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What solids do I start my baby on?

purple vegetablesIf you've noticed your 5-6 month old baby watching you eat, asking for food through gesturing and grabbing and sitting up (or almost,) you are probably asking this question!

You're confused by popular feeding theories.

Traditional iron-fortified rice cereal that many grandparents and pediatricians suggest is one. Another is homemade, jarred and squeeze pouches of pureed "Baby Food" and a third popular way is called baby-led weaning.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) is an odd phase in the US.

"Baby-Led" is clear enough but 'weaning' sounds confusing when used in this context because we generally use the term to mean ending breast or bottle feeding.  In Baby-Led Weaning, weaning is used in the original meaning of adding food to a baby's diet. What is means is that babies start by picking up food and feeding themselves. They learn how to eat by trial and error. 

 What NOT to eat is important.

You can feed any food except honey and foods you, the parents, or other family members are allergic to. Raw honey may have botulism spores which is harmless to children and adults but babies have a weaker immune system and are vulnerable to botulism poisoning.

While you are breastfeeding, there is no need for dairy foods in the forms of yogurt, cheese or liquid milk. Cow's milk nutrients are mostly the same only in different proportions. Your milk is the perfect balance of protein, fat and sugar for a human baby or toddler.

Real Babies need Real Food.

In whatever form you decide to start use nutrient dense "real food" - meat, vegetables, fruit & whole grains. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Boxed or canned food is less nutritious and more expensive.

Apple sauce, avocado, banana, hamburger, diced chicken, mashed or shredded carrots, chopped mango, french cut green beans, sweet potato and diced pears are all common first foods that can be offered. 

Some people use whole grain oatmeal as a base food and add fruits and vegetables to that. Some people start with all veggies followed by fruits in the hopes that their baby won't develop a preference for sweet foods. While there seems to be some merit to this theory, a broad diet using all the flavors is much more interesting than an all "sweet" diet.

Your baby's diet needs yoga!

Consider that ayurvedic cooking classifies salty, bitter, sour, astringent, sweet and pungent as "the six tastes." Work to use a little bit of each taste in every meal and your baby's senses will be satisfied. Everyone has preferences, including your baby, and introducing a variety of tastes helps to balance strong preference. Ayurveda also recommends a mix of wet and dry, cold and warm, light and heavy foods.

Introduce a variety of textures and tastes. Many babies can start with semi soft, chunky, wet and dry foods. Watch when your baby eats. Puree was developed in a time when formula-fed babies started foods earlier and needed drinkable food. By the middle of the first year, most babies have some teeth and are very interested in chewing and biting. Biting and gumming food strengthens their jaw and flattens their palate, which helps to make enough room for teeth. Different textures keep meals interesting.

When to mix it up?

Feed one food for 3 to 4 days, then add a new food. If there are any allergies you know which food is causing it. Food reactions can take many forms. It might be sleeplessness or irritability. Rashes are common and may look like flushed red cheeks, a bulls-eye around the anus, chapping around the mouth, or a pimply sandpaper rash that covers large areas of skin. Diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation are also common signs of a sesitivity or allergy.

The first month or two, the focus is on offering foods and helping your baby to experiment with new sensations and tastes. While some babies dive right in, others take their time. Continue breastfeeding about the same amount you always have and offer food as an add-on.

Biting the Breast That Feeds You

Nothing prepared Jenn for the searing pain coming from her left breast. She let out a howl and looked down at her son. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was Josh with a big smile on his face. He pulled her nipple out another inch and let it go. He stared at her and tried to nurse again when her hand and a loud “No!” stopped him. His smile turned to a cry and he burst out sobbing.

Jenn felt terrible and confused. It hurt! Why would he bite her? Why was he so proud of hurting her?  Her first impulse was to push him away, then tears came to her eyes and she hugged him in.  A quick look at her nipple showed bright red teeth prints but no blood.

There is not much worse than a baby who bites. The most dedicated nursing mother can give up hope when faced with round two or three of nursing after a hard bite.

Why do babies bite and what can you do to stop them?

Most mothers report that their baby started biting at around 4-6 months of age. A baby usually bites because he wants his mother’s attention and her attention is elsewhere. A baby wants to be in constant connection with his mother because she is his lifeline. When she is away, even if it’s only on a mental vacation, he will try to bring her attention back. Other reasons a baby might be biting is because the milk flow slowed, his teeth hurt or he sees he’s getting an unusual reaction from his mother and he’s curious about it.

The easiest way to avoid being bitten again is to pay attention to your baby while he is nursing. There are clues that a bite is coming. In every feeding, you usually have three stages. The first is active feeding time, when the baby is gulping. That is usually a low risk time for biting. Then comes a transition time where you may feel your baby start to become restless, stop sucking or start squirming. Right after this, there may be a pause followed by the bite.

During the transition time, focus on your baby. If he tries to bite, be prepared to unlatch him with your finger. Alternatively, you can pull him in against your breast so his nose is blocked. When his nose is blocked, his mouth will pop open and he will release your breast. Most mothers have a preference to one way or the other.

At this point you can offer him something else, talk to him about nursing correctly or just end the nursing session and hold him. Try not to overreact by pushing him away or setting him down away from you. This just reinforces the feeling of separation that he was bringing to your attention by biting you.

Some babies bite once and never do it again. Others need a little more coaching. All babies stop because they love breastfeeding and you. They don’t want to hurt you or their ability to nurse.

Mother to Mother - Keeping it Real

Who Loves YOU?

Your baby, of course. Your partner, of course. Your friends... Of course!

How about you? Do you love yourself?

Most of us do. Probably not all the time. Maybe not even most of the time. Having a baby can exacerbate this lack of self love. Somehow, that little being brings out your worst: your impatience, your sadness, your anger, your low self esteem, your GUILT!!!!!

You fall into the comparison trap. You see other mothers at their best. You watch TV shows and movies with "Mom Impersonators". Screen writers condemn and make fun of your very worst moments while highlighting the Kodak Moments. You start to think "That's how it really is".

You start to think there is something wrong with you when your baby cries and you can't soothe him. You start to think you have no milk because your baby fusses at the breast, or because your breasts are small. You get anxious when your partner is due home because you are still in your pajamas, breakfast is still uneaten on the table and dinner is some sort of dim oasis far on the horizon.

You just want your mommy. Not just any mommy... but June Cleaver, Mother Theresa and Aunt Jemima rolled into one. Someone who will Take Over, GET ALL THOSE THINGS DONE, and hold you while you cry.

Honey... I got news for you. She's not coming. She doesn't exist and never has. If she ever did exist, she had Staff and probably drank to smooth it all out in her mind.

So what is possible?  A dose of acceptance. A little, or a lot of, "Letting go". Making some new friends who understand where you are at and how it is with a new baby.

Most importantly, you have to ask for help. People want to help you. They really do. See all those gifts, cards, emails, likes, phone messages, texts? That is because they want to help. They want you to feel proud, because they are proud of you. They want you to feel good about being a mother. Your job is to get over this mistaken belief that you have to do it all yourself.

It's not easy. Help doesn't always come in the right sizes, shapes and colors. Sometimes it comes with strings attached. Or guilt. Sometimes it's like a bag of hand-me-downs. You have to sort through it and take what works for you.

Sometimes, you have to be REAL specific about what you want....with your mother...who didn't raise you the way you are raising your baby. It's part of growing up and you can learn how to do it. She may grumble, or criticize (Painful!) but stick to what you want and she'll come around. Probably.

Grieving and Mothering

By Lisa Bullard

 

GrievingandMothering“Mom, this card says ‘Don’t worry about Nancy anymore,’”  Ember says, as she hands me a sticky note she scribbled on.

I wipe away a drifting tear, and take it from her. “Thanks, sweetie. Why shouldn’t I worry anymore?”

I want to know what is happening in her mind, partly because I’m feeling guilty about crying in front of her, and am trying to assess how I may possibly be messing her up by being a mess myself.

Also, I am wondering if with her fresh and innocent mind, she may be more in touch with the ethereal world, and be passing me a message.

“Because you don’t need to cry anymore. You should play with me.” She doesn’t like seeing me cry.

I miss my Aunt. She passed away recently. Having a child did not make me less emotional. I’ve always been emotional and have never done well at keeping my feelings inside. Grief seems to be out of my control, and it comes and goes as it pleases. Then again, so does every other emotion I feel, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Along with the grief comes some guilt. Logically, I don’t know why I expect myself to be somebody different, as if a mother should not have a gamut of emotional reactions and responses to situations. I tell myself, and sometimes convince myself, that it is okay for my daughter to see a range of emotions. My Mom was stoic. She hid her hurts and angers, her passions and fears. I come from a long line of women who always show a happy face to the outside world, a strong face. Perhaps it stems from their prairie pioneering blood. I broke tradition. 

Along with other mothering situations I navigate, I find myself in uncharted territory. My Mom and Grandma did this differently. I have to find what works for me, for us, for my family. I have to be who I am, even if I find it is different than I thought I was supposed to be. Weeks later, Ember asks toddler girlme about dying. I’m glad I can be honest with her. My heart breaks when she asks, “Will you die, Mommy?” and then, “When will I die, Mommy?” I didn’t read about this in any parenting book. I try to be honest, but not scary. “We all die someday, honey, and that is why it is so special to be alive right now, and together.” She seems to be thinking about what I said. “Mom, why is that fire extinguisher red?” she asks, and just like that the conversation is over, for now. 

"As much as I want to protect her from things that hurt, emotionally and physically, I want to share the world with her, and the depth of our human experience."

Besides, I don’t think I could hide my grief from her even if I wanted to. Mothering, rather than making me more stoic, has actually deepened what I feel, and perhaps even made grief more powerful. There is no getting away from it. 

But, grief goes hand in hand with love, and mothering has made me feel love in a way I never felt before, too. For that, for that powerful love, I am so grateful. 

Bottom Line: I Was Never Going to Use Cloth Diapers

I was born at the dawn of the ecology movement, the same year Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book about the devastating effects of DDT on birds and other animals. I was cloth diapered in big white diapers with pins and plastic pants, as were my brother and sister.  My memory is imprinted with my mom dunking and swirling dirty diapers in the toilet.

Ewwww....She didn't use cloth diapers because she was eco-minded. 

She used cloth because everyone used cloth diapers. Disposable diapers were just being developed. She used disposable when we went on a cross-country trip in 1965. She described them as bulky white Pampers that you pinned onto a baby. She vaguely recalled pulling plastic pants over them.

When I babysat in the late 70s, Pampers were the best-selling diaper - disposable or other wise. They were wood pulp-filled bulky diapers with an outer layer that was the same material they make plastic garbage bags out of. The fasteners were tape that had a removable paper backing. I would peel off the little tab and stick the diaper onto baby Jason or his sister Courtney. Sometimes, I would get the angle wrong and try to peel the tape off, ripping the plastic cover, ruining the diaper. 

Fast forward to 1994 Diaper Utopia

I am pregnant and everyone uses disposables! You can buy big cases with hundreds of diapers at Costco. This is a new concept in 1994! They have some kind of really absorbent gel so they hold a lot of pee. They have a clothlike cover and they don't crinkle. Velcro tabs! They are trim fitting which means babies can walk easier and the diapers will take up less space in landfills. In addition, they are inventing all kinds of things like composting diapers and incinerating diapers to create electricity so that disposable diapers won't take over the earth. 

And...My Mother-in-Law's unwanted gift

Fran, told me that when she was a new mother, someone had given her eight weeks of Diaper Service. She considered it to be the perfect gift! It was so much easier and much more sanitary (She's big on sanitizing.) than washing your own diapers! She was excited to find that they still had diaper services and had purchased eight weeks of diaper service for me and for my sister-in-law.

I was shocked and appalled. How quaint! Where on earth had she dug up this best- forgotten, shriveled relic of disgustingness?  Who in their right mind would willingly dunk and swirl dirty diapers? Who would stab their thumbs and baby with diaper pins? And Crinkly Plastic Pants! Are you kidding me? 

I was polite. 

Because of the Bridal Shower "Microwave Gift" incident, I kept my mouth shut and made my husband talk to her and... she didn't listen.
About 6 weeks after my son was born, the phone rang. It was the Diaper Service. "Did you have your baby, yet?"
I've never been good with snappy comebacks and that day was no exception. "Um, yeah." 
"That's great! Congratulations! Frances Bruschi has gifted you with eight weeks of diaper service.We normally deliver to Hicksville on Fridays. Does that work for you?" 
"Um. Yeah, I guess so." I've never been very good with telling people "No." either.
"Great! We'll see you Friday!"

I felt kind of sick to my stomach. 

On Friday, Diaper Dave arrived. He explained that my gift included 80 diapers per week, 6 diaper covers, (they were plain white Pro-Wraps with velcro tabs) a big white diaper pail and a nylon diaper pail liner.  I would get 80 diapers delivered every week. All I had to do was put the nylon bag of dirty diapers out every Friday morning. He would pick them up and leave me with 80 more, bright white, sanitized, prefold diapers. He showed me how to diaper my son. It was easy enough.

He assured me there was no need for dunking and swirling.

I put the diapers in the nursery. I was curious. I took them out of the bag. They were very white! They didn't have any particular kind of smell. They smelled clean but I wouldn't say they smelled like soap, sunshine, chemicals or bleach, for example. I squished my son's fluffy butt. It was soft and hollow sounding. I stacked the diapers on the changing table and waited for the next diaper change.

I changed a few diapers, folding the prefold into the cover and pulling the velcro snugly around James' waist. They were a lot bulkier than disposables. They were also incredibly soft. They were almost as soft as his skin. And, by some amazing coincidence, they soaked up his pee and poop. 

A few weeks went by. I liked using the cloth diapers! I was curious about washing them. So I washed some of the diapers myself. Amazingly, they came clean! I researched and mail-ordered prefolds and covers which arrived just before the diaper service ran out. I had the washing routine down tight. I washed every other day.  I bought a new washing machine. I figured out how much money we were saving and bought a new dryer too. 

I've always been an idealist, a perfectionist and a reformer.

I loved my new washer and dryer. It had a built in second rinse. Washing diapers was a breeze. Every other day, I put the dirty diapers in the washer, set the washer for rinse and spin, reset the machine to hot wash/double rinse, added soap and sat back while the machine did the dirty work. I moved them to the dryer, set it for 65 minutes on hot. I stacked them up: 30 white diapers. I didn't have to go to Costco anymore. I held my nose high as I walked past the perfumed disposables in King Kullen and CVS. 

Once Upon A Child had a tiny store near me.

One day, I saw a garbage bag full of Bumkins All-In-One diapers for $100 - I couldn't believe my luck! There were 4 sizes in the bag and enough in each size for a full stash. I bought them, took them home and washed them. I ditched the prefolds, certain that I had found my true love. 

But you know that's not how cloth diaper stashes work

My friend, Donna, was showing me her latest purchase: Kushies All in Ones. Unlike my sometimes leaky, nylon-shelled Bumkins, Kushies had PVC covers and more layers of flannel. They had cute prints and colors. I had diaper envy. Of course, I quickly realized that I needed Kushies to make my life easier. I bought a 5 pack. AT LAST, I could stop buying diapers- I had enough diapers to diaper the next two or three babies.

Except, next pregnancy, I had twins. I told all Gift Givers to buy me Kushies and received 2 matched sets of 36 small diapers and 36 large diapers. Now that I really was done buying diapers, I went off the deep end with cloth diaper reform.

I move from Fan to Zealot

The twins never wore disposable diapers after the meconium poop passed. Using All-In-One diapers was just easier than buying disposable diapers for an enthusiastic mother on a mission. I bought 40 washcloths to use instead of wipes. Of course, we used cloth when we traveled. When the washer went on the fritz, I packed up the kids and went to the laundromat for our daily adventure. I did feel weird until I saw a guy washing his oil-covered mechanics clothes - at least my dirt was organic in nature and didn't stick to the inside of the washer!

Trash hadn't been such a big deal when we lived in a town with trash pick-up. Now, we lived in the country and took our trash to the transfer station. With three little kids, it was hard to take the garbage weekly. Most of our garbage was "clean" garbage - empty packages and wrappers. We composted food and rinsed cans and meat trays. I imagined the awful stench of two or three week-old disposable diapers sitting in the shed...

I appreciated my washer and dryer and I used them for years. The washer lasted 12 years and the dryer 16 years. (I line dry a lot in nice weather.) Even though I didn't pay for the Kushies, I still saved thousands of dollars by cloth diapering three babies. Each baby goes through about 8000 diapers. I don't have to tell you how much they cost!

I climb onto my "Free and Clear" Soapbox

We don't really think about trash much because our garbage goes AWAY, somewhere. It doesn't sit in our backyard, unsightly, stinking up the place. When thrown away, 8000 diapers is about 30 large black plastic bags of non-compostable plastics, chemicals and bio-waste. When my children were done with diapers, the prefolds went under the sink for spills, dusting and cleaning.  The Kushies fit into one white tall kitchen garbage bag and went to a friend who used them for her next two children.

In the 15 years since my twins have potty trained, cloth diapers have evolved even more. There really is a cloth diaper for every baby and every lifestyle. While I lean towards one extreme, there is value in part-time cloth diapering, too. I share this story for your consideration and invite you to think about the many aspects of reusable diapers and how they might fit into your life.

Every April, we host a Great Cloth Diaper Change. Please join us. We provide the cloth diapers. Even if you only change into one cloth diaper, that is one diaper less in our trash stream.