Is Your Baby Eating Enough?

Of the long list of things new mothers have to worry about, whether or not the baby is eating enough is one of the more common concerns. Although many women worry about baby’s food intake, most babies are getting enough to eat and it’s rare that this becomes an actual problem. Still, a little reassurance can go a long way towards alleviating this common fear of new moms, so here are the ways you can tell your baby is getting enough to eat, even if he seems to be hungry all the time.

Steady Weight Gain

As long as your baby is gaining weight steadily, he is likely getting enough to eat. Your pediatrician will monitor baby’s weight gain at regular check ups. During the first year of life, your baby will likely gain weight at a fairly rapid pace. There is a great deal of variation in weight gain, however, depending on your baby’s body type and genetic predisposition towards being a smaller or larger person. A small baby may gain weight more slowly or gain smaller amounts of weight each month, but as long as the gain stays within a normal range and the baby stays on his growth curve, there is no cause for worry.

For new moms who just can’t stand waiting in between check ups to keep tabs on baby’s weight, most pediatric offices will arrange simple weight checks, where you can bring the baby in and have a nurse check his weight. If you really need to know, this is a better idea than checking baby’s weight on a home scale. Your scale at home may not be sensitive enough or may not be as accurate as the one at the doctor’s office.

Feeding Regularly

Babies who are bottle fed will normally feed on a schedule, while breastfed babies generally feed on demand. Bottle feeding offers the advantage of knowing exactly how many ounces your baby has consumed in a day, while with a breast fed baby there is no way of knowing.

Although your breastfed baby might seem to be hungry all the time, especially compared to a bottle fed baby, there generally is no reason to worry. Breast milk is easier to digest and is therefore absorbed into baby’s body faster than formula. Because of this, breastfed babies are hungry more often than formula fed babies, and may seem to be eating far more often than you would expect. Because every mother is different in how much milk she can store in the breasts and therefore have available for feeding at any given time, there will be a great deal of variation in how often a breastfed baby will eat. As long as your baby feeds regularly and is gaining weight, things are probably fine.

Check the Diapers

A baby who is getting enough to eat will generally have a wet diaper at least every 6 hours and a dirty diaper about every 24 hours – although babies can go several days in between bowel movements, especially breastfed babies who can go up to two weeks. As long as your baby is going through diapers on a regular schedule, odds are good she is getting plenty to eat.

As long as your baby continues to gain weight and to have plenty of wet and dirty diapers, you probably have no need to worry about food intake, even if she seems to want to eat all the time.

Getting Started with a Cup

As with all things in a child’s life, the transition to a cup can vary widely from easy and smooth to drawn out and difficult. Some children take quickly and easily to a cup while others are resistant. It may require some patience and persistence if your child doesn’t seem all that interested in using a cup. There are some things you can do to help ease the transition and also to assist a child who just doesn’t seem to get it.

Choose the Right Cup

Just because your older child or your best friend’s child did well on one particular cup doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for every child. It might take a little trial and error to find the perfect cup for your little one. If your first choice isn’t going over well, try a cup with a different type of spout. With many different shapes, styles and levels of softness available, there is a perfect cup for every child.

Choose Your Timing

The cup isn’t always to blame if your child is resistant to taking a cup. Although children as young as 6 months old can successfully drink from a sippy cup, not every child will be ready that young. If your child doesn’t show any interest, it might be best to put it off for a while and try again later. Many children don’t change over to using a sippy cup until a year old or even much later.

Fill It With Something Familiar

Especially if you are offering a sippy cup at a young age, it’s best to fill it with the liquid your baby is most used to. Either pumped breast milk or formula can be served in a cup, and a familiar taste will make your child more likely to want to get at what’s in the cup. Some parents use juice as a bribe to encourage use of the cup; however, this can lead to your baby expecting to get juice every time the cup is offered, and you may have difficulty serving anything other than juice in a cup. Serving breast milk or formula in the cup will help to ease the later transition to cow’s milk as well.

Offer It Like a Bottle

The first time you offer your child a sippy cup, try sitting down the same position you would use to feed a bottle. Unless your child is accustomed to picking up a bottle in a seated position and drinking from it, this will only cause confusion. Once the cup has been introduced and established as the new vessel for liquids, you can offer it at the table. Keep it at the table from that time on to discourage wandering around the house with a cup.

At first, you might want to keep a bottle handy as well, as your child might refuse the cup or take only a small amount before rejecting it. You will need to finish the feeding with the bottle, or by breastfeeding.

As with all transitions, be prepared for it to take some time. Eventually, the cup will replace the bottle, but in the meantime, it’s best to allow your child to keep the bottle for certain feedings, especially soothing times such as before bed. Continue to offer the cup first and finish the feeding in another manner if necessary. Soon your child will be taking all liquids from a cup, and the bottle will be a thing of the past!

Your Feeding Issues Solved

If you are struggling with feeding problems, you aren’t alone. Many new moms run into at least one if not more feeding issues early on in their baby’s life. Fortunately, there are solutions for every problem, and your feeding issues will soon be a thing of the past. Before you go off the deep end dealing with your baby’s feeding problems, try some of these easy solutions.

Solutions to Common Breastfeeding Problems

Although it’s the way nature intended your baby to be fed, breastfeeding doesn’t always come entirely naturally. When your baby doesn’t quite take to the breast with the skill and avidity you expected, it can be disappointing and frustrating. The good news is that most breastfeeding problems can be easily solved with a few minor adjustments.

Problems latching on are one of the most common issues new breastfeeding mothers encounter. Babies who can’t seem to latch on or can’t manage to get a proper latch that doesn’t result in pain for the mother might need a little help. Silicone nipple shields are available that can be very helpful to some babies, especially preemies learning to latch on. In some cases, a different hold or more support is all that is needed to get baby at the right angle. Buy a nursing pillow, or try stacking an extra pillow or a rolled up towel under baby’s head to bring it to the right position for easier latching. Football holds work very well for some babies, while others prefer to nurse with mom lying down. Trial and error are required to get it all just right, but the payoff is well worth it.

If your baby latches on fine but then pulls off the breast suddenly, a strong let-down may be to blame. This may become evident if the milk sprays strongly even though baby stopped sucking! To avoid a strong let-down pushing your baby off the breast, try to feed baby before you become too full. Alternatively, you can try pumping a little before nursing to take the extra pressure off. Don’t do too much though, as it may affect the proper mix of foremilk and hindmilk your baby needs.

Most breastfeeding problems can be solved at home with a little practice, but in some cases you might need help. Don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant to give you some expert advice.

Solutions to Common Bottle-feeding Problems

Many of the problems bottle-feeding moms encountered can be resolved either by changing the bottle or changing what’s inside. Bottle-fed babies often encounter more problems with gas than breast-fed babies, and this is true whether the bottle contains breast milk or formula. Babies swallow more air when feeding from a bottle, causing gas problems. Switch to a bottle that is designed to reduce swallowed air, and be sure to burp your baby properly after every feeding. The more of that swallowed air that you can get out through burping, the less will remain in baby’s tummy to cause gas pain.

If your baby is on formula and experiencing tummy problems that aren’t resolved through burping or a different bottle, you might need to consider changing formulas. Your baby could be having trouble digesting cow’s milk formula, or could have an allergy.

When adding a bottle to a breastfed baby’s eating routine, you might find baby is very resistant at first. The nipple on a bottle is very different from the breast, and babies often have trouble adjusting. Look for a wide nipple that is designed to feel more like the breast, and try to warm milk to a temperature similar to breast milk. Put a little milk on the nipple for baby to taste and realize that what’s in there is the same stuff that was provided by the breast.

Most feeding problems can be resolved easily – but if feeding issues persist, talk to your baby’s doctor. Sometimes a little extra help is needed to find out what’s going on!

The Dos and Don’ts of Sippy Cups

Switching from bottle to cup is a big milestone in any child’s life. Suddenly, the baby is gone along with the bottle and instead a big kid has appeared who drinks from a cup independently! If your child was breastfed and never took a bottle, this transition can be even more dramatic.

When switching over to the sippy cup, there are a few important rules to keep in mind; these are the major dos and don’ts of life with sippy cups! Keep this checklist in mind for a safe and easy transition to the sippy cup.

DO: Choose an easy to grip cup with a lid that stays on securely. Twist-on lids are the best choice for a first cup. Look for cups that aren’t too wide around so that your child’s little hands can hold it easily. Cups that narrow in the middle or have handles are a good choice.

DO: Start with a soft spout that won’t be hard on baby’s gums. Sippy cups are generally labeled with recommended ages. If you start your baby on a sippy cup young, this is especially important. While these soft spout cups have a tendency to leak a little more easily, they will make the transition a lot smoother.

DON’T: Let your baby go to bed with a sippy cup. Sippy cups are no different from bottles in the damage they can do your baby’s teeth. Baby bottle tooth decay can occur even after your baby is off the bottle!

DON’T: Forget to measure the amount of liquid going into the cup. Some sippy cups have measurement units on the side, but others don’t. You will have to measure prior to filling the cup. After you have got the measurement right, mark the side of the cup with a fill line for future reference. Whether your baby is drinking formula, cow’s milk, or even juice from a sippy cup, be sure to keep track of how much you are serving to avoid overconsumption.

DO: Encourage your child to sit at the table while drinking from a cup. When you are ready to take off the lid and go to a big kid cup, it will be a lot easier if your child is already accustomed to sitting at the table to drink rather than running around the house. This will also prevent those lost sippy cups found under the couch a week later, looking awful and smelling worse!

DON’T: Let your child chew on the spout. Some of this might occur early on or during teething, but don’t let it become a habit. Chewing breaks down the plastic, could eventually cause the spout to come off and become a choking hazard, and also causes the openings in the spout to become larger, making the liquid inside flow faster. This can cause choking and spills.

DO: Try a few different sippy cups until you find what works best for your child. Every child is a little different and will prefer a different spout shape, flow rate, and cup shape. Buy one at a time before you stock up, to make sure you find the right one and don’t waste a lot of money on cups your child won’t use.

Follow these simple tips for an easy and safe transition to sippy cups. Before you know it your big kid will be drinking from a cup with no problem!

The Best Time to Offer Your Preschooler New Foods

Getting a preschooler to try new foods can be difficult. By the preschool years, your child has developed his personal taste and preferences for certain foods, and will be resistant to trying new things. The best way to make your child more likely to try new foods is to present them often, so that trying new things becomes common. To increase your chances of success, be sure to choose the right time to offer a new food. Your child’s likelihood of eating something new depends on a number of factors, and timing is an important one!

Hungry, But Not Too Hungry

It seems logical to think that a hungry kid is more likely to give something new a try; and overall, it’s an accurate assumption. But beware of serving new foods to a kid who is too hungry. If your ravenous little one comes to the table and sees something he doesn’t recognize it could cause more meltdown than compliance.

Try offering new foods when your child is hungry but not really starving. A kid who just needs to eat something doesn’t want to encounter a food he has to think about. You do want him hungry enough to be willing to eat what’s in front of him, however, and this can be a fine balance. Don’t try new foods if dinner is late to the table or you have been really busy or rushed that day. Aim for days when the schedule is more relaxed, and the new food is served on time.

Too Tired, Too Cranky

Gauge your child’s mood before deciding whether it’s a good time for a new experience. A tired or cranky child is unlikely to eat a new food. If she missed her nap that day, or woke up unusually early, it might not be a good day. Try to avoid days where her routine has been disrupted by unusual activities such as a visit to the doctor’s office. Disruptions to the daily schedule can make your little one cranky and unwilling to cooperate with yet another new experience.

Don’t offer new foods when your child isn’t feeling well. She probably won’t be in the mood to try, and especially if her little tummy isn’t quite right, it isn’t a great idea to put something new into it.

The Best Time of Day

Is your preschooler a morning person? Or more chipper around dinner? Look for the time of day when she is most open, happy, and compliant to introduce new foods. If your child often wakes up happy, try to introduce new foods at breakfast. If she is decidedly not a morning person, it’s better to keep breakfast a little more routine.

Dinner is often a good time to introduce new foods because it is the meal where a family is most likely to sit down and eat together. This means that your preschooler will have the opportunity to see her parents and siblings giving the new fare a try, which will encourage her to do the same.

A child who is in a good mood, well rested, and hungry but not ravenous is a child more likely to give something new a shot. Serve up new foods at the best time of day and with the best timing during the week for your child; this will be individual to each preschooler, so don’t worry about what other parents are doing. Pick the time that works best for your child.

Giving Rejected Foods Another Try

When your baby starts to reject baby foods, it might seem like you are never going to be able to serve up a healthy and balanced baby food diet. But giving up too soon on rejected baby foods is a mistake many new moms make. If your baby refuses a food the first, or even the second and third time, it doesn’t mean it has to be off the menu forever. Trying a rejected food repeatedly will help you to provide your child with all the nutrition she needs while helping to develop a wider palate and appreciation for different tastes and textures.

How Many Times Should I Try?

It can take a baby up to ten tries to really decide if she likes a certain food. Trying only a few times and then removing it from the menu will mean she misses out on a lot of foods she might eventually really come to enjoy. It is frustrating to a parent to have a food rejected over and over again, but your persistence will be rewarded. Not every food will eventually be accepted, but a good portion of the foods that you might have crossed off your list are likely to wind up on your child’s regular menu.

Trying Again Later

If you have tried repeatedly without success, it might be a good idea to put the food aside – but don’t give up on it altogether! If you stop offering the food for a few weeks and then bring it back, you might be surprised at the results. As your child’s experience with tastes and textures grows and changes over time, she might find that a food she previously refused is suddenly more appetizing.

Early on, your baby will have an affinity for baby foods that are a little sweeter and very smooth. Some foods simply can’t be pureed to the same level of smoothness as others, and some are much more bitter than the sweet taste a baby is naturally predisposed to like. As she tries more foods and expands her taste buds a little more, those baby foods that seems too chunky or not sweet enough will come back into the running.

Never Give Up

Even if you have tried over and over again with no success, there is never a reason to take a baby foods entirely off your list unless your child has an allergic reaction to it. You might need to wait a long time between attempts, but keep the food in mind to try again even a few months down the road. When your child moves on to table foods, he will be more likely to try things he might not have enjoyed in pureed form.

This is especially true if you make a point of letting your child see you eat and enjoy the food in question. Seeing the food in it’s whole form and realizing that mommy and daddy are eating it can completely change your child’s opinion. This is a great time to reintroduce foods your child repeatedly rejected earlier. These foods might be a lot more appetizing when served on a plate as part of a big kid meal than they ever were when pureed on a spoon!

If you want your child to have the most balanced children diet possible, be sure to continue offering foods that have been rejected. The more often you try, the more likely your child will one day decide it’s not so bad after all.

When Spitting Up Means Something More

All babies spit up. Due to an immature digestive system, liquids often rise back up, especially during burping. Spitting up is generally not something to raise concern, but in some cases, it may signify something more.

Spitting Up and Vomiting

There is a difference between spitting up and vomiting, although many parents aren’t aware of it. Spitting up doesn’t usually involve any heaving, and the liquid that comes up is usually a small amount that doesn’t yet show much sign of digestion. Because spitting up happens most commonly after a feeding, what comes it is generally the food that was just ingested and is thus still undigested.

Vomiting, on the other hand, generally involves a more violent reaction; you may see heaving, and the regurgitated food will often be in a larger amount. Vomited baby food usually shows more sign of digestion; curdling and a more sour smell than spit up. Because the more intense action causes the stomach to empty more thoroughly, you may see food well on its way in the digestion process.

Spitting up generally doesn’t upset a baby, but vomiting may because it can be more painful. Vomiting may be a cause for concern especially if accompanied by fever, diarrhea, and lethargy or if it continues for more than 24 hours. If your young baby is vomiting, watch for any signs of dehydration and contact your pediatrician if the vomiting persists.

More Than a Little Spit-up: Reflux

Reflux is a fairly common problem in babies, and in its mildest form will simply go away with time. It occurs when the immature opening between the stomach and the esophagus allows stomach acid to rise up, causing pain. It is especially common in preemies whose digestive systems are not yet ready to handle food. Most babies will outgrow reflux without requiring any treatment; however, more serious forms of reflux can require intervention.

Signs of reflux include arching of the back and crying, excessive spit up that may be projectile, appearing hungry and then refusing the breast or bottle, and sleep disruptions. In some babies these symptoms will become so severe that medication is required to treat the problem. Prescription antacids that are safe for use in babies are available – don’t try any over the counter antacid medications as they are not meant for children so young.

In addition to medication, there are some actions you can take to prevent and alleviate reflux issues in your child. After a feeding, keep the baby upright for at least 15 minutes, to allow gravity to help keep the recently ingested food down where it belongs. Make sure to burp the baby thoroughly after feedings. If reflux is affecting your baby’s sleep, try elevating the mattress using a crib wedge. Keeping your baby’s head elevated as much as possible will reduce symptoms of reflux. If your child seems to be miserable in a car seat, you might want to consider switching from an infant bucket seat to a convertible style seat that doesn’t cause the baby’s abdomen to be scrunched down.

Luckily, with or without treatment, most babies outgrow reflux by 6-12 months of age. If your baby’s reflux continues beyond a year old, your pediatrician may suggest further testing or treatment.

If you suspect your baby’s spitting up means something more, call your pediatrician. Not all spit-up is normal, so if you think there is a problem, follow your gut and get it checked out by a medical professional.

Children and the Vegetable Challenge

There is no food group that is more likely to cause a child to push away his plate than vegetables. They are the food that parents most commonly struggle with getting their child to eat.

All babies are born with a sweet tooth; they prefer sweet foods because breast milk, the food they are naturally inclined to like, is sweet. Most vegetables are not known for being sweet, however most babies eat vegetables fairly easily when they start solid foods. Many parents find that the trouble with vegetables starts a little later in life, generally in the toddler years. Unfortunately, it can carry over well past toddlerhood and become a battleground for many years to come.

Serving Vegetables Kids Like

A big part of the reason kids won’t eat vegetables is that they either don’t look very appetizing or are cooked poorly, leaving them limp and flavorless. Many vegetables already tend towards a bitter taste, which doesn’t go over well with young kids, and overcooking them can make it worse. Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and spinach are all likely to become bitter and unappetizing when overcooked, and they can be very hard to get kids to eat.

To avoid overcooking vegetables, try steaming them rather than boiling or microwaving. Not only will you preserve all the nutrients, but your vegetables will come out with beautiful color and a far less bitter taste. Even so, the right cooking method probably isn’t enough to get your kids to even try them to find out if they like them.

Add flavor to vegetables with sauces, dips and glazes for a taste your kids are much more likely to enjoy. Broccoli and cauliflower work beautifully with cheese sauces. Carrots can be easily glazed with a little honey. Creamy garlic sauce is a friend to green beans. Raw veggies served with a tasty dip are a great way to get older kids to dig in, and the cooking process hasn’t had a chance to affect the flavor or texture.

Hiding Vegetables

There are all kinds of recipes, even entire recipe books, out there aimed at teaching you how to hide vegetables. Some use a system of purees that you can hide in all kinds of foods.

Hiding vegetables isn’t the best way to teach your child healthy eating habits, but as long as you continue to offer the whole veggies, there is nothing wrong with a little creative cooking to ensure your child’s good nutrition isn’t being lost to picky eating.

Some vegetables are easy enough to hide in plain sight; you can mix mashed cauliflower in with mashed potatoes, for instance, and most kids will never know. The average kid won’t recognize the chunks in his pasta sauce as carrots, or the little green strips as spinach. But some are a little trickier. Finely diced vegetables can be easily added to meatballs, and your kids will never even see them.

Even if you choose to hide vegetables in your child’s food, remember to keep offering them; it’s important to their future healthy eating habits that they learn to give vegetables a try on their own. Hiding them while taking them off the menu in more obvious ways will make you child believe you no longer care if she eats them, which can lead her to believe it’s ok to skip them altogether. Hiding vegetables works for the short-term but doesn’t do much for long-term success.

Identifying Food Allergies

Food allergies have been a growing concern among new parents, as the medical community raises more awareness of how common they are becoming. With frightening stories circulating about sudden and severe reactions to baby foods, many parents are anxious about allergies and taking extra precautions to be prepared.

Recognizing a food allergy isn’t too difficult in most situations, although you might not realize what it is at first. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in the case of a truly severe reaction will require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of a Food Allergy

Common food allergy reactions include difficulty breathing, wheezing, swelling, rashes, itching, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The onset of the symptoms is generally fairly quick, within a few minutes to a few hours after your child eats the allergenic food. In rare, severe cases, a food allergy can result in anaphylaxis, where the throat swells up, blood pressure drops and the child may go into shock and be as risk of death if not treated immediately. This type of reaction requires a 911 call without delay and a visit to the emergency room.

How to Determine Which Food Caused a Reaction

If the reaction occurs early in your child’s introduction to solid foods, it should be fairly easy to tell which food is the culprit. When introducing new foods to a baby, allowing a space of several days in between adding new foods will allow you to tell whether a reaction develops in response to the latest new addition to the menu.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy. Some allergies can develop even if the child has tried the same food in the past with no reaction; allergic reactions can happen after several uneventful servings of the food. And in older children, who eat a much more varied diet, it can be very difficult to tell which food is to blame.

If you have a good idea which baby food caused the reaction, you should immediately remove it from your child’s diet. Even if the initial reaction was mild, a stronger reaction could occur the next time. If you aren’t certain which food is to blame, start by eliminating the most likely culprit – watch for highly allergenic foods such a dairy, strawberries, eggs and nuts as likely choices.

An allergist can perform tests to find out specifically which food your child is allergic too, but you will generally figure it out fairly quickly if you keep track of what your child ate and when reactions occurred.

What to Do If an Allergy is Discovered

First of all, you should of course prevent your child from eating that food. Next, make sure that any caregivers such as grandparents and babysitters are aware of the allergy. In the case of a severe allergy, you might be required to carry a special injectable medication that can be used in case of accidental contact with the food. You should also make sure all caregivers are ready and able to provide the injection should it become necessary.

Allergies can change over time, and your child may outgrow the allergy. Talk to your doctor about this possibility and how to go about re-introducing the food with caution. Some allergies are so severe that it is unlikely they will be outgrown and not worth taking the risk of finding out.

Teach Your Child to Try New Foods

Children aren’t generally known for being adventurous eaters, and once they decide what they like, it can be difficult to convince them to try anything new. Raising a kid who is willing to try new things isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. It takes some effort on your part and a commitment to teaching your child that different isn’t scary. The good news is, the sense of adventure with new foods can also translate into a child who is open to new experiences in other aspects of life as well.

Make It Personal

Introduce your child to the cuisines of different cultures by using friends as a starting point. Ask friends of different cultural backgrounds to help by inviting them to dinner and asking if they would help you to prepare a meal from their background. Explain to your child ahead of time that your friends are going to share some special food that is important to their culture and heritage.

By bringing friends into the picture, you aren’t asking your child to try something new for no reason; instead you are making a special night of it and sharing something new and exciting with company. The food is no longer something random and strange, but something with personal meaning that your child can relate to people who are friends. After the big night, you might find your child not only amenable to the new food, but actually requesting it!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Introduce your child to new fruits and vegetables by growing a garden of fresh, healthy choices in your own backyard. Make it a family project and give your child a job to do in every stage of the process, from choosing what to plant to sowing the seeds, watering the plants and harvesting the results. A child who is invested in the process of growing food will be far more interested in eating the food when it reaches the table.

If growing your own fruits and vegetables isn’t possible, you can still reap some of the benefits by taking your child out to select fresh produce at a farmer’s market, or even at a berry picking farm or orchard. Choosing what will wind up on the table from the wide variety available will encourage your child to pick new things and give them a chance.

Serve New Things in Old Ways

Taking a new food and preparing it in a familiar way is a good way to get your child to at least give the new choice a try. Toss vegetables in a cheesy sauce and serve them up just like macaroni and cheese. Make a pizza from flatbread, veggies and a little cheese sprinkled on top, and bake to crispy perfection. Serve pita chips with hummus instead of tortilla chips and salsa. Making simple substitutions with new foods will introduce them to your child without the scariness of something entirely foreign.

Make It a Habit

Try new things regularly so that it becomes part of the routine and doesn’t take your child by surprise. When adventurous eating becomes a part of your family philosophy, it will become easier to get your children on board.

Remember that the more your kids see you trying new things, the more they will want to try them as well. Make it a group effort and you will wind up with a child who is up for anything, and not just at the table. You will also raise a child who is a little more open to new experiences in life.

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