Family

It is one of my favorite times of the day. I am sitting at my computer, trying to squeeze in a little writing before BabyC wakes up. I like the writing part, but I especially like listening to BabyC wake up over the baby monitor. She often hangs out in her crib for a while in the mornings, talking and singing, before she starts calling to me. She seems to use this time to practice new words and sounds.

This morning, the topic of her monologue is “pip.” Pips, known as “pits” to the older crowd, are the small, round, hard objects found in the center of plums, peaches and cherries. These fruits are in season now, and we have eaten a lot of them. BabyC enjoys the challenge of finding the hard “pip” with her teeth and then spitting it out.

“Pip. Pip. Huh? Pip? Yeah. Pip!” That’s how the monologue went this morning.

A more common monologue is this one:

“Bubba. Bubba? Bubba. Aiyash? Aiyash. Aiyash. Dadda? Dadda! Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Dadda. Bubba. Aiyash. Mommy? Mooooommy… Mommy! Mommy!”

BabyC runs through every member of our family. “Bubba” is her name for our dog, Yuba. She calls the cat “Aiyash,” though her name is Shasta, and I’m not sure how she switched the syllables around like that.

We have this conversation at almost every transition in our day. When BabyC gets up, she wants me to tell her where every member of the family is.

“Dadda?”

“Daddy is sleeping in bed. He worked late last night. We’ll see him when he wakes up.”

“Aiyash?”

“Shasta is snuggled with Daddy in bed, sleeping too.”

“Bubba?”

“Yuba’s right here, waiting for us to take him outside to pee!” Yuba is in fact dancing around the room and sneaking in licks to BabyC’s face when he gets a chance.

We have this conversation when we sit down for breakfast, when we go for a walk, when we get in the car to run an errand or go to the library, when we prepare for naptime, when she wakes up from her nap, and again at bedtime. Sometimes we have to run through the list several times before she is satisfied. BabyC is keeping tabs on everyone.

When we went on a trip to Vermont last month, BabyC asked about Bubba and Aiyash constantly, at least 10 times per day, again at transition times. We would usually try to guess what Yuba and Shasta were doing at home.

“Aiyash?”

“Shasta is at home. Maybe she is out for a walk around the neighborhood.”

“Bubba?”

“Yuba is at home. He is probably taking a nap right now.”

“Yeah,” she would say, nodding in agreement. She missed our family pets while we were away.

I love these conversations with BabyC. They are sweet. It is clear that she knows who her family members are, and she knows that though each of us is loved and valued by her, we are separate from her.

Yuba and Baby, on a walk together that lasted for all of 7 seconds.

It seems to me that this represents a major milestone in my child’s life. Continue reading

New Research on Bedsharing and Infant Breathing

Berthe Morisot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A study published online last week [1] in the journal Pediatrics gives new information on the breathing environment for bedsharing and crib-sleeping infants. Dr. Sally Baddock and colleagues from the University of Otago in New Zealand conducted the study.

This study included 40 routinely bedsharing infants and 40 routinely crib-sleeping infants, all of which were healthy and between 0 and 6 months old. Few mothers in the study were smokers, and most of them breastfed.

The infants and mothers were videotaped on two consecutive nights. On the second night, the babies were also fitted with several sensors for physiological measurements. Their blood oxygen was measured by pulse oximetry. Other sensors measured breathing rate, and thermometers measured body temperature during the night. The air in the space directly around the infant was also sampled periodically through a small tube attached to the infant’s face. Although these measurements bring to mind a picture of lots of tubes and wires, the authors say, “All leads were secured to allow mothers to handle infants freely during the night.”

The purpose of the study was to better understand the breathing environment for bedsharing and crib-sleeping infants. Specifically, the study reported two main measures: Continue reading

BabyC’s 12 Steps to Healthy Toddler Eating

I used to think I knew a lot about food. I have a Ph.D. in Nutrition, for crying out loud. Then I became a mom.

It isn’t just about me anymore. As a mother, I feel the weight of the responsibility of raising a healthy eater. I want BabyC to not only eat well today, but to also enjoy eating and grow up to have a healthy relationship with food. None of my coursework in grad school prepared me for this job.

Over the last year, I have learned a lot about feeding a child. Who has been my most important teacher? The kid herself.

If BabyC could say more than “ack-ack” (cracker) or “ana” (banana), here’s what I think she’d like me to know about feeding her:

Lesson 1. You can’t make me eat anything. You just can’t. You can try, but Mama, that just takes the fun out of it! And how do you think I’ll feel about broccoli in 20 years if you force me to eat it now?

Lesson 2. Relax. It isn’t your job to decide how much or even whether I eat. That’s my job. Your job is to fix good food and put it on the table at regular mealtimes. You can handle that, right?

Lesson 3. Sit down to eat with me. Otherwise, I feel bored and will take the opportunity to repeat my milk pouring experiment for the 248th time. I feel pretty certain about the gravity thing, but now I’m curious to see just how large of a diameter I can make it splatter on the floor. Continue reading

A Toddler and Her Food: An Evolving Relationship

A reader emailed me the other day asking for an update on BabyC and her relationship with food. In the early days of the blog, I wrote quite a bit about feeding and nutrition, but lately I’ve been distracted by other topics. My next couple posts will revisit food in our family, including some lessons I’ve learned on feeding a toddler. Let’s start with a recap of the story of BabyC and Food.

Chapter 1: Milk Monogamy

These were the days when BabyC was a one-food girl. Feeding was simple and sweet. While we technically breastfed on demand, in practice BabyC and I fell into fairly predictable routines, and after the first couple of months, it didn’t feel demanding at all. She ate when she was hungry and stopped when she was full. She knew that she could count on her next meal being there when needed, so there was no need to worry beyond that. BabyC was exclusively breastfed until she was around 5 months old, but breast milk provided at least 90% of her calories until she was around 8 months old.

{I know what you’re thinking: “Alice! Don’t you know you’re supposed to wait until 6 months to start solid foods?!” At the time, I wasn’t convinced that there was strong evidence for waiting. BabyC had been falling off the WHO growth charts, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get a jump-start on solid foods. Plus, she was grabbing at the food on my plate, and I was excited to introduce her to the tastes of the world. These days, I think that there is sufficient evidence to recommend waiting until 6 months to introduce exclusively breastfed babies to solids. However, as with most recommendations of this sort, I also think there is some wiggle room depending on the baby’s development and desires.}

Chapter 2: A Skeptical Introduction

Anyway, we started dabbling in solid foods around 5 months. Rice cereal was a non-starter, and we quickly moved on to more interesting foods: banana, carrots, sweet potato, and avocado. I offered little flirtatious bites to BabyC. They were colorful and often accompanied by a song. She would usually entertain them with a small taste and then turn up her nose at the rest.

Chapter 3: Head Over Heels

BabyC’s skepticism about food continued until we took her on vacation to Hawaii when she was about 7 months old. I think this was a turning point because I relaxed about the whole thing. We were on Island Time. I stopped trying so hard and just started giving BabyC pieces of good food when we were enjoying it: A bit of French bread as we waited for our dinner at a restaurant, a chunk of super-ripe mango, a spoonful of soft papaya, a bite of my banana.

Suddenly BabyC was enthusiastic about foods. She wanted to try them all! She just wanted finger foods, please. She wanted to control how much and how fast she ate. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask? Continue reading

Please Don’t Ask My Child to Keep Secrets

This morning, BabyC, Yuba the dog, and I were playing in our neighborhood meadow. Those of you who were aghast or concerned about our letting BabyC climb on our furniture will be happy to know that we have found the perfect toddler climbing tree at the meadow. She makes a beeline for this tree every morning, and she practices climbing up and down the ladder-like sideways branches.

Can you spot the toddler on a mission?

There are often other kids at the meadow, and they like this tree, too. BabyC watches with big eyes as the older kids climb higher than she thought possible. Yesterday, she climbed right into a group of big kids, and one of them accidentally knocked her off her low branch. She whimpered, and then we brushed off her knees and she tried again. I love watching this kid work.

Anyway, back to this morning. BabyC was climbing, and I was standing where I could both throw the frisbee for Yuba into the open part of the meadow and keep an eye on BabyC. On our way into the meadow, we had said hello to a middle-aged woman and two elementary-aged kids. They were now playing in trees out of sight but within earshot from us.

I could tell that the woman and children were having an earnest conversation, but I wasn’t following it. Then I heard the woman say,

“I’ll tell you, but it is a secret. You can’t tell your parents. They might not understand.”

This stopped me in my tracks. Continue reading

Baby Unplugged Books: A Review and Giveaway!

I received a delightful package last week. Dr. John Hutton sent me the seven books in his Baby Unplugged board book series, each about a wonderful, old-fashioned piece of childhood: Pets, Blanket, Yard, Ball, Book, Beach, and Box.

BabyC and I read through the books together, and we both enjoyed them so much that I wanted to recommend them in a review and pass five of them on to you as a giveaway. We’re keeping “Yard,” because it is my favorite, and “Pets,” because BabyC chewed on it.

{You know I don’t do many reviews or giveaways. I’m selective about them – I only review books that I can truly recommend. Dr. Hutton sent me these books as samples, and I haven’t received any compensation for writing this review.}

Dr. Hutton is a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the owner of an independent children’s bookstore in Cincinnati called Blue Manatee Books, and the father of three children. He’s also a passionate advocate for keeping childhood screen-free and encouraging good, old-fashioned play. He wrote and self-published the Baby Unplugged series of board books. You can read more about Dr. Hutton’s screen-free mission on his blog, Baby Unplugged (also on Facebook). He often writes about the science of play and research on the effects of screen time, so I am following his blog with interest.

I’ll get to the books in a minute, but first I want to tell you about how they arrived. They were packed in a special Blue Manatee box. When I opened the box, I was greeted by a piece of paper that read, in large font, “attention, grownup!” OK, box. You have my attention. This piece of paper reminded me to please not throw away or recycle this box, not just yet. Continue reading

Tummy Troubles, Colic, and Mama’s Diet

This question comes from a ScienceofMom reader, who wrote me to ask:

I’m looking for good quality information on whether mom’s diet can really cause tummy trouble in babies, outside of perhaps a milk protein allergy.  I’ve seen arguments that it does, but they seem largely anecdotal.  Yet my pediatrician has never mentioned the possibility that my diet might be causing my 3-month-old infant to have gas bouts at 4 a.m. or so every. single. night.  Instead I’m routinely told that I just need to wait and by 4 months her digestive system will grow up.  –KT

Most of us have heard and read that we don’t need to give up any of our favorite foods in order to breastfeed our babies. In general, this is true, and it is an important message. Between sore nipples and engorged breasts during those first few weeks of motherhood, moms need to know that breastfeeding will eventually (usually) be an easy fit to their lifestyle.

There has even been some recent research showing that maternal diet restriction during lactation may increase baby’s chances of developing allergies. If your baby is NOT showing any signs of tummy troubles, your best bet is to eat a balanced variety of whole foods. Think of it as gently introducing your baby to the proteins of the world via your milk.

However, there have been several studies of the effect of mom’s diet on colic symptoms. Approximately 1 in 5 U.S. infants between 0 and 4 months are considered to have colic. The “Rule of Threes” is used to define colic: A colicky baby has incessant, inconsolable crying for at least 3 hours per day on at least 3 days per week, for more than 3 weeks. Crying is usually the worst in the evening hours. {It isn’t clear from K.T.’s note if her baby actually has colic or just gas – they’re not always the same. I’ve focused this post on colic, because that’s where the research is, but I’m willing to speculate that what works for colicky babies may also help babies with milder types of GI discomfort.}

The truth is that we really don’t know what causes colic. It is probably multi-factorial and has different causes in different babies. (For an interesting account of the history of our understanding of colic and how to manage it, check out this article,The Colic Conundrum, from The New Yorker.) However, there are several lines of evidence that colic is related to intestinal immaturity or imbalance. Colicky babies often seem to be gassy and to have GI discomfort, pulling their legs up to their bellies while crying as if in pain. Research has also shown that colicky babies have intestinal inflammation and abnormal gut motility [1]. In addition, we know that proteins from mom’s diet can pass into breast milk, and some babies seem to be allergic or intolerant of these proteins. That’s where the role of mom’s diet comes in.

Cow’s milk appears to be the most common culprit when it comes to food allergies in infants. It has been estimated to occur in about 0.5-1.0% of exclusively breastfed infants [2]. Studies on the relationship between cow’s milk allergy and colic are mixed, however. In one study, 66 mothers of exclusively breastfed colicky infants eliminated cow’s milk from their diets, and “colic disappearance” was noted in more than half of the infants [3]. When the moms later drank cow’s milk again as a test, colic symptoms returned in 2 out of 3 of the babies. Based on this study, cow’s milk allergy or intolerance would seem to be an important cause of colic. Continue reading