Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do You Make Your Baby's Food?

This month we're starting a new monthly feature - woot!

Since there are so many yummy recipes out there for homemade baby food, and so many of us want to make sure we are feeding our babes *the* best of everything, from breastmilk to natural and organic, non-processed baby food, we have decided to share some great recipes with you! The last Tuesday of the month, be looking for great recipes, tips and tricks for feeding your little one.

So, without further ado, check out July's baby food post from guest Heather Meehan:

I prefer making my own baby food as it is SO much healthier than the jar stuff. I know exactly what my baby is eating, where it came from, what is in it and how fresh it is. It is completely unprocessed and has no additives.

At times I feel like it is cheaper than jarred foods but the fresh fruits and veggies can get expensive in the off season. I do however feel the price is comparable. It is worth it to me to pay a little extra to have the best for my baby. I will only use fresh or frozen, never canned!

When my baby was about 5 1/2 months, I started a few simple things like avocado and banana. Those are both items that can be mashed with a fork and served raw. As I started adding new items...apples, pears, sweet potato, butternut squash...I cut them up, steamed or baked them to softer texture.

I then use a baby food grinder to grind up the foods to the texture I want. Much thinner when starting out and getting thicker and chunkier as she has gotten older. My grinder has 3 texture blades. You can certainly use a blender or food processor but I found an actual baby food grinder that I love. It was an ebay purchase. It was made in the 70's but had never been used. There is something to be said about products that were made back then. It is much like the Munchkin hand grinder you can find in retail stores. There are other great grinders like the Baby Bullet and the Brezza.

I cut and peel the fresh fruits, steam them to soften and grind. Frozen fruits, just let them thaw and grind. Things like peas, green beans and spinach, asparagus I wash, cut up, steam on the stove, let cool, grind. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash I bake in the oven for 1 hour, let cool and grind. Meats I brown up the ground turkey, grill the chicken and  grind.  You may need to add some water to the puree to get it to the consistency you need for your baby. You can add the water before you freeze or as I did, add breast milk when I was ready to serve it.

When it comes to freezing the food, I use ice cube trays with lids. I like them because they pre portion the foods for you. Once the food is in the trays, set them flat in the freezer until frozen solid. After they are frozen remove them from they tray. Easiest way to get the food out of the tray in to dip the bottom of the tray in hot water for a few seconds to loosen them. Transfer the food to a ziploc freezer bag. I would store them no longer than 3 months in a deep freeze. Much after that and they start to look freezer burnt.

Serving: When I started out I would use one cube of food. Let it thaw on the counter and serve. As your child gets older you can add more cubes and you can start to mix and match foods. We are serving quite a variety now. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, peas, avocado, asparagus, spinach, green beans, plums, apples, pears, peaches, mango, berry blend (frz mix), tropical fruit (frz mix), and mixed fruit (frz mix). We have recently added in grilled chicken breast and ground turkey.
For breakfast I serve 2-3 kinds of fruit (approx 5 cubes) mixed with breast milk and rice cereal. For lunch and dinner I choose 2 green veggies, 2 orange veggies, a meat and 2 fruits. (This is once you have introduced them all individually). Meal example: 2 cubes of spinach, 2 cubes of carrots, 2-3 cubes of apple and banana and a cube of chicken. Thaw and serve. When she was younger I would mix the fruit into the meat and veggies, now I serve it separate.

You should always introduce new foods 4-5 days apart in case of allergic reaction.
We are just starting to add in berries as they are very high in acid and at the top of the allergy list.

Storage: To make my life easier I purchase a couple packages of the Take and Toss bowls and stock them with a meal. When it is meal time I grab one out, thaw and serve. Simple. When I am on the run, grab a bowl, throw in the diaper bag and when lunch comes around, serve. Simple. I have even found many restaurants that will warm baby food for you.

It has all been trial and error for me but in the end it was very rewarding. You can prepare foods once a week or even once a month. If you have all the supplies on hand it really is quick and easy. There was not one food that my baby turned away. I wish I had been more willing to try this with my older daughter because it really is a much healthier option. 

~Heather L Meehan 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Safety in Babywearing

The babywearing world has seen a lot of use of and controversy surrounding the word “safe” lately. The other word that gets thrown around is “ideal”. What do these words mean in the context of babywearing? And are we helping or hurting the babywearing industry with their use?

Let’s start by considering why we babywear. If you ask 10 families why they babywear, you may very well get 10 different answers. You may hear that the baby cries less, or that mom is able to get things done. Breastfeeding is easier or the parent just prefers the closeness. The bottom line though, is that human infants expect to be held. It is in our innate nature to seek the security of a parent, preferably the mother, because that is where we are safe.

Oh wait, there is that word again, safe.

Dr. Nils Bergman, the expert behind Kangaroo Mother Care, was quoted as saying "The very best environment for a baby to grow and thrive, is the mother's body. When placed skin-to-skin on the mother's chest, the baby receives warmth, protection and food, and its brain can develop optimally. Not feeding the baby often enough and leaving it to sleep alone after a feed can result in the baby getting colic," he adds. "The mother's skin is the baby's natural environment, and both physically and emotionally the healthiest place for the baby to be". “

So what does safe mean? According to one dictionary definition, it means the following: secure from liability to harm, injury, danger, or risk: a safe place.

In the very simplest terms, a baby kept close to its mothers heart, is provided food, oxygen, warmth, and protection from outside harm. He is safe. A baby in arms is safe. Learning to babywear is a tool that can allow the parent to multi task while meeting the infant’s need for closeness. As long as the carrier doesn’t interfere with those basic needs of food, oxygen, warmth, and protection from harm, it is still SAFE.

Moving on to the other catchword: ideal. What does this one mean? Consulting my dictionary again, I find this, “a conception of something in its perfection”. Interesting. Who decides what is perfection? I can only answer this from my point of view based on my education, study and experience. My formal education comes from the Babywearing Institute in Utah and is based on the work of Drs. Evelin Kirkilionis and Ewald Fettweis among others. As with most fields, I feel that I am continually learning, as the babywearing world shifts and develops, especially in the United States.

When we start discussing ideal, we are moving beyond just safe, to a place where babywearing can be used to aid in development, and aid in protecting the caregivers body from the normal stress that carrying additional weight brings. We also can throw comfort in there, which of course is going to be subjective based on body types, strength, tolerance, etc.

Given the definitions of “safe” and “ideal” we can conclude that nearly all babywearing is safe; however, some carriers and carries are closer to the ideal than others. Certainly ideal babywearing is…well…ideal. The benefits of safe babywearing, even if it is less than ideal, are numerous. It is therefore important to support all babywearers and types of safe babywearing, while gently encouraging and supporting the evolution of babywearing toward the ideal.

So let’s wrap this up with some actual suggestions!

First rules of safety:
  1. Don’t drop the baby! When you are learning a new carry, practice with a spotter if available, and /or a mirror, over a soft surface. Check all knots and buckles to make sure they are secure.
  2. Protect the baby’s airway. Make sure that baby’s face is always visible and that you can fit 2 fingers between his chin and chest. If baby makes any grunting or snoring sounds, remove her from the carrier and reposition.
To help support the growing baby’s spine and hips:
  1. Look for a carrier that supports the baby well, including head and lateral support.
  2. Avoid carries and carriers that put pressure in the middle of a young infants back, even support spread across the baby’s entire torso is preferred.
  3. Use a carrier that supports a baby from knee to knee, so baby is in a seated “spread squat” position, rather than with legs dangling.
To protect the caregivers back and pelvic floor:
  1. Wear the baby high and tight, ideally baby’s bottom will be above the adult’s navel. The exception to this is a structured carrier that provides lumbar support.
  2. Wear the baby facing in towards the parent, to keep the center of gravity close to the wearer’s body.
Whenever possible, try to get hands-on help when first learning to wear your baby. Babywearing International is a great source for finding a local, free babywearing group. For more in depth help, consider a private consultation with a Babywearing Educator. Find an educator near you at the Babywearing Institute.

Happy babywearing!
Heather Felker

Heather Felker is the owner of Sling With Me, and provides one on one consultations and group classes.  As the mother of eight children and grandmother of two more, she has many years of first hand babywearing experience. She is formally trained in babywearing through the Babywearing Institute, and now is licensed to run the east coast campus of the school.
Heather is passionate about babywearing as an essential parenting tool, and as an aid in establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship. 
In addition to running Sling With Me, she leads babywearing support group meetings for the BWI of Delmarva and provides breastfeeding support as a La Leche League Leader. Heather is also a member of the Board of Directors for Babywearing International.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Babywearing - What Carrier Is Right for You?

"It’s all so confusing!!!"

I hear this a lot when people first get into baby wearing.   “Which carrier is better?”,  and “Which should I use?” are two of the most frequently asked questions.  I’m going to break them down by category and give you the pros and cons of each type of carrier.

Pouch carrier:   One large loop of fabric. (Think Hotsling)

Pros of the pouch carrier:
*Can fold up very compactly to fit in small spaces.
*Baby can be put in and removed quickly and easily.
*Can be used from birth.
*Can be used for front, hip, and back carries.

Cons of the pouch carrier:
*Size specific for the wearer.
*Not adjustable.
*Can be easy to use an improper position in.

Ring Sling:  One long piece of fabric that uses 2 rings to secure around the wearer.  

Pros of the ring sling:
*Relatively inexpensive.
*Can fold up very compactly to fit in diaper bags/purses.
*Baby can be put in and removed quickly and easily.
*Can be used from birth.
*Easy to breastfeed in, and the tail can serve as a cover.
*Endless fabric/color/print combinations.
*Can be used for front, hip, and back carries.

Cons of the ring sling:
*Widely not available locally.
*Slight learning curve for correct positioning. 
*May not be suitable for larger babies/toddlers, depending on material choice.
*May be less comfortable than 2 shoulder carriers.

Knit wrap, AKA “stretchy wrap”:  One piece of knit “stretchy” material that measures several meters in length. (Think Moby wrap)

Pros of knit wraps:
*Certain brands are available in several retail stores.
*Easy to make yourself with the right material.
*Fold, braid, or roll up for easy storage.
*Baby can be put in and removed quickly using pre-tied carries.
*Can be used from birth.
*Easy to breastfeed in, and cross passes can be used for a nursing cover.
*Many color/print options.
*Available in several sizes.
*Can be used for front, and hip carries.

Cons of knit wraps:
*Not ideal past about 15 pounds, as the material starts to loose it’s stretch and sag, as well as become uncomfortable for the wearer.
*Generally not safe for back carries.  There are a few brands that are, but they are not available in brick and mortar stores.
*Material may be uncomfortable in warmer weather.

Woven wrap: One long piece of woven material, measuring several meters long.

Pros of woven wraps:
*Can be used for front, hip, and back carries.
*Easy to breastfeed in.
*Available in many sizes.
*Endless color and print options.
*Can be made yourself with several different materials.
*Fold, braid, or roll up for easy storage.
*Hold resale value well.
*Can be used from birth.
*Has no weight limit.  As long as mom and child are comfortable, you’re good to go.

Cons of woven wraps:
*More expensive than other options.
*Not available locally for most people.
*Learning curve for carries can be quite large.

Mei tai: Traditional Asian carrier with 1 panel and straps from each corner.

Pros of mei tai:
*Easy to get baby in and out quickly.
*Can be used for front, hip, and back carries.
*Inexpensive options are available in retail stores.
*Many color and print options.
*Hold resale value well.
*Easy to breastfeed in.

Cons of mei tai:
*Learning curve for tying.
*Not ideal until 4-6 months.

Soft structured carrier: Soft bodied carrier with straps and buckles.  (Think Ergo.)

Pros of soft structured carrier:
*Easier to use that wraps.
*Can get baby in and out quickly.
*Easy to breastfeed in.
*Available in many colors and prints.
*May include accessories like a sleep hood, foot stirrups, toy and cup holders.
*Can be used in front, hip, and back carries.

Cons of soft structured carrier:
*May not be available locally. *
*Not ideal until 4-6 months, even with infant insert.
*Higher cost than other options.
*Weight limits for safe carrying.

Harness carrier:  A more structured carrier that uses straps and buckles.  Primarily used for front carries, with the option of facing baby out.  The panel is typically narrower than a soft structured carrier’s. (Think Baby Bjorn.)

Pros of harness carriers:
*Available in most big box stores and many other retailers.
*Even though it’s not an ideal carrier for various reasons, baby is still getting the benefits of being worn.

Cons of harness carriers:
*Do not allow for ideal positioning for baby’s hips and back.
*Can be hard on the wearer’s neck, shoulders, and back, and a woman’s pelvic floor, especially when facing baby out.
*Generally not recommended for back carries.
*No hip carry option.

So to answer the question “which carrier is better?”, in my opinion, it’s a complete personal choice.  I have found all of the above carriers to be helpful at different points of my baby wearing years, even a harness carrier before I was aware of the other options.  My recommendation is to find a baby wearing group near you, a friend that has a carrier you can borrow,  or a vendor that has a rental option, and try them out to find out which carrier style best suits your needs.  If you are looking for a site to learn more about baby wearing, I recommend www.thebabywearer.com .  It’s a virtual Mecca for all things related to baby wearing, including links to video tutorials for assorted carries with all styles of carriers, buy/sell/trade boards, advice forums, and more.  There is also a chapter of Babywearing International starting up in Sioux Falls, and we will hopefully be able to help you with any further carrier questions you may have by fall of 2012.

Jessica Tebben
Naturally Empowered Birth Services

*Editor's Note: Elegant Mommy carries Ergo AND Boba (both soft structured carriers), so you can find them in Sioux Falls! You may not be able to find them where you live, but if you are interested in one, you can always order them online...just check out our website!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Benefits of Babywearing

Whether you're new to baby wearing or not, I'm sure you can think of some really great benefits to having your baby close to you - er - *on* you.

I was first introduced to baby wearing when my youngest brother was a baby. He's 14 years younger than me, so I was old enough to have a major role in caring for him. My mom had some kind of carrier back then...I think it must have been similar to a Bjorn, but I can't say for sure. I just know I absolutely loved to use it. It was so friggin convenient while doing dishes or other chores around the house to be able to hold him so he wouldn't cry, have him comfortable, and frankly, who can resist having a precious babe so snuggled up to you - especially without putting forth much effort?

I have always loved the idea of wearing babies, and even well before hubby and I had kiddos, I would recommend it to friends of mine...particularly ones that had fussy babies who never wanted to be put down therefore mamas felt like they couldn't get anything done. I never knew what they were called, or that there were different types, or even that there was a correct way to wear babies, but there was something in me ever since the tender age of 14 that knew it was a good thing.

Only pretty recently have I even learned about all the different ways to wear babies, different carriers, and how truly beneficial it really is. With our first, my sister-in-law gave me her Bjorn, so I used it relatively often and wore Vienna around while doing things around the house. She wasn't a baby that always wanted to be held, though, so I didn't wear her *all* the time...just when I thought about it and needed to for whatever reason.

When I was pregnant with Porter, my sister Renee and I were talking with a friend of ours who had recently had a baby (Renee had also just had her first baby and I was pregnant, so we had a lot to talk about *wink*). Anyway, our friend was using a Moby. I saw it and fell in love pretty instantly. We had her demonstrate how to wrap it, etc, and she proclaimed her love for it as well. I'm pretty blessed to have such a wonderful sister, because as my "baby gift" when I had Porter, she gave me one. I was SO excited!! I figured out how to use it immediately, and absolutely *loved* how comfy and secure my precious newborn was while I wore him...I continued to wear him throughout baby-hood, and even now once in awhile I'll throw him in a sling if he's wanting to be held and I am busy doing other things.

There are so many benefits to baby wearing. I've borrowed this official list of benefits from the Babywearing International website, but truly, I think you only have to wear your baby one time to fall in love with it and to understand how wonderful wearing your little one is.

Benefits of Babywearing

Medical professionals agree that infants thrive through touch; “wearing” your baby is another way to meet this need. But the benefits of babywearing don’t end there … babywearing offers many other advantages, some of which include:

• Happy Babies. It’s true … carried babies cry less! In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours. (1)
• Healthy Babies. Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not. (2)
• Confident Parents. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression. (3) (4)
• Loving Caregivers. Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby isbecoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!
•Comfort and Convenience. With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps to reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier!
1 - Hunziker UA, Garr RG. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A random-ized controlled trial. Pediatrics 77:641-648
2 - “Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants”. J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
3 - Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers’ touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
4 - Tessier R, M Cristo, S Velez, M Giron, JG Ruiz-Palaez, Y Charpak and N Charpak. (1998) Kangaroo mother care and the bonding hypothesis. Pediatrics 102:e17.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Soft Structure Carriers

So, for the remainder of the month, I'm going to be posting some great articles on baby wearing by some baby wearing gurus, being sure to touch on the benefits, common myths, and proper ways to wear your babies.

Right now, to go along with our special of the week, in this video you will find some benefits of a soft structure carrier, particularly with the Boba carrier. Also, make sure to check out the new BobaAir carrier!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Time for Gratitude: Well Thought Out Plans

Good grief! It's been awhile since I've posted anything here - I'm sorry!! I know you all understand how busy life can be, though...there have just been some things that have taken over the last couple weeks.

Last week was a lot of prep for the SD Birth Matters Conference that was held on Saturday. If you didn't make it out for it, you missed out on a great day!! We had one of my most favorite women in the birth-world as the keynote speaker (Vonda Gates...you can check out her site here), and also a fun baby wearing style show put together by Jessica Tebben and some of her baby-wearing-mama-friends. It was great! I took some video of the baby wearing style show, and since I want to do some baby wearing features here this month, I am going to do my best to splice and dice what I have and get some of it posted so you all can gain some of the knowledge shared...we'll see if I can figure out the editing software I have. Wish me luck! ;)

And this week I've been helping my mom do an acid-stain finish on one of her floors (a cement floor in a cabin they built behind their new garage). The only thing I can say about that is that it might be worth the money to hire a contractor to do it if you are thinking of it. What a friggin' headache! It took us all of one day and a chunk of the following day just to get it all prepped, then we got it sprayed...keep in mind this is *acid* treatment, so of course we had to be super careful with protecting ourselves - luckily my dad and brother were combining in a field near their house so we got to ship the kiddos off to ride in the combine while we did it. Thank goodness.

But that's not all...then there's the cleanup. I didn't go for the third day to help neutralize the acid and help her clean it up because, well, frankly, I can't do *everything* ;)...I do have things that need to get done here at home, too - ha!

Anyway, the time and effort is definitely going to show...what a gorgeous finish! This picture is what it looked like after we sprayed (the white spot is just a reflection from the window - you can kind of see the rest of it)...it's not the finished product, though I'm sure it will look something similar...after it set for 4-24 hours it needed to be neutralized and washed off, then a sealant sprayed on. I haven't seen how it looks now that it's finished, but mom said it's really pretty.

I do love doing things like that, but should know by now that reading instructions well in advance is a good idea so that we can be as efficient as possible and not take a full three days to get it done - ha!

A well thought out plan, this was not. However, I guess it just makes it better when plans do come together and everything goes super-smoothly!

I think all of life and birth/breastfeeding/parenting can be compared to doing this floor. We got the job done, but would have been much more efficient at it with the information well ahead of time instead of half-way through the first day. What we had been doing hadn't been hurting anything, but it didn't get us where we needed to be with it, so we had to change and update our course.

I see and hear about this all the time, especially in pregnancy and birth. So often mamas are just "coasting" along, without researching their options (or even knowing that there are options - aka: me with my first birth), or exploring themselves to know what they really want out of their birth, let alone having all the information to make an informed choice on anything. So, I guess what I'm saying is that having all the information ahead of time makes things SO much easier! Even if things don't always go according to plan, at least you have an idea of where it should be and what you can do to reach your final goals.

So, my point is this: YAY for well thought out plans!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Simply.Natural. Giveaway!

Everyone likes a giveaway, right?

Well, we've got one for you this week! Our featured product is Simply.Natural., and with every purchase of a Simply.Natural. product, you get your name entered for a Simply.Natural. basket! If you purchase the *NEW* Naturally.Numb., you get three entries into the giveaway!

If you "like" both Simply.Natural.'s facebook page, and our facebook page, you will also be entered. Just remark in the comments below (only on this blog) that you "liked" us both, and we'll enter your name in the drawing as well! Please note: You MUST indicate your facebook name in the comments for it to be counted!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Babywearing, anyone???

This month we are going to be talking about baby wearing a lot, and I plan to even have some video demonstrations from the birth conference after this weekend - yay!

To kick things off, I thought it would be fun to post a link to one of those babywearing flash mobs...have you seen them before?

Well, while I was looking for a good one, I found this. And I kinda like it...I'll post a flash mob a different day :)

Until then...