Archives for July 2012

About Different Types of Infant Formula

While breastmilk is the most nutritious and healthy choice that parents can make for their new baby’s diet, there are times when breastfeeding simply isn’t feasible. When medical conditions, personal choice or other circumstances require that your infant be fed formula, the vast array of options on the market can be staggering. Commercially available infant formula comes in several forms, and contents vary based on the specific requirements of an infant with special dietary needs.

Preparations

There are three common infant formula preparations commercially available today: powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-use. Powder formula is often chosen due to its relatively low price and is favored by earth-conscious new parents due to the fact that powdered formula cans take up less room in transit, and in the garbage. It does, however, require a bit more time and concentration to prepare, which might be less than ideal for 2 A.M. feedings. Powdered infant formulas are designed for parents and caregivers to mix only the amount needed for a specific feeding, which help sin reducing waste. Cans generally have a one-month shelf life after they’ve been opened.

Liquid concentrate infant formula is more expensive than the powdered variety, but almost always cheaper than its ready-to-use counterparts. Preparation typically requires parents or caregivers only to mix equal parts of the concentrate and water, which makes the process a bit less labor-intensive than preparing a powdered formula variety. Like ready-to-use products, liquid concentrate formula is commercially sterile when it arrives in your home.

Ready-to-use or ready-to-feed formulas are generally the most expensive commercial option, but they require no mixing or measuring. Parents or caregivers that are concerned about access to safe, clean water to mix a powdered or concentrated formula can opt for ready-to-use because it eliminates such worries. Containers of ready-to-use formula require more space for storage, as well as more room in landfills if consumers don’t have access to recycling programs. Furthermore, the formula only has a shelf-life of 48 hours after opening, and may be more likely to stain than other feeding options.

Types of Available Formula

In addition to the three main forms that infant formula is available in, there are a variety of options regarding nutritional content and allergens. Parents should speak with their pediatrician before switching an infant’s formula, but should also have a basic idea of the different options on the market.

The most common type of commercially available infant formula is cow’s milk based, though the proteins are altered in order to make it easier for babies to digest. As a general rule, babies tend to thrive on a diet of cow’s milk based formula; carbohydrates, protein and fat levels are balanced almost perfectly for the majority of tiny tummies.

Some infants may have difficulty digesting cow’s milk formulas, or parents that are hesitant to place their new baby on a diet that contains animal proteins. In such cases, soy-based formula may be the best option. Lactose intolerant babies also do better with soy-based formula, which is also often suggested to the parents of colicky babies. Evidence supporting claims that soy-based formula improves symptoms of colic is largely anecdotal, however. Roughly half of babies that have milk allergies are also allergic to soy, so be prepared for the chance that a switch to soy-based formula makes no discernible difference.

Babies that have a number of allergies or aren’t able to absorb the nutrients in formula well may benefit from being switched to an extensively hydrolyzed formula, in which the proteins have been broken down into smaller parts. These formulas may also be suggested by your pediatrician if your child is suffering from eczema or other irritating skin conditions.

Low-birth weight and premature babies require specialized formulas that are higher in protein and calories than other varieties, containing medium-chain triglycerides that are more easily absorbed than other fats. Formulas thickened with rice starch are generally suggested for babies with reflux problems, which often aid in the prevention of reflux symptoms.

While the advertising budgets of nationally recognized infant formula brands may help to boost their visibility, they do not contribute to improving the quality or nutritive value of the formulas themselves. Because infant formula is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, generic brands are held to the same standards as their designer counterparts; more often than not, parents shelling out extra money for name-brand formula are only paying for that name. Comparing the ingredients and nutrition information on the labels, parents can make an informed and frugal decision about the formula to feed their brand new bundle of joy.

10 First Baby Foods Nannies Can Make

Rising awareness of pesticides, additives and the “allowable defect levels” of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding commercially-prepared baby food has inspired many parents and childcare providers to control what baby’s first solid foods consist of as much as possible by making those foods themselves. There are a number of baby food-dedicated kitchen gadgets and systems on the market which, while convenient, are certainly not necessary to prepare wholesome, healthy food for babies. Here are ten foods that nannies can easily prepare, that are filled with nutrients for growing babies.

  1. Avocado – Due to the soft, creamy texture of a ripe avocado and the high content of “good” fats and nutrients, it’s often considered an ideal first solid food for babies. For busy nannies, there’s the additional attraction of speed; the fruit can be seeded, peeled and pureed very quickly, and does not require cooking in order to be soft enough for tender gums.
  2. Sweet Potatoes – A perennial favorite in the pre-packaged, bottled baby food realm, the sweet potato lends itself just as well to baby food of the homemade variety. The Nutrition Action Health Letter calls sweet potatoes a “nutritional all-star — one of the best vegetables you can eat.” Full of potassium, Vitamin C and other valuable nutrients, they’re also simple for nannies to prepare. Peel, cube and then either steam or boil this nutritional heavy-hitter, then allow it to cool and puree.
  3. Oatmeal – Grinding uncooked oats in a blender or food processor before adding to boiling water can make the texture even smoother, ideal for babies that are just getting accustomed to solid food. To perk it up for older babies, add a peeled, cooked and pureed apple to the mix. Remember, though: baby food never needs added sugar or salt.
  4. Bananas – High levels of potassium and other vital nutrients make bananas an ideal choice for Baby’s first solid food. They’re also foolproof and quick for even those nannies who aren’t so comfortable in the kitchen. Peel, mash and serve; no need for excessive prep.
  5. Butternut and Winter Squash – Roasting squash is so simple that a novice cook can pull it off with aplomb; also, these veggies are high in Folate, Vitamin A and Calcium. After roasting and cooling, squash easily purees to as thin a texture as you and your tiny charge require.
  6. Barley – Not considered to be allergenic and easy to digest, barley contains vitamins A and C, Niacin and Folate as well as minerals like Potassium, Calcium and Phosphorus. Grind pearled barley in a food processor or blender, then add to boiling water. Simmer for ten minutes while constantly stirring; breast milk can also be added to the cereal if your employer is a pumping, breastfeeding mom.
  7. Peaches – High in vitamins C and A, peaches are ideal for babies that are suffering from constipation due to their new diet. Prolonged cooking can diminish their nutritive value, so it’s best to blanch them only long enough to release the fuzzy peel, then puree.
  8. Green Beans – Because of the low likelihood of allergic reaction, green beans are a safe and nutritious choice for a baby’s introduction to solid foods. Trim the ends from fresh beans and then trim to a manageable length before steaming or boiling in a scant amount of water. Overcooking will change the color of the beans, but will also make them softer and easier to grind into a fine puree.
  9. Millet – Grind millet into a powder for baby cereal and add to boiling water while whisking constantly to prevent clumping. Rich in B vitamins and nutrients, the grain is also relatively rich in protein.
  10. Plums – The low allergy risk and nutritive value of plums, along with their easy-to-digest texture, make them another ideal choice for introducing a baby to solid foods. Remember to wash and peel before steaming, then puree after allowing the fruit to cool.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and that breast milk continue to be a primary source of nutrition for the first year. If your employer is a breastfeeding mom, it’s very important that you adhere to these guidelines for as long as she continues to pump and breastfeed when she’s home. Also, if you’re responsible for the grocery shopping for your pint-sized charge’s new foods, make an effort to choose locally grown ripe, organic fruits and vegetables to avoid pesticides and other chemicals used in commercial farming.

Preventing Diaper Rash

New parents are subjected to a veritable flood of information over the first few years of their child’s life, mostly through advice of the unsolicited variety from family members and friends. This advice usually covers every subject from parenting skills to preventing diaper rashes, and many times the advices changes as quickly as the people who give it do. Despite the onslaught of contradicting information, frequent changes, wipes, and ointments are all part of the diapering process for most parents as standard preventative measures, but even the most carefully-monitored baby can contract diaper rash.

A form of dermatitis, diaper rash most commonly occurs as a result of moisture trapped inside a diaper that irritates the skin and causes inflammation. Rashes can range from mild to quite severe, and some babies have skin that’s more sensitive and thus more susceptible than others. Parents should realize that a diaper rash isn’t an indicator of poor parenting or neglect; diarrhea, changes in diet, and even allergic reactions to the wipes and ointments designed to prevent such rashes can cause them. Additionally, urine isn’t the only source of potentially irritating moisture; even sweat can be trapped inside a diaper after a particularly vigorous play session and cause the delicate skin to become red and irritated.

Frequent Diaper Changes Are Your Friend

The most common cause of diaper rash is a soiled diaper that’s left on for too long, so the most effective way of preventing most rashes is to simply change your baby’s diaper every time it’s soiled, as soon after as possible. The same holds true for any time your child becomes sweaty after exerting himself, or gets damp from spills or other contact with fluids. By changing your baby’s diaper often you can also combat the spread of inflammation-causing bacteria carried by eliminatory waste. During a diaper change, be sure that you pat your baby’s bottom dry rather than rubbing it, which can further irritate already inflamed skin or cause inflammation to healthy skin.

Avoid Irritating Chemicals

Unfortunately, the fact that a product is marketed towards new parents for use in their baby’s care doesn’t automatically mean that it’s free of chemicals, fragrances, and dyes that can be irritating to his sensitive skin. If you’ve been vigilant about diaper changes and still find that you’re battling frequent diaper rash, it may be time to take a closer look at the wipes, ointments, and even the diapers themselves. Alcohol can burn his skin, and products containing propylene glycol may be responsible for spreading bacteria around the diaper area, rather than keeping it at bay. Look for brands that are specifically marked “fragrance free” and do not contain dyes or other coloring agents. Parents that opt for cloth diapers need not worry about the diapers themselves containing the same deodorizing chemicals as their disposable brethren, but should make sure that those diapers are laundered with detergents formulated specially for use with newborn and infant clothing items. Adding a half-cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle for cloth diapers can also reduce the alkalinity of the fabric, which may afford further protection.

Allow Air Flow

No one wants to deal with a leaky diaper, but swaddling your baby’s behind too tightly can cause a diaper rash quickly. Whenever possible, allow your baby to go without a diaper for short periods of time to promote drying and healing through natural air circulation. Using a plastic or rubber sheet to protect his crib mattress and letting him nap sans diaper on occasion is also an effective method for both prevention and treatment, though it can be relatively messy, especially as baby’s age.

Diet Can Contribute to Diaper Rash

Another powerful weapon in the diaper rash prevention arsenal is to breastfeed your baby for as long as you possibly can. The World Health Organization suggests that babies be breastfed for the first year of life, but any period of breastfeeding is better than none. The immune system boost that he gets from breast milk can help him avoid a prescription for antibiotics, which often cause diaper rash and even yeast infections in infants. Be prepared for irritation during the transition to solid food, and make sure to check and change his diaper more frequently than normal as his body adjusts.

Don’t forget, a preventative balm can work wonders for keeping a sensitive baby’s skin free of irritation. Diaper rash protective ointments are usually either petroleum or zinc-oxide based; zinc oxide tends to be thicker and offer more staying power than petroleum based brands, but may be less effective depending upon your baby’s skin. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different brands of preventative balm; just be sure that you stick with fragrance and dye-free formulas.

10 Tips for Preventing SIDS

SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, kills one out of every 2,000 babies.  Over the past decade the occurrences of SIDS has dropped dramatically in half, due largely to the push to educate parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs.  However, despite this spectacular decrease, more needs to be done to reduce the risk even further.  By following these 10 prevention tips you increase your child’s chances of avoiding SIDS:

  1. Lay your baby on his back.  Cases of SIDS radically decrease for babies who sleep on their backs.  This may be difficult if he sleeps better on his tummy, but the rule of thumb is to let him play on his tummy and sleep on his back.
  2. Swaddle your baby.  By properly swaddling your baby she will feel warm and comforted, but will be unable to get her arms loose in order to roll over and move around in the crib.  The chance of her pressing her face into the mattress is slim.  Make sure that you receive hands on instruction regarding proper swaddling so that she is tightly wrapped and the blanket does not come loose during the night.
  3. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.  By keeping the room at a comfortable temperature there is less need to use a blanket that could end up over his face.  If he is too cold he will not sleep well and will try to roll up into the fetal position.  When the room is too warm he can begin to sweat and his breathing could become labored.
  4. Put a fan in the room to circulate the air.  According to a study released by Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, babies who sleep in a room with a fan were 72% less likely to die from SIDS.  The fan circulates the air in the room and prevents the baby from rebreathing carbon dioxide.
  5. Don’t put toys and pillows in the crib.  By keeping soft things out of the crib like pillows, blankets, plush toys, bumpers, and lambskins you will reduce the chance that the baby’s face gets pressed up next to one of them and is unable to breathe.
  6. Use a pacifier at bedtime.  The handle of the pacifier will prevent her face from becoming pressed into the mattress.
  7. Co-sleeping with your baby is not recommended. Adult beds are not safe for infants.  The baby’s head can be trapped between the headboard and the mattress.  Another concern is that a parent could inadvertently roll over and block the baby’s nose and mouth.
  8. Bring the crib into your room for the first 6 months.  According to the American SIDS Institute studies have shown that babies are safest when sleeping close to their mothers.
  9. Breast feed your baby for the first 6 months if possible.  According to the Mayo Clinic, their research shows that any amount of breast feeding helps prevent SIDS, but the preventive effect is strongest if you breast feed exclusively for the first 6 months.  Breast milk is digested easier and lowers the chance for certain infections, such as respiratory and gastrointestinal.
  10. Make sure that you buy a firm mattress that fits snugly into the crib frame.  A firm mattress will prevent him from sinking into the mattress and blocking his airway or compressing the mattress and getting caught between the mattress and the crib frame.

Baby Monitor Cords and Other Hidden Sleep Safety Hazards

Unfortunately sometimes the things that are designed to keep children safer can pose a real safety risk.

Since 2002, seven children have been strangled to death and three children have been nearly strangled to death by video and audio baby monitor cords, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

By putting the baby monitor within reach of the baby, the monitor cord can be pulled into the crib and end up wrapped around the baby’s neck, resulting in injury or death by strangulation. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is recommending that parents and caregivers place audio and video baby monitors at least 3 feet away from a baby’s crib, play yard or sleep space so that the cords are not accessible to the children.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) has launched a campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the risks involved with baby monitor cords and placing audio and video baby monitors too close to the baby’s crib. JPMA is also giving out free labels for parents to attach to the cords of all baby audio and video monitors to remind anyone who is caring for the baby to place the monitor well out of reach of children.

But baby monitor cords aren’t the only hidden hazard in a baby’s sleep space. Crib bumpers have been used for years to create a soft barrier between a baby and the hard, wooden crib rails and to add a decorative touch to a baby’s crib. In 2011, after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the recommendation that crib bumpers should never be used, Chicago became the first state to ban the sale of crib bumpers. Between 1985 and 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were 27 accidental deaths of children 1 month to 2 years of age attributed to strangulation by a bumper tie around the neck or suffocation when they became wedged against a bumper pad. Removing crib bumpers can remove this safety risk.

In addition to crib bumpers, other soft items like loose blankets and bedding can also pose a real safety risk. Re-breathing exhaled air that is trapped around a baby’s face by loose blankets and bedding can result in death. Breathing carbon dioxide (re-breathing) has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). As an alternative to blankets, parents and caregivers can use wearable blankets that keep babies comfortable without posing a safety risk.

Toys and pillows should also not be placed in a crib or baby’s sleep space due to the risk of choking or suffocation.

Overheating is another hidden safety risk. In efforts of creating a warm sleep environment, parents often overdress their babies and turn the heat too high. A safe sleep temperature should be between 67 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and should be comfortable to a lightly clothed adult. If a baby is sweating or feels warm to the touch, a layer of clothing should be removed to avoid overheating.

Another devise that has been marketed for safety that can cause more harm than good is infant sleep positioners. Infant sleep positioners have been marketed as a safety device to parents who wish to keep their babies from rolling over during sleep, yet these positioners can pose a suffocation risk.

Since babies spend most of their unsupervised time in their crib or sleep space, it’s vital that parents and caregivers be proactive and minimize all potential sleep safety risks.

6 Signs Your Infant is Ready for Solid Foods

While the traditional recommendation has been to introduce solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age, more and more pediatricians are recommending that parents wail until closer to the 6 month mark. In fact, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization suggest introducing complimentary foods around 6 months of age as well.

Until 6 months of age, an infant’s primary nutrition comes from breast milk or formula. If solid foods are introduced too early, an infant may not drink enough to get the calories needed each day to grow and develop on track. The delayed introduction of solid foods has also been linked to decreasing the risk of food allergies in infants. Newer studies have shown that the early introduction of solid foods is linked with obesity.

But more important than age, a child should meet certain developmental milestones before starting solid foods.

These include:

1. Being able to sit with support. Sitting up is the safest position for infants to eat in. Babies should be able to sit in a high chair comfortably prior to the introduction of solid foods.  Good head and neck control is a prerequisite for introducing solid foods.

2. Showing interest by putting toys in their mouths. When infants begin putting things in their mouths that may be a sign they are ready to experience different textures. Since most babies put almost everything in their mouths, this should be accompanied by other telltale signs before introducing solid foods.

3. Showing interest by leaning forward when food is presented and pushing away when done.  When infants mimic eating and indicate that they want to eat when others are, it may be time to introduce solid foods. When presenting food to an infant, if he leans forward in hopes of eating it, he could be ready for solid foods. When an infant stops feeding and signals he’s done, it may be a sign he is self-regulating, which is helpful when starting solid foods.

4. Doubling birth weight. When an infant has doubled her birth weight, she may require additional calories to support growth and satisfy hunger. This typically occurs when a baby has reached 14 to 18 pounds.

5. Having coordination. Infants need to be coordinated enough to safely swallow foods to prevent choking and aspiration. They need to be able to push the food from the front of the mouth to the back of their mouths for safe swallowing.

6. Losing the extrusion reflex. Infants have a reflex that causes them to push their tongue against anything placed between their lips.  Feeding an infant who still has this reflex is frustrating because the infant keeps pushing food out of his mouth. This reflex typically disappears between 4 and 5 months of age.

When infants reach 4 to 6 months of age and show the signs of readiness, introducing solid foods can be an exciting time in a child’s development. Infants should first be introduced to single grain cereals. The texture should be thin and as the infant masters easting it, be thickened. Next, multigrain cereals, pureed veggies and pureed fruits can be added, followed by meat.

10 Diaper Bag Must Haves

Today’s diaper bags are fashionable and trendy, a far cry from diaper bags in past decades. However trendy doesn’t always translate to functional, and for a diaper bag to fulfill this role it has to be loaded with the appropriate supplies.  A fully stocked diaper bag ensures that you are always prepared for anything that may come your way. As you contemplate stocking your diaper bag, consider these 10 diaper bag must haves:

  1. Wipes. Wipes are probably the most useful supply you can have on you at all times.  Wipes are not only an essential tool for cleaning up a dirty bottom, but for many other messes as well.  Use wipes for cleaning sticky fingers before getting back into the car to head home, or for wiping up a spill or spit-up.  You can also use them for cleaning up the seat when you forget to clean up sticky fingers. 
  2. Changing pads. Changing pads provide a necessary and sanitary place to change the baby.  No matter where you go you will need to have a surface underneath the baby to change him.  Even when you use changing tables in a public restroom, you’ll want to have a clean and sanitary place to change the baby. 
  3. Small quiet toys. Small quiet toys help during changing times and while you’re out.  Distracting the baby while changing helps to ensure a quicker diaper change.  You may also find yourself in a store or restaurant in dire need of something that will keep the baby busy. Small quiet toys can come in handy then.  
  4. Diapers. Diapers are pretty important to keep on hand, and it’s probably a good idea to remember to keep several extra diapers in the diaper bag.  If you end up being out longer than you thought, you will need to have plenty of diapers with you to change the baby at a moment’s notice.  Figure that you will probably need to change her every few hours at a minimum.  Figure out how many diapers you may need and then add a couple more for good measure.
  5. Baby food. Baby food is important to bring along, even if you don’t think you will be gone for long.  Once she reaches the age when she’s old enough to eat baby food, it’s pretty easy to put some in the diaper bag when you are heading out for the day.  Don’t forget to bring a spoon and a bottle as well, unless you are nursing.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a bottle of water for her if it’s warm out, just in case she gets thirsty.
  6. Bibs. While out, you’ll need a bib.  Bibs work great for feeding as well as for catching excess drool when babies are teething.  Definitely bring one along if you plan to feed her on the run.  The bigger the bib the more it will protect her clothing.
  7. Diaper rash cream. Diaper rash cream is essential for the diaper bag.  It seems that a diaper rash can spring up at any time, and this usually means it will appear when it’s the most inconvenient.  Keep an extra tube in the diaper bag so that you will be covered no matter where you are.
  8. A change of clothes. Bringing along a change of clothes can save a trip to the store.  Things happen and you never can tell when you will need to change her clothes.  If the diaper leaks or if she spits up on her onesie, then having a spare change of clothes with you will come in quite handy.  It could even be because her big brother spilled his glass of juice all over her.  There’s really no way to foresee what will happen, just that something will, and it’s better to be prepared just in case an accident strikes.
  9. Pacifiers. Several pacifiers in a sealed bag can save you a headache later.  Babies are great about throwing their pacifiers on the floor, and you won’t always be near a sink where you can clean it off nor will you be able to sanitize it while you are out and about.  Bringing several clean pacifiers along can be an essential tool to help quiet her down while you are running your errands.
  10. Snacks. Bring along some snacks for another way to entertain her in the stroller.  Not only do kids get hungry between meals, it’s not always easy to sit down and feed them the second that they start fussing.  If you want to make it until a convenient feeding time, you’ll want to be sure to have some snacks.