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their recommendations; however, many health care providers and written materials are not up to date and give parents outdated guidelines to follow.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! 

 

Baby Eczema: 5 Simple Changes You Can Make to Soothe Your Baby’s Skin

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Around the 18 month mark, Liam started developing baby eczema. He never had particularly sensitive skin, diaper rashes, or reactions as an infant, so we were a little surprised to hear from our pediatrician that it was, in fact, a mild case of nummular eczema.

The reality is that about 20 percent of babies and young children develop eczema. It usually starts in infancy, with 65 percent of patients developing symptoms in the first year of life and 90 percent developing symptoms before age 5 (babycenter.com). The tendency to have eczema can be inherited , but it can also be caused by an allergic reaction or a simple reaction to irritants, changes in temperature, and dry skin. It isn’t contagious, and the good news is that many children do outgrow baby eczema. For others, it is simply seasonal with flare ups in the colder months.

Although the steroid ointment our pediatrician suggested worked right away to clear his eczema, Liam has had some mild flare ups again, especially during particularly cold weeks.

Since I am not a fan of always having to go the “medication” route if not 100% necessary, I did some research on natural ways to prevent eczema flare ups. Here are five solutions I’ve found that could help you too:

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Although the cause of eczema is still unknown, it is important to figure out what your child’s triggers are to alleviate flare ups.

Eczema flare-ups can sometimes be triggered by skin irritation caused by chemicals, such as the detergents in bubble baths, shampoos, washing powders and fabric softeners (babycentre.co.uk).  You could also try changing your washing detergent because, believe it or not, even the washed clothing and other linens that come in contact with your baby’s skin can cause flare ups. We use Seventh Generation and Babyganics.

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As mentioned above, there are many toxins and chemicals in traditional shampoos and body washes. Sometimes, even organic products can be too harsh on your baby’s skin! Aim for products with simple ingredients, and definitely no strong smells. Less is more!

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Since Liam was a newborn, we’ve been using the Babyganics Foaming Shampoo and Bodywash. It’s super foamy so you don’t need a lot, and it’s hands free which is always nice during crazy bath time.

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I’ve had the opportunity of working with two amazing Etsy vendors who are beyond passionate about baby skin. Their products have done wonders on my son’s dry, winter skin!

Made and shipped from Louisiana, Cake Face Soaping products are made with premium ingredients, some even grown in Kelsey’s own backyard. Does it get more authentic than that? There are no chemicals, fragrances, or parabens in their products.

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Although I received this lovely set only a few days ago, the Baby Body Lotion and Bye-Bye Dry Patch! have become staples in our household after bath time. Liam’s skin has definitely improved as a result and I can already see the dry patches fading, becoming softer to the touch. I cannot wait to test out the baby oils as well!

Baby Body Lotion Ingredients: A delicate blend of organic avocado oil, avocado butter, grapeseed oil, pistachio butter, pumpkin seed butter, fractionated coconut oil, olive oil, and essential oil blend (lavender, chamomile, patchouli).

Bye-Bye Dry Patch Ingredients: Distilled water, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, and a Cake Face blend of chamomile and lavender essential oils.

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The founder of Meadowlark Botanical, Jessica Yaw, started her brand based on a personal need. In 2009, she started getting hives from packaged foods, skin products, and stress. She thought she could control the symptoms with topical ointments, but realized the problem was deeper than that. After countless MD appointments, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Mast Cell Activation Disorder, in which mast cells excessively release chemical mediators, resulting in a range of chronic symptoms. The products she was using at the time were only aggravating the situation.

Jessica made her first eczema cream on the 4-burner stove in her kitchen, using a host of organic ingredients that came together in what she believes was a “truly divine way”. Within days, her skin started clearing. She felt better, no longer itchy, her bran fog began to lift… Since then, she’s continued her training in medicinal aromatherapy and herbal medicine and has created a wide array of products she is exciting about sharing with the world. Her passion for holistic health changed her life, and she yearns to empower others to do the same, living a mindful, well-intentioned and beautiful life.

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Jessica’s eczema cream is our go-to multiple times a day. It smells delicious and rubs on beautifully. Liam always asks for a quick sniff before I put it away! When my mother-in-law tried it on her psoriasis, she was quick to order one for herself. It’s that good.

Ingredients: Organic shea butter and coconut oil combines with organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, evening primrose oil, chamomile, house-infused calendula oil, and a few soothing, medicinal grade healing essential oils such as calendula that bring immediate relief from eczema, psoriasis, and dry, inflamed, or chapped skin.

If you’re interested in trying out Jessica’s product line, she was generous enough to give my readers a 15% off coupon (MAMALUV). I promise you that you will not be disappointed!

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I can’t stress this one enough, because it’s made a huge difference in our household. Avoid polyester, nylon, and even wool, as it may trap heat and worsen itching. Cotton and bamboo are two of your best options because they are soft and gentle on the skin, breathable, and absorbent.

 Bambi Bamboo is a brand I found on Amazon that sells baby linens and swaddles made of bamboo, a fiber that keeps baby’s skin clean & clear while also being hypoallergenic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-static, as well as odor and germ resistance. The advantage of bamboo is that it regulates your skin temperature. Perfect for our babies!

This adorable, organic bamboo hooded towel is great because it actually dries Liam in half the time cotton does (I know, I was shocked too!) and gets softer with every wash – so much softer than the organic towels I previously purchased for Liam! It comes with a washcloth set, too.

The Bambi Bamboo swaddles may be even better than my Aiden and Anais ones. Made of 70% bamboo and 30% cotton, they’re super light and breathable, therefore great on the go as nursing covers and blankets for the warmer months. I love the summery prints!

If you want to try out either one of these products, Bambi Bamboo is  generously giving Mama Naturelle readers 20% off their product line! Comment below for more info 🙂

Another fantastic organic bamboo brand is The Parent Diary. I actually discovered them a few months ago when I purchased their ChooseMyPlate silicone place mat which we love (especially at Grandma’s or when we go out to eat!)

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The Parent Diary had the super clever idea of creating a large, hooded towel that is hands-free for parents. You heard that right, no more wriggling away! You clip the towel around your neck and all you have to do is hug your little one and pick him up. The clip can be removed as your child grows, turning the towel into a large, hooded towel. It is much larger in size than most of his other towels I’ve seen on the market, so I expect to use it for many years as Liam grows with it. Like the Bambi Bamboo towel, it also came with a washcloth set.

Both are great options to replace your old, scratchy towels. To get rid of eczema triggers, you first need to know what they are… and that can be your child’s clothing, towel, bed sheets, etc.

Speaking of bed sheets, I’ve recently switched out my older organic cotton sheets for these two brands, Sweet Jojo Designs and Copper Pearl. Both are 100% woven cotton, making them durable, lightweight, and breathable. Check them out!

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We always use a humidifer during the winter months to prevent Liam’s room from getting too dry.The National Institutes of Health recommends the use of humidifiers to not only help relieve congestion from the common cold, flu, and sinus infections, but also alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes, eczema, itchy skin, dry nasal passages, cracked lips, and nose bleeds due to dry air, allergies, or asthma.

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We love the Crane Drop Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifer. Aside from its benefits for Liam’s skin, it is proven to help reduce mold and bacteria growth up to 99.96%. Sounds good to us!

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3 DIY Activities to Teach Your Toddler Colors

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We’re mid “color discovering” phase with Liam and it’s so much fun!

Considering that he’s learning his colors in both French and English, we’re trying to keep it as simple as possible to not confuse him. That’s a lot of different words!

For the most part, we’ve been asking Liam to point to the colors – when I play with him, I ask him the colors in French (“jaune, comme le soleil!” (“yellow like the sun!”), and when his dad does, he asks him in English (“red, like elmo!”)

It’s been working out great so far – ‘m so impressed with this little guy! He is able to say some of the primary colors in French and English, but not every time. We’ve still got a long way to go 🙂

To make the color-learning phase challenging and enjoyable for your toddler (and you too, of course!), here are some easy DIY activities you can put together in under 20 minutes. Fun times for all guaranteed!

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For this activity, all you need is construction paper, laminate/adhesive liner (I bought this large roll for $4.93 on Amazon!), a sharpiescissors, and tape.

Trace your hand on a piece of construction paper(color of choice) with a sharpie. Then,  holding a neat stack of 5 pieces of construction paper (we did red, yellow, blue, orange, and green) trace your handprint, then cut the shape out. Then, for extra protection, all you ned to do is stick each handprint on a piece of laminate paper, cover it with another piece, and cut the shape out. Voila!

I like to tape the hands to a wall in the living room and ask Liam to “high five” the requested colors. He loves it!

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This is a fun activity involving those magnetic letters that we all seem to have in storage from our toddler’s first birthday or Christmas! 😉

All you need is a tray, magnetic letters, and construction paper. 

Have your child match the magnetic letter colors to each piece of construction paper. As shown above, we stick with blue, red, yellow, green, orange, and purple (the colors that the magnetic letters usually come in!)

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This is another really fun activity that can be expanded on using more baskets and more colors!

All you need are three (or more) plastic baskets, construction paper or post-its (in red and blue, or  other colors of choice), and air-filled ball pit balls. You can also hand select toys in each color to keep things fun! This activity is super easy and should entertain your little one for, hmmm, let’s say 5 minutes 😉

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Please share! xo

5 Things Moms Should Stop Doing Right About Now

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Moms always mean well (duh!), but sometimes, even with the best intentions in the world, we end up enabling some bad habits…

Sound familiar?

Check out my new post on Westchester County Moms Blog!