, my little Angel turned Gripe-y. I don’t mean a little gripe-y either, 5-7 witching-hour gripe-y. I mean ALL THE TIME. Nothing satisfied him. And whether imagination or intuition took over at this point, I don’t know. All I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, was that this was NOT his inherent nature. Maybe it never is with any baby. After an embarrassing number of sleepless nights, internet searches, and shame… I decided to go back to my roots as a pediatric expert — and go extreme.

I called my husband at work, suddenly empowered again. “I do this for a living!” I cried in revelation. “We can put all our resources to work and figure this out — he’s uncomfortable!” This was the start of the best baby-weight-loss program EVER — I cut out every food that was featured on any list ANYWHERE of gassy foods, foods to avoid, culprit foods, you name it. In other words, I cut out everything I liked.

No milk, no onions, no beans, no peanut butter, no cruciferous vegetables, no gluten, no — ah the last holdout — no chocolate. (Remember please, with pity, dear ones, that I gave birth to Ammie right before Thanksgiving and Christmas.) And, lo and behold, within a mere week, Ammie turned in to the fantastic sleeper, and good natured love that he is today — we call him “The Smile Factory.” I slowly — and one at a time, experimented with which foods I could bring back — I am breastfeeding after all, which means, I’m hungry! and ultimately narrowed it to a list that makes us all happy — no onions, no cheese, no beans (except, occasionally, lentils), no tomatoes, and, strangely, but definitely, no white rice. At lunch with my sister-in-law a couple months later, she revealed that these are the same foods that have always and still cause her trouble, down to the very last one (Genetics, that crazy thing it is.) We did some other things too, things I’d like to share with any mama or papa or beleaguered babysitting grandparent in hopes that it will help them to unearth their baby’s inner angel as well, and most importantly, bring sweet babies the comfort we desperately wish for them.

But first, the moral. More than one, in exchange for all the sleep lost.

  1. Mamas know their babies. If you think your baby is acting in a way that is inconsistent with their inherent nature, trust your deep knowledge of this little being — they probably are giving you a message the only way they know how.
  2. Everyone’s got advice – I was given everything from belly belts to colic foot cream – none of it bad, not all of it practical. In the end, it came down to trial and error – every baby is different.
  3. Well, I’d like to think there’s a third… Oh yes. “This too shall pass.” I’m sorry. And I promise.

 

Now here’s what has worked for me, personally and professionally:

Food Restrictions

While opinions even within the scientific community differ as to how much effect the foods mama eats while nursing has on her breastmilk or her baby, proteins from the foods you eat are absorbed through your intestines and into the bloodstream — and from here, finds its way into the milk in unknown quantities. Many babies don’t have much to any problem with this; however, if your baby is colicky, your diet is worth a second look. It is my clinical experience that many cases of colic are caused by mamas eating foods that are making the milk difficult for babies to digest. This is especially true if your baby seems to have bouts of crying followed by expulsion of gas, or if your baby has constipation, diarrhea, rashes, or congestion. I am also suspicious of food sensitivities if baby was premature, or if you or your spouse have a family history of digestive or respiratory difficulties.

When baby arrives, the lining of his or her intestines is immature, making it more difficult to digest and absorb foods for the first six months than it will be in the months that follow. This is why most pediatricians and childcare experts recommend waiting to start solids with your baby for at least six months (in some cases, I even recommend a bit longer). If your child cannot tolerate an ingredient you are ingesting, this does not mean he or she will be sensitive to it forever — but for now, avoiding it could give baby — and you! — much needed comfort.

Scientists know that flavor from foods is also transmitted to the breast milk — and may not only have a correlation to baby’s enjoyment of the milk, but may also correlate to what foods baby will like as solids (in other words, a mama who eats lots of carrots while nursing may have a baby who likes carrots as a solid — for more interesting information on this connection, check out: Here). Its not such a leap then, that the foods we eat also have an impact on the digestability of the breast milk for certain infants – a tenet of Grandma’s kitchen table wisdom in many cultures.foodstoavoid

The main culprits:

  • milk and dairy products
  • cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, cauliflower)
  • “gassy” vegetables (including onions, asparagus, green peppers, tomatoes)
  • spicy foods
  • wheat
  • chocolate
  • caffeine (in coffee, tea, some sodas)
  • soy
  • peanuts
  • citrus
  • shellfish
  • iron supplements (or the iron in your prenatal if you’re taking them)

These aren’t the only culprits (remember, beans and white rice really set my little guy off – although it took me a while and a good food log to believe it), but they are the most common. Which, if any, are culprits for your baby is a personal, and somewhat tedious matter to unearth. Either go extreme and eliminate the main possibilities and then add back in, or unearth likely suspects by backtracking through your worst days with a good diet log. And give this project time. It took nearly a week to notice that the colic had disappeared — which, not coincidentally, is sometimes the amount of time it takes for a food to leave your system. If you’re not sure about some of the foods on this list, experiment by adding them back into your diet after a week of eliminating them. Some of these foods are really good for you (and by this of course, I’m talking about chocolate. :))

* Lactobacillus Reuteri

A gram-positive bacterium that is found in the intestines of birds and mammals, l. reuteri falls into the category of “probiotics” (the beneficial bacteria that makes yogurt and fermented foods popular health boosters). Studies show that the effects of l. reuteri are very specifically beneficial to colicky babies (and not replicated by other probiotics, even of the infant-formulations). A study conducted in 2007, shows that after 4 weeks of taking l. reuteri drops, crying time was reduced by 74 percent.1 A 2010 study replicated these findings with similarly positive results.2 Be forewarned when you head to the local health food store or pharmacy for these — even with all the great research to support its efficacy, I had many well-meaning folks try to steer me toward other probiotics that don’t contain this strain — they’re wonderful for other things, but have not demonstrated the same effectiveness in cases of colic — in fact, they sometimes have generated the reverse.3 The l. reuteri had to be special-ordered and is not inexpensive (ringing up at somewhere around $30 for less than a week’s supply), but after weeks of crying (first Ammie, then me), I would probably have hocked my wedding ring for the possibility of sweet relief. BioGaia Protectis Baby Probiotic is what we used — a liquid formulation that you give to baby by the drop.

* Tummy Circles

One of the most effective ways to provide comfort to a colicky baby and to stimulate healthy digestive function is also one of the easiest. First lie your baby down on his back in a comfortable location. Then with the pads of your four closed fingers or the palm of your hand, gently push while rotating your hand to make medium-sized clockwise circles around your baby’s belly button. Continue in a clockwise direction 50 to 100 times, or for a few minutes. It’s unclear whether this has an effect on colic in the world of western medicine, but age old traditions of qi gong and other eastern practices place the center of much energy at this area in the body — stimulating and soothing the area around the umbilicus increases the strength of baby’s “Qi” (roughly translated as active life force). This couldn’t be bad, right? I’ve found it to be entirely therapeutic.

 

Here’s what others swear by:

Swaddling: From popular books like “The Happiest Baby on the Block” to Dr. Sears’ indispensable compendium, “The Baby Book” — and tracing its roots again back to Grandma (and Grandma’s Grandma), — swaddling, the technique of wrapping baby up tightly in a light blanket to simulate womb conditions (read: Tight!), and ameliorate the stresses of newly developing, not-quite-controllable limbs, is something many parents swear by to calm everything from a case of the tired fussies to downright aggravated babies. It doesn’t hit the roots of colic at it’s core — however, any safe calming techniques could only help. The larger question seems to be, does it calm? This seems to depend on the baby. Limited research has found the calming effects of swaddling to be temporary — after a few days, there seems to be no difference between the crying in swaddled and unswaddled babies.45 On the other hand, some babies are very sensitive to stimulation — and the newborn startle reflex is, well, startling. My main bias, however, is that my babies didn’t like swaddling at all. Maybe I had a small uterus and they were just relieved to finally be unrestricted. That’s my theory. My firstborn preferred to sleep with arms and legs splayed out like he was making a big snow angel. But if it works for you, by all means… (When not to swaddle: when they’re just born. Skin-to-skin contact here, with unrestricted hands and arms helps breastfeeding, calming, and bonding significantly better than any amount of swaddling.)

Baby Herbal Tummy Packs: My former neighbor, just about the nicest gal in the world, and mama to a now one-year-old, first provided cookies on the day of his birth, and then her baby herbal tummy pack, called “Happi Tummi” a few weeks later. Her daughter cried inconsolably during the first few months — a microwavable belt filled with such olfactory delights as chamomile and lavender, along with the warmth of the belt on baby’s belly was her number one aid in relieving her daughter’s misery. My Indian friend also swears by the benefits of a warm herbal pack on baby’s belly. The warm tummy pack soothes and relaxes the possibly-stressed, definitely tense intestinal muscles of an unhappy infant. You can buy the Happi Tummi version, or for DIYers, make your own by placing uncooked rice in a muslim or linen sack, adding essential oils of your choice – lavender and chamomile are best bets for babies- to the rice before placing in the sack. (Sew Mama Sew gives great instructions for DIY packs). Heat in microwave for 15 seconds and please, test on inside of wrist before placing on baby. Place it over the onesie or sleeper to avoid it getting too hot on baby’s sensitive skin (lets not add injury to insult…) Then remember this technique for when baby gets older — warm belly packs are absolutely great for stomachaches and bedwetting in older kids as well.

gripe_water* Gripe Water: Here’s another remedy folks swear by. I keep it in the diaper bag myself. Chalk full of great tummy-relieving herbs such as ginger and fennel, it performs the minor and immediate miracle of stopping my little one’s hiccups in their tracks (boy, did he hate the hiccups for a while!) There are a lot of gripe waters on the market, however, and all are not created equal. Aniseed is a common ingredient, but also a common allergen, and gripe waters that use essential oils are generally way too strong for babies (this is internal we’re talking). You want to look for natural, optimally organic ingredients, and no alcohol or simethicone. We tried a couple of different kinds and used Mommy’s Bliss with the greatest success, but there are a number of other reputable brands out there for your own trial and error research — Wellements, Colic Calm. Did any of them stop the colic? Verdict’s still out on that one for us, but certainly didn’t hurt. It’s available Here on Amazon.

colic remediesTea for Mama: fennel seed, Indian celery root? 1/2 – 1 tsp of fennel seeds steeped in hot water for 10 minutes (you can include 1-2 slices of fresh ginger while you’re at it) is a remedy that seeks to work at the level of “what mama eats, baby eats.” Hopefully it makes your milk more digestible and more palatable to your little one. Some Indian friends insisted that I should add Indian Celery root to this homebrew – and gave me some of their own that family and friends routinely bring back from India for them. It doesn’t smell the same as the celery root in my own pantry. Again, I cannot say with certainty that it helped, but just the ritual moment taken to nurture myself every evening (boiling the water, steeping the tea) was a therapeutic act.

 

And When is Colic no longer “Colic”? Red Flags That It’s Time to Visit or Revisit Your Pediatrician or ER:

  • if your baby’s cry becomes shrill or harsher than usual, or lasts for a longer interval than usual
  • if your baby’s poop or pee habits change dramatically or are accompanied by blood
  • if the crying always comes at feeding time and includes writhing, arching, twisting
  • if your baby’s soft spot is bulging
  • colicif your baby becomes listless or lethargic
  • if your baby’s cry is more of a weak moan
  • if crying is accompanied by a fever or temperature drop
  • if baby is vomiting repeatedly and/or with blood
  • if your intuition says it’s time for outside support, something’s just not right

And if none of this works? My favorite mantra during the crying weeks was, “I love my baby, and he is perfect for me.” Corny? Maybe. Obvious? Generally. But it helped. Blessings to all the mamas and papas out there who are in the midst of weathering the storm.

 

1 ^ Pelle SF, et al. Lactobacillus reuteri (American Type Culture Collection Strain 55730) versus simethicone in the treatment of infantile colic: A prospective randomized study. Pediatrics 2007:119; e124-30
2 ^ Savino, F., Cordisco, L., Tarasco, V., Palumeri, E., Calabrese, R., Oggero, R., Roos, S. and Matteuzzi, D. (2010) Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in infantile colic: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics, 126, e526-33
3 ^ Kukkonen K, et al. Long-Term Safety and Impact on Infection Rates of Postnatal Probiotic and Prebiotic (Synbiotic) Treatment: Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 2008;122;8-12
4 Van Sleuwen, B. E., L’Hoir, M. P.; Engelberts, A. C.; Busschers, W. B.; Westers, P.; Blom, M. A. et al. (2006). Comparison of behavior modification with and without swaddling as interventions for excessive crying. In: Journal of Pediatrics, 149 (4), S. 512-517.
5 Long, Tony (2007). Adding swaddling to behaviour modification in infant care did not reduce excessive crying in healthy infants <13 weeks of age at randomisation. Evidence Based Nursing,10, S. 42.

Kids Health: Natural Home Remedies for Bedwetting

ohdeedoh_buckwheatpillowBedwetting rarely represents a problem requiring medical intervention; it is, however, one of the major reasons that parents will explore natural remedies and complementary medicines for their children. After ruling out any medical causes with a primary care provider, there seems little left to offer the children who wet their beds – which is unfortunate, since self-esteem and sleep can suffer.

Bedwetting is more common in boys than in girls. An estimated 6-7 million children wet their beds during the night. It is generally not even considered to be a medical condition until the age of five, as children’s development of neuromuscular control and bladder size varies. A typical question your care provider may ask is, ‘has your child ever had a dry night?’ If the answer is no, your child is considered to have primary enuresis (a fancy word for bedwetting). If the answer is yes, and your child has been dry at night for at least one six month stretch, your child is considered to have secondary enuresis. Either way, the following remedies can be useful for strengthening your child’s bladder and eliminating possible causative factors.

If your child’s bedwetting came on quickly, a bladder infection or other illness may be the culprit. When my son wets his bed, it is often a symptom of the onset of a viral or bacterial infection. The illness may or may not be a bladder infection specifically, although it may be – signs of a bladder infection include cloudy pink urine, or a burning sensation while urinating. If your child’s bedwetting seems to come on spontaneously, and/or your child seems to be sleeping either more deeply or fitfully than usual, it may be the hallmark of an unwanted pathogenic invader. In these cases, treatment options, whether western or complementary, will be aimed at bolstering the immune system and creating a hostile environment for the bacteria or virus. Bladder infections are a good time to check in with your child’s primary care giver. There are also many great home remedies to complement your child’s care during an infection – please refer to our article on UTIs/bladder infections at mommyser.com.

If your child wets his or her bed habitually, the first thing to notice is whether your child runs hot or cold in temperature, and whether s/he seems emotional, irritable or nervous during the day. Also note if your child sleeps deeply, is difficult to awaken, is having fitful dream cycles. Does your child have dark circles under his/her eyes? Is there a family history (especially on father’s side) of bedwetting as a child?

Eastern medicine asks many of these questions as a means of ascertaining the underlying causative factor of the bedwetting, making for more effective treatment. If your child tends to get cold easily or feel cold to touch, seems pale, fatigued, low in appetite and/or sleeps deeply, this usually signifies what is referred to as a ‘kidney’ imbalance (a diagnosis that does not suggest anything wrong with the kidney organ, but refers more to a functional imbalance). Make sure that your child is well-dressed and well-covered during the night – children with this constitution may wet their beds more frequently when they get cold during sleep. Children who tend toward these symptoms can also find relief in consistent acupressure to strengthen the kidney system, and warming therapies directed at the lower abdomen.

– An excellent acupressure point to strengthen the kidneys is found at the ankle, on the inside of both legs, between the medial malleolus (the ankle bone which sticks out and the back of the ankle at the Achilles tendon. You’ll generally find a depression here. Apply gentle but firm pressure with your thumb here (this may feel tender, but should not feel uncomfortable to your child when you press – if it does, apply less pressure). Massage on each side for 1-3 minutes before bed.

– Before bed, apply a hot water bottle or warmed buckwheat pillow to the mid-sacral area (on the lower back toward the base of the spine) and to the lower abdominal area below your child’s navel. Leave on for 3-5 minutes each side or until the area is feeling pleasantly warm but not uncomfortably hot. You can read to talk to your child while they relax.

– If your child sleeps so deeply that they cannot seem to wake themselves in response to bladder cues, try massaging the very top-back crown of the head, (right where many children have cow-licks, about two child-size hand-breadths back from the forehead), before bed each night, for 1-2 minutes.

Food allergies may also be a culprit in repeated bedwetting. If your child wets his/her bed, and also has conditions such as asthma, frequent hives or rashes, eczema, digestive difficulties, food allergies may be an especially good place to start. If your child gets hot and sweaty at night, or tends toward hyperactivity, these could be signs that your child’s nervous system is being taxed or overstimulated by a food allergy. If your child tends to have dark circles under their eyes, this is another clue… either your child is not sleeping well, or these may be ‘allergy shiners’. Substances in allergenic foods may be irritating the bladder walls, causing it to be difficult to hold in urine. Foods most commonly implicated are milk and dairy products, and citrus foods. Caffeinated foods – chocolate and soda, are stimulants which can be frequently irritating to a sensitive bladder. Make a food chart, pay attention to what your child eats each day, and make a note of whether or not your child wet his/her bed that night. A correlation may emerge.

If there seems to be no easy connection between a particular food and bedwetting, a food allergy may still be a possibility – it may be a food that your child eats regularly (and many foods can take up to 10 days to completely clear out of your system). Consider eliminating dairy products (or wheat or citrus, for example) for a week to 10 days, then resume eating them. See what happens. Just make sure you choose one food group at a time. While this may seem difficult at first, many of the families I have worked with have found this well worth the time and energy. Sometimes a simple food elimination will also eliminate the bedwetting. Even though it can be frightening to consider finding out ‘bad news’ (my son loves dairy, for example, but his body doesn’t), it’s good information to have. Many children grow out of both bedwetting and food allergies. There may also be ways to help support your child’s digestion – herbs, digestive enzymes, if you decide to keep certain allergenic foods as a part of their diet. A safe and easy way to soothe possible bladder irritation is to give your child 6 to 8 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice at least one hour before bed. (feel free to sweeten it yourself a little with agave nectar, or honey if your child is over 15 months old.)

Your child may seem nervous, anxious or irritable during the day, or, as their parent, you may know that they are going through a difficult or transitional time – at home or at school. If your child’s emotional environment is feeling unsteady, this may often take its toll at night in the form of bedwetting. If your child’s bedwetting begins unexpectedly, after having been ‘night-trained’, it is always good practice to check in with teachers and caregivers to see if something new is coming up for your child during the day. I sometimes have to remember that things that may seem like ‘no big deal’ from my perspective can seem like a very big deal to my son – someone not playing nice, friends not wanting to play his games – different kids respond differently and what may not phase one child may deeply affect another. Bedwetting may also be a cause of anxiety that builds on itself. Wetting the bed can be very stressful, especially to a child who has a sense s/he ‘should’ be getting to the toilet. It is for this reason that in almost every case of chronic bedwetting, I suggest calming remedies for your child’s nervous system. A tea of chamomile, catnip, lemon balm or any combination of the three can calm and relax your child before bed. Haw flakes, available like candy at many asian grocery stores, is a wonderful digestive aid that is also good for nervousness and anxiety. I also recommend rescue remedy in ointment form, rubbed at the temples and on the inside of the wrists. Supplemental calcium and magnesium, formulated for children and taken in divided doses – one dose in the morning, one at night can help as well, especially if bedwetting seems related to nervousness. (as with all supplements, check with your health provider and reputable health food store or pharmacy for suggestions on which brand and form can be most easily absorbed by your child.)

There are many herbal remedies, homeopathics, massage and chiropractic techniques that parents report have worked wonders with their children. For most of these practices, I suggest consulting with a professional who specializes in holistic pediatrics: many herbal and homeopathic remedies in particular should be individually prescribed based on your child’s particular constitution for best results.

The most important thing to remember about bedwetting is that it is never ever the child’s fault. Your child undoubtedly does not like this situation any more than the parent (and I promise, I don’t love waking up in the middle of the night to do laundry). Be as calm, patient and reassuring as you can be. Nearly every case of bedwetting will be completely outgrown by the teenage years. It will not last forever. In the meantime, bedwetting presents a challenging, but sometimes wonderful opportunity to teach children and parents how to nurture and nourish their bodies, and make a space in the evening for healing time, teas and touch.

For more information on bedwetting, herbal remedies, and demonstrations of the techniques presented here and more, check out Mommy’s ER volume 2 section on bedwetting.

Introducing Solid Foods: The Beginning

It’s 1:20 in the morning, and I’ve just finished making 5 batches of abelskivers for my 2nd grade son’s Danish festival tomorrow – as in, Denmark, not the pastry (and 6 batches if you count the batch my husband polished off single-handedly). I’m not Danish, so there was quite a learning curve. Ugh. Did I say that? I meant…yum.

I’m thinking this means I’m done with all mama-related responsibilities for a while and it’s time to settle in for a bath and a cup of tea before bed — and then I realize that I’ve only fulfilled my food-related duties toward boy #1 — and boy #2’s needs are a lot more difficult than Danish pancakes. First of all, there’s the 2am feeding — which I love, I don’t mind it at all, but then there’s the 4 o’clock and the 6 o’clock lately too, which is new. The boy is HUNGRY.

He’s also angry, or at least super-duper ornery, every time I sit down to eat anything, snack, dinner, whatever. He grabs for it, he fusses. Also new. And he’s one week away from six months old. Generally, babies hit a growth spurt around 6-7 months, that may not coincidentally coincide with pediatricians’ recommendation to begin the introduction of solids around this time. I don’t ever think there’s a rush on this, but… ever heard the expression, “don’t watch the calendar – watch the baby?” You’d never know it to look at my chubby cherub, but it’s just about time, and he’s telling me so.

babyfoodWhere to begin? I’ve compiled my five most essential pointers for starting baby on solid foods, plus a sixth pointer you’ll thank me for, I promise. And stay tuned for Recipe Weekend, which will almost certainly include recipes for baby’s first solids in the near future. That or homemade handsoap, inspired by my current case of post-Danish-pancake dishpan hands.

1. Commit to making your own food for baby — at least some of the time. I’ve decided to make my own food this time around — in spite of the fact that the abelskivers have darn near worn me out for the week, and I’m no lover of the kitchen. I’m going to brave it anyway for a number of reasons. First off, I’m a control freak — not universally, I hope — but certainly when it comes to what ingredients start my baby’s eating experience. This is going to be a lifelong relationship, and I want it started on a strong foundation, especially for a pristine, still developing digestive system. I want organic, fresh and seasonal. It has more fiber, higher vitamin and mineral content, and less additives than even the best jarred foods on the market. This makes sense to me. The first thing I’d recommend to a mama whose baby gets constipated after starting solids (provided the baby is six months old and starting with easy-to-digest starter foods) is to try making a batch or two at home and see what happens. Anecdotally speaking, homemade can clear things up faster than many moms can imagine.

The second reason is taste. There are a number of organic baby food options on the market now, and in a pinch I’ve always been grateful, but the taste of jar food just can’t compete in texture or flavor to fresh food. The relationship to food that emerges from these first ‘meals’ is an incredibly formative one. I want natural tastes that will support baby’s constitution by being not only simple, but seasonal. There’s a reason nature gives us root veggies in the winter, and summer squash in the summer. We need denser, heavier foods when the weather gets cool, and lighter, more hydrating options when the weather is warm. I want to honor that for baby as much as I honor it for the rest of the family.

Worried that making your own is too difficult or time-consuming? So am I, but with the Baby Beaba my mom-in-law gifted me — stay tuned for future blogs — and these great websites as references, (please, let my baby food look as pretty as this!), I’m feeling empowered.

2. Decide what baby’s first foods will be — and learn the Rule of 4. Is your baby 6 months of age or younger? Look to avocados, bananas, summer squash, green beans, sweet potato, acorn squash, apple, and pear as appropriate starter foods. You can also start with rice, barley, or oatmeal, as these grains tend to be the least allergenic, but my personal preference is to start with avocado. avocado It is nutrient-dense, mild-tasting, and chock full of the monounsaturated fats baby needs for a growing brain and body. It isn’t overly sweet, which is good acclimation for baby’s tastebuds – while breastmilk is sweet, its nice to acclimate baby’s tastebuds to other flavors. Avocado is also appropriate to eat raw — avocados and bananas are really the only foods that fit this bill in the beginning — which keeps me out of the kitchen temporarily. Again, I’m packing the diaper bag at 1am after my Danish baking spree, so I’d rather just throw in an avocado, a bowl, and a spoon to mush it up. And the Rule of 4: wait at least 4 days after introducing one food to introduce another. This allows you to see how baby responds to the new food – can they digest it? Do they like it? Does it cause mouth rash, fussiness, constipation? These are signs that baby may be allergic or simply not ready yet for this food. It’s important to start slow in the beginning. (Want a handy chart to keep track of it all? Check out this wonderful resource and this solid food chart grouped according to food groups.)

3. Stay Committed to Nursing or Formula. After the first taste of solids for baby, I know it’s tempting to give them the variety we’d want for ourselves (and give ourselves a break from pumping – anyone else out there feel this way?), but breast milk –or formula — is still baby’s mainstay in terms of optimal nutrition for the first year. Breastmilk or high-quality formula provides them with absolutely everything they need for brain and body growth, solid foods are meant to be the icing on the cake, so to speak. So in your solids enthusiasm, remember to nurse baby first, before feeding them. Their stomachs are the size of their little fists after all, so fill it with what they need before anything else. My son may be reaching for our plates, but when offered the breast as an alternative, he never complains. 🙂

4. Introduce Solids, but Not Liquids. I didn’t know this starting out, but if you’re nursing, babies get absolutely all the hydration they need from your breastmilk. In fact, water in excess of 2-3oz (even swallowed pool water), can throw off their little bodies’ sodium balance, causing a condition called water intoxication. Irritability, drowsiness, confusion, even seizures can ensue. Babies‘ kidneys aren’t fully matured, and will dump necessary sodium along with the excess water. The rules are a little different for formula-fed babies, but the essence is the same — unless advised otherwise by your pediatrician, no water on the side. And definitely no dairy — at least, not until after the first year. Milk hinders the absorption of iron, which is very important for baby, with high levels of protein and sodium is incredibly difficult to digest, and additionally is a very common allergen, especially in immature systems. (While I wish that more options were available in formula, formulas that use dairy as a base have predigested proteins, making it far easier and more appropriate for baby.)

5. Watch Baby’s Cues. Just like “don’t watch the calendar, watch the baby,” stay attuned to baby’s signs as you embark on this culinary adventure. A meal may be no more than 1-3 Tablespoons, sometimes even less in the beginning. This is perfectly natural for that tiny fist-size tummy. This is also the perfect opportunity to support baby in learning lifelong lessons in portion control. How many of us stop eating when we’re no longer hungry? In the beginning, that’s our instinct, and some pediatric experts believe that this innate ability to monitor our own hunger and satiety carries through even into our adulthood. If baby is turning his or her head away when the food approaches, or closes lips tight, or cries/fusses to get out of his high chair, take pains to listen up. Mealtime is probably over.

6. An optional 6th hint you’ll thank me for: Don’t forget the bibs. Or your older son may entreat you to drive all the way home again for fear that baby is going to ruin his matching shirt. And you’ll find yourself wondering if Soapnuts are going to cut it on what looks like a full avocado smeared onto the outfit. Really, just don’t do it.