Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Solid Food at 8-Months

Ava just turned 8-months old and just last week, she turned the corner and now enjoying solid food. I've mentioned before that I'm making all of Ava's baby food because I already have the fresh produce on-hand and want Ava to ease into the family table. Many of my friends that have done this told me that their children were not picky eaters and they think homemade food helped. Buying store-bought seems easy on the surface, but I don't see the point of buying her something different when I can just as easily make her fresh, homemade food while I'm making our family meals.

Ava's favorites so far:
  • Pear (cooked with a tiny dash of cinnamon), I ran it through the food mill and thinned it with a bit of the cooking water. Daycare said she squealed and opened her mouth really wide. She ate much more than we expected!
  • Banana (mashed and thinned out with breastmilk). Daycare told me that they warmed it up slightly and she ate the entire bowl yesterday! What a big eater. She loved the bananas. It's so convenient and nutritious.
  • Grapes - Aaron bites off half of the grape when we're eating dinner and squeezes the juice in Ava's mouth and she LOVES it! Aaron holds the grape for her and she sometimes bites a bit of pulp, but mostly takes the juice. She moves her arms around and squeals. It's very cute!
I made yellow squash with a tiny bit of garlic and she refused it after two attempts. But today, I put a bit of the pureed yellow squash with a chuck of ripe, mashed avocado and thinned it out with a bit of breastmilk. She ate a couple bites before I left her at daycare today. I don't think it was her favorite, but the combo seemed to work.

Great Resources for Natural Baby Food:
  • Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair - this book gives recipes for the whole family cooking with whole foods and how to cook for small babies. Cynthia Lair is a contributor to Mother Magazine. I've made several recipes from this book already, but the concepts in the book really have given me great information. A mom who read my blog post recommended to me and I'm glad I bought it.
  • First Meals by Annabell Karmel - takes you from food introduction to cooking for small children. It has age-appropriate chapters and the pictures are awesome. She shows you how to prepare food for picky eaters by making it look interesting. I like her hints and info for mixing foods for baby.
I haven't been worried at all that Ava didn't eat solid foods until last week because she's exclusively breastfed and getting all she need. She had been very satisfied by nursing and not interested. A wise mom/grandma/former 15-yr LLL leader told me that when Ava is interested in solids, she will make it very obvious! So true! In fact, she told her her son didn't eat solids until 8-months, too.

Right now, I'm bringing a small bowl to daycare with food for Ava to have a lunch with the other babies. She's eating with everyone at the same time, which probably gets her into the motions. And it's nice because right now, all she needs through the introduction phase is experimentation and my daycare loves trying new foods with her. It's less hassle for me at home and it helps us focus on just nursing. I've heard to do that from a breastfeeding mom's website, but I can't remember where.

I decided against starting Ava on rice cereal. I gave it to her once and it gave her horrible gas for 2-days. I find it interesting with all these other foods we've given her, there are no side effects like that bloody rice cereal! I did notice that after eating the banana and pears, her poop has been a bit heavier, but not bad or foul smelling. We've discussed rice cereal in my La Leche League meetings and I totally agree that it is meant to complement formula fed babies and not necessary like many people say it is. Check out this page on Kellymom about food introduction for more info...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

14 hours

My goal is to get Ava to sleep 14 hours per day. In fact, this is what she's doing right now as I write this blog post, getting her afternoon nap. I was concerned about her sleep when we Ava moved out of the newborn nursery into the older baby nursery at 6-months. Her naps at daycare were often disrupted by a loud cry or a group of babies playing. My daycare has been great about working with her to give her a little rocking or stroking her head to coax her back to sleep if needed. They follow a schedule and turn out the lights and to help the babies sleepy. It's taken some weeks, but Ava has been doing great. I read a really good book early on called the No Cry Sleep Solution (check out this link for resources at tools for sleep), which points out that day sleep affects night sleep. So the if the baby isn't resting throughout the day, then it will make them over-tired and it will be difficult to sleep at night. The author talks about creating a predictable nightly routine that the baby or toddler can experience very night. This really works for us. I loved the author's approach because the cry-it-out method is so counter-intuitive for me as a mother.

Sleep is ultra important for a baby's brain development and to help keep up with their rapid growth. At 8-months old, my goal is to get her to sleep a total of 14 hours per day. Ava's night sleep is around 10 1/2 hours per night and day sleep is about 3 1/2. With that said, it's very unrealistic to expect a small baby to sleep 10 1/2 hours or more at a stretch without waking up to nurse or feed. This is especially the case for breastfed babies since breastmilk is easily digestible and they need to nurse often.

In Ava's case, she goes to sleep for the night between 8:30 and 9:00pm and wakes up around 6:30am or 7am (maybe 8am, too!). But she wakes up to nurse around 3 - 5am. Sometimes we're nursing twice in a stretch, but it's fine with us because she sleeps in her cosleeper bed next to me. I pull her into bed and she starts nursing and we both fall back asleep easily. Cosleeping has amazing advantages because it helps us BOTH get more sleep. Since she's nursing, it extends her sleep longer and it's restful for all of us for her to nurse in bed. As a full-time working mom, getting better sleep for all of us is my top concern. The bonus part is that night nursing also helps keep a healthy milk supply because moms produce more volume of milk overnight due to the hormone levels. Moms and babies cosleeping together does amazing things, including keeping the baby secure and comforted to sleep longer. Mother nature is fascinating!

As a cosleeping baby you might think she won't sleep by herself. On the contrary, Ava is flexible to sleep in a crib at daycare. Now that she's gotten used to the nap schedule and the noises in the room with the other 11 babies, Ava sleeps about 2 to 2 1/2 hours there and another nap at home before bed. To help keep her comfortable, I bring a thin receiving blanket from home with my scent on it so she can lay on that and smell that instead of the daycare crib sheet, which they change daily in her crib.

Our nighttime routine...Ava is a cluster feeding baby. When I arrive at daycare, we nurse there. And in the evening, she nurses a lot to catch up from the separation. At home before bed, she nurses a lot at night. We start winding down about 8pm. I take a shower and she's with me in the bathroom chilling out. Then I put her last diaper for the night and we read a book together. She says goodnight to Daddy and they have laughs and kisses. Then she nurses for the last time and falls asleep. Yep, she falls asleep nursing. I know in the mainstream parenting information, that's "bad," but at least for my baby, she sleeps so well at night usually 6-7 hours before waking to nurse, then going right back to sleep. My pediatrician is flexible and supportive, which I love. Lots of pediatricians tell parents, to have their baby fall asleep on their own by putting them to bed drowsy. Maybe I'm lucky, but it's working for us.

When she's at daycare for 5 hours, she typically takes one 3-oz bottle or a full 10-hour day she'll take three 3-oz bottles for a total of 9-oz. She prefers to nurse when we're together. At my nursing mothers group, La Leche League, we've talked about the general rule of thumb is that a baby needs about 1oz per hour that the mom and baby are separated of expressed milk. Also, according to the LLL Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, most breastfed babies take 2-4oz of human milk in a bottle when separated from their mom. At daycare, Ava's caregivers were a little concerned because compared to the other babies she took so little in each bottle. But Ava is the only breastfed baby in the room so I shared this info and they felt better.

I loved this post by my friend, Jill, about cosleeping being seen by the mainstream as a "Bad Habit." Well said!

Well, gotta run, Ava is stirring and is starting to wake up from her 2 hour nap! I hope you all sleep well, too!

Friday, November 19, 2010

My New Favorite Bread: Soft 10 Grain

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a new bread to try during my weekly trip to Trader Joe's and picked up the Soft 10 Grain Bread. They key word is "soft." Most of the healthy bread that we've tried is just too hard and dry. Aaron is a big fan of a regional bread maker called Aunt Millie's that's made here in Indiana, but I wasn't sure how healthy it actually is for you.

So the verdict is that I LOVE it! It's a natural and preservative free product. That means you'll need to eat it quickly since it will tend to mold fairly quickly without the preservatives. The bread is hearty with seeds that you can bite into like sesame and sunflower.

Each slice is 90 calories and 2 grams of fiber. Ingredients include: wheat flour, brown sugar, brown rice, corn grits (weird), barley rye, white wheat, rolled oats, wheat bran. It has an earthy flavor.

I like to eat with cottage cheese on top for breakfast or almond butter with a bit of unsweetened homemade apple butter.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bena Goes to the Office

I had to share this adorable picture of Bena who went to the office with Aaron today. She was curled up under his desk for most of the day laying on her favorite towel from home. Aaron works in a fun work environment and people are so relaxed that they sometimes bring their dogs to work. He took her for the morning to see how she would do and then took her back home for the afternoon.

Bena has been staying home for 2 days a week alone in the yard and the garage while we're at work. I work from home 2 days a week and then she goes to doggie daycare on Monday's. She has an electric fence and collar and she's great about staying in the yard all day. In fact, most days when she's home alone, we find her sleeping on her bed in the garage when we get home in the evening.

Bena is such a sweet girl! Aaron is taking her quail hunting on Saturday morning. That's what she's bred for so she's going to have a blast!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My 8-month Baby Girl

It's hard to believe that our baby girl is 8-months old today. Ava is developing new fun skills all the time. This week when I picked her up at daycare, I looked at her like she changed in only the 10-hours that we were apart. It was a strange feeling!

What is Ava up to these days?...Clapping her hands! One of her new skills is learning to clap her hands together by herself or to mimic us. She loves to play patty-cake so we're not surprised she started clapping on her own. Sometimes she gets excited and does a hand-shake clap where she looks like she's giving herself a handshake. She explores new toys, textures, and movements with her fine hand movements now. Often times, she likes to grab our face when she's nursing or when Aaron is holding her close. It's very sweet.

Experimenting with different tastes, but still not into solid food. At meals we offer her a taste of an orange slice or the juice of a red grape. Sometimes we put tastes of food on her lips. She likes pineapple. Other tim
es, she gags when we feed her tastes she doesn't like. But, I feel good that she's getting all she needs from breastmilk. I recently donated again to the milk bank (349oz) from the last month's extra milk. So far, I've donated over 1,200oz of milk, almost all to the milk bank and a bit to two moms. This wonderful supply keeps me confident that I will have more than enough to feed Ava longterm as long as she needs. I plan to nurse her until she self-weans. Last weekend, I tried giving Ava rice cereal for the first time ever because Aaron suggested maybe we should give her something mild so she doesn't gag. She ate about 6 spoonfuls of the runny cereal. I mixed it according to the box recommendations so it was mostly breastmilk. It went down pretty easily. EXCEPT....she developed horrible gas from it that lasted 2 days. Poor baby! I felt her little tummy grumbling. My intuition told me to wait on the cereal and I wished that I had listened. One good outcome is that I realized I was making her baby food too thick. I just cooked up some pear for her tonight and I ran it through the food mill and mixed it with the cooking liquid water that I used. I'll try it tomorrow and see what she thinks.

Like I said, I'm very confident she's getting her best nutrition and "medicine" from her milk and I realize that her food experiences are truly experiments at this stage. Nonetheless, at daycare, I feel a bit of pressure since she's the only baby her age that isn't eating solid food. But, it's different with a breastfed baby and my baby who is loving nur
sing and not very interested in what we're eating. We call Ava a "big nurser" because at night that's what we spend our time doing. When Ava nurses, she likes to knead her legs and feet and take off her her socks. It's really cute. I love the snuggle time.

Still enjoying the sling...Here's a picture of my little sweetie from last weekend when we went to a baby shower. I tried to nurse her before we left, but she didn't want to at the time. We got to the restaurant and I pulled her out of her carseat and she was ready to nurse. She crashed out in a nap immediately. So there I was in the backseat of the car while we nursed. At the shower, I put her in the sling and she slept in that for most of the baby shower. She woke up a bit to play and watch the ladies. We made a quick drive to the nearby Whole Foods and she fell asleep AGAIN! I put her back in the sling where she slept the ENTIRE visit in Whole Foods. It was so funny because lots of people made comments about how comfortable and cozy she looked. Even men stopped to smile. It made me feel so good that she could feel that comfortable and flexible to walk through the store while I shopped. I'm a big fan of attachment parenting!

Halloween was fun this year. We spent the day at home relaxing. Ava go
t a little fussy in the afternoon so Aaron sat her on the front porch while he planted bulbs in the front yard. It was very sunny outside, but cool so we bundled her up and he made an "nest" for her with blankets and toys. It worked! She talked, watched Aaron, and enjoyed looking around at the trees. Aaron gave her a little twig from the pine tree that she liked holding. She loves different textures. Late afternoon, we headed to the Pierce's house where they had a house-full of very excited small children in fun costumes. The parents all pitched in with a soup dinner. We joined with for a bit of Trick or Treating! We walked with the group, but didn't go up to the houses.

Vocal baby...Ava loves to express herself by trying different tones of voices and singing! She has a "monster" voice and joins you when you're singing to her. When the coffee grinder or blender are going in the morning, she sometimes hums to the same tone. Her go-to word is Dada, but she tries it in so many variations and lots of other sounds even blowing raspberries! At night with Ava's bedtime story, she likes to talk when we're reading the book. I think she knows that I talk when we're looking at the book so she wants to also. She likes to turn the pages and when we close the last page she bangs her hand on it.

So much hair! I can't believe how much hair is growing in now. Ava has lots of new hair growing all the time. Bow clips stay in her hair and I love the cute headbands with the flowers and bows. Aaron wants his little girl in pink all the time. Even when I put brown pants on her, he always teases me that I'm dressing her like a boy.

A very warm baby...even now that the weather is cooling off, Ava is staying warm, naturally. She sweats like crazy when she nurses. The daycare is heated a bit warmer than our house so I dress Ava in short sleeves and layers. One of her caregivers told me that this week when she fed her a bottle, Ava sweat so much they were both drenched and the caregiver had to change her clothes! That's my warm baby girl! I see other parents bundling their babies when it's 55 degrees and I think Ava would die of heat in that outfit. Just tonight, Aaron checked her diaper after a nap and then just left her in her short sleeve onesie and no socks. We put a thin receiving blanket on her legs and she was fine for awhile.

Ava gets the "giggles"...We're having such a great time playing with little Ava. She loves to play peek-a-boo and laughs really hard. Usually one of us holds her and the other hides and surprises her. She squeals with delight! At daycare, they tell me that she gets in a giggly mood and can't stop. They catch sight of her and she laughs so hard. We do that with her at home and it's so fun!

We're all sleeping well most nights. Ava goes to sleep at 9:30am and wakes up about 7 or 8am on the weekends or when she goes to daycare on the halfdays. I love our cosleeping situation. We have Ava in the cosleeper and usually she wants to nurse around 3-5am and maybe again at 6am, which helps stretch her sleep to 8am. The best thing is on days that I work in the office I wake up at 5:30am and if I can nurse her in bed and get ready really smoothly while she's sleeping. She wakes up at 7am and we're out the door soon after. The best thing is that with Ava in the cosleeper, she doesn't fully wake up and nurses efficiently in her sleep, while I sleep too. It's great for both of us. Sometimes I put her back in her bed, but other times I just keep her in our bed. She likes waking up next to her Daddy! She smiles at him even if he's still asleep. This week Ava has had a mild cold that congested her at night. I had to clean her nose out at 4am, which really woke her up. But luckily, I put her back in her bed and I put my hand on her chest, which helped her calm and relax. She held my fingers and we fell asleep together. These moments are really special because I know she's growing so fast!

Homemade Hummus is Super Easy and Economical

When we were at our nephew's first birthday party last month, my sister-in-law made homemade hummus for an appetizer. It was really good! It was her first time making it from scratch. She served it with sun-dried tomato pesto on top. I've tried different recipes for hummus before, but I think this is the best. It's the perfect blend of olive oil, salt, lemon and garlic to complement the chickpeas. You really have to give it a try! Thank you for sharing the recipe, Megan!

I made this hummus last weekend. We love hummus and I thought it would be more economical to make it ourselves since a large container of our favorite hummas at Trader Joe's is $2.99. It's not bad, but I knew I could make it for half the cost by making it at home.

The star ingredient in hummus is Tahini, which is a sesame paste. It has a similar texture to peanut butter. You can buy it at any grocery store. My local store stocks it in the healthy/organic section of the store next to the other nut butters. I use fresh lemon. It took only 10 minutes to whip up in the food processor. I highly recommend that you make a double-batch so you can keep some on-hand in the fridge for snacks and sandwiches.

Serving suggestions: I served the hummus with slices of cucumbers and kalamata olives. I spread the hummus on a slice of bread and Aaron chose pita chips. You can dip any veggie like celery, carrots, cauliflower, or red peppers.

Easy Garlic Hummus

  • 1 (16 oz) can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Optional: sprinkle paprika and cumin in the hummus or just for serving


  • Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
  • Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
  • Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with parsley (optional).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Breakfast Frittata with Kale, Tomato, Bacon and Smoked Mozzarella

Last Sunday, I made an egg frittata so I could use the rest of my kale. I had a bunch of organic kale from my produce box and used half of it for a chicken, veggie, and rice soup the weekend that I was sick and then I wanted to use the rest of it before it went bad. Aaron isn't a fan of kale so this breakfast was about convincing him that it's pretty tasty after all.

Kale is highly nutritious with vitamin K, beta carotene, and vitamin C. I cooked the kale before it went in the oven since the leaves are so fibrous. It took me about 30 minutes to prep this before it went into the oven, but that's perfect for a relaxing weekend morning.

It tasted great! I packed leftovers for work, which made breakfast easy for a day at the office. That morning, I served a wedge of the frittata with a leftover potato casserole dish that I made for dinner earlier in the week and a piece of toast. We sat at the dining table in the Sunroom and enjoy our late breakfast with Ava playing on the floor next to us. You can see in the picture with the windows that Bena is out in the yard sniffing the deer's trail.

Frittata with Kale, Tomato, Bacon and Smoked Mozzarella - Serves 4

  • About 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed and chopped in small pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup bread cubes (crusty bread)
  • 1 + 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a medium skillet, saute kale with garlic in olive oil on medium heat. Cook covered for about 15 minutes on medium-low heat until the kale is tender.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • While kale is cooking. Cut bread loaf and soak pieces in 1/2 cup of milk in a small bowl.
  • Chop tomatoes and shred cheese.
  • Cook bacon slices between two pieces of wax paper in the microwave on HIGH for 2-minutes. When cooked, drain from fat liquid and let cool on paper towel. Once bacon has cooled, slice in small pieces.
  • In a medium bowl, mix eggs with 1 cup of milk and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray, spread soaked bread. Layer cooked kale. Then add tomato, bacon, and shredded cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the egg is set and the cheese is golden brown.
  • Serve immediately.
If you don't have the smoked mozzarella cheese on-hand, you can try for another smoked cheese variety like gouda. Smoked cheese compliments the bacon so well, that I recommend you give it a try. Another option is to use another type of cheese all together such as regular mozzarella, feta or Parmesan cheeses.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our First Five 11-05-05

Today is our 5-year wedding anniversary! It's the first 5-years into our life as a family. We started celebrating last weekend with our day trip to Brown County. We work through our ups and down. We feel more depth of love and passion for each other than the day we took those wedding vows in front of 100 of our close friends in family in Chicago. We met on New Year's Eve 2004 and that was a day that changed the course of lives in a way we couldn't imagine at that time. We found each other and made a life that I always wanted growing up with divorced parents. Our wedding vows were clear, we promised to never leave. Those values to marry your partner and spend your life together is the way we both always wanted it. This picture is from when we walked down the aisle together as new husband and wife. I changed my name and identity from Amanda Volarvich to Amanda Berkey, walking with my love and husband knowing that the future would be what we make of it. Now after the first 5 years, I'm looking back amazed by how much we have experienced together.

Places we've traveled: The first 4-years of our marriage, we lived in the city of Chicago in our condo. Our goal was to travel and have fun with friends as much as possible before we had children.

The first year of our marriage was so fun because we did extra special things that year like a 6-pack of the Chicago Symphony season performances and we saw Wicked on Broadway in Chicago. We took our honeymoon in April 2006 so we could have better weather than November. It was 2-weeks in Italy. We went to Rome, Amalfi Coast, Naples, Florence, and Milan. This picture on the left is from our hike in Pasitano, our favorite place on Earth, which happens to be on the Amalfi Coast. Our room overlooked the Mediterranean! We washed our fresh pasta down with red wine and lemoncello. We walked through museums, explored the cities, and lounged on the coast for 5-days.

Since then, we traveled to St. Thomas and St. Croix for Heather and Ryan's wedding (our picture from their wedding) in January 2008. In July that year, we got a dog! Bena Berkey, our baby Vizsla was 7-weeks old when we brought her home and she won our hearts very quickly. And in September 2008, we traveled to Barcelona for Aaron's work trip. I've been lucky to have our trips back to my hometown in California to see my friends and family.

Our adventure together really kicked off when we moved to Indianapolis in July 2009 to start a new life together to prep for a family. We got job offers on the same day and had to move down very quickly. The day I moved, I found out that I was pregnant with Ava. The universe has an amazing way of figuring this out when you're paying attention for the guidance. Then in Dec 2009, we closed on our new house that we love, a home that we can be happy in with our children for decades to come. Ava arrived in March 2010 and now life, though it can be challenging in the day-to-day balancing work-family life, is truly fulfilling.

I've changed since I've married Aaron. He's given me the "safe" place to heal my childhood wounds and made me calmer and more at peace with myself because of the faith he has in me to grow and challenge myself. Aaron is truly a loving husband and father that I've always dreamed my future would hold. I love you, Aaron!