Infant Feeding: Follow Their Lead and Find Their Schedule
December 7, 2010 · Posted in Feeding, Infant Development · Permalink · Comments Off on Infant Feeding: Follow Their Lead and Find Their Schedule

Here is an excerpt about feeding your baby in the first three months from our book A Mother’s Circle. Enjoy!

“My mother says ‘Put her on a schedule!’ my lactation consultant says it’s critical that I feed her on demand, I am totally confused and it’s making me crazy.”

A new mom is not supposed to know exactly when and how to feed her baby. She and her baby are going to learn this together and  their rhythm, pattern and schedule will evolve over time.

The following three examples  illustrate how different babies can be in their daily rhythms. We encourage mothers to adopt a flexible approach to feeding during the first three months and to freely respond to their babies’ cries of hunger. Most babies can tolerate hunger only in small doses before they cry out. To make an infant wait until the clock says it’s time to eat can be overwhelming and disorganizing for her. Gradually your baby will eat larger amounts less frequently. A baby’s early random schedule will naturally develop into a more predictable pattern.

Babies vary in their feeding schedules. To underscore this point, the following are feeding schedules for two different babies–both born at full term, are breastfeeding, weigh within a few ounces of each other, and are less than two weeks apart in age. Their feeding schedules, however, are very different.

Eliza is eight-and–a-half-weeks-old. She wakes for her first nursing sometime around 6:00 A.M. Generally she nurses again at 8:00 A.M. before napping in the morning, after her nap at 10:00 A.M., and then again at 11:30 A.M. Most days she will nurse every two hours until bedtime at 10:30 P.M. She usually wakes sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. for her middle-of-the-night feeding.

Georgia is ten-and-half-weeks-old. For over a month now, she has been waking up in the morning around 7:00 A.M., nursing, playing  and then taking her morning nap. Usually she wakes to feed again at around 11:00A.M. Then she doesn’t need to eat again until the afternoon, approximately 3:00 P.M. She nurses again at 7:00 P.M. and twice during the night, at  11:00 P.M., and 3 A.M.

Some babies are much less regulated, and more difficult to predict and  soothe. Another baby, 7 week old Taylor, for example, has a different pattern every day.  Here’s one day last week. Taylor wakes at 6:00 A.M. and nurses for thirty minutes. She is then alert and responsive for fifteen minutes before she begins to seem uncomfortable, even though she is full and has been burped. She dozes on and off until 7:30 A.M. when she cries again and is not soothed by the pacifier or being held and rocked. Her mother feeds her again. This cycle continues throughout the day, feeding about every one and a half hours, with one two-hour nap while being strolled. Every time the stroller stops Taylor starts. While she will go down to sleep at 8:15 P.M. and have her longest stretch until 11:30 P.M., the rest of the night is marked by frequent wakings, feedings, and fussiness. It is no wonder her parents feel overwhelmed.

Here are some suggestions if your baby sounds like Taylor. One is more time on the belly. Pressure on the belly from a mattress or a pad on the floor can help to stabilize a tender or raw gastrointestinal system. Because babies spend much more time on their backs since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended back sleeping, babies have been getting much less time on their tummies. Even if your baby is not overly fussy, it is important to remember to put your baby on her stomach for short supervised periods throughout the day.

Another suggestion is to offer water in a bottle in between feedings to give more time for the baby to fully digest between feedings. It is common with a chronically uncomfortable baby to get into the habit of very frequent feedings. In this vicious cycle the baby’s body doesn’t get enough time to process each feeding before gearing up to digest the next.

A third recommendation is to use the pacifier, the sling, the stroller, the swing, drives in the car, or whatever seems to prolong periods of sleep or calm. As your baby moves into the third and fourth month, the need for all this intervention will wane. Try not to worry that you are setting up bad habits.

As you can see from these examples there is no “textbook” baby. Anytime you hear people give a recipe for feeding that applies to all babies, take it with a grain of salt. Get to know your own baby, follow their sometimes unpredictable lead,  and  trust that in a few short months an organic pattern will emerge that you can then use to set a schedule that is right for your baby.

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Peek-A-Boo As Medicine For Autism
November 11, 2010 · Posted in Autism, Infant Development, Parenting, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on Peek-A-Boo As Medicine For Autism

Autism rates in the US are 1 in 110 children according to the Center for Disease control. Lack of eye contact and smiling in babies and toddlers are signs of autism. In many ways autism is a disorder of social/emotional connection, so it makes sense that early symptoms are found in the arena of intimate face to face contact and play. The Early Start Denver Model is an intervention program of daily therapy involving social games and pretend play for children with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Results of randomized trials of the therapy are reported in the journal Pediatrics and show gains in IQ and adaptive behavior.

This highlights the importance of interactive social games as the underpinnings for the healthy development of all children. What seem like the old and silly games of Peek-a boo, chase, and the slow, high-pitched “Parent-ese” speak may seem “babyish”, but this is exactly what all babies thrive on. If you are concerned about your baby’s social interactivity in the first year, consult your doctor, but on the home front the immediate presciption is for peek a boo.

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What Toys Are Important For Babies?
September 30, 2010 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Play · Permalink · Comments (1) are undeniably the most important toys for babies.  They love looking at you, listening to you and dancing and bouncing with you.  Toys that encourage kids to explore and create are also important.

The toy industry is certainly booming and there is a plethora of options for parents.  Many times parents will say that their baby prefers the box the toy came in over the toy – remember that babies are curious beings and they like to explore.  The box is new to them.  Water play or any kind of tactile exploration can bring a lot of inexpensive enjoyment to your baby.  Feel free to experiment with different surfaces and watch your baby respond (sitting in the grass vs sitting on a fuzzy blanket).

Babies and children come hard-wired with an intrinsic fascination in music, whether it is you singing, playing with shakers or beating on a drum.  The important key here is that pitch is not important to babies – you may not believe that you have a good singing voice, but your baby doesn’t care.  He loves that you are singing and they you are enjoyed in play with him.

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What Kind Of Play Will Help My Baby Learn?
July 20, 2010 · Posted in Education, Fatherhood, Infant Development, Parenting, Play · Permalink · Comments Off on What Kind Of Play Will Help My Baby Learn?

educational-toys-leftYour baby is always learning. Whether you are singing to your baby, shaking a rattle for them, or running errands, your baby is taking in the world and learning. When it comes to play, the trusted adults and the physical world are your baby’s best playmate. No need for fancy toys – simple rattles, balls, books and blocks will do. Playing peek-a-boo, singing, crawling around and tickling will do more for your baby than any organized class for infants.

Of course, the kind of play that you engage in with your baby depends greatly on his attention span and tolerance for stimulation. Parents can quickly learn the signs that a baby is enjoying the play or needs  a break and is becoming overstimulated.  Clearly a smiling and laughing baby is having a great time – keep it up!  A baby who diverts his gaze away from a parent or turns away is needing a break. Usually a baby will give one of these more subtle signs before crying.  Of course, if he begins to cry, then he is unequivocally saying “enough!”

And moms-pay attention! Research has shown that active play with kids, the kind most typical of dads, affords kids great advantages in terms of their social competence, emotional development, as well as verbal reasoning and problem solving.  So let their dads play away and don’t try to get them to play like you. They have their own style and it is just as important as more toned down play.

Let your baby explore the world on their own. Using their own senses and being the masters of their fun is important as well. If they are content and “doing their own thing” you are not being neglectful. Let them keep growing that ability to entertain themselves.

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Goo Goo Gaa Gaa
July 6, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Infant Development, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Goo Goo Gaa Gaa

Whether you feel silly or elated when you talk to your baby in “baby talk”, you should know that you are doing one of your most important jobs as a parent. The high pitched, drawn out, sing songy, repetitive “parent speak”, as it is now called in the field of infant research, is the perfect way to communicate with your baby. “Parent speak” is innate and cross cultural. It is a foundation of language development.

Often you hear parents say they want to talk to their child like they are more grown up so they will learn to speak more quickly, or with more sophistication. They fight the instinct to speak in baby talk. It’s helpful to know that it is precisely speaking this way that paves the way for complex conversation.

Ellen Galinsky, a seasoned professional in child development, lays out the most important research in the field of language acquisition in her new book “Mind in the Making”.  Some of  the best infant research show that parent speak also regulates the mood of the baby and helps children get into the quiet, alert state in which they learn best. So go ahead, make a fool of yourself with abandon- it’s educational!

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Today’s Culture, Your Eating History And Your Baby
June 29, 2010 · Posted in Breastfeeding, Feeding, Infant Development · Permalink · Comments Off on Today’s Culture, Your Eating History And Your Baby


Food- we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it. This age old lament is sadly how many women experience their relationship to eating, weight and food. Food can be one of our greatest pleasures as well as our most oppressive jail. Once we become mothers we are highly influential in helping form our child’s relationship to eating. This excerpt from A Mother’s Circle takes a closer look at the topic of food and motherhood and all that it encompasses:

Food plays a powerful, elemental role in our lives. It is, and always will be, associated with deeply cherished rituals and celebrations. Tastes and aromas can unlock childhood memories. Meals and eating give a rhythm to the days and mark the passage of seasons and holidays. Feelings about food, eating, and mealtimes from your own childhood will affect your response to feeding your baby.

In addition to one’s own personal history about food, present day attitudes also affect the feeding of your baby. Our culture presents dual, incompatible fantasies: first, a “perfect” (thin) body equals happiness, and second, that fast food is all-American fare. Unavoidable images of model-sleek women pull the rug out from the average female’s respect for her own body and distort her natural appetite. For many teenage girls and women, diet soda and self-denial are a way of life and anorexia is the challenge that symbolizes this. For others, over-indulgence is a different form of obsession. Meanwhile, junk food, fast food and caffeine-laced soft drinks are staples of our national diet. Obesity has become a primary health concern across the country: sixty percent of Americans are overweight.

So even if you have not personally struggled with an eating disorder, it is impossible not to be affected by the cultural norms and expectations about weight and diet. As a mother embarking on the process of teaching another human being about food, it can be helpful and important to look at your own feelings about food, weight and body image.
Many mothers recall tremendous pressure to be thin or conversely, to finish all the food on their plate. By examining your own family of origins’ attitudes about weight and eating you can become aware of unconscious worry that may be provoked by feeding your baby. Many new mothers worry about under- or overfeeding their babies. Monthly visits to the pediatrician that confirm an average and steady weight gain do little to help. Sometimes this worry is set off when a mother and baby have a difficult time getting started with breastfeeding or when, for example, a baby has been extremely fussy and seems to find relief only when she is eating. If a mother’s preoccupations linger despite the fact that her baby is thriving, her own history may offer an explanation.

Many mothers confide that though they never had a weight problem themselves, a siblings’ struggle with food or weight has affected them. These feelings can get tangled up in the feeding process with your new baby and take away from the pleasure of nourishing your infant.
It is no wonder, given all these influences, that some mothers do not trust their babies’ appetites either. But they can. A healthy baby will naturally eat the amount she or he needs. Mothers offer a great gift to their children by giving them a sense of control over the eating process, as well as a natural, unencumbered appreciation for food.

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Viral Science Gone Viral: The Truth About Vaccines
February 16, 2010 · Posted in Autism, Infant Development, Parenting, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

stickyantiboThere has been so much controversy and worry in the last ten years about vaccinating babies.  Much of the reason for this began with a 1998 paper in the reputable medical journal Lancet. The paper, by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, linked autism to the MMR vaccine.

That hypothesis, the rise in autism and the media’s amplification of both spread the link between vaccines and autism like wild fire. Cynicism about the pharmaceutical industry and our health care system was the gasoline on that fire.

Parents, frightened over their child’s well being, delayed or even refused to vaccinate their children. So here is some important news for parents. Lancet has recently issued a public retraction of this paper.  NPR reports, “…an official British medical investigation found Wakefield’s methods, quote, ‘dishonest and irresponsible.'” Imagine how many parents have unnecessarily worried and how many children were not vaccinated in the last ten years because of bad science.

Click on the link below to hear a clear, interesting and sound report from NPR’s Morning Edition on the state of vaccines today.

Vaccines’ Benefits Trump Concerns, Experts Say

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Open an Attachment
January 7, 2010 · Posted in Infant Development · Permalink · Comments Off on Open an Attachment


Watching the love affair between mothers and their babies is a privileged part of working with families at Soho Parenting. It has informed and shaped our academic knowledge about psychological development. Here is an except from our book, A Mother’s Circle that describes that very early relationship. Enjoy!

Attachment and Separation

Attachment and separation are elemental issues between parent and child. Invisible, immeasurably powerful ties connect them. At times these ties will bind and pull; at times they will stretch, turn, and spin. It is a dance that lasts a lifetime.
You and your husband were probably deeply attached to your baby well before he was even born. During the course of the pregnancy a mysterious, expectant relationship is formed with the life growing within. Parents-to-be often talk to their unborn baby, sing to him, “listen” to him hiccup, feel him kick and move. They have heard the tick-tick-tick of their baby’s heart racing along, loud and clear, amplified at the obstetrician’s office. Some have chosen to learn the gender of their baby and even have a name picked out. Well before their child is born, he seems to have an identity and a full, projected life of his own.
Adoptive parents also experience a prenascent attachment as they wait for the news that a baby can be theirs. They project hopes and fears on an unknown, but very real child as they prepare a nest and a place in their hearts for his homecoming. Sometimes expectations are raised only to be dashed. And yet, despite the stress of waiting and not knowing, these candidates for parenthood remain faithfully attached to the idea of a baby in their arms.
Some adoptive parents worry about the separation their child has already experienced. Some focus on the initial encounter and wonder if they will instantly love their adopted baby. We have heard mothers say that they were instantaneously attached to their adopted babies from the first moment they first held them in their arms, while others describe more difficulty in feeling connected. The same can be said of birth mothers, and it is important to know that attachment is not built on first impressions and reactions. Nor does it always happen at the moment of birth, that mythical bonding often described. Rather, connections between a baby and his parents are made in daily trickles and surges, as over time their relationship widens and deepens.

Early Attachment

As you tend to your baby and watch his development unfold you may be filled with unparalleled feelings of love, protectiveness, awe, and pride. You may become aware of how merged with your baby you feel—psychologically, emotionally, and somehow even physically. This merged feeling, this romantic symbiosis of sorts, is exactly what your baby thrives on. He needs you to fall in love with him, for you are his partner, mirror, interpreter, nurturer, savior, mother-love. It is on this base of secure dependence that a baby builds a sense of himself, and a sense of independence.
In the early weeks and months of your baby’s life, although he is undoubtedly dependent on you, it may not be clear that your baby is attached specifically to you. In fact, most infants up to eight weeks appear relatively indiscriminate. They will let almost anybody hold them, change them, or give them a bottle. They look with interest at any engaging face. They do not give clear signs that they recognize their parents. It’s no wonder, then, that a mother may catch herself thinking, “Would any competent pair of hands do?”
Although there is much that is mundane and repetitive in the care of a newborn, the job is far from custodial. Less visible than a brimming laundry basket and diaper pail at the end of the
day ar e the myriad connections that have taken place between mother and child. During the course of one twelve-hour day, a new mother may kiss her baby more than a hundred times, have dozens of “conversations” with him, and sing as many songs or nursery rhymes. This loving connection is the treasure hidden in the groundwork of a baby’s daily care. It is the most important goal and the most important accomplishment of the first year. Crucial to his emotional and cognitive development, it is the foundation from which he will establish and enjoy meaningful relationships.
Most new parents would be surprised to learn how reciprocal the attachment process is and how complex and capable their infants are. There is evidence that when a newborn is a few hours old, he recognizes and gravitates toward his parents’ voices and that he can use his sense of smell to differentiate his mother from other new mothers. An infant’s vision is far better than previously believed. And a baby is driven to get loving attention as surely as he is driven to be fed and to sleep.
The connection to your baby, and his to you, grows as you experience all kinds of feelings together, both positive and negative. A colicky infant can be grueling to cope with, upsetting and stressful to his parents. When crying and discomfort far outweigh smiling and cuddling it can be difficult to feel as though a loving relationship is developing. But colicky babies become attached just as other babies do. And so do their parents. In fact, caring for a needy, uncomfortable, or sick infant can make a parent particularly sensitive and responsive to a baby’s needs and comfort levels. As such, difficult periods with your baby may actually contribute to the depth of the relationship, not limit or define it.

As Attachment Grows

Your newborn’s dark, round, unblinking eyes draw you in as surely as a lover’s gaze. His infant yawns and stretches, his quivering hands and velvety skin invite admiration and touch. His first baby smiles, given to you and the world, ensure delight and attention. And then, sometime after his eighth week, his seduction act becomes focused on you alone. You are the one he wants. You are the one that can soothe and settle him and make him shine. No one can match you or replace you. By the time he is twelve weeks, a baby will flaunt his mother-love. When she comes into sight, he turns his head in her direction, his eyes and expression brighten, he kicks, waves his arms, makes sounds and smiles. He has come to know that this someone understands him and takes care of him. Her arms feel right, her smell is familiar and pleasurable, and she knows the rhythms and pace of his days and nights. These intense feelings of closeness can be some of the most fulfilling experiences in life.

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How To Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety
December 29, 2009 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Play, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on How To Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety

Hide_and_seek_by_AnniikaHide and Seek and Peek-A-Boo. Plain and simple. These games of childhood have withstood the test of time and exist across cultures because they provide an important psychological function for babies and children. In play, they enact and reenact losing and finding a special person. This helps children keep the presence of their caregiver in mind, while not in sight. Through the build up of nervous excitement, laughter, and relief — all the elements of a goodbye and reunion are there in compressed form.

So if your baby is starting to cry when you walk out of the room, or your toddler weeps when you leave for work, or your preschooler is glued to your leg crying at drop-off for school, play these games more at home. In addition to the reminder that you always come back, the soothing that the babysitter or teacher provides on the other end is equally important for emotional development.  These largely nonverbal, play and body-based games help your child grow in their ability to tolerate separations from those they love.

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Introduction To Solids: Let the Oatmeal Shampoo Begin
October 15, 2009 · Posted in Feeding, Infant Development · Permalink · Comments (2)


Here is an excerpt from A Mother’s Circle on infant feeding. Bon Appetite!

Now that you have finally got the knack of breast or bottle feeding you and your baby are on to a whole new experience. Real food!

Solid foods can be introduced any time between four and six months. Initially, your baby’s eating experience is just that—an experience. She might swallow a little but most of her food will end up on her chin or bib. Once the baby gets used to the experience of eating from a spoon and has more familiarity with new tastes and textures she will generally turn her attention to actively eating.

Learning your Baby’s Signs of Hunger and Fullness
Hunger and fullness are still your guideposts when offering solids. As important as offering food when you think your baby is hungry is allowing her to tell you when she is finished. This may be after two tablespoons or a bowlful of cereal. Try not to cajole your baby into opening her mouth for one more bite because you want the bowl to be clean, even though it might feel good to you. Let your baby tell you when the meal is over. A baby has some very direct ways of saying this. One is to shut her mouth tightly. Another is to turn her head to the side. Another is to spit her food out. Although this seems pretty obvious, it is hard to know whether she is communicating “No more, thank you” or “I want to play for a minute.” One workable rule of thumb is to offer a spoonful twice after the first rejection. If your baby’s answer is “no” two more times, end the feeding.

Throughout a baby’s first year, eating solids and making a mess are synonymous. A baby will want to touch, squeeze, paint with and smear food everywhere. Her eyes remain completely innocent as she gives herself an oatmeal facial or a carrot shampoo. It may be easier to see the humor in this if you keep in mind that this will not last forever. Most mothers agree, however, that day in and day out, the mess a baby makes with food requires patience, tolerance and plenty of cleaning up.
There is no way to stop a baby from getting messy while learning to eat solid foods. One idea to cut down on the laundry is to let your baby enjoy the messiest meal in the evening, with just her diaper and T-shirt on. Then you can take your baby directly to the bath from the high chair. Remember, a primary goal is for your baby to get a sense that eating is fun—that mealtimes are interesting, positive, and enjoyable, and that she can explore a little bit and control a little bit. Your baby may want to eat and then baby talk and laugh with you, or rub her hands in the food. She is in the process of learning a whole new way of eating.

Appetite Changes
It is not imperative that your baby eats the same amount at every meal. Like adults, babies can be more or less hungry on different days. Don’t worry if there are days when your baby won’t eat much at all. All babies have appetite and growth spurts as well as lulls throughout this period.
Mothers often ask what time of day to introduce the first meal and how to space solid meals and liquid ones. Start the first feeding at a time when both you and your baby can relax into it the most. If you have to rush out to work in the morning, start with dinner, if the morning is your quietest time, start with breakfast. The “dining ambience” is more important than the time of day.
A typical eating schedule for a baby who has increased to three meals a day is outlined below. The milk feedings are breast or bottle feedings. You can offer a “sippy” cup with water along with meals in the high chair. Remember these are approximate times.
7:00 A.M.:    milk
8:00 A.M.:    solid breakfast
9:30 A.M.:    nap
11:00 A.M.:    milk
12:00 P.M.:    solid lunch
1:00 P.M.:    nap
4:00 P.M.:    milk
5:00 P.M.:    solid dinner
7:00 P.M.:    milk

As your baby grows, her desire for independence will increase but not uniformly in all areas of development. Her increase in autonomy regarding feeding may happen at six or seven months or not until the end or even beyond the first year. When it does happen, her opinions will become noticeably stronger and she will want to try to do things without your help. She may want to hold her spoon herself or she may want to scoop up her cereal with her hands. She may reject foods she had been eating with pleasure and show curiosity about new ones.
When your baby begins to show interest in feeding herself, you may not be able to tell the difference between eating and creative play. To allow for your baby’s independent efforts and also get her fed, try using two spoons—one for her to play with and one for you to feed her with. Encourage your baby to feed herself and to try new things but allow her to develop at her own rate. Some days she will feel less ambitious than others and will want you to feed her.
Some babies by nature are simply more finicky about food. This can be frustrating, but it is important to recognize and accept. If your baby wants only to eat four or five different foods and rejects all others, supply what she likes. Eating should not be an arena for confrontation. If you give her  the message that what she likes is alright with you, you will sidestep battles about food that might otherwise last for years. Continue to introduce and offer new foods and encourage new tastes, but don’t force the issue. Her tastes will broaden naturally with time.
People usually think of a balanced diet in terms of a single meal. With babies and young children eating habits are so erratic that this balance usually occurs only over the course of a week or even up to a month. If your baby only wants to eat applesauce and cereal for three days in a row, and then switches to carrots and Cheerios for two days and then will only eat yogurt and macaroni for the next two, any given day seems unbalanced. But judged as a whole, over a longer period of weeks, her intake has been fairly well balanced.

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