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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.

Sunday, 5 October 2014


As a new mom with my first child I fell into the trap of buying bottles of baby food (the fruit options) at the grocery store. If the pediatrician said to introduce it, then it was the only option that was safe. It did work for a while but as my baby got older and a lot fussier, commercially-made didn't cut it anymore. At around the same time, I learned how chilling a teething ring would make a world of difference to the pain experienced during teething. My daughter's two canines came through first so she used to look like a little vampire! We tried our best to get a picture but she wouldn't grin for long enough or hold still for us to get a clean shot.
Teething did present a challenge for her and sometimes caused her to have a hard time breastfeeding or bottle feeding. As I was forced to get creative with alleviating teething, so too did I have to with her first foods. Her readiness to suck on a chilled grape made me realize I could easily combine the two. So I went after some watermelon and kept it chilled in the fridge. But as the incisors started to push through I turned from chilled to frozen in the form of popsicles.
These are easy to make as long as you have a good mold. When baby is ready they will learn to grasp the handle and have a field day with it on their own! You can do this with any fruit. Please note that if your child is younger than one year old you should not add salt or sugar to any of their foods. Honey is just as bad as they can get botulism. However, when your child is older and probably becomes more picky you can add a little sugar to increase the appeal. I personally don't believe in adding it at all as long as you can get them to eat fresh fruits.
Your local haberdashery store should have nice molds. Or you can order from a wide range online.
Blend your choice of fruit(s) and you can optionally add one or two drops of lemon juice. Pour into the mold and put to freeze. For fruits with a high water content like watermelon add drier fruits like banana to get a good consistency.
Get creative with your combos, changing them from week to week to see what your child prefers. And be sure to capitalize on local offerings. Just make sure that the utensils that you use are clean as these things are not pasteurized or cooked.
Yoghurt is excellent at this stage in a child's life as one of their first solid foods and gets some good bacteria into their digestive system. Don't give this to them if they are less than one year old as it is usually made from whole cow's milk that they will not be ready for. A great idea is to blend the fruits of choice into the yogurt (use an equal ratio of volume of fruit to yoghurt to get a good consistency) and then freeze as usual to get your popsicles.

Friday, 3 October 2014

A Mobile Memory

I am sentimental and I believe that the best memories a child will have are the ones where there was a labor of love. No amount of money, no expensive gifts and toys can substitute the ones that are hand made. They ones that have the greatest impact are the ones that are the most personal. The ones that show time spent and time shared. Amongst my first projects as a mom-to-be was handcrafting a mobile for my baby's crib.
One of the first learning tools your baby will see is the mobile dangling above their crib. They will spend a great deal of time in their first months on their backs and staring up. Given the significance of this I was not drawn to store-bought mobiles; as they all had such a regular pattern, frequently having the same items making up the entire mobile. I am sure for the moms who must have the perfect color coordinated accessories to go in their baby's room, an abstract handcrafted mobile may not be appealing, but it may be in your baby's best interest.
It may also be of interest to note that initially all babies see in black and white, so it is wise to choose a variety of shapes and patterns to stimulate their minds. Lucky for me my husband is an amateur at wood work and made a simple wooden frame with some metal hooks in the arms that I could easily tie different objects on to.
While you don't have to get this technical it should not be so hard to craft your own frame e.g. with some old wood clothes hangers tied together or you could go ready-made and get a plastic round clothes hanger. Either way the best part is getting creative with the accessories that makes up the mobile. Take lots of pictures for that scrapbook and photo album!

I used lots of items that I had from my baby shower; little alphabet blocks and shower favors did a great job. Even though baby will not be able to see in color at the start, they will eventually so don't hold back! I had strings of beads linking between the arms and some of the items made noises when rocked. There are a lot of oddities that you can use from right around your home that would make great accessories for your mobile. Better yet, if you really have the patience (and talent), handcraft your own.
I still remember how pleased I felt when my first daughter scowled her little eyebrows in intense concentration at her mobile, turning her head to each side and studying its every angle out of the corners of her eyes. I was even more happy when she first pulled herself straight up in her crib and reached up to gradually start knocking it around and dismantling it bit by bit.  

Cheesy Provisions

Toddlers can be picky. Lucky for us we have some of the best cuisine on earth! Albeit we may be raising the future food critics of the West!
Provisions are a great source of B vitamins and a good source of Carbs with a low glycemic index (low GI).
It is really important for us to be aware of the dangers of fast foods and junk foods especially those high in sugar content  with the rising incidence of childhood diabetes.
And which child does not love mashed potatoes with cheese. Add a new twist to a traditional dish by substituting potatoes with local provisions; yam, eddoes (these have a naturally sweeter taste and children may prefer them), dasheen, sweet potatoes; mix and match the quantities according to your taste and preference. It may take a while before you figure out which your child prefers.
I don't have quantities specified here as I usually cook by averaging, smell and taste. Given the number of 'seasoned' chefs we have in our homes; mummies, grannies, aunties and yes, we are so often outdone by the men, I am sure you can add your own 'hand' to these recipes.
*I am by no means a chef, but being a mummy has inspired me to surf the net for new ideas and create flavorful combos for my babies.

If your child is still at the stage where they are now being introduced to solid foods and are not yet able to chew, create a mashed provision pie for them.

Your combination of ground provisions boiled in some salt and mashed
Salt to taste
Black pepper
Grated pimentoes
Grated cheese
Evaporated milk
*If your child is less than one year old you will have to mix the provisions with a little cheese and very little butter to bring it together. Omit all seasonings including salt. 

Mix well and bake at 250 degrees Farenheit for about 10 to 15 mins to bring the flavors together.

For a more challenging chewable meal boil your provisions till they are soft but still in chunks. Best to cut them bite sized as it makes for great finger food!

Your combination of ground provisions boiled in some salt and cubed
Salt to taste
Black pepper
A little grated garlic (optional as some children may fuss)
Grated cheese
Fine thyme
*This is a more adventurous dish for children more than one year old and should not be tried with younger children. 

Once you have strained your boiled, cubed ground provisions, mix in the other ingredients and bake at 250 degrees Farenheit for about 10 to 15 mins. You could go easy on the cheese for this one as it is really the fine thyme and rosemary that bring out the taste.

Be sure to get creative with this and add other items to make it a meal.

Keeping the Bump Hydrated

We are incredibly fortunate here in the Caribbean. The diversity of fresh fruits and veges, are always in ready supply year-round. There's lots of great advice to come by online in terms of the best nutrition for a growing fetus. I generally tend to be a bit on the side of the perfectionist when it comes to any project and the task of giving my growing baby the best as an expectant mother was no different. One of the things I took particularly for granted was underestimating the amount of additional water I needed.
The first and most important thing you can do at the onset of pregnancy is to ensure that you get lots of water. All of your organs are under more pressure with the demand to support both you and your baby. This is especially so for your excretory organs; namely your kidneys and liver. You will tend to notice that your urine is a darker yellow...and no I don't really subscribe to the 'old wives tales' that this is one of the signs that you are having that boy chile.
It means the uric acid salts are a lot more concentrated in your urine as your body channels a lot of it to produce amniotic fluid to support a growing baby. You will also now be filtering waste for both you and baby so you need lots of extra water to ensure it is properly flushed out. There is the standard we may hold as the golden rule; eight glasses of water a day. However, this is not necessarily enough given our hot and humid climate. It is far easier for us to get dehydrated.
While we want to keep up our water intake it is also important to get valuable electrolytes. And what is sweeter than a nice cold coconut. This little nut is fantastic for getting potassium and sodium lost in sweat and urine and is a good 'cooling'. Bottled coconut water is handy but I don't think we have a shortage of the roadside vendors yet. I am always in support of the local vendors and farmers and building island capacity. Better to save those empty 2-litre soft drink bottles and have them filled up by one of these guys. The price is usually far more reasonable than the commercially available bottled coconut water. Better yet for those of us who have a few coconut trees in the back yard!
On the other side of the coin there are a lot of consequences of not getting enough water during pregnancy. These include preterm labor, higher risk of urinary infections and constipation. I have also read that it brings on Braxton Hicks a lot earlier in the pregnancy. With my first pregnancy I was a lot more constipated and suffered from bad acid reflux. I soon discovered that the solution was as simple as increasing my water intake.