Cutting my baby’s nails

Your baby’s nails probably seem to grow very fast; this is due to her tiny fingers! You might be wondering if you should cut them, and the answer is yes – because by doing so you keep your little one from scratching and hurting herself. This can seem a bit challenging, especially if your baby moves a lot, but before you get nervous, know that her nails are so thin that cutting them should be quite easy! To avoid hurting your baby, you can cut her nails after a bath when she is relaxed and calm, or when she is asleep. The risk of cutting your baby’s nails while she is asleep is that she might wake up. If this isn’t a problem for you, go ahead! Nevertheless, if you prefer not to disturb her sleep, ask your partner or a family member to hold her hand while you cut her nails, keeping her still. You can cut them using a small nail clipper or special baby scissors. To avoid cutting your baby’s skin first press her fingertip back and then cut the nail. Remember to avoid using your teeth, this can cause infection.

And what about toenails?

Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails, so you’ll only have to cut them once or twice a month. Her nails at this stage are very soft and easy to cut. You can cut them the same way you cut fingernails, asking your partner or a family member to help you out if necessary.

Caring for my baby’s teeth

Have your baby’s teeth made an appearance? Maybe he is just beginning to show signs of teething. In any case, his mouth’s cleanliness is very important! The following guide will help you keep your baby’s beautiful smile shiny and healthy.

How do I clean my baby’s mouth?

• If your child has no teeth yet, clean his mouth with a sterile gauze, passing it over his gums to ensure a clean mouth.

• When his little teeth come out, encourage him to drink water as this helps cleanse and get rid of remaining food in his mouth.

• Avoid tooth decay by not letting your baby sleep with a bottle.

• Once your little one has teeth, you can introduce his first toothbrush. Make sure it is extra soft and designed specifically for babies. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride, one that’s recommended by your doctor. You should only use very little of it, the size of a grain of rice, so that no excess remains in his mouth and he doesn’t swallow the rest of it. At this age he probably won’t spit it out, but if you can brush his teeth lightly a second time using just water to rinse out his mouth.

• Normally, it’s advised to wash a baby’s teeth twice a day. However, this recommendation can vary, so ask your pediatrician what is best for your child.

• The best position to clean your baby’s mouth is having him sit on your lap with his head resting on your arm.

• Try to make washing his teeth a game so that your baby will be more motivated to participate in this healthy habit.

• Finally, if your little one doesn’t like washing his teeth, try not to force him to keep still, instead distract him a little and continue. You could also ask your partner to help you!

Caring for your baby’s umbilical cord stump

After birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and snipped and babies are left with a small stump in the navel. This stump falls by itself, and it is necessary to let it heal and not try to remove it as it can hurt your baby. Your newborn’s umbilical cord stump requires special care to prevent infection. To ensure good care, try to maintain the cord and surrounding area clean and dry. If you notice that the stump has become dirty, clean the area by moistening (not soaking) a cotton ball with clean water and then dry it gently with an absorbent gauze or fanning it.

It’s important to regularly check the umbilical cord for signs of infection. Infections are rare, especially when cared for properly, but look for the following signs:

• The stump gives off a foul odor and yellowish discharge.

• The skin surrounding the stump is red, tender or swollen.

Remember to stick to sponge baths while your little one still has the umbilical cord stump. It will take about 1 to 4 weeks for it to fall off. Now, if your doctor tells you that you can bathe him normally, you can do it as long as you dry the cord area thoroughly.

Fueling the wonderful energy of my little one

At this stage of development, children have an amazing amount of energy, so much that it seems they never get tired! Sure, every child is different and some are more active than others, but all children require a healthy diet to keep growing and to continue their active exploration of the world that surrounds them.

Since your baby learned to crawl and walk, access to his surroundings has increased, making it much easier to move to areas that get his attention. With this in mind, we know little ones don’t want to sit still. However, it is very important to keep their tummies full, even though sometimes they might seem to forget they have to eat.

How should I feed my child at this stage?

It is important to emphasize that, despite the fact that your child is still growing; it’s not at the same rate as it was during his first year of life. With this in mind, remember that it is normal for him to lose interest in food or to prefer to play instead of eating. Likewise, it might seem that some days he has a great appetite while others it might seem nonexistent. This is completely normal, as long as your little one continues to grow and is happy then there’s no problem. However, if you notice that your baby is not gaining weight or seems to lack energy, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician.

Moreover, at this stage your baby is probably learning to eat on his own with utensils. This is an excellent opportunity to boost your little one’s adaptability. Small pasta pieces, shredded chicken, or other food that can be cut into small pieces and is easy to hold with a spoon or fork is very good to practice eating by himself.

Now, having your little one try new foods is not the only challenge that may arise. The immense energy that young children have can make it difficult for them to sit down and eat. Therefore, sometimes you can choose to feed your little one while playing or walking around, however it is not recommended. It is important and safer to teach children that we eat on the table. Tell him that once he is finished, he can continue playing. If your child eats with the family, involve him in the small talk and remember to praise him for his efforts so he may be motivated to continue eating at the table.

Also, remember to offer iron-rich food during mealtimes. Legumes, meat, fish, chicken, and iron-fortified cereal are great options. Likewise, limit milk consumption to no more than 3 glasses per day so that your baby is hungry enough to eat other food. At this stage of development your baby’s body and brain require food that contains fat, so don’t give him low-fat choices, unless your doctor advices you to do so. Finally, it is alright to add a pinch of salt to his dishes and give him the same food the rest of the family is having.

Baby food: Homemade or store-bought?

Since you are new to the world of solid baby food, you might be wondering whether you should prepare the purees at home or get the ready-to-eat jars from the supermarket. The truth is that there is no right answer; you can do both and even combine these two options. To prepare food at home is a wonderful way to feed your baby, because it presents food in its freshest form. However, sometimes it seems like an impossible task.

If you have the opportunity to prepare your baby’s food at home, you’ll know exactly each ingredient that’s in it and you’ll begin to get your baby used to your family’s meals (but in its pureed version). Now, it is not always feasible to prepare pureed meals every day, so a good technique is to choose one “cooking” day and prepare lots of different recipes and freeze them. Therefore, you can only defrost one portion at a time and save the rest for later. This can be very time effective and cheaper than buying ready-to-eat jars from the supermarket, but it does require time, organization, and preparation. Preparing food at home requires absolute hygiene; make sure you keep all the utensils and equipment very clean. If you lack the time or culinary inspiration, there is no problem with buying baby food at the supermarket; you only need to ensure that:

• It is made with natural food.

• It doesn’t contain sugar or sugar substitutes.

• It has low or no sodium.

• It doesn’t contain preservatives.

Most baby food you’ll find in the supermarket is of excellent quality; just check that they meet the requirements stated above. Buying baby food in the supermarket offers a convenient and very practical way of storage. Likewise, it’s a huge help anytime you don’t have food and are traveling or out for a walk. With this in mind, pediatricians recommend that you feed your baby with ready-to-eat jars occasionally, to get him used to the taste, and to prevent him from rejecting it when it is the only option for food. On the other hand, if you always buy your baby food, every now and then try to give him homemade food in order to get your baby used to eating homemade food with your family.

As final advice, serve the portion of food your little one will eat in a separate dish to prevent contamination of the food that he did not eat. That way, you can store the remaining food in the refrigerator for 48 hours and use it for another meal.

Weaning: What foods should I start with?

Introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet can come with a lot of questions and concerns. The whole process can become a bit confusing after finding out different information from articles, books, friends and family. Therefore, we’d like to clarify a few of the myths surrounding the introduction of solids.

One of these myths is that it is necessary to introduce cereals first. Now, most people do start with single grain cereals, but there is no scientific evidence that suggests that introducing solids in a particular order is best for your baby. It is also very common to hear that if you give your little one fruit first he will refuse to eat vegetables later; but again, there is no scientific evidence supporting this. The truth is that you can start with almost any food you want! You can even start with meat puree, something that was unthinkable in the past. However, thanks to recent research, it is recommended that meat be one of the first solids your baby tries, as it provides the necessary iron intake that he requires at this stage. After around the 6-month mark, babies run short of the iron reserves which they were born with. Therefore, it is important to give them iron-rich food such as red meat and iron fortified cereals.

Likewise, it is important to introduce your baby to a wide variety of healthy food that’s rich in nutrients, provided that you give him one specific food for 3 consecutive days to rule out allergies. Keep in mind that your little one is learning to eat, and therefore the foods’ texture and flavors are brand new. Don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to eat something in particular, this is very normal. Just try again later! Sometimes, you need to offer your baby a food 10 to 15 different times before he accepts it. For this reason, it is important to continue offering a teaspoon at a time in a pureed and almost semi-liquid consistency. Your little one is starting to learn how to eat food, so lumps or thick solids will be difficult to swallow. As your baby gets used to solid foods, you can gradually change the consistency of the food.

Introducing healthy snacks

Who doesn’t like snacks? They’re delicious, very easy to prepare, and help balance the amount of nutrients required for your baby’s diet. If you think that your child doesn’t eat enough at breakfast, lunch or dinner, a healthy snack can serve as nutritional support. On the other hand, your little one might have a healthy appetite and eat very well but still get hungry between meals. Healthy snacks are a great way to keep your child happy and satisfied. Offer two to three snacks every day, establishing good eating habits. With a small portion, your baby will probably be satisfied, and it will prevent him from rejecting the whole snack and allow him to get to dinner time with enthusiasm.

How do I introduce healthy snacks?

It’s best to introduce snacks at the same time each day. That way, your child will learn to anticipate food at certain hours and will be prepared for them. Now, there will be days when your baby doesn’t finish his entire snack either because he isn’t hungry or doesn’t like it. However, try to continue offering the snacks at the same time, to avoid confusion in your child’s routine. Offer healthy snacks and give your baby the opportunity to choose one if he asks for it. Let him choose between two or three healthy choices.

Avoid giving junk food to your little one since they don’t add any healthy nutritional value to his diet. On the other hand, you don’t have to withhold these foods on special occasions like birthdays or parties. Just remember not to eat them in everyday life or offer them as a reward and your little one soon will understand that they are to be consumed only occasionally.

Little appetites: Children who are picky eaters

A lot of children are picky when it comes to eating. If you are going through this, we have good news – it is totally normal! As long as your baby continues to develop at a healthy rate and is happy, there is not much to worry about. In fact, after the first year growth slows and children don’t require as much food. Furthermore, the cognitive and physical development children experience makes them more interested in playing and exploring – and less interested in sitting down and eating.

One of the reasons why children get fussy and deny eating is because they seek independence, and refusing food gives them a sense of choice. Children want to choose what and how much they eat and they don’t always have an appetite, so sometimes they eat very well and other days they seem to eat nothing. Now, we must respect their choice to eat or not, but remember that only you have control over what food you offer and at what time.

It is important to offer healthy choices at mealtime and keep presenting new options often because it can take from 10 to 15 exposures of the same food to get a child to like it or even try it. Moreover, when it comes to offering new options remember to present them in small quantities along with familiar food that you know your little one likes.

Now, not all children are the same, there may be different reasons why they don’t want to eat or try new food. With this in mind, in this article we present different profiles of children who refuse to eat and tips on how to feed them.

If your child is sensitive to taste, smell, or texture:

• Present healthy food choices together with food that you already know he likes.

• Gradually offer your baby new food, keeping in mind that it can take from 10 to 15 exposures before he tastes the food.

• Pay attention to the food and textures that bother your little one and try to serve the same food with different preparation the next time.

If he has a strong temperament and doesn’t want to try or eat certain food:

• Serve new food along with the food that your child already likes. Encourage him to touch, smell, or try new food.

• Resist the urge to prepare special food for your little one, but make sure that in every meal there is something that he likes. Always try to give him what the rest of the family is eating but in small portions.

• Offer him healthy dips like natural yogurt, hummus, ketchup, peanut butter or dressing to motivate your child to eat fruits and vegetables.

• Get your child involved in the simple aspects of cooking so that food interests him and gets his attention.

• Remember to gradually expose him to new food and stay calm if your little one doesn’t want to taste it.

Your child may appear to be a picky eater, but what he really wants is to feed himself. In this case you can:

• Offer finger-food during mealtimes.

• Let your little one handle the cutlery even if he doesn’t have good hand-eye coordination yet.

• Ask your child how he wants food to be served in his plate.

Your little one is very active and doesn’t like to stop playing to sit and eat:

• Don’t sit your little one down until the meal is ready and his plate is set.

• Try to make each meal brief.

Including my baby at family meals

Your baby has grown a lot, now’s a great time to start including him in family meals! Despite not being ready to eat everything the family eats, your baby can begin to try many different textures, consistencies, and flavors. He can try small pieces of the same food others eat; but limit the amount of added salt and sugar. It’s also a very good time developmentally to introduce the spoon and sippy cup if you have not done so yet. Sitting around the table, your baby will be able to see you using utensils and drinking from cups, and there is nothing more exciting for a baby than being able to imitate their parents.

Including your baby in family meals may seem like more work, however, you can do it gradually as your baby is adapting to the routine. You can start by feeding your baby and when he acquires more dexterity and is able to feed himself, you can incorporate him and let him eat at the same time as the rest of the family does. You can also try this for one meal a day, and then gradually add more meals.

What are the benefits of including your baby in family meals?

• Learning from others. Your baby will observe how his brothers or you, his parents, eat. He will see as they use their utensils and their positive reactions towards the food during the meal.

• He will be able to taste new food and might even show more interest towards it.

• Finally, your little one will begin to learn good table manners. He’ll see that he has to wait his turn to talk; he can learn to say “please” and “thank you”, and even to chew politely. Gradually he will learn more and more things through observation and imitation.

How do I adjust my cooking so that it’s appropriate for my child?

• Prepare the recipe as you always do, but separate a small portion for your little one before seasoning the rest of the recipe.

• Cut your baby’s food separately too, according to the desired texture. Remember that despite not having all his teeth, your little one’s gums are stronger than you think. As long as the food can be easily dissolved in his mouth, there is no reason to put off introducing more textures.

• Remember to offer a type of food that you know your child likes in case he is a picky eater.

• Talk to your baby and involve him in the conversation, although he may not speak yet, he’ll love to interact with you.

• Keep in mind that your little one won’t always want to finish all the food you offer him. Let him choose what he likes best among the options you give him and resist the urge to get up and prepare something special if he doesn’t want to eat anything.

• Make mealtime short or let your little one retire to play near you when he has finished eating. At this age he probably won’t want to sit for a long time in the same place.

How much food is enough for my child?

When introducing solids, it is important to find a balance between the energy needed by the body and its consumption. When you begin the weaning process, start with small amounts of food. One or two tablespoons are enough to begin to accustom your baby to this new way of eating. Since you begin with little amounts of food, it can be supplemented with milk. As your baby gets used to it, you can always increase the quantity of solid food you offer, eventually replacing the milk with it. Your baby will indicate whether he wants more or if he is already satisfied. If he asks for more food, give it to him, but if he pulls away don’t force him.

Remember that babies innately know when they are satisfied and therefore eat only what they need. This self-regulation can be affected when food is either limited or forced to be consumed. Your baby will indicate whether he’s still hungry or satisfied. At first, it’s likely that he will spit out most of the food you give him, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like it, he’s simply learning to use his tongue to swallow food. When your baby wants more food he will open his mouth, or move forward towards the spoon. If your baby doesn’t want more food, he will turn his head away, close his mouth, or cry.

On the other hand, you can feel confident that your baby is receiving enough calories if he is energetic. This is also true if your baby is gaining weight; attend your regular appointments with your pediatrician to keep track of your baby’s growth and development.