Friday, February 25, 2011

Asparagus: Spear Bliss *8+months*

Bunches at my store are usually much larger,
this is obviously just a decorative interpretation!
Asparagus is one of my absolute favorite vegetables, so naturally I wanted to experiment with an baby food recipe.  Not only is it delicious, it’s very versatile.  It can be as homey as an asparagus casserole, or as formal as prosciutto-wrapped asparagus antipasti.  I’m pretty sure my son won’t be eating those foods any time soon, but I do want him to appreciate the taste.  The more variety in a baby’s diet, the easier it will be to introduce new foods in the long run.  Though vegetables are great “first foods,” asparagus is not recommended under the age of 8 months.  If you've had asparagus before and gotten gas, you’ll understand why.  If your baby hasn't had a lot of digestive troubles in the past then asparagus will be easier for him/her to tolerate.  One thing alarming to some parents is that the color of baby’s urine and the smell –ew—can change after eating asparagus.  Some adults experience the same side effects from asparagus when eaten in abundance, but there’s nothing harmful about either the color or smell.

Ew, why?
Let’s get down to why asparagus causes those oh-so-lovely urinary results.  First of all, asparagus is part of the lily family which includes pungent when prepared plants like onions, scallions, and garlic.  Asparagus is different in that its volatile compounds aren’t triggered when cut like its smelly, lily brethren.  Their compounds are activated upon digestion.  Oddly enough genetics has something to do with the phenomenon of “asparagus pee.”  Some people have it; others have no idea what you’re talking about!  Only people with a certain gene –not yet isolated—produce a digestive enzyme capable of breaking down asparagus to all its stinky components.  One of those components is “methyl mercaptan” which is the same substance that gives skunk’s spray its protective, rotten-egg smell.  It is suggested that the methyl mercaptan goes through the kidneys and is later excreted as urinary waste.  So basically if you have this special gene you’ll have skunk pee when you eat a bunch of asparagus.  I find this stuff fascinating so pardon the “grossolgy-esque” pee explanation :)  It’s at least good to know you’ve not done anything to hurt your baby by giving her asparagus; it’s just a natural body reaction in some humans!

Expense & nutrition
If we all knew just how long it takes to successfully grow asparagus spears I don’t think we’d ever question the price of a bunch of asparagus ever again.  I used to groan when I’d get a $4 bunch of wonderfully-tender asparagus, but then I tried to grow my own asparagus plant and I couldn’t hack it. Within the first 6 months I dug it up.  Case closed.  It was later I found that an asparagus plant won’t yield any harvestable crops until at least three years into its growth (“Farm Town” lied to me. It doesn’t really take 12 hours!)  Odds are you’ll find them cheaper than I did because that was an example of the most I’ve ever paid.  The nutritional value is worth it, and whatever you don’t make into baby food you can enjoy yourself :D  Asparagus is an excellent source of B-vitamins, potassium, folic acid and vitamin C.  Even with their sometimes-woody texture, their protein content tops only about 2 grams per 5 stalks.

Instead of sitting and snapping an entire bunch of asparagus, I just “Rachel Ray” cut them.  I first take one stalk and bend it to see where it snaps.  Asparagus will snap naturally where it is the tenderest.  Then I line it up with the rest of the stalks and cut them where that piece snapped.  Do not serve anyone uncut asparagus.  The ends are woodier than the rest of the stalk and they become even rougher when shipping dries them out.

Asparagus Puree
1 bunch green or white asparagus (yields about 1-½ cups puree)

Don't overcook & risk losing this beautiful color!
1.   Put about an inch of water in a high-sided skillet and bring to a simmer.  Place bunch of asparagus in water and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  They will be less crisp than if you were planning on serving them whole.
2.  Place in food processor and blend until a paste is formed, use cooking water to loosen the puree to your desired consistency.  It is important to process well.  The fatter the spears mean the older the crop; the older the crop means a less tender spear.  Try to choose skinnier spears when possible.

Cooked asparagus is also great finger food for older children!  Just cut into bite-sized pieces, but remember to only feed finger foods when your child has mastered eating non-pureed food.  Enjoy!

-Elias’s mommy

P.s. If you have any left over or if baby doesn't like it, try making cream
of asparagus soup. Yummy!

Sources: How To Cook book by Raymond Sokolov ©1983; “methyl mercaptan”; “Asparagus Gene”; Baby Food stages

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mango: Don't Avoid the Carotenoid! *stage 2*

Ripe, medium-sized mango.

Mangoes are some of the easiest-to-find tropical fruits in the supermarket these days.  I always seem to get them confused with papayas, but maybe that’s just me.  I still have leftover “mush brain” syndrome from pregnancy so I get confused about a lot of things!  Mangoes are also a very “hit-or-miss” kind of fruit because when you get one that is ripe, it’s absolutely glorious in its sweetness, juiciness, & wonderful, peach-like texture.  If you happen to stumble across a not-so-ripe mango, boy are you in for it!  It’s the reason a lot of people are turned off by mangoes.  One bad experience with the chemically-aftertaste of an unripe mango & they never try them again.  I was one of those people!  An unripe mango is not unlike turpentine.  It has a very astringent, unpleasant taste that tends to linger on the palette.  It’s kind of amazing the difference ripeness makes in this situation!  So if you are on the hunt for a good mango, reach for one that is: heavy for its size, has a good amount of “give” when pressure is applied, and is free of blemishes or squishy spots.

While mangoes can be a “first food,” they aren’t recommended to be the first food.  Mangoes are more recommended for ages 8-10 months, but can be tolerated as early as 6 months of age.  It’s really all up to your baby!  If your baby enjoys mango puree at 6 months with no reactions, it’s perfectly fine.  By the time baby is past 8 months, you really don’t need to give a puree.  Ripe mangoes can be mashed as easily as canned cling peaches.

Don’t avoid the Carotenoids!
Mango boasts more Carotenoids than almost any other fruit.  Carotenoids, the colorful plant pigments some of which the body can turn into vitamin A, are powerful antioxidants that can help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease, and act to enhance your immune response to infections.  You may have already heard of some Carotenoids like: Lycopene, Alpha-Carotene, Beta-Carotene, and Lutein.  Carotenoids can be found in orange-ish foods including carrots, mangoes, sweet potato, but also can be found in dark, green and leafy vegetables.  Generally speaking, more intensely-colored fruits or vegetables have the highest concentration of Carotenoids.  Scientists have even touted Carotenoids for the ability to shorten the time of the common cold. 

As with many tropical fruits, mangoes do pose a risk for a reaction.  These reactions are considered mild though & usually only affect the skin with a slight rash.  The reactions come mostly from the skin of the fruit rather than the “meat.”  If your child does have sensitivity, mangoes also can produce a small rash around the bottom after the mango passes through baby’s stool.  Luckily this isn’t severe either.  The only unsafe part of the mango to eat is the skin & the large, central pit –which I don’t think you would be feeding your child anyway!  It’s about as harmful as feeding your child an avocado pit.  I’m basically just going to say DON’T DO IT, but you all know that already.  I’d just be remiss if I didn’t mention anything about the skin or pit.


Use a serrated knife to cut into the fruit because a very ripe mango can collapse unless you have a massively sharp knife.  Find the pit & cut alongside it.  The pits are very large & you won’t really see it; it will look like you’ve left a lot of meat on it.  Since explaining how to easily cut a mango is difficult, feel free to refer to the video at the end of the article.  It's actually pretty neat!

Mango Puree
1 large, ripe mango
Mango fruit flipped after criss-cross cutting.

Prepare mango in the style you wish, place in processor & process until smooth.  You won’t need any additional liquid because ripe mangoes are very juicy.  1 large mango will yield about ¾ to 1 cup of puree.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

-Elias’s mommy

How to cut a mango: 

Sources: “Carotenoids”; “Carotenoids in Food”; What to Expect: The First Year book by Heidi Murkoff (baby food stages)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Squash Panache *stage 1*

Acorn Squash used in following recipe.
Squash is another favorite “first food” for many parents. What cracks me up is that the pre-made baby foods just simply say “squash,” and no other explanation!  What kind of squash??  I can rule out a few like spaghetti squash, yellow squash, or zucchini.  Are they butternut, acorn, or what??  I have no idea!  Well there are a lot of varieties but the most common for baby foods are squash of the winter variety, not summer.  What’s the difference?  Thankfully the differences are pretty substantial, so there’s not a lot of confusion as to what to buy!  Winter squashes have a hard outer “shell.”  The most popular winter squash is of course the pumpkin, but other varieties include acorn squash, butternut, & hubbard squash.  Summer squashes include the most easily-recognizable squash: the yellow squash.  That’s the easiest squash to find in stores & what most of us remember from childhood in gramma’s garden.  Summer squash also includes zucchini.  Winter squashes are better as “first foods” because their texture when cooked is less stringy than the summer squashes.  BIG HOWEVER: Spaghetti squash, as its name suggests, is very stringy when cooked.  It’s still pretty fibrous when pureed. 

So which ones would I recommend?  Acorn & butternut.  They’re the easiest to turn into mush & easiest on the tummy.  They have enough natural sweetness to suit a picky baby, but aren’t as sweet as fruit.  They’re also very nutritious!  As with all dense fruits & vegetables, they pack a good fiber punch.  High in potassium, calcium, & beta carotene, which, once metabolized in our bodies, is converted to vitamin A.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it can be found in fish oils, liver, egg yolk, & dairy products.  Beta carotone can be found in many fruits & vegetables including spinach, peaches, most notably carrots, and of course squash!  So if you see “high in beta carotene,” you’ll know it’s high in vitamin A.  Seems a little complicated, so try not to over think it like I have!  Vitamin A is absolutely necessary for normal growth, bone development, reproduction, and vision.  It is also used to maintain healthy skin & mucous membranes.  You may have heard of “retinoids” in popular cosmetics to prevent wrinkles, acne, & promote cell turnover, & that’s because vitamin A & closely-related molecules are “retinoids.”  The more you know!  
Vitamin A deficiency can cause lower resistance to infections, diarrhea, poor night vision or even blindness, weak bones & teeth, poor development in children, and eye inflammation.  It is rare in developed countries like the United States.
There is a chance of toxicity in vitamin A, but that’s in ridiculously high amounts (like in the popular acne medication isotrenoin, aka “Accutane.”  More information on vitamin overdose coming soon!) Vitamin A is stored in the liver, so it is not necessary to have it every single day to maintain a healthy body.  If you eat a varied, healthy diet you will surely have the correct amount :) 

So the squash I’ve used is acorn squash because it is very easy to find & with its compact size you aren’t obligated to make an enormous batch of squash that your child may not want!  I’ve never had a problem with Elias & squash, but I will never guarantee your baby will like the same things because all babies are different :)  Nevertheless, it’s a very mild-flavored vegetable & that appeals to most infants. There are several different ways to cook them, but this recipe will call for roasting.

One acorn squash, pureed with water added, yields about 2 cups baby food
1 acorn squash, free of blemishes, heavy for its size
Sheet pan with raised sides

1.  Cut acorn squash in half, removing all seeds with a spoon.
2.  Place halves face down on pan with about an inch of water in the pan.
3.  Bake at 375F for about an hour or until flesh is easily-pierced with a knife.
4.  Cool until you are able to handle the squash, and then scoop out “meat” with a spoon into food processor or food mill.  If there is any water left in the pan, don’t throw it out!  Use that water to thin the puree to desired consistency.  Any water used to cook vegetables will retain some of the nutrients of the vegetable it cooked.

End result after cooking & pureeing with water.
The most time-consuming part of making this squash is waiting for it to cook in the oven, but that’s an hour to set it & forget it!  If you’re 10 minutes late getting it out you won’t be punished with a burnt mass of squash stinking up your kitchen.  It’s not a temperamental vegetable!  Note: If you feed your baby too much squash or anything orange, your baby might turn orange.  No need to be alarmed!  If it does bother you, just try not to feed your baby orange foods repeatedly :)

-Elias’s mommy

A very satisfied little man!  Ate it all up!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chamomile "Tea-thing"

Approx. $2 tea available in
most supermarkets.
Chamomile tea… Ah…  The name just evokes feelings of warmth, comfort, & relaxation.  At least for me, that is.  When I was pregnant I drank this stuff all the time.  It would help me relax after a long day of carrying around a giant basketball & a considerable amount of baby weight.  After hours of researching this glorious tea, I saw that infants can have it too!  I was skeptical because I know “herbal” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe,” so I dove deeper into the subject.  It turns out infants as young as 2 weeks old can have very weak chamomile tea.  After 2 months they can have up to 4 ounces of chamomile tea a day!  I didn’t try chamomile until after his first round of shots. Chamomile relaxes & eases pain for a number of ailments from teething to tummy aches, to just feeling a little puny after getting those mean ‘ol shots :(  Teething was the subject of the most raving reviews from mothers, so I thought I’d share this interesting tidbit of information in a little “mini-recipe” blog.

So if you’d like a real, honest-to-goodness review on the stuff, here are my experiences with chamomile tea along with the conditions my son so bravely suffered:

Post-immunization woes:  This ranged from screaming like a kitten stuck in a dryer (don’t ask.) to fever, to the glorious sleeplessness accompanied by the sweet aforementioned kitten sounds.  I didn’t think anything was going to calm the little dude down.  Of course I gave him Tylenol for his fever, but he still felt cruddy.  Though Tylenol is safe, I didn’t feel right about pumping him full of the grape stuff, so I gave him weak-brewed chamomile tea ½ an ounce at a time.  A few hours & 1-½ ounces of tea later, he was sleeping like a baby, but the contended kind :)

Teething junk:  After hour upon hour of gnawing, not wanting to eat but acting super-hungry, & those lovely, hard chomps when trying to nurse, I decided to try the ‘ol chamomile trick again.  Same story, same wonderful results, got some sleep, it was wonderful.

Gas & Colic: Unfortunately when I had to start supplementing, gas followed very soon after.  Not only was I feeling defeated for having to give my baby formula, I felt even worse because this was the first time he had bowel issues that made him really upset.  Along with some tummy massage & tea, he was nice & pleasant for the rest of the evening.  However, gas relief is always a little short-lived & I’m not above using Mylicon drops.

The thing that scared me about using chamomile tea was the fear of my child getting that awful, “drunk sleepy” that sometimes happens with immunizations or allergy medications (which I’ve never encountered with my son, thank the lord, but I’ve seen it in other children)  What if he got too sleepy?  What if he gets so relaxed he stops breathing??  All of those awesome, completely-unreasonable worries a new mother has!  The one thing I can definitely say about the chamomile tea is that children don’t immediately get hit with the “sleepy bug” & start falling over or can’t keep their eyes open.  It’s a mild, gentle kind of calm that gradually lulls a fussy little bear to sleep.  They also won’t sleep for an unnerving, extended period of time.  So let your reservations subside a little bit & provide some non-medicated relief for your unhappy little buddy!

I know I may not have convinced you that it’s 100% safe, but I always have a list of sources that will tell you the same thing.  I’m not a doctor, I’m not a pediatrician, I’m not a nutritionist –though I’m studying that—I’m just a mom who has learned a few tricks.  I’m also a new mom, so I’m not going to act like I know any better than you.  Every child is different & if this works then hallelujah!  If it doesn’t then you’ve tried something without causing harm to your child.  It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s worth a shot when you’ve got a really grumpy baby.
About $8/oz. loose-leaf
tea available online.

6 oz. very hot water
1 chamomile tea bag (chamomile ONLY)

Let tea steep in a mug for about 5 minutes.  If you wish to make a stronger batch, let steep for 10 minutes & steep covered to ensure the ingredients brew properly.  The 5 minute batch is for a weak tea.  If your child is under 6 months old, try ½ oz. to 1 oz. of tea at a time.  When older, you can try up to 2 oz. at a time.  I don’t have experience with the 2 oz., so if you have reservations just go gradually.  Mix with breast milk or formula.  Elias seemed to like the taste!

Note: Do NOT be tempted to buy chamomile tea blends at the store, especially ones labeled “sleepytime” or “sleepytime extra.”  These sound promising, but they have added ingredients like peppermint, spearmint, & in some cases the herb “valerian” which can be very potent even to adults.  Everyone can react to herbs the same way they could react to a medication.  If your child has an allergy to plants like ragweed and/or daisies, he/she has an increased risk for reaction to chamomile.  A chamomile allergy is considered very rare & the reactions are very mild & oftentimes not even noticed.

As always, hopes this helps!

-Elias’s mommy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Queen of Quinoas *8+ months*

Whole grain Quinoa, uncooked
With the boom in high-protein carbohydrates & whole grains in recent years, you may have already heard a lot about Quinoa.  I was pleasantly surprised when I read that babies can enjoy this super-healthful grain as well.  The Quinoa we’re used to seeing in supermarkets are small, almost spherical grains usually in the health food section of the store.  If you can’t find it at your local Piggly Wiggly, you can surely find it at specialty stores or larger organic chains such as Whole Foods & Wild Oats.  For babies, quinoa should be ground either with a food processor, coffee grinder, or purchased as “flour” to create the smooth texture of cereal.

Quinoa is a great alternative to rice & oatmeal cereals because it is cooked by similar methods & can be easily adapted to those recipes.  It can be served savory, sweet, or plain, depending on how your child likes it.  Quinoa for babies & toddlers is usually served like a breakfast cereal with fruit, a little raw sugar, & whole milk.  When the child is over a year old it is permissible to add honey for sweetening.  Quinoa lends itself well to sweet flavors because it has a nutty, hearty flavor like really substantial oatmeal.  Quinoa is not recommended for children under 8 months of age because of its high protein content; your child may not be able to digest it very easily.  If in doubt, always talk to your child’s pediatrician!

Nutritional perks:  Due to its minimal processing, Quinoa is exceptionally nutritious.  It is teeming with fiber, protein, calcium, potassium & folic acid [see Eggplants blog] just to name a few key nutrients.  With its super-high protein content, it’s a great meat substitute for raising the vegan baby (raising vegans article coming soon!)  Quinoa is also great for children who don’t tolerate GLUTEN very well.  Quinoa is 100% gluten-free & can substitute for wheat ingredients. The Quinoa "flour" is used as a substitute for wheat flour in baking, though the high amount of protein produces a heavier texture to some baked goods.

What’s all this gluten-free talk??
You may have noticed a lot more “gluten-free” products in your supermarket.  They’ve been available for a long time in organic food stores, but with their growing popularity you can find them as easily as going into your local Walmart.  The gluten-free movement was started with more awareness of the autoimmune disorder Celiac Disease.  One stand-out problem with this disorder is the person’s inability to digest wheat or any kind of wheat products because of the wheat protein “gluten.”  Gluten is what makes bread dough stretchy but firm & keeps cakes from falling apart.  The reaction by the intestines when exposed to gluten ranges from diarrhea to severe inflammation & pain.  Prolonged exposure to indigestible proteins causes the villi in the intestines to atrophy, which greatly affects the absorption of vitamins & minerals since that is the role of villi in the intestinal tract.  The only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.  Celiac Disease is not the same as a wheat allergy, though of course children with a wheat allergy can benefit greatly from the introduction of Quinoa in their diet.

Popular brand of organic,
wheat-alternative grains.
Though Celiac Disease is a big part of the gluten-free market, parents are advised not to give their child any wheat products until they reach 1 year of age to due to the occurrence of allergic reactions to wheat.  Foods that pose a big risk for an allergic reaction are generally not recommended for younger children because what would be considered even a “mild” reaction to us may be a much more severe reaction for them. Quinoa is considered mostly non-allergenic so it is ideal for most children with food sensitivity.  Gluten is also difficult for younger children to digest, which results mostly in gas, fussiness, & tummy aches :( 

Let’s make it, shall we?
I’m going to be honest, once again, this is not the quickest food in the world.  The higher the protein in grains or pasta, the longer they take to cook.  However, since the Quinoa will be ground either by you or pre-ground at purchase the time will be cut down considerably :)  Should you choose to feed your child the whole grain, just follow the directions on the package & make sure your child is ready to have chewy foods.  The Quinoa pearls may be small, but a mouthful of Quinoa could spell disaster to a child who is unable to chew hearty foods properly.

Quinoa Baby Cereal
¼ cup ground Quinoa
2 cups water

Bring water to a boil on the stovetop, slowly whisk in Quinoa powder & continuously whisk while pouring to avoid lumps.  Turn down to lowest setting & cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.  Whisk intermittently.  You can always add more water if you think the mixture is getting too thick.  That’s all she wrote!

Again, you can add fruits, sweeteners, or serve plain.  I’d suggest serving plain first so you don’t have to add sweeteners over & over again to get your little one to eat something.  Some suggest toasting the quinoa before grinding or before cooking because it is supposed to make the grain easier to digest, but that (oftentimes unnecessary) step is up to you.  Enjoy!  And remember, it’s “Keen-wah” if you have trouble finding it in the store :)  Happy eating!

-Elias’s mommy

Sources: What to Expect: The First Year book by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, & Sandee Hathaway, B.S.N.;;  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Milk Plus: Herbal Tincture to Increase Milk
If you've struggled with producing as much breast milk as you or your baby would like, I'm sure you've heard of all of these supplements already:
-Blessed Thistle
-Brewer's Yeast

I've tried all of these & in great amounts to not much avail.  You see, Elias went on a "nursing strike" about a month ago once his little gummies started hurting because of the dreaded impending teething *shudders*  So it was really difficult getting him to the breast.  He was fighting, hitting, screaming, all of the good stuff!  I got a lot of help from the most wonderful lactation consultant, Susan Fischels, and she recommended the Fenugreek +blessed thistle supplements.  I had always had my doubts to their potency, but I tried them anyway.  The changes were very small, but I still kept trying.

Then I stumbled upon this product by MotherLove called More Milk Plus  It's a tincture of Fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle & a proprietary blend of herbs used for centuries as "galactagogues" (foods/herbs that increase breast milk production)  After spending copious amounts of money on a ton of remedies, I thought what most people think in this situation: "What do I have to lose?"  Here's the rundown: A tincture is an alcoholic extract of plant material.  This product is no exception.  The alcohol used in extracting the compounds from the herbs is grain alcohol, 42-52% alcohol.  So not only does this stuff taste gnarly, it burns the back of your throat! This worried me because it seems any amount of alcohol gives me a headache and, of course, I am nursing.  Good news!  All you take is 1mL per dose, 4 times daily.  Unless you have a serious disorder making you unable to metabolize alcohol properly, you & your baby should be fine :)

If you do have any issues with alcohol, they do offer a glycerin-based version that I'm sure burns a lot less going down, but the taste sure isn't pleasant as I've heard.  I can't exactly tell you the efficacy of it since I'm not taking that kind, but I've heard the extracts --both alcohol & glycerin-based-- work better than less-expensive pill form.  I'm sure you'll be tempted to buy the pill version since it's cheaper.  I was as well, but all the research I did yielded the same results:  If you're having a lot of trouble with your supply, the pills aren't really a bargain since they don't work as well.

I purchased mine from Without shipping & tax the 2 oz. bottle was $18.  Doula Store is awesome because you get free gifts & 5% off if you sign up for their newsletter.  However, you can purchase this stuff directly from their website, but the price isn't really that different.  They come in 2, 4, & 8 oz. bottles, but I'd recommend you purchase the smallest one first to see how it works for you, then purchase a larger bottle if you end up needing more.

The taste is... HORRIFYING.  But if it helps you breastfeed you won't mind that, I'm sure.  If you absolutely can't stand the taste, find something called "empty gelatin capsules" online or at a health food store.  They are exactly what they sound like; empty versions of those plastic-looking capsules used to contain medicine.  Choose your size according to your dose of the extract.

One great piece of advice that should be advertised more is that "natural" or "herbal" does not mean safe.  Just because it's over-the-counter, all-natural, organic, or herbal, does not mean that it can't cause you any harm.  People can react just as differently to supplements as they would with prescription medication.  That is also why you should always consult your lactation consultant or doctor if you decide to try a new kind of supplement.  You should know your risks of a reaction to the product.  For example: pregnant women should not use any kind of galactagogue, regardless of the product.  Also, people with diabetes or hypoglycemia can experience sudden drops in blood sugar, so they should carefully monitor their blood sugar.  Fenugreek can also be an appetite suppressant, so remember to eat.

So far it's been about a week & I've seen a little bit of difference.  I notice a lot more difference on the days I have enough time to pump every hour (yes, every hour) & when I drink a lot of water.  Do I think it's worth it?  Absolutely.  I've already ordered my second bottle so it will get here before I run out.  I've also tried "Mother's Milk Tea" but I'll write something about the effects of that on another blog :)  They also have another version of this extract called "More Milk Plus Special Blend" & it includes Goat's Rue.  It works for women who have had breast surgery, no breast growth during pregnancy, or even adoptive mothers who want to nurse.  They both have rave reviews --other than the taste!

If you're still having problems, contact a lactation consultant or try going to  He is a Canadian doctor who is like the Messiah of breastfeeding, so you can find tips & tricks there.  I was referred there by Susan so it's midwife-approved!  Remember, this is just something that has helped my issues, if it doesn't work for you perfectly you may have another underlying problem.  I may too!  It's just trial-and-error, just don't give up!

Peace, Love, & Breastfeeding

-Elias's mommy

Monday, February 7, 2011

Au Pear

Pears are another big hit amongst the kiddos because they’re wonderfully sweet, but not too sweet so you don’t feel guilty letting your little one indulge.  At one time you were stuck between two choices in pears in the produce aisle: Bartletts or… Bartletts again!  Nowadays the most common pears in supermarkets are: Bosc, Bartlett, D’Anjou & Asian pears.  Asian pears are oftentimes called “apple pears” because they have a crisp texture not unlike an apple.  The “squeeze test” for ripeness doesn’t really apply to them because they have very firm flesh, even when ripe.  Bosc pairs are similar in that they are firmer-fleshed pears; both Asian & Bosc pears have tougher skins like an apple –though Bosc pears have a less glossy look almost like a potato!  Whatever breed you choose, they’re going to be loaded with vitamins, fiber, & your child will love them.

Like most dense fruits, pears are loaded with fiber.  Fiber will always aid in a healthy colon, but pears have an additional “poo perk”: more poo! Doesn’t sound like much of a perk, but if your child is constipated or has hard stools, these are a great fruit to loosen them up a bit.  A medium Bartlett pear not only has 6 grams of fiber, it is also a great source of vitamin C, 100 calories, & zero fat!

Vitamin C & Antioxidants:
We all hear that vitamin C is essential for keeping us out of the doctor’s office.  Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, contains “ascorbate,” an antioxidant, which is yet another buzzword in today’s food world.  Wikipedia defines an antioxidant as a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules,” but what on Earth does that mean & why is oxidation bad for us??  Well, to be very brief on the subject of oxidation, it’s basically the removal of electrons, & when an electron is removed it makes the cell go all haywire & create what is called a “free-radical.”  Free radicals are responsible for cell aging & cell death.  Vitamin C provides the cell with the electrons needed to go back to “normal,” thus creating a healthy cell.  Healthy cells fight off infection better.  Ta-dah!  Aren’t antioxidants a blast??

So now you know one of the many great reasons we should all enjoy a pear now & again.  Preparing them is also very simple & you can use whatever steaming method is convenient for you.  You can put them in a foil packet with some water in the oven, place them in a vegetable steamer, or use one of those nifty little microwave steam bags!  I just use what I have on hand & that is: a colander, a pot of almost boiling water, & a lid.

1 medium pear, any variety

1.       Peel fruit with vegetable peeler or paring knife.  Cut in half & remove seeds & rough core with a spoon.  You can also just do what I do & cut around the seeds.  Cut into fairly-uniform sized chunks & place into cooking vessel.

2.       Follow manufacturer’s instructions if you’re using a steamer or steam bags.  When using a foil packet, put fruit inside the packet with a few tablespoons of water.  Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until fruit is soft.  If using the colander method, place heat-safe colander over a pot of near-boiling water, put fruit in colander & cover with lid.  Steam for 15 minutes or until fruit is soft.

3.       Once fruit is cooked & slightly cooled, place in food processor (or food mill) & process until smooth.  Add warm water to reach desired consistency, though it probably won’t be needed.

This recipe yields about one serving of pear puree.

Happy eating!
-Elias’s mommy

Sources: (Ascorbic Acid); (nutrition facts on pears); (pear photos); What to Expect: The First Year book by Heidi Murkoff (baby food stages)

Common store varieties of pears.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Gregor Mendel Special: Peas! *stage 1*

Let's play the "shell game!"
“Peas, please!”  If babies could talk, that’s what they’d say.  I’ve never seen a baby who didn’t absolutely looooove his peas :)  Elias loves them, his cousin Solomon loved them, you get the idea.  The natural sweetness in peas makes them a great “first food” for babies.  Peas are best when they’re in season or picked fresh, but why?  The natural sugars in peas will start to convert to starch as soon as they’re picked.  It’s a defense mechanism developed by millions of years of evolution.  It’s really the only survival method a pea plant has!  Same goes for corn, apples, & other starchy-sweet eatables.  So if the sugar-to-starch conversion is supposed to keep animals from eating the peas, then why have we all been subjected to mushy, starchy peas since we were introduced to solid foods??  It’s tricky, but there are ways to prevent that for your little guy.

First of all baby food companies have done a lot better in the recent years to keep fruits & vegetables as fresh as possible by flash-cooking them at the peak of ripeness & packaging before vital nutrients are lost.  That means their peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, all will have a lovely, sweet, fresher taste.  You’d think I’d be dogging pre-made baby food, but in this case they do have the right idea.  Honestly, if I had to choose between old, out-of-season peas & Gerber, I’d use Gerber!  The only downside is that you can’t know the exact amount of time it has been on the shelves.  So choose fresh whenever possible with garden peas.  Yes, garden peas.  Snow peas & sugar peas aren’t recommended for baby food obviously.  Fresh is best, Gerber is second-best, frozen is third, & canned is the absolute last resort.  I wouldn’t feed my son canned peas unless we had no food whatsoever.  As Raymond Sokolov (Of How To Cook fame) so eloquently put it,

 “…let’s agree that canned peas are repulsive and fit
        only for survival cooking during a nuclear winter…”

Nutrition Perks: In 2 oz (¼ cup) of peas there are approximately 170mg of potassium, which makes them a good source of this nutrient.  As mentioned before, an infant needs 500-700mg of potassium every day.  They are also a good source of vitamin A and are less calorie-dense than most vegetables.  Nearly all of the calories in peas are from carbohydrates.  There is a trace amount of fat in peas.

Peas on Earth, good will towards men.
To make a couple of servings of peas for baby, buy about ½ a pound to 1 pound of unshelled peas.  If you’re taking them from a garden, it’s highly doubtful you’re going to be taking a hanging scale with you so you’ll harvest about 2 to 2-½ cups.  Here’s how to turn those lovely peas-ers into baby mush:

½ pound to 1 pound of unshelled peas
2 quarts boiling water

1.       Shell peas into a bowl & dump into water at a rolling boil all at once.  Boil for 5-7 minutes.  Drain & reserve some of the “pea-water “ (ha) to use while processing.  The reserved water will retain some nutrients from the peas :)
2.       Put peas in the processor & pulse until a paste is formed.  Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  If skins appear to not process, press through a sieve to make the puree extra smooth.  Ta-da!

Final thoughts?  Gregor is a weird name.  Annnnnnd all we are saying is give peas a chance :) *rimshot*

-Elias’s mommy

Sources: How To Cook book by Raymond Sokolov, 1986; (Gregor Mendel article); (Peas nutrition facts)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The "Barney" of vegetables: Eggplant! *stage 2*

Inspired by uncle Joe & aunt Ashley & "Good Eats."
Aubergines, eggplants, whatever you want to call them, they’re still super-yummy, super-versatile, super-beautiful veggies.  Their deep purple color is a tad bit misleading because they are a little bland, but that makes them perfect for babies!  Eggplants are packed with fiber which we all know is essential in maintaining healthy bowel function.  Other nutritional perks include vitamin A, Folate, & lots of calcium for strong, healthy baby bones :)  Eggplant is considered a stage 2 (6-8 months) vegetable because it can be bitter & isn't as easy to make into a smooth, luscious puree as other veggies.

So does Folate sound familiar?  I’m willing-to-bet you heard a lot about it during your pregnancy, but maybe by its other name: Folic Acid.  Folic acid, or vitamin B9 (How many names does this thing have??) is important during our child-bearing years & especially during pregnancy because folate levels drop dramatically in the body while pregnant.  During the first 4 weeks of pregnancy folic acid is needed for the embryo to develop its brain, spinal cord, and skull.  Serious birth defects, such as a neural tube defect, are significantly reduced in women who took folic acid before and/or during pregnancy, so it’s important to take it if you’re planning to become pregnant! 

"Eat me!"
But what does this mean for your baby now that he’s here?  Folate is used to produce & maintain new cell development which is especially important in a growing child.  Adults & children need folate to make normal red blood cells & prevent anemia.  If your child has issues with anemia, talk to her pediatrician about the introduction of folate & iron-rich fruits/vegetables into her diet.

Since eggplants are lacking a little in taste, they take on surrounding flavors very well. This makes eggplants ideal for mixing with other fruits or vegetables.  However, it’s not recommended you feed baby mixed meals until you've determined he/she does not have allergies to the foods you’re mixing together.Try it plain first & if your child doesn't care for the taste, try adding in a little bit of fruit to please her palette.

How to pick out a good eggplant?
When choosing an eggplant, try to steer clear from the larger ones because they are more mature so their "meat" will be less tender & therefore harder to make into baby food.  The larger they are, the more bitter the flesh will be.  Choose one that feels heavy for its size.  Smaller varieties such as the Chinese/Japanese eggplants are sweeter than their English cousins. White eggplants are even sweeter & produce a creamier product.  Make sure the skin is firm & shiny.  If it feels hollow or sounds hollow, chances are you've got an eggplant that has sat around too long.  Their tough skins should be removed for children this age.

Basic Eggplant Puree
1 Eggplant

Wash and peel eggplant. Deseed as needed. Cut into 1 inch pieces and steam until tender & mushy -OR- slice eggplant in quarters and bake in a 375 degree oven for approx. 30 minutes until tender. Place into food processor & add water to reach desired consistency.

Happy eating!
-Elias's mommy

Sources: "Folic Acid"; "Types of Eggplants"