Milestones Guide: Are You Parenting Well?

Baby Milestones Guide for Mindful Parents

baby hand skills develop alot in the first year of life.

Baby will develop skills over time. Be patient.

So you come home with your new beautiful baby with no instruction manual. You have to be kidding right? It seems there is a new challenge everyday, and you just don’t have any idea how you are doing as a new parent, or seasoned parent for that matter. Doesn’t seem fair does it?

But there is hope? The closest thing we have to seeing how well we are fairing, from a developmental perspective, are baby developmental milestones. A sort of “Developmental Report Card” for the parents. The reason I say “for the parents”, is because if parents make good choices for their babies, then babies flourish. If they don’t make good choices for their babies, then there are what we as therapists call “developmental gaps”.

By checking in with developmental milestones from the beginning of your child’s life, you can see if your baby how well your baby is progressing . Milestones are not an exact science and every child is different, but you will start to see patterns in your child’s development, and if you pay attention and have genuine concern for you child’s development, you will find ways to adjust or support you babies environment so they flourish.

Working in developmental for 17 years, I have seen more than my share of parents who have differing levels of concern for their child’s development, with some too busy, too inattentive, or to self absorbed to check in on their own parenting skills. But by an large, most parents do care, but can’t see their own maladaptive patterns and how they are affecting their babies. To be blunt, they are clueless. And just to be fair, I was one of them.

Even as a developmental therapist, somehow I had inherited “Parental Cluelessness”. Almost all parents have this, as we can’t see our own behavior. To add to this symtomatology, our brain has coping strategies to assure us that we are “awesome” just so we can make it through each day without breaking down. Interestingly cognitive science has the research to support that the parents that have the best “self” judgement, actually end up more successful in execution tasks. All this results in the very annoying symptom of “I’m raising my kid better than that other parent over there.”  Oh…the not so pretty side of parenting!

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So what’s the cure? Well…the science isn’t all in yet, and it probably won’t ever be. But we have some data that suggest there are a few promising leads. The first promising lead is Mindfulness; being attentive to the present moment. A close second is Non-Judgement; looking at things in a neutral manner. And third of course is Developmental Milestones; the skills growing babies have at certain times of development. I say all of this of course with a chuckle, but honestly, it worked for me.

Mindfulness is of course important because it allows you to focus and be the observer of your world. Since you baby is in it, you are in luck. You stop being distracted and actually attend to what is happening around you. You see and hear and smell and breathe. I add “breathe” because you may be a little shocked at what you see. Dirty diaper, diaper rash, crying baby who needs a nap, and on and on and on. It is sometimes easier to stay distracted quite honestly. But, I promise, staying clueless is never the best in the long run.

Every time I check Pinterest for a new recipe, or check my e-mail to get a time for an event we need to get to that day, there is undoubtedly, a long list of immediate needs to meet upon re-entry into the real world. However, with a little practice I come to expect it! And I am prepared…at least mentally. And always, as a family we get back in the flow of life with at least our heads above water.

The second ointment for a case of Parental Cluelessness, is Non-Judgement. This is simple once you get the hang of it. It is the same as being the objective observer in a science experiment. You look, watch, take data, and report. No judgement, no “I am so wrong”, or “I totally messed this one up”. You look, see, and take data.

Finally, by comparing your data to Developmental Milestones, you get a score. Did your data match the developmental milestones? Is your baby meeting the benchmarks, to a greater or lesser degree? OR are they not even near the developmental milestone benchmarks. Developmental milestones are taken from objective observation of literally 100’s to 1000 of babies, so in general they are an “average” guide to developmental skills. It is very possible that your baby may be ahead of average in some areas, right at about average for others, and a bit behind in a few as well. It’s when you start to see a pattern not related to your kids individuality that change needs to happen.

And yes, I have used this approach with success. For example, I noticed that my own children were both on the lower end of size developmental milestones, being little “peanuts” as I so lovingly call them. We didn’t worry because growth was consistent and within norms per our physician. But when I noticed that my baby was not sleeping through the night when the average baby would have been for several months already, we changed what we were doing. We set more structure, kept her up a bit more during the day, building in more social time, and got a noise machine for her to sleep with. With those changes, our little baby became a serious snoozer!

So, let’s all stop using developmental milestones to judge our babies. Let’s start using developmental milestones to check in on our own parenting. If we do this from the start, there will be little chance our end up in a doctor’s office or therapy center because there is “a developmental problem with the baby!” Instead, we will help our little kiddos along the wild road, allowing them to flourish and grow quite beautifully!

Basic Developmental Milestone Categories Include:

Language Development

Social Development

Fine Motor Development

Gross Motor Development

Eye-Hand Development

Emotion Development/ Emotional Regulation

Safe/Secure Attachment

note ** I should note that some children do have specific conditions that warrant therapy, and it is always good to check with a therapist if you feel as a parent your child may have a specific problem. However, this article is targeted at developing kids without congenital difficulties or a developmental diagnosis.

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Family Oktoberfest: Teach Cultural Diversity To You Kids And Get Them To Try Delicious Foods!

Pretzels, sausages, and other good food make Octoberfest a great time to show kids how to enjoy good food.

Oktoberfest parties can be fun for kids, and a time for them to eat well and try new foods. My family proved it can be done!

So many families enjoy the sights and sounds of Fall. It’s colorful, cozy and most of all FULL of candy and sweets. Besides candy and pumpkin specialty sweets, how can we get our kids to eat a decent meal when they are flooded with creepy, gooey, pumpkin-y treats?  And on top of all the sugar and chocolate, what really stinks, is that fall is the time of year they need nutritious food the most so they don’t come down with a case of the “Ick” (aka cold and flu).

But I have been around the block a time or two with kids and food, from extreme picky eaters as clients, to kids at birthday parties that won’t even try a cupcake due to it’s color and shape. Fall food for kids is a walk in the park, and this park is full of beautiful leaves and tasty treats. So no worries; it’s harvest time!

Why Oktoberfest?  Using Creativity to Feed Kids.

My kids are pretty good eaters, but I have to be honest. I work with them a LOT on growing our own food, knowing our farmers, teaching them how to bake and cook, and setting the expectations that they eat well in order to get sweets. Oktoberfest is one fall party that is going to make my job easy.

First off it’s a party. A great big harvest party, and except for the beer, it is one party that has lots of delicious food as a focal point that is kid-friendly. With a little research and a look in my Slovak family cookbook, my imagination and party plans start to seem very, very possible.

Even better yet, my cousin is throwing a picnic this weekend and I have hinted about the Slovak and German family roots we share as a reason to have ethnic food. She gets the hint and starts planning the menu, but with some minor reservation. She needs to feed almost 10 kids and isn’t sure how to turn Oktoberfest food into kids’ food. I assure her that we can easily transform the picnic into a family memory that will include the kids.

Why Family Makes Food All The More Delicious

It isn’t a secret that eating with family makes families stronger. But as a developmental therapist, it’s often forgotten that parental example of eating is one of the strongest indicators of how well (or poorly) a child eats. This says that parents and family, including siblings, set the example for the kids. Family members that realize the impact their eating habits has on future generations usually choose to eat more mindfully.

So getting together, sharing food, and being social are key factors in teaching kids to eat. So picking some foods that are healthy when having a family meal or a party is essential.

A Pot Luck is a Lucky Pot.

If everyone can bring a dish that is built around a theme, with the goal of making for a delicious meal, then how could a family party not be successful? Duplicate foods, too many of one item such as desserts, and food allergies make the modern family party a little tricky.

It was best for the host, my cousin, to check in with all the guests ahead of time to see if there were any food allergies before planning. She discovered that we needed to address gluten free and dairy free options.Then the menu can be developed and volunteers can be asked to bring specific foods. For our family Oktoberfest, my mom had already offered to bring 2 dozen pierogies. Off to A delicious start!

Kids can try these sausages and enjoy Octoberfest while eating well.

Bratwurst is a tasty choice for Oktoberfest!

Brainstorming an Oktoberfest Meal for Kids

It’s always a good idea to have a plan when hosting a party, especially when kids are involved.

Now for some there may be no need to go beyond the buttery pasta pocket filled with potato and cheese that is the classic pierogie, but being realistic about what kids might find tasty, and also what they might need in terms of well balanced nutrition, my cousin and I come up with a few ideas for kids food.

Oktoberfest Food

There are so many choices when it comes to Oktoberfest foods. With options ranging from bratwurst sausages to German potato salad, we have a good start. Add in pretzels, cider, spaetzle (fried noodles), pierogies (stuffed dumplings),  sauerkraut, simple Instant Pot pulled pork goulash, cucumber salad, stuffed cabbages, and more. My German, Hungarian and Slovak ethnic ties of a few generation ago make this menu a dream! This is a super easy meal plan endeavor.

But how to make this all kid friendly? Easy.

Octoberfest food for kids can be easy and delicious.

A meal of Bratwurst and mashed potatoes (WITH toppings from the mashed potato bar) make a great meal for kids. Just add mustard!

Super Easy Oktoberfest Food For Kids

Here’s the list we came up with, which we easily assigned to family members to bring the day of the party.

  1. Bratwurst Sausages cut up in small bites and a gluten free pretzel stick to use as a handle to dip each bite in stone ground mustard
  2. Slovak breaded and fried chicken thighs
  3. Pierogies (stuffed noodles and butter)
  4. Spaetzle Fake-Out: Instead of fried noodles, just make noodles of any shape and add melted butter and kraut
  5. Pretzels and dipping sauce
  6. Mashed potato bar with toppings including kraut, both organic cold garlic and hot, diced sausages, cubed brats, butter, salsa, cheddar cheese, and pulled pork goulash.  Serving glasses were available to make the mashed creations look like ice cream sundaes!
  7. Pulled pork goulash (Instant Pot)
  8. Hot dogs wrapped in dough (what some call Pigs in a Blanket)
  9. Cucumber Salad (Slovak style with vinegar and paprika)
  10. Apple cider and water to drink
Sausage or hot dogs are always a weiner!

Sausage in dough clothes make a fun food for kids at Oktoberfest! They are always a wiener!

Now most of these foods are easy to make and with a quick internet search they are easy to create from a good recipe. But our family has some true favorite recipes to share. Here is one my cousin made that was AMAZING!

Simple Instant Pot Pulled Pork Goulash

This recipe was made using the Instant Pot manual function.

Ingredients
2-3 pork loin or butt roast (bone in optional, cut in half if too large for pot)
2 T ghee
½ onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Sliced white mushrooms (12 oz)
Penzey’s Steak Seasoning
2 T Hungarian Sweet Paprika
1 can diced tomato (14.5 oz)
3 cups organic beef broth
1 jar roasted red pepper strips (drained)
Ground black pepper

Instructions
1. Set Instant Pot to Sauté function.
2. Trim all visible fat from roast. Cut in half if too large for pot.
3. Add ghee to instant pot when ready.
4. Sprinkle pork with steak seasoning.
5. When ghee is hot, brown pork on each side until nicely browned, could take up to 10
minutes. Brown in batches if halved.
6. While pork is browning chop onion, prepare mushrooms, and mince garlic.
7. Remove pork to a plate.
8. Add onions to pot and sauté for 3 minutes. Sprinkle paprika over onions and add garlic.
Stir and brown for another 3 minutes.
9. Stir in mushrooms and brown another 5 minutes.
10. Return pork and add diced tomatoes, roasted pepper strips, and beef stock to Instant Pot.
Lock lid and cook on manual function for 60 minutes at high pressure. Let pressure
release naturally.
11. Shred pork using two forks. Set pot to keep warm until serving time.
Suggestions
Add ½ t caraway seeds in step 9 optional
Roast your own red pepper
Serve over mashed potatoes with dollop sour cream
Cook in slow cooker for 8-10 hours on low, or high 4-6

How Our Family’s Oktoberfest Celebration Helped the Next Generation Eat Better.

After the celebration, it was clear we had some solid new food our whole family enjoyed. My daughter told me she had a blast, and loved all the amazing and wonderful food. She said this to me the next day without me even asking. So a shout out to my family -“You are one Oktoberfest inspiration for the next generation of kids! I am proud to be Frau Melissa in this group of Eastern European Foodies!”

Kids’ Food Winners for Oktoberfest

The sauerkraut and black forest cake were the clear winners at our Oktoberfest celebration, but the Goulash came in a very strong Third.

Sauerkraut, sausage, and black forest cake are all foods our family loved!

Octoberfest food that our family loved. Sauerkraut and sausage took first place.

Chocolate cake is an easy and delicious Octoberfest food!

The Black Forest Cake was delicious and an easy new food for kids to explore. It took 2nd place this Oktoberfest!

Soup is warm and an easy new food for kids to try.

Kids love soup, so this goulash was an easy new food for kids to try. It took 3rd place, but it was so good I took seconds.

“No, You Won’t Break Your Baby!” : Caring For Your 1 Month Old Beautiful Baby

10 Good Habits For Caring For Your 1 Month Old Beautiful Baby

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We have many options for prenatal care. There are many classes we can take as moms and dad expecting a baby, and there are many different hospital options.

Of course, we now have to deal with insurance restrictions on where we birth, based on our insurance carrier, and we often have somewhat limited natural birthing options, however if there is a will there is a way to get the birthing experience you desire. Keep looking for what feels right to you.

Postpartum Care  is another thing altogether. After experiencing my blissful birth in the hospital, I was left without much care. I was very fatigued despite having my amazing husband on homemaker duty for 4 weeks while he was on paternity leave. Breastfeeding was tiring through the night, I was of course hormonal, and just getting used to my regular body again. It was rough.

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Once my baby was here, I decided I would use Pinterest and Social Media to see what I could do to welcome my beautiful baby in a blissful way. Thanks to social media, I felt that I was not alone in wanting to make postpartum a good experience. There were many posts on Pinterest and many blogs focusing on this issue.

Thanks to social media, as well as my daily meditation, I felt a part of the sisterhood of new moms connected in the daily challenges and successes of being a new mom!

Blissful Baby!

Here is a list of things you can do to welcome your beautiful baby in a blissful way so positive memories and radiant health can be a part of your postpartum story too!

1. Rest: You deserve it. You just gave birth! That is amazing! Congratulations.

2. Breastfeed (if you can): St. Clair Lactation was amazing. If you are birthing I suggest this hospital simply based on the lactation department alone. My first baby did not get to breastfeed. I tried. My second, thanks to St. Clair Lactation has taken to the breast wonderfully, mostly because they were so direct in how they taught me what I needed to know. Having said that, it is not easy. It takes extreme will, especially in the first 3 months. It gets somewhat easier after that, and you have experienced a bond with your baby that is very unique. Check out http://kellymom.com/ for great breastfeeding resources.

3. Baby Message and Bath: Use coconut or jojoba oil (find at Whole Foods) for a little message before a bath. Message only to your babies enjoyment, and stop if it is too much. Make sure to towel off excess oil so they are not slippery and use extra care when bathing them and taking them out of the bath. I find that my baby is slippery when coming out of a bath even when I don’t do the message before hand.

4. Jojoba Oil: This oil is balancing and helps heal and support skin. I used it where ever my baby was dry, and on her cradle cap. Within an hour her skin was rebalanced.

5. Calm Sensory Environment: Newborn babies have fully active hearing, so limit loud music and T.V., especially media that has violent content. Calming music is great. Sitting in nature is also soothing. Going to the mall and then a noisy restaurant is too much too soon. The longer they can grow their brain in a calm soothing environment, the better. Your calm baby will thank you.  Even if you have a difficult to sooth baby, it will help in the long run.

6. Have a Night Routine for Baby: It helps them get used to the idea that extended sleep is nearing. Give a bath, sing a song, read a familiar book, say a prayer, breastfeed, or whatever you feel is special to you and your baby. Do what feels good to you, just do it regularly.

7. Practice the “Magic 2 Questions”: Is my baby crying because 1. She is hungry? or 2. She is sleepy? If you find that you are eventually good at answering these questions for your baby, your baby will most likely not cry as much.

8. Speak Loving Words: Create loving habits now. Promise to treat your baby with love when you talk to them. They have a fully operating hearing system and they are learning with every word you say. Let them know you love them and respect them. Even if you didn’t feel loved as a child, make the change now and commit to positive change in your family line. Use Loving Words.

9. Relax: Enjoy your baby. Your baby deserves to get to know you. What we give our kids today, comes back to us later. Don’t let this opportunity slip by. Your heart will thank you for it.

10. Don’t Yell at Your Baby: Yelling is as destructive as hitting. Don’t hit your baby either. I know this may seem basic, but it happens a lot. I have seen it when working with some of my patients with developmental delay. The bottom line: When you baby feels safe, they develop normally. If they feel stressed or unsafe, they don’t. So don’t yell or hit your baby, and don’t let anyone else do it either. Protect your baby.

One extra habit that is super important!   #11. Play With Your Baby: Newborns can hear, can become familiar with songs, and can understand basic words like eat, sleep, and “I Love You”. Once they are 3 months, their smiles will prove it. Let them explore baby safe toys, touch different textures and tickle their feet. As a mom, you will enjoy this “baby play” maybe even more than they do.

Postpartum Depression: Are You Needing Help?

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression, the Baby Blues, hormones, no sleep, healing body. Yes, there is so much going on after birthing, and what used to be a 5-7 day stay in the hospital for birthing aftercare, has become 1-2 days. Some women like short stays, but some of us need more. I was one of them.

And because I am not in the minority, by any means, I thought I would share what I learned to help me feel better during my postpartum period. Actually, most of what I learned about caring for myself, by new baby and the rest of my family I learned as a therapist and from doing my own research online and in books. With 80% of women in the United States experiencing some form of postpartum blues, I think we all need to share our knowledge on this topic.

I should also recommend that if you are a mom reading this who is experiencing postpartum depression, seek professional help. Your family doctor or OBGYN will have the skill to determine how best to help you. There is no shame here. Get help. It will help you, your baby and your whole family.

Comforting Postpartum for Mom

Ideas shared here helped me. I did not have postpartum depression or the blues, but I sure was tired, new to breastfeeding, at times unsure, at other times emotional and hungry! The ideas I’ll share helped and if you are feeling similar, they might just help you too.

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Experiencing such an awesome delivery, I wanted a postpartum time that was equally as blissful. Pittsburgh had little to offer me so I turned to social media. I got my answers and turned extreme fatigue into balanced energy.

Also while digging through my basement on afternoon, I found a Yoga Journal Magazine from several years back. The magazine contained an article about Ayurvedic postpartum care for women who had just gone through birth. I really liked the different activities that the magazine author discussed so I began to research more information on the topic of Ayurveda and postpartum care. I was confident, having used Ayurveda practices in the past, both in my professional and family life, that I was on the right track.

Here is a list of  5 super easy and comforting postpartum activities you might try to feel your best after birthing.

#1. Warm and Soft blankets: Using uber soft blankets to sleep in instead of sheets made me feel cozy. These blankets I got special, and although they cost a little, the days following birthing were deeply restful as a result.

#2.Warm milk an hour before bed with cinnamon, cardamon, and maple syrup: I risk sounding like a kid, but the warm milk before bed is not jus for kids. It’s for mom’s too. Total comfort. I used rice milk, and substituting different types of milk is ok if allergic to cow’s milk.

#3. Whole body warm oil message daily: I started with coconut oil, and then eventually got a bottle of balancing jujoba oil. Many sources recommended cured sesame oil.

#4.Wrapping my belly: It isn’t certain if and why belly wrapping is beneficial for everyone, and it wasn’t necessarily an Ayurvedic suggestions, but I decided to try it anyway. I realize I’ll need to do some core body work to obtain a more conditioned abdominal muscles going forward, but the belly wrapping itself was very comforting. It just felt like a big hug for a job well done. It was supporting to my abdominal tissues and organs, as well as lower back. I felt great in my clothes, and messaged my tired abdominal muscles during the morning and afternoon when I wore it. I tried using a muslin cloth and ace bandages, as well as the combination, but had no luck, as the material kept shifting. I eventually went to Target and bought a tight elastic abdominal wrap in my size. Apparently called “shape wear”, some women wear them all the time, even when they did not recently give birth. Think modern comfortable girdle.

# 5. Deep sleep: After reading “Birthing from Within” with Pam England,
http://www.birthingfromwithin.com/ as well as several Ayurvedic sources, I felt good about my choices before giving birth.  Knowing that sleep was the fuel of my daily life, I took special note when England suggesting not being averse to bottle feeding or supplemental formula for a better postpartum, especially related to mood. Additionally, Ayurveda sources noted how deep sleep is necessary to allow deep healing after the huge task of giving birth.

After my husband went back to work, I needed deep sleep to feel better so we began at week 5, 1 formula feeding at bedtime. I pumped and stored away the milk for the future, an added bonus. We continued to breastfeed the rest of the time. The formula, as well as keeping baby up a bit more during the day helped get me the rest I needed.

#6 One to Grow On: One to grow is “to bed before 10pm”. I’m still working on this one, but the closer to 10 or earlier to bed, the better I feel. As I move through week 5 and 6 of postpartum, I hope I can give myself this added gift.

So all the best for your postpartum, for your baby and your entire family. Remember, because it feels great, you can be your own postpartum Swami Mommi too!

A Tribute: To Enjoy Your Pregnancy And Honor Yourself As You Become A Mom.

Joyful Pregnancy

Pregnancy can seem like forever. But looking back after birthing it can often feel like the blink of an eye. Whatever your experience, it is a time to prepare yourself and family for the new baby, cherish your own creative power, and take care of yourself so you can stop to notice the joy during this amazing time in your life.

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PREPARE

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Your body

Your Family

For birth

Make Sure You Take the Time to ENJOY. (Embody Joy)

Trust your own Wisdom, or develop it further.

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Sacred life is born through you. This life is Eternal.

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Enjoy the sensations and relax. You deserve it.

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Breatfeeding Styles: Do You Know What Kind Of Breastfeeder Your Feeding?

Breastfeeding Styles: What Type is Your Little Feeder?

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I know we all talk about what type of personalities mom’s have before and after birthing, and how that might effect their success at breastfeeding. I for one thought that my organized style could get in the way of my “free-feeder”. I have learned to work with my little bundle and help her, just like she helps me. I  have realized it’s not just about my personality, but hers too!

After reading the Sears book, “The Breastfeeding Book”, I was able to figure out what type of feeder she was. The Sears describe several different personalities of breastfeeding babies, so for fun, I will list them here taken directly from their book. I should note this is a great book that takes mom’s from newborn through toddler breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding Personality Styles:

The Gourmet: Baby relishes everything about breastfeeding- the taste of the milk, the feel of mother’s skin, the suck, the swallow. He licks, fondles, nestles, and goes to great length to prolong the experience.

The Efficiency Expert: She gets right down to business. She can drain a breast in five minutes and finish the other side just as quickly. She has places to go and people to see. She doesn’t miss much

The Nip’n’ Napper: He alternates between eating and sleeping. Newborns often exhibit this sort of personality.

Mr. Suck a little, Look a little. He is easily distracted. This on and off the breast behavior is typical of 2 to 4 year olds, who can now see across the room.

The Luxuriator : She loves to breastfeed so much that she often settles into a comfortable nursing position, like you would in an easy chair. She plays with your nipple, your hair, and what ever else is within patting distance. While luxuriating, she may pause and gaze adoringly at your face and reward you with an appreciative smile, as if to say. “Thanks Mom, I like being here.”

I think my baby has gone through several of these personality types, and I have loved them all. It is actually good to know them, so when new personality phases show up, we realize it’s just a phase. It seems to me that as babies develop and grow they change how they feed, making this whole breastfeeding time so exciting and interesting. From the newborn who wouldn’t eat without a cool towel on her forehead to keep her awake, to the loving gazes my baby gives me of late, I can’t think of a more fun way to explain to friends and family how my little baby eats. I hope you enjoy the list too!

For more breastfeeding know how, visit Breastfeeding Secrets.

Recipe for 6 Month To 1 Year+ That Is Nutritious and Necessary For First Feedings: Don’t Let Your Baby Be Malnourished

We want our babies to be well fed.

A recipe from African babies that will be nutrient rich for every baby that eats it!

Hungry Babies Need Food

In our suburban area of Pennsylvania, there were more than 250 babies in need of food last year. That’s not even including the kids and other family members who were in need of food. This is staggering, given the Whole Foods and Giant super food stores not far away. Why are there so many babies that are hungry in an area that has so much food?

It seems hunger is a world wide problem, and yes, right here at home too. Lack of food, lack of money, or lack of knowledge on what to feed our precious babies all contribute to malnutrition.

Helping Baby’s Worldwide with First Foods

Travel to Africa taught me a thing or two about how to help kids in a different culture. My take home message was, “Let them lead the way.” I might know health care in the United States, but had little cultural reference for life in Africa, specifically Kenya. Ethnocentrism, a way of thinking that my own way is best,  can cripple a “do-gooder” like me in a different culture, and I was blessed to have the leaders in our group warn us of it’s misleading ways.

On the flip side, other cultures can inform us and provide us with an alternative way of thinking, which we can then apply to our own life. For example, I came home wanting a more loving and caring health system, and a less mechanical and technological focus. I saw real people getting better with care and love, and little medication in Africa. I saw communities bring strength to those who were suffering with very little technology. Healing through hands on care, time spent, and commitment to a good outcome.

Baby's first feeding should be full of nutrients.

Baby Puree from Africa that has all the necessary nutrients. Protein, fate and carbohydrates.

A Guide for Baby’s First Foods

Having shared such an amazing visit with many Kenyan’s, and to still have friends in Uganda and Kenya, I know that there is a need for more information and solutions for good infant nutrition. Guidance for babies first feedings are relevant to us here in the United States, as we are currently looking at infant malnutrition and mortality as well. In my state of Pennsylvania, we in fact have a very high infant mortality rate.

It’s time for everyone to contribute to a solution.

To contribute, I’m sharing an amazing recipe from the blog “Nutrition Normalised” as a simple feeding solution provided from Mulago Hospital in Uganda, Africa.  At “Nutrition Normalised” the tag line refers to ending malnutrition with everyone contributing to the solution. It’s time we all had the welfare of children on our radar, weather at home or abroad.

Check out the recipe and full article with the link at Nutrition Normalized: ‘Kitoobero’ – A Six months old Infant’s Recipe

Weather you are a mum in Africa, a mom in a food desert in the United States, or a mom who is so busy she can’t eat enough to support breast feeding (yes, a sad but often result of stress), or a cook at a homeless shelter in the United States, this recipe is worth sharing. It’s well balanced and supportive to a growing baby.

Given 20 years of feeding experience, not only am I concerned with the ability of a child to enjoy the texture of the food they eat so they can build sold foundations and happy food experiences early in life, I am also wanting highly nutritious food for each baby. This is a great recipe, first because it can be mashed into a very thin texture. Remember to check with you pediatrician to make sure the texture is a safe texture for your first feedings. Some babies need a runnier texture, others need it thicker.

Nutritionally, it looks good too. I see protein, fat, and oil in a balanced proportion. All this can be purchased at a local grocery and frozen to last several days for multiple meals at a low cost. When buying ingredients try to get them as fresh and pesticide free as possible. For a complete Baby First Foods guide check out the Swami Mommi First Foods Guide.

A simple recipe to make baby food nutritious

Processed (cupcake above) and store bought baby food is not packed with the necessary nutrients baby needs.

In the United States, we use a lot of pesticides so fresh organic beans and frozen casava may be the best choices. Also, when feeding fish make sure to see if they are third party verified for low metal toxicity, as mercury is a high contaminant. The fish provides a strong fat good for brain development, but fish oil tested by a third party to control for heavy metal toxicity is recommended. I have personally done research and find Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Oil to be good as of October 2018.

In the US, I would suggest making the Kitoobero, but only use fresh fish once every two weeks, and the Nordic Naturals 3-4 times per week as a supplement. We really do have polluted waters and there are warning now on how often to eat certain fish since they carry the pollution. However, only do this once you check with your pediatrician to make sure there are no reasons that would make it unsafe.

Fish oil is a supplement, not a food per say, so checking with your pediatrician is 100% recommended. I also suggest you do some research of your own to fully understand the benefits of Fish oil in developing children. In the recipe, I would suggest trying a little fish oil added at a time, to see if you baby likes it. Cooked fish is yummy, but a whole spoonful of fish oil can be overwhelming.

Wherever you live, make sure little babies don’t have unnecessary chemicals in their food, as growing is enough work for the babies body already. It doesn’t need to concentrate on detoxifying the body too. “Nutrition not Pollution” is a slogan I tell all the families I work with in my feeding practice.

Please share this with as many families and places online as you can. Let’s get the word out so our littlest babies have a strong start. It’s you and me who can make the difference, so let’s do it! Across oceans, or across social platforms, let’s make the world a little kinder for our babies.

African baby food recipe is good to share with everyone with a little baby!

Let’s work together to share good ideas and recipes so our kids can get what they need to grow strong and healthy!

For more ideas for food for your baby, that is as close to nature as possible, and also thoughtful about social considerations visit Baby Food Recipes and Ideas.

A Big Thank You to “Nutrition Normalized” for posting this great recipe!

 

A Better Way To Make a Sensory Bin!

“Be kind to yourself! Don’t judge your sensory play set up by how fancy it is but instead by the response you get from baby.”

“Use the basics to get great results. Sand. Rice. Leaves. Water.”

“Use nature to help you build a sensory bin. Create it with nature. Then put it in nature!”

Easy Sensory Play that calms kids.

Baby’s are ready to explore! The more sensory experiences they get in calm environments the better. Why a calm environment? Because they can become master sensory regulators! That means a calm kid now and into the future!

And as a mom and developmental therapist, I follow my instincts and keep it simple when it come to calming sensory play!  I have found that the simpler the better.

Why simple?

Simple sensory play set-up for us moms keeps moms calmer. If mom is calmer, that helps the child to be calmer.  Additionally, the simple set up, in my experience, allows for a calming affect. Simple setting. Simple materials. Items like rice, sand, water, and leaves for example might seem to plain, but they pack a big sensory load on a child’s developing sensory system. They are all you need to create mindful sensory play.

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So baby and I are doing just that these days, exploring simple textures at our home where it is calm and free of distractions and chaos. (These activities can be done with babies, preschoolers, or older kids.) We often do these activities out in nature to make an even more serene environment as the backdrop for our sensory fun.

I am mindful of the calming environment I choose to complete the activity in, and also enjoy the environment when we are doing the activity. This allows for low distraction for baby and for me to be aware of the sights and smells and sounds. This is mindful parenting in planning and also mindful parenting when playing. The result is s sensory bin that is not only fun, but calming!

This activity works for older kids too, or kids that might need to learn to tolerate sensory textures with greater ease. By building experiences that are exploratory and fun, children create confidence in dealing with sensory information, knowing they can handle it, simply because they have been successful in the past.

So let’s dive in!

Today we chose rice!

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Materials: Clean bin or bucket, 1-3 bags of dry rice, bowl for pouring, paper towel rolls, and a basic ring stacker toy

That’s it! Super Simple.

This activity lasted about 15 minutes, which I felt showed good attention for baby. Within the first few minutes, baby was in the bin and exploring! She needed my help to step over the rim of the bucket, but otherwise, she was in her sensory play zone!

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When we got started, baby needed to touch and feel and EAT some rice. I figured this would happen. It’s new, and baby always explores new things with her mouth. I figured rice would be fine, and made sure to watch her 100% of the time to make sure not much of the raw rice could get eaten. I told her each time that she should not eat it and to take it our of her mouth. She did.

I don’t recommend beans or other larger items until baby isn’t mouthing anymore. If a grain of rice gets by my patrol, no big deal. It would get digested and expelled easily within the day. Larger beans like pintos or lentils are NOT what I would want to use. I certainly would not want to have to go searching for beans in baby’s mouth when I can easily use rice. Plus, if I stay calm not worrying about chocking hazards, baby stays calm, and we have more fun.

*As an added note, kidney beans should never be used with kids in sensory play no matter what the age. Kidney bean have toxins that need to be boiled off when cooking so they can be eaten safely. If kids get hold of them and eat them, or the dog decides to have a few, it won’t be good.

Once I knew baby was tolerating the rice on her feet and hands, I thought I would increase the challenge by sprinkling rice down on her. She got rice in her hair and didn’t seem to mind at all. She actually found it interesting and tried to “rain” the rice onto me too! The perfect time to sing a rain song such as “Rain, Rain Go Away” or “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, Baby is Snoring”.

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Baby decided to make up her own game up too. Peek-a-boo is a great game in such a big bin! Can anyone find baby?

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Sensory Play Can Be Over-Stimulating

I keep it simple with the toys on purpose so baby could enjoy the rice and not get over stimulated. Some babies actually find the rice to be too much sensory input on the skin, so be mindful if baby needs a break. Other kids don’t mind rice at all.  It just depends on each kids sensory needs.

It’s easy to get over zealous, putting all kinds of texture combinations together with sensory play. But remember, we are trying to provided sensory input in an environment that lets baby stay focused and regulated. The more calm and focused, the better baby will process the sensory input and tolerate it in the future.

The most important sensory play rule when dealing with new textures really comes down to this: Don’t bring chaos, bring calm.

Be kind to yourself! Don’t judge your sensory play set up by how fancy but instead by the response you get from baby. Baby should enjoy the task for several minutes, attending to the different parts, taking in the new and unique textures, all while being calm. Such observations are good indicators that the new sensory input was processed well. It’s a sign you have done a good job planning.

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We learned to pour too!

The bowl made a great scoop to show baby how to pour. This activity is a great way to introduce pouring before getting out the Montessori pitcher and practicing with beverages. Even better, tomorrow I am going to include the pitcher and  let baby practice pouring rice from the pitcher to the container. Added fun!

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So, give this sensory bin a try! We had such a great time! I could tell by the sparkle in her eyes! No kidding.

Share your own experiences if you give this a try or if you have tried something similar.  Here at Swami Mommi want to hear all about you and your baby’s heart warming sensory play!

 

Montessori and Mindfully Inspired Activities to Calm and Soothe Baby.

Calming Baby Essential Guide

Bonding With and Calming Our Babies in Mindful Ways

Calming activities are easy. They are also cheap and enjoyable.

Calming activities for baby are also a top priority in parenting new and growing babies!

These are long term solutions for a long term calm. And ultimately that means calm for baby, parents, and the whole family. Do them everyday as part of their routine and your kids will be bonded to you like they should be. Statistics show that 40% of children in the United States are NOT bonded to their parents. So being mindful of calming strategies and doing them regularly is of mega importance.

Bonded kids have better behavior, are healthier, and feel secure. All this relates to brain development in a positive way. It allows fine motor and gross motor skills to develop without difficulty. It allows growth to happen with fewer problems. If this motivates you to keep reading, you are well on your way to raising happy kids.

Calming Baby

Babies are born knowing how to suck. Newborn babies breastfeed naturally or bottle feed when provided a bottle moments after being born. Nature has it all figured out, since sucking not only allows babies to get food, but also is a natural calming reflex. This is why babies love their bottles, their mom’s comforting nipple, and pacifiers.

But what can we provided our little precious bundles beyond what they are born with? What are the ultimate calming activities for baby?

As a developmental therapist and mom I can tell you that it’s all about comfort. The tactile system is a babies sense of touch, and it is the number one calming system for a newborn baby. Babies learn and calm through their sense of touch.  It’s what babies need and crave.

So grab a cup of tea and a blanket, cozy up here and let’s dive into into Swami Mommi’s top 7 baby activities to calm and soothe baby.

Calming Baby With Mindful Parenting

#1 and #2: Warm Bath And Baby Massage:

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After checking the water temperature to be safe, a warm bath is ultimately calming. Not all babies love water at first, but several ideas to make their bath-time fun can be used from the start to make sure bath-time is fun-time.

Dimming the lights for example can make a sleepy baby more comfortable with less of a chance of over-stimulation. Before bed is optimal. Also, make sure to give the bath when baby is well fed and you are relaxed. Happy bellies and happy parents make happy bathers!

Calming Baby with Montessori Based Play in the Bathtub

At first bath toys aren’t needed. For newborns, water is a good enough toy. Once baby reaches 3-5 months, they will be interested in toys so it’s fun to add them. It’s good to realize through that a toy can be an old plastic bottle or big cap from a bottle. Funnels and tubes are also great ways to up-cycle old items around the house. As long as they are clean and baby can’t eat them, they will work great!

After a bath, it’s time for message. A simple message would include an organic oil such as Jojoba oil (balancing oil) and include arms, legs, belly and back. When doing arms and legs I always recommend stroking from the fingers and toes toward the the trunk. This keeps lymphatic drainage in the correct direction allowing proper removal of wastes in the skin and limbs for a good detoxification effect. I use semi-deep pressure and sometimes semi-circular strokes at the joints. Finally, I let newborns tell me how they are feeling about their message. They cry some days and giggle on others, but either way I don’t push it. I do what they will tolerate, which is really different every day.

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#3 and #4: Softest Baby Blanket you can find and a Rocking Chair

I had a rocking chair that I wasn’t using for nighttime routine, until one day I tried it out, and never again will I go without! It turned bed-time into cuddle time. Taking the softest blankets I had, I snuggled baby in to my arms and rocked her to sleep. Being mindful of what our babies like is important, but if we as parents like it too, it is self motivating. We are going to be more inclined to follow through as parents on a regular basis.

I was so scared to do this, because I feared that baby would NEVER go to sleep on her own. Despite going to sleep in her crib since birth on her back, I still feared she would NEVER go to sleep on her own once I rocked her. I must have heard just too many horror stories. Well, I was wrong. By 12 months old, I told baby that I would rock her first, and then put her in her crib. For a while she would fuss a bit when I moved her, but now she wants her crib after a little rocking. We of course do the same routine every night. Win-Win!

First I tell her it’s time to go to bed, I turn on the sound machine, and snuggle her up in a blanket. We rock in the rocker for about 20 minutes, until she either goes to sleep or is nearly asleep. Then I put her in her crib. The sound machine allows me to creep away without a trace. Even if baby wakes when I put her in her crib, I just tell her she is OK and that it is time to sleep.

Mindful Sleep Routines Help Calm Babies

We had been putting baby in either her co-sleeper bassinet or her crib for 12 months in a quite room since she was born. Early on she was swaddled in a Miracle Blanket.A friend bought us one and we were hooked. Super easy swaddle, and really helps babies refine there reflexes from extension and startle response, to curled up and calm. This is my number one recommendation to new moms, from day one! Check it out here.

The point I am trying to make is that baby was trained to calm a bedtime from the start. This has carried over and allowed us to rock baby and still get her into her crib with little fuss. I am so very happy this has worked so well, as I am not sure who loves the snuggling and rocking more, baby or I.

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Little feet in a Miracle blanket for baby swaddling.

Rocking chairs no longer need be old fashioned, they can be cute an trendy! We got one at Babies are Us, but many re-sale shops have them and they can be jazzed up easily with a cushion and blanket!

rocking baby, rocking chair for baby

#5 and #6: Out of the Way Place To Sleep and a Sound Machine

When I say out of the way place, I simply mean a quiet place where baby won’t be disturbed. As and adult, when I go to a hotel and the neighbor’s party won’t let me sleep, I really just want and “out of the way” place to sleep where no one will disturb me! It’s annoying to be woken up from a deep sleep. Babies feel the same way.

Babies can get cranky from being woken in mid-sleep, and it is substantiated in the research that babies that sleep more regularly have better speech. Why? It was found that speech related neurons grow while baby sleeps, with resulting better language scores overall. So sleep, sleep, sleep makes for a calm and well spoken baby. The ultimate plan to ward off frustration on the part of baby and parents!

Also, the sound machine, is a sleep insurance policy. IF there is a noise that happens to crash or bang, it will hopefully get lost in the sound machines’ background noise. I personally like the machine from Hatch Baby that you can find here. I do suggest placing the machine several feet from baby however, because it is controlled by an app. I keep all electronic devices several feet from baby, including radio and video monitors, as research shows that such devices are problematic when close in proximity to babies and children. An easy read book that talks about device safety in greater detail, writen by Devra Davis who spoke to congress on the dangers of such devices, can be found here.

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#7: Something Small to Cuddle

The bonding reflex is the reflex that insures the diminishing of the startle reflex. So the more bonding tasks the better. The startle reflex, which looks like your baby just got scared by a ghost, is supposed to diminish over time. If it doesn’t then a baby will grow up to be a child on high alert and not very calm.

However, the flexion position, aka the curling or bending forward position, will assist with the bonding reflex and ensure a calm child. Carrying baby in flexion, curling them into you as you rock them, AND carrying something small and soft when walking or sitting, will promote the flexion position and calming reflexes.

Eventually, when a toy comes crashing to the floor, or a ball bounces into their view, they won’t be startled. They will be calm. It’s bonding that lets baby know she is safe, so allow Beary or Stuffed Dragon to go along for the car ride. Let cozy Elmo tag along for the walk. And make sure that your baby has his favorite stuffed animal when ever they need it.

*Note: It is not recommended that babies have stuffed animals in their crib. Once they are older toddlers that are mobile and able to move a stuffed animal themselves, it is safer. Only have stuffed animals with babies and kids that are safe and older in age.

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Routines Help Baby Calm Too

Remember, that if calming activities are done regularly, they are even more effective. Babies like to know what to expect during their day, and they thrive on routine. Even if they get out of sorts from a day of less routine than normal, they can easily move into the next day knowing their routine is there to support them. Although it may look simple, seem simple, and just right down cozy, it’s the science of growing our kids brains so their foundation is solid.

Doing the seven calming activities will grow brain connections that will support your baby now, in a year, and throughout their entire life. This is where a little mindful parenting can go a long way.

Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart: An Easy Grocery List and Baby Feeding Plan.

The Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart: Making Mindful Meal Planning Quick and Easy!

Mindful eating is about letting our kids learn the way they need to.

Mindful parenting sometimes requires getting messy. But the Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart takes the mess out of meal planning! It’s easy!

When I am busy, and I still want to be mindful of what my baby is eating, I get grab the Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart. Because it is a food chart of food ideas, as well as a grocery checklist I can grab it and go.

If you start with these basic recipes, and forget the processed foods, your baby will be a great eater. My kids actually eat artichokes and mussels among just about any other vegetable, fruit or meat, If that is any indication of how well this list works, I’d say it does just fine as a springboard into good nutrition for good little eaters.

The chart took me a several months to make initially, but I share it with parents when I work with their babies on feeding, as well as use it regularly myself. It was well worth the effort as well because it consistently saves me time.

This list is a baby food chart and grocery list primarily for a baby in the first stages of feeding. It goes through stage 1 and 2 of baby feeding texture and tolerance. Another way to look at it is by age, with this list being for babies 6 months to 1/5 years, depending on your child’s style of eating and personal skills and preferences. It’s a guide and will be applied differently to each unique child.

Baby Food Chart for easy meal planning.

Kids eat what their parents eat. Make it both nutritious and delicious for both with the           Swami Mommi Food Chart! This is baby eating Pasta Sauce from the chart and loving it!

Remember that you know what your baby can tolerate, so you should NEVER give you baby a food they do not know how to handle or that may cause a choking hazard. Puree, mash, or smash the food on the checklist relative to what your baby can manage. Safety first.

At first, your baby might not be eating any of the foods or recipes on the list, but it can help to grow their list of accepted foods, and the Swami Mommi Food Chart can help guide you and your little one. Start with familiar food, and slowly add in new ones.

Make sure that meal time is in a calm and quite place, and that it is fun. I know it’s all about the food acceptance for us moms, but for the kids it’s all about fun, and songs, and smiles, and good memories. I always say that feeding is somewhat about food, but it is mostly about good memories and strong baby-parent trust patterns.

You can view the recipes for each item below by searching online, and add ingredients to the list if you prefer. I keep it simple, organic and Non-GMO.  So for example, if you know how to make broth, just use the ingredients on the list. If you have a specific recipe you or your grandma loves, then add it in place of the one I used. The idea is that the foods below are easily accepted and nutritious for you baby.

So grab the list, get to the grocery store, and pick what you want to try. Remember, after you cook the recipes,  you can also share them with the whole family. You may need to puree a bit for baby, but as they grow the flavors will be well accepted. Once you have the whole family enjoying them, you will save time and money. Time because you only need to cook one meal for everyone, instead of several for different preferences. Money because fresh vegetables and natural foods are often less than processed foods.

Finally, make sure you eat these foods too as an example to your kids. They will do everything you do, so make a good impression. When families that I work with do not eat well, 90% of the time time their kids don’t either. When the parents model healthy eating, the kids do just fine.

Wishing you all the fun and yum possible at your next family meal!

This is a baby food chart and grocery list for babies 6 months to 1.5 years.

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