July 29, 2012
If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been, well…Minimalist Mama is now Minimalista Mama! After a few months of moving around, we’re excited about our new name and final location. Come join us at the new site – we’re looking forward to seeing you there!
In the process, we’ve combined Minimalist Mama, her sister site Minimalist Mama Expecting (for pregnant parents) AND Minimalist Mama Gifts (for the lovely people who give presents to our adorable offspring). All the sites still have their own sections, so you can find your new home by just clicking on the category that’s right for you. Or you can see all the great stuff for everyone by just browsing around the home page. We really hope you like it!
June 29, 2012
For those of you whose babies haven’t arrived yet, tummy time is exactly what it sounds like: time babies spend lying on their tummies. We’re talking about small babies here – ones who can’t hold their heads up yet or roll over – which is precisely why you put them on their tummies in the first place: so they strengthen their neck muscles so they can hold their own heads up. You know, for later when they want to go to a movie without a neck brace or whatever.
Just so I’ve said it, of course don’t leave your baby alone on his tummy, and, as I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times don’t put him to sleep on his tummy.
Some babies are fine with tummy time and will hang out on their little floor mats for ten minutes at a stretch. Some babies will hate it like the plague and start crying in under sixty seconds. If you’re in the first group, yay you! However much time Arnold wants to spend on his tummy is fine. If you’re in that second group, here are a couple things you can do:
1. Don’t try for tummy time right after Murgatroyd eats. It might be upsetting his stomach.
2. Get down on the floor with him, right at his level and give him something to be interested in, namely your face. It’s the #1 most interesting thing in his life right now. #2 most interesting items include baby mirrors, black and white or brightly colored and patterned toys that make little noises that don’t drive you bananas. Anything to distract him is fine, provided you’re not, like, juggling chainsaws. Which would be dangerous. (Unless that’s your thing, of course. I don’t mean to imply that you’re not good at it or anything.)
(These tips also go for helping him learn to roll over: just put your face or that intriguing toy on the floor a little bit out of his reach. He’ll get there eventually.)
3. When he’s just had enough (and this can be 1-2 minutes later: don’t shoot for the moon if he’s miserable), roll him over onto his back before you pick him up. A child development expert at Astrid’s playgroup made a great point about this: if your baby is upset about being on his stomach and you pick him up from his stomach, he’s making the association that tummy time is something he needs to be rescued from. If you roll him over first, well then you’re just picking him up the way you do 1000 times a day. No big deal. Plus it gives him a little mini preview of what it’ll be like to roll over on his own.
Some books recommend lots and lots of tummy time, and I know moms who were super stressed about getting exact amounts of it in every day. My opinion on this, as on everything, is that moderation and sensitivity to your specific baby trump hard and fast rules. Yes, get some tummy time in every day, but don’t buy a stopwatch and have at it every two hours on the hour. If you’re regular about it, good enough. They all get there: you don’t see any kids walking around at high school graduation who can’t hold their heads up.
June 27, 2012
I just ran across Leo Babauta’s post on Keeping A Simple Home with Kids at Zen Habits. It’s a couple years old but not dated at all: great tips for small habits you can adopt as a family to keep things streamlined, no matter what your feelings are about minimalism. “A home for everything,” and “Go for quality,” are two of my favorites. The latter is the basis for my own site, after all! They may seem self-evident but I have to keep reminding myself of them when I’m tempted to fill up closets and hang onto little cheap toys that accumulate like dust in the corners. Everyone can use a good purge everyone once in a while, right? I’m doing mine in the dining room today!
June 18, 2012
I was pretty concerned about Astrid’s transition to solids. First of all, I wasn’t a cook. I’m a big cold cereal girl. Providing balanced nutrition – and in the form of purees no less – was daunting. (Just to be clear, I was starting from the assumption that pureed Corn Pops was probably a bad idea.)
I figured I was on the hook for introducing her to a range of foods (most of which I’d never cooked), so she could establish a broad palette and not end up hating mushrooms or being the kid who will only eat crustless pizza. And finally, Astrid turned six months old while we were in escrow on our house, so I was managing a move right about the time I was also supposed to be changing all our routines to get some solids into her.
Here’s my two cents, from the other side of the transition: it’s not that big a deal. Really.
When to start
The general guideline is to start babies on solids at about six months old.
That said, if you’re a month or two late, that’s fine. Also, if you want to kick things off earlier (or your pediatrician recommends it), in 2010 the American Academy of Pediatrics OK’d starting at four months old. Don’t stress about making this decision: a little earlier or a little later won’t make a big difference as long as Baby is eating well. Just pick a week when you’re not traveling or moving or varnishing your canoe or whatever, and have at it.
What you’re shooting for
Bertrand eating a range of foods (protein, veg, fruit, carbs) three times a day by a year old.
Don’t freak out. You won’t be making three special baby meals and measuring nutritional content on Day 1. You’re going to work up to three meals a day gradually, so on Day 1, you’ll be trying a single “meal” which will probably consist of one ingredient. Once little Guillermina masters that, you’ll introduce some multi-ingredient foods (still purees) and bump up to “eating” twice a day at eight or nine months (soft foods and finger foods). By the time she’s a year old, she’ll be eating table food on an adult schedule (albeit cut up into small pieces).
If Baby is still breastfeeding (or drinking formula) at a year, that fine: you’ll just balance food intake vs. milk accordingly. But you still need to get her on solids so, you know, she learns to chew.
In the US, the recommendation you read and hear everywhere is infant rice cereal mixed with formula or breast milk. The up sides are that it’s mild so most babies tolerate it well, and that it’s filling which means it might make for better overnight sleep. The down sides are that it tastes like pulverized cardboard and, since it’s heavy, it can be constipating (which leads to another whole set of problems and solutions).
I followed that recommendation, mostly because I would have tried nearly anything to get Astrid to sleep longer at night, but the experiment lasted about two days. She was having none of the pulverized cardboard thing, and I could see her point, so we moved on to steamed and mashed sweet potatoes and we were off to the races. Mashed up avocado is another great starter food.
Starting with mashed veggies has the added benefit of instilling an interest in healthy whole foods early rather than trying to introduce them after carbohydrates, which made a lot of sense to me. (It’s also what they do in Europe, so you can consider yourself sophisticated and worldly.) I know this won’t be true of every child, but vegetables are still Astrid’s preferred food and I attribute it to her first foods experience.
The choice between bought vs. homemade baby food is not a big deal these days. Yes, as with everything baby-related, there are militant moms who would never feed their child anything not grown organically at a local farm where they know all the goats’ names. They cook and jar and can their own baby food and follow books like Super Baby Food to the letter, watching the nutritional content of every meal like a hawk. That’s awesome and you should definitely join them – if it will make you relaxed and calm and a happy parent.
If you don’t have that kind of time or zeal, skip it. Your baby will be fine. In my view – and this is where I come down on pretty much everything baby-related – healthy and easy moderation is the best path for you and your baby. Save your fanaticism for the things you love to do. That joy will be a great example and environment for your child. If this isn’t your area of interest however, stressing yourself out to follow someone else’s rigid guidelines will just make you and everyone around you tired and crabby.
There are lots of healthy jarred baby foods on the market. They’re labeled by age, so you don’t have to worry about mashing to the right consistency or introducing a potentially allergy-inducing ingredient. If you are super concerned about Baby eating all-organic, there are lots of options there too: Earth’s Best, Plum Organics and Sprout are just a few of the many choices.
If you’re at all on the fence between jarred and homemade, I’d suggest giving the cooking a shot, at least early on. It’s ridiculously simple – and that’s coming from someone who didn’t cook really at all – and you’ll save some money. This isn’t Julia Child: it’s a mashed up avocado half once a day. If you have a steamer basket in your kitchen and one sweet potato, you’re looking at two minutes of prep (peel it, cut it up into cubes) and ten minutes of waiting while it steams. Oh – plus 30 seconds of smushing it up. No seasoning, no such thing as overcooking. Failure is pretty much not an option. And if it all get’s to be too much after that short experiment, it’s fine: you can always cut over to jarred food later.
If you’re looking for a great starter cookbook, try Top 100 Baby Purees.
I was bejesus scared that Astrid would have a food allergy that I would find out about because she went into anaphylactic shock while I was home alone 0r, worse, asleep at night. Since Ramon and I have no food allergies, this was probably a little bit of an edge case, but we all have our paranoias, right? According to BabyCenter, only about 6% of young children have food allergies and 90% of them are to milk, eggs, nuts (peanuts or other), soybeans, wheat, fish or shellfish.
It seems like allergies in children are everywhere, and, as a result, recommendations tightened about what foods to introduce to kids early. However, research indicates that waiting to introduce the most common allergy foods until later hasn’t decreased the number of kids who are allergic, so the AAP has backed off again. I’ll leave it to you and your pediatrician to have the specific conversation that will calm your fears and lay out a comfortable process for you to follow, but these are the highlights:
- No tree nuts or peanuts until age one. (These are a choking hazard too, so that makes sense.)
- In the US, it’s also recommended to wait until age one to try eggs and cow’s milk. (In Europe, eggs don’t make the list to wait.)
- Shellfish is now on the OK list for six month olds, although it wasn’t until 2008.
- No honey until age one (it’s a bacteria risk, not an allergy concern).
- Quantities. Your baby is small and doesn’t know how to eat yet, so a serving is pretty damn small. A quarter to a half an avocado is a lot of food. Buy and prepare accordingly.
- Note to self: no matter how cheap they are, do NOT buy flats of baby food until you know Junior loves that specific brand and type. Trust me.
- Fruit. Mashed up bananas are tasty and sweet, but you may want to wait to introduce those and other fruits until Baby has acquired a taste for the less-sweet veggies. It’s easier to introduce fruit after veggies rather than vice versa.
- Variety. Don’t push the same food more than three days in a row. Move on and try another food before Murgatroyd gets tired of something he liked at first.
- That said, wait three days before introducing another new food to the rotation so you’re not over-taxing your baby’s system. She’ll need a few days to process the new food + in case she does have a reaction to a particular food, you’ll want to be able to isolate which food it is that’s causing the problem.
- Rejection. If Philomena rejects a food, that’s fine. Just double back and try again in a few weeks. Babies’ taste buds are very sensitive and are developing preferences as you go, so don’t assume she’ll never eat mango just because she doesn’t go for it after the first few tries.
- Time of day. Most babies are at their friendliest and least tired in the morning, so that’s a great time for that one-meal-a-day stage. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get lots of food into him before he goes down for the night, you can try for dinnertime as mealtime. Just be prepared that a tired baby is more likely to lose patience, so feed him well ahead of when he usually starts to power down for the day.
- Trust them. As with breast and bottle feeding, your baby will let you know when she’s done or full. Don’t push too hard: this is a learning stage. She’ll still be getting most of her nutrition from milk or formula, so don’t stress about getting specific quantities of food or a balanced diet into her yet. Just let her get used to eating and new tastes and textures.
June 17, 2012
Keeping the three sites separate no longer made sense since a lot of the recommendations have been great for expectant parents, new parents and gift givers and I was posting some of the same content on all three sites. That’s just silliness – and we don’t want anyone to miss out! (If you find that you just want to see the posts for your track, the new site will still have separate areas for just pregnant mamas, just new mamas or just the lovely people who give them presents.)
I’m really excited and I hope you like the changes too! (If you want a sneak peak, check it out here. Otherwise, we’ll see you when we go live!)
March 17, 2012
Babies usually need to eat every few hours, hopefully at increasingly longer intervals. You knew this. For example, your little Garth might eat at 6:30PM right before he “goes to bed” (what does that even mean when you’ll be up again three times??), comes up again at 11PM, 2AM and 5AM. Not a lot of love for mom and dad’s need for sleep there.
To make that schedule less brutal, a lot of people recommended that once Baby’s taking the bottle, Mom can go to bed when Baby does, Dad can take the 11PM feeding and Mom can do the 2AM, which means that theoretically Mom can sleep from 6:30PM – 2AM, which would be a decent stretch.
The flaw here for us was that a.) I can’t fall asleep at 6:30 in the evening no matter how tired I am, and b.) I like Ramon, so sleeping through the one stretch of the day when he was home just wasn’t something I was going to do, no matter how badly I needed sleep.
Enter the dream feed.
Basically, you pick up the baby sometime before her normal late-night feeding and feed her in her sleep. That’s it. It’s that simple. And it buys you another few hours of sleep.
So instead of 6:30/11PM/2AM/5AM, you feed her as usual at 6:30, then pick her up before you go to bed, say, at 9:30, put her on the breast or at the bottle, stroke her cheek a little to help her get started (don’t try to wake her as you usually might: no un-swaddling, diaper changes or burping), she eats peacefully, you put her back in bed and go to bed yourself. She skips her usual 11PM feeding ’cause she just ate, and instead of waking at 2AM to be fed, hopefully the dream feed re-set her long sleep interval to this stretch and she doesn’t get up again until 3-4AM instead.
Worst case: she doesn’t re-set and do that long stretch and she gets up before 2AM because she ate earlier. But you still had the evening together and went to bed at a normal hour.
I know it doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but believe me, it is. Then you can start stretching out that schedule on either end until she’s waking up at the halfway decent hour of 6AM. Of course, that stretching process is usually far from ideal or easy, but the dream feed is a great start to getting you guys back to getting some sleep. Try it. You’ll like it.
March 5, 2012
Note to self: the self-checkout lane at the grocery store is not for you. Not with a nearly-two-year-old, it’s not. The beeping, the stacking, the inevitable delays because you foolishly purchased – gasp! – a vegetable without a bar code. All that activity + the need for two hands to manage a child + another two to manage a basket of groceries = not for you. Just don’t even look in that direction. Amuse yourselves with People magazine’s cutting edge journalism and the moving belt and just wait your turn in the regular lane. Seriously.