baby care

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led Weaning

If you have a baby who is nearing the age of starting solids, you’ve probably had conversations with other moms about various approaches to introducing baby’s first foods. While rice cereal and purees may be the go-to options often recommended by pediatricians, more and more moms are choosing to bypass the mush and head straight to finger foods. This approach is called baby-led weaning.

Benefits:

Baby-led weaning, a term coined by British public health nurse Gill Rapley, has become a popular method of introducing solids that allows baby to learn to self-feed, self-regulate and explore different tastes and textures. Supporters of baby-led weaning identify a host of benefits with the practice including:

  • Allowing baby to eat when he is hungry versus spoon feeding 
  • Developing the ability to self-regulate and stop eating when full
  • Exposure to a wide array of tastes and textures which may ultimately lead to a child who is more apt to eat a variety of healthy and different foods
  • Development of hand-eye coordination, the pincer grasp and manual dexterity
  • Possible reduced risk of the development of allergies due to introduction to a variety of foods
  • Reduced risk of being overweight due to the ability to stop when they are full and not overeat
  • Learning to mash and chew which ultimately aids in the digestive process
  • Baby eats what the rest of the family eats. There’s no need to prepare separate purees; just offer baby some of what you are having.
  • Continuing the practice of feeding on demand like with breastfeeding by now allowing baby to choose what and how much he puts in his mouth
  • Teaching baby to enjoy healthy foods.

Is My Baby Ready For BLW?

While some pediatricians give the OK to begin solids as early as 4 months of age, it is not recommended that you start baby-led weaning until your baby is 6 months old. By 6 months of age, baby’s intestines have developed enough to digest solid foods. Your baby should also be able to sit unassisted and grab objects with their hands. And similar to beginning any solids regimen, your baby should have dropped the tongue thrust reflex which causes them to push foreign objects out of their mouth. When in doubt, check with your pediatrician to see if she feels baby-led weaning will be a good option for your child.

What Are Good Foods for BLW?

Any food that is nutritious, can be served in fistful size portions and can be easily mashed with the gums is appropriate for baby-led weaning. Just a few of these include:

  • Banana
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Steamed carrots 
  • Steamed green beans
  • Boiled chicken and beef
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Eggs
  • Grilled fish
  • Pasteurized cheese
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Pears
  • Peaches 
  • Mangos

How to Get Started:

Getting started with baby-led weaning is easy as you will often be feeding your baby nutritious foods that you already have in your home. Here are some tips for a successful experience:

  • Cut food into thick, fistful length strips that baby can hold on to and eat from the top down
  • Start by offering just one or two foods on baby’s tray
  • Have baby eat at the same time as the rest of your family so that they can mimic your behavior
  • Allow baby to try foods of different tastes and textures. You can even add spices but adding salt and sugar is not necessary or advisable.
  • Encourage baby to explore the food through touch, taste and smell and allow him to have fun with the process
  • Show baby how to guide the food to his mouth but let him be in control of what he chooses to eat
  • If baby seems uninterested in eating the foods offered, stop and try again another day
  • If your baby shows interest in something you are eating and it’s a safe food for his age, offer him a taste
  • Continue to offer breastmilk or formula as often as you did prior to beginning solids. Your baby will eventually begin eating more real food and consuming less milk as he gets older.
  • Make sure baby has on a big, waterproof bib. Baby-led weaning is messy!

Safety and Precautions with BLW:

A common concern when considering baby-led weaning is, ‘Won’t they choke?’ While gagging is not uncommon when introducing solid foods, choking can be avoided by steering clear of hazardous foods such as nuts, apples with skin, popcorn, grapes, cherries and other small round foods and fruits. It is important to know the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a natural mechanism that allows food to be moved from the throat forward by coughing and actually prevents baby from choking. Choking, however, is when an object or food becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe rendering the child unable to breathe or speak.

In addition to offering safe food options to your baby, always make sure he is supervised and sitting in an upright position when trying baby-led weaning. Also, always monitor your baby for any allergic reactions following the introduction of new foods. Educating yourself and your baby’s caregivers on safe baby-led weaning will help prevent instances of choking and increase the likelihood of a having positive experience with food for your little one. 

Baby-led weaning offers a different and fun approach to solids for you and baby that may increase the likelihood of raising an adventurous and healthy eater. It can be done exclusively or in unison with offering more traditional first foods like purees and cereals to see which method works best for your baby. As with mosst aspects of parenting, the most important thing is to find what works best for your family and follow that path. As long as your baby is receiving vital nutrients from breastmilk or formula and you have begun the process of introducing solids by 6 to 8 months, you are on the right track. For questions about infant nutrition or for any and all topics related to natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Starting Solids with Baby

Solid baby foods

Last week, we looked at all the great benefits of making your own baby food from cost savings to reducing baby’s exposure to unnecessary additives and sugar. Now, you may be wondering when your baby will be ready to start solids. To learn the signs of readiness, where and how to start, and which foods to steer clear of, continue reading below.

When to Start:

While readiness will vary from one baby to the next, most babies are developmentally ready to begin solids sometime between 4 and 6 months of age. Gone are the days when pediatricians would recommend putting rice cereal in a young infant’s bottle to help them sleep better. We now know that their digestive systems are not mature enough to handle the complexities of different foods until they are a bit older. Also, by 6 months of age baby’s natural supply of iron has started to diminish and may not be met with breastmilk or formula alone. Here are some signs to watch for that may indicate your tot is ready to expand his palate. 

  • Baby has lost the extrusion reflex which is helpful for nursing but causes him to push food out of his mouth instinctively with his tongue.
  • Baby can sit up with support and holds up his head and neck with ease.
  • Baby’s birth weight has doubled.
  • Baby shows interest in what you eat and may grab for it.
  • Baby displays signs of still being hungry after nursing or finishing his bottle.

What to Serve:

Once you’ve determined your baby is ready to give solids a try, you have several options of where to begin. Many parents choose to start with a single-grain, iron-fortified rice or oatmeal cereal made with breastmilk or formula. While this option isn’t terribly nutritive, it is easy to digest and a good introductory food for baby to experience the basics of eating from a spoon. You can also choose to begin with pureed fruits or vegetables. Some of the best produce options for first foods include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Peaches
  • Bananas
  • Prunes
  • Avocados
  • Pears

As your baby gets a bit older, you can move from purees to simply mashing food to allow exposure to different textures. And once your baby starts to develop his pincer grip around 9-11 months, you can begin to introduce small pieces of finger foods such as cheese, bananas, puffs, pasta, eggs, spinach, poultry, meat and beans. It’s best to wait until baby has a few teeth before introducing finger foods although some soft foods like bananas and avocados can be easily mashed with baby’s gums.  

Keep in mind with any new food introduction that it can take up to 12 times of being exposed to the food before baby will decide he likes it. So don’t be discouraged if your baby rejects his first solids meal, just wait a few days and try again. It’s also wise to only introduce one new food at a time in case an allergic reaction should develop and you need to identify the culprit. Waiting 3 days after introducing a new food should be an adequate amount of time to determine if your child has an allergy. For more information on food allergies, check out - Decoding Baby Poop: Everything You Need to Know

What You Will Need:

In addition to whatever food you have decided to serve baby, you will need to have a highchair or other upright and secure seat in which to feed him. You will also need soft-tipped spoons, unbreakable or plastic dishware and a bib to catch the mess that will likely fall. Introduce baby to his first meal when he is in a happy mood and isn’t overtired or starving for milk or formula. Allowing him to nurse briefly before or have a little bottle of formula is a good idea so he will be satiated but not overly full. It’s also best to try a new food in the morning or during the day in case an allergic reaction should occur.

When you first begin solids, you may only serve baby a meal one time per day or even once every few days. At this point, it is really just for baby to begin learning about food and exploring different textures and tastes. Once your little one reaches 8 or 9 months of age, you should be feeding 2-3 meals per day in addition to their regular nursing or bottle schedule. Always let your child determine how much they want to eat and when they are full. They are still receiving a large percentage of their nutrients from nursing or formula and the food they are eating is in addition to that. 

Some Precautions:

In addition to always ensuring baby is supervised and in an upright position when eating, never feed a baby food that may present a choking hazard such as whole grapes, popcorn or hotdogs. Foods that could potentially cause choking should be cut into small pieces until the age of four and popcorn is not recommended until preschool age due to the risk of it getting caught in the windpipe. 

Also, never allow a baby under 1 year of age to have honey or cow’s milk. Honey contains spores of bacteria that may cause botulism which can be deadly to infants. 

A Special Note about Breastfeeding:

Although the digestive system may be developed enough for baby to begin solids at 4 months, it should be noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and many other notable authorities on pediatric health recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months of age. In addition to the multitude of health and emotional benefits breastfeeding offers to babies, extending exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months is associated with greater protection from illness, lower risk for obesity and a digestive system that is more developmentally ready for food. Solids during the first year should always be an accompaniment to your already established nursing relationship, not a replacement. 

Starting solids can be an exciting time for both parents and baby as you enter a new stage of development and baby begins to explore the wonderful world of food. Use this special time to allow baby to experiment with different tastes, textures and simple pleasures like holding the spoon as he learns what he likes and does not like. For questions about infant care or any and all pregnancy and natural birth related topics, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our birth center. We are here to support you during all the stages of motherhood.

Homemade Baby Food for Beginners

Homemade baby food.jpg

Making your own baby food is a great way to provide your baby with nutritious meal options and save your family money as well. While store bought foods may contain unnecessary additives, when you make your own, you can buy organic fruits and veggies and know exactly what ingredients are going into baby’s precious tummy. It’s also a great way to expose baby to different tastes and textures and get them used to eating what you and the rest of your family enjoy. Here’s some basic info on how to get started making your own baby food when it’s time to start solids.

What You Will Need:

There are several options that can be easily used to make pureed baby food including:

  • A blender or food processor: Works great for large batches of food and you probably already have one in your home. It’s easy, quick and not too difficult to clean.
  • A hand blender: A quick, easy and an efficient way to blend foods to create smooth purees.
  • A baby food grinder: A non-electric, portable baby food maker that is inexpensive. The downside is that it will only make one texture.
  • Hand-turned food mill: A non-electric option that allows for different blades to be used to create different food textures.
  • All-in-one baby food maker: May be more expensive, but will steam, cook and then puree your food.  
  • A fork: Many foods that are already soft like avocado or banana can be easily mashed regular fork. 

Other supplies you will need for making your own baby food include:

  • Storage containers for freezing/refrigerating: Ice trays with a cover make a great makeshift baby food storage container. You can also buy special containers specifically for storing baby food in the freezer. Be sure to choose a container with baby-safe plastic. Check out this article on eco-friendly parenting to learn more about safe plastic.

What Foods to Introduce:

A great place to start when making baby food is with organic fruits and vegetables. Try introducing one food at a time if your baby hasn’t already had it before to prevent any confusion should an allergic reaction occur. The below foods are typically great, safe first food options to give to new eaters.

Veggies: Avocados, carrots, peas, squash, sweet potato, asparagus and sweet peppers

Fruits: Bananas, pears, mangoes, blueberries, prunes, apricots, apples and peaches

Steps to Getting Started:

  1. Wash the fruit or vegetable thoroughly.
  2. Peel or pit the fruit or vegetable when necessary and remove any seeds.
  3. Boil or steam veggies if necessary to soften before pureeing. 
  4. Place vegetables or fruit in blender or food processor.  
  5. Add liquid if desired to achieve a creamier texture. You can use breastmilk, water or formula.
  6. Blend until you have reached desired smooth texture. 
  7. Serve food to baby no higher than body temperature.
  8. Store remaining food in storage containers to be frozen and thawed for later meals.

Tips for Homemade Baby Food:

  • Don’t add sweeteners to food like sugar or honey. Honey can cause a potentially deadly food poisoning called botulism when given to babies.
  • Do experiment with different spices and textures to expose your baby to a wide variety of tastes. This is a great way to broaden your baby’s palate and create a child who enjoys trying new foods.
  • Only serve baby a portion that you think he will eat. Once his saliva from the spoon has touched the food, bacteria can grow and the food should not be saved.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within two days.
  • Frozen fruits and veggies can be stored and used for up to 6 months. When you introduce meats in a puree, frozen leftovers should only be stored for 1-2 months. 

Making your own baby food at home is not only healthy and economical but simple and efficient. It will save you trips to the store, reduce your spending, and lessen your waste output as well. Best of all, you can know with certainty the quality of the produce and exactly what ingredients your baby is eating because it was made by you with love. For questions regarding infant care or all topics related to pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Cloth Versus Disposable Diapers

Cloth Diaper

Cloth diapering has made a comeback in recent years with more and more moms and dads looking for earth conscious ways to live and to parent. Many still feel however that committing to disposable free diapering sounds overwhelming, messy and labor intensive. If you’ve got a baby on the way and you are beginning to prepare your nursery, you may be starting to consider questions like whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of both so that you and your partner can make the best decision for your baby and your family!

Cloth diapers

Pros:

  • Cloth diapers come in a variety of different forms from all-in-ones, to pockets, prefolds, fitted and hybrid diapers. There are even special cloth diapers for newborns, swimming and potty training.
  • Your financial investment in diapers can be as little as $300 for your baby’s diapering years.
  • Choosing cloth diapers eliminates as many as 6000 diapers per year from landfills.
  • You will never run out of diapers, have to take out diaper trash, or spend money on diapers after your initial investment.
  • You can reduce your baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals by choosing cloth over disposables.
  • Because of their adjustable fit and stronger elastic, cloth diapers can often contain messes more efficiently.
  • Choosing cloth can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released via the production and distribution of disposable diapers.
  • Cloth diapers come in an endless variety of fabrics, colors and cute patterns from which to choose.
  • Cloth diapering may make potty training easier as your baby will more easily notice when their diaper is wet. 
  • Cloth diapers may reduce the occurrence of diaper rashes.

Cons: 

  • You will need to do additional 2-3 loads of laundry per week with cloth diapering. This can in turn increase your water and electric bills.
  • If you choose to use a cloth diaper service that picks up, washes and returns your diapers clean, you may spend up to an additional $3500 per year. 
  • Unless you are using the all-in-one cloth diapers which are more expensive, cloth diapers can be more burdensome to change.
  • If your baby has a messy cloth diaper while you are out and about, you will have to carry the dirty diaper home with you.
  • You will need to change your baby’s diaper more frequently in cloth. 

Disposables

Pros:

  • Disposables are easy. You put them on, take them off and toss them.
  • Disposables usually have better absorbency which means less frequent diaper changes.
  • Disposables are more convenient when you are away from home.
  • Disposables have a size for every baby, from newborn through toddlers. They also make disposable overnight diapers and swim diapers.
  • There are more environmentally friendly disposable options if you are willing to spend a little more money.

Cons:

  • The cost of using generic disposable diapers over a two year period is approximately $1400. If you choose more environmentally friendly disposables, your cost may be as much as $2500.
  • Disposables contain a chemical called dioxin which is a known carcinogen. While there have been no studies showing that disposables are harmful to babies, if you are concerned about exposure to chemicals you may wish to choose cloth diapering instead.
  • There are 20 billion disposable diapers thrown away each year which take approximately 500 years to decompose.
  • In addition to dioxin, disposable diapers may contain petroleum, plastic, wood pulp and perfumes.
  • Disposables may irritate baby’s skin causing more frequent diaper rashes.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your decision about how to diaper your baby. As with most parenting choices, it is a personal preference and your decision should reflect what feels right for your family. You can also always try both methods to see which works better for your baby. For all your questions about cloth diapering, please join us for our class with Do Good Diapers on February 8, 2016. We are here to help you prepare for the arrival of your little one!

Babywearing Safety: 15 Tips to Wear Baby Safely

Babywearing Safety

Babywearing is the wonderful and highly convenient practice of keeping your baby close to you by wearing them in one of several different types of carriers. Although babywearing is a traditional and age-old practice in many cultures around the world, it has only recently begun to catch on in the US due to its many benefits to both mom and baby. To learn more about the great benefits of babywearing, check out Eight Reasons to Wear Your Baby. If you are planning to wear your new baby during any stage of his younger years, it is important to educate yourself on the principles of safe babywearing. Here are some tips for ensuring that your baby is secure and comfortable in the carrier.

  • Choose a carrier that is ergonomic. There are many different types of baby carriers from soft structured carriers and Asian style carriers, to woven wraps, stretchy wraps, and ring slings. 
  • Ensure that you use proper ergonomic positioning for the carrier you choose to make sure that baby is in the safest and most supportive position.
  • Although it is normal for babies to fuss the first couple times you try a new carrier, choose a time of day when baby is well rested and happy for his maiden voyage.
  • Ensure that baby’s airway is open at all times. 
    • Keep baby in an upright position, high on your body so that you can easily monitor breathing.
    • Infants should only be placed in a cradled position if necessary to nurse and should then immediately be returned to the upright position upon finishing.
  • Carefully inspect new and used carriers before use. Check for areas of worn fabric, tears, weak spots, loose stitching, broken buckles, undone hems and any other structural flaws that may make the carrier unsafe. It is also important to choose carriers from reputable manufacturers to ensure that they will be compliant with US safety standards.
  • Choose a carrier that provides ample support for your baby’s back and neck.
    • Your baby should be held with his knees higher than his bottom and with his legs in a spread squat position, with support spanning from knee to knee. Full knee to knee support becomes less possible and necessary as your baby ages and becomes a toddler.
  • Practice common sense when wearing. If you wouldn’t carry your baby in your arms while doing the activity (i.e.: riding in a car, boat, kayak, or bike) then don’t wear your baby in those scenarios.
  • Practice all carries with someone to spot you or over a bed, couch or low to the ground soft surface. Do not use carries, such as back carries, that you have not confidently mastered. Seeking out a babywearing group is a great way to educate yourself on different types of carriers and carries and to get helpful instruction from babywearing educators and other moms.  
  • Support baby’s head if you bend over while wearing him in a carrier.
  • Choose an age appropriate carrier. Stretchy wraps, for instance, are wonderful for cuddly newborn carries but do not provide adequate support for bigger babies. You should also be able to try a variety of types of baby carriers through your local babywearing group who often have lending libraries. 
  • Ensure that your carrier is snuggly fitted to you and your baby. Your baby should not be able to slump down in the carrier and you should not feel unnecessary pressure on your back.
  • Close enough to kiss: You often hear the phrase, “close enough to kiss,” in the babywearing world used as a good measure of positioning. You should be able to reach your baby’s head effortlessly to give them a kiss if they are in the proper position.
  • You should always be able to see your baby’s face. The fabric of the carrier should never be pulled over baby’s face so that you need to pull it back to see him.
  • Keep baby’s chin off his chest. This restricts airflow and can make breathing difficult for your baby. As mentioned above, baby should be carried in an upright position and there should be at least a finger width of space in between their chin and neck.

When done correctly, babywearing is an extremely safe and comfortable practice for both the caregiver and the baby. There are so many benefits to wearing your baby from bonding and breastfeeding promotion, to freeing up your hands to do things around the home all while making your baby feel safe and secure. Education on safe babywearing is essential before using a baby carrier and can be easily sought through your local babywearing group. Check out Babywearing International to learn more about your local chapter. You can also contact us at Health Foundations with any questions regarding baby care.

Bathing Your Newborn

Bathing Your Newborn

If you’ve just brought your new baby home for the first time, you may be wondering how and how often you should bathe him. Bathing a newborn for the first time can be a daunting task as you navigate how to get all his tiny parts clean and keep him warm, all while supporting his head and body. With a little preparation and a gentle approach, bath time can become an enjoyable time for both you and your baby. Continue reading to learn more about how to safely and comfortably bath your newborn baby.

Frequency: For the first year of life, it is not necessary to bathe your baby more than a few times per week. Not only will they not get dirty enough to necessitate daily baths but bathing too frequently can actually cause drying of their sensitive skin. Two to three baths per week is plenty to keep your little one clean as long as you are taking care to clean him thoroughly after diaper changes. 

Sponge Baths: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only sponge bathing your baby until the umbilical cord has fallen off and the circumcision site has healed. This will help prevent any infections that could be caused by extra moisture at these incision sites. To prepare for a sponge bath you will need the following items:

  • A warm and flat surface such as a counter or changing table covered in a blanket or towel
  • A plastic basin for warm water
  • A soft blanket or towel to wrap baby during washing
  • 2 wash cloths
  • A hooded towel
  • Cotton balls (optional)
  • Mild hypoallergenic baby-safe shampoo or moisturizing soap
  • A clean diaper
  • A fresh change of clothing

When giving baby a sponge bath, wrap baby snuggly in a warm towel and only expose the area of the body that you are washing. Begin by wiping baby’s face gently with a warm, wet washcloth. Do not use soap on your baby’s face. Soap is actually not necessary when bathing a newborn but if you choose to use soap, be sure it is mild and free of dyes and perfumes for their sensitive skin. When washing your baby’s body, be sure to clean in all the skin folds, under the arms and neck, behind the ears, between the fingers and toes, and around the diaper area. Use cotton balls with a few drops of water on them to clean the creases of baby’s eyes. Always keep one hand on your baby, especially if they are on a surface where falling is a risk.

Tub Bathing: When your baby graduates from sponge baths to real baths there are a number of options for tubs. You can purchase a plastic baby tub with an infant sling or an inflatable infant tub. You can also simply use the kitchen or bathroom sink lined with a towel or rubber mat.

Gather the same supplies as you would for a sponge bath and fill the tub with 2-3 inches of water. It is also helpful to have a cup on hand for rinsing. You can pour warm water over baby throughout the bath to keep him warm. The water temperature should be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check the temperature with your hand or elbow before emerging baby in the water. Also, it’s a good idea to set your home water heater to 120 degrees max to prevent incidents of accidental scalding.

Once you have your tub filled and all your supplies in reach, use one hand to support baby’s head and the other to guide his body into the water, feet first. Continue to support baby by placing your arm under his back and head throughout the bath. As with sponge bathing, start by wiping baby’s face with a warm, wet wash cloth and move from there to dirtier areas of the body. If you choose to shampoo baby’s hair, gently massage a drop of shampoo onto baby’s head. It is not necessary to use any special precautions over baby fontanels (soft spots). Rinse baby’s head with a clean damp wash cloth or using your cup of warm water. Be sure to cup you hand at baby’s forehead to prevent soap from getting in his eyes. You can lean baby forward on your arm to clean his back and buttocks. 

Once you have finished washing all of baby’s parts, use your cup to rinse him thoroughly or a clean, wet wash cloth. Remove baby from the tub carefully and wrap him in a warm, dry towel with a hood. Pat him dry rather than rubbing to prevent irritation of the skin. No lotion or talcum powders are necessary for a newborn after a bath.

Special Instructions for Baby Girls and Baby Boys:

Girls: When cleaning your baby girl’s genital area, be sure to wipe gently between the labia and vulva to remove any diaper cream that has collected. Always wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Boys: When cleaning your baby boy’s genital area, gently wash around the base of the penis and beneath the scrotum. Use care if your son was recently circumcised not to rub or irritate the incision site. Do not retract the skin of the penis if your baby is not circumcised.

Safety Precautions for Baths:

  • Make sure you have all the supplies you need before beginning bath time so you do not need to leave to get a forgotten item
  • If you do discover you have forgotten something, take baby with you to retrieve it
  • NEVER leave baby unattended in the bath
  • Always keep one hand supporting baby in the bath
  • Always test the water temperature before emerging baby in the bath
  • The water temperature should be about 100 degrees. Set your water heater to a max of 120 degrees to prevent scalding

With time and practice, bathing your baby will likely become an enjoyable part of the day for both you and your little one. Many babies find the warm water to be calming making a bath a great transitionary activity before bed time. If your baby does not seem to enjoy tub baths, you can always return to sponge bathing for a few weeks and then try again when he is a little older. For all questions about caring for your newborn baby or anything related to pregnancy or birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center.

The Baby Proofing Checklist

Babyproofing Home

While baby proofing your house may not be at the top of your list of things to do before baby arrives, it won’t be long before your little one is on the move and getting into mischief. Being prepared for the process of babyproofing is a worthy pursuit while you are pregnant and have the time. You may not realize how many hazards exist in the average home until you look at it from the perspective of a crawler. Use this checklist as a general guide for beginning the project of baby proofing your home.

  • Place safety plugs in all exposed outlets
  • Conceal all electrical cords or move out of reach 
  • Keep electric appliances unplugged and out of reach
  • Secure freestanding tall lamps behind furniture
  • Place covers on stove and oven knobs
  • Install a fireplace gate and store all related tools out of reach
  • Block access to radiators
  • Affix gates to the top and bottom of stairwells
  • Block railing openings that exceed 4 inches with Plexiglass or other barrier
  • Use doorstops and door holders to prevent pinched fingers
  • Place window guards or stops to prevent windows from opening more than 3 inches
  • Keep sharp objects out of reach
  • Keep breakable objects out of reach
  • Keep heavy objects out of reach
  • Secure oven and refrigerator with appliance latches
  • Cover sharp corners of tables and other surfaces
  • Keep pet supplies and aquariums out of reach
  • Secure large pieces of furniture to the wall to prevent toppling
  • Keep garbage cans in a locked cabinet or choose one with a locking mechanism
  • Lock cabinets with dangerous or heavy items
  • Keep plants out of reach and dispose of any poisonous plants
  • Keep knickknacks safely stored out of reach
  • Use placemats instead of tablecloths
  • Lower crib mattress to the lowest setting once baby can pull himself up
  • Remove mobiles and other crib attachments
  • Tie up loose cords from blinds and drapes
  • Keep drawers closed and use childproof locks where necessary
  • Secure rugs with nonskid backing 
  • Cover bathtub faucet with a soft cover
  • Use nonskid strips in the bathtub
  • Anchor the TV to its surface or the wall
  • If you have a pool, install a 4-foot fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate around the perimeter 
  • Keep all cleaning supplies, medicines and other potentially hazardous items out of reach or locked up
  • Mark sliding glass doors with colorful stickers

General Home Safety Tips:

  • Never leave your baby unsupervised unless they are contained in a safe area
  • Place purses and other bags that may contain unsafe items out of reach
  • Don’t ever leave your baby unsupervised near any body of water 
  • Keep baby away from open windows
  • Keep CD and DVD players out of reach
  • Keep a list of emergency contact numbers and Poison Control in a visible place
  • Be hypervigilant during stressful times of day when accidents are more likely to occur

Kitchen Safety:

  • When cooking, turn pot and pan handles towards the back of the stove
  • Use the back burners on the stove instead of the front
  • Never put the highchair in reach of dangerous items or appliances
  • Take care to keep hot food and drinks away from edges and out of your baby’s reach
  • Don’t ever hold your baby while you are cooking or handling dangerous items such as sharp knives
  • Choose one kitchen cabinet to keep unlocked and fill it with safe items such as Tupperware for baby to explore

Bathtub safety:

  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees or lower to prevent accidental scalding 
  • Never place baby within reach of the tub faucet
  • NEVER leave baby unattended in the bath. A child can drown in 1-inch of water.

The best way to begin the process of baby proofing your house is to get down on baby’s level and see the world as she sees it. This will help you identify potential hazards that you may not have even considered before. It is never too soon to begin the process of baby proofing but it can be too late. Be sure to have your house ready before your baby is crawling and pulling himself up, at the very latest. To learn more about preparing your nest for your upcoming arrival or for any and all pregnancy and birth related questions, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center.

Preventing SIDS: The Do's and Don'ts of Safe Sleep

Preventing SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is one of the scariest thoughts to a new parent. You’ve read about it, you know it’s often unexplainable, and you can barely sleep those first nights at home watching your tiny baby’s every breath. Although SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between 0 and 12 months, you can dramatically decrease the chances of this tragedy by practicing safe sleep habits with your baby. Here are a few of the most important precautions to take when considering how you will put your baby down for a safe night of sleep.

The Do’s

  • DO place baby on his back to sleep.  Since the American Academy of Pediatrics established the Back to Sleep Campaign in 1994, the incidence of SIDS has been significantly reduced. Back sleeping is most important during the first six months of life when the risk of SIDS is the highest but should be followed for the first year.
  • DO breastfeed when possible. Research has shown that breastfed babies are as much as 60% less likely to die from SIDS than babies who do not receive any breastmilk. For other great reasons to breastfeed your baby, check out this article!
  • DO choose a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
  • DO offer a pacifier to baby for naps and bedtime. Research suggests that the act of sucking on a pacifier may reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • DO make sure your crib meets current safety standards.
  • DO opt for a wearable blanket or a sleep sack instead of a blanket in the crib.
  • DO have baby sleep in your room: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room at least until they are six months of age.
  • DO seek good prenatal care during pregnancy.
  • DO have your baby practice tummy time during wakeful hours to help strengthen his head, neck and shoulder muscles.
  • DO educate other caregivers who will be responsible for creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. One out of five SIDS related deaths occurs when baby is in the care of someone other than their parents.

The Don’ts

Baby Sleeping in Crib
  • DON’T leave any soft objects in the crib such as blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or bumper pads. Any extra items in the crib can pose a risk for suffocation and strangulation.
  • DON’T use swings, car seats and other infant chairs for routine sleep.
  • DON’T use positioners or wedges in the crib.
  • DON’T let baby get overheated. Choose lightweight clothing and keep the temperature in the room cool but comfortable. 
  • DON’T put baby to sleep in an adult bed. Your baby should have his own separate sleeping space that is free of pillows, blankets, and other soft objects. Having a separate sleep space for your baby also removes the risk of you or your partner accidentally rolling onto him while you are sleeping.
  • DON’T smoke during pregnancy or after your baby is born. Smoking during pregnancy is responsible for more than 1000 infant deaths each year.
  • DON’T ever put baby to sleep on a couch, a lounge chair or any soft surface with cushions or blankets. Babies can become lodged between cushions or roll off of open surfaces resulting in suffocation or serious injury.
  • DON’T ever cover baby’s head with anything while he is sleeping.
  • DON’T fall asleep accidentally with baby in your bed or on the couch.

Although the causes of SIDS-related deaths are often unexplained, research suggests that there may be certain brain abnormalities present that make certain babies more susceptible. Because these factors are not identifiable at birth, it is even more important to take the precautions to eliminate environmental risks. Simple safeguards such as placing your baby on his back to sleep and keeping the sleep environment clear from any excess items can reduce the risk of this tragedy by up to 60%.

Don’t take risks when it comes to creating a safe sleep environment for your little one. You both will sleep better at night knowing he is safe and sound. For questions about safe sleep for your newborn or other pregnancy or postnatal related inquiries, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center. Your baby’s safety is our first priority.

Bringing Baby Home in Winter

Baby Covered Up

If your baby is due to arrive during winter and you live here in Minnesota, you are likely starting to wonder if you will ever be able to leave your house again. Having a newborn during the coldest time of year in one of the coldest states, does pose some challenges for the parents. Questions such as how to dress your baby, how to protect them from cold and flu season, and what to do if a winter storm hits, are all factors you have to consider. However, with a little planning and some extra care and precautions, welcoming your baby into the world with a chill in the air and snow on the ground is nothing to worry about. Here are some tips for handling the most common challenges about bringing baby home in the winter.

How to Keep Baby Warm:

  • Dress your baby in layers. One to two more layers than you would need yourself should be enough to keep baby warm and cozy.
  • Be sure to cover your baby’s fingers, toes, head, ears and chin still allowing him room to breathe easily. Avoid hats and hoods with drawstrings as they may pose a risk for strangulation. 
  • Babies who are 0-6 weeks of age should be kept indoors as much as possible when temperatures reach freezing or when temperatures above freezing are accompanied by wind and rain.
  • The National Safety Council recommends that all adults and children limit time spent outdoors when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • All babies should be kept indoors in extreme weather conditions with the exception of going to and from the car.
  • Never put blankets, buntings or thick jackets under the car seat straps. These could cause baby to slip out of the seat in the event of an accident. Blankets and special buntings designed for car seats can be placed over your baby once he is buckled in. 
  • Consider heating up the car before bringing your baby out.
  • Be sure to remove outer layers as soon as you bring your baby back indoors to prevent overheating.
  • Consider getting a sheepskin stroller liner or a water repellent stroller cover for walks outside in moderate winter weather.
  • Practice safe sleep habits even in the winter. It is never a good idea to put blankets or other soft objects in baby’s crib that may pose a suffocation risk. Instead, consider putting a onesie under your baby’s swaddle, coverall, or wearable blanket and keep his sleep environment at a comfortable temperature. You can also choose a warm, tightly fitted, flannel sheet for the crib to make it cozier in the winter.

Protecting Baby’s Skin

  • Use a humidifier whenever the heat is turned on to prevent drying of the skin. Never place the humidifier too close to your baby’s sleep space. 
  • Limit baths to 2-3 times per week for 10 minutes each time. Infants do not need daily baths and bathing too frequently can lead to drying out their sensitive skin.
  • Apply moisturizing cream or petroleum jelly to dry or chapped skin. Be sure to wait till baby is over 1 month of age before using any creams or lotions and to only choose moisturizers that are dye and perfume free.
  • Babies may be prone to heat rash from over-bundling and eczema from the dry air during the winter. Should either of these skin conditions develop, dress your baby in lightweight, loose fitting clothing when indoors and avoid overheating. Contact your pediatrician for further guidance on treating eczema and heat rash.

Protecting Baby from Illness:

  • With the winter, comes cold and flu season. To protect your little one from germs:
    • Avoid contact with sick friends and family
    • Wash your hands regularly
    • Get your flu shot
    • Have your baby get his flu shot if he is over the age of 6 months
    • Limit exposure to extreme weather
    • Bundle  baby appropriately 
  • Know the signs of infant hypothermia. If your baby has had prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures and has developed bright-red skin, is cold to the touch and has low energy or a lack of appetite, call 911 immediately.
  • Read your baby’s cues. If your baby appears uncomfortable, fussy, cold to the touch, or pale, take him inside as soon as possible to get warmed up. 

Preparing for Winter Storms:

  • Keep a full tank of gas to prevent fuel from freezing.
  • Avoid taking baby out of the house except when absolutely necessary.
  • Stock up on groceries and other household necessities ahead of time.
  • Avoid all unnecessary travel.

Although delivering your baby during a Minnesota winter may present a few challenges, with a little forethought and planning you and your snow bunny will be ready to tackle the elements from the warmth of your home. It’s important to remember that babies do not have the ability to regulate their own body temperature like adults and rely on their parents and caregivers to keep them comfortable and appropriately bundled. As long as the temperature does not drop below freezing and your baby is over 6 weeks of age, a little fresh air with the right winter gear is perfectly fine. For other questions related to bringing home your new baby or any and all pregnancy-related inquiries, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our beautiful Birth Center.

Decoding Baby Poop: Everything You Need to Know

Baby Poop

Decoding diaper contents is often one of the most perplexing challenges to new parents. Is it supposed to be that color? Is there supposed to be that much? And, how do I know if my baby is eating enough? These are all questions you may be asking yourself in those early days with your new little one. Color, consistency and frequency are all factors to consider when assessing if your baby is having normal bowel movements. Let’s take a closer look at some of the variables that will help you decode your baby’s diaper.

Normal Colors:  

Black: During the first days of life, your baby’s poop may appear black, tar like and sticky. This is perfectly normal. These initial bowel movements are called meconium and consist of amniotic fluid, skin cells, mucus and other material that baby has ingested in the uterus. This color and consistency may last for several days following birth until baby begins to receive milk and the meconium is cleared out of his system. 

Yellow: Yellow is a normal color for stool of a baby who is breastfed or formula fed. The color yellow indicates that that the milk is moving through the digestive process quickly which is typical for newborns.  

Green: The color green is another common appearance for infant poop, particularly for breastfed babies. Green indicates that the milk is moving more slowly through the digestive process. A green bowel movement may necessitate a call to the doctor if it is particularly watery or is accompanied by mucus or a fever. This may suggest that baby has a virus or other illness. 

Once baby has started eating solid foods, vegetables are most likely the culprit for poop that appears green.

Brown: Brown feces are another indication that the milk is moving more slowly through the digestive tract. This color is more common with formula fed babies and for babies who have started eating solids.

Concerning Colors:

Although the color of your baby’s poop is most often just a reflection of the transit time of the food and bile formation, there are a few colors that may be cause for concern.

White: A white bowel movement can be a sign of infection or a problem with the production of bile by the liver. 

Black: Black poop beyond the first week can be a sign of digested blood. While this may be a consequence of nursing when mom has cracked nipples, it’s best to call the doctor to be sure.  

Red: Red blood in your baby’s diaper may indicate fresh blood from the rectum or colon. 

Call your pediatrician right away if you see any of the above concerns. 

Normal Consistency:

Before the age of six months and the start of solids, your baby’s stool should be loose, soft and liquid. Breastfed babies tend to have more liquid than formula fed babies but both will typically appear mustard like with seeds or curds. Formula fed babies may have stools that are more paste like and odorous than breastfed babies.

Once your baby starts eating solids, both the color and the consistency of his bowel movements will change. They will likely appear firmer and can often change in appearance based on what he has eaten. You may even see undigested chunks of food in the diaper. This is all normal.

Concerning Consistency:

Diarrhea: It can be difficult to know how to identify diarrhea when loose stools are the norm. Diarrhea will appear more watery than normal fecal matter and will be green, yellow or brown in color. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or irritability. Contact your pediatrician if diarrhea persists as it may be a sign of infection or an allergy. 

Hard Stools: Stools that are firm or pebble like may be indicative of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration to look for include a sunken look in baby’s eyes or soft spot, lack of saliva and a reduction in tears. Another reason your baby may have hard stools is a sensitivity to milk, soy or other foods during the introduction to solids or via breastfeeding. If you think your baby is dehydrated or may be experiencing a food sensitivity, contact your pediatrician to be seen.

Often parents wonder if their baby is constipated because they looked strained or in pain while passing a bowel movement. Usually however, this is not the case and baby’s expression is just reflecting that he is learning to contract his abdominal muscles and to push.  

Normal Frequency: 

The amount of times a baby poops in a day can vary greatly. In the early days, your newborn may go every time you feed him or as many as 6 to 10 times per day. Between 2 to 5 bowel movements per day during this time is average. This number will likely decrease several weeks after birth in breastfed babies when mom’s colostrum, which contains laxative like properties, is eliminated. Some babies will continue to poop multiple times per day while others may only go once per week. If your baby is a less frequent pooper, the content of the diaper should be more abundant for each bowel movement than that of those who poop multiple times per day. 

The start of solids as with color and consistency, can impact how frequently your baby soils his diaper. Some babies will begin to go more frequently with the introduction of fibrous vegetables and other foods while others may decrease in frequency. This is an important time to be aware of signs of constipation or diarrhea as this may indicate a sensitivity or allergy to a new food that was introduced.

Overall, as long as your baby is gaining weight and does not seem uncomfortable, there is no need to be concerned about how frequently he poops. You probably didn’t think it was possible to have so many variables affecting what you find in baby’s diaper. But as with all aspects of being a new parent, you will learn what is normal and what is not with time and practice. It is important to remember that there is a wide spectrum representing ‘the norm’ for bowel movements and no two babies will be exactly the same. As long as your little one does not seem uncomfortable and you are not seeing any of the concerning colors, chances are, everything is normal.