Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Laying Off the Solid Foods for Awhile

Baby Ava has had first tastes of egg yolk and mashed avocado and banana in the last 10 days. She was doing well eating with a spoon with the new textures. She even pulled at the little bowl with the food and opened her mouth for more. She especially loved the banana that I mashed and mixed with breastmilk (see the pictures). She didn't like the avocado. She spit it out and it looked like guacamole coming out of her mouth. With the 4th bite, she gagged and it was so hard that she threw it up and the milk from her last nursing session.

But then on Saturday, she developed small spots all over her body. They seemed to go away, then last night when I picked her up from daycare, she had much bigger red spots all over her arms, legs, chest and even her cheeks. They seemed to move around even in the short time that I picked her up and nursed her at daycare. She didn't have a high temperature or seemed bothered by the spots. I didn't noticed that she was itching them either.

But I decided to take her to the after-hours medical care. The doctor thought it was an allergic reaction because it was changing and moving. She said her ears were clear. I didn't expect her to have an ear infection since breastfed babies rarely get ear infections for a variety of reasons (the harder sucking from the breast, antibacterial properties and the antibodies in the breastmilk itself). The doctor said to ride this out, unless it worsens and she suggested to lay off the solid foods for some time. I'm thinking I'll wait another 3-4 weeks. She's gaining weight, growing well, and perfectly satisfied by breastfeeding in general. Some babies seem really hungry.

My baby likes to graze. In fact, I have this really cool iPhone App called Baby Geek that I'm using to see her sleep and feeding schedule and it showed that we nursed for 4 hours EACH day this weekend. Woh! It kind of scares me to know now how much time we're devoting to it.

I felt a peace of mind to know that she's fine. I don't plan to give her egg again until after she's a year old just in case that is the cause of the allergy. We don't think the allergy was due to laundry detergent since at daycare and at home we're using the same products as before.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Breakfast Burrito You Can Make in 5-minutes and Eat On-the-Go

Last week, I went to my company's user conference locally, thankfully, so I didn't have to travel. I came home every night to spend time with Ava and did daycare drop off. Needless to say it was a very busy week, but rewarding because I learned a lot. Since I was on-the-go even more than usual, I packed myself this breakfast burrito since it's easy to eat in the car, or reheat at the office. I even made on today in about 5 minutes before I left for an event with the baby.

The reason why breakfast burritos are so easy is because you don't have to toast bread, they're portable, and the egg makes them really nutritious. My easy breakfast burrito has 2 eggs, shredded cheese, over a smear of refried beans and a dash of hot sauce.

Here is my foolproof way to efficiently cook and pack your breakfast burrito.

What you need:
  • 1 tortilla (8-inch) multigrain, wheat or flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Shredded cheddar
  • Refried beans
  • Hot sauce
For packing:
  • Plastic wrap
  • Paper towel
  • Aluminum foil
How to make it:
  • Preheat a small skillet to medium heat.While the skillet is preheating, pull out the eggs, cheese, hot sauce and tortilla from the fridge.
  • When the skillet is warm, coat skillet with cooking spray and add eggs. Season the eggs with salt and pepper.
  • Break yolks as the eggs to scramble to cook even faster.
  • Use a large size paper towel and place tortilla. Add a smear of refried beans and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Set aside by the skillet.
  • In the microwave, heat tortilla for 30-45 seconds on High.
  • Add cooked eggs on top of the beans and cheese tortilla. Roll the sides up and then use a small sheet of foil to wrap half the burrito, exposing one side open to eat it on the go. OR for packing to reheat at work, just wrap it in plastic wrap.
You can see from the pictures that I made this burrito one day when I reheated it at work before my team meeting. And then today, I made a burrito to eat in the car. Both work out really well. Even better, the breakfast burrito is packed with protein, fiber from the beans, and a bit of fat from the cheese to help you stay full longer. The egg is provides good brain and heart-healthy nutrition.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ava's First Solid Feeding

Today we took the plunge into solid foods! Ava is 6 months + 1 week old and she's been grabbing for our food at meals for the past few weeks. The signs that I've been waiting to introduce solids are: turning 6-months old, sitting up independently, and grabbing for food. Ava hasn't been extra hungry or unsatisfied by exclusive breastfeeding so there really hasn't been any significant push. At our 6-month check up on Friday, the pediatrician said Ava is on track developmentally and her growth is so great, which made me feel very empowered that she's getting all her calories from me. But now it's time to introduce solids so she can learn to eat with us at the family table over time. I've already started a freezer stash of baby food: apple sauce and sweet potatoes.

I cooked an egg yolk for her first exploration of eating with a spoon. Egg yolks are high in iron and nutrients for the brain. You might wonder why I chose egg, since they are potential allergens. It turns out that egg white is the common allergen and not the yolk. I ran the cooked yolk through the food milk and took small amount for today and saved the rest for future feedings. I added a bit of breastmilk to give her a familiar taste and easy consistency. Ava opened her mouth for more! I gave her about 5-6 spoonfuls before she got antsy to nurse. I've heard not to feed your baby solids before you nurse or give a bottle, but after just teeny little bites, I knew it would be fine. In fact she nursed for almost an hour! Babies like to comfort nurse when they are going through new development phases. We're going through a lot with learning to sit up, breaking teeth, and rolling.

Did she like it? Yes! She opened her mouth for more. In fact, after Ava nursed, I mistakenly put her on my chest to play and she threw up over BOTH of us and there were pieces of egg yolk in her stomach that came up. So she swallowed it. Gross.

The first foods don't have to be rice cereal! Rice cereal is the most common first food for US babies, but I believe babies should eat tastes from the family table. The attraction to rice cereal is iron fortified and it's bland for baby to learn to eat. It's unlikely the baby is processing all that iron from the cereal. Even though breastmilk is low in iron, baby have iron stores from pregnancy that last to about mid-year. Combine that with the highly absorbable quality of breastmilk, I've learned from lactation consultants that babies use the iron as they digest breastmilk.

I decided to make my own food for Ava instead of buying commercial foods. In my La Leche League meeting, we talked about when you start babies on solids later, they are more equipped to feed themselves, which actually helps prevent choking because they are controlling it. And food doesn't have to be completely pureed if it's soft. So I figure I'll do as much as I can from the family table over time she'll literally eat the same meal. It makes total sense to me because she likes to grab food from our plate. We're not planning on feeding her chicken nuggets while we eat meatloaf, after all.

Resources for Baby's First Foods:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ava Marie's 6-month Update

Here's a look at Ava's growth as of her well-baby appointment this morning.

Weight 18lb 10oz (birth 8lb 2oz) - 92nd percentile
Height 28 1/4 inches
99th! percentile and grown 7 1/2 inches since birth. Her doctor says she's as tall as a typical 10-month old.
Her head is now a 44cm circumference (from 36 cm at birth) - great brain growth

Exclusively breastfed!
Woot! No supply issues, we're smooth sailing and I'm still donating to the milk bank and two local moms. Ava prefers nursing and takes just enough from the bottle at daycare.

Active teething...Bottom gums are swollen and you can see a bit of white under the gums for the two front teeth. I use a homeopathic teething gel sometimes, but she's fine with teething rings and chomping down on her fingers, too.

Finally rolled over yesterday! Ava is been rolling around from her back to her side for months, but never completely over. She wasn't a fan of Tummy Time, but she finally figured it out yesterday at daycare and now she's been doing it at home. She starts out like in this picture above, then lays her head down, goes to her side position that she loves then finally falls to her back. It's really funny because she was on the verge for so long.

Starting to sit on her own. Daycare is really helping here. She's naturally pulling herself up from laying down to pull herself on her elbows. Ava is starting to sit up on her own. I put the Boppy pillow behind her to catch her while I took the picture this morning.

My growing baby. Even though Baby Ava is growing and has a strong appetite, she prefers to eat frequently (every 2-3 hrs or more at night). At daycare she still takes on average about 3oz in each bottle every couple hours. Ava's daycare is great about following her hunger signs. Ava is now busting out of her 6-month clothing size and very comfortable in her 9-month sleepers. We need to get a new carseat for her because her infant seat is getting too short and her shoulders barely fit. She's definitely too heavy to tote around in that carseat. I carry her in the sling a lot when we're out and about because it's comfortable for both of us and she gets to see up high.

Ava is very helpful when we're dressing/undressing.
She pulls her head up when you're pulling her shirt off and she pulls her arms through the sleeves now. I've noticed that she pulls her legs up when I'm changing her diaper.

Introduction to food and sippy cup!
In the past couple weeks, Ava has been very interested in what we're eating at meals by grabbing for the food on our plates. Aaron let her suck on an orange slice, which she loved! I made her mashed sweet potatoes and let her taste it from my finger, which she gave a disgusted look. Same with the dab of avocado. We'll keep trying. I stocked up on baby spoons, containers, and her first sippy cup. I've heard from other moms that you'll know when your baby is ready to have food from the family table because they reach for it. And yep, that's what is happening with Ava. Today she was grabbing for my water glass. I gave her a taste and LOVED it and kept reaching for it. I pulled out her sippy cup with a bit of water and she had fun holding the cup and trying to drink the water. I'm letting Ava guide the process.

This weekend, we're going to work on solids with a spoon. I'll either try egg yolk (for iron) or mashed fresh banana. I'll thin both of them out with breastmilk for a familiar flavor. I got pears in my produce box so I plan to cook and store them for her in the freezer.

Ava loves her grandparents. Here are a couple pictures from Labor Day weekend when we were up at the Lake. Ava had fun playing with her grandparents. Her Grandpa sang to her in this picture on our last morning and I recorded a voice memo on my phone so I can play it for her. And they watched her while Aaron and I went out for the afternoon with our friends, Dave and Lauren, who were visiting us at the Lake from Chicago. Grandma sent me this picture of her holding Ava when they were playing at home while we were eating lunch!

Puking, no fun! I've been worried about Ava because she's been throwing up. But the doctor assured me today that with her current growth, she's doing just fine. When Ava gets a cold she throws up from the congestion. Sometimes its a lot, but other times it's just a little. Aaron and I are getting really good at running to the sink so we can clean her up easily. We had a huge one at the Lake on Labor Day weekend, but it worked out because I just gave her a bath in the tub with the jets! We both sat together in the tub and she loved the Jacuzzi jets. It was very relaxing for both of us.

Nighttime routine: I have our nighttime routine down pat. We slow down at night at about 8pm and by about 9pm we read a story and she nurses for the last time before bed. Ava is good about sleeping through about 7 hrs and then she wakes up to nurse, then right back to sleep. I know she's hungry because I she nurses very efficiently then falls asleep. I LOVE that cosleeper bed next to me. I get much more sleep this way.

We're taking Ava to the Irish Fest downtown tomorrow afternoon. We took her to the Greek Fest with friends last weekend and she loved the music. It will be a fun family afternoon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Balancing Act of Continuing Breastfeeding As a Working Mom - A 4-Month Perspective

I've been back at work for about 4-months already. My little princess, Ava, and I have really loved our time to reconnect with nursing while we're together at night and weekends. I still work from home 2 days at week and have her home with me in the morning and late afternoon. She's still great about entertaining herself while I'm working at home before I take her to daycare.

Ava is turning 6-months old tomorrow and she's been exclusively breastfed, which means she's not on solids and she's only had mother's milk. Only 12% of US babies are exclusively breastfed by 6-months. She's grown and thrived from it, currently in 9-month clothes! And our nursing relationship has survived even though I'm working. It's so rewarding to me. We cosleep. Ava sleeps in a cosleeper bed next to my side of the bed and when she wakes up to nurse around 3 or 4am, I pull her into bed with me and then on days I'm in the office, my alarm goes off at 5:40am! I get more sleep this way. I don't have to get out of bed and she doesn't cry so Aaron gets lots of sleep, too. I know cosleeping isn't for every family, but it really works for us. I love being able to touch her hand or kiss her forehead when I'm going to sleep at night right in bed!

For a working mom with a busy job, it means that I have to stay very organized at work. I religiously pump during my time slots at work and sometimes shift them for meetings or other moms juggling the same thing that need to overlap in my time slot. My coworkers graciously find me spots to pump when we're offsite at a hotel for meetings. My company has meetings at downtown hotels because of our size now and the hotel staff is really supportive by opening empty rooms for me to use for 15 minutes. One woman even stored my cooler bag in the back in their refrigerator. I've been making it work. I'm able to pump a lot of milk.

I freeze a lot of the milk and store it for donation to the local milk bank and I have two moms that I also donate some milk to for their young babies. So far, I've donated 420oz to the milk bank and about 130oz to the two moms - 530 total ounces. I'm proud and honored to do that.

Ava does a great job switching between bottle feeding at daycare to nursing when we're together. I wonder why that is common concern for breastfeeding moms about "nipple confusion" and if it's just a myth because my baby prefers the breast. She knows when she's done with the bottle at daycare and her caregivers are great about knowing if she wants more or if she's done. Overfeeding at daycare is a danger for mom's milk supplies because of less nursing the baby may do when the mom is nearby. She clearly pushes the bottle away when she's done. Her chart shows that her typical serving is still 3oz and on occasion has 2.5 or even 4.5, but not more than that. Babies are all different. Lots of babies her age will take 5-7oz of breastmilk in a bottle. But, Ava prefers frequency and she grazes. My friends and family are surprised by how often she nurses when we're together.

You might remember my post with tips for breastfeeding moms on their daycare providers. Breastfed babies are a little different than formula-fed. I recently read that babies at 5-months can typically hold their own bottles during feedings. I asked Ava's daycare if she did that and they said that she likes to hold their fingers that are holding the bottle. She misses the closeness in nursing when we're apart! I love that. And by 5:40pm when I arrive at daycare, I scoop her up and she turns her head and opens her mouth ready to nurse as soon as I can put her on my breast.

I'm so thankful that the balance act is working. There's lots of things in play: pumping between meetings at work and hauling the pump and cooler bag to/from work and Ava's ability to switch between bottle and breast so easily. Next week, I'm going to my company's user conference and I'm really happy it's local so I won't have to travel. Aaron is helping me by picking Ava up from daycare a couple nights and my manager is super understanding and knows I'll miss lots of evening activities. Ava wouldn't be able to sleep without me there to nurse. I made arrangements with a friend who's staying at the hotel so I can use her room to pump. It's going to be one of the best weeks of my career at the conference and because of the customers and energy at the event, but also because I'll be able to maintain one of the things that defines me as a mother and pump during the meetings.

To make this work, I have to plan ahead, be a little assertive, and be disciplined with my schedule. It's not hard because I have support and I think about the wondering outcome from the balance. I'd be happy to answer any questions for moms out there that are planning to breastfeed at work.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Easy Appetizer: Sun Dried Tomato Cheese Tray

We were up at the Lake this weekend at my in-law's house and we had family and friends staying over. Aaron's aunt and uncle hosted a steak dinner for their daughter's birthday and I made an appetizer tray and a veggie casserole with cauliflower, kale, peppers, and tomato slices with a Parmesan Bechamel sauce. I can't give you the recipe for the sauce because I didn't keep track of measurements, but it was thick from the roux and I added high quality parmesan cheese with grated nutmeg, paprika, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. I poured it on top of the vegetables in a casserole dish and baked it in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes. It was delicious, colorful and nutritious!

The appetizer tray that I made was super simple. It's was a Sun Dried Tomato Cheese Spread with Crackers, cut celery and baby carrots. I prefer sun dried tomatoes stored in olive oil and my favorite pick is from Trader Joe's because they are julienne cut so they are easy to use. I like to put sun dried tomatoes in pasta with peas and shrimp for example.

I made this cheese spread from scratch and it took about 10 minutes to put together including cutting the celery. It was super easy and it was ALL GONE! I should have taken a picture before I served it, but the gang was pretty hungry. You can make it ahead really easy and pack the cheese spread in a serving dish with plastic wrap before a party.

  • Two boxes - 80z cream cheese softened (leave out for about 1-hr)
  • 1/4 cup chopped oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Optional - minced black olive
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with a spatula until evenly distributed. Transfer to serving dish. Serve with a variety of crackers and vegetables such as celery, carrots, or pepper strips. That's it!

**If you only can get sun dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil, you will have to rehydrate the tomatoes in hot water and steam them in a bowl covered in plastic wrap until they are tender. Then chop. You might want to toss them in a drizzle of olive oil for better flavor also.