Monday, July 17, 2017

Reflections on My 1st Year of Motherhood... The 8 Biblical Qualities I Want to Instill in My Son

** Disclaimer: I wrote the majority of this post on January 24, 2016, the eve of my first born son's first birthday. Life got in the way and I never posted it, but today, almost a year and a half later, I finally finished it. My little one year old is now a spit-fire curly haired toddler of 2 1/2, but my prayers for him haven't changed. ***   

 Tonight I laid my baby boy down to sleep, and tomorrow when he wakes, he will be 1 year old.    One year ago today, I was 2 weeks past my due date and 80 lbs heavier than I am right now.   One year ago today, I sat in a labor and delivery room hooked up to a pitocin drip and bouncing on a birthing ball, breathing in and out through ridiculously painful contractions. One year ago today, I would soon be lying in a cold operating room, shivering, and absolutely terrified as they cut me open after a long, emotional, and unproductive 21 hours of labor. How has it been One. Whole. Year. since I brought forth a little life into the world?  One year since my prayers were answered and the desires of my heart to be a mother were fulfilled.  One year since I heard the sound I had been waiting to hear for 9 son’s first cry.  One year since I put my beautiful baby boy to my breast and he latched on for the first time.  One year since my love and appreciation for my husband grew to an entirely new depth….
   Everyone tells you that it will fly by. Everyone says “don’t blink.” When you are in the midst of those first few weeks with a newborn and you are waking up to nurse every 2-3 hours, other moms tell you to cherish those night wakings because one day you will miss them. And that is the absolute last thing you want to hear. In the beginning, you live in the present. You go day by day, hour by hour.  You are just trying to keep your head above water…..making it to the next feeding, the next morning, the next shower! You truly believe that your reality at the moment is going to stay that way forever.  But it doesn’t. It is gone in the blink of an eye.  I certainly don’t miss being tired now that I have experienced what it is like to have a baby who sleeps 12 hours straight, but every now and again I think back with fond memories of those long nights while I was on maternity leave.  It really wasn’t so bad.  I think back to the precious memories I have imprinted into my mind of all those sweet baby moments….the coos, giggles, splashes in the tub, milk drunk smiles, and that intoxicating new baby smell…...kissing his dimpled little hands and tiny feet, rubbing lotion on his soft silky skin, and blowing raspberries on his tummy. As Harrison has gotten older, I have loved spending evenings at home sitting on the floor playing with toy trains and blocks and reading the same 4 books (Harrison’s favorites) over and over. I love the way he smacks his lips after he gets done nursing as if to give “compliments to the chef” for a tasty meal. I love the way he twists his hands back and forth like he’s revving a motorcycle when he gets excited about something.  I love the way he just randomly bursts out in song in the car, in his crib, while playing, etc. Although it probably has damaged my hearing, I love the way he will squeal at the top of his lungs for no reason and then giggle like he just cracked himself up.  That boy surely loves to hear his voice!  There have been stressful times, of course, but I truly have enjoyed my first year of being a mother.
Oh the difference a year makes!
   Over the past few days, this flood of memories and emotions has come over me. I keep recalling distinct memories from pregnancy, labor, birth, and those first few weeks home with a newborn. That whole span of time in a mother’s life is such a beautifully overwhelming time, and it carries with it such a strong and deep range of emotions - hope, excitement, worry, anticipation, exhaustion, frustration, love, disbelief, gratitude, contentment, joy...and so much more.  It’s hard to describe the sensation of all those emotions coming back to you at once.  And while I have been working through all those emotions from the past, I am also being flooded with all of these thoughts and feelings about the future.  If his first year has gone by this fast, that means all the years to come will fly by too.  I have been entrusted by God to raise a man….. a Godly man….and I really don’t have a whole lot of time left.
    Before Harrison was born, I thought a lot about what kind of young man I wanted him to become.  Of course, I realize that I do not have ultimate control over his future. But God does. And God has entrusted me and my husband with the care and teaching of our son. While some parents try to downplay their role and influence in their children’s lives and seemingly think of parenting as the ultimate game of Russian roulette, the bottom line is that we have a huge impact on our children’s lives. While there is no secret parenting “formula” that will guarantee a child who is kind, respectful, responsible, obedient, and Ivy League bound, we as parents have been given the task of shaping the people that our children will become.  Parenting is a responsibility that holds great weight, and that should not be taken lightly.  Yes, our children will have their own unique personalities, but it is our job as parents to teach our sons and daughters how to become men and women of noble character and to ultimately teach them how to become more like Jesus.
   When I was pregnant, I talked over and over about wanting to make a list of the qualities that I wanted Harrison to have when he grew up. I wanted to write them down, because when you write something down, you take ownership of it. I wanted to write them down and post them in a prominent place so I would constantly see them and constantly be held accountable for them.  I figured if I was reminded everyday of who I wanted Harrison to become, I would be more purposeful in driving my daily parenting decisions to align with that vision…….since all those decisions will ultimately affect the man that he will one day be.  
     Right now, I am the #1 woman in my son’s life.  I hold his heart.  I get all his kisses and all his snuggles.  When I walk in his room to get him out of his crib, his face lights up when he sees me.  He grabs my face with his chubby little hands and squeezes me. When he is sad or hurt, he wants his mamma.  And I like it that way.  But I know that one day that my son will grow up and will love another woman.  My prayer is that one day he finds the love of his life.  I pray that he marries his love and that they will be blessed with a happy marriage and one day, children.  But I want him to be a good gift to his wife. I want his mother-in-law to rejoice in the man her daughter has chosen. And not only that, I want his life to have meaning and purpose and for him to make a mark on this Earth and leave it an even better than when he entered it.  And so my prayers begin now.  My action begins now.  I am writing down these traits, because I want to hold myself and my husband accountable for instilling these traits in our son.

1) Believer/Seeker
  • If I could have only one wish for Harrison, and nothing else, it would be that he would know the Lord, because if he grows up to love and serve God and devotes his life to becoming more Christ-like, all these other qualities will follow suit.  I want Harrison to truly grasp the fullness of God’s love for him, and I want him to know God and walk in the Light and Truth of His Word.  I want him to continually seek His face and have an inner longing for all those things that are good and holy. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Phillipians 4:8

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

2) Integrity & Noble Character
  • I once heard someone describe integrity as being the same person in private that you are in public. It means having sound moral character…..doing the right thing even when others are not and even when you think nobody's watching.  I want Harrison to have integrity and to uphold his strong morals and values even when it is not “popular” and even when it is not easy.  I want him to be a leader and not a follower.  And when he chooses to do something that does not uphold integrity and good character, my prayer is that he gets caught EVERY. SINGLE. me, my husband, his teacher, or whomever. I want him to learn that it never pays to be untruthful or to compromise your integrity. 
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out…”  Proverbs 10:9

3) Hard-Work, Self-Motivation, & Perseverance

  • There are few qualities that speak higher of a man than his work ethic.  Laziness is not an admirable quality in anyone, but especially not in a man.  I want Harrison to know the value of hard work, and I want to make a conscious effort to try and resist the urge to make his life too easy by doing things for him that he can do for himself or by "rescuing" him from difficult circumstances that will teach him important life lessons.  I want him to become independent and learn the sense of accomplishment that comes with working hard towards a goal.  I also want him to WANT to succeed.  This is one quality that is sorely lacking in today’s youth.  They only will put forth effort and action if they are forced to, get a reward for doing so, or are threatened with a consequence if they don’t.  I pray that Harrison is self-motivated and learns to persevere through challenges even with things get tough.  

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-25

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”  Proverbs 14:23

4) Servant’s Heart

  • The qualities of kindness and generosity were originally what had come to my mind, but I am changing that to “servant,” because anyone who truly has a servant’s heart acts kindly toward others and wants to love and serve them.  I want Harrison to love who he is, but I want him to hold others in even higher esteem and to having a heart of giving and be known for his outpouring of love, thoughtfulness, and generosity.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

5) Patience/Gentleness

  • Patience is one quality that people have far too little of, myself included. In today’s world where everything is at the click of a button, instant gratification is basically expected.  I want Harrison to know what it is like to wait for something. I want him to understand delayed gratification and that good things do indeed come to those who wait.  I also pray that he does not ever struggle with anger.  There is nothing more unbecoming of a man, or anyone, than a volatile temper and a brash/harsh personality.  Though I want him to be strong, fiercely loyal, and protective of those he loves, I want him to be gentle and even-tempered.

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."  Proverbs 15:1

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  James 1:19-20

6) Self-Control

  • Self-control is a quality many people don’t like to talk about because it “holds one back” in a sense.  But there is a reason it is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  God wants his children to exude self control because there are so many sinful things in this world and He wants to keep us from them….not because he wants us to be deprived, but because he loves us and wants us to protect us from the trappings of the Enemy. I love the song "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns, because it speaks of how easily it is to get pulled into sin if you don't keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the temptations of Satan. The lyrics say, "Be careful little eyes what you see, for it's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings." 
    I pray that Harrison has that inner voice inside of him and gets a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach whenever he knows he is being tempted with something that he should not do or see or even consume.  As he grows up, I pray that he is able to stand up to temptation when he is offered drugs, alcohol, introduced to pornography, or sex before he is married.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where addictions are rampant and completely consume individuals until they are left as nothing more than empty shells of the people they once were.  Praise the Lord, many people overcome addictions.  But there are far more who do not.  My own brother has gone down this path and is still living with the repercussions, so I have first hand experience with how an addiction can literally ruin someone’s entire life.  I know that my son has free will and the ability to make his own choices, but I pray that by God’s grace and goodness, the quality of self-control will come forth within him when the stakes are high and keep my sweet boy from going down the wrong path.  I want him to walk in the Light.  

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ... “  Galations 5:19-25

7) Wisdom

  • I still remember driving past a local church and seeing this quote on their sign out by the road. I said it over and over again to myself as I drove by so I wouldn't forget it, because I thought it was so profound: "Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you might need it." - Doug Larson. I feel like wisdom is really the product of having many other qualities such as knowledge, experience, understanding, insight, and good judgment. But it certainly is a quality held in high esteem by the Bible. Have you ever met a child who is wise? I have. As a teacher, I have met a handful of "old souls"....children who are wise beyond their years. They come few and far between, but they always seem to have this joy and peace about inner light almost. They are very grounded and they don't seem to let the trappings of this world lead them astray. Usually, wisdom comes with age, but there are some children who learn to become wise early in life, and it serves them well. I want Harrison to enjoy his childhood, but I pray that the gift of wisdom is bestowed upon him.

    "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.."  Proverbs 3:13-18

    8) Joy

    • 15 years ago I would have probably said that the words "happiness" and "joy" were basically synonymous. But through learning about joy over the years, I have learned that happiness and joy are not really the same thing. The Bible does talk about happiness, and it is not a bad thing at all, but joy is different. It is a state of attitude.....a choice. One can be unhappy, but still be joyful. Happiness ebbs and flows with one's life circumstances, but joy comes from within. I pray that my son has true joy in knowing that he is saved by God's grace, and that no matter what circumstances he finds himself in on any given day, he can still have joy. I pray that he understands that material things can bring happiness, but not joy and that people should be valued over things. I pray that he learns early on that true joy comes from hope in the Lord.

    I know my parenting journey has only just begun, and I know I have made plenty of mistakes already and will continue to as the years go by. I can only thank God for the opportunity to be a mother in the first place and ask Him to grant me the grace, wisdom, and discernment it takes to intentionally love, discipline, teach, and guide my son so he is able to grow into the man God wants him to be. - Beth

Thursday, June 22, 2017

15 WEIRD Things You Might Not Know About Newborn Babies...for the First Time Mom

Newborn babies are WEIRD. No, really...they are. They are cute and adorable and cuddly and sweet and precious.....and weird. I think I went into motherhood with a fair amount of knowledge about babies just from babysitting for years and because many of my friends already had kids, so I was prepared for a fair amount of the weirdness. But there were some things that still threw me for a loop and left me constantly Googling sentences starting with the phrase, "Is it normal for my baby to...." because there were so many weird things my baby would do. As a first time mom, you're already feeling slightly unsure of yourself and your parenting abilities, and so when something weird comes up, it can make you think something is terribly wrong with your child...or at the least, a little bit anxious.
As a mama of two boys, a 2 1/2 year old and a 10 week old, I'm seeing all of this "weirdness" for the second time around, and it made me think about how many first time moms out there are probably freaking out over some of these things that my calmer second time mom mind knows are completely normal. So, since I'm trying to get back into blogging after a long hiatus, I thought I'd write a little post about this topic while all the newborn baby weirdness is fresh in my mind!

15 Things You Might Not Know About Newborns...for the First Time Mom

My 10 week old was 7 lbs 4 oz at birth, but was
6 lbs 9 oz by the time we left the hospital 3 days later.
After you have a baby, one of the very first things they do is weigh your little bundle of joy. Whatever that number is will be considered your baby's birth weight, but don't get too attached to that number. By the time you leave the hospital, your baby may lose up to 10% of his or her body weight. But no need to worry! It's totally normal. All the extra fluid they have been swimming around in for the last 9 months is to blame. However, the "goal" is for your baby to be back up to birthweight by his or her 2 week checkup. So as soon as that baby is born, nurse nurse nurse or feed feed feed!
This is gross....I know.  But it's all part of life with a newborn!
  I am still haunted by the sounds that came out of this tiny baby
when he let this one rip... Ewwwww.
Newborn babies are LOUD….and I dont mean just their cries. They gurgle and groan and gulp and sneeze constantly, and their burps and poop blowouts can truly rival those of a grown man. One time I literally almost threw my newborn across the room because he was sitting on my lap and released a blowout poo from his inner depths that totally vibrated my body and scared the everliving bejesus out of me! Not even Pampers Swaddlers could contain that explosive poo. (Pic included for your viewing pleasure. Lol!) I can't tell you how many times I've blamed hubby for sounds that came out of my newborn.  
Me: "Babe....seriously!?" Hubby: "It wasn't me! I promise!! It was the baby..."


While we're on the subject of noises, let's talk about baby breathing. It's WEIRD. And sometimes downright scary to the first time mom. Babies have breathing patterns that are very irregular. They will breathe very shallow rapid breaths, then take a pause, and then breathe slower. They may pant and make weird whistling noises. And because babies have a lot of mucus, they can have a rattling sound when they breathe that sounds downright awful. They can even snore when they sleep! Most of these things are not causes for alarm, but if you are ever in doubt, it may be a good idea to contact your pediatrician just in case.

Video of my little squish at 1 month breathing with that freaky rattling 
sound. I showed this to my pediatrician and she wasn't
concerned. She listed to his chest and his lungs were clear...just
said to use the bulb syringe to try and suction him out as much
as possible to get all that mucus out!

Listen to those snores!!
They get hiccups….ALL THE TIME! This continues for months, too. It's just one of those facts of life your little squish will have to deal with. Some babies are bothered by them and others seem totally unfazed. But there is one trick I've learned to help kick the hiccups to the curb.....Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water! A few ml of that magical stuff nips a case of hiccups in the bud about 90% of the time.

Oh the poop... Before you become a parent, you don't really think much about poop. And after you become a parent, poop is on your mind constantly and is a frequent topic of conversation. Newborn baby poop is NOT anything like grownup all...THANK GOODNESS! And it varies based on whether baby is breastfed or formula fed. A breastfed baby's poop is bright yellow (sometimes green) and a runny, creamy, or seedy consistency. A breastfed baby can poop as often as after every feeding, so up to 6-10 times a day! Whew. But it is also normal for them to poop only every few days. A formula fed baby will have poop more in the brown color spectrum with a consistency closer to peanut butter or clay.
And while we are talking about poop here..... a baby's first poop, called meconium, is going to FREAK YOU OUT! This usually happens in the hospital, so usually the nurses will give you the 411. But if you change your baby's diaper and notice his poop is black, thick, and sticky like tar, don't worry. He isn't dying. It's just meconium. Just know you'll need a few more wipes than normal!

Babies need a LOT of sleep. Their wake time is very short….as little as 20 or 30 minutes when they are first born and still only 1-2 hours at a few months old. And they don't always just fall asleep when they are tired. Before becoming a mom I thought that if a baby was tired, he would just go to sleep. Not so. Many babies fight sleep. They need to actually be "put down" to sleep for naps. Having a nap routine like swaddling and turning on a sound machine can help cue baby it is time for rest. And I can't stress the importance of a schedule enough. If you want to even think about sleeping a more than 2-3 hour stretch at night in your baby's first 6 months, get your baby on a routine/schedule. It makes a HUGE difference!

Did you know that babies CRY??! Oh...wait… probably did know that. But did you know that they cry a lot? And sometimes you aren't going to be able to figure out what is making them upset. You feed them, you change them, you hold them, and they are still crying. Sometimes babies just go through fussy periods. It doesn't make you a bad mom and it doesn't mean you aren't meeting your baby’s needs. It is normal for a baby's cry to make a mom feel anxious, because every mom wants their baby to be happy and well cared for. But in order to keep a level head, you have to really be mindful of trying to stay calm and collected even when baby is inconsolable. When a baby cries for a prolonged period of time, it's easy for any parent to get very stressed out, upset, anxious, worried, and even angry.  But keeping your cool is important. If you go into parenting knowing and understanding that there are going to be times like that, then you are more likely to be calm when it happens. Do whatever you can to calm the baby and if there is nothing else that works, try this WEIRD trick! Contrary to what the video states, it does take more than 5 seconds...but it seriously WORKS! Thank you Dr. Harvey Karp!  

And if ^^^ doesn't work and you're about to lose it, it is OKAY to set baby down in a safe place, walk outside and take some deep breaths and collect yourself, and then come back in. 

8. BABY ACNE's a thing. Babies can get a freaking teenager. Your beautiful bundle of joy is born so incredibly perfect with flawlessly soft and silky newborn baby skin….. and then around three to four weeks their face breaks out like a 14 year old boy. Don't fret. It's totally normal. It's called baby acne. Both my babies had it bad by one month. It's kind of sad when you want to take pictures of your baby and they are rocking out pimples like a high school freshman, but it will go away. There are many supposed cures for it. I found using Mustela Baby Face Wash helped tremendously to clear it up. Others swear by coconut oil. With that said, I would not recommend using Clearasil or Noxema on your baby. Bad idea....

Within their first few months, many babies' scalps start to flake off. Yep… babies can get dandruff too. It's called cradle cap. And it's kind of gross....I'm not gonna lie. But thankfully it's harmless. Both my babies had this, too, around a few weeks old. Thankfully I found a treatment that worked and kept that old cradle cap at bay, never to return. First, get a baby hair brush. Rub your baby's head with coconut oil and massage it into their scalp. Then, take the baby brush and comb through their hair and across their scalp, brushing out as many flakes as you can. When the brush gets caked up with flakes/oil, just clean it off and keep going. Then wash your babies hair as normal. You may have to do this a few times over a period of a couple days. Just keep putting coconut oil on, brushing the flakes out, and washing their hair. I did this about 2 or 3 times with b both babies and never saw a flake again!  

Babies have lots of nooks, crannies, and crevices for things to hide! Spit up hides in their little neck folds and if you don't wipe it out, it starts to smell....bad! Nothing spoils that sweet baby smell worse than smelly spit-up neck. They also have more earwax than you could ever imagine something that small could produce, poop hides in their little thigh rolls, and don't even get me started on lifting up floppy baby balls to find bits of poop under there and getting into all the crevices on little girls. It's a full time job keeping their private parts clear of poop. Just have a lot of wipes handy and be prepared to play "Where's Waldo" with bodily fluids.

If you've ever been around babies or even seen a baby in a movie, chances are you've heard of "swaddling." Even Baby Jesus is documented as being wrapped in "swaddling clothes" as he lay in the manger. But there is a reason that moms have been swaddling their babies for thousands of years. It's called the Moro Reflex, also known as the "startle" reflex. If you watch a newborn infant sleep for long enough, chances are you will see this reflex for yourself. It happens with something unexpectedly stimulates or startles your baby.....usually a loud noise, sudden touch, change in light, etc. His reaction? Baby immediately flails his arms out in a weird jerky motion, usually waking him, even if just for a moment. Why can this be a bad thing? Well, if baby is asleep, the startle reflex can cause him to wake up. Enter....The Swaddle. A swaddle is just a way to bind baby's arms tightly to his side to keep them from flailing around and waking him up. Think...a baby straight jacket. I know... I know.. It sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. But babies LIKE it! I promise. They also have just spent the last 9 months in a very tight and cramped place....your uterus. So they kind of like having that tight cramped feeling mimicked by being swaddled.
Both my babies were swaddled from Day 1 and always slept sooooooo much better when swaddled. I swaddle for all naps (unless baby falls asleep in the car, swing, etc) and nighttime sleep. I am pretty much a swaddle junkie too. I think I own every swaddling contraption there is. But different swaddles are needed for different ages/stages. Just trust me on the swaddling! (I'm actually planning on doing a blog post completely devoted to comparing all the different swaddles in the near stay tuned!)

It sounds so terrible, but don't has nothing to do with witches or the occult. But let me tell is OH. SO. REAL. and it can be brutal. And don't be fooled... It's not just an hour. It's more like 3 or 4. What is "the witching hour?" Well, it's just the nickname that has been given to the period of time in the evenings when babies are their fussiest. It can range from a slight whine/fuss for prolonged periods of time or downright scream fests that last for hours. And it's usually the kind of crying that seemingly has no cause. Baby is fed, changed, rocked, bounced, etc and NOTHING WORKS! For me, personally, the witching hour hit during that 2-6 week period. It was worse with my first baby than my second, but that could have been because I just knew more strategies to deal with it. My arsenal of witching hour tips?  
#1 - Baby wear. It's not a cure-all, but sometimes I would be holding and bouncing and rocking and it didn't do a thing, but then I would put my son in my Baby K'Tan or Moby Wrap, and he'd calm down within minutes, if not seconds. Sometimes that closeness and warmth is all they need.  
# 2 - The football hold. Google it. It works. 
# 3 - Happiest Baby on the Block 5 S Method (video linked above in WEIRD THING #7)

You may have a preconceived notion that babies need quiet to sleep. After all, how many times have we heard the phrase, "Shhhhh! The baby is sleeping!" But I'm here to tell you that babies do NOT like quiet. Just the opposite in fact. Noise is calming to them..... They have just spent the last 9 months in the womb, which is anything but a quiet place. The sound of your heart beating, blood flowing, etc is extremely noisy. Loud is normal. Loud is calming. Quiet is not. That is why one of my #1 baby registry item recommendations to new moms is a white noise sound machine. It is hands down one of the easiest and best things you can do to help your baby fall asleep, stay asleep, and just sleep better in general. Why do you think parents naturally "shhhhhhh" their babies when they cry? Shushing is just white noise you make with your mouth. Trust me. Get a sound machine for their bedroom and get a portable one for their car seat. You will thank me later.
If you pick up your baby and hear a noise that sounds like their bones popping or cracking, don't be alarmed. I remember freaking out the first time this happened with my first baby. I seriously thought I had hurt him or squeezed him too tight! But thankfully, all was well. Babies have tendons and joints that are loose, and it is fairly common to hear popping, cracking, or clicking noises coming from their arms and legs. This is hardly a cause for concern, but as always, consult your pediatrician if any noises coming from your baby are concerning or your baby seems to be in pain.

15) LINT
Now, I'm not talking about dryer lint here. I'm talking about clothing lint. Like, the little fuzzies on sweaters and stuff. Yeah....that stuff is going to end up all in between your baby's fingers and toes. How, you ask? I have no freaking idea. Here in South Carolina it is the dead of summer and the last thing that my baby is wearing are gloves and socks. Yet, alas, if you look in between my baby's fingers and toes you will find little bits of lint. And apparently I'm not alone. Even if you keep your baby bathed regularly, it still happens! Linty hands and feet are just another WEIRD thing about babies.

  I hope you've learned a lot about how WEIRD newborn babies can be! But no matter how weird they may be, no one can deny how CUTE and ADORABLE they are too! 
And.... don't forget to pass the word on to all your new mama and mama-to-be friends so they don't get blindsided by all the weirdness.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Homemade Baby Food Tips & Tricks....and Why I Decided Against Baby Led Weaning

I have been meaning to write this post forever. Seriously....forever. And one of the reasons is because I wish I had read a post like this when I was beginning to make decisions about starting solid foods with my son. Just when I had gotten the hang of nursing and realized how crazy easy it was to just have to worry about milk, then things had to change! Wait a, I have to nurse AND feed him food? Where is this food going to come from? Where is all this extra TIME going to come from? It already takes me 30 minutes to nurse. And now I have to spend more time feeding him FOOD?? Geez almighty! And I would rather not feed my baby that stuff in a jar from the store if I can help it. It felt like solid food was just one extra thing to extra thing to think about. I wasn't ready for this!  
Around 5 months when I finally accepted that I couldn't just nurse Harrison for the rest of his life, and I began to research a little about starting solids, I had 100% decided on two things:  1) I was waiting until at least 6 months to introduce solids, at the recommendation of the AAP, WHO, and other health organizations….. and 2) I was going to do "Baby Led Weaning."  A year prior, I had never heard of BLW (Baby Led Weaning). One of my friends introduced it to me, and I thought it sounded so easy! Wait…....what?? You just give baby everything you eat….from Day 1?? No buying baby food?? No pureeing stuff? And baby feeds himself so you don't have to? Sweet! Count me in!! Little did I know, the actual logistics of this would not be nearly as appealing as it sounded.
Harrison sitting in his high chair for the first time....practice makes perfect!
  When 6 months arrived, I was so excited! I knew I was going to start with avocados. A bunch of moms on the Baby Led Weaning Facebook group I had joined recommended that, and it seemed to work well for them. And I knew avocados had so many healthy fats in them….brain food for my growing boy! Some pediatricians still recommend doing rice cereal as baby's first food, but new research seems to refute that. Rice cereal really does not have much nutritional value and is mostly just junk carbohydrates, so I made the decision that starting with veggies and fruits would be best for us. I had gotten the high chair set up a few days prior and started letting Harrison sit in it to get used to it. I had my bib ready. I had my organic avocados sliced up. No spoon needed…..he was going to feed himself! This was going to be awesome!  I got my camera ready to snap the priceless picture of Harrison’s utter delight as he munched on those yummy avocados. (Can you say...classic First Time Mom here?? Haha.) I put him in his high chair, got his bib on, and put the slices down in front of him. I was beside myself with excitement. He looked at them. Then he reached out and smashed them. He squeezed them between his fingers. This wasn’t going quite like I had planned. Maybe he needed some guidance…  I picked up a slice of avocado and put it in his mouth. The look on his face was priceless alright! It was one of utter disgust. He spit it right out. 
Harrison's first solid food....avocado.  He was not a fan.
I tried again. This time he started gagging on the piece I gave him so I had to quickly sweep it out of his mouth. In slight frustration and a little bit of fear of a repeat gagging/choking episode, I grabbed a spoon and mashed the remaining mess of an avocado up in a bowl and fed Harrison a little bit on one of his baby spoons. He actually kept some in his mouth, but the look on his face was just terrible. It was literally like he was saying, “Mom…..why are you doing this to me????”  I decided we had had enough solids for one day, so I cleaned up Harrison’s avocado covered face and nursed him. He was much happier with a boob than the avocado.
Mom......what IS this stuff???
Am I supposed to like this?

  The next day I decided to try again. We tried the avocado slices again, and he once again played with them, smashed them, etc. But no luck with actually eating anything.....that is....until I mixed some breastmilk with it and fed it to him with a spoon. 
I made a discouraged post in my “Babyled Weaning for Beginners” Facebook group. Everyone commented and said it was totally normal and that it is good for them to “explore” with their food. They said it was all about the experience and that many BLW babies don’t get a whole lot of food in the beginning. They just play and explore.  Now, you might think that this reassurance made me feel better about the fact that my 6 month old was smashing $2 organic avocados all over his face and high chair, but it didn’t….at all.  So you mean to tell me that I am supposed to continue buying expensive organic produce for my child to “explore”....aka throw on the floor?? Ummmmm….how about no!?!  As I saw more posts from other mommies in this group with pictures of their babies covered from head to toe in spaghetti and other foods, I had a few thoughts..... A) Some of these mammas have way more time on their hands than I do (or more patience??), since they are the ones who have to clean up the spaghetti covered baby, the spaghetti stained high chair, and mop the floor full of spaghetti remnants.... or B) Some of these mammas must have more extra money on hand than I do (since they can obviously afford to spend $$ on expensive organic produce that never even contributes to actual nutrition, since it ends up all over baby’s face, hands, and the floor….). I also decided that Baby Led Weaning was not for me…..or at least not now.  Honestly, once I thought more about it, it didn't make sense from a parenting standpoint least not to me. I tend to follow the parenting rule, "Begin as you mean to go...." when it comes to most things, and it seemed like food should be no exemption. I obviously do not want Harrison thinking that it is ok to throw food on the floor and smash it all over himself later down the road, so why would I let him do that now? If he was obviously not coordinated enough yet to feed himself in an orderly manner, then I would be happy to feed him until his motor skills were more developed.  
I kind of felt let down.... I had been led to believe it all just came "naturally" by some the BLW moms. So many moms talked about how their babies just started reaching for food and putting it into their mouths starting as early as 4 and 5 months old. And I guess if that was the case, this BLW thing would be working out better for me and for Harrison. But my baby was doing no such thing and seemed totally confused and frustrated. I started to consider just doing purees, but that made me feel somehow inadequate (I know it's dumb...but as a FTM you second guess everything!) because on my BLW sites and groups, moms always talked about not feeding their babies those "yucky purees" and "mush" like they were somehow disgusting and not fit for human consumption. But then I thought about it further. What was applesauce?? Mashed potatoes? Smoothies?? Grown adults eat pureed foods all the time. Why wouldn't I be open to giving them to my baby?
I posted again in my BLW Facebook group again asking if any moms did a combination of BLW and purees, and I got lots of feedback from moms saying that they actually preferred a combination, and that many did both. I got a lot of comments back from other moms just like me who were getting frustrated too and also didn't think that it seemed as easy as it was made out to be. That made me feel so much better. I wasn't alone! My baby wasn't a freak of nature. Haha.  I had a little hope that maybe I could start with purees and then transition to BLW later on.  I vowed to continue to let Harrison practice feeding himself, but in the meantime, I was going to try baby food. I really wanted to make my own, but it seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t even know where to start, so in the meantime (while I taught myself how to make homemade baby food), I went out and bought some pouches of organic baby food. I knew I wanted Harrison to eat vegetables (since my hubby is a crazy picky eater and I was afraid Harrison may inherit the veggie hating gene), so I made sure not to buy too many types with fruits. I figured if all he knew was veggies, he wouldn't know what he was missing. The next day I opened one, squeezed some onto a spoon, and fed it to him. He lapped it up like a puppy dog. He loved it! He couldn't get enough. Solid food success!! I tried several of the baby food pouches over the next week and I didn't find a single one he didn't like. Spinach and pear, sweet potato and carrots, broccoli and apple…..he ate it all. (And just in case you're, I didn't follow the "only introduce one food every 3-4 days just in case there is a food allergy" rule. We have no history of food allergies and I was impatient. Harrison is alive and all is well.) But at $1.25 or more per pouch, I could see how this was going to get expensive.
Harrison after giving him a baby food puree pouch!
I did a little more research on making homemade baby food and found lots of different methods to the madness. Some moms swore by one of those fancy baby food cookers and many used special baby food storage containers. I, myself, had registered for a fancy baby food storage system, but once I saw the ice cube tray method, I quickly realized how nonsensical the other stuff was from both a time management aspect, a financial aspect, and a space saving aspect.  I decided the ice cube tray method was the most practical, so I went out and bought about 12 ice cube trays. I also made a list of different foods I wanted to cook first - sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, apples, avocado, banana, etc.  I bought a bunch of stuff and brought it home.  My next step was figuring out what in the world to do with all this produce. The website Wholesome Baby Food (link at the bottom of this post) was especially helpful.  It gave a great list of different foods to try at different ages, and gave great instructions on how to cook the various foods. It also allowed you to search by the fruit or vegetable you were wondering about and gave you lists of recipes, food preparation tips, what types of vitamins and minerals are provided by that food, and also gave you guidance on whether or not to buy organic.  
After I cooked all the veggies and fruits (some in the oven, and some in the microwave), I pureed them in my Ninja Blender.  I added water to them, but you can also add breastmilk.  I didn’t really measure either….I just added water until it got to the consistency that I wanted. I spooned out the food into the ice cube trays, froze them, popped out those little cubes, and put into labeled freezer bags! Voila!  Bon appetit baby!!
Here is the first spread of produce I made into babyfood!
  (And for those of you who are wondering, I didn't just "give up" on BLW after two tries. I continued to let Harrison practice feeding himself and he was somewhat successful at times, but he still seemed completely uninterested overall and he barely ate anything when I did let him feed himself. However, he loved eating from a spoon, and I felt much more confident that he was getting proper nutrients from food that way, so that's what we did. So to you BLW mammas reading this post, no judgment here. I am glad it worked out for you. It just wasn't the best decision for us.)

Since my first attempt at homemade baby food, I have made many batches, and throughout the whole process, I have learned/realized a few things that I feel are worth sharing:

  1. If you are feeing overwhelmed by making your own baby food and think you don't have the time, you just need to calm it down. You have the do. When you think about all the time you save by not having to prepare individual meals each day for baby, it is well worth a chunk of time one day every 3-4 weeks. I would do things over the course of a day on a Saturday or Sunday to make it more manageable. Like while Harrison was taking his morning nap, I would chop veggies and cook them. Then during his afternoon nap, I would puree and pour into ice cube trays. Then that night after he went to bed, I would pop all the frozen cubes out of the trays, put into bags, and label. And then I was done.....for like a MONTH! Seriously, it doesn't take that long. And it saves money! Who doesn't love saving money?!
  2. I am SUPER glad that I didn’t spend money for one of those baby food maker machines. First off, they are not that big. Blenders and food processors have much larger capacities.  Doing huge batches in the Ninja blender allowed me to make a LOT of food at one time.  The larger the batches you make, the more cubes you are able to get out of a batch….and the LESS often you have to make baby food. Score! Some mammas swear by their Beaba baby food maker, etc. but if you don't want to fork out the extra money for a special appliance, don't. It's totally not necessary.
  3. The ice cube trays are THE way to go as far as storage is concerned. Just freeze the food, pop them out of the trays, put the cubes in Ziploc freezer bags, and label them.  I had originally purchased this set of plastic tupperware container cubes that were designed to store baby food, but they held a lot larger portion of food than an ice cube, and they took up a lot more room than an ice cube.  So, if you choose to freeze food in tupperware containers, it will take up a ton more room in your freezer. And because the serving sizes are so much larger, if you defrost/heat up a container, and your baby doesn't eat all of it, it won't stay good for that long. Some people also make baby food and store the portions in plastic tupperware in the refrigerator. That is fine and dandy....if you want to have to make baby food every single week. But ain’t nobody got time for that! Freezing baby food means it will stay fresh and ready to go for months. Also, by storing baby food in the plastic tupperware containers, you would have to heat up the food in the plastic containers.  I’m not a fan of heating food in plastic containers just because of the chemicals that get leached into your food. And also, because they hold so much more food, it takes way longer to heat them up. By doing the ice cube portions, I can put the food straight into a glass bowl and heat them up in no time!  The smaller the portion, the faster it heats up!  And when you have a hungry baby, time is of the essence.  
  4. Overall, making single ingredient foods is definitely smarter than mixing ingredients.  By making single ingredient foods and and freezing them in small portions, it makes it so easy to mix and match foods and do different combinations.  One day you can grab two cubes of corn, and two cubes of carrots and mix them. The next day, you may want to do 1 cube of corn and 3 sweet potatoes.  Apples and broccoli one day, broccoli and carrots the next.  You can be much more versatile with your meals when you don’t pre-mix foods.  Later on, I found that some foods could not be made single ingredient….like kale, for instance. It just doesn't work.... So I mixed kale with peas. Some fruits were the same way. Like one fruit was too watery alone, but mixed with another fruit it tasted better, etc.  But most foods are better off alone.  
  5. Big batches are so much better!  The first time I made baby food, I didn’t make a ton...because I was a little scared and unsure of how it would all work out.  And I only had food for about two weeks.  The next time, I went for it!  I bought lots of each ingredient and made huge batches.  My freezer was slap full of baby food, but I also didn’t have to worry about food for over a month! It was fantastic!!
  6. Making your own baby food and freezing it makes meal planning for your little one a no brainer, and your baby is much more likely to eat GOOD and HEALTHY food, even when you are not. With Baby Led Weaning, baby is eating what you eat.  So, what if you decide it is pizza night?? I’m all about letting my baby try new things, but I would much rather him eat healthy nutritious food, even when I have a pizza craving.  I didn’t want him eating pizza just because I was.  So having ready to go frozen food at a hand’s reach meant I could prepare him a quick meal while we enjoyed pizza.  What if you decide not to cook one night and go out for sushi?  Are you going to feed your 6 month old sushi?  Probably not.  It only took me 2 minutes to whip out some baby food cubes, heat up in a container, and take with us to a restaurant. My hubby also works shift work, so on nights he works, I don’t cook!  I certainly wasn’t going to start cooking a meal just so I could have food to feed my baby. So on nights daddy was working, I could just eat a bowl of cereal or make a sandwich and not have to worry about not having food for my son. Another thing to think about is the eating habits of your family. If your family eats a lot of different kinds of foods, then having baby eat what you eat may truly give them a wide repertoire of foods. But if you have a hubby or other kiddos who are super picky and you tend to fix "picky eater" type foods, then baby is missing out on opportunities to try many new foods. My husband doesn't eat onions, peppers, salad, etc... so I would never fix that for a meal for us. But I didn't want to pigeonhole Harrison into the same eating habits by not offering those foods to him. Who knows? He may love those things (and as it turns out...he does!).  It just made baby’s meals sooooo much less stressful and allowed me to introduce lots of different foods regardless of the eating habits of the rest of the family.  And I always knew I had food on hand and that it could be ready in minutes with no planning or prep work involved.
  7. If your baby has already gotten lots of little chompers by 6 months, things may be different for you. But let's face it, eating normal adult food is hard without teeth.....yet another reason BLW is just not practical for many babies. Yes, gums are powerful and are capable of chewing food, but it is still not as easy as having teeth. If you and your family are eating steak and salad, are you really going to give your baby a hunk of steak to eat if they don't have any teeth?? It takes ME forever to chew up a piece of steak, and I have lots of teeth to grind and tear the food. Babies don't. Of course things like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, bread, etc are not that hard to eat without teeth, but the vast majority of those softer "easy to eat" meals are slap full of carbs. I didn't want to result to eating a bunch of carbohydrate loaded meals just so Harrison could have some. I would way rather him learn to eat fruits, veggies, and healthy meats.... and the vast majority of those items are next to impossible to eat without teeth, unless they are pureed of course, hence the baby food.
  8. It is much easier to mix food cubes together than feed them separately. I started out doing 3 cubes of food for each meal for Harrison. Some times I would do 3 cubes of the same food, and other times I would do 2 cubes of one food and 1 cube of another. But even if I did two different foods, I still put them in the same bowl. It's just easier. Carrots and corn, broccoli and apples, etc. It is all mixing together in baby's tummy anyway, I say! Later, Harrison worked up to 4 cubes per meal, but I continued to do things the same way. All the cubes went together in the same bowl!
  9. The ice cube food system is super easy for daycare purposes too. All I did for daycare meals was put 4 cubes in a snack sized Ziploc bag for each meal and label it. Then I put all the tiny snack sized Ziploc bags in a big freezer bag. I sent the freezer bag full of food to daycare on Monday and my daycare provider kept it in the freezer all week. When it was time for a meal, she just took a bag out of the freezer, popped it in the microwave, and fed him. And I only had to prepare meals for him ONCE A WEEK! Whoo hoo!!
  10. Now that Harrison (currently 11 months) is almost totally out of the baby food stage and is feeding himself more, I often wish I could go BACK to the baby food. It is SO much faster!! Once again....I personally do not understand why parents are so pumped about their baby feeding themselves. It is messy and takes forever. I could feed Harrison his entire meal in a matter of minutes from his bowl of baby food, but letting him feed himself makes things so much slower. Not to mention, you have to watch them like a hawk because they can get choked up on pieces of food if they don't chew it well. It's semi stressful. Seriously, moms...embrace the baby food stage!! :)

Here were my favorite foods to make for that 6-8 month age range and my tips for cooking and preparation:

Sweet Potatoes - put DIRECTLY onto the oven rack ( it.  I've cooked these like 5 different ways, and they turn out perfectly this way and the skin actually separates completely from the potato, making peeling a breeze. It makes it soooo much easier!)  and bake for 45 min to 1 hour at 400, or until a fork can easily be stuck into the side of the potato.  Peel skin off potatoes, but into blender or food processor, and blend until desired consistency. Add water or breastmilk if needed.

Carrots - Peel carrots with a vegetable peeler.  Cut into pieces about an inch long and put into a pot and boil.  When carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, they are done.  Put into blender or food processor and blend until desired consistency.  Add water or breastmilk as needed.  

Corn - You can use canned or frozen.  Buy organic!!  About 95% of the corn in the US is genetically modified.  I bought frozen organic corn, steamed in the microwave bag, and then put directly into the blender.  Corn is one food that is harder to get completely pureed, and I actually prefer it that way.  I always left a little bit of texture so Harrison could get used to different textures.

Peas - You can use canned or frozen.  I bought frozen organic peas, steamed in the microwave bags, and put into the blender.  Blend until desired consistency.  Add water of breastmilk if needed.  

Apples - Core and slice.  Peel if desired.  I left peelings on since they have lots of good nutrients.  Place into a baking dish and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until they are very soft when pierced with a fork.  Blend until desired consistency. Add water or breastmilk if needed.

Kale - Wash, break into pieces, and put into a pot with an inch or two of water.  Steam for several minutes until the kale wilts and is soft.  Blend together with another vegetable (I used peas) until desired consistency.  Add water or breastmilk if needed. 

Butternut Squash -  Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and place face down in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water.  Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.  Scoop out flesh.  Blend until desired consistency. Add water or breastmilk if needed.  

Avocado & Banana - Slice avocados, remove seed, and scoop out flesh into blender. Place whole bananas into blender as well.  Blend until desired consistency. 

Peaches - Peel, remove seeds, and cut into slices.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned.  Blend until desired consistency.  Add breastmilk or water if needed. 

Broccoli - You can use fresh or frozen.  I bought frozen organic broccoli florets and steamed in the microwave bag. Blend until desired consistency.  Add breastmilk or water if needed.  

    Later on at about 7.5-8 months, I tried other more exotic vegetables and fruits.  I know I stated earlier that doing single ingredient foods works best, but for certain fruits, I found that combining them made things easier.  Some of Harrison's favorites were: 
   * Kiwi Papaya
   * Blueberry Pear
   * Banana Mango

  At 8 months, I also added in meats to Harrison's food repertoire.  I thought meats would be more complicated, but they really weren't.  I just cooked them, blended them, and stored them in ice cube trays in just the same way I did the fruits and veggies.  The meats did not get creamy like the veggies and fruits.  Once blended, they shredded into a powdery like substance.  But I liked that, because it added some exposure to new textures.  Instead of taking out 4 cubes of a fruit or veggie for each meal, from that point forward I did 3 cubes of veggies and 1 cube of meat for each meal.  I plopped all 4 cubes in a bowl and microwaved together.  

  Chicken - Rub boneless, skinless chicken breasts with some olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper, etc.  Bake in the oven until done.  Add water or breastmilk and blend until powdery. 
   Beef - I bought stew beef already cut up into chunks at the grocery store.  Put beef chunks in a baking dish, season lightly with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven until tender.  Add water or breastmilk and blend until desired consistency.

  Pork - I am sure there are other ways to do this.... but I really liked cooking a Boston Butt in the crock pot.  I made pulled pork BBQ for dinner one night and just saved the leftovers.  Crock pot meats fork so easily and it basically just falls apart.  You barely even have to blend it.

    Well, I believe that does it for this post.  For all the mammas out there doing BLW and loving it, I am super glad it worked out for you!  I may try it again with Baby #2.  But for me, my baby, and our busy lifestyle, this was SO much easier and allowed me to introduce so many more types of foods to Harrison than he ever would have been exposed to just eating "what we eat." To this day, I have not found a single food this child won't eat, and I truly think it is because he had the opportunity to be exposed to so many different foods, flavors, and textures!   Happy Baby Food Making Mammas!!!

     So, now that you've got the basics down, are you ready for another amazing tip??!  So....after we got past the baby puree stage and I realized Harrison was ready to handle more pieces of food and got more skilled at feeding himself, I was lost again!  The baby food making and feeding was so easy...what was I to do now??! Now I needed actual meals ready to go 3 times a day, but it still had to be things that were smaller pieces that baby could handle with only a few teeth.  But then I thought to myself, "Why can't this same system work for non-pureed food?"  Well guess what?  It does!  Here is a sneak peek at what I do for meals now....   I just cook regular foods, cut them up into bite size pieces, and portion out in the ice cube trays to freeze.  So all I still have to do is take out a few cubes for a meal and microwave! Still SUPER easy! Complete post to come later.....