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.

Eating Out with Baby: Tips for Less Stress

When you first bring your baby to a restaurant at a young age, chances are she will simply fall asleep in her car seat while you eat. But as baby grows, dining out can become a bigger hassle than it’s worth. If you don’t want to give up on restaurant dining, you can still enjoy a meal out without major stress if you go prepared and make a few adjustments to your usual routine.

Choose Your Destination Wisely

Unfortunately, now that you are a parent, some restaurants are probably not a good choice unless you leave the baby at home with a sitter. While most restaurants are somewhat child-friendly and offer high chairs, there are some choices that are better than others. You have every right to have your child in a restaurant, but just as you would expect consideration from other diners, you need to give the same consideration.

Choose a restaurant where you won’t be the only one with a child and aren’t likely to disturb anyone attempting to have a quiet night out. With plenty of family restaurants in all types of cuisine available to choose from, it’s not hard to find a place where your baby will be welcome even if she is a bit on the noisy side.

Restaurants that are accustomed to serving families will also have staff prepared for the special pleasure of having a baby at the table. They will have plenty of high chairs, not mind a little mess, and even offer entertainment options for little ones such as crayons.

Feed Baby First

Depending on how old your baby is, odds are you won’t be ordering baby food from the menu, so there is no real reason for her to wait to eat. When you are seated and have placed your order, go ahead and feed your baby so that she won’t be hungry and therefore fussy. If you are ordering something off the menu for baby, put the order in as soon as you arrive and request that they bring it out as soon as it’s ready.

Reserve some small finger foods or snacks to offer to baby while you are eating in order to keep her occupied, but offer the bulk of her meal early on so that she will be full and satisfied.

Keep Baby Entertained

Showing up at a restaurant without anything to occupy your baby is a recipe for disaster. Keep a variety of toys on hand so that you can dole them out slowly as they are needed. Toys that can be attached to the high chair or table to avoid having to pick them up from the floor repeatedly are a good idea. Keep some toys that are only for eating out so that your baby will be excited to see them and they aren’t old news. It might mean carrying a lot of stuff around, but if the payoff is a relatively peaceful meal, it’s well worth it.

Remember that eating out with a baby will never be quite the same experience that it was before you became a parent. It’s a little more rushed, a little louder and a little messier than it was before. You can still enjoy eating at a restaurant, however, if you go in prepared and are able to take a little chaos in stride.

Fruits or Vegetables: Which Does Your Child Prefer?

Just like grown-ups, children will develop a preference for certain foods. At around 2 years old, a child’s taste buds begin to change, resulting in the picky eating phase that is common to many toddlers. They have also realized that they have control over few things in life – and eating is one of them!

Many children prefer fruits to vegetables naturally; they are sweet, and babies are born with a predisposition to like sweet things due to the sweet taste of breast milk. Not all children will carry this sweet tooth into later life, however, and some will decide vegetables are more their thing. Even more commonly, they will come to like some fruits and vegetables while disliking others.

There is nothing wrong with developing a personal sense of taste, but it’s important to make sure your child is eating a balanced children diet as well. If your little one has a distinct preference for one or the other of these two nutritious choices, it isn’t the end of the world, but you should make sure you try to keep them both on the menu.

When Your Child Will Only Eat Fruit

Luckily, fruit is generally a pretty healthy choice for a child, and is certainly better choice than some of the other favorite foods kids have a tendency to choose. Your child can get a great source of vitamins and minerals from fruits, as long as the choices are varied. Eating only bananas won’t provide all the needed nutrition. Keep offering different fruits, but don’t give up on vegetables.

Sometimes, a child who likes only fruits will be more likely to try vegetables if you add a little sweetness to the mix. Try cooking carrots with a little honey; they are already naturally sweet, and the added sweetness of the honey might just put them over the top for your little one. Throw a sweet fruit in with the vegetables; try dried fruits mixed with green beans or peas, or combine sweet potatoes with apples.

If your child doesn’t like the texture of vegetables, try serving them raw or only slightly steamed instead. Keep a close eye out for possible choking hazards, but give fresh veggies and dip a try. If your child prefers fruit because it is crisp, cold, and uncooked, trying fresh vegetables might help.

If Your Little One Prefers Vegetables

It’s a rare child who chooses veggies over fruits, but it certainly does happen! If your child prefers vegetables, there really isn’t a whole lot to worry about as the nutrition provided by a diet rich in various vegetables is very well balanced.

Still, don’t skip the fruits. As with a child who prefers fruit, it’s a good idea to keep the diet as balanced as possible to ensure the best sources of nutrition. Keep offering fruit, and again try mixing it into the vegetables. Fruit makes a wonderful, convenient snack – try serving it with a yogurt dip to make it more fun.

Throughout childhood, your child will likely have several changes of heart as to what foods are on the in list and which are out. It is a time of developing tastes and opinions, and your little one is discovering personal preferences and learning how to express them. The best thing a parent can do is to keep offering different foods. The more often your child sees a food, the more likely it will eventually make it onto the “like” list.

Kids and Changing Food Favorites

One day, he couldn’t care less about bananas, and then all of a sudden he wants to eat them all day, every day. And then as suddenly as it started, it ends and bananas are no longer welcome. Does this sound familiar? It’s not at all uncommon.

Children often go on short-lived jags where a particular food is their absolute favorite thing in the world. For a while, it seems they just can’t get enough, and then they move on. The same foods may come and go, or it might be a new food every time. While these food jags aren’t normally problematic, there are a few potential issues to be on the lookout for.

Too Much of a Good Thing

If your child has decided that a certain fruit, such as grapes, are the top food of the day, you might be pleased that he is eating something healthy without any sort of prodding whatsoever. Certainly it’s one of the better choices for a food obsession, but it is possible to have too much of even a healthy food.

Certain foods when eaten in large quantities can be detrimental to a child’s health. They may cause diarrhea or the opposite, constipation, or simply gas. On the worse end of the scale, it is actually possible to get too much of certain vitamins, which can wind up causing health problems. There are good reasons why nutrition experts recommend a balanced and varied children diet, and eating too much of one food is only one of them.

Missing Out on Other Foods

When your child decides that one particular food is the only thing she is interested in eating, she may give up on eating other important foods in favor of her current pick. Even if she has decided she wants to eat nothing but broccoli, she needs more than what this admittedly very healthy food can provide. Eating all types of different foods from all of the food groups is necessary to keep the body healthy, energetic and strong.

If your child is on a food jag, don’t deny the food, but consider offering it as a secondary choice after she finishes the other foods on her plate. She needs to get the right nutrition, especially when she is growing and developing so rapidly, so make an effort to get around the food jag and get other options into your kid’s diet.

An Unhealthy Obsession

Most kids would rather eat chocolate than vegetables, but going on a junk food jag is never a good idea. While it’s ok to ride out an obsession with a healthier food, if your child suddenly decides she is eating nothing but French fries you will have to step in and put an end to it. Luckily, most food jags tend to involve relatively healthy foods most parents wouldn’t hesitate to allow their child to eat.

Most of these food kicks won’t last for a long enough period of time to do any real damage to your child’s health, and as long as the food in question provides nutrition without a lot of empty calories, it’s generally ok to let it go. Keep an eye out for any signs of a problem, however, and continue to encourage your child to try other foods and move away from the favorite a little bit. It’s likely the jag will end on its own before it can be a problem, but vigilance is always a good idea.

Guide to Cup Selection

A visit to the baby feeding aisle in any major retailer quickly makes it clear that picking a sippy cup for your child is not as simple as it seems. Cups come in all shapes and sizes and with multiple different spout option. There are cups with and without valves, soft and hard spouts, insulated cups and more. How do you choose the right cup for your child? Narrow it down with a few simple cup selection tips.

What’s in a Spout?

The type of spout on your child’s sippy cup is one of the most important considerations. While some babies may have no difficulty with a hard spout, most will initially prefer the softer type. Soft spouts have a more familiar feel, especially to a baby who has been bottle fed. For a breast fed baby who hasn’t used a bottle, the entire idea of a cup or bottle is foreign, so choosing a soft spout will be even more important. Young babies have sensitive gums, and a hard spout may be too rough on them.

Spouts come in several shapes and sizes. If your baby has been bottle fed, a smaller spout might work well. For a breast fed baby, a large spout might feel more comforting and familiar. It might take some trial and error to find the right one, so don’t stock up on the cup of your choice until you are sure your baby will drink from it.

To Valve or Not to Valve

Sippy cups come in two main styles – types with a valve, which allows liquid to be released when baby sucks, and types with not valve that rely on other mechanisms such as pressure to release the liquid. There are pros and cons to each type.

Cups with no valve are usually easier for a baby new to cups to operate. They often have the softest and most pliable spouts, and release liquid fairly easily. They have fewer parts to wash – or to lose. On the down side, cups without a valve often leak more easily than their counterparts that use valves.

Cups with valves require fairly strong sucking to release the liquid. This means they are less likely to leak, but that your baby will have to work a little hard to get the liquid out. They will require a bit more of a learning curve for babies accustomed to the easy release of a bottle. The extra parts are easy to lose and mean more to wash and store. Some valves have a tendency to fall out of place inside the cup if banged around, and land in the liquid inside.

Cup Size and Shape

Sippy cups come in a variety of sizes, but many of them are somewhat large for a baby. For a starter cup, try to find one that is a bit smaller and easy for your baby to hold onto. Some have a curved shape that is narrower in the middle, allowing baby’s hands to get a better hold on the cup. Some cups are equipped with handles to make for easier gripping, and these are usually aimed at cup beginners.

Your baby’s cup needs will change over time. Although a soft spout without a valve might be a good beginner choice, as your child becomes more accustomed to using the cup, you can move on to a harder spout with a valve. A larger cup might be required as time goes by too, but remember – many of the larger cups on the market actually hold more liquid than is recommended for a serving of either milk or juice for a child. Use caution to make sure a larger cup doesn’t lead to overconsumption.

Frequently Occurring Feeding Problems

Since a baby has little else to do in life besides eat and sleep, it would seem logical that eating would be something that presents little difficulty. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many new moms run into feeding issues that while common, can be extremely frustrating. For an exhausted new mom, feeding problems can escalate into a major issue quickly. Take a look at some of the most frequently encountered feeding issues and how to resolve them.

Baby Won’t Latch On!

Breastfeeding moms are often discouraged and frustrated when what seems like the simplest of baby care tasks just doesn’t seem to be working. Poor latch is responsible for all kinds of problems, from gas in the baby to blocked milk ducts in the mother. Babies are born with the ability to suck, but latching on is just as new to them as it is to mom. It takes some practice, and sometimes requires some help.

First, try a different position, such as a football hold, to see if this helps baby access the nipple better. If you have tried everything and are still struggling, call in a pro. Make an appointment with a lactation consultant who can help you to get it figured out. Your obstetrician or the hospital where you gave birth should be able to direct you to a consultant.

Baby Won’t Take the Bottle!

Especially if you are introducing a bottle after breastfeeding, you might have some difficulty getting your baby to accept the different look and feel of the nipple. This will likely just take time, and some experimentation with different bottles. If your baby has been on the bottle since birth, however, and suddenly starts to refuse the bottle, there may be something else going on.

Refusing a bottle can be a sign of several possible problems, from teething to ear infections, both of which make sucking painful. It could also be a sign of an upset stomach. If a reason doesn’t present itself quickly and your baby continues to refuse the bottle, it’s best to put in a call to the pediatrician. An examination might reveal the reason for the refusal, and avoid potential dehydration from refusing fluids.

Formula Upsets My Baby’s Tummy

From the first day of formula feeding to a later transition from breast milk to formula, there can be problematic responses to some of the ingredients. The proteins in formula are more difficult for a baby to digest than those in breast milk, and can cause problems like gas, constipation and diarrhea. Fortunately, there are many different formulas on the market, and you should be able to find one that works for your child.

It’s possible that the reaction is being caused by an allergy to something in the formula, whether it’s cow’s milk or soy; in this case you may need to try a hypoallergenic formula. If problems persist, see your baby’s doctor.

My Baby Falls Asleep During Feedings!

Babies sleep a lot, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong if your baby is falling asleep during feedings. It could be simple fatigue, or baby has had enough to eat and is satisfied. If you are worried that your baby is falling asleep before ingesting enough, try feeding in a brightly lit room that discourages sleep. Unwrap baby from any blankets or sleep sacks; the cooler air will also encourage wakefulness. It might not be pleasant to have to turn on the lights for a night feeding, but if you don’t think baby is eating enough it might be required.

During the day, try to pick a feeding time when your baby is most alert, generally shortly after waking up. You might also find baby is the hungriest right after a nap and will eat more.

The Difference Between Colic and Fussiness

Every baby cries at some point, but some seem to cry more often and for longer periods than others. At some point, you may wonder if your baby is merely fussy, or if you are dealing with colic. There are a few distinctions that can help to clarify the issue.

Defining Colic and Fussiness

Doctors define colic as intense periods of crying that last for at least three hours at a time, three or more days a week, for a period of time of at least three weeks in duration. Colic is diagnosed when the baby is otherwise healthy, well-fed, and shows no signs of illness or other problems that might explain the crying.

Fussiness is a little more difficult to define, as there is no medical definition for it, and it really isn’t considered a condition. Fussy babies are generally more sensitive than other babies and may cry more often or take longer to soothe than most babies. Most fussiness isn’t caused by a medical condition either, but illness can cause a fussy baby to be even more difficult to calm or console.

The difference is generally in the duration and regularity of the crying. A baby with colic will usually cry at the same time of day, begin crying out of nowhere, and cry for a long period of time. Fussy babies cry randomly, and may have short burst of crying or longer periods. There may be an obvious reason for fussy behavior, or it may be difficult to tell what the reason is for the crying.

Determining Between Colic and Fussiness

If your baby cries more than three hours a day several days a week for many weeks straight, you are most likely dealing with colic. You should see your baby’s pediatrician to rule out other causes of the crying and confirm the diagnosis. If the crying is less often and less persistent, it is likely your baby is fussy but not colicky.

While colicky babies don’t often respond to traditional methods of soothing, fussy babies are more likely to be soothed with common tricks. It may require more effort and more persistence, however, and you might need to try a lot of different options to see what works for your baby.

Fussy babies tend to cry fairly frequently and are upset easily, but the crying doesn’t usually go on for hours the way it does with colic. Although it may seem like your baby is crying an awful lot, keeping track of how long crying spells actually last will make it easier to determine whether or not colic is actually a possibility. A fussy baby may cry many more time per day than a colicky baby, but the colicky baby’s crying will last much longer at a spell. Fussiness doesn’t usually follow a pattern the way colic does, and a fussy baby will cry at any time of day for difficult but not always impossible to determine reasons.

Keeping track of your baby’s crying habits is a good method of figuring out whether your baby has colic or is fussy. Write down when the crying started, how long it lasted, what caused it to stop (if it was anything obvious) and what soothing methods you tried. If you take your baby to the doctor, this record will also help the doctor to determine what is going on.

Colic: What it is and What to do

The very word colic is enough to raise fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere. Even if you have not had a colicky baby yourself, chances are you have heard the tales from other mothers of endless crying, sleepless nights, and failure after failure to soothe the baby. All babies are a challenge and can cry for long periods of time for no apparent reason, but a baby with colic is a different story altogether.

What is Colic?

The basic definition of colic is a baby who is healthy and well-fed, but screams or cries inconsolably for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for an extended period of time, generally a minimum of three weeks. If your baby fits this description, colic is likely. Unlike the crying of a normal baby, a colicky baby has no apparent reason, at least none that the parents or doctor can uncover, for the crying. This can cause parents a great deal of frustration; as every mother and father knows, there is nothing worse than being unable to provide comfort to your child.

Colicky babies usually have their spells of crying at the same time of the day, and the crying is usually very intense and high-pitched. Colic-related crying seems to start out of nowhere, and you may notice changes in baby’s posture such as clenched fists and tense muscles. A colicky baby will often cry so hard as to cause a flushed face and heavy breathing.

What to Do If You Suspect Colic

If your baby is having intense crying spells lasting for hours on a regular basis, and you can find no cause for the crying, you probably are facing colic. It’s a good idea to see your baby’s doctor to rule out other possible causes of the crying that might not be readily visible to you, such as ear infection or reflux. Your doctor will perform an examination and if nothing is found, you will likely be given a diagnosis of colic.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis really means that there is not much the doctor can offer by way of assistance. Unlike reflux or infections, there is currently no medical treatment for colic, mainly because no one really knows what causes it. There are some things you can try at home, however, to improve the situation.

Soothing a Colicky Baby

You may feel that you have tried everything to soothe your baby without any success, but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. Sometimes it will take a great deal of trial and error to find what works for your baby, and different soothing techniques may help at different times, so try things again that may have failed in the past. At the very least, you will feel like you are doing something for baby.

Colicky babies may be soothed by motion, so try a swing or taking your baby for a ride in the car. You can also rock the baby in your arms, although this may become tiring after a while – it is worth it for some peace and quiet. Some colicky babies will also respond to being swaddled, as they feel more secure that way.

If nothing else works, you might have to ride out the storm. The good news is, babies usually outgrow colic by about 3 months old, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Take turns handling the worst of the colic episodes so that no one reaches the end of their patience. Colic can be very trying, but it will end eventually.

Identifying and Treating Constipation in Your Baby

Constipation is one of the most common reasons that new mothers call their baby’s pediatrician for advice. While babies do get constipated, many of the incidents that lead to a call to the doctor aren’t constipation at all, but rather a normal change in a baby’s bowel movements. When baby really is constipated, however, it can make for a very unhappy baby and thus an unhappy mother too.

How Long Can a Baby Go Between Bowel Movements?

It isn’t necessary for a baby to have a bowel movement every day, and a space of a few days between dirty diapers isn’t anything to be concerned about. In a breastfed baby, bowel movements can occur as little as once a week, and a space of up to two weeks can be normal. Because the body absorbs breast milk so thoroughly, there is often little waste leftover to form stool. For this reason exclusively breastfed babies rarely become constipated.

How to Recognize Constipation

Merely not having a bowel movement for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean baby is constipated, as many new mothers believe. Constipation occurs when stool becomes backed up in the intestines in a large enough amount to cause pain and discomfort for baby. This is usually noticeable in baby’s behavior and mood. A constipated baby may become fussy or even extremely upset when attempting to pass a stool. This is because the stool has become hard, dense, and difficult to pass. If your child seems to strain when having a bowel movement but is not crying or in pain and passes soft stool, constipation isn’t a problem. In this case, infrequent stool is probably normal for your child at this stage of life.

When your baby starts to pass hard, small stools that are heavy and dense, and is showing significant distress when passing them, constipation is likely, even if the stools are being passed fairly frequently.

Treating Constipation

Most pediatricians will recommend a small amount of fruit juice such as apple juice to get things moving. Remember to closely follow your doctor’s recommendation for the amount of juice, because too much can swing the pendulum in the other direction and cause diarrhea. In severe cases, a glycerin suppository may be recommended to soften the stool and clear out the bowels.

Treating a one-time case of constipation is usually fairly simple and straightforward. If your baby has regular, recurring constipation, however, it’s a good idea to take a look at what you are feeding. A change to a different formula is a good idea, as an intolerance for one of the ingredients in formula is a common culprit in constipation. Your baby may not be able to tolerate cow’s milk proteins and will do better on a soy formula.

If changing formulas does not seem to alleviate the problem, it’s probably time to talk to your baby’s doctor about the ongoing problem, and work together to find a solution. The constipation could be caused by a blockage or another condition affecting the bowels and causing them to fail to move stools along properly. These are rare problems, but warrant investigation if common methods fail to successfully treat your baby’s constipation.

Many babies will encounter constipation at some point, whether from a problem with formula or when starting solids, another constipation culprit. Fortunately, most cases are easily treated and do not become serious problems.

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