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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Connect with Nature

There's something enriching and powerful in opening our eyes and hearts to the effects of the often intangible threads of energy that move through this world. Among the most powerful and awe inspiring of those is that of Mother Earth. To connect with our planet we must surrender ourselves to its presence. That means shutting off our devices, our minds and retreating to the ocean side, the forest or a nice open park. To benefit fully from the experience do not think, do not speak, simply observe.
Walk if you prefer, barefoot is a must. Sit if you like, but only if you trace your fingers along your seat. Lie flat on your back, stare into the sky and listen. Immerse yourself. The earth's energy is a natural healer. Walking barefoot is no longer seen as the kooky, eccentric, bell jingling, tree hugger practice, but has scientifically been proven to increase antioxidants, reduce stress and improve sleep described as the science of "earthing".
Pregnant women would do well to explore the relaxing benefits of connecting with nature and using this free therapy to relax away all the strain that a growing bump puts on your body. A mild hike can do wonders to oxygenate your body with some fresh air, improve circulation and calm your mind. The sounds of the forest, waves crashing on the shore, the sharp smells of salty water, crisp dew, grass and flowers can do much to awaken your senses. Plus there's the added benefit during pregnancy your senses are especially heightened to double the pleasure! Don't forget it's a great time to spend with your partner too.
Speaking of kooky tree huggers it's actually not such a bad idea. It also goes to show science can prove just about anything. Research has found that hugging a tree can improve our health by altering vibrational frequency. As you practice so you should preach. Once you bring a baby into this world don't let go of these practices. Sunshine and the great outdoors are fantastic for developing a child's naturalist intelligence. Children function better cognitively and emotionally in nature and tend to have more creative play.
Postpartum depression is very real and whether or not you think you just have the "blues" do not take for granted the need to refresh and recharge to start rebalancing those hormones. Even if you are confined to your home, scientists recommend that simply stepping outside into bright sunlight can immediately act as an antidepressant. There is a significant release of endorphins when you step into nature, especially for a brisk walk. 
So the only question you should be asking yourself is, have you hugged a tree today?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Carrot Rice

So here's a nice one to try for toddlers or older children. It's my version of a dish my grandma used to make for me. I remember being drawn to the sweet taste of the carrots in this rice and it was probably the only way I ate carrots when I was young. I am giving some average quantities I used while making it today.

Carrot Rice
1 cup unboiled brown rice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground chilli pepper
1 carrot grated fine
2 medium tomatoes finely diced
1/2 medium onion finely diced
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp parsley chopped fine
1 tsp fine thyme

Boil rice in some salted water until tender. Strain and season with salt, black pepper, chilli pepper and ketchup. Saute carrots, tomatoes, onion, parsley and thyme in some oil for about 1 minute on low heat. Mix in seasoned rice.

You can optionally fry this in some butter rather than oil for a different flavor.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Diaper Rash Treatment

The phrase "just a dot" has new meaning for first time parents who have never applied the popular Desitin brand of diaper rash cream. When confronted with diaper rash older folks will tell you to run down to the pharmacy and buy some Desitin and you apply "a little bit, not plenty". Some of us (like me) may think, they just saying that because of the old adage "waste not, want not". Some of us may think we have understood what they said until we try to apply it and realize that small dots of Desitin have very large margins of error.
Diaper rash is very common in babies and appears to be a collection of small red dots or red inflammed areas. The causes can vary from fungal and bacterial to allergic reactions. In any case it is very common and no matter how careful you are this is an ailment most babies will get at some point.
On top of my list of things to note about diaper rash is that girls are far more susceptible to it than boys as their vaginal skin is more sensitive and they are more prone to Urinary Tract Infections, generally and as a result of diaper rash. So for starters we need to take extra care when dealing with baby girls' private parts.
I am a believer in cloth diapers as these allow air to circulate unlike pampers and reduce the probability of developing rash. It's also a lot healthier for baby. Of course, for outings and for night time I do use pampers but during the day at home I tend to stick to cloth diapers. I couldn't find anything locally except for the regular cotton white cloth diapers that need to be folded and don't actually hold much of anything. We did purchase a lot of these and they are very useful for spit-up and mopping up spills. I understand that some moms try to use these in combination with plastic pants which is A+ for effort but this also impedes air circulation.
It took a while but my research showed cloth diapers have come a long way. And if you are willing to invest the money and time to launder them they are well worth it. Searching on Amazon or AliExpress or other online shopping platforms for "cloth diaper" will reveal the kind that I have purchased. You can rest assured that these are VERY high quality and stand up to the test of time and wash and wear. A good idea would be to buy additional inserts which can be removed to wash and a clean one put in its place while using the same outer diaper. I took some shots of how you can fasten the diaper for a smaller baby and as the baby's tummy and legs grow you simply move the fasteners outwards.
Cloth Diapers
Bamboo Insert Cloth Diaper
Cloth Diaper Folded for Small Baby
Cloth Diaper Folded for Bigger Baby
Cloth Diaper Folded for Toddler

These last the duration of your child's diaper years and are still in excellent condition to reuse for another child for the same duration. You can also get cloth diaper pull ups with the same bamboo inserts for when its time to potty train. These diapers are best initially soaked in a bucket with water and some Dettol, Savlon or other good quality antiseptic liquid before hand/machine washing. I bought 30 of the outer diapers and 60 inserts. This quantity lasts about 2-3 days when baby is small and urinates very frequently and lasts longer as they grow and urinate less often. It is a fairly big initial investment to get these diapers but if you think about the tradeoffs in the cost of pampers over the same time they are used, potentially expensive doctor visits for rash and the health of your child it may be well worth the money and time. 
For the second most important point I credit and will have to quote my Lamaze class teacher who has been a registered nurse and midwife for more than twenty years having served in this capacity in many countries across the world. She said (paraphrased), "The use of powder is a deep rooted West Indian cultural tradition. But it is the worst thing you can do to a baby as it raises their risk for asthma and does nothing positive from a hygiene standpoint. It is also a 'no-no' for use in the private parts as it traps dirt and sweat." She said while Vaseline is 'ok' it should also be avoided. The best thing you can do to prevent diaper rash and other infections in a baby's private parts is to use cloth diapers.
Vaseline simply functions to keep the moisture that can lead to infection away from the skin. A better alternative is coconut oil or olive oil. The best coconut oil can be bought in the market and is the freshest. My baby did not respond well to the coconut oil at first and olive oil seemed to agree with her better when she was young and her skin was more sensitive. Most babies should not have a problem with the coconut oil though. Both options should be applied in moderation (just a few drops to massage into the skin) and should be applied at night. Both coconut oil and olive oil have excellent natural antifungal and antibacterial properties.
A good option for the bath water (for most average sized bath tubs) in the case of diaper rash is to add about a tablespoon of baking soda and about 4-5 drops of tea tree oil. Note that this should be put into the final rinse water for baby when it's playtime with bath toys after all soaping and cleaning is done. Do not apply these directly to a baby's skin or make it too concentrated as it will cause irritation! Please also note that these recommendations are not a substitute for your over-the-counter diaper rash cream and can be used occasionally in a prophylactic manner or in conjunction with standard treatments prescribed by a medical professional. 

First Crib Toys

Aside from a great mobile, it's good to have other learning tools in the crib or hung from the sides of the crib that are viewable by baby. Some basic rules of thumb are to have items that have strong contrasting patterns and a variety of shapes. However, for safety reasons minimize how many items are actually in the crib next to baby. If you have items hung from the sides of the crib ensure that it is attached firmly and not left dangling so that baby can pull it out or get tangled. Try not to overdo it either because if things get too "busy" it will just be confusing for baby and may defeat the purpose.
A key item that should be at eye level for baby is a reflective mirror surface. Not the glass version though. Babies are very interested in reflections. You can purchase mirror card at most art stores that are great for observing reflections. A single first learning toy in the crib is sufficient for baby. Try not to overwhelm the space with stuffed toys. Aside from not being that stimulating, they are a safety risk and trap dust.
So that's the standard stuff, education-wise. What will make your sensory toy unique is the creative, personal extras. I made my own sensory ball and rattle and these were the only two crib toys I had for the first three to four months of my baby's life. A sensory toy does not have to be a ball. But the idea for a first sensory toy follows the same basic rules of pattern and shape variations, and can have mirror card along with parts that make different noises when knocked, grabbed or squeezed. So you can make a huge sensory block, a long caterpillar style sensory toy or a ball.
Angular shapes don't make much sense, as they won't roll easily when pushed. Although if you round off corners in a block it shouldn't be too bad. As your baby has little control of arm and leg movements initially, the rounder the better, so you challenge them to stretch and roll to make contact with their sensory toy. Stitch your sensory toy together with nice soft cloth that has interesting patterns. To cut back on the cost visit a fabric store and get end pieces that they are happy to get rid of so that you have different colors and patterns.
You can put in some foil paper in one section of your toy so that you get a crinkling sound when it is squeezed. You can also try putting in a piece of elastic in cloth attached to one side with a tiny "pompom" or stuffed animal at the other end so that it can stretch out when pulled. You can also attach plastic rings or put a bell(s) in the middle. Fill in the rest with soft cloth to make up the shape or buy some sponge for stuffing.
If you're into batik that has more abstract, less rigid patterns, then do your own cloth in your choice of colors for making up your toy. If you are artistic you can hand paint your own patterns. Crochet and embroidered surfaces are fantastic! Not throughout the entire toy but probably making up different parts so baby gets a sense of different textures.
You don't have to stick to being creative with just the materials, the attachments that you use on the toy can be unique too. Think recycled items (safety first of course!) and you can include old sentimental items too. This one is really about personal taste. A nice idea is to put in a "pocket" and insert a photo of mum and dad and cover it with some hard clear plastic. If you want you can put a cloth flap over this so that baby and you can do "peek a boo" lifting the flap to expose the picture and then covering it again.
The rattle I did was a lot simpler. A clear bottle filled with beads and sealed off with a PVC pipe. The key with this one is for baby to see the movement that is associated with the noises. Here you can get as creative as you like with the container, the items and colors inside the rattle. Just be sure the size and weight is realistic for your child.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Eat Local for Baby

It's amazing how easily moms, especially first time moms, are bought by what they find online in terms of what their babies should wear, what they should eat and how they should be raised. I have been caught up in the whirlwind of commercial baby merchandise, including baby food options and recipes more common to non tropical climates. It is so easy, especially when mothers have to work and the grocery shelves are packed with attractively packaged, ready to use, baby food.
I am grateful that my baby is fussy or I would have never been forced to acknowledge the obvious. When it finally occurred to me that she wanted to sample what we were eating, I was delighted. I chipped up watermelon and peeled ripe bananas for her to eat. She went after the bananas readily but resisted the watermelon. I found it strange as I was sure it was some nice sweet melon.
In time I found she refused the sweet stuff in preference for the tangy and sour tastes of plum, cherry, pommecythere and guava. My only regret is the length of time it took me to see my folly. I was so bent on the notion that she would naturally gravitate towards sweeter foods and would share our preference for a nice ripe mango. Turns out she would rather sample a five finger. So I stopped looking for applesauce and instead made regular trips to the market and the occasional stops by a roadside fruit vendor.
When she started to walk she was even more intrigued by the experience of going in the yard, watching a coconut get cut open and sampling some nice soft jelly. Or climbing up onto my husband's shoulder and trying to pick plum by herself. Cut out some sticks of sugar cane that they can hold onto by themselves and chew or hand them a peg of portugal with a small incision (be careful not to make it too big or they may get seeds in their mouth) and you would be surprised how easily you get  them to take in fresh unsweetened fruit juice on their own.
Widen the range of offerings you have for their little palate. We have them in large variety, year round and you will soon find that getting your baby or toddler to eat healthy is very easy. the earlier you introduce it and the more you reinforce it the more readily they will keep these habits when they get older. Eventually you will understand their preferences and provide more of what they like to take to school as a snack. If you have the yard space, plant trees with fruits they prefer and make it a family activity to raid these trees when they yield. These are not just memories, these are learning experiences and your children will love you for the gift of good health.

Baby Scrapbook

When I first came across the idea for a scrapbook, my first thought was, if only I had one of me. I would have loved to take a trip back in time and read all about my stats, my likes and dislikes and viewed some photos. Imagine how your child would feel to be able to see their own baby timeline in a book handcrafted just for them. There are lots of great ideas online for design and layout but there are a few key tips that you will want to follow if you want to try to make your own scrapbook.
1. Make sure you use lots of sheets of paper when making your book. Better to have more than less so when new ideas and extra photos need space it's there.
2. Get good quality paper that can stand the test of time. If you want to invest there are specialty paper in a variety of colors.
3. Make sure your binding of choice is strong. When you are finished you can always get professional hardcover binding done over the original to ensure it is well preserved.
4. Be sure to do lots of research to get good ideas on how to do a scrapbook that suits your tastes and that will stand up to the rigors of page flipping.

Aside from these rules of thumb, here are some of my ideas for headings and sections that should occupy those pages.
1. Basic stats; name (include who's idea it was or other potential suggestions for names that didn't make the mark), date of birth, time of birth, weight, length, who was the doctor or midwife. Be sure to leave a section in this part for autographs from loved ones. Keep the hospital bracelet and stick it in alongside an outline of handprints and footprints (just outline it in pen as baby's skin will be too sensitive for dyes).
2. A family tree. Get as big as research will allow, showing both sides of the family. Of course, you don't have to go overboard and start naming second cousins, but what may be interesting is the lineage of great grandparents and even great, great grandparents. For any one alive at the time of the birth try to pay a visit and get a photo as a keepsake.
3. A brief bio of mummy and daddy (you can get as detailed as you like), be sure to include what features and traits family members thought baby had in common with each parent.
4. Document the pregnancy details; foods you liked or disliked, the day mummy may have conceived (if this is known), the due date, ultrasound pics, all mummy's exciting body changes and challenges, how much weight mummy gained and how much weight daddy gained.
5. If you had a baby shower throw in details of the guest list and gifts.
6. Details of any initial religious observances or prayer meetings.
7. Baby's firsts: first smile, laugh out loud/giggle, sit up straight, crept, stood, walked, first tooth, slept through the night, first word, first time they said "mom/dad".
8. Favorite first foods, storybooks and songs.
9. The world around baby e.g. fashion trends, world leaders, popular songs.
10. The local price of bread, a tin of milk, diapers, a car...
11. First haircut.
12. First trip away from home/holiday.
13. First birthday.
14. First real mischief.

What not to eat

There's a lot of advice to come by when it comes to the best of the best to support a growing bump. Everybody who is family; pumpkin vine and the immediate variety; neighbour and friend and even random strangers have to offer advice about what to eat. But did you know that some of these time held pieces of wisdom may not be the best for baby?
So here's the ones you may already be familiar with, if you're as paranoid as me. These can be easily found online in most articles pertaining to what should not be consumed during pregnancy. 

ARTICLE: Why Should I Avoid Some Foods During Pregnancy?

ARTICLE: Foods To Avoid When You're Pregnant

But here are some that would take a lot more research and are a lot less commonly known but are equally as dangerous. These are readily available locally and are sometimes touted as being great for pregnant women.

1. Pawpaw - While rich in vitamins and an otherwise nutritious fruit, pawpaw contains pepsin in its latex which can trigger uterine contractions. Advice runs that it is safe to consume in moderate quantities as it is mostly in the unripened state that the most pepsin exists. However, as every woman is different "moderate" may vary from one person to the next. Best avoided I say. Local knowledge on the use of green pawpaw to "throw away yuh chile" is enough to not take chances with the ripe variety either.

2. Aloe - Aloe is supposed to be good as a "cooling" and is excellent for getting beautiful skin whether taken topically or orally. However, it also acts as a laxative and stimulates uterine contractions. So, while it may be safe to use aloe topically it should not be taken orally.

3. Castor Oil - I haven't heard of any other reason for taking castor oil other than to push a pregnant woman into labor. However ladies, as difficult as those last two to three weeks are I suggest you rally it out and wait on the advice of your OB. While the link between castor oil and the baby passing meconium in the uterus are still not clear, it is a powerful laxative and will leave a pregnant woman severely dehydrated which on its own can create many complications.

4. Pineapple - Most articles you find now will tell you that you would need to consume very large quantities of pineapple to get the bromelain up to a level that can cause harm. However, bromelain has been found to soften the cervix and the uterus walls and so is best avoided during pregnancy.