First Foods: Is My Baby Ready?

Blog Title: First Foods - Is My Baby Ready? Header image designed by Ruth Castillo, adapted with photograph, "Mimi Feeding 2" by Phillippe Put (via Flickr)

Thanksgiving 2011 was pretty special. My daughter was just about 6 months and everyone was coming over to our house for dinner.  I was so excited to show off my new found Super Mom abilities by parenting a six-month-old and single-handedly preparing a complete turkey dinner for 10 people!  I have no recollection of how the meal went over, but I do remember that it was my daughter’s first meal.  We put her in her high chair, covered her in a cute bib and offered her a spoonful of sweet potato – roasted just for her!  I was pretty stoked.

Many parents get excited to offer their child their first mouthfuls of food, but how does a parent know when the time is right to start offering solids?

Many health organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, have general recommendations suggesting waiting until around 6 months of age to introduce complementary foods.

Why? At birth, infants are not well-equipped to digest much more than breastmilk, much less deal with breaking down solids efficiently.  We cannot see when that magical switch turns on that says an infant’s gut is ready to start digesting more complex sources of nutrition, but around six months of age many infants show outward signs of being able to eat.

Many parents will report around five and six months that their baby is reaching for their cups and plates.  This interest with eating (or playing at eating at least) is one sign that baby is ready to try foods.  An observant parent will see these others signs when baby is ready for solids:

  • Loss of the “Tongue Thrust” reflex.  Newborn and very young infants will naturally push foreign objects forward with their tongue.  As their oral muscles mature, they’ll “lose” that reflex and have more control over their tongues and finally be able to work food from the front of their mouths to the sides to be chewed up and then to the back to be swallowed.
  • Baby is sitting up well on his own.  Your mother always told you to sit up when eating and infants are no different. Babies who do not have the trunk and neck control to sit up might not yet be ready to control his eating.  Let baby work on one milestone at a time and offer more tummy time and babywearing time to help them get to that point.
  • Development of the pincer grasp.  When baby is finally able to pick up small objects (like a tiny, smushy cube of ripe avocado) with his thumb and first fingers like a crab claw – instead of smashing them in his palm, Hulk style – he is ready to bring them to his mouth.

Many parents will find these developmental markers show up somewhere between five and eight months, but the most important take-away is to watch baby.  Baby will indicate that he might be ready to try new foods – and he will also tell you when he is done with lunch or snack.  Let your child be your guide.

Contact me today to learn about a “First Foods” consultation and other services.


Image: Phillippe Put, via Flickr.

Perfected

I made perfect hard boiled eggs the other night.

For those of you who do not know me well, know this: making hard boiled eggs is a challenge for me.  I do not do well when I cook something and the only instructions are “1) Put the something in a pan.  2) Add water to the pan. 3) Put on stove. 4) Cook until done.”

I cannot cook foods boiled eggs or rice for several reasons.  I get impatient and I peek and poke and prod and stir.  I get distracted and let things boil dry.  I fail to add enough water.  I add too much water.  I add unnecessary ingredients.

I’m a lot better at “no cook” recipes and desserts, especially anything baked.  Which is weird as it seems to be the reverse for others – they can make staples but are intimidated by baking.

But last night, I did it.  I paid attention.  I sat back and waited for the boil.  I set a timer when I turned off the heat and remembered to use a lid.  And my eggs came out perfectly set.  I feel like I am the first person in history to perfect the process.  (Not even remotely, thanks Martha.)

I have perfected the fine art of making hard boiled eggs.

I’m learning attentiveness and patience.  That’s my goal for the new year.

That and to learn to make rice without a rice cooker.

I am so far from perfect… and it’s okay.  I am Ruth-at-this-moment.  Perfected.

So tell me, what did you perfect this week?  What will you perfect in the new year?

Enjoy Your Holiday Beverages (Responsibly)

Drinking while breastfeeding is okay
Is that glass of champagne at the stroke of midnight okay if you’re breastfeeding? (Photo: Chris Chapman)

Many parents worry about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.  That’s a very valid concern, especially when we consider how much we are cautioned against drinking alcoholic beverages while enciente, because of the risks to the child.

But a drink or two while breastfeeding is OKAY – and you do not have to “pump and dump,” either!  If you don’t believe me, check out this FAQ on Alcohol from La Leche League.

An IBCLC colleague of mine, Tina, of the MILC Group, did offer a good reminder: because our hormonal chemistry is different while breastfeeding, and because you may have avoided alcohol for the better part of a year during pregnancy, your tolerance for alcohol will be different.  So, as always, drink responsibly!

Enjoy your New Year’s celebrations, Mamas!  See you in 2015!

A disclaimer: I am not telling anyone to drink, nor encouraging anyone to do anything they are not safe or comfortable doing.  Please use your best judgement and consult a health care professional for advice specific to your situation.

The Beaufort

One of my most exciting wedding presents was a complete service of fine china.  DH’s grandmother gave us a beautiful antique pattern called “The Beaufort” and I don’t think she could ever understand how grateful I am to use it.

His grandmother personally owns several different sets of fine china herself and rotates through them regularly.  When we visited with my in-laws last Thanksgiving, every meal featured a different set from the meal before it.  She actually began buying her first set piece-by-piece when she worked at a department store during school – you could say it was part of her trousseau.  She’s extremely protective of all her china and she knows where or how she got each set AND she bought complete sets for all her grandchildren to recieve when they married.

The Mister and I would have never been able to afford a set as timeless and complete as the one she gave us – heck we don’t yet have any way to display it so we have to keep it in the closet of the spare room.  That side of his family is not exactly what I would call “warm and fuzzy” but when I get to use the china I feel connected to her and the tapestry of my husband’s family.

Thanksgiving 2009

We’re keeping this Thanksgiving celebration low-key. My mother will be in town from Wednesday afternoon until Friday morning so with her, I’m feeding a grand total of 3 adults.  I’ve worried over and over about what we should prepare for our meal.  Here’s what I’ve designed:

Turkey-free Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Pork Chops, seared then cooked in the slow-cooker with apples, brown sugar, peppercorns, spices.
  • Corn bread, possibly with cranberries stirred in.  I like Jiffy Corn Muffin mix for this; you should too.
  • Fresh “classic” cranberry sauce.  That’s right:  just sugar, water and cranberries.
  • Green bean casserole with frozen beans, bacon, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, generic condensed mushroom soup and the ever present fried onions in a can.
  • Roasted and whipped sweet potatoes – my secret is ground ginger and nutmeg with the basic honey, butter, milk/cream, salt and pepper.
  • Cranberry-Pomegranate Terrine (basically a gelatin mold with nuts and fruit) modified from this recipe on foodnetwork.com.  I believe this is supposed to be more of a side dish but I’m going to go a bit sweeter and play a bit loose with the ingredients and make it a dessert.

My husband was a little disappointed hearing that we were not going with a “traditional” Turkey dinner like the ones he’s had “all his life” (and we prepared Thanksgiving ’07).  Okay, to be perfectly honest, he was shocked and appalled when I broke it to him over lunch yesterday.  I thought I had told him beforehand…  Luckily, we went to a dinner party last night to have a turkey dinner amongst friends – the hostess even set out supplies to make “apple turkeys” and feather headbands.  It was fun and he got his fix: crisis avoided.  My lesson from this: include him more in meal decisions for celebrations like this so that he is not surprised or hurt.

Do you always have the “classic” turkey-dressing-cranberry sauce-veggies-rolls dinner?  Do you have your own traditional menu that you follow everytime or do you make something different every Thanksgiving?