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:

soothe baby, calm baby, give baby a bath, infant message, baby message

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.

tactile sensory activity for baby, soft touch to calm baby, baby blanket

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.

how to calm a baby or toddler for sleep

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.

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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.

mindful meal planning with a grocery list

Avoid Constipation: Don’t Make the #1 Baby Feeding Mistake (I did!)

A feeding guide for parents to help their kids with constipation.

We all make mistakes, so here is my lesson learned. Hope this story helps you feed you kids with confidence.

If you are ambitious enough to start your baby early on homemade pureed foods or if youare able to find a high quality fruit puree at the grocery store, why not try organic pears? I always start babies on pears when they are transitioning to first foods. Well, of course that after I realized that they were so important.

Starting out as a new mom, I was overtaken by cute baby food books, and stressed to be the best feeder ever since I was a feeding therapist by trade. But I forgot about all those foods that were so good and relieving constipation. I didn’t start with them. So when my baby got constipated from drinking too much cows milk, I was stuck.

After quickly thinking what food would help, I started trying them with her. Due to all my effort to get her to enjoy feeding time, with everything from puppets to silly spoons, she took to them pretty quick. But it still took a few days, and we had to wait it out. Thanks to our doctor’s recommendation, we were able to reduce her cow’s milk intake, switch her over to goats milk, and with the added laxative type foods, she was OK.

After that, I made it a point to talk to all my families about getting laxative type foods into their babies and kids diets. Just in case they should need it someday. Sure these foods have great nutrient benefits too, but on a real basic level, I wanted the babies and kids I saw to have these laxative foods on their menus.

There are several types of laxative foods I like and my top 10 are below:

Top 3 Foods that Relieve Constipation in Babies and Kids:

  1. Prunes
  2. Peaches
  3. Pears

The Three P’s in Pooping; prunes, peaches and pears is what I like to call these awesome three fruits. They get things moving weather in solid form, pureed or in juice form. A little mindful parenting and planning should be all that is needed to get your kids to tolerate these foods early. Feeding them regularly will get your kids the road to a healthy digestive system.

Focus on Pears for Constipation Relief

I really want to focus on pears with the main reason being that pears are a safe food to start very early. The other reason is that pears are usually very well tolerated by the youngest of kids.

Peaches and pears should be tired as well, but focusing on pears gives you a template on how to approach feeding these laxative rich foods to your littlest.

Let’s explore why pear work great for babies first, then move into more ideas for older kids.

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Can we do something about this constipation?

Pears for Babies: Great Constipation Relief

#1: Why is pear puree a safe first food for your baby?

While working as a developmental therapist, the Speech Language pathologists would never worry if a little pear juice got in the airway of a child with which they were working. They always told me it was the safest choice because it was most like saliva. I thought that little nugget of insight was quite brilliant. So I used it…and with good results.

#2: Do pears have a laxative-like quality?

Something you probably already know, but just in case you don’t, pears are a great laxative. This goes for adults and children alike. Pear juice, pear puree, and pears all work well to get the mail moving. After a nice meal of pears, most kids and babies have no problems with constipation. If they do, or if their constipation is a consistent problem, the simple pear remedy might not be enough. It’s time to consult your pediatrician.

However, if you are simply wanting to start baby on solids, and you really aren’t concerned with constipation in baby, it’s a great food to try. It can be easily pureed to an almost liquid consistency if it’s put through a good food processor. Add some breast milk or formula for added taste familiarity for baby, and you are all set!

how to help a baby who is constipated, baby laxative

Texture/Consistency Considerations When Feeding:

I usually start transitioning to solids with a texture that is most similar to breast milk or formula. Most nearly a liquid. I always want the first tastes to be fun and an adventure for baby, so giving them a liquid like consistency to start with will not be hard for them to manage in their mouth. I am interested in taste when first transitioning babies because they are still getting their nutrition from the breast-milk or formula they receive.

Over the weeks and months that follow, the texture and consistency can move away from liquid and more towards a true puree, smooth in consistency at first and then with very small lumps. Make sure that the texture is safe for your baby, as each baby has different skills and abilities. I always lean on the side of caution. Go slow, take your time increasing the texture and consistency, and enjoy this very fun time with baby.

I also highly recommend that moms use their finger to provide the puree. Mom’s pointer finger is safe, familiar, and easy for baby to hug and hold while exploring the puree taste and texture. A very small spoon can be used too, but it’s really not necessary.

Sensory Play During Feeding:

Play is the way babies and kids learn. So when babies are still learning about food, they will play with it in order to figure it out. They will actually explore it with their hands and mouth and even rub it on the tray and their hair (yuck!) But let them go at it, it will make them feel like food is just like so many other exciting discoveries they are making each and every day. It really does help them in their development.

I often use toys that babies enjoy so we are combining something new (the food)  with something familiar (the toy) so baby feels comfortable and enjoys the experience. Even a cool spoon would work. It’s really important that baby can touch the food, smell the food, and get to know the food. I always encourage messy eating, and want those little fingers covered in food by the end of a feeding. There will be plenty of time for manners later. This is food exploration time!

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Once babies enjoy the taste, they will usually take it again and again. But remember it can take a baby up to 15 trials to accept a food. So, don’t ever give up too soon. Keep trying the food, even if at first your baby makes silly faces. Actually, silly faces are what I find part of the fun! The face I get almost every time a new food is offered says something like, “Oh my, what in the world is that!”

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DONE! Yum!

Once baby  enjoys pears, you will have a natural remedy to take care of all the important business that happens on the diaper changer. What a difference a poop can make when it comes to a pleasant kiddo! Easy pooping makes for a happy and content baby.

Pears for Kids: Great Constipation Relief

The great thing about getting you kids started early on pears (and prunes and peaches) is that you always have them in your back pocket (literally!) when they need some constipation relief. I know many mom’s would suggest prunes first, but they are not as easily tolerated as pears. Picky eaters even like pears more frequently due to their mild taste. Also, its easy to add pureed pears to other foods like applesauce, pudding and clear soups.

Pears are also really easy to make into cute food. When you kid is down in the dumps from not being able to poop, and meal time is just not that appetizing, fun food is in order. Maybe a pear bug, or a pear dog. Maybe some great whole grain (I still pick gluten free grains) pancakes with pear eyes and a berry nose. Pears are easy to cut up and make into silly shapes. Maybe try a rice-cake with peach jelly, pear strips for hair, prune eyes and nose, and a real peach slice for the smile. Your creativity is the limit.

A pancake with pear eyes and a berry nose to make kids have fun while eating.

Pears are easy to cut into playful body parts for food. Kids love it!

For very picky eaters, no matter what age, there may be either behavioral or issues or issues with gut health present, so consulting as many resources as you can might be helpful in not only getting your kids to eat laxative type foods, but food in general. I have seen many kids struggle when they are not given whole foods from the early feeding years. Also I have seen some kids personally not tolerate foods that are highly allergenic such as wheat, milk, corn and soy, among other. Once they eliminate these foods they do much better, and they often have more frequent poops.

The good news is that now days, so many kids have food issues, that many products are available at grocery stores that were once hard to find. The key here is to still decrease the amount of processed foods, and increase the amount of whole foods. To help you get your family headed in the right direction I have included your very own copy of my Free Feeding Guide: Happy Eating Essentials.

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Thanks mom! A huge poop! I’m ready to take on the world….let’s go!

Let us know at Swami Mommi if you tried pears with baby or if you found another laxative-type food that worked for constipation relief with your baby!

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Breastfeeding Secrets

 

Breastfeeding Joys are as many as grains of sand.

Breastfeeding Joys are as many as grains of sand.

Breastfeeding is hard work, but joyful in so many ways. Its an experience in which so many women should be supported and encouraged, as well as celebrated for doing.  So here are  2 great breastfeeding secrets to make life easier! I found both by accident really, living in Pittsburgh, one when I had my first daughter, and the 2nd when my dear friend Jacki had her second child. I would assume you could find these great secrets in other cities too.

I say these are secrets, because I was not told about them, but rather stumbled upon them. Because my doctors did not discussing these helpful breastfeeding aids, I assume yours might not eaither. So…I will.

Both of these items made a HUGE difference in my breastfeeding success. Without these 2 items, as well as my husband’s patience and support for the first 3 months on, I don’t think I would have been able to nurse. Breastfeeding is hard work, and these two items definitely make it easier.

Breastfeeding Secret #1: Newman’ Nipple Cream

I used this cream to sooth my sore nipple during the first few weeks. This cream gave me relief when I needed it. My nipples were so sore when I started nursing, i could only wear my husband shirts. I had no idea how I was going to leave the house in my strange outfits let alone keep nursing. After using this cream, I breathed a sign of relief. It was good enough to keep me going, and I am now gratefully at 6 months nursing.

It is a light cream that has an analgesic, anit-fungal and anti-bacterial property to it, and it can only be purchased at a compounding pharmacy. It was $35.

SO…where can you get it? I originally got a prescription from the doctors at the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh  and got it compounded at the Murray Avenue Apothicary. With my second daughter, my physician, Dr. Galligher prescribed it after I told him how much discomfort I was in the first time around.

Breastfeeding Secret #2: Breast Friend Breastfeeding Pillow

Can a pillow really be your best friend? In times of trouble….YES! The Breast Friend pillow was recommended after my friend had trouble nursing and was given the “Breast Friend” pillow to try. She said she couldn’t have done it without her “breast friend” and nursed for over a year with it. I use it whenever I need a positioning shift or baby needs to focus on eating.

The pillow is designed for perfect ergonomic comfort for both baby and mom, and has even stopped some nursing behaviors we were experiencing this time around due to it’s awesome support and comfort for baby.  It works in so many different chairs too, even some that are not very supportive or ideal for breast feeding. I LOVE THIS PILLOW. It is my best friend.

So for all Pittsburgh breastfeeding mom’s, let me first say that “You are awesome for doing the hard work required to breastfeed.” For all Pittsburgh pregnant mom’s hoping to nurse, I wish you the best and offer these two items that I would never be caught without again. For mom’s everywhere, I hope you can get these products in your hometown too and I wish you all the joys possible from breastfeeding your baby!

Mindful Parenting: Don’t Lose Your Children To The Rat Race.

Summer play is an unknown ocean. wide and deep and exciting.

Play is an unknown ocean. Wide and deep and exciting.

Time speeds up when you have kids. We measure years in decades and we wonder what happened to our little kids. If you are a parent, thoughtful in your role each day, you may want to find out how to slow down time.

How a Mindful Parent Can Slow Down Time:

The book Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life written by Peter Gray gives parents the reasoning on how to slow down time. Through his real life he has found a way that kids can learn  and at the same time not lose themselves.

After reading his book I felt a resonance. Several issues brought up by Gray really made me think about how we are teaching our kids, and how I want to raise mine. It made me a more mindful in my homeschooling and parenting in general. Montessori methods bring out the beauty in children, and being a proponent of Montessori, I realized even more how important Montessori was in our kids life. I realized that the more organic a learning method was, often the more effective to instill a love for lifelong learning.

Mindful parenting allows kids the time to play each day.

Nature dispels anxiety, and brings forth true joy.

I also realized, most importantly that giving our anxious and stressed kids time to play is essential to their future happiness and mental health. Play is something we as parents need to be mindful of, and ensure our kids get a change to play each day.

I resonated with Gray’s points deeply, as he recalled having gone through a system of education with his own child where evaluations and tests, monopolization of time, and decreased rewards for critical thinking were king. Once he changed his model to a much more organic one, his kid thrived. And so did he as a parent.

I am grateful to Gray for addressing the elephants in the schoolroom, the topic that resounded even stronger relates to how most recently, school life seems to interfere with family life. Gray states his case, saying “Schooling eats into the time that families can spend together, on their own activities. It also interferes with family harmony, as parents must be enforcers of homework, cope with the negative effects that schooling has on children’s moods and home behavior, and in some cases do battle with kids every day to get them to go to school.” It’s true that kids are ecstatic when summer break starts, as they are free once again!!….until camp, and gymnastics, and extracurricular intensive mania begins!

Do kids want all these activities? Don’t kids and parents want a break?

Rachel Macy Stafford, writer of “Hands Free Mama”, (handsfreemama.com) offers great insight into how parents can better connect with their kids. She draws attention to the idea of putting down distractions, including cell phones, pods, and TV.  She suggests that parents reduce texting and use devices only at certain times during the day, times when kids are not awake or are engaged in other fun, creative endeavors. Basically, putting the attention back on our kids! The resulting payback is a huge feeling of satisfaction in being there for your kids.

In essence, not letting your life pass you buy, the life you can’t get back.

We only get one shot at this parenting thing. Let’s make it marvelous. Let’s make it a thoughtful journey.

Don't Postpone Joy

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