Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Picky Eaters--Are They a Result of Nature or Nurture? Part I

Are you one of the thousands of parents who wonder why your kid is the only picky eater on the block? Do you wonder if it's something you did or perhaps didn't do?

If so, you're not alone. It's just one more reason to feel guilty as a parent, and unfortunately we have to endure other parents' tales of how their Johnny likes broccoli for dessert!!

Yes, I have experienced picky eating habits first hand--first when my kids were toddlers and now again as teens. They weren't extremely picky--probably because we didn't nurture the pickiness, we gave positive reinforcement when they were open to new foods.

There are other things at play too--DNA, a struggle for independence, and parents' expectations and reactions can all add to the whole picky eating routine.

Stay tuned for more on this topic--which can sometimes drive parents close to the edge...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chinese Toy Recall--The Dangers of Lead

Who would have thought that toys made for children could be a prime source of lead based paint? Unfortunatley, it's the sad truth since Mattel and other companies recently recalled toys that were found to have lead based paint in them. To find a list of all recalls in the U.S., go to

Why is everyone upset about the toy recall (and the recall of many other chemical laced products from China?) Toxins are much more dangerous to children because the effects are more profound during critical stages of development and growth that occur during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood. In general, the younger the child when exposed to a chemical like lead, the more harmful the effects.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin and can profoundly affect the development of the brain and nervous system. When children ingest small amounts of lead over time, as is often the case, the effects are not necessarily dramatic--the long term effects can include:

Reduced IQ
Slowed body growth
Hearing problems
Behavior or attention problems
Failure at school
Kidney damage

Short term symptoms include:

Aggressive behavior
Low appetite and energy
Difficulty sleeping
Reduced sensations
Loss of previous developmental skills (in young children)
Abdominal pain and cramping (usually the first sign of a high, toxic dose of lead poison)
Very high levels may cause vomiting, staggering gait, muscle weakness, seizures, or coma


Lead based paint in houses painted before 1978.
Lead soldered water pipes in older homes that can leach lead into drinking water.
Imported ceramic dishes
Dirt contaminted by lead from car exhaust or industrial waste (more common if you life near a highway, factory of industrial site.
From food or juice stored in crystal or pewter.

For more information about sources of lead, go to:


The typical behavior of children is makes lead exposure more common. Children put everything in their mouths, including non food items, they are more likely to ingest lead and other environmental chemicals. Also, pound per pound, children eat more and drink more than adults--and they absorb more of everything that is in the food.

Unfortunately, exposure to lead is common in children--1 out of 20 preschoolers are thought to have lead poisoning.

It's easy to find out for sure. Your health care provider can do a simple blood test; blood levels over 10 micrograms per deciliter is a concern. Chelation therapy can be started to help rid the body of extra lead.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Media Literacy--An Important Skill for Kids

I'll never forget how surprised I was when my four year old son recited the slogan of a popular laundry detergent verbatim...especially since we are a family that watches very little TV! It was an "ah-hah" moment-- I realized just how absorbent a kid's mind is when it comes to media.

Now my son is a teenager and he's grown up to be a very media saavy kid--questioning what the real story is behind advertising, research studies, even documentaries.

If you have a toddler, you can add "media literacy" to the list of required learning along with letters, numbers and colors. Why? Kids are bombarded with advertising for fast food and sweets, not to mention subliminal brand advertising that can easily turn your toddler into a little consumer.

The deeper problem with too much media, is it takes time away from other quality activities like playing outside, reading and other imaginative play. If kids are on a constant diet of screen time, it gives their brains little chance to explore their own imagination. And we know that too much time in front of the screen also contributes to childhood obesity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines for TV watching that you might want to know:

Kids under 2: No screen time, including educational videos

Kids over 2: 2 hour limit of all screen time

No TV in the bedroom

If you are a mom who wears "lots of hats" (and who doesn't?) you've probably popped a video or two in to keep your toddler busy so you could get something done. That's fine--just try to limit the time. Another idea is to use music as a calming or motivating distraction. A little slow jazz or classical music can "soothe the savage beast"; story time on tape allows your child to expand his mind while building with blocks, for example. If it's a rainy day outside, and you'd like your child to be more active, you can try a video that encourages dancing or other active play like:

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Baby Bites on It's Way to Bookstores!

Baby Bites has left the printer and is now on it's way to your local bookstore!
What do you need to know
about Baby Bites?
Price: $15.00
Pages: 370
Easy to Read and Priceless Information!

It has all the nutrition info a new parent needs to know about feeding their new baby and toddler including:

  • Breastfeeding

  • Formula feeding

  • Starting solids

  • Making your own baby food

  • All about your baby's GI tract

  • Prevention and dealing with food allergies

  • How to start good eating habits

  • Dealing with picky eaters

  • Toddler friendly foods

  • Dental health

  • Preventing childhood obesity

How Can You Find Baby Bites?

1. Call our toll-free number: 800-284-MOMS

and get a personally autographed book!

2. Go to:

3. Your local bookstore--now available--or available any day now!

What's the Best First Food for Babies?

If you have a new baby about to leap into the world of eating solids, it's most likely you're considering rice cereal as your baby's first food. It's the tried and true first food for a few reasons--
  • it's easy to mix to the just the right texture for a new eater
  • it's bland
  • it's not a highly allergenic food
  • it's fortified with iron

But there are a few other foods that would serve just as well as a first food--and sometimes may even be a better choice, especially for exclusively breastfed infants. Exclusively breastfed 7- month old infants do not meet their needs for iron or zinc from breast milk alone.

Other "first foods" to consider? Beef and Lamb. They are high in iron and zinc and pretty well accepted (especially if you follow a recipe from Baby Bites). In an article by Nancy Krebs MD in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, meats are recommended as a complementary first food by breastfed infants. (J. Nutr. 137:511S-517S, February 2007)

When trying any first food for your baby, remember that the food is really not "solid" at all--but more like a thick liquid. And don't be discouraged if your baby spits out his tongue for his first bite of food--it's completely normal. If he continues not enjoying his first meal of solids, don't push it. Just wait a week or two and try again.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Organic for Babies? YES!!!

Now that organic has gone mainstream, it's more affordable. Now that you have a baby, you're probably thinking more about the environment and how the environment affects your baby's health. That thought process usually leads to the question.....

Should you buy organic for your baby?


WHY? Pesticides are chemicals meant to kill bugs, mold and other things that hinder a plant's growth and development. Common sense dicates that they can't be good for humans--and science backs it up. Pesticides can be particularly harmful during periods of rapid growth--infancy, puberty, pregnancy--times when important organ systems are developing or growing rapidly. Some pesticides are thought to be endocrine disruptors, which could make a difference to the development of sexual organs.

Baby's First Food: Babies get only one source of nutrition--breastmilk (or formula) for the first 5-6 months. If you figure that all your baby's nutrition is coming from a single source, the quality of that food is of vital importance.

Breastmilk, of course, is the gold standard for infant nutrition. If you're breastfeeding, it's a good idea to consider organic for yourself, at least for some of your foods. (see chapter 3 in Baby Bites for info on how to avoid other environmental chemicals while breastfeeding.)

If you're feeding your baby formula, or a combination of breastmilk and formula, there are several organic options:

Similac Organic
Earth's Best Organic (regular and soy)
Parent's Choice Organic (Available at Walmart)
Ultra Bright Beginnings Organic
Baby's Only Organic (Toddler regular and soy)

Baby Food: Making Your Own

When making your own baby food, (which is really easy especially if you use the simple guidance found in Baby Bites,) you'll want to use organic products, at least for the produce highest in pesticides. Remember that if you buy fresh organic produce, you want it to be as fresh as possible. Another option is to use organic frozen produce, such as Cascadian Farms.

The price of organic can still add up, so you might want to buy only the organic produce that has the most pesticides. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the Best and Worst for pesticide residues. Find it at and more info at:

Baby Food: Organic on the Grocery Shelf
At your local grocery, you'll find:

Earth's Best
Gerber Organics

You'll find more at stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats:

Plum Organics (frozen)
Happy Baby (frozen)
Bobo Baby (in Canada)
Sweetpea (in Canada)

Additionally, there are some regional organic baby food companies:

World Baby Food-Seattle
Sprouts (home delivered Seattle)
Bohemian Baby (fresh organic) -Southern California
Full Tank Foods-L.A.
Homemade Baby-L.A.
My Nami-L.A.

The sales of organic baby food increased a record 21.6% last year--which means more choices, more competition and better prices for consumers. For current news about organic baby food, see

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

New Fruit-Veggie Juice for Kids!

OK, so your kid loves juice, but you know you shouldn't give him too much because it's a concentrated source of calories and natural sugars. Good news--there's a new fruit-veggie juice combination from Juicy Juice called Harvest Surprise. Slightly lower in carbs and higher in other nutrients due to the veggie addition, you can feel a bit better about the next glass of juice you pour for your toddler.

Remember the AAP recommends a limit of 4-6 ounces. Kids often want more than that--other ideas to making less, more:
  • water it down by up to half
  • add club soda for a fruity soda

Check out the Harvest Surprise Juice at

Lots of cool info and printable stickers too!

Eating Dinner While Watching TV--------------------More Reasons NOT TO!!

We know that eating as a family fosters much more than just family memories-it helps children build vocabulary, it provides a chance for to parents be good role models for their kids and it even reduces the risk of risky behavior for teens.

BUT--eating together WITH the TV on tends to negate some of the positive effects. In a study conducted by the NY State Department of Health, kids who ate dinner with their families while watching TV ate fewer fruits and veggies than when there was no TV.

Bottom Line: Turn the TV off during meals! The AAP recommends that kids under 2 watch no TV; over 2 should limit to 1 or 2 hours of high quality programming. With an emphasis here on high quality, leave the adult sitcoms, crime investigation and other adult themes for TIVO. When you have little ones, you're just destined to have a television diet more aligned with The Wiggles, Dora and Disney!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Cavities Increasing in Baby Teeth--New Study

A new study out today from the CDC ( shows that kids are getting more cavities earlier--bad news for the teeth of 2-5 year olds, 28% of whom have cavities. Dental experts fear that cavities in baby teeth may also mean more cavities in adult teeth. And, if teeth have to be extracted due to extensive decay, that can lead to overcrowding of adult teeth--and perhaps a higher chance of braces? (Braces? you don't want to go there if you can help it--best to learn more about how to take care of you baby's teeth!)

How Can You Prevent Cavities in Your Baby and Toddler?

Read the following excerpt from Baby Bites (available from

How Do Cavities Happen?
It’s a a simple equation: Sugar or starch + bacteria in the mouth + time = acid that destroys tooth enamel and makes a small hole or cavity.

How do you prevent cavities?

That’s relatively simple, too: If you remove any part of the equation, no cavities can
occur. Let’s look at the parts more closely.

Sugar and Starch
Sugars and cooked starches (collectively
called fermentable carbohydrates) are the
only foods that can cause cavities.

Sugar is the number one cavity-causing ingredient. Sticky sugars—caramel, gum,
dried fruit, toffee, taffy, and other chewy or sticky sweets—are especially bad. Because they stick to teeth, they provide an ongoing snack for bacteria. You also need to watch out for sweet drinks. Bacteria use added sugars
in beverages, like sucrose, very efficiently.

Sweet drinks like soda, lemonade, and sports drinks also contain acid, which contributesto cavity-making. Recent research shows that even cough syrups can causecavities because they’re both sweet and acidic.

Starchy foods like bread, potato chips, and pretzels are also cavity-causing.
Research shows that some starchy foods linger on the teeth longer than some typesof candy. Five minutes after eating, there are more food particles left in the mouth from plain donuts, potato chips, cookies, or saltine crackers than from caramel,milk chocolate, or milk chocolate–caramel bars.

The lead cavity-causing bacteria is Mutans streptococci. This bacteria converts the sugar in the mouth into acid. Chances are, this bacteria gets into your baby’s mouth courtesy of you! Mothers are the prime suspects in the transfer of salivary bacteria to babies’ mouths via shared utensils, food, and even kisses. If you have active or untreated cavities, or if you eat a lot of sugar, you’re at higher risk of transferring bacteria to your baby.

The best ways to reduce bacteria in your mouth are eating a healthy diet and practicing proper dental care--that is wiping the teeth with gauze or a baby toothbrush after your baby eats or drinks.

Some people are more prone to cavities than others because they tend to have more cavity-causing bacteria than others. This tendency has a genetic component: If mom and/or dad has more bacteria, their child probably will, too.

After bacteria converts sugar or starch in the mouth into acid, it takes twenty to forty minutes for saliva to neutralize or wash away the acid. So the more often you eat sugar or starch and the longer it stays on your teeth, the more acid bacteria can produce.

Dental Hygiene
See a tooth? Brush it. Then, see a dentist.
A consumer poll done by the Academy of General Dentistry showed that 70
percent of parents wait until their child is three years old to see a dentist. This is way too late! By this age, about 25 percent of kids will already have cavities. Even waiting until age two is too late—at this age, one out of every ten kids already has a cavity.

The best time to visit a dentist is within six months of your baby’s first tooth
appearing. This first visit is simple, educational, and friendly. The dentist usually discusses hygiene techniques and takes a quick look at your baby’s teeth while your baby sits on your lap.

From: Baby Bites, by Bridget Swinney MS, RD, Copyright 2007. Meadowbrook Press

Friday, April 27, 2007

Feeding the Family When It's Time to Go Back to Work

Going Back to Work with a New Baby at Home?
Here are some tips from Baby Bites to help you put good food on the table-fast!

In most families, even though moms put in
the same number of work hours as dads,
they still wear the chef’s hat (not to mention
many other domestic hats) at home.

The first few weeks may find you struggling to do
it all. Here are some tips to help you and
your family continue to eat healthfully.

• Call in favors: Remember all those friends
who said, “If you need anything, just
call…”? Now’s the time. Ask each of
them for a home-cooked meal the week
you go back to work.
• Recruit your partner: If possible, put your
partner in charge of as many meals as
possible. If you make a weekly menu and
plan easy-to-cook meals, even the most
hopeless kitchen klutz should be able to
manage this job.
• Give yourself a break: Plan to eat takeout
meals or have pizza delivered once
or twice a week.
• Use a Crock-Pot: Prep the food in the
evening, turn on the Crock-Pot the next
morning, and—voilà!—supper’s ready
when you get home from work. Plus, it’s
easy to make big batches in a Crock-
Pot. Freeze the extra food for later.
• Start a dinner co-op: Enlist one or two
friends who live close by. When you
cook, you make double or triple and
they pick their dinner up from you. In
return you get one or two great meals
with no cooking.
• Cook on weekends: Cook several meals
on the weekend. Double each recipe,
store the food in freezer containers, and
label each container with the contents
and date. In no time, you’ll have a
freezer full of meals.
• Shop with convenience in mind: Following
are just a few easy-to-cook meals
you can find at most grocery stores.
- Ready-made salads: Spinach is healthiest.
- Cooked, sliced chicken: This is a
versatile ingredient for many quick
- Frozen, cooked shrimp: It thaws quickly
for a shrimp cocktail, a main dish
salad, or prepared vegetable or minestrone
- Family-size deli meals: Many grocery
delis sell heat-and-serve lasagna
and other dishes. Or try family-size
frozen entrées.
- Dinner in a bag: Usually all you have to
add is meat.
- Veggie burgers: Enjoy a burger with all
your favorite fixings—and no guilt!

Copyright 2007. Baby Bites by Bridget Swinney MS, RD. Meadowbrook Press

A Note to Dads

Hey New Dad,

You're probably wondering where you fit into this picture of Mom and baby, especially if mom is breastfeeding.

Yep, for a while, her world will really revolve around the baby, but that doesn't mean you're out of the picture. Think about what you can do to help her provide the best nutrition possible, breastmilk, for your baby. There's plenty you can do!

  • Help her recuperate--they don't call it labor for nothin'! She'll probably appreciate it if you can cook a few meals, do the laundry (there will be lots more than usual!) and anything else to help around the house.
  • Bring her the baby. When it's time to nurse, help by bringing the baby to her. This will save a few steps and help her recuperate.
  • Change the baby--newborns poop almost every time they eat, so take on diaper duty. Your partner will certainly appreciate it!
  • Bring her water and snacks while she's nursing. Nursing moms need to drink and eat a lot-sometimes even more than during pregnancy. Good one handed snacks include: fresh blueberries, a fruit and yogurt smoothie (Stonyfield farms is one great brand), a small bean burrito, Kashi Granola or Go Lean Crunch Bars (tasty yet high in fiber)
  • Feed the baby. Once breastfeeding is well established, ask your wife if she would be willing to pump a little extra so that you can feed the baby. This will also help introduce your baby to a bottle--important if mom is going back to work. Most moms say not to wait past 6 weeks if this is the case, and don't do it before three weeks or you can cause "nipple confusion." Nipple confusion is not pretty--don't go there!
  • Smile and see the humor in the mounds of poopy diapers, spit-ups and middle of the night feedings.
  • Amid the chaos, take a minute for reflection. A new life is a wonderful gift, but realize that sometimes it takes time to adapt!

Changing a Diaper, Baseball Style

How to Change an Old-Fashioned
Cloth Diaper: For Baseball Fans

Spread the diaper in the position of the
diamond with you at bat. Then fold second
base down to home and set the
baby on the pitcher’s mound. Put first
base and third together, bring up home
plate, and pin the three together.

Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the
game and start all over again.

Jimmy Piersall, former major-league

When Nannies and Grannies Take Care of Your Baby

When someone else takes care of your little one, leave nothing to chance! Here's a blurb from Baby Bites about giving instructions to caregivers...

Giving Instructions

The best way to make sure your baby is fed the way you want is to leave nothing to
doubt! It’s best to have bottles of breast milk or formula prepared in advance and in
the refrigerator. Give a list of clear feeding instructions, including:
• When your baby might be hungry
• Your baby’s usual signs of hunger and fullness
• How long a bottle can be left at room temperature safely
• Special instructions, if you have any (for burping, positioning, and so on)
• If your baby is eating solids, a list of foods your baby can and can’t eat

Copyright 2007 Baby Bites by Bridget Swinney MS, RD, Meadowbrook Press