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Top 10 Tips for Toddler Mealtimes

As promised, here is my second blog post on feeding, continuing on from the Feeding Milestone post I did last week. These are some general parent tips that I share with parents when they express frustrations or concerns with their toddler’s mealtimes.

1. Respect Your Child’s Appetite.
If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force them to eat a meal or a snack. Don’t use food to bribe your child, and don’t force your child to “clean their plate”. This leads to unhealthy mealtime habits and can lead to power struggles over food.

2. Stick To Mealtime Routines
Mealtime routines help to reduce anxiety for children. Children thrive on schedules and routines and it is very helpful for them when they know they have set mealtimes/snack times. Remember as a baby you could predict exactly when your baby would want their next feed? The same goes for your toddler – it’s just that instead of being nursed or getting a bottle of milk, they are getting solid foods. Additionally, you want to discourage grazing throughout the day. This reduces your child’s appetite and a reduced appetite will lead to food refusals!

3. Be Patient With New Foods
It can take 10-12 times for a child to truly know if they dislike or like a food. Also keep in mind that at this age, your toddler’s taste buds are very sensitive. They are predisposed to enjoy sweet tasting food (think of how breast milk or formula taste – both are very sweet) and are extremely sensitive to bitter tastes (i.e. green veggies). The more exposure they have to a food, the less likely it is that they will refuse it over time.

4. Make Mealtimes Fun!
Don’t let mealtimes become a chore. Instead, allow your child to get messy during meals, and explore their foods. Make food art, let your child use dipping sauces, make different sounds when they eat different foods…whatever floats your child’s boat. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that children explore new foods with ALL of the their senses. So if instead of eating the squash, they want to squish it in their hands, rub it on their cheeks and hair, sniff it, inspect it and throw it over the high chair to hear it “plop”….LET THEM! It is how they are learning what squash is! You want mealtimes to be the times of the day he/she looks forward to, not the time that they dread.

5. Grind Up Real Foods
Avoid being a short order cook – use the family pot to introduce foods. Making spaghetti? Grind it up for your little one to enjoy. (Or if you’re like me – use cous cous – instant child friendly pasta that cooks up in a cinch!) The more your child is exposed to the foods you enjoy as a family, the more your child can be a part of your family mealtimes.

6. Ensure Food Is Age and Stage Appropriate
By making sure that your child’s foods are age and food stage appropriate it prevents mealtimes from becoming overwhelming. Additionally, offer small amounts of food at a time. If he/she is still hungry, they can always get more food. This works two fold – it reduces food wastage during their exploration time but it also reduces any anxiety your child may have about the amount of food that they are expected to consume.

7. Try Preparing The Same Food In Different Ways
Provide soft baby carrots at one meal and carrot slices at another meal OR provide meatballs on one day and make a meat loaf the next…switch up the way the food looks to help your child learn that the same food can come in different forms. This also includes “hiding” undesired foods (like vegetables) into desired foods (for example, I fine slice kale and spinach and add it into my spaghetti sauce…not even my husband notices!)

8. Be Creative
If your child is old enough, recruit their help as your “sous chef” to help prepare the meal. Instead of a boring sandwich, make sandwich faces. Create dishes that promote interaction and appeal to your child visually. Remember we all eat with our eyes first!

9. Minimize Distractions
Allow the focus on mealtimes to be on the family meal. This not only involves the actual food but the conversations and interactions at the family table as well. Avoid using the television or other electronics to distract your child while you feed them.

10. Be A Good Example
Eat the way you want your child to eat. You can tell your child to eat their vegetables until the cows come home, but if you don’t eat your vegetables – it’s pretty hard to convince your child to eat them! Even if your eating habits aren’t perfect, do the best you can to show them what well balanced meals look and taste like. You want to teach your child to eat healthily and to have a healthy relationship with food as well.

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy

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The First Noel (A Baby’s First Christmas and Christmases to Come!)

Why am I writing about baby’s first Christmas in February? Firstly, it’s because I’m woefully behind on all of the great blogs I had in mind for you! Secondly, I LOVE CHRISTMAS – it’s my favourite time of year (in fact, I’m going through Christmas withdrawal as I type this). Lastly, I am a firm believer of the adage of “better late than never” so, I proceed with writing this blog for any other Mummies and Daddies who want to plan for Christmases to come! December will be here before you know it right?

When it comes to baby’s first Christmas – there’s always a lot of pressure for new parents. You want it to be perfect, and you want to do it “just right”. Mummy has her traditions, Daddy has his traditions and you have to find a happy mix of the two to pass on to the next generation. There is also another pressure – to start NEW traditions – ways that your family will celebrate Christmas year to year. Some of these fun traditions may be things that honestly, baby couldn’t care less about (like baking Christmas cookies) – however, they are things that in the future will be something that your child will LOVE doing. If it’s important to you – it will end up being important to your child so have fun with choose traditions and make them a reflection of your family.

I did TONS of research on things to do for Baby’s First Christmas. I also tried to incorporate things that would be great traditions for years to come. There are so many traditions to choose from – making ornaments, choosing a fresh tree every year, baking cookies, reading Christmas stories, the “Elf on a Shelf” etc.

These are some of the ones that I chose to do for Cheeks’ First Christmas and plan to do for Christmases to come.

1. Yearly Ornament. I had a great time with doing a handprint ornament with Cheeks’ and a couple of her friends (okay really it was with Mummy’s friends who have daughters the same age as Cheeks but we are determined that they are going to be the next generation of friends in true Caymanian fashion!) We got glass ornaments, child safe glue and some glitter and went to town! It took us a few tries to get the handprints but a few smudgy handprints later, we all have an ornament to treasure. Each year I will try to find some cool way for us to make, decorate, or choose an ornament so that our tree can eventually be filled with ornaments of Christmas memories.

handprint ornament

2. Pictures with Santa. At least until it’s not important to Cheeks anymore. She did so great with her Santa pics (honestly, I was hoping for the tearful shot, but I’ll take the cute doll look any day!) and you can find some great places on island to get them done reasonably. Camana Bay is a favourite spot, but we lucked out and got ours through Creations at Little Darlings.

aly with santa

3. Christmas Pyjamas. They have such cute pyjamas year, after year – why not get a special set JUST for Christmas?? Save them year after year and you can pass them on to the next generation. Personally, I think it would make a cool Christmas quilt that you can then gift to your child when they are an adult.

4. Christmas Story. We read the original Christmas story, of Jesus’ birth and sang some Christmas Choruses as well. This was a tradition in my family and something that I really want to pass down to Cheeks. Jesus is the Reason for the Season, and while we love and enjoy EVERYTHING about Christmas, we always take the time to reflect on the best Christmas gift ever received.

5. Christmas Eve Box. A friend of mine clued me into this one. A box filled with your Christmas pyjamas, snacks, a Christmas book and a Christmas movie to enjoy on Christmas Eve. I didn’t go all out with Cheeks’ box this year – just pyjamas and a book. But when she’s older, there’s going to be a lot of fun attached to this one! What I like about this one as well is that it gives parents some down time from all of the Christmas Day preparations. You take a couple hours on Christmas Eve to SPEND TIME with your kids rather than running around trying to make Christmas Day happen. As your children get older the time spent will be treasured so much more than the physical gift that was received.

6. Gift Limit. Both my husband and I initially said we would do a single gift each for Cheeks…but then there were so many cute things to choose from that we couldn’t control ourselves. We limited it to the old Victorian tradition of “Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read.” (Keeping in mind that for a baby/toddler – they don’t really “want” anything so it’s more of something that Mummy and Daddy WANT you to want!). It’s so hard to not get caught up in the commercialized version of Christmas, so keep in mind to keep a balance – so that your children will learn to love Christmas not only for the gifts but for the magic of the season as well!

6. One Gift on Christmas Eve. This is one that is from my husband’s childhood and Cheeks had a great time ripping the paper off that gift. Not to mention it was great practice for the big finale the next day!

christmas eve present

7. Christmas “Outfits”. Since Cheeks is still a baby, I think I can go a little “out there” with her little outfits (plus it’s her first Christmas – come on!). This year she had her Christmas church dress, her opening presents outfit and two Christmas outfits for the Christmas Day (babies aren’t known for being tidy). She won’t have 4 outfits for Christmas again next year, but a nice Christmas Dress and a Christmas-y outfit for family dinner will definitely be the norm for years to come.

Christmas outfits

8. Christmas Day Church Service. Taking the time on Christmas Day (away from the cooking and the cleaning) to go and share in the celebration of the Reason for the Season. Not all churches in Cayman hold services on Christmas Day but the Webster Memorial Church in Bodden Town does as well as a few others smaller churches on island.

9. Remaining Gifts on Christmas Day night. This one seems like torture, but believe it or not, it’s a tradition from my family. A traditional Christmas Day was you went to church, you changed into a Christmas-y casual outfit, you spent the entire day enjoying Christmas food and spending time with your family, opening your Christmas presents with the extended family and then we ended the night with fireworks. As a child, yes, it was torture to know you had presents you had to wait to open, but looking back it was a pretty cool tradition that I decided to carry over with Cheeks.

10. Christmas Lights. The tenth and final tradition. There can be no Cayman Christmas without going to look at the lights! Especially the ones by Mr. Rex Crighton’s house and Ms. Maxine and Maureen Bodden’s home. Cheeks had such a good time – her eyes were wide as saucers and she just took it all in and pointed to everything her little eyes could see. I want to see the magic of Christmas lights through her eyes every year.

mr rex's lights

Some of these traditions might appeal to you and others may not. The traditions around any holiday should be specific and unique to your family! Most importantly, use these traditions to make MEMORIES because that’s what makes the beauty of Christmas last in our hearts all year round!

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Cheeks’ Best Friend…

So, Cheeks has a best friend already! I know what you’re thinking – she’s only 7 months so how could she have a best friend? Well, Cheeks and Sophie’s friendship has been going strong for about 4 months now and they are pretty much inseparable. When Cheeks hears Sophie, her face lights up. When she sees Sophie, she gets so excited she reaches out to give her a good squeeze. But her absolute favourite thing to do with Sophie is to…BITE her! Don’t worry, I’m not raising a cannibal! Her best friend Sophie is probably the same best friend a lot of babies her age have – Sophie the Giraffe!

sophie

Sophie is this incredible teething toy that almost every baby loves. Its one of those toys that you bypass in the toy store, until you start talking to other parents and you realize it’s one of the best things since sliced bread when it comes to teething toys for babies! I think the thing that is most incredible about Sophie is that she was created to stimulate all of baby’s senses.

Sophie has typical giraffe spots – but these spots create light and dark colour contrasts which appeal to baby’s developing vision and make her easy to spot among her other toys. Sophie is made of natural rubber, which makes her smell identifiable to baby. Sophie squeaks when you squeeze her, and surprisingly the squeaky sounds she makes makes Cheeks smile and giggle so it’s appealing to my baby at least! Sophie is soft, smooth and very light in weight, with lots of grabby legs and other bits which makes her very easy for little ones to grasp and hold. Finally, Sophie is flexible with lots of different bits for baby to gnaw and chew on. If your teething baby is anything like mine, she will put Sophie’s head in her mouth and just rub away until she gets some type of relief from those annoying teeth trying to pop up!

Sophie is definitely one of the best teething toys Cheeks has received and I will now be gifting it to my other friend’s babies as they get to be teething age too! Thankfully it’s easily found on island as well as on Amazon so Mummies of Cayman – have no fear! Your little one’s Sophie is very near 😉

Until next time…

Cayman Mummy

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Breastfeeding Benefits for MOTHERS

I meant to post this at the beginning of Breastfeeding Week – but better late than never! It’s well known the benefits of breastfeeding for BABIES, but did you know that breastfeeding also provides significant health benefits for mothers?! Definitely something to consider if you’re on that line between breastfeeding or formula feeding. Here are some of the wonderful health benefits breastfeeding mothers can look forward to…

1.) Breastfeeding helps to reduce the size of the mother’s uterus after child birth. It not only helps it get to closer to what it was pre-pregnancy size, but also does it more quickly as well!

2.) Breastfeeding acts like a natural tranquilizer for mom. I can personally attest to this one! Nursing and even expressing can be a great way for moms to calm down and relax during a stressful day. Had a rough day? Take baby to bed – the both of you will fall asleep very contented!

3.) Breastfeeding can reduce your chances of breast cancer. Breastfeeding your baby for 4-12 months can reduce your risk of breast cancer by 11 percent. Breastfeeding through toddlerhood (24 months or longer), your risk of breast cancer reduces by a whopping 25%!

4.) Breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers. There is definitely a trend between “female” cancers and breastfeeding and the research is piling up showing that the risk of developing many of these types of cancer reduces significantly with breastfeeding.

5.) Breastfeeding reduces your risk of osteoporosis. Women who have not breastfed are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than women who breastfeed!

So for people who tell you that breastfeeding is too harsh on a mother’s body – check out the research behind these few positives and tell them it’s the other way around – breastfeeding helps to PROTECT a mother’s body! Happy Breastfeeding!

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy

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Picking The Right Child Care Option For Your Family

Choosing child care options is by far one of the most agonizing decisions one can make as a parent. Should I ask a family member to mind baby? Get a nanny or a helper? Enroll baby in daycare? How does one choose? Here are some general points that I felt were important to consider…this is by no means the only method to use but it helped me come up with a good daycare option for Cheeks once we decided that the daycare route was best for our family…

1. Price. By establishing the price range you want to stay with in, you automatically give yourself a smaller pool of options to choose from which will make the next steps a bit smoother for you. Things to also consider in the price is the overall value for money – consider the child to teacher ratio and the types of additional services (such as provision of meals, special lessons/one on one tutoring etc.)

2. Cleanliness. Is the classroom tiled or carpeted? How does it smell when you walk in? Do they clean the toys? How do the kids in the classroom look after playtime? I know we can’t keep our babies in the ‘germ free bubble’ that is called home forever BUT we do need to make sure we minimize germ sharing as well.

3. Curriculum. Does the teaching style at the daycare match your personal philosophy on how children should taught? Does the school promote learning through discovery or do they utilize more structured teaching methods? I would also put the classroom environment under curriculum as well. Cheeks will get very upset when she’s bored and I wanted to see an environment that facilitates her curiosity and her global development.

4. Time. Does the daycare’s hours of operation work with your schedule? The last thing a working parent needs is a daycare that runs on hours that conflicts with your work schedule.

5. Staff. Are they well trained? Caring? Patient? And are the receptive to what you want for your child? When you visit a potential school, don’t just talk with the teachers but observe their interactions with the children. A child’s response to a caregiver will be the most genuine testament to their ability to care for YOUR child. Having a formal degree is always an asset, but one cannot be taught how to be loving and nurturing so take personalities into account as well.

6. Flexibility. Is the carer is flexible and open? Do they accept your parental suggestions and follow through with your requests for baby? If baby is off schedule that day do they cater to her needs specifically? Are they open to receiving information about new techniques in teaching or facilitating development etc.? For me this was important because I don’t want my child to fit into any cookie cutter ideals – but rather be in an environment where she can develop and flourish on her own time.

7. Nutrition. Many daycares provide meals. How many meals do they provide? Are they well balanced, healthy meals or bulk purchased processed foods? Will the school be mindful of dietary preferences or restrictions? Will they follow through with your meal preferences, and prepare snacks and meals you send for baby to your specifications? I’m very particular about the foods I want Cheeks exposed to now that she is ready for solids and I know many other Mummies are the same. I want to make sure she’s getting exposed to foods the way her paediatrician recommended I did and its a relief to know her carers follow my instructions when it comes to meal times.

And finally…

8. Communication! For me I want my child’s carers to write or tell me a summary of Cheeks’ day. How many diapers did she go through? What was her mood like? How were her naps? As she grows and her schedule changes its important for me to know these things so I can anticipate these changes on weekends when she’s home. An open and honest communication channel between patent and carer is always in your baby’s best interest.

I used these points to choose a daycare for Cheeks and I have to say – so far, so good! I’m very happy with the care she has gotten thus far, and at this age the transition from home to a daycare environment was very smooth. I hope this helps all of the Mummies in Cayman with choosing the right daycare for your little one!

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy

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Sick Babies, Natural Cures…

It’s that time of year, what the older generations usually refer to as “change of weather” – when we transition into a new season. With this “change of weather” unfortunately many little ones get a cough or some sniffles. If you’re anything like me, I want to avoid using as much medication as I can with baby girl. With baby girl starting daycare next week (where I’m sure she will be bombarded with a million germs who have been dying to make her acquaintance) I thought it would be good to fortify my home remedy tool kit. After doing quite a bit if research I’ve found some things I knew and some things that were new…here’s my list so far!

Sniffles/Stuffy Noses and Coughs

1. Breast milk. Nursing moms can enhance the quality of their milk by eating lots of fresh fruit, veggies and fresh juices along with lots of other fluids and vitamins. Not only does breast milk provide some serious antibodies for baby via ingestion, it can also be squirted into baby’s nasal passages instead of saline drops! How cool is that?!
2. Humidifier. Here’s a trick I learned – use filtered or purified/distilled water – NOT tap water. It makes all the difference for me at least! Some moms recommend adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar as well. Be careful with this next item, vapor rub, as it may not be compatible with your humidifier.
3. Vapor Rub. I think we all grew up on this stuff! They even make a gentler one just for babies…rub it on baby’s neck, chest, back and soles of his/her feet for maximum benefit.
4. Bay Rum. Moisten a cloth or piece of cotton with this and dab it on baby’s head. Be careful not to let it get on baby’s face. You can also add some to baby’s bath water as well.
5. Elevate. Keep baby’s head elevated for his/her comfort.
6. Half of a cut onion under the bed is supposed to help absorb the bacteria in baby’s room. This is why people are often advised to use the entire onion when cooking as onions that are cut naturally draw in impurities.
7. Saline drops. A few drops in each nostril and then suction to help baby get rid of mucous. It can also be used to moisten baby’s nasal passages.

Fevers

1. Rose water. Dabbing rose water on baby’s head is supposed to reduce fever.
2. Fresh squeezed limes in a warm bath is also supposed to relieve fever symptoms.

Teething

1. A chicken drumstick bone that has been boiled until its free from any meat/debris is a favorite teething remedy in Cayman as babies for generations have enjoyed gnawing on the bone.
2. Coconut oil. A tiny bit of coconut oil rubbed onto the baby’s gums can ease teething symptoms.

Cradle Cap

1. Coconut oil. Rubbed generously into the scalp can help flakes to come off and prevents more from coming. It also keeps baby’s hair nice and soft.
2. Breast milk. Put some breast milk on the scalp and rub it into the affected area gently. I’ve personally tried this one and let me tell you, it worked literally overnight!

Pink Eye

1. Warm compress to the eye can help to relieve symptoms.
2. Breast milk. Put a few drops in the affected eye. It works almost overnight!

Ear Infections

1. Breast milk. A few drops of breast milk in the affected ear every few hours.
2. Onion juice. 2-3 drops of warm onion juice in the affected ear a couple of times a day.
3. Olive oil. 1-2 drops of warmed olive oil in the affected ear a couple of times a day.
4. Warm compress on the affected ear.
5. Elevate baby’s head to promote drainage.

These are just a handful of the remedies I’ve come across…what’s your favorite home remedies for babies and young children?

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What I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding BEFORE Becoming A Mum!

One of the biggest challenges new mummies face is feeding…are you going to breastfeed? Formula feed? Both? Neither? (You’d be surprised how many babies out there are being fed cow’s milk, powdered milk, juices etc instead of proper baby formula or breast milk!!)

For me, the choice was breastfeeding. But there were some unexpected hiccups along the way that came with my naïveté. I read and was told that initially breastfeeding would be slightly uncomfortable but that it becomes easier. So in my head, I would stick my darling daughter on my breast, produce a dairy truck worth of breast milk to freeze and la-de-da I’m the perfect breastfeeding machine. Yeah, it didn’t quite work out that way! Here are the top 5 things I wish someone told me about breastfeeding:
1.) It hurts like hell initially…to me, it was worse than delivery and I delivered my daughter naturally.
2.) Establishing a proper latch is super hard!
3.) You will never experience hunger and thirst like what you will experience those first few days of breastfeeding. (If you are pregnant and are reading this…pack snacks – lots of them!)
4.) Breastmilk is absorbed more quickly by your baby so he/she will become hungry more frequently (which means you will be up feeding your baby more than you realize)!
5.) Have breast pads….lots and lots and lots of breast pads. Not the thin ones from the supermarkets – the heavy duty ones! I found the Avent, Lasinoh and Medela brands to be the best.

If you’re a new breastfeeding mummy or about to become one these are the top 5 things that got me through those rough first weeks.

1.) Seek help! The midwives at the hospital were helpful but not as detailed as I needed. I received handouts but again, not as specific as I needed. I went for the big guns – a lactation consultant (LC). My initial LC was on maternity leave like me but referred me to an amazing LC – Rebecca at the Children’s Clinic. I left there feeling better about myself and ready to tackle breastfeeding head on. Thankfully I went to see her when baby girl was 5 days old. There is also a lovely group of ladies who volunteer with the Cayman Islands Breastfeeding Support Group. You can call or email them and they are happy to help with whatever breastfeeding hiccup you’ve encountered, so if you feel things aren’t right – get help ASAP!

2. Get Rid Of Guilt! Breastfeeding is never easy but it comes easier to some than others. During those first few weeks I supplemented 1-2 feeds a day with formula. I felt guilty about it then, but then I realized – my baby needs to eat! A happy mother has a happy baby and allowing hubby to feed baby while I slept an extra couple of hours made me much happier! Baby girl became exclusively breastfed by the time she was 7 weeks but we still keep a can of formula on hand – just in case there isn’t anything pumped and I’m not around.

3. Get A Cheer Squad! There are times that make you want to throw in the towel, but having that cheer squad can give you the strength you need to persevere. Even if you facebook about it…you’ll be surprised how many people will root you on – it helps!!!

4. Make Friends With Breastfeeding Mummies! They have either gone through it or are going through it. It helps to chat with them and know you’re not alone in this breastfeeding journey!

5.) Eat, Drink and Be Merry! You still need to fuel your body to produce adequate milk that’s healthy and nutrient rich for your baby – so drink lots of fluids and eat up! Keep in mind that some foods and drinks that you think are healthy may negatively affect your supply. For example, I am an avid tea drinker so I was drinking 2 cups of mint tea a day and was struggling with keeping up my supply after I returned to work. I later found out that peppermint tea can dry up your milk, so I’ve now switched to nettles tea – problem solved! (PS – I adore the Nettle With A Twist tea from Tea Time in Cayman -it’s light, refreshing, delicious and Nettles tea is fantastic for milk production!)

I’ve had friends who’ve struggled with breastfeeding – some with poor supply and some with latch issues that they couldn’t get over. They had to resort to formula feeding – and guess what? Their babies are healthy and thriving as well. We live in a stressful world and unfortunately more and more mothers are struggling with breastfeeding. My advice to those mothers – please don’t feel guilty. You have to feed your baby and that’s why formula was created – to nourish your baby if for some reason you aren’t able to. However, for those who can get over the initial struggles of breastfeeding, you’ll find it to be a rewarding life experience that you won’t regret!

Happy Feeding All!