Get Smart About Juice

Fruit juices can contain a lot of healthy vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your child’s growth. Unfortunately, many of them also contain a lot of sugar that isn’t good for your little one. Looking for the right juices and using them wisely is the best way to make smart juice choices.

Read the Label

The label on a container of juice will tell you everything you need to know to decide whether or not it’s a smart choice for your child. Look for juices that are 100% juice. Most of these feature this information prominently on the front, if in fact they are 100% juice. The top of every juice nutrition label will give you a percentage, if it isn’t right on the front.

You should also check for added sugar, which may appear in the form of high fructose corn syrup or other versions of sugar used to sweeten commercial products. Choose a juice that has no added sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners aren’t a good choice for kids, so skip anything that is labeled as “diet” or “light”. Be wary of juices that say “no sugar added” as well, check to the label to ensure they haven’t replaced sugar with an artificial sweetener such as aspartame or sucralose.

Anything that is labeled as a “juice beverage” or “juice drink” probably doesn’t contain much juice. No matter how much nutrition these drinks are fortified with, they simply aren’t a healthy choice, so avoid them altogether. 100% juice products that have been fortified with extra nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are a smarter choice.

Some new juices on the market provide a blend of fruit and vegetable juices, which can up the nutritional value of the juice by quite a bit. As with fruit juices though, make sure you choose one that is 100% juice and doesn’t contain and added sweeteners.

Making Your Own Juice

With many powerful and affordable juicers on the market today, making your own juice at home is a healthier alternative to purchasing juice in a jug at the store. It allows you to add your own blend of nutritious fruits and vegetables, and to know exactly what goes into your juice. This is an especially popular option if you prefer to serve organic juice, as it is much cheaper to juice your own organic fruits and vegetables than to buy organic juices.

It can be a bit time consuming and some vegetables that don’t contain a great deal of juice might be required in bulk to make it worthwhile, but if you do plan to make juice a part of your baby’s diet, you simply can’t beat homemade for nutritional value and freshness.

Whether you choose to use store bought juice or make your own, keep in mind that juice should not replace eating fresh, whole fruits and vegetables as a source of nutrition in your baby’s diet. Even homemade juice can’t provide everything your baby needs, and too much juice can wreak havoc on a baby’s digestive system. Pick juices wisely, and make sure your baby isn’t replacing other important foods and beverages – particularly if your baby is still nursing or taking formula – with juices. If your baby develops diarrhea, back off on the juice and discuss it with your pediatrician before offering juice again.

The Role of Iron in Formula

Iron is an essential mineral to your baby’s growth and development. It is vital to the blood supply, helping to create the hemoglobins that carry oxygen through the blood. Most formulas today are fortified with iron, in accordance with AAP recommendations for preventing an iron deficiency, or anemia, in babies. There are some concerns regarding iron in formula, usually in relation to constipation or other stomach problems; however, the recommendation is still to choose iron-fortified formula over low-iron versions.

Iron in Formula vs. Breast Milk

Some advocates of lower iron formulas argue that breast milk contains far less iron than the average fortified formula. This is true; however, the iron in breast milk is much more easily absorbed by and used by a baby’s body than that found in formula. Therefore a lower amount can have a greater effect. Some doctors do recommend an iron supplement for breast fed babies, but the research is not yet clear on how helpful this is in preventing anemia.

Does Iron in Formula Cause Gastrointestinal Distress?

The main reason why parents choose to switch to a low-iron formula is the belief that the iron in the formula is responsible for such problems as colic, constipation, gas and diarrhea. Because iron supplements in adults can cause constipation, it seems like a logical conclusion that iron would have the same effect on a baby. The research on the topic, however, discredits this belief. There is no evidence of any difference in any of the above issues between babies fed iron-fortified formula and those fed low-iron versions of the same formula.

There is, however, a difference between breastfed babies and formula fed babies in levels of constipation and gas, as well as other stomach issues. This is not because of levels of iron, however, but because breast milk is much easier for the baby’s body to digest than formula. It is also used so effectively by the body that it often leaves less waste to clog up the baby’s system.

The Benefits of Iron in Formula

Since manufacturers started adding iron to formula in the 1970’s, the rate of anemia in infants has dropped dramatically, from 20% to 3% of formula fed babies. Iron is vital to your growing baby’s health, allowing the creation of new red blood cells.

At this time, the AAP recommends that you use a formula fortified with iron, if you are not breastfeeding your baby. Formulas with higher amounts of iron are a better choice because a very small amount of the total iron is actually absorbed and used by the body. Cow’s milk formulas have an absorption rate of only about 12% of iron, while soy formulas are even lower. Compared to the 50% rate of absorption from human milk, it becomes obvious why adding iron to formula is necessary to provide baby with an adequate supply of iron.

At this time, there is no evidence to support the use of low-iron formulas, but despite efforts to educate new parents, low-iron formulas are still available and are still being chosen by parents based on inaccurate information. If you have concerns about iron in your baby’s diet, talk to your pediatrician. It is difficult to see a baby suffering from gastrointestinal distress, but blaming it on iron and removing this important nutrient from baby’s diet can have a damaging effect on health and is unlikely to improve the problem.

Looking For and Building Up Fine Motor Skills In Your Baby

There’s just so much to take in throughout baby’s first years. They will change so much from month to month that you may even feel as though you don’t recognize your little one on certain days. They grow leaps and bounds just within a given week. They accumulate new skills and traits all the time, leaving you marveling at all that they can do.

It seems that almost overnight your little newborn baby who is more of a blob than anything else turns into this charismatic little person that has more personality than you can believe. Babies are truly marvelous in all that they accomplish, and many of these milestones happen right in front of our very eyes. When it comes to fine motor skills, this is something that you want to be tuned into in terms of your baby’s development. You want to be on the lookout for it and you want to help foster and develop it as a parent, as it will provide great benefits later on.

What Can You Look For?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that this is not something that you want to force. You don’t want to push your baby as they won’t reach any milestones until they are ready. If you push too hard you may get the opposite reaction. However, you do want to keep tuned into their fine motor skills as this is something that they will utilize their whole life through. See if baby is reaching for things, grabbing for items, sucking on her hand, or discovering things such as their own body parts. These are all good examples and exhibit a sense of fine motor skills that are rather important for baby’s development. These are important to ensure that they keep on track, and they are actually things that you can facilitate on your own.

You want to watch for these things in the first few months of your baby’s development. By five months as an average, baby should be trying to reach for things or at least be interested in things. It may take some time and encouragement from you as a parent, but the simple act of reaching or grabbing is a great sign that baby is doing what they are supposed to do. Every baby will work on their own timetable as some babies start grabbing or reaching far sooner. Others may skip over this phase and then move onto the next. This all shows possible coordination and shows that baby understands what to do to get what they want. All of these things are important for fine motor skills and the development of your baby overall.

How Can You Facilitate It?

This doesn’t mean that you should be shaking a rattle in front of your newborn relentlessly every day. It does mean though that as your baby grows and shows signs of readiness, that you are on the floor playing and interacting with them. Introduce different toys such as puzzles and different colors of toys. Things that are interesting to them will help them to reach and grab, and eventually pull items towards them. The point is that you as a parent can set up an environment that doesn’t force but encourages your baby to develop these skills and build upon them as they get older.

Preparing For and Understanding Baby’s First Words

Many parents look at their baby’s content little faces as they sleep and wonder what’s next. There are so many different milestones to look forward to as a parent. As you make it through the first year of baby’s life, there is much to work towards and much to enjoy. You want to be sure that you enjoy every moment, even the little ones. You also want to know what you have to look forward to. It may almost feel like a race sometimes – you make it through one milestone and enjoy it, wondering what will be next. This is a common sentiment amongst new parents, particularly as they await some of the larger milestones. One of the biggies is by far hearing baby’s first words, and it’s an exciting one. So what can you expect in terms of baby’s first words?

Detecting Baby’s First Words

The reality is that baby’s very first words may be a bunch of jumble. If you look at this chart for example, you see that baby’s first words change and evolve as they grow older. At three months they will be rambling or just responding to the sound of your voice. By six months however, that may be turning into a limited and somewhat difficult to decipher vocabulary.

As with any other milestone it is important to note that there is no real set time limit to encounter these things. So before you set yourself or your baby up for unrealistic expectations, know that it will all come in time. Sure if your baby isn’t saying anything as they near their second birthday, then it’s time for some outside help. However up until then enjoy their sounds as they prepare to utter those first words.

How Can You Get Them Talking?

Though it’s all likely to happen in its own due time, the reality is that there are certain and very simple things that you can do to get them talking. Baby’s first words are likely to be very simple one-syllable words that they can easily utter. The reason that many babies utter “dada” first is that it comes off of their tongue so easily. Whereas “mama” requires more pronunciation that their little mouths aren’t really ready for. So while this may serve as a disappointment to moms everywhere, this is why the first word is often “dada” or even something else – it’s not due to lack of love or appreciation.

What you can do to help the language along is to talk to them. Many parents find that talking to their babies as they move about their day can help to properly prepare them for the words that they will say. Tell them what you are doing as you are doing it, even the simple things. Have a conversation with your little one as they will be fascinating by the sound of your voice and seem interested in what you have to say to them. You can also get them talking if you show them toys or pictures of things and then tell them what it is. This is a more educational type of play, and it does wonders for developing a baby’s vocabulary. It may not mean that they start uttering words tomorrow, but it will most certainly work towards their overall development and vocabulary moving forward.

Understanding the Crawling Milestone for Your Baby

The one thing that you will learn early on as a parent is that no two babies are created equal. You will quickly learn that just because one baby is doing something at a certain point in their development doesn’t mean that every baby will do it the same way. Even amongst siblings, developmental patterns can be totally different. This is an important lesson to learn early on as a parent so that you ignore the urge to compare your little one to others.

If you’re in a playgroup or have friends with a baby about the same age, then you may be tempted to look from their baby to yours and wonder why the milestones are happening as they are. It’s natural but it can be a destructive behavior! Understanding how the milestones work is a good idea, particularly when it comes to one such as crawling.

Is Your Baby Crawling On Time?

You will hear experts say that the typical baby crawls anywhere between six and ten months. This is an average and therefore not something to be taken as anything but a guideline. There are some babies that will crawl far earlier than that, and then some babies that will crawl far later than that. Some babies may not even crawl at all because they prefer scooting and can get to where they want to be using this method. Add to that the fact that some babies will skip over crawling altogether. They may roll or scoot and get what they want until they one day get up and start standing and walking.

So as you start fearing that your baby is behind, know that there is no real set time limit. If you are ever in doubt or concerned, then by all means talk to your pediatrician. Know though that every baby handles this rather large milestone in a totally different way.

They All Do Things Differently

Babies get mobile in the first place to get to items that they want. They see something across the floor that they want and then they go for it. As you can see even experts such as Dr. Greene are reluctant to give true time limits to crawling. If the baby sees something that they want, then they will start off by rolling to get to it. This can quickly evolve into crawling, though it usually does take time and has a process involved with it.

If you see your baby “army crawling”, that is using their forearm to move them along and bringing their bottom half up behind, then they may be getting close. They may use these alternate methods solely as it’s easy for them to get around. So be sure not to put any pressure on your baby or your expectations because they are still doing what they are conditioned to do.

Ignore the myths that say if a baby avoids crawling or is late to crawl that they may not be as coordinated. This is simply not true and if your baby is moving around and doing everything else that they are supposed to do, then they are right on track. It’s easy to get caught up in measuring the milestones, but remember that every baby is different and that crawling is an activity that is quite different for everyone.

Baby’s First Tooth

Has your baby not quite seemed like themselves lately? Many parents can tend to pinpoint when something is amiss and when their baby seems to just be a bit off. It can be a sign of the baby being sick, or it may be a sign of something more routine and common that every baby goes through.

Teething is an aspect of baby’s first year that is on the minds of parent, and it can be a rather challenging one to contend with. The reality is that every baby is different and therefore to say when it will happen or how strenuous it will be on parent and child is hard to predict. Some parents will tell you that their baby was virtually unaffected by the teething ritual. Others will tell you that it was one of the most challenging parts of the first year. Every baby is different and therefore how they cope with teething can be a completely unique experience.

Planning for the Milestone

Every parent looks anxiously in their baby’s mouth from early on to see if that first tooth has finally popped through. Even when they are showing signs of teething, though, it may be a long road until you see the first tooth. As you can see from this baby development chart, the average age for a baby to get their first tooth is anywhere between four and seven months. This, however, is a rather wide range and there are babies at either end of the spectrum. Some may not even have their first tooth by their first birthday, and that’s just the way they are built. This is not a sign of imperfection nor of any sort of developmental issues. This is just how each baby is built and how they develop, so it’s nothing to be concerned about. You can plan for the milestone with a few simple supplies that can make any potential teething issues run much smoother.

Are They Showing Any Signs?

Sure there are some parents that will tell you that they had no idea that it was coming. That they woke up one morning, looked in their baby’s mouth, and suddenly a tooth was staring back up at them. While this does happen, it’s an exception to the rule. Even if your baby doesn’t necessarily have a difficult time with teething, they will often show some sort of signs to indicate that it’s coming.

So what are the signs? One of the first and most obvious signs is that the baby is drooling a lot. This is due in large part to the excess fluids gathering in the mouth as a result of the teething, and therefore comes out almost constantly. You will see your baby drooling, sometimes almost like a faucet, and the only thing you can do to contain it is to put a bib on them.

Many babies are also known to put absolutely everything in their mouth. If they are chewing on their toys, your hand, or anything else in sight that they can fit in or around their mouth, then they may be teething.

You will notice in some babies that they get fussy or that their sleeping or eating patterns get disrupted. This may go on for a bit of a while as the tooth actually breaks through, but it’s a good thing overall. That tooth will come in no time and you can enjoy yet another milestone with your little love.

Getting Your Child Ready for Preschool

The first years of your child’s life fly by so very quickly. In an instant, you may feel as though you are dealing with a baby one day and a big kid the next. Though it may not seem like it at the time, the years fly by and so too do all of the many milestones. Before you know it, you are looking at an almost school aged child and wondering to yourself if they are ready for the next big step.

Preschool can be a huge step for many kids, while others just float into it with great ease. Just as every child has a different upbringing and different care each and every day, they will be different in their readiness for preschool. Though age is a big determining factor in their readiness, it’s certainly not the only one. You should think through other factors, particularly personality, when you make the decision to put them into preschool or not.

Is Your Child Really Ready?

First and foremost, there are certain age limits or restrictions that may help to make the decision for you. In many preschool programs, kids can start by the age of three but they must have turned three by December first of the current year. If they aren’t there yet, then they’ll need to wait for the next school year to start. This isn’t always a bad thing as it can give you plenty of time to prepare for the big step, but it is something worth looking into before you get them signed up for a preschool program. Some kids start preschool at four years old, but it is becoming more and more common these days that they start at three years old and then work their way up.

You also want to decide if they are ready in other ways too. Take a look at this preschool guide for example. Consider if your child can bear to be without you for a couple of mornings a week. If they have never been away from you at all, then this can be a shock to the system. It can also make their adjustment to preschool very difficult so plan accordingly. You also need to ensure that your child is potty trained before you enroll them in preschool. Many schools won’t even take a child unless they are potty trained and can work independently in this and other areas.

Helping to Prepare Your Child

Preschool is a big step for both of you, so it’s important to work with your child ahead of time to get them ready for it. First and foremost any exposure that you can give them to a school like setting can be a big help. Sign them up for a parent and toddler class beforehand to get them acclimated with the structure and feel of a real classroom. Be sure that they get plenty of exposure to other kids, because this will be a big help.

Though you want to be present for every big moment in their life, do your best to let them work independently whenever possible so they get used to that feeling. Work with them on lessons like the “ABC’s” or painting. Though you don’t need to put them through boot camp, any steps that you can take to get your child ready will really benefit them when that first day of preschool comes upon you.

Planning for Baby’s First Birthday

It may be hard to believe, but you are staring down a major milestone. Baby’s first birthday is just around the corner and you feel just amazed by this fact. Wasn’t it just yesterday that you had that little bundle of joy?

If it feels like the time has simply gone by too fast, you’re not alone. Many parents are in awe of just how quickly the first year goes by and aren’t sure what to do when the milestone of a first birthday comes upon them. Many parents not only feel overwhelmed by the fact that their baby is turning one, but they may not know quite where to start in terms of the planning. This is a huge milestone and you do want to celebrate it with glee, but you have to ask yourself how much money, time, and effort that’s ultimately worth. So here are a few guidelines that can help to make planning your baby’s first birthday much easier and more enjoyable.

Keep It Simple

Here’s the reality of the situation-your little darling isn’t going to remember a thing! Sure they’ll look back on pictures and therefore you want it to be something special, but they are not going to remember any details of the event whatsoever. So before you get yourself all crazy thinking of which theme to select or what sort of elements to incorporate, remember that this is a party that is really more for you than for your baby. Not to burst any parent’s bubble, but the parents get far more out of the first birthday party than the kids do. That will change in years to come, but for now suffice it to say that simple is the way to go.

If they have taken to a favorite cartoon character or symbol then by all means incorporate it. If not though, don’t worry and just go with simple and effective. Fortunately there are many different first birthday “themes” out there that you can run with. Keep the decorations simple and just use the plates, napkins, and any decorations in a certain color theme or something else unified in nature. A cute idea is to put out pictures of your little one throughout their first year. These can serve as centerpieces on tables or just adorn the space of the venue that you’re working with. So try this out as a way of honoring your little one, and of course as a way to help decorate the party space.

Make The Baby the Center of Attention

Spend some of the money that you may have spent on extraordinary decorations on a cute outfit for your little one. This is their special day after all, so be sure that they are dressed in something cute and fitting for the occasion. Invite close friends and family, as the first birthday is usually one of the larger celebrations to mark such a special and memorable milestone. Have everybody around that is meaningful to you and your baby, as they will surely want to be a part of the celebration.

One of the most important parts of the first birthday party is most definitely the cake. Be sure to not only make or buy an adorable cake for your adorable guy or girl, but get them their own little smash cake as well. A first birthday party isn’t complete until you put that cake in front of the birthday person and let them go wild as they eat their way to stardom. That’s what first birthday parties are all about after all!

Learning at the Table: Meal Time and Motor Skills

From the very first time your baby starts to eat solid baby food, a new opportunity is created to learn and practice new and important motor skills. Meal time isn’t just about eating! It’s also an important part of your child’s development.

Starting Early

Even though your baby is nowhere near ready to feed himself when he first starts on solid foods, there is no reason you can’t let him have his own spoon right from the start. Bring two spoons to each feeding, one for baby to hold and one for you to feed him. Soon he will start trying to imitate what you are doing with the spoon, dipping it into the food and bringing it to his mouth. It will be messy, but your baby is laying the foundation for feeding himself while learning new motor skills.

Finger Foods

Somewhere around 8 months old on average, your baby will be ready to start self-feeding in earnest. The right place to start is with finger foods that dissolve easily in the mouth but are fairly easy to pick up. Small chunks of banana or the classic baby snack, Cheerios cereal, are great choices for first finger foods. Using the thumb and forefinger to pick up small items, also known as the “pincer grasp” is an important milestone and finger foods will help to develop the fine motor skills required.

The Right Tools for the Job

When your baby is ready to really use utensils, she will need her own fork and spoon. Look for utensils with thick, easy to grasp handles made of a non-slip material. Plastic forks are good for early practice, but they will soon frustrate your little one as they don’t work very well. Instead, look for a metal fork with rounded tines to avoid potential injury, but enough of a point to allow easy spearing of food. When choosing a spoon, try to find one that is not too flat and won’t spill easily. Utensils should be short, as anything too long will be difficult for little arms to maneuver.

Getting Started with Utensils

Learning to use a fork and spoon are a great chance to work on manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Although the spoon is the first utensil a baby encounters, most children will learn to use a fork faster, mainly because the food stays on the fork more easily than on a spoon. Start with an easy to spear food like small pieces of melon or pear. Place the fork in your child’s hand and guide her through the motions of spearing the food, and bringing it up to her mouth. You’ll be rewarded by the sight of her face lighting up with joy as she realizes she can eat just like you do!

Using a spoon requires even more skill than a fork. Learning the scooping and lifting motion to get food onto the spoon, and then the careful balance required to get the food all the way to the mouth are difficult tasks. Thick foods like oatmeal and yogurt are a great choice for learning this skill, as they will be less likely to spill off the spoon. Encourage your child to lean forward, towards the dish so that the spoon doesn’t need to travel so far.

The process of teaching your baby to self-feed can be messy, but remember that you are developing motor skills and life skills too!

Three Steps to Potty Success!

Are you ready to take on potty training? Is your toddler ready to learn? If you can answer these two questions with a resounding yes, then it’s potty time!

Not sure if you should answer yes? Well, you are ready to go if you are prepared to be patient, stick with it, and deal with a few messes along the way. More important than your readiness, you need to be sure your little one has the ability to use the potty. Your toddler should be capable of recognizing when she has soiled her diaper, and should ask to be changed. She should also be able to pull her own pants down and up again, and should understand what the potty is for and how it works. Finally, it’s important that she is able to stay dry for a few hours at a time.

When you are sure it’s the right time to give it a try, there are a few easy steps you can follow to maximize your chances of success.

Step One: Get Ready!

Take your prospective big kid out with you to select the tools you will need. Let her have a say in choosing a potty. Start out with a potty chair rather than a training seat that fits over the toilet, as toddlers are more comfortable when their feet can touch the ground. You will want a potty that is easy to clean, offers a large splash guard if you have a boy, and is sturdy and comfortable. You can also let your toddler pick out her first big kid underwear. Use the shopping trip as a chance to get her excited about using the potty! Talk it up, and show her you are excited too!

Step Two: Let the Diapers Go

While it may seem like a good idea to let your toddler wear a diaper for long outings to avoid accidents, it unfortunately won’t be good for the learning process. Unless he sees the results of an accident, your toddler won’t learn anything from it. The best way to achieve faster potty success is to go cold turkey on the diapers and let him learn from each mistake, no matter how many there may be at first. The same rule applies to training pants. They are useful at naps and overnight as night training often takes longer, but don’t be tempted to use them during the day. By holding in those accidents, they will hold your child back from progress. Put the big kid underwear on right away from day one, and don’t look back.

Step Three: Try, Try Again!

It will take a while for your child to start recognizing the signs of needing to go, and telling you about it in time to make it to the potty. The best way for him to learn is to spend as much time on the potty as possible. This may mean putting him on the potty every 15-20 minutes the first day, and letting him sit there as long as he is willing. Try reading books or singing songs to keep him occupied. Every time you have a success, celebrate! Let him know what he did was a very good thing indeed, and you are proud of him. Eventually, he will make the connection, and start using the potty on command. When he has mastered this, you are in the home stretch.

These three simple steps are the keys to potty training success. Remember, it might take a while for your toddler to catch on, but it will happen if you are consistent and keep at it. And the trade-off for cleaning up a few accidents is a big one – never having to change a diaper again!

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