Real Food Baby: How We Introduced Solids

 

 

One of the parts of new motherhood I most looked forward to was introducing solids to my daughter. Passing on my love for food, nutrition and awareness of sustainability and the environment is one of the many pieces of parenthood that I view as a gift I can give to Grace.

 

Many of you have asked how I went about introducing solids to Grace: which foods we started with, how we did it, why I chose the way I did. My decisions were based on a mix of research and intuition. Grace has eaten a mostly AIP diet so far – not for restriction purposes but for nutrient density. She has eaten some non-AIP foods like seed spices (most days) and egg yolk (a few times), but we haven’t introduced butter, ghee, nightshades (I never buy them), nuts, seeds, any packaged baby food, other dairy or grains yet.

 

This is what I feel is right for our family, and my only goal in writing this article is not to tell you what I think you should feed baby, but to give a detailed example about how this first time mom went about it!

 

 

My top recommended resource for learning about the most nutritious foods to feed your baby is Super Nutrition for Babies.

 

 

Super Nutrition for Babies closely aligns with the Weston A. Price Foundation focus on high-quality pastured animal foods, vegetables, probiotic rich foods and gut and immune-supporting quality fats. It outlines the best foods for baby at each stage of development from 6 to 18 months, which makes planning so much easier. I followed it fairly closely but deviated with my focus on wild seafood and decision to not include whey (dairy-based) ferments as the book suggests because of my history with cow’s milk intolerance that started at a fairly young age.

 

My baby feeding bible!

 

I also signed up for Megan Garcia’s First Foods online course, which was very helpful about timing of food introduction. It includes some pretty neat charts on the exact nutrient density of certain foods (i.e. which foods are high in iron, zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, etc) that I definitely geeked out on.

 

 

I suggest identifying your main purpose/why with food introduction. My purpose was to introduce the most nutrient dense, least allergenic foods that my baby at her developmental stage would physically be able to masticate, swallow and digest.

 

 

I’m first going to discuss why we started with Baby-Led Weaning and transitioned away from it by the time she hit 7 months old. I’ve had that question come up a lot from readers! This is not a case for or against BLW – I just followed Grace’s cues and without influencing her one way or another she let me know which foods she desired at each stage!

 

 

 

Did we do Baby-Led Weaning?

Whether or not a real food mama chooses to do Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) or begins food introduction with purees is typically the first decision in this process. I assumed I would do BLW through and through with Grace because I learned about it in multiple Facebook real food parenthood groups. There were several posts a week advocating for BLW with adorable pictures of little ones sucking on strips of steak, big pieces of broccoli florets, and roasted carrot wedges. The stated benefits include less picky eaters later in childhood, increased ability to handle variety of food textures without choking, and baby developing fine motor skills more quickly through repetitive self-feeding. Honestly, my baby has demonstrated all of those benefits without doing BLW exclusively, and it is definitely not a requirement if you’re a real food mama. Not a jab at BLW – I am in full support of all mamas educating themselves and making the best decision for their family! Go with your gut on whether or not you want to try BLW, and if you don’t have a strong gut instinct either way, give it a shot after doing some reading. 

 

I have learned for myself it’s best to not label my parenthood choices, as our children have different needs each day. Whether that’s our decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate, go back to work or stay at home, or how we choose to discipline our children… staying open-minded and flexible helps us ride the wave of child development. What we choose one day may be the exact opposite what we choose the next day. This perfectly mimics my experience with solid introductions. Grace let me know each day what she was capable of handling, and I wanted to support her needs first. 

 

 

Why we transitioned from BLW to purees & then back to self-feeding

Food waste

I am passionate about food waste, and so much food was making its way everywhere but her mouth and tray table. I know it wouldn’t be that way forever as she developed her feeding skills, but for a short time purees both fed by myself or self-fed were better on our budget and less waste occurred.

 

Nutritional Optimization

For our family, for the best way to ensure Grace was receiving the micronutrients she needs for optimal immune system and gut health, a more controlled puree feeding was ideal. This lasted maybe 6 weeks, which is a drop in the bucket in her entire life. I’m going to bargain that those 6 weeks won’t have a drastic impact on her “pickiness” as she ages.

 

Mom-Tuition

Most important, my mom intuition told me introducing large pieces of food and focusing my efforts on the process of BLW rather than spending my time and energy focusing on optimal nutrition just wasn’t right for us. There’s moms who can do both, but I could only manage preparing the food, and the anxiety of giving my little baby large chunks of food was too much for me. I have had bouts of post-partum anxiety so this was a decision influenced by that. If we have another child, I may feel more comfortable with the process!

 

Developmentally Unready

Grace had a power grasp (a full-fisted grasp) at 6 months but her pincer grasp didn’t emerge until closer to the start of her 8th. This made it difficult for her to self feed certain foods that we were focusing on like liver pate and slippery foods like salmon. I’ve read from multiple high-quality sources that around 6 months of age many breastfed babies need micronutrient supplementation through solids… particularly iron and vitamin D. If a breastfed mother’s diet isn’t also optimal, that baby may be at an increased risk for micronutrient deficiencies. I wanted to make sure Grace was able to consume the foods that would support her immune system and for a short stint, spoon feeding was a helpful vehicle for this.

For me it was more intuitive to focus on just one thing: highly nourishing, anti-inflammatory and non-allergenic foods.

 

 

Solid Food Introduction

 

6 to 7 months (no teeth)

During this time, I focused on pastured and grass fed animal organs, meats, and fats as well as non-shellfish seafood and root vegetables. Honestly, this is still my focus at 10 months because these are some of the most nutrient dense foods one can eat! They supply her with heme iron, vitamin D, omega 3s like DHA and EPA, zinc, B-vitamins, glucose, fiber and selenium, to name a few.

 

Some studies show that exclusively breastfed babies require a diet focused on iron and vitamin D by 6 to 8 months of age due to decreased stores since birth while other studies state some babies are fine without supplementation until 12 months of age. I suspect it’s on a very individual basis dependent on sunlight exposure, mom’s gestational diet, mom’s current diet, and genetics.

 

Other than supporting Grace’s vitamin D stores with food (and getting mine tested to make sure they were adequate), I also expose her skin to sunlight for about 15 to 20 minutes 3x a week. This occurs on our beach walks or when we play in our backyard. If we’re outside any longer, we wear protective clothing and a hat (and Beautycounter Face Sunscreen Stick which is an easy application for baby rolls!)

 

Spoon-Fed Purees (both self-fed and fed by parents)

  • Mashed or pureed grass-fed beef and pastured chicken liver (gently cooked in lard or bone broth)
  • Root vegetables like rutabaga, sweet potato and parsnips (gently cooked in bone broth in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop)

 

Finger-Fed Mashes + Small Pieces

  • US Wellness Meats Liverwurst and Braunschweiger
  • Vital Choice Sardines (flaked) and plain wild salmon
  • Egg Yolk (from local farm, soy-free, soft-boiled and mashed with lard)
  • Vital Choice Wild Alaskan Salmon Eggs (see my article Caviar for Babies)
  • Wild Salmon (baked with dill and lemon, flaked)

 

Fats/Cooking Ingredients

 

 

I ate salmon 5x a week when I was pregnant so I’m not surprised she loves it so much!

 

 

Discussion Point: Food Quantity & Quality

As you can see, she tried maybe 15 foods total by the end of her 7th month, which is fairly average. We minimized the risk of food reactions and it allowed me to more easily determine reactions by only introducing a new food every 3 to 4 days for 60 days. To determine food quantity, I offer small amounts (about 1 tablespoon at a time currently at 10 months) and continue to refill her tray until she signals she is full.

 

Average Meal Size (this varies based on teething)

6 months: 1 to 2 tablespoons food per day (1 to 2 meals per day)

7 months: 2 tablespoons of food per meal (2 meals per day)

8 months: 2 to 3 tablespoons of food per meal (2 meals per day)

9 months: 2 to 4 tablespoons of food per meal (3 meals per day)

10 months: 4 to 6 tablespoons of food per meal (3 meals per day + 1 snack)

 

Meal Timing 6 to 8 months

I always breastfed her before each meal and waited at least 30 minutes before feeding solids. I wanted to protect my milk supply and ensure she was hungry enough to breastfeed during solid introduction.

 

Meal Timing at 9-10 months

Morning Meal: I breastfeed her 1 to 1 1/2 hours prior to her morning meal so she has adequate breastmilk nutrition but still has an appetite for solids. This is her smallest meal of the day. She breastfeeds again before her morning nap.

Afternoon Meal: I breastfeed her 2 hours prior to her afternoon meal, allow her to digest for 30 minutes, and then breastfeed her after for hydration and nutrition. She also breastfeeds 1 to 2 more times before the next meal.

Evening Meal: I breastfeed her 2 hours prior to her evening meal and then breastfeed her two times before she goes to bed after that.

 

Food Quality: She eats better than we do!

You’ll also notice that food quality is important to me. I have been sourcing all of our protein and veggies from 3 trusted places: US Wellness Meats, Vital Choice + my local farmer’s market. If I lived closer to a Whole Foods, I would also source some grassfed ground beef or lamb from them.

 

My grocery budget has shifted a bit. I spend more money on the highest quality animal foods I can find and shop at my local farmer’s market for cheaper organic produce. I source all my fats from Thrive Market – I got a membership for Christmas from my mom and I LOVE IT! I order from them at least once a month and it saves me SO much time from scouring local health food stores for all my grocery staples!

 

 

In 4 months, I have saved over $360 by ordering from Thrive!

 

 

Discussion Point: Early Introduction of Food Allergens

Whether or not early introduction of a food prevents or causes food allergies has been tossed back and forth in the pediatric medical community for years. I based my decision to wait on introducing potentially allergenic foods like nuts, dairy, shellfish, and peanuts on their digestive and nutritional status rather than one scientific study. I see no need to introduce nuts to an infant which is a personal choice not a blanket recommendation for my readers. They can be difficult to digest and can present a choking hazard. I also have not introduced any Paleo flours like almond, coconut or arrowroot which can be difficult to digest and alter the gut microbiome due to their high starch and fiber content (differs between flours).

 

If I weren’t breastfeeding, we would have first sourced donor milk and if that was unsustainable, I would have introduced either the WAPF homemade formula or a purchased goat’s milk formula. I plan to introduce some high-quality grass fed ghee before she is 1 year old since it is casein free. Babies have the lactase enzyme to be able to digest lactose in dairy products, so I wouldn’t be concerned about lactose intolerance at this stage and it tends to be the least allergenic of the dairy products (cow’s milk being one of the most allergenic). Shellfish are super nutrient dense but Grace does very well with salmon, sardines and mackerel, and I see no need to add shellfish which tend to be more allergenic than omega-3 rich fatty fish. Peanuts have a whole host of gut irritating properties, so I will not be introducing those for some time because their ability to damage her gut outweighs their potential prevention of an allergy for me.

 

Egg white protein can be very difficult for an immature gut to digest and is also a top 8 allergen. There’s a reason why it’s a big no-no on the AIP! It breaks down the tight junctions between gut cells and leads to leaky gut, according to The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. Egg yolk is where all the nutrition is at so we continue to try those every 6 weeks but I can’t tell if she has a reaction yet. One time they seemed to constipate her and another time they seemed to give her acne around her mouth.

 

Basically, the question I ask myself when introducing a new food to her: “Is this going to provide her easily digestible nutrient-dense material for her immune system and gut health?” Egg whites, nuts/seeds, grains and pasteurized dairy got the “No” from my research and Mom-tuition. They may be the right choice for your family but with my strong familial history of autoimmune disease (it runs rampant on both sides of my family), I’m choosing to go a more conservative route.

Loving on her lard!

8 to 9 months

(4 teeth came in at 9 months)

 

No more purees needed! Grace graduated from purees by the time she hit 8 months. I still offer them on a spoon to her that she picks up and feeds herself on occasion.

 

NEW Finger-Fed Mashes + Small Pieces

*She continues to eat foods from 6 to 7 month introduction

  • US Wellness Meats Head Cheese (this beef heart and tongue sausage is much firmer than the Liverwurst and Braunschweiger so I cut it into small pieces. It tastes like salami!)
  • Vital Choice Mackarel, Smoked Salmon (flaked)
  • Pieces of broth-cooked acorn squash, butternut squash, zucchini, onion, summer squash, fennel
  • Grass fed ground beef crumbles (seasoned with dried herbs)
  • Kalamata olives (ingredients: olives, red wine vinegar, sea salt)
  • Steamed and mashed organic dried prunes (helpful for a 3-day constipation)
  • Tropical fruits – raw and ripe diced kiwi, pineapple, and mango
  • Carrot & Ginger Kraut made from carrot, cabbage, and ginger puree

 

NEW Foods for fun

 

sweet potato baby

Easy to pick up sweet potato fat balls!

Discussion Point: Feeding Skills

 

Very quickly I realized that simply introducing a wide variety of hand-held foods was not going to make her more or less of a ‘picky’ eater. Grace would receive tons of variety over the first year of her life even if part of those foods were pureed or spoon-fed. And her ability to self-feed would naturally develop over the next couple months in a progressive manner. She would tell me when she was ready for larger pieces of intact food. I just had to watch for the signs. And she did. Over the next 2 months, we naturally progressed from pureed liver pate and root vegetables, to mashes, to mashes with soft chunks, to soft chunks which is where we are now with most of her food at 10 months (i.e. pieces of ground beef, fish eggs, pieces of broth-cooked vegetables and ripe fruit).

 

She isn’t picky – she has loved everything she has tried (it took her a few trials of avocado to enjoy it). I have learned to prefers her vegetables to be lightly coated with olive tapenade and I can’t expect her to want vegetables at every meal but she sure wants animal protein every chance she gets! Interestingly, she highly prefers the most nutrient dense foods I put on her table like liverwurst, fish eggs, salmon, bone marrow, sardines and mackarel. She’s also done with mashes and purees on spoons and has no interest in them anymore. This non-preference developed naturally. I love that she communicated her feeding needs with me, and that I observed closely enough to accommodate them.

 

She still signaled need and satiety with purees and spoon-feeding.

As a pediatric therapist, I also fully believe in providing our children with experiences that support their current skill levels rather than challenging them too far outside of their comfort zone. Grace showed me that she much preferred eating pureed and mashed foods between months 6 ½ and 8. And I saw how much she enjoyed grabbing her spoon of liver pate from me and feeding herself. She also showed me signs of wanting me to feed her like making eye contact and opening her mouth once I loaded a spoon. She turned her head away and closed her mouth when she was done. Her body told her brain when she was done and knew when she wanted more. She didn’t need to self-feed 100% of the time to utilize this natural skill. Grace communicates her needs very clearly to me.

 

 

10 months

(6 teeth – 2 bottom and 4 top)

 

NEW Foods

I have been introducing a new food every 2 to 3 days and sometimes more than 1 new food each day if they are unlikely to be allergenic. She has been eating more foods from my plate than in previous months but the majority of her meals are all “Grace foods” like fish eggs, organ meats, chunks of fruits and vegetables.

 

  • Grilled US Wellness Meats skirt steak, marinated in Garlic Sauce from my cookbook and diced
  • Grilled zucchini, onions, asparagus
  • Smoked wild salmon that I cured in apple juice and salt and smoke on our Traeger Grill
  • Coconut oil mixed with carob (sampling to see if she likes the flavor of carob for her 1st birthday “cake” I’m recipe testing)
  • Spices like ground cinnamon, turmeric, onion powder, garlic and a bunch of the Primal Palate AIP spice mixes
  • Sauteed chunks of plantain with cinnamon
  • Small pieces of peeled citrus with the membrane removed
  • Broth-boiled celery and carrot chunks
  • Kale Cucumber & Apple Juice Pops that contain no added sweetener from Hyppo Pops here in St. Pete
  • Servings of “riced” vegetables like my Butternut Rice with Beef and Basil Pesto or my Lamb with Olive Tapenade Rice. These small pieces of vegetables are not digested in her stool, so I don’t offer them often, sticking to more well-cooked veggies. I NEVER give her raw vegetables since she cannot digest them yet.
  • Diced raw strawberries
  • Large wedges of ripe avocado

 

 

Juice pop made from kale juice, apple juice & cucumber juice. She can eat about 1/4 of it and really loves it when teething!

 

Discussion Point: Feeding Equipment & Accessories

We use the Stokke Baby Tripp Trapp High Chair with the attached baby seat and tray for meals. I decided to go with this higher price point chair because it grows with the child and can be adjusted at several heights. I keep her positioned at a 90 degree flexion at the hips, knees, and ankles which ensures optimal posture for chewing and swallowing food.

 

 

I do not use any plates or utensils at this point rather I place a small amount of food on her tray and allow her to finish it, wait for her to signal for more, then place more as desired. I easily remove the tray from the seat and wash it with warm, soapy water after every feed and let it dry.

 

To wipe down the chair, I use a warm cloth spritzed with this non-toxic Aunt Fanny’s Cleaning Vinegar which I get on Thrive. I removed the cushioned seats at 9 months of age because they were prone to staining and the extra laundering was becoming a nuisance. She is comfortable without the cushion!

 

We use these IKEA Kids Smocks from Amazon to protect her clothes. They are amazing and my friend Alex from Don’t Eat the Spatula told me about them. There’s a pocket at the bottom to catch any dropped food and they are easy to put on, remove and clean. I wash them in warm, soapy water after every feeding and leave outside to dry between meals. I machine wash them in warm water with vinegar one to two times a week and hang dry.

 

Please, more fish eggs!

 

For water, we use this Thermos Stainless Steel Straw Cup. I tested the 360 cup as well as an open cup, but neither of those worked for Grace. She enjoys sipping out of her straw cup when we’re out in the Florida heat and I don’t have any pumped breastmilk available. Sometimes I add frozen pieces of strawberries and mango to her cup to flavor the water.

 

This keeps her water cool for 12 hours! I fill it up all the way and we both sip on it during our walks or jogs.

 

How did you introduce solids? Is there anything you would do differently next time? What are your baby’s favorite foods? Let me know in the comments section!

 

 

Baby Equipment: Helpful or Hazard?

Baby Equipment

 

The early stages of child development can be related to the stock market. It changes every day yet it’s fairly predictable, and the better you understand the why’s and how’s of it, the more likely you will make choices that support its successful growth.If there’s one thing that is certain about parenthood and child-rearing, it’s that we all want what’s best for our children. We may go about it different ways and to the best of our abilities, but our end goal is to raise capable, independent, creative, socially-adjusted, loving, and empathetic humans. At least that should be the goal of parenthood.

 

As a new parent, traversing the early years of your child’s life can seem like an endless question and answer session. We are full of questions and rely on others we view as more experienced for the answers: pediatricians, family members, neighbors, teachers, parenting book authors, bloggers, and GOOGLE. Mostly, Google. Some parts of parenting don’t come naturally – like how we should discipline or feed our children. These choices are marred by our past childhood experiences, TV shows and movies, or a narrow understanding of the complex brain and body of a newly-made human.Another area of parenting that we may be unfamiliar with is what we purchase for our children.

 

Visit any baby store or online baby retailer and you will be inundated with category after category of  “must-have” baby items. As a new parent, you may assume you need one of each! Why else would they make a diaper wipe warmer or $350 baby monitors if we didn’t need them? Let’s ask ourselves, why do manufacturers produce products? To make money. Sometimes to solve problems… but mostly to make money. Look at your own credit card bill for proof.

 

And what problem are many baby equipment manufacturers trying to solve? Babysitting. Parents naturally want babies to entertain themselves for part of the day, so they can get stuff done. I get it… right now I have piles of laundry that need to be folded, a full dishwasher, and a stack of mail yet to be opened. But I use nap times to get that stuff done and am fully present during wake times, keeping close observation on my baby and interacting with presence.  I make this analogy to begin my discussion about infant equipment and toys because we can all relate. We’ve all been sold “must-have” products that proved to be “must-give-away” burdens after just a couple months.

 

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I have strongly formed opinions on the types of equipment and toys we expose our developing babies to… they aren’t all harmless and in good fun. These opinions are guided both by my education as well as professional experience and research. Below I take a look at the most common baby equipment items that parents may want to reconsider using with their children. Don’t feel bad or scared or nervous if you have been using this equipment. Just make an informed decision about whether or not you are going to continue using it – that’s my only goal of writing this article!

 

MAJOR TAKEAWAYS IF YOU’RE SHORT ON TIME

  • Baby equipment steals valuable time from your baby that could be spent exploring their exciting new environment in developmentally-appropriate ways. 
  • Baby equipment may place your baby’s joints in undesirable and unsafe positions that can hinder healthy physical, sensory and proprioceptive development.
  • Baby equipment should not be used as a babysitter. Instead, place your baby in a safe gated and/or baby-proofed area on their back with developmentally-appropriate toys nearby. This teaches self-directed, independent, and creative play and allows for freedom of movement.
  • Baby equipment is a waste of money as your baby will quickly grow out of or tire of a swing, bouncer, seat, or walker. What costs much less and is more appropriate? A blanket, a silk cloth to play with, a ball, blocks and a stuffed animal.
  • Baby equipment is dangerous and can lead to injurious falls resulting in head injuries and broken bones, especially if manufacturer’s instructions are ignored or use is unsupervised. 
  • Baby equipment places babies in positions they are not developmentally ready for which may result in insecurity, fear and “skipping” developmental milestones such as crawling. 
  • If you’ve been using baby equipment, don’t fret. You can make an informed decision on whether or not you want to continue using it. I suggest coming up with safer alternatives for the equipment’s purpose such as baby-proofing an area of the home for free play.

Floor time allows for developmentally-appropriate play that naturally progresses gross and fine motor skills following the baby’s internal lead and motivation. Sensory balls, wooden blocks, and wooden teethers can be manipulated, thrown, passed from hand to hand and help develop healthy coordination, strength, and control. 

 

BUMBO SEATS

Bumbo seats are one of the most common pieces of baby equipment I see parents purchase. Bumbo seats are foam booster-type seats you place on the floor to keep your baby in an upright position before they can get into that position themselves. Bumbo seats now come with harnesses that strap the child into the seat to prevent past safety hazards such as a baby falling out of the seat. Parents have told me they use Bumbo seats so their baby can look around or so they have a “safe place” to put the baby while the parents do chores around the home.

I actually have a solution to that problem that is free.So what’s wrong with this harmless-looking baby seat? First and foremost, it restricts movement like most baby equipment. Babies of all ages have a deep internal desire to explore their environments in a way that only freedom of movement can provide. When a child is strapped into a piece of baby equipment for hours and hours a week, that is quality time that should have been spent on the floor wiggling around in whatever way the baby pleases.

When an infant is placed on the floor in a safe space, they have the ability to engage developmentally appropriate muscles that will eventually result in better control of their bodies….and this leads to the self-esteem required to participate in creative and independent play.Not only that, but the Bumbo Seat stabilizes the postural muscles and hip joints in a dependent position with the hips placed lower than the knees and the feet floating above the floor. This awkward position both shortens muscles and ligaments and deactivates joint proprioceptors, disallowing for natural weight-bearing positions like tummy time or laying on the back or side.

On top of that, it places the baby’s pelvis in a posterior tilt (bum slightly tucked under their hips) which is the least ideal pelvic tilt for any human, at any stage of development. This results in shortening of hip flexors, oppositional muscle imbalances, and disengagement of the abdominal muscles.

VERDICT: DITCH IT!

Where can you place your baby so they can look around, play with toys, and experience this new enthralling world? On their back. Simple. Set aside a safe play area in your home where you can lay your baby on his or her back while you do chores nearby. If your baby is able to roll over and crawl, it’s best to use a gated play area to keep them in a contained, baby-proofed space. Floor time has been shown in research to support the successful development and progression of gross and fine motor mastery, so before you add a Bumbo seat to your registry or use that hand-me-down from your neighbor, don’t discount the natural progression of development which starts ON THE FLOOR.

 

WALKERS

Walkers have made the news for the last couple decades after thousands of children a year were being injured in falls and accidents. They were flat out outlawed in Canada in the early 2000s, and American manufacturers altered their design so that babies couldn’t move quite so fast and far on wheels, limiting chances of falling down stairs or using the walker to gain access to dangerous items in the home like cleaners and stovetops. I won’t go into the scary details of some of these accidents, but they are enough to make a parent’s stomach turn and hyperventilate.

Walkers, even those harmless looking activity center walkers (see photo), need to be reserved for a baby who can independently walk and must be supervised in a baby-proofed environment at all times. My biggest peeve with walkers is that we’re essentially asking our children to participate in a major gross motor skill they are neither physically or mentally ready for. If a baby cannot walk unassisted, they should not be pushing a walker around the home. If you couldn’t physically run at a 15 mph pace, would you want to be placed on a treadmill set at 15 mph?

Why do we try to rush our children’s development with baby equipment like walkers then? Humans have their entire lives to walk and run, so why do we so want our 10-month-old to be walking already? I truly believe that as parents we tend to subconsciously project our expectations on our children. We feel a sense of pride every time our child hits a milestone, so we competitively hyper-focus on milestones and how we can achieve them as quickly as possible.

VERDICT: DITCH IT!

Babies learn to walk anywhere between 9 months and 15 months of age. And anywhere in between is completely typical. If you truly are concerned about your child’s lack of mobility, please get a free evaluation through your state’s early intervention program with a licensed occupational or physical therapist. They will be able to tell you if your baby truly has developmental delays preventing them from reaching particular gross or fine motor milestones.Ideally, your baby will teach themselves to sit, scoot, rock, crawl, pull to stand, cruise along furniture and then once confident with their stability and strength… take their first steps. There is absolutely NO NEED for baby equipment – humans have been learning these skills for thousands of years without the “help” of plastic wheeled toys.

 

BOUNCERS and EXERSAUCERS

A lot of the same reasoning behind limiting the use of Bumbos and walkers for infants is the same for bouncers. Strapping a child into a position they cannot get into themselves limits their ability to explore their environment, weightbear (which sends messages to their central nervous system via their joints and is extremely important for motor control and sensory development), and have adequate time in preparatory positions (i.e. back, tummy and side) that develop the skills for more advanced gross motor skills like crawling and sitting.

VERDICT: DITCH IT!

Again, placing your baby on his or her back in a safe space with you nearby and a few developmentally appropriate toys within reach is all your baby needs. Not only will this reduce unsightly equipment in your home, but you will save money on a useless and potentially harmful plastic product. If you use bouncers for naps, instead I suggest using a vibrating rocker like the Graco Lounger which is also an excellent choice if your baby has reflux. It places baby in a slightly inclined, safe position on their back suitable for short naps. It’s low calming vibration is less likely to overstimulate their sensory system unlike a bouncer. 

 

BONUS: BABY SLINGS (A CASE FOR MODERATION)

Babywearing is a term that has created a whole new industry and coalition of like-minded mamas. It allows mamas to comfort their baby while still being able to use their hands for personal tasks, or for caregiving tasks for older siblings. Slings and carriers are pretty fantastic if you’re the outdoorsy type – we take Grace for hikes in ours all the time! I also baby-wear for times of convenience such as grocery shopping, going on a beach walk, or running errands, but the amount of time I use a sling or baby carrier a week amounts to no more than 5 hours.

Baby-wearing is very popular in the Paleo and natural motherhood communities, and I totally get why. Mothers have a primal desire to be close to their children, and wearing them against our bodies has been shown to help regulate their body temperature and heart rate in premature babies, improve bonding, and make breastfeeding more convenient. Who doesn’t want to have their baby snuggled up to them all day? While that may be what we want, when babies reach about 3 months of age, they really deserve to have freedom of movement. And that just can’t happen if they’re strapped to their mamas all day.I met a woman at the grocery store this week who commented on my Ergo Baby 360 Carrier (which I recommend over the Baby Bjorn carrier). She said she wore her baby for 3 years straight and “never put her down on a playmat once”. She said it with pride. I smiled but internally I cringed.

While this is an extreme case, I added baby slings to this list to provide a different perspective on baby-wearing and to make a case against this extreme or even baby-wearing all day at home so you can “get stuff done”.Imagine having your baby strapped to you for most of the day while you do tasks around the house or run errands. He’s with you while you clean toilets, wash dishes, walk your dog, and make dinner. While this closeness is lovely, that is a lot of waking time that your baby is unable to move and wiggle and weightbear as he may please.And that doesn’t even consider positioning faux-pas that may occur with a mal-fitted sling. If baby’s spine and hips aren’t aligned well in a sling or baby carrier, and they maintain this position for many hours a week, musculoskeletal issues could result. Babywearing International is a non-profit organization that holds meet-ups around the country so mamas can try out different options and get fitted properly. I highly suggest finding one of these meet-ups through their website if you choose to babywear.

I also want to point out the musculoskeletal and postural deficiencies that can result for the babywearing mother. Babywearing front-loads your body with additional weight it is not used to carrying (remember pregnancy?). This can bring your pelvis into a posterior tilt, shortening hip flexors, tightening hamstrings, and pulling on your hip and knee joints (which may already be more lax than usual from pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones).  I also find it’s easy to disengage my abdominals when I’m baby-wearing which further exacerbates this non-ideal pelvic positioning. This is of particular importance for new mothers with weak pelvic floor function (me, me). Motherhood and caregiving tasks are already a repetitive strain on the body, and excess babywearing may increase chances of injury. Pregnancy may have already altered your gait, pelvic stability, and core strength, so our post-partum bodies need extra TLC from proficient healthcare professionals such a pelvic floor therapists, personal trainers, chiropractors and acupuncturists.

VERDICT: MODERATE IT

Babywearing is amazing and I 100% support it. But if you find that you’re defaulting to placing your baby in a sling to calm them down or help you “get stuff done” (especially after the age of 3 months) for many hours a day or week, I suggest transitioning some of that time towards independent floor play. This will both help your body AND your baby’s body. Your baby will learn to feel secure playing independently on the floor. You can help facilitate this security by observing nearby on the floor with them while allowing them to manipulate toys on their own, or simply wiggle around on the floor to their own rhythm. We do not need to entertain children; this big, beautiful world provides adequate stimulation and experimental learning opportunities.

Remember, mamas, just because one of the above pieces of equipment didn’t affect your child, it may exacerbate developmental issues in another child. We must agree that our babies are unique individuals with unique needs, and a piece of equipment that seemingly didn’t cause issue with our friend’s baby or our first-born, may be a negative environmental stimuli for another child. Like with all parenting choices, approach them using both your intuition and self-guided information gathering with careful observation of your individual child’s needs, capabilities and pursuits. 

Our Tongue Tie Revision Story

 

I had a reader ask me to discuss tongue and lip ties on the blog. Because I’m not a pediatric dentist or lactation consultant, I would rather share our story with tongue tie and how we got it revised. It’s highly important to educate yourself about the signs of tongue and lip tie prior to birth, so that you can better detect them early on. This will prevent breastfeeding, feeding, and speech complications that can lead to negative impacts on development. I knew Grace had tongue tie even though 3 doctors and 1 lactation consultant told me she didn’t. My instincts were right. Tongue and lip ties have been noted in pediatric medical literature for decades, but awareness is just starting to ramp up now on timely diagnosis and revision. Most pediatricians are not trained on their diagnosis so I highly, highly, highly suggest visiting a reputable pediatric dentist with experience in laser treatment for proper diagnosis. Ask around local mom groups – you’ll find one in your area!

Okay, If you’re a new mom or mom-to-be, you may be wondering what in the world are tongue and lip ties!? Let’s start by discussing the anatomy of our mouths. Our tongues don’t move freely within our mouth like we may think – they are actually adhered and anchored to our bottom palate by a frenulum (a folded mucous membrane). This also goes with our lips which are adhered to our top and bottom gingival ridges with their own frenulums.This is normal. We need these structures in our mouths to be anchored by these frenulums so we can better control them. They help us annunciate our words, latch on a nipple, and roll our “R”s in Spanish class. But when the attachment impedes mobility, problems can occur. I’ve worked in pediatric clinics where the speech therapists have discovered many children referred to them for speech issues actually have tongue tie. Once they have the revision at a pediatric dentist, their speech improves drastically over night and within a few weeks are discharged from therapy. 

Tongue ties and lips ties are fairly easy to diagnose at birth if you have the right team of healthcare providers. A baby may have difficulty opening lifting their tongue, latching on a nipple or bottle, or using the propulsion of the tongue to bring milk or formula to the esophagus for nutrition. This was our case. Grace was born at only 5 1/2 pounds. She had very low blood glucose levels at birth and was monitored for 72 hours in the hospital. This may have been due to my 4 day labor when I could barely keep any water in my system let alone food. We weren’t able to bring her glucose levels up within the first 12 hours outside the womb because she was feeding inefficiently (which we now know was due to posterior tongue tie).

DAY 1

On the first day of her life, her glucose levels were so low they whisked her away for lots of testing for a couple hours. I counted the minutes until they brought her back to me. Everything came back normal but she wasn’t receiving adequate nutrition via breastfeeding (keeping her glucose low) even though she looked like she was latching. The nurse told me she needed formula and she needed it fast since she wasn’t waking up (low glucose results in sleepiness). I felt incredibly hopeless, sad, angry, and frustrated when she told me that. I told her to go away, I wasn’t feeding my baby soy formula, and I’ll figure it out. But I couldn’t. Nothing I was trying was working and the lactation consultant was too busy to come see me. Side note: I had told a female friend who has 2 kids I wanted to bring homemade formula to the hospital just in case something happened and Grace couldn’t receive breastmilk. She looked at me with such disgust for even suggesting that, I felt ashamed. My instincts told me I should have had a back up, and I didn’t listen to them.

 

I’m not saying everyone needs a breastfeeding back-up plan, but not introducing formula to my baby was so important to me, that my gut instinct told me it was better to be safe than sorry. (This is not a discussion on formula v breastmilk, by the way. I understand some babies require formula, but there are better formula options than the crap gmo soy formula they have in the hospital. We also required a round of antibiotics so I was extremely upset at how we were “starting out” with her gut microbiome.) ALWAYS listen to your instincts. The most frustrating part was I had loads of colostrum – the nurses were all coming in to see all the colostrum I had been pumping! They were fascinated! But I had barely seen my baby’s eyes in the 20 hours since she was born because she was so low on blood sugar and didn’t have enough energy to open them. The nurse made me feel guilty for not being able to feed her. For the second time, I let someone else tell me how I should feel and what I should do, even though it was against my maternal instinct. Since that day, I’ve never let someone else determine the choices I make as a mother, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings or disappointing them. 

DAY 2

Before the hospital lactation consultant could get to me, the nurse fed Grace a bottle of soy formula. I wanted to crumble. I cried, I screamed, my stomach had a pit in it like I’ve never experienced. Because this woman took my baby from me and did something to her that was so against my newly maternal instinct, I could have ripped her head off her body. I had PLENTY of milk… enough for triplets, and my new baby was receiving GMO, corn-syrup soy formula as her first food. But the ILLC hadn’t had TIME to bring me a pump so I could pump colostrum and feed her through a bottle.It was 100% the most defeating moment of my life.

 

To this day, I am still very bothered and think there should have been another way. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t delivered in a hospital and had been at a birth center. I just know it. But you can’t change the past. Thankfully, I put up such a fuss about that one bottle, they knew we had to find an alternative or they were going to have a real problem on their hands (me + my hormones).FINALLY, the lactation consultant came to see me. While she felt guilty she came too late to save Grace from soy formula, she checked on me pretty non-stop for the next 24 hours. I was hooked up to a hospital-grade pump every hour for the next 18 hours to pump as much colostrum as I could to make sure my body got the signal, “Yes there’s a baby here who needs milk, she just doesn’t know how to get it yet!” Thankfully, my milk did come in on day 4. With a vengeance. A story for later.

 

DAY 2 TO 3

I was also feeding Grace every hour with a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) – we taped the little tube to my boob so Grace could simulate sucking on my nipple while really receiving my pumped colostrum from a bottle through the tube. There’s a photo of me naked in the hospital – one boob hooked up to the breast pump, Grace in football hold on my other side trying to latch, while the SNS is taped to my body and dangling over my shoulder. I was still smiling at least. During this time, Grace had to receive a glucose heel prick test every 8 hours for 48 hours. It was pure torture watching her scream, her foot bleed and have to be bandaged up 6 times in the first 2 days of her life. The doctors wouldn’t send us home until her glucose levels were normal for a full 24 hours (3 prick tests in a row).Imagine waiting to hear some really exciting or devastating news 6 times in the first 2 days of your child’s life. If she failed the test, we had to start over. That happened 3 times. Devastating. I just wanted to be home with my little girl and enjoy her, not subject her to pain and testing. We were in the hospital for 2 extra days because of this in addition to 2 days of labor (and 2 days of labor at home previous to that). We were beyond exhausted. I had accumulated a total of 10 hours of sleep in 7 days. I didn’t know that was humanly possible.

 

DAY 4

Finally on Monday night (I delivered Friday night), we got the okay to go home after she passed 3 tests in a row. All our hard work paid off and my little girl only had to receive one bottle of formula. I was nervous to go home because she still wasn’t latching super well but the lactation consultant at the hospital gave me her number and a list of other LCs that could do home visits. That night at 8pm my milk came in hard and fast. My engorgement was so painful, I vowed to never have another child. You would think a 4-day long back labor with a herniated lumbar disc would have turned me off from another pregnancy, but in that moment engorgement was unbearable. The worst part was Grace wasn’t eating well so she was unable to relieve any of the pressure. My husband and I thought my boobs were going to explode. They’re usually a B cup and were a G CUP that day – I’m not kidding! I looked like Pamela Anderson. You may be chuckling if you’re also a new mom – I was NOT expecting to have such an oversupply!  

 

DAY 5

tried cabbage leaves, warm shower and hand compression, pumping for relief, nothing was working. I called one of the ILLCs that the hospital LC gave me and left a voicemail that said, “Hi Dawn. I need you to come over to my house ASAP. It’s an emergency. My boobs are going to explode.” She arrived within 30 minutes. After showing me some tricks to relieve “the worst engorgement she has ever seen in 16 years” (an award I hope I never receive again), she also told me she thought Grace has a tongue tie. She couldn’t tell because Grace at that point could barely open her mouth because her tongue was pretty much stuck to her bottom palate. It just kind of laid flat, slightly protruding from her mouth, but with a lack of mobility.

 

She referred me to a pediatric dentist who was able to see me the next day at 1 pm for imaging and consultation. If they found a tongue tie, they could revise it with a laser procedure in 5 minutes on the spot. It would be $400 for the procedure. It could have cost $4,000 and I would have written them a check immediately. I so desperately wanted my girl to eat. At this point, she had been pulling on and off my breast for at least 12 hours a day and not getting much milk. 

 

DAY 6

At the appointment, our very kind dentist took photos of Grace’s mouth using a small laser camera. Sure enough she had a major posterior tongue tie that was hard to see without the camera. My husband started crying when he realized she would have to get the semi-painful procedure. I didn’t cry. My instincts told me it was for the best, and I was actually excited for her to be able to use her tongue properly. My sweet little girl went into the procedure room alone while we waited in a separate room by ourselves. Even with both doors closed, we could hear her scream when they used the laser to snip her frenulum. She cried for a few minutes and they brought her straight to me and she started breastfeeding immediately. It was different already. She was gulping down milk with the tell-tale nutritional sucking movement of the jaw that my LC had showed me to look for. 

 

DAY 6 TO 16

We were instructed to massage the area 3 times a day for 30 seconds with a clean finger for 10 days. This never bothered Grace and she didn’t cry when I did the massage. The area turned white as it healed and then eventually the whiteness went away. At the follow-up appointment, she was given the okay. Everything had healed well. She also had been breastfeeding like a champion since the procedure and finally gaining weight instead of losing!SINCE THENGrace has been an AMAZING eater since she had her tongue tie revised. She is now eating solids without issue, babbling and saying “Momma” and trying to say “Milk” (her two favorite things, let’s be real). I am very appreciative of our LC Dawn for sending us to a proficient and experienced pediatric dentist who made us feel comfortable. We submitted the bill to insurance and are waiting to hear back on whether or not they will cover it. I don’t care either way – I would have had to spend way more than $400 on formula by now if we hadn’t been successful breastfeeding.

  Feeding anywhere and everywhere, including in the Whole Foods parking lot on multiple occasions those first few months!

 

Breastfeeding is my #1 priority in life currently. I even decided to stay at home and not go back to work until she weans because I want to protect my milk supply and our breastfeeding relationship. The benefits of breastmilk on her longterm health and immune system far outweigh any other choice I could make in this life for me or for her. This is why I’m sharing our story. I don’t want another mom to have to go through what we went through with Grace in the first week of her life. Tongue ties and lip ties are incredibly common, and not all of them are going to affect a baby’s ability to nurse or latch on a bottle, but that same tongue or lip tie may affect their ability to speak in a few years. Or it won’t. You just never know. I suggest doing your research on Tongue and Lip Ties before birth so you can look for the signs. Also have more than 1 Lactation Consultants’ contact information on hand for an emergency visit and research a local pediatric dentist that does laser tie reversal (they heal faster and are less invasive than the conventional snipping method).

 

My biggest advice if breastfeeding is important to you: BE PREPARED. It doesn’t come easy for all of us for a variety of reasons, but the more you know from the start, the quicker you will be able to solve any issues like ties that may come up! And always, always, always follow YOUR instincts. Mama truly does know best. 

KELLYMOM IS MY FAVORITE RESOURCE FOR ALL BREASTFEEDING RELATED QUESTIONS.

HERE’S A PAGE OF ALL HER TONGUE TIE RESOURCES!

5 Safer Baby Body Products

5 Safer Baby Body Products

How often have you heard “the skin is our largest organ” and “everything you put on your skin enters your body”?

And yet we still purchase body products at drugstores, department store or baby stores without really looking into the ingredients. Maybe a loosely-regulated or not-regulated-at-all marketing claim like “all-natural” or “natural ingredients” were convincing enough to toss the product into your shopping cart. Or the label has a pretty little leaf or the color green on it?

 

Did you know marketers use the color green because we associate it with nature and health? Even if what’s inside the bottle didn’t come from nature + certainly doesn’t promote health. Ugh.  I’ve fallen for it before too. Until I informed myself about just how dangerous these ingredients are for our bodies.

 

We put so much effort into the sourcing of our food, yet we forget that what touches the skin often times enters the bloodstream. Why else would nicotine patches, birth control patches, or muscle cream exist if it didn’t penetrate the skin?And our babies are not protected from this mechanism. 

 

More than 10 years ago, the Environmental Working Group published a study called “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns“. The EWF confirmed that…

  • More than 275 (287 to be exact) toxic chemicals were detected in the blood of newborn’s umbilical cords
  • 180 of those toxins are known carcinogens
  • 208 of those toxins cause birth defects and abnormal development
  • 217 of those toxins damage the brain + nervous system

 

What a dichotomy. We look at our gorgeous little newborns who look pristine… pure perfection. Yet before they even have taken their first breath of air outside the womb, their cells have encountered almost 300 known toxins. It’s incredibly saddening, but the first step in reconciling this hurdle is changing their environment.

 

Our job as parents is to protect our children and allow them to develop naturally + to their greatest potential. We can only do our best work if we are informed. 

 

An easy way to decrease the toxic burden of the modern world on our children is to change our bath + skin products to products by brands who do their research too. I don’t want this blog post to be about all the toxic chemicals found in brands with the cute + charming TV commercials.

 

This post is about supporting the companies that are dedicating their mission to protecting our children, advancing the public’s knowledge of safer products +/or advocating for legislative change to laws governing consumer product safety. Beautycounter is in partnership with the Environmental Working Group to ensure the safety of their products (their company mission after all). Eco Chic Movement is based out of Canada and run by a naturopath and toxicologist named Dr. Alexis Reid. She is a member of the Paleo community. Badger is a family-run company that has created some of the safest plant-derived skin products on the market. All 3 companies are all about environmental responsibility + consumer advocacy. 

 

 

Beautycounter Baby Gentle All-Over Wash is appropriate for infant and toddler bathing. It’s gentle formula is tear-free, lightly lathers, and effectively cleans. It leaves my baby’s skin with a yummy light baby-fresh scent, soft, and doesn’t dry it out at all thanks to coconut-derived fatty acids. BIG plus is Beautycounter was one of the first skincare companies to be EWG Verified, which means they have passed the most rigorous test for skincare safety out there. This body wash also doesn’t contain any formaldehyde-releasing chemicals unlike America’s most popular baby bath brand. 

 

Eco Chic Movement Diaper Cream

 

Eco Chic Movement Diaper Cream is a super-nourishing emollient made out of a variety of oils and plant extracts that work synergistically to heal your baby’s luscious bottom. This cream protects from diaper rash beautifully + I also apply it to my chunk monkey’s fabulous and endless rolls and under her chin(s). 

 

Beautycounter Baby Soothing Oil

Beautycounter Baby Soothing Oil

It doesn’t get more clean + simple than this… 4 ingredients make for the silkiest healing oil for all newborn and older skin concerns. This yummy oil is gluten-free, soy-free, non-gmo, vegan, and made with certified organic oils. Which means it’s the perfect baby shower gift for the new mom in your life (even if that’s you!) I use this after bath as a massage oil for a heavenly + relaxing baby massage that’s good for her insides + outsides too. Best of all? It’s fragrance-free which means you won’t have to worry about hormone-disrupting chemicals interfering with your nighttime routine. 

 

Badger Baby Sunscreen

 

Badger Baby Sunscreen SPF 30This is the only baby sunscreen I will put on my daughter this summer. It’s made with non-nano uncoated zinc oxide, EWG’s top choice for the safest active ingredient in a consumer sunscreen product. While sun exposure is incredibly healthy for babies, living in Florida means the strong UV rays have the potential to be damaging if we spend more than 30 minutes at the beach. After your baby hits 6 months of age, you can start applying baby sunscreen to their delicate skin. Make sure to do a patch test first (such as the inside of their leg) and wait 48 hours to watch for a reaction before using all over. Other ways to protect? A cotton hat, staying inside between 10 am and 4pm, and wearing a light cotton long-sleeve shirt and pants.

Dr. Bronner's Coconut Oil

 Dr. Bronner’s Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil

Coconut oil isn’t what you’d traditionally consider a baby body product, but it certainly has it’s place in your caregiving routine. My preferred use for coconut oil is for cradle cap.

 

Cradle cap is a ubiquitous (most babies have it) scalp condition that causes yellow flakes and scales of dry skin. It is a common condition beginning around 3 months and sometimes lasting longer than 12 months. (It may extend to the ears and eyebrows in more severe cases, but if you find dry scaly skin elsewhere on your baby, please have them evaluated by a doctor for eczema.) 

 

We have used coconut oil lightly massaged on Grace’s scalp to remove any dry skin. Let the coconut oil sit on the scalp from 15 to 30 minutes then using a soft organic wash cloth rinsed in warm water, gently exfoliate the dead skin away. Follow up with a lovely hair wash using the Gentle All-Over Wash