Margot Byer of Sleephaven in Edmonton has done a lovely job outlining gentle ways to wean a toddler from breastfeeding (when the time is right for you and your child).
Take a peek!
I have three kids with lazy bowels and feel like I’ve tried every single constipation management strategy that exists. I’ve learned that three things exacerbate the frequency and intensity of meltdowns: lack of sleep, a poorly timed snack or meal, or difficulty pooping. For my own sanity, I try to stay on top of all of it.
We were on holiday in Mexico a few weeks ago, and I had to rely on very rusty, rudimentary Spanish to navigate the grocery store. Add on three little humans who had travelled all day and were at the end of their ropes. And it was hot. Usually, I get nerdy about exploring grocery stores in new countries but this time it was a grab- and- go mission.
We have a tradition of making nachos whenever we are on holiday. My non-existant Spanish lead me to the “queso” section and I grabbed my best guess for something close to sharp cheddar and mozza.
A couple days later, I went to open the “cheddar-like” brick and discovered that the orange color was simply a plastic wrapping under the saran wrap. Once I got through that layer, there was another layer of saran wrap to take off. I was immediately assaulted with the putrid, overwhelming stench of rotting, post-workout socks. There was no way I was putting that thing near my mouth, nor on nacho chips. I quickly wrapped it all back up and put it in a ziploc for one extra security layer. I wanted to toss the whole thing out but forced myself to put it back in the fridge. I thought it would be a “good” (AWFUL) experience to force myself through the steps of eating (looking at a food, smelling it, touching it, licking it, chewing it and finally chewing and swallowing). We expect our kids to simply chew and swallow a new food, regardless of their feelings towards it. A pre-verbal child can’t explain to you that the smell of the cheese makes them feel nauseous. We simply forget what it can be like and too quickly pull out the “you need to sit here until you eat it” strategy. I kept imagining if someone made me sit at the table until I finished that block of cheese. I am gagging right now at the thought spending more than three seconds looking at that blessed cheese.
Another few days later, I took the block of cheese out of the fridge, carefully unwrapped it (in such a manner that I wouldn’t have to touch it), breathed through my mouth and squished a piece with my fingers. I licked it, gagged and tossed the whole thing.
It was a good experience to help me empathize with a child when they refuse a food.
CELEBRATE WHETHER THEY LOOK, SMELL, TOUCH OR LICK IT. Give them a couple days before you re-introduce. Re-introduce the food in a different way (maybe the cheese wouldn’t have been so overwhelming if someone had crumbled it on a salad).
This seems so silly but the OT in me can’t get enough of these little gems for my kids.
Small enough segments for a finger food eater to handle, and a great way to practice bilateral skills! Obviously the finger food eater is unlikely to be able to discern whether or not to eat the peel or the actual segments but a 2 year old could easily do the job! I find myself giving a couple to the 3 & 4 year olds to peel while the littlest one devours segments in her high chair.
These things are the tiniest mini-mandarins I’ve ever seen!
If you’ve used bottles, you’ve experienced the terror of indecision as you attempt to choose one. The sippy/spout/straw cup aisle is no different. The plethora of choices and marketing make it near impossible to make a doubt-less decision.
A. Do you want to use a sippy cup? Are they truly bad for development?
B. Should you use a straw cup?
C. When should you introduce it?
D. What about an open cup?
The sippy versus straw cup discussion has been beaten to death. Bottom line: sippy cups are parent friendly (spill proof) but do not promote mature skill development. If you choose to introduce one, it should be phased out 12-18 months. It’s pretty tempting to put your child to bed with a sippy cup when they can lay down and drink it without spilling. The consequence is an increased risk of dental issues and reliance on the sippy cup as a sleep aid!
Additionally, from an oral-motor perspective, the spout of a sippy cup (hard or soft) encourages the tongue to come forward and blocks the front of the tongue from rising. More mature oral-motor skills include the ability to raise the front of the tongue and pull the tongue back (retraction). Drinking from a cup or straw requires greater lip activity and more independent tongue, jaw and lip movement than drinking from a bottle or a sippy cup.
Bottom line – sippy cups may not be “bad” for development if you discontinue use around a year old. I suggest simply starting out with a straw from the get go – with the right straw container, a baby can be successful as early as 7-ish months and this is a life-long skill. No need to discontinue use. AND, babies can drink from them without having to tip them up to get flow! The down side is they are not spill-proof. Milk and water spills are inevitable.
Start with a straw container that you can squeeze up the straw and deliver small quantities of liquid into your baby’s mouth when he puts his lips around it. You can squeeze less and less as he gets the idea of sucking. Expect a messy process.. typically the first reaction is to let the liquid fall back out of the mouth the first few times.
Open cup drinking also allows for the development of more mature oral-motor skills. Cup drinking requires more independent tongue, jaw and lip movements than a bottle. Generally, open cup drinking needs adult support for a longer period of time than straw drinking. You can introduce open cup drinking at any time; think about matching the size of the cup to your baby’s mouth. A medi-cup is a great first open cup for young babies.
It can be easier for kids to learn independent cup drinking from a recessed lid (think kids travel mug with small hole to decrease the flow). Avent also has a natural drinking cup that opens the valve when the upper lip presses on the inner ring. The one below can be a nice option but I find it easier to introduce around the 9-12 month mark.
Hope that helps to reduce stress when you head to the sippy cup aisle!
I came across this lovely Healthy Teeth Guide that includes a teeth eruption chart, and information on taking care of our kids teeth!
Cleaning gums before teeth eruption sets the stage for your infant to trust you in her mouth. If there is trust and practice, your infant is more likely to become a toddler who will let you take a turn brushing her teeth. At my house, we occasionally play “dentist” where the girls lay on the bed with their head in my lap so it is easier for me to floss their teeth. Good practice for the real dentist visit!
Any other tips?
There is a stage on the texture continuum where infants are not quite ready for total finger feeding but they demand independence to ATTEMPT it. Often this is developmentally around 9/10 months. When I say 10 months developmentally, I don’t mean 10 months old. I simply mean the stage where your infant is: raking small objects and bringing them to the mouth (with inconsistent success actually getting it into the mouth), potentially crawling, pulling to stand, cruising along furniture and babbling.
At this stage, it is likely that your baby can manage very small pieces of soft foods (i.e. a piece of pancake half the size of your pinky fingernail). While fine motor accuracy is developing (picking up a small object with a raking motion and releasing), babies often want to do things themselves and may bat the spoon away. I find this demand for independence can be misinterpreted as a disinterest in eating!
Ideas for early finger foods that are easy to pick up:
-chopped black beans
-finely grated cheese
-scrambled eggs broken into small pieces
-shredded/diced baked salmon
-chopped, baked sweet potato
-broccoli cheddar cheese nuggets broken up into small pieces (see here for recipe)
-chopped up pasta and sauce (the stickiness makes it easier to pick up)
-sticky home-cooked oatmeal. Cook it so it clumps together.
-cooked small, sweet peas. You may have to slightly chop these to start with.
At this stage you should see your baby move a piece of food to the side of his mouth, use his lips to clear a spoon, and spill less when drinking from a straw. Meals will likely consist of a few different consistencies: one food that is a thick or lumpy puree, another soft food that is chopped or diced, and small pieces of sticky finger foods. This is a great stage to eat baked salmon as a family! For this brief period of time, you can adapt family meals to your baby’s oral-motor skills and simply add on the rest. Dinner for the baby might be the family’s lasagna (chopped up), yogurt and chopped up banana.
This is the messiest stage of eating. Truly. Sweeping and vacuuming is at an all time high. It sure is tempting to continue doing the feeding for your baby (if he lets you) and minimize the mess. A sure sign of a baby whose has been given the opportunity to learn self-feeding skills is a messy floor. This wonderful placemat can help to minimize the extent of the damage to the floor. Half the food your baby tries to get to his mouth will be dropped in his lap or on the floor. I find the Tiny Diner with food placed straight on the tray is more effective than the suction bowls. I have yet to find a bowl that sustains suction. In my experience, most meals where I use the suction bowl end up completely dumped. At this stage of fine motor bumbling, I would rather give the baby an empty bowl to explore and use the Tiny Diner to catch dropped food. Alternatively, throw a plastic table cloth under the high chair and shake it out after.
Good luck! Let me know if you’ve come across any other tricks for this stage.
I discovered a food app for kids by the Government of Alberta!
Healthy U Jr. Chef allows parents to browse, plan and cook healthy meals for their family, plus include the kids through fun, interactive games with our cast of critters.
I’m going to try it out this weekend! Available for free on iTunes.
Other food related apps targeting preschoolers are listed here.
This month, I’ll be joining Mommy Connections Calgary North to teach “Starting Solids: Setting the stage to grow confident eaters!”
Learn how to prepare infants for solids, the best tools to use and how to navigate road bumps!
Check out Mommy Connections North if you are a new mom and looking to meet other moms. You will learn from a variety of expert presenters, receive a swag bag of goodies for you and babe, and have a professional photo session!