Merry Mother Logo

February 2008
Issue # 004

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is notorious for sneaking up. Here I am, finally inching past Christmas and New Year's, and...WHAM! I'm drowning in pink hearts and flowers.

Things, I'm sure, have changed a lot since your last Valentine's Day. A whole new dependent person has entered your life, changing everything forever.

valentine
{Photo by Aizwa Ikcha}
This new life just means you have to work harder to stay connected with your sweetie.

It's the connection those 60-year marriage-veterans have with each other that keeps their love and romance kicking.

That kind of connection doesn't just drift into being. Be deliberate. Be proactive.

Use the excuse of Valentine's Day to build up your friendship and rekindle your tender and passionate love for each other.

Now is the perfect time to "date your husband". (For more tips on how to do this, glance at Step Four in this article.)

Need a babysitter for Valentine's Day? Find the best local babysitters at Sittercity.com

You don't have to have a six-course meal to qualify as a "romantic" evening out. Some of my most precious memories with Cameron are spent on the couch, talking, enjoying LOTR with popcorn, cuddling up together under a blanket.

Don't let the day pass as an "ordinary" day. I've included two super-simple and super-easy recipes to make the day more memorable for everyone.

Valentine 2
{Photo by Aizwa Ikcha}

Treasures in This Issue:

Site Secrets

In Case You Missed It...

Here are some of the new pages published recently at The Essential Infant Resource for Moms that you may have missed. As always, sign up for the Infant Blog and be notified instantly of all new or altered pages!

And the Winner Is...

What do you love about being a mom?

"I love getting to see and experience all of the new things my daughter Kaylee is learning!

She just rolled over for the first time on Monday!"

Congratulations are in order to...

Kimberly from Florida

For submitting the correct answer (Princess Diana of Wales) to the Mystery Mom Contest.

Kimberly has won a $25 gift certificate to splurge on anything she wishes at SkinStore.com.

Kimberly, you can expect an email from me with your attached eCertificate. Just in time for Valentine's Day! Enjoy the pampering!

I recently discovered that if you were using Explorer as your Internet Browser you were not able to place your guess for the Mystery Mom. It seems the link was only working on those merry mothers using Firefox.

If this was your situation, I sincerely apologize. After discovering this (on Friday!) I've identified the problem and have a solution to make sure it doesn't happen again in further contests.

Keep checking The Merry Mother for the next contest!

feature

It's always a temptation for me to assume that Elena is younger than she really is. She's growing so fast that I'm stunned when she can stand up next to the toy chest, or throw a ball. In my subconscious I'm convinced she's only 6 months old.

musing definition
I finally woke up and realized that she was nearly 11 months old and I hadn't yet fully included her in our family meals. Sure, she sits next to the table with usÂ…but she eats her food and we eat ours.

Here's how I've made that transition. I started too late. You can start this process as early as 7 months old.

Eating Out or Staying In:
Including Your Baby in Family Meals

Now your baby is 7 months old, you can begin to include him more and more into Family Meal Time. This will save you money (less jarred food), save you time (less prep time), and teach him early that he eats what everyone else does. (A valuable habit once he hits toddlerdom.)

Here are some tools and tricks to help him (and you) make that important dining transition. Of course, he will still eat baby food, but will begin to self-feed with more and more table food.

Including a 7-9 Month Old Baby

The influx of creative feeding tools they've developed since my last baby is staggering. Take, for example, the Fresh Food Feeder by Munchkin.

feeder
{Fresh Food Feeder}
This amazing device allows you to place a whole soft food (like a banana or baked sweet potato) and let him gnaw on the net. It completely eliminates the hazard of choking.

It also allows you to share your food with babies as young as 6 months old at restaurants. It is dishwasher safe, but still requires some diligence to keep clean.

I've lent my feeder out on several occasions and consider it an essential part of my baby feeding supplies.

Baby food mill
{Electric Baby Food Mill}
Another great tool to have on hand is a baby food mill. This small device is small enough to fit into the diaper bag and is super useful (especially at restaurants).

Place your food inside, push the button, and it will puree the food into a consistency your baby can eat. Plus, it removes skins, seeds, and other things baby can't eat.

If you would rather quietly mill the food by hand, KidCo also offers a non-electric, hand-propelled baby food mill.


Side Note: Although these tools enable you to feed your baby almost anything, use discretion. Not everything can be digested by your baby. Food introduced too soon can cause digestive problems or trigger fatal allergies.

I use the Food Introduction Chart in the book Super Baby Food to tell me when to give her what things. It's been invaluable to me and I encourage you to consider purchasing it. Click here to view this book.


Starting Off Safe

baby food
{Photo by S0MEBODY 3LSE's}
The biggest concerns mothers have (including me) when starting to let baby self-feed is the fear of choking.

Babies just grab and stuff. They don't consider size or amount. They're just thrilled to get it inside the right hole.

Protect your baby by giving him foods that are as choke-proof as you can make them. All foods should be soft and small. Cut them small enough that if the food is swallowed hole, it will slip easily down his food pipe.

Raw vegetables, grains, and pastas should all be well-cooked and slightly mashed before sharing them with your infant.

Here are some other tips to prevent choking.

  • Don't apply topical teething medicine right before eating. The medicine numbs his gums and may make swallowing more difficult.
  • Limit the amount of food you put on his tray to prevent gorging.
  • Cookies, crackers, breads and biscuits should be either too hard to bite off a piece or so soft that it will instantly dissolve in his mouth.
  • Slippery foods (like diced fruit) can easily be inhaled into his windpipe. Roll the fruit in flour or wheat germ to provide more texture.

Including A Baby 9 Months and Older

At around 9 months your baby will start wanting to practice the art of self-feeding. That is a natural way to introduce him to "family food".


Side Note: the ability to self-feed is determined by your baby's development of certain reflexes, particularly the palmar and the pincher grasp. Click here to see if your baby has these reflexes.
But before you load up his tray with samples, remember this: The goal is not to get him off of baby food completely. Until he is past his first birthday, the majority of his nutrition will come from breastmilk (or formula) and jarred (or homemade) baby food. Your purpose here is to get you accustomed to feeding him family food, and get him accustomed to eating it.

Dividing Up Your Meal

There are three simple steps you can take to transfer "family food" over to "baby food".

Step One: A well-balanced meal contains carbs, protein, veggies and fruits. Looking at what you are eating, divide it up between those categories. (I know this seems too simplistic, but bear with me.)

Step Two: Once you've mentally divided your food, consider which foods he can actually eat at his current age. (The Food Introduction Chart in Super Baby Food is invaluable here.)

Step Three: Consider what you need to do to those foods (dice? mash?) to make them safe for him to eat.

An Example

Last night we enjoyed Crock Pot Gumbo. Because Elena is less than a year old, giving her shellfish (or anything cooked with shellfish) is a bad idea. She may have an allergic reaction. That means the gumbo was out.

The brown rice was still an option. It was soft, and small enough to avoid choking.

So I served Elena up some brown rice along with the rest of the family. When she was finished with the rice, we gave her some pureed peaches and yogurt (baby food).

You can do this with any meal. Spaghetti for dinner? serve diced pasta. Peas as a side dish? gently mash them on baby's tray until smoothly-bumpy.

A Word About Protein

What about meat? Pureed meat can be served to a baby at 7-8 months. Using the electric baby food mill is a quick and efficient way to liquify it to a consistency your baby can handle.

Beans can be cooked and mashed well (like the peas) for self-feeding. And finally, egg yolks (not the whites) can be scrambled for a baby under a year old. If he is older than 8 months, you could even put shredded cheddar on top!

flower

There is no end to the ways you can encourage your baby to eat the foods you have prepared (or have ordered). Use a Food Introduction Chart (like the one included in Super Baby Food) to determine which foods can be introduced when.

Sharing a meal as a family (even if "family" means you and baby) is a special time to connect. Save yourself some extra work and use these tips to bring baby into regular family meals.

Next month's Merry Mother Exclusive will be: Stimulating Your Baby's Mind: Do's and Don'ts.

baby food recipes

Strawberry Parfait

Since strawberries are the official "love-berry" it is the perfect subject for this month's baby food recipe.

This 1-layer "Strawberry Parfait" is super easy to make and includes only three ingredients.

Mashed and cooked strawberries can be given to babies 9-12 months old. The Cool Whip can be added for 12-18 month old infants.

strawberries
{photo by Qole Pejorian}

Ingredients

  • 1/2 strawberries, frozen
  • 1-2 Tbs wheat germ or flour
  • 1 Tbs Cool Whip Lite
  • Cheerios

Instructions

Thaw the strawberries completely. Drain and finely chop.

Roll the strawberries in the wheat germ to add texture and prevent being too slippery.

No Chocolate!

Chocolate should not be given to a baby under 18 months old.

His system may not be advanced enough yet to digest it.

Place the strawberries in a small (unbreakable) bowl and top with a dollop of Cool Whip (if baby is older than 12 months). Sprinkle with Cheerios.

Remember that strawberry juice can stain. You may want to put him in older clothes and put a towel on the floor.


Super Baby Food is my source for much of the information I share (and have learned) about baby food. This excellent book lists when it is safe to introduce certain foods to your baby's diet. It also describes (in helpful detail) how to make your own baby food and save some serious $$$$.

Visit the Essential Infant Bookstore Emporium to view this book.

recipes

Cupid's Cookies

These adorable cookies look much more advanced than they really are. Slip one of these in his lunch box on Valentine's Day. That way you can test the old adage: The way to a man's heart is through his stomach!
cookie

Ingredients

  • 1 (20 oz) roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, slightly chilled
  • 1 (16 oz) can of white frosting
  • red food coloring
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

On a floured surface, roll out the dough in a circle until about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Using a heart cookie cutter, cut out 30 heart-shaped cookies. With a smaller cookie cutter, cut out a smaller heart in 15 of the cookies.

Bake the cookies according to package instructions.

Place a few red drops of food coloring in the frosting and stir.

Once the cookies have cooled, sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the 15 cookies with the inside heart cut-out. Set aside.

Placing the 15 whole heart-shaped cookies in front of you, generously slather on the pink frosting before topping with the other cut out cookies.


This recipe was adapted from a similar recipe found in Great Girl Food.

infant activities

Here are some games you can play with your baby from birth until 18 months. It's encouraged that you do these activities every day or so this month. Repetition is helpful to your developing baby.

If he seems bored with these games, feel free to try out the activities in previous newsletters.

Stop the activity once your baby appears to lose interest.

0-3 Months:
Ribbons

Tie six-inch lengths of different colored ribbon or fabric to the handle of a wooden spoon. Place your infant in her car seat and wave the ribbons in front of her.

Watch for growing excitement as the ribbons dance on her tummy and through her (eventual) grasping fingers.

This helps build eye-hand coordination, tactile stimulation, and visual development.

bubble
{Photo by Strelitzia}

3-6 Months:
Bubbles

Choose a bubble-maker and introduce your baby to the magical world of bubbles.

The floating orbs help him practice a variety of skills such as eye-tracking and depth-perception.

The temptation to swat at the bubbles will give him valuable practice for eye-hand coordination. It will also teach the theory of cause and effect. ("I touch...it pops!")

This helps build eye-hand coordination, cause-and-effect, and visual development.

towel
{Photo by Jenn_Jenn}

6-9 Months: Spotlight

Stretch some colored tissue paper or scarf across a flashlight and secure with a rubber band. Move the light across the ceiling, toys, walls, etc.

Move the light slowly between objects, saying, "Where is the light?" "It's on the block!"

If your baby is beginning to crawl, shine the light on the floor and let him try to catch it.

This game builds fine motor skills, sensory development, and visual development.

12-18 Months:
Scribbles

Introduce your baby to world of crayons. He will try to eat them, so make sure they are non-toxic! Hold the crayon with him and show him how to scribble on the piece of paper. Encourage him to "draw mommy" and then scribble a picture.

This helps further develop his fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

9-12 Months:
Obstacle Course

Set up an obstacle course with small blocks, boxes, or stuffed animals. If she can stand, hold her hands and help her step around the objects.

If she's crawling, encourage her to crawl around the course.

This activity helps with balance, eye-foot coordination, gross motor skills, and building lower body strength.


Most of these activities were adapted from Gymboree's book, Baby Play: 100 Fun-Filled Activities to Maximize Your Baby's Potential.

This book has full-color photographs that make it fun to read and easier to implement. Click here to see this highly-recommended book.

heather's hints

baby hat
{Elena models her "hair-saver" device.}

Tired of Baby Food Shampoo?

There is really nothing so irritating as watching your just-washed infant smear dinner all over her hair.

Getting baby food out of infant hair has been the bane of my motherly existence. Short of having baths 3 times a day, I've struggled with keeping food out of Elena's hair.

She's always putting her hands up on her ears, rubbing her eyes (getting it in her hair), touching her neck...it's a losing battle.

Finally, I discovered the solution. I make her wear a hat during mealtimes.

She did not immediately take to the idea, but after a few firm "no touch" comments and suffered-through temper tantrums, she gave up and the hat stayed. In the beginning I was having this battle at every mealtime, but she's slowly gotten used to it.

Any hat will do (even a baseball cap) just make sure it doesn't have any ear flaps or dangling strings since they could become a hazard.

recalls

There have been only 5 recalls since the last Merry Mother, and all of those were toys. Click on the link below to access the photos and other details associated with these recalled toys.

Toy Recalls

The following toys were recalled in January. Click here to access the 2008 Toy Recall Report.
  • "My First Kenmore" Play Stoves
  • Remote Control Toy Racing Cars
  • Magnabild Magnetic Building Systems
  • Big Wooden Blocks
  • Jumbo Wooden Train Sets
If you would like to check recalled strollers, swings, cribs or other baby furniture to ensure they aren't lurking in a corner of your home, view all the recall reports.

Using these same Recall Reports, I discovered that our playpen (a hand-me-down gift) had been recalled for the deaths of 8 infants. It pays to check!

closing

I hope you've enjoyed reading February's issue of The Merry Mother. Again, congrats to Kimberly on winning the Mystery Mom contest!

The next issue will be published on the morning of March 4th. So watch your Inbox! smiley

Contact Me

If you have any comments, opinions, or content ideas, I'd love to hear from you. Click here to send me a message.

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Thank You Readers!

Thank you so much for reading and subscribing to this newsletter. It is a labor of love. I'm happy to know others enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it. My growing subscriber list shows that you have been sharing it with your friends, and for that I am deeply grateful.

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P.S. Be sure to check back at The Essential Infant Resource for Moms, your friend-next-door for questions-answered, stories-told, and laughs-had.

Newsletter Archives

All the previous editions have been archived and are available for you to examine at your leisure. Visit http://www.the-essential-infant-resource-for-moms.com/Newsletter-Archives.html for past editions.
All the photos on this page can be found at www.flickr.com and were used
according to licensing requirements.

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