In the land of milk and honey, what can I eat?

The other day, a friend and I were discussing how hard it is to decide between all the kinds of milk available. Shockingly, although there are at least 10 varieties to choose from in stores, new opinions are suggesting going for what is not available at your local grocery chain; raw milk.

Without getting deep into the discussion, suffice that we concluded there are well-researched opinions to support both sides of every food story, and not only when it comes to milk.

Every time you get ready to make a food purchase, you have to decide between organic vs. non-organic, GMO vs. non-GMO, gluten-free, fat percentages, real or artificial sweeteners, etc., etc.. It’s easy to worry that you are making the wrong decision when there are so many options, and it’s even more stressful when deciding what to give your baby.

The good news is, you don’t need to think so much. Let me do my best to simplify it for you, and you can determine from there how much more or less you want to put into it.

  • Less is more: Choose whatever is closest to its natural state. Avoid added sweeteners (even the artificial kind), salt, etc.
  • Fat is okay, in fact, lactose goes down better with a side of fat, so skip the fat-free dairy.
  • When to go organic: When you are going to eat the peel, and with animal products, to avoid pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
  • What can’t be regulated should be questioned. Food that isn’t FDA approved may not be for a very good reason. It’s not because the government doesn’t want us to have what’s good for us. Be discerning.
  • Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune. There are billions of families without the time or money to get picky about nutrition, and their kids turn out just fine.
  • A little salt and/or sugar won’t kill you or your baby. Just remember that sweet and savory cravings are learned, addictive behaviors. Learning to eat a little and be done is actually healthier than going without and then bingeing because it’s the forbidden fruit.

If you are obsessing about reading every nutrition label, although you are well-meaning, you have too much time on your hands. There are so many ways you are shaping your family, food only being one of them, and no one expects you to be perfect. Shoot to make healthy decisions 80% of the time, and don’t beat yourself up about the other 20%. Some families have no choice but to eat what they can get, so be grateful you lead a lifestyle that allows you to be picky.

My dad is forever telling me he learns new things everyday he doesn’t know how he got by without knowing for all these years. The same rule applies here. When we were kids, no one looked around for any of the labels that stand out to us now, and, for the most part, we turned out okay.

For more nutrition tips, click here.

 


The suggested method for raising a baby

You know what none of the books I read before having a baby told me? A lot of baby advice, even from pediatricians, is simply suggestions.

I started out thinking the only way to do things was exactly how I was told to do it or a method I had read about. Maybe I’m slow, but it took me quite a while to realize that a lot of what I was being told was just opinion, or one person’s suggested method. I thought I might do something “wrong,” and my baby would suffer.

I once had a doctor tell me my son was the perfect size, then tell me to change our feeding schedule because it wasn’t the norm for his age. Contradictory?

Looking back, I could have relaxed a lot more from the get go and let common sense, and my gut, play a larger role.

 

I know why I didn’t relax initially. It has never been harder to be a beginner at something. Think about it; how many times have you started something new where they gave you a living being to keep alive on day one? It’s terrifying. All I wanted was an expert to tell me exactly what to do so I wouldn’t screw my baby up (at least not for a few years).

I really wish someone had said, “As long as you love him, do your best to meet his needs, and pay attention, you’ll be a great mom.”

Unfortunately, all the recalls and warning labels terrified me into forgetting that even uneducated junkies manage to keep babies alive. The pursuit of perfection gets in the way of realizing that simply giving a damn makes you a pretty good parent.

Whether you stay at home, go back to work, use a nanny, put your baby in daycare, use cloth diapers, use disposables, make your baby food, buy organic, use the cry-out method, nurse/rock your baby to sleep, co-sleep, breastfeed, use formula, make a million crafts together, use the TV as an occasional babysitter, teach your baby five languages, home school, etc., etc., you’ll figure out what works for your family, and you’ll be great.

My baby is very much alive and thriving, but I’m not going to write a how-to book. There are a gazillion other right ways to raise a child.

 

 


Adventures in baby food

I’ve had people tell me they gained weight because they ate what they were feeding their children. What exactly are these people feeding their children?

The answer lurks in the children’s menu options at most restaurants. Typical fare includes a burger, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, or a hot dog. Does anyone else find this mix of brown, beige, orange and yellow food a bit boring and processed? Sure, they can each have a (small) place in a child’s food repertoire, but they hardly represent a balanced diet.

I’ve never dealt with a picky eater, food allergies, or a two-year-old going through a phase where she won’t eat anything but bananas. I’m not judging; I’m just putting it out there that parents play a large role in shaping a child’s food habits. It’s important not to project our own likes/dislikes on to them when making selections, or to assume they won’t enjoy vegetables like they will fruit.

Somehow, we’ve been programmed to think babies can only be served bland food, and they will only want sweet options. In reality, they often want whatever we’re having, so be a good role model, or fake it to make it.

When you go to the store, select a variety of options recognizing that babies are developing their palates from a blank slate. When you go out, ask for a side of something healthy, rather than ordering your little one something from the limited children’s menu. If you need something steamed longer so it’s softer or prepared without seasoning, just ask. Most restaurants are very accommodating.

I know I can order an adult entrée that includes salmon and potatoes, request a side of avocado, and share that with my son. It’s exciting for him because he gets to share with mommy, and I know he’s getting lots of good nutrition from it. Nutrition is a fun way to learn colors, too, seeing as how we should all eat a rainbow.

My 9-month-old has already enjoyed all of the following foods, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Oatmeal
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Lentils
  • Beans of many kinds
  • Raisins
  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Apricot
  • Potato
  • Salmon
  • Bison
  • Quinoa
  • Cauliflower
  • Mango
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Edamame
  • Hummus
  • Broccoli
  • Rice
  • Coconut Milk
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Prunes
  • Tilapia
  • Chicken
  • Kiwi
  • Beef
  • Cherries
  • Apple
  • Chia seeds
  • Almond butter
  • Egg
  • Cheese
  • Strawberry
  • Spinach
  • Beets

I hope you read this as me suggesting fun options and ways to make food fun for your child. As I’ve said before, I consider myself very knowledgeable and able to advise on nutritional habits, but I’ve only got nine months in the saddle as a parent.

My son isn’t going to eat only perfect, healthy options all the time, but I want to teach him healthy food is just as fun as less healthy options, and there’s a necessary balance.

I’m always looking for new recipes to offer him, so please share your own fun family food options!


Tips for traveling with a baby

There’s a reason no one talks about how fun it is to fly with children. It isn’t fun.

Before my first flight with my son, I remember thinking about all the times I cringed upon realizing I would be sitting near a baby on a flight. The time has come that I’m the cringe-worthy one.

Pre-baby, I would pop into the airport with little extra time before my flight. Should my flight be delayed, I’d grab a drink at one of the many bars. Once in the air, I’d have a glass of wine and take in a movie. Ahhh, I loved flying. In fact, I was good at it. I packed just the right amount, and was extremely efficient in the security line. Those were the days…

Although flying with a baby isn’t altogether enjoyable, traveling as a whole still is, and I’m not one to park my plane (no, I don’t really have a plane) because things got more complicated. My 8-month old and I already have 4 round-trip flights under our belt(s), and I want to share some tips to help make your flights easier. Goodness knows I googled “flying with a baby” before we lifted off, and I learned some lessons the hard way. Hopefully, I took one (or twelve) for the team, and this information will help you out when flying the friendly skies.

  • Pack light. All you really need on the flight for baby are diapers, a changing pad and wipes. Books and toys only take up space since they’ll likely want to watch your tablet or another monitor, or just people watch when they’re awake.
  • Plan to buy anything bulky, such as diapers, at your destination, since your little one’s stuff will likely take up more space in the suitcase than your’s will.
  • Check your destination accommodations for baby resources. Many places offer equipment and sitter services. Hotels often provide cribs, linens, baby tubs, etc. at no extra charge.
  • If you are flying solo with your little one, look for an aisle seat with an empty seat next to you. You’ll be up and down a lot. If you are traveling with someone else plus baby, look for a 3-seat row, and take both aisles. Middle seats are the last ones to fill up. When you get to the gate, mention to the attendant that you are traveling with a baby, and they may help keep the seat next to/between you open.
  • Be sure your ticket is marked “infant in arms,” and be sure to have a passport for your little one if you are traveling internationally. A birth certificate won’t work.
  • If you find yourself sitting next to a stranger, mention that you will be nursing during the flight. If he/she is uncomfortable, this is the easiest opportunity for them to ask to move.
  • Be prepared for security. You’ll need to put the car seat and the stroller on the scanner belt, so be ready to pick up baby and collapse everything down. This is the time to wear slip-ons and have your liquids, laptop, etc. all ready to go since you’ll already have more to sort through (and carry) than the average traveler. Right before you board, put your baby in his carrier, and gate check the car seat and stroller.
  • On the flight, shuck the rules and any kind of routine.
  • Whatever is a no-fail way to appease the kids, the stuff you normally reserve for special occasions, break it out for the flight. Let them have it their way, and everyone on the flight will love you for it.You may restrict screen time at home, but if it keeps your little one quiet and occupied, this is the time to make an exception.
  • Nurse your baby anytime he fusses. He’ll be thirstier than normal. Babies, just like adults, get a little dehydrated when flying.
  • Use your carrier. My Ergo was great for nursing (the hood is so much easier than pulling out a cover), and he could fall asleep in it, leaving my hands free.
  • Mentally, prepare yourself to be awake the whole flight, and pack snacks since it’s unlikely the timing of the service and you having free hands to eat will coincide.
  • Don’t feel awkward about being “that guy” standing up and walking the aisles the entire flight. It might feel like all eyes are on you, but your fellow passengers would rather see you then hear your baby.

Sugar, sugar; the great cake debate

As we approach Aidan’s 1st birthday, I’m at odds with one of my favorite indulgences…cake.

Up to now, he’s had sugar once. I’m not counting trace amounts in things he may have tasted or natural sugars; I’m counting the one time we let him have a tiny taste of a shave ice, and he proceeded to spit up clear liquid 3x over the course of an hour. We took it as him exhibiting sugar-rejection.

Anyway, after steering clear of sugar for a year, how do you introduce cake, in all its sugarific glory, in one big dose? I wouldn’t go from a caffeine detox to drinking a jug of coffee, which seems kind of similar, but I want him to get to try “the good stuff,” too.

I know I could make him a sugar-free cake, but wouldn’t that start us down the road of having the kid who brings his own cupcake to other kid’s parties forever?

 

 


My baby’s schedule…or lack thereof

I have a confession to make. The only part of our day that’s always the same is Aidan’s bedtime routine. Around 6pm every night we begin our solid foods – bath – nurse – story – sleep plan, and he’s down by 7pm. He knows what to expect, and he goes down easy.

Having such a smooth nightly routine made me want to try to make his entire day like that, but it just doesn’t work that way for us. Here’s why:

  1. Our day doesn’t start at the same time each morning.
  2. Our day isn’t the same every day.
  3. Aidan isn’t hungry and sleepy at the same intervals each day.

For awhile, I felt frustrated and thought we should have it all figured out, but then I considered the following:

  1. He’s happy, healthy and thriving.
  2. He’s flexible. He can eat/play/nap in my arms, at the beach, in the car, in a restaurant, etc.
  3. He isn’t fussy.
  4. He’s in such a busy, developmental time in life that the minute we think we have a schedule going, it changes again.

I’ve decided , since I’m home with him, we can just go with the flow for now. If someone else needs to know what to expect, I tell them he needs to eat every 3-4 hours, he eats solids 3x a day – around normal meal times, and he rubs his eyes when he’s tired – typically after he’s been up 2-3 hours. So, I guess we have a loose routine, but I don’t know the exact times until that day, or, occasionally, until it’s happening. I figure, I’m not hungry and sleepy at the exact time each day, and I’d be frustrated if I was hungry but told I wasn’t allowed to eat for another hour because of my schedule.

Funny, I must’ve raised my dog the same way. He goes out when I let him out, and he’s free-fed, so he doesn’t have a schedule either. Although, when he boards or stays with friends, he learns to eat when food is offered, and go to the bathroom when the opportunity is presented. I guess I hope my son turns out as well as my dog has!

Overall, I’m a fan of schedules, lists, and all other manner of planning. (Read: control freak!) As Aidan gets older, I will continue to look for patterns until one sticks, but, for now, I’m going to focus on the fact that he’s happy and healthy, and take a break from trying so hard to get on a schedule.  We have our things we need to work on, such as sleeping through the night and not associating nursing with sleep, but I know we’ll get there…in baby steps.


Setting up a baby nursery

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I asked several other mommies how to set up my nursery, and they all looked at me like I had asked the silliest question ever.

The question does seem a little silly to me now that I’m a mom because I know how all the “tools” work and where they should be kept; however, when I was pregnant, it was no different to me than asking me to set up a workshop for a mechanic. I was told to purchase all kinds of stuff I’d never used before, and, not knowing it’s purpose, I didn’t know if it needed to be within reach, or stowed away for random, special occasions.

In hopes that I’m not the only person to ever ask this question, I’m going to do my best to answer it. I still recall how hard it was to get my brain to function while I was pregnant, so I’m going to make it really easy. Obviously, there is room for personalization and flexibility. I’m not trying to be a nursery design star, I’m just covering what you need handy, without any fluff or fancy additions.

Here are the basics for setting up your nursery:

  • You’ll need some sort of crib, with a mattress, a mattress wetness protector of some sort, and a sheet.
  • Small bins slide easily under the crib to hold extra sheets and blankets. You’ll want these nearby so you can set the baby on the changing table while you change a wet/dirty sheet, without having to leave the room to go to the linen closet.
  • You’ll also need a changing table, with a changing pad, and pad covers.
  • Within reach of the changing table you need diapers, wipes, diaper and wipe disposal bins, hand sanitizer, onesies/swaddles/wearable blankets, diaper cream, lotion, and cloth wipes/burp cloths. As with the mattress sheets, you’ll want fresh, clean pad covers handy so you can move the baby to the crib for a quick change should there be a poop explosion. (There will be a poop explosion.)
  • Optional items: monitor, mobile, lamp, decorations, hamper, etc.

I have a tiny nursery. It holds a crib, a changing table (with shelves underneath), a tall lamp, and some corner shelving with books, q-tips, etc. That’s it, and it works fine. Any baby clothes that aren’t kept in a bin are kept in the guest room because they aren’t items that need to be within reach at a moment’s notice.

Speaking of baby clothes, you don’t need to have every item washed and ready to go for baby’s arrival. Have a few outfits, onesies and swaddles ready to go, but set the others aside for now. Do laundry as you need more clothes, and keep the tags on items you don’t end up using in case you choose to return/re-gift/donate them. My doula actually suggested taking pictures of baby in clothes with tags hidden if we wanted to show a gifter that it was worn. We didn’t go that route, but it’s not a bad idea!

I hope this helps you mommies-to-be get ready for baby!


Dreams for my baby; dreams for me

I’ve seen a lot of opinions out there about devoting yourself wholly to your baby – attachment parenting, if you will – and I’d like to weigh in.

I am in complete agreement that, as parents, it’s our job to make sacrifices for our children as needed. However, I don’t think this means you should live only for your child, with him/her/them as your only priority. I don’t believe life as I knew it before is over now that I’m a mom; quite to the contrary, actually.

When I look at my son, I’m overwhelmed with hope for him and all of his potential. Just think of all he’ll do and become! At these (frequent) moments, I imagine my parents looking at me and thinking the same lovely thoughts.

I know my parents are proud of me and what I’ve accomplished up to now, and they will continue to be proud of me no matter what I choose to do with the rest of my life. I don’t have to build a legacy or cure cancer to make them happy. Having said that, I’m only 33 years old, and I’m still a young woman with lots of ambition and potential.

The needs of my family will always come first for me, and one of those needs is for me to be the best me I can be. My son will benefit from my growth, and I believe I can grow me without taking anything away from him.

What’s more? This is how I want him to feel one day when he’s a parent. I want him to see that it’s possible, and necessary, to strike a balance between chasing his own dreams, and helping his children achieve their own. The best way for me to team him, is by example. I owe it to my son to chase after my dreams.

 


Baby detox: hard knocks for babies

Has anyone else noticed the trend of taking away everything babies enjoy?

Babies have obviously done something wrong, and need to be punished. ???

Your baby probably loves (or loved, as it may be) being rocked to sleep, sleeping in your arms, nursing to sleep, being swaddled, his pacifier, and being seen about when she cries. According to most books and pediatricians, these are all the wrong things to do at some point, and will need to cease. Some suggest weaning, while others say stop them cold turkey… or else.

Essentially, you need to send your baby into detox from all his creature comforts. The world is tough, kid, get used to it.

I understand the reasoning behind working away from most of these methods/soothers, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking the opportunity, while my baby is indeed a baby, to “spoil” him a little. He’s not an addict, and none of the things I listed will kill him, so why not indulge him a little; after all, he’s not even 5 months old! He probably still has nightmares about leaving his jacuzzi-style oven, where he fed 24/7 and was continuously rocked. Give the kid a break!

Why not hit a happy, weaning-medium? Rock him until he’s almost asleep. Only hold him while he sleeps occasionally. Reserve swaddling and pacifiers for extremely fussy times, and set a time limit for seeing about her when she cries. I doubt the people giving the advice are the same people who have to listen to your baby cry when you rip off the band-aid.

Yes, I want to raise an independent, self-soother, but I don’t expect someone who still poops his pants to have figured it all out yet. We’ll get there, but, today, I’m going to love on my baby however much I want.


Body after baby

True story: All of my mom-friends have amazing bodies.

Common denominator of moms with amazing bodies: pre-pregnancy fitness.

For years I’ve had clients tell me that their bodies went downhill after having babies. It was the ultimate excuse for being overweight and unfit. I never debated this because I’d never been in their shoes… until now.

Yes, pregnancy does a number on your body, and babies aren’t exactly respectful of a workout schedule; however, it’s not “over” after babies.

If you were always thin without having to workout, then had a baby and lost your physique, it’s because the lack of muscle on your body before you got pregnant was exacerbated by pregnancy, and lean muscle mass is what determines the rate of our metabolism as we age. You were thin, but you were also “skinny fat.” Skinny fat means that you’re small, but you’re also soft – lacking muscle tone. I’m not trying to be insulting. In fact, at times I’ve been jealous of you for the days you were slender without trying.

If you know you want to get pregnant, the best thing to do is start a fitness routine before you conceive.

Pregnancy exercise maintenance doesn’t have to be difficult. I mostly walked, with some pushups, planks and glute bridges thrown in a few times a week. When I say I walked, I mean I walked 2.5 miles almost daily up until I gave birth (at which point it was more a waddle). Plenty of people do more than I did, but I want to point out that I wasn’t hitting boot camp all the time, and it still made a difference. Plus, it made me feel good and helped with pregnancy symptoms.

I understand that being bed-ridden, and having a desk job, can make exercise difficult. All I’m saying is, if you’re physically able to keep moving and can find even 10 minutes a day, you will have an easier time ditching the extra weight postpartum.

Another common denominator between the moms I know who’ve gotten their bodies back quickly is that they are all breastfeeding. Breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink your uterus; although, you also have to take in more calories when breastfeeding, so it’s not the only reason these moms are svelte. Again, I recognize not everyone is able to breastfeed, and some choose not to. I’m not criticizing, I’m simply supplying information based on experience.

What I’ve done: After more than 20 hours of labor, I had to have a c-section, so I wasn’t released to exercise until 8 weeks postpartum. At 2 weeks, I started taking easy walks. Since I was cleared, I’ve mostly focused on baby, and haven’t really pushed myself yet. I do pilates leg circles, planks, supermans, pelvic tilts, pushups, glute bridges, and reverse flys about 4 times a week, in addition to walking daily – with the occasional light jog or hike.

My advice is, take your time, but still make time. It took you 9 months to completely jack your body so it could be an incubator for your little nugget, so allow yourself that same amount of time to get back in shape. We aren’t all celebrities with nannies and trainers, and your priorities should be your own health, and a healthy baby, before you get worked up about getting back in your skinny jeans.

Pre-pregnancy, I was really hard on myself about my physique. Postpartum, I find I’m actually kinder to myself because I have so much pride in what my body has accomplished. Rather than using my baby as an excuse, I prefer to look at my post-baby body as a badge of honor. I look like this AND I have a baby. I’m 3 1/2 months postpartum, and I’m not where I want to be yet, but I feel pretty darn proud, just the same.

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