6 Life Lessons I’m Learning From My Two-Year-Old

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He doesn’t care if everyone in the store is looking at him as he makes chicken and monkey noises at the top of his lungs. Our kids aren’t trapped, like we are, in our adult shells. If there’s any advice I can learn from my son, it’s to have more fun. Who cares what anyone else thinks?

Check out my latest post featured on Westchester County Moms Blog!

4 Easy, Healthy, Eco-Friendly Changes You Can Make in Your Home Today

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I’m always asking myself how we can be more health-conscious and eco-friendly in our home. Lately, I’ve made four switches that make me feel a lot better – I hope you will jump on that bandwagon, too!

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My motto is this: If you use something every single day, it needs to be guilt-free. Knowing what I know about antiperspirants and the dangers of aluminum, parabens, and other common ingredients, I stopped using antiperspirant years ago. I always thought it was unnatural to use something that actually blocked the flow of sweat when that is something our bodies do for a reason.

However, even the deodorant I had used for years (Arm & Hammer Essentials Deodorant) wasn’t as clean as I wanted it to be.

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My favorite Native scent is Coconut & Vanilla – Smells like a tropical vacation 🙂

I recently made the switch to Native, a deodorant free of all of these awful ingredients that actually works… and for 24 hours! If, like me, you are concerned about the rise of breast cancer (1 out of 8 US women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime), make the switch. You won’t regret it.

 

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Why make the switch? Wooden toys are safe from harmful chemicals that our young kiddos are especially sensitive to. Our infants and toddlers don’t just play with these toys, they nibble, bite, and chew them – plastic toys often contain phthalates, BPA, or PVC, all dangerous chemicals that mimic or suppress normal hormone regulation and have been linked to problems related to early puberty, obesity, and cancer. Many traditional toys have been recalled in the past due to lead – lead ingestion can lead to brain and learning disabilities.

Why worry about these things? I’d rather be confident that what I am buying for my child is safe and chemical-free.

What I also love about wooden toys is that they tend to foster imagination – no need for batteries, electricity, or software. They are often educational, engage a child’s imagination, and encourage creative open ended play. The kind of play that helps them develop many cognitive skills. These toys are also durable and lasting – they will survive many years of use and abuse! Financially, they are a true investment – you will most likely have them for decades.

Two of my favorite brands are Dragon Drew and Santoys (pictured above).

  • Dragon Drew products are made up of 100% real wood and comply with all international toy safety standards. Their toys are made from renewable resources with non-toxic paints for safe play. I love their pretend play sets, like their doctor kit, toiletry set, and breakfast playset. I mean, seriously… how cute are they?
  • Santoys build 100% of our products within their own factory in Thailand. Their toys are made of replenishable rubber wood, an eco-friendly, sustainable, and high quality wood. Santoys uses strict production techniques to ensure high quality and safe wooden toys. Some of my favorites are their Super Carrier Lorry, Portable Builder Workbench, and Velcro Cutting Food Pretend Play.

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Although dryer sheets work extremely well to soften clothing and reduce static, they can contain hundreds of unlabeled, untested chemicals that come into direct contact with the body on a 24/7 basis. And as if that wasn’t enough, dryer sheets are awful for the environment.

Want to make the switch? I recently discovered the brand Friendsheep on Amazon. Their fabric softener wool balls are individually hand felted with 100% premium organic New Zealand wool, and then sun dried.

Their dryer balls are organic, contain no fillers or additives, and shorten drying time by up to 40% (they absorb up to 30% of their weight in water!) saving you time, energy, and money. They are environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic, chemical and fragrance free. You get so much more  for your money – they are reusable (last for thousands of loads!), safe, and biodegradable. For a fresh scent, you can add 3-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender for the win!) so your laundry always smells fresh and clean 🙂

* If $23.95 for 6 wool dryer balls is a little steep for your budget right now, I recommend the brand Delana. Their packs come in sets of 5 wool dryer balls for $10.49!

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I want to stop using as much plastic but find it daunting to entirely eliminate it at once. One solution I found is to stop buying cases of plastic bottles and solely use a reusable water bottle. Here are a few reasons to stop buying and using so much plastic (source):

  1. Most plastic is made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, which release toxic emissions when extracted from the earth.
  2. Petrochemical plants pollute communities and harms workers.
  3. Plastics contain additives that can offgas and contaminate the air in our homes and other personal spaces.
  4. Plastics release hazardous emissions when burned.
  5. Plastic recycling can be hazardous to communities and workers.

Plastic is bad for our air. Bad for our oceans. Bad for our planet.

Bad for our kids.

I did quite a bit of research on the dangers of plastic, and what hit me hard is that plastic bottles take on average 450 to 1,000 years to fully decompose. That means that all of the plastic that has been created in our lifetimes is still around, on land or in our oceans. How horrible is that? So if, like us, you’d like to reduce your family’s plastic consumption, get a water dispenser and a reusable water bottle. I bought mine at TJ Maxx (under $7) and even got my two-year-old a little one at Target.

Click here for tips on how you can reduce your everyday plastic waste!

 

To My First Born, On Mother’s Day

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A mother doesn’t become a mother overnight – she evolves, adapts, shedding skin after skin. The day those two pink lines appeared, so literally, matter-of-factly, before my eyes, I met the woman I’d soon become. You made me me, and I thank you for it.

. . .  You know you’re a mom when your Mother’s Day post is all about your kid! Check out the rest of my post for Westchester County Moms Blog here!

“Time Out”: Will It Traumatize My Child?

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I never thought that “time-out” would be my thing until that one play date where Liam, my almost two-year-old, decided to experiment with hitting and pulling other kids’ hair. There was literally nothing I could do to stop him – he was in that kind of mood, a feisty, assertive mood I had never seen him in before that afternoon.

I assured the moms that this was certainly not the Liam I knew, but it didn’t help my embarrassment… No one wants their child to be that child. I was mortified.

After multiple “chats” in the corner of the room, I had no choice but to remove him from the situation entirely. Embarrassment aside, I had no idea what to do – how could I tackle “time-out” in a way that would teach my young child that what he did was “wrong”? Would he understand that his actions were to not be reproduced, or would he simply be traumatized by the abrupt punishment?

I took him out of the play space (luckily, it was our living room), plopped him in his crib, explained that he was in “time-out”, and closed the door. I stood outside for 30-45 seconds, then went back in and asked him if he was ready to play nice again. He nodded eagerly, so I assumed he meant yes.

I had no idea if what I was doing was okay, I just did it. I knew, in the moment, that I needed to remove him from the situation, I just didn’t know if it was the right way to do it.

That night, I did a bit of research on time-out methods and how to successfully teach a toddler that what he did was “wrong”. It is one thing to teach a four-year-old to stop doing something, but an entirely different one to explain it to a 22-month-old.

This is what I learned:

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For toddlers, you want to treat the time-out as a short break from an “overstimulating” situation. There is no need to make your child feel abandoned, so it is best to sit in a quiet room together – do your best to not talk or get visibly upset.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it’s fine to give children as young as 1 a time-out (although 2 is more effective), but only as a last resort – don’t call time-out whenever your child does something “bad”, but rather when he does something dangerous (hit the dog, for example) or something that can lead to bad habits (like being pushy with other kids).

Don’t expect your toddler to get much out of time-out, but rather use it as “quiet time” to be able to reenter the stimulating situation with a calmer attitude. At this age, time-out should never be treated as a “punishment” – All it is is a break, an opportunity to nip the bad behavior in the bud.

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The key is to choose a time-out setting that is quiet. This can be another room or your child’s crib or pack and play. In this setting, your child should be able to regroup and calm down in about a minute (a good rule of thumb is one minute per year- but some argue that this only applies to children two and up.)

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Although your toddler may not be able to take a step back from the situation and analyze his own behavior, it is essential to explain that what he did was wrong. Make your explanation immediate, brief, and calm. Use direct eye contact and be firm. You may want to do this as a warning: “if you hit and hurt ____, we’ll take a time-out because it’s not nice to hurt other babies”. The more specific you are, the more likely your child will understand that what he did wasn’t okay. Explain why it’s time for a time-out so that, hopefully, your child thinks twice before doing said action again.

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Even if what your child did was unacceptable, do not berate him. Assume that the time-out itself is enough of a lesson. Once time-out is over, leave the bad behavior behind you and move on.

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When time-out is over, give your child a hug, a sign of affection that tells him that you still love him regardless of his bad behavior. Instead of reiterating that what he did was bad, focus on a positive. You can say something like, “okay, let’s go play with ____ again – why don’t we read a book together?” or “why don’t you show ____ how nicely you can play?” The goal is to distract your child from the upsetting situation and move on in a positive way. Assume the lesson has been learned.

Note – Until your child is able to determine what good and behaviors are (around the age of 3), limit time-outs and make sure they are only used when absolutely necessary (dangerous situations, for example). Do not abuse them. Keep in mind that toddlers are still in the “discovery” phase, and that it is our job, as parents, to teach them right from wrong. A clear, firm explanation can go a long way!

Anxiety After the Incident: When Mom Needs to Realize She’s Not Okay

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Even if you were fortunate enough to never experience true, debilitating anxiety before having children, I’m sure you’ve realized by now that motherhood comes with quite a bit of baggage in the stress department. It seems as if all we do as moms is worry about our kids… then worry some more. We lose sleep over the smallest issues, Googling health concerns we never, in a million years, thought we could have.

But it’s only when something really scary happens to our little ones that we realize the immense responsibility on our shoulders: our jobs have no breaks, no days off, no leniency. We must be alert, attentive, and in tune with our kids at all times to make sure they stay safe. We cannot fail our children, because that would mean failing ourselves, too.

Read the rest of my post featured on Westchester County Moms Blog here!

Your Baby’s Rice Cereal: The Shocking Truth

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I recently had a conversation with a new mom about when to start solids. She was surprised to hear that I started Liam at 6 months with a wide range of foods (pretty much everything but honey, nuts, and shellfish!), and not 4 months with rice cereal only.

Current recommendations indicate that “breast milk or formula should be baby’s main source of nutrition until at least 6 months of age.  While many pediatricians recommend starting solid foods sometime between 4 and six months of age, the earlier introduction of solid foods may have certain risk factors” (wholesomebabyfood.com).

There has been a large amount of research on this, and most health organizations have updated their recommendations; however, many health care providers and written materials are not up to date and give parents outdated guidelines to follow. My piece of advice is always to be informed about the risks and benefits of each decision when it comes to your child – If your doctors seems to be pushing an early introduction to solids and you think your child may not be fully ready yet, do not hesitate to ask the pediatrician to explain what he or she thinks the benefits of starting solids early are.

That being said, your baby may show signs that he/she is “ready” for solids between 4-8 months. A good piece of advice is to watch your baby, not the calendar. Don’t jump to conclusions because your child seems to have a larger appetite (growth spurts!) and pay attention to his/her hunger cues.

A few things to consider to be sure your child is ready for solids:

  • The loss of tongue-thrust reflex (does not push the food back out)
  • Your baby has an interest in table food
  • Your baby is able to sit up unassisted
  • Your baby is able to let you know when he or she is “full” (by turning away)

It is a myth that rice cereal will help your child sleep longer! In reality, “around the time parents begin to offer solids early is just about the time that an infant may be sleeping for longer periods at a time.  This is a natural progression as an infant ages and matures and it oftentimes coincides with the addition of early solids.  This coincidence perpetuates the dangerous myth that early offerings of solid foods will help an infant sleep ‘through the night’” (wholesomebabyfood.com). Even Gerber recommends against putting rice cereal in your baby’s bottle!

Ultimately, keep in mind that your child is getting all the important nutrients he/she needs from breastmilk and/or formula until one year of age. Solids are just “fun” for the first year!

Now. . . 

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First, the ingredients. Because, believe it or not, your baby isn’t just eating mashed up brown rice, here! Traditional rice cereal is made from white rice (not nutritious) and is  fortified with synthetically produced vitamins like ferrous sulfate (iron), folic acid (vitamin B9), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Rice cereal is highly processed, converted into light flakes meant to be “instantly” ready for consumption. This “easy” consumption means the rice has been stripped of the little nutritive content it does have. The fact that it is fortified with synthetic vitamins and folic acid is not a good thing, either: these vitamins are hard to digest for our babies, but folic acid can be even more damaging. Folate is an essential nutrient, but folic acid is its synthetic replacement, commonly linked to thyroid damage and other issues.

Rice cereal is also fortified with iron, and although we can all agree it is a necessary nutrient (and low in our breastmilk), high levels of synthetic ferrous sulfate make it hard to digest and may lead to neurological issues later on in life.

Arsenic is naturally found in the ground and in our water, but can become concentrated due to conventional farming practices. When pesticides are used on fields, the runoff contaminates the soil and water with arsenic. This irrigation water then floods rice fields for extended periods of time, and rice absorbs more arsenic compared to other crops. Sorry, healthy mamas: Even organically grown rice (great!) is susceptible to high levels of arsenic contamination because of the necessary growing environment. Both white and brown rice contain arsenic, and high levels of arsenic damages the nervous system, can cause poor concentration/memory and reduced intelligence. Additionally, moms who eat a high arsenic diet while pregnant have babies with a higher chance of respiratory complications.

Now, let’s talk about digestion: Amylase is the name of the enzyme that digest starches and grains (like rice cereal). Babies only begin to produce salivary amylase when they reach 6 months of age (usually the age most parents introduce solids), however they don’t fully develop pancreatic amylase, the enzyme that digests carbohydrates, until approximately 8 years oldNow you see why 4 months is too early? 

Rice cereal is bland and tasteless, usually a reason why it’s recommended to our little ones. However, believe it or not, your breastmilk is flavored by the foods you eat and your baby is familiar with different tastes very early on, depending on your diet.

So instead of limiting your baby to foods that are bland in taste and low in nutrition content, aim for a variety of healthy first foods (that your baby can digest) like banana, pear, avocado, sweet potato, and carrot (colors! tastes! textures!) that will not only be more gentle on his/her baby digestive system, but also encourage your child to make healthy diet choices as he/she grows.

Note: although a varied, wholesome diet past the 6 month mark is encouraged, make sure to introduce only one food at a time for at least 24-36 hours to monitor for any reactions/allergies. You never know! 

 

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