Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The first trimester

Congratulations you are pregnant!! Once you hear these magical words from the doctor you have mixed feelings never is that just joy,its always mixed with apprehension and some unknowns. Trust me though it is humanity's oldest feeling, for each woman it is very new and very very different! Am not going to tell you here about what generally follows next but about some things which you might not have expected in the midst of all euphoria...

Firstly sit with your spouse and calmly focus on all possible implications this new responsibility is going to have on your relationship and openly discuss each one's fears, dreams aspirations and ideas about pregnancy and child birth and during the second trimester discuss child rearing,passing of values,beliefs and general outline about parental role that you are poised to play. This is very important because pregnancy which I believe belongs to the couple is suddenly hijacked by mothers,mother-in-laws, female friends,aunties n all the female brigade n the poor husband is left out of the whole sacred and amazing process of child birth. This is very important to sit together and discuss all things and define each others roles for the days n years to come and assure each other of unstinting support in all new circumstances.
Secondly draw up a health schedule for yourself. Google about pregnancy friendly exercises and see what suits your body type and current state of body. Seek your doctor's guidance regarding this and plan out your food intake and subsequent weight gain which is healthy and normal. Most doctors will have a general idea about how much weight gain would be right for you and will readily give a month by month or trimester weight gain pattern for you. Each one's body is unique and each one's response to pregnancy is bound to differ,hence carefully plan out your food intake, meal timings and stick to them religiously. Its very important that your body gets all the vital nutrients required during pregnancy,childbirth and nursing. Be in charge of your food intake since the day you know you are pregnant.
Cravings have long been glorified during pregnancy. But realise that strong desire to eat something sour or spicy or sweet is not the baby inside asking for a particular food item!! How can it! Its your own body crying out for attention, pointing out a severe deficiency! Read your body signals well. If you crave for sour things maybe its vitamin C that you need rather than some salty sour snack! Do not forget your basic education which equips you to be curious, ask questions and seek rational answers than just follow what everyone tells you. Nothing which discomforts you is normal during pregnancy, so if someone tells you to live with it, ask your doctor. Consider your body as a factory and the baby your finished product. Its your complete responsibility to provide your body all necessary raw material for the creation of a perfect product. If you get lax or ignore the demands of your body now,it won't hurt you right now but later post delivery the body will show signs of extreme wear and tear. So be informed and happy in the long run.
Walking and yoga have been my preferences during my pregnancy,it can vary for each one of you. If its walking for you,set up a goal, say 1000 steps twice a day. These are not to be calculated with all the moving around during the day but an additional task to your day. Walking near greenery and barefoot on grass if possible will help. If not wear comfortable flat footwear and walk.
Keep a small journal to note down any new feelings,thoughts and bodily changes along with questions about the next developmental stage of your baby and your body's response to it. Take this journal along for your visits to the doctor. Discuss things with the doctor and stay informed. Read up various references and books and get to know the massive miracle you are living out. Than just relying on what others have to share regarding pregnancy(trust me a lot of unsolicited advice comes your way)the right information helps you parse all the info avalanche headed your way!
Another very important thing which you should accept and behave likewise,pregnancy is a natural state of the body its not a disease. Even if you are puking all day n living in the bathroom half day, it still is not a disease at all and hence enjoy all pampering once in a while but do not make it a reason to lounge at home each day!! Go on with your life as normally and just a bit more carefully than you otherwise would. In fact set up goals to be fully mobile till the very last day of your pregnancy. Unless the doctor has enforced strict rest ,keep doing all your activities normally.
Keep a keen tab on all your feelings and responses. With the body poised for major tasks ahead,hormonal changes will be rapid and taking hold of your emotional state as well. Think rationally before responding to anyone or any situation, it will save you a lot of trouble later on when you return to being your normal self approximately two years from your first trimester.
Pregnancy also should bring out the imaginative and creative streak in you! After all you are poised to be apprentice of mother Nature and create your life's masterpiece in form of your child. The mental frame of a pregnant woman always should be positive is what we know but if we look further into it, if the mother to be has an optimistic frame of mind she can always channel her positivity into creating a healthy, wise, brave and happy human being. We all admire successful people but do we realise we are given a chance to mould a perfect human being when we are pregnant. Your country, your world needs brave, beautiful, compassionate people, leaders and visionaries and in pregnancy each mother,each father is offered a chance to change the world. If you even begin to consider how powerful that is, am sure each pregnant woman will end up being responsible, healthy, happy and determined to change the world.
Read more about the second trimester and third trimester in the following posts...
Be creative! be imaginative!! momma :-)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Talking to the Unborn baby

Coming from India, where there are roots of ‘Garbhasanskar’- learning in the womb concept, I was very intrigued by the whole concept and when I learnt about my pregnancy, I was more than enthusiastic to try it out! I first thought it would be easy to talk to my own baby, so what if she was still not present in front of me, I would still talk! But turned out such that I felt little embarrassed to sit to myself and talk aloud with my baby…so I decided I would try something else!
I was completing my research about teaching adults to talk in Russian, while I was pregnant, so taking a leaf from all those theories, I simply started reading aloud, my own thesis work and references to myself or my unborn child! This seemed to work! I was really not expecting any response at all but just some reading aloud nostalgia from school times…

Also I began to talk in my mind about my future plans, desires and general aspirations from the child and myself after she was born. I began to narrate current events and happenings to my baby too! Later when she was born, I used to read aloud the newspaper reports while nursing her. People around me gave me quizzical looks but to me it did not matter, as long as I was bonding with my baby with thoughts and words!
To check the validity of the mythological claim that children absorb and learn complex things while in the womb, I began playing Hindustani classical music to my unborn baby. It was particularly soothing in the last trimester, when I would get all worked up, nervous at times for no apparent reason. I also attended a live concert featuring Ustaad Zakir Hussian that was the first time I felt my baby move! It was a double delight indeed!
Later each day after practicing yoga, chanting the Gayatri Mantra nearly 21 times a day, and other shlokas, I would listen to tabla recordings of Ustaad Zakir Hussain for about half an hour or so. It used to soothe my nerves and make me feel really perked up on days when my hormones went racing! That inner calm which I experienced was not mine alone is what I merely sensed but cannot ever prove!
As the trimesters moved on, I felt a thin, fragile bond being created between me and my unborn child, it was a very subtle feeling, yet very definite! Each new raga we explored together, each new classical concert we attended, I realized this was indeed special, as I personally have no particular inclination towards classical music, frankly it could put me off to sleep at times. But during pregnancy, it soothed me and comforted me by literally carving out notes on my silence.
Finally when my daughter was born, and she cried the very first time, I replayed the same tabla recording which I had been repeatedly listening before delivery. Miracle or not, she stopped crying, as if to realize she was in familiar surroundings, though the whole birthing experience might have been way more taxing for her, the music enveloped her and reassured her, that she is amongst familiar people, her own!
Being a colicky child, she was prone to long spells of crying, and though not all times, I could prevent her crying most of the times, by playing her comfort music-tabla! It worked wonders! I still call Ustaad Zakir as her favorite baby sitter! It still works well, when she is throwing a tantrum! Totally diffuses her temper and there she sits, all attentive, unblinking staring at the laptop screen or listening to the music while travelling in the car! Thanks to that CD we have been taking her on road trips across India and now USA!
Am not sure, she will follow some starry footsteps and become a table player but what I know for sure now is that the sounds indeed permeate the womb walls and reach those yet to be formed ears!
Ideally I would suggest new mothers to start this process around month 4 or 6 and continue till the end leading up to delivery and beyond! It works well! You can try your own favorite music or something totally opposite of your own choice. Talk or better still read out some of your favorite books, and they need not be children’s books, read out novels you like or feel inspired reading!

More on this, talking to your child after she is born! That’s for the next post! Keep reading! (Pun intended) J

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Home-made baby food!

A market place flooded with convenience foods for all, adults and children alike, there is hardly any incentive to cook food at home especially when the new mother is sleep deprived and tired all day tending to her baby.
But I urge young mothers to push themselves a little further, prudently enough, to realize that these few years are the foundation blocks of eating habits which will last your baby a lifetime!
Even if you decide to feed the baby homemade food, do you find yourself running out of ideas? Also, still worried about the nutrition your baby is getting? Worry not! I faced similar questions and based on my first year as a mother, I am putting down some recipes which are easy to make, liked by babies and importantly nutritious!

Firstly you have to understand, your child is no culinary competition judge, so you don’t need to overdo when it comes to spices and garnish! Secondly appearance, well texture precedes appearance for the baby at this stage. Lastly and most importantly, quantity! The baby food is meant for the baby, so instead of preparing in adult portion sizes and then eating that battered bland puree as a mother’s compulsory lunch side dish, make smaller and manageable portion sizes for the baby food!
1.      Rice+cumin+clarified butter
1 tablespoon rice
1 pinch of cumin/cumin powder
1 tablespoon clarified butter
½ cup boiled water/distilled water
1 pinch rock salt

Clean the rice by running cold water over it once and draining it. In a small pot, pour ½ cup boiled/distilled water and allow it to heat, after 1 minute, add rice and cumin powder, let the rice get cooked thoroughly. Check a grain to confirm. There will be additional water left in the pot even after the rice is cooked. Do not throw it away, mash the rice into that remaining water and make a watery rice solution. Add a pinch of rock salt and let the mixture reach room temperature. Add 1 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee) , mix and serve.
This mixture contains rice, which is relatively easy to digest for the baby, who still has gaps in his/her intestinal track, hence cannot digest top feed easily. Clarified butter is added in large quantities, to ensure smooth passage of the food, through the food pipe and intestines, which are still in a developmental phase.
Rock salt instead of regular table salt, as rock salt aids digestion, and doesn’t contain as much sodium and iodine as regular table salt. Sodium even in smaller quantities puts a lot of pressure on the small kidneys of the baby for filtration systems of the kidneys is yet to settle down. Cumin is added to tease and develop the taste buds of the baby.
 The baby can have up to 1/3 rd bowl of such rice gruel during the initial days and as the appetite grows, the water to rice proportion can be altered, and the child can have this preparation till it reaches the age of 1.5 years
2.      Apple+cinnamon sauce
1 apple
1 small stick of cinnamon
2 cups boiled/distilled water
Peel the apple and dice into small pieces, crush the stick of cinnamon and add these to a pot containing 2 cups water. Let the apple cook on even flame/medium heat till tender. Once the apple pieces are tender and disintegrating, remove from heat and let it cool. Once cooled, place on a steel mesh/strainer and using a spoon mash evenly and strain the flesh of the apple. Mix the strained applesauce with some boiled water, to make it runny consistency and serve.
This is regular applesauce, but home made. This can be made in advance and stored in clear glass bottles and refrigerated. Ensure it is used within 3-4 days. Ensure the sauce is at room temperature before you serve your baby.
Apple being a storehouse of good vitamins, having a baby friendly texture, even after cooking, is a universal favorite of mothers! Cinnamon not only gives a distinct sweet spicy flavor, but also keeps bacteria and stomach irritation at bay. It soothes sore throats as well! Note that there is no need to add sugar or honey or any other sweetening agent to baby food at this age or any age, as sugar may deposit on the gums and tiny teeth of the baby causing cavities as your baby is still not using a tooth brush regularly.
The baby can begin having 1/3 bowl of such sauce and can have it up to the age of 8 months. Later the baby can be encouraged to bite slivers of apple, during the teething time, instead of giving plastic teethers.
3.      Moong dal(split green gram)+rice+cumin
½ tablespoon moong dal
1 tablespoon rice
1 pinch cumin/cumin powder
2 cups boiled/distilled water
1 tablespoon clarified butter
Clean the moong dal and rice by running water over them. In a pot bring water to boil, add moong dal and rice and cumin to it. Let it cook thoroughly. There will be excess water retained even after cooking. Mash the dal and rice into that water and add a pinch of rock salt and 1 tablespoon clarified butter to it. Serve once at room temperature.
Moong dal is easy to digest and does not cause flatulence. If your baby is colicky, avoid any flatulence causing foods for the baby. Clarified butter eases the passage and digestion of the food.
This is a very nutritious gruel and can be served to the baby with varying proportions of water, rice and dal as the age and food requirement of the baby advances.
4.      Raisin water
1 tablespoon raisins
½ cup boiled/distilled water
Heat the water till warm and remove from heat. Add raisins to the water and soak overnight. Blend the raisins with the water and serve.
Raisins aid digestion and also have a natural sweet taste for the baby to savour. It helps in colic to an extent.
You can do this same blend by replacing raisins with dried figs also. The figs are iron rich.
5.      Popped rice + water
½ cup Popped rice (please note popped rice is not puffed rice)
1 cup boiled/distilled water
Warm water and add popped rice
The popped rice will disintegrate in the water, mix the gruel and let it cool before serving.
Popped rice very light, easy to digest for the baby and this gruel is effective in soothing the tummy.
6.      Sweet potato+clove sauce
1 sweet potato
1 clove
2 cups boiled/distilled water
Thoroughly clean and peel the sweet potato, dice it into small squares.
In a pot boil water and add the diced sweet potato and clove. Once cooked and cooled, mash and pass through a strainer. The gruel can be given directly to the baby or can be diluted with small quantities of milk.
Sweet potatoes are nature’s multivitamin! With B6, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and D, they are just the right food for your baby!
At the age of 4.5 months or whenever your pediatrician advices, you should start supplementing breast milk or formula with top feed. Initially the quantity consumed will be very less, but gradually it will grow. Try and feed the baby small quantities of closest to natural foods, by just steaming or boiling them. Do not add sugar or manipulate the taste of natural foods because unless the baby knows the real taste of each item served, it will tend to be biased towards one particular taste which dominates his palate.  This will lead to troublesome habits during toddlerhood and beyond. Fussy eaters are not as much inherent, what is being served to the baby initially will largely decide if your baby will be a fussy eater in the future.
Also for babies, remember to use smallest of the available spoons, avoid plastic spoons and use silver or silver coated spoons as far as possible. Silver has anti-bacterial properties and easy to clean as well. Hence there are far less chances of your baby developing an infection once he/she starts consuming top feed. Also use the smallest size of bowls, again preferably steel or glass.
Also instead of a fancy bib, just drape a long soft washcloth around the baby and the seat, with newspapers spread around the baby seat or even below it. It makes cleaning up after the baby easy!
Also always taste a bit of the prepared food, for temperature, taste and texture before feeding it to your baby and do not ever add salt or spices according to your mature adult taste. The baby food can continue to be bland even after the baby begins to eat regular food.
Enjoy your new challenge mommy chef!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feeding the baby

As adults we take for granted our food habits and digestive system to a large extent, and as mothers of small children we suddenly are faced with the big question of what to feed our child? How much? And how to prepare special baby food?
As a young mother myself, I too faced this problem, and came up with some plain, some innovative and some practical solutions. I am sharing them here for all new, young mothers, who wish to give the very best to their babies.
As much as we have heard that the best food for the baby is mother’s breast milk, some mothers cannot breastfeed the child for various reasons up to the mandated 1st year of the child. I would coax mothers to have a very positive and assertive approach towards breastfeeding and be very open to various ideas, positions and finally once you and your baby are comfortable with breastfeeding, it will be the best gift you can ever give your child! If you manage to exclusively breastfeed your baby for 6 months of his/her life, it will be good enough, and up to the first birthday would be perfect!

But after 6 months, the growth spurts in the child are so rapid that exclusive breastfeeding is not able to provide all the necessary nourishment to the growing needs of your baby. At this stage, if you start supplementing breast milk with top feed, this will help your baby to transition to solid foods easily. As we know, babies need to be fed every couple of hours. Once they are reaching their 6 month birthdays, by then their routine is pretty much set. As mothers we know how often they need to be fed either at the breast or by bottle. Now as the 6 month mark nears, we should try and pick a relaxed time say noon or early evening, when the baby is in a playful mood, and slowly introduce rice water, or vegetable stew, just a few sips initially, preferably at room temperature, with minimal spices or garnish, the gourmet in the baby is yet to discover tastes, or have tastes like the mature adult tongue. But avoid giving extreme sugary or sweetened food as well. Keep the food tastes as close as possible to its natural flavor, so the baby can taste and register the flavor for future reference.
Slowly try and replace one meal during noon time or early evening, with this new top feed. And ensure the baby is getting sated with its new meal. Once the baby begins to accept one meal which is non-breast milk or formula, slowly add two more such top feed meals, during the course of next 3 months. So by the 9th month birthday of your baby you have 3 top feed meals for the baby, now supplemented with breast milk or formula.
I must agree that it is not so easy to supplement meals, nor is it easy to make the baby eat top feed. And it is also very difficult for a new mother to whip up healthy meals in a jiffy for the baby and keep track of them, their contents, and the baby’s reaction to those meals. The easy way out could be commercially prepared add-on meals, like Farex, Cerelac, Nestle etc. As educated adults I would appeal to fellow mothers to once read the entire contents of the packet, Google them, know what they actually contain, and then take a call, whether they are fine with feeding all those chemicals and products to their babies. Am not personally against convenience foods per say, but for our own babies, who are just beginning to eat, do we want to fill up their tiny bodies with such complexities is my only question. For me the answer was no! Hence I decided to go on and prepare home cooked meals for my baby and over time I realized that it is indeed easy and more nutritious for my baby.
The top feed introduced at 6 months and given up to year one is going to form the foundation of your baby’s digestive habits, food tastes and preferences and most importantly set tone for the baby’s adulthood eating patterns. When so much is at stake, I think every sane parent would like to think and rethink about every choice they are making. Having this clear understanding, I selected a few easy to prepare baby foods and took up 3 different dishes to begin with and began recording my baby’s reactions to each food she took and that provided me the cue to either continue or temporarily hold on that particular dish, only to introduce it again after a few weeks or months.
Not to complicate things further, I used excel as merely a table to record all what I wanted to, on daily basis. Once those columns were fixed it took me a mere 3-4 minutes each day to record my baby’s intake for the day. I have provided an example for the same below.

Food given
Sudha raas+ Moong water
Spat out moong, liked sudha raas as closer to honey
Try moong after some days with the peeled variety
Rice+jeera water
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
Rice+jeera water
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
Rice+jeera water+ghee
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
Rice+jeera water+ghee
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
Rice+jeera water+ghee
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
Rice+jeera water+ghee
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
dry anjeer (fig)coated with honey
sucked and bit into the fig, likes honey so was easy
mixed reaction but good for teething
Rice+jeera water+ghee
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
Chewed the raisin till a part broke off in her mouth
Liked the taste
tur dal+jeera water+hing
Spat out lil initially later liked it
Liked the taste
suvarna siddha jal(water boiled with pure gold coin for 20min, cooled, coin removed then served)
Did not spit out, played with spoon eager to put it in mouth
Liked the taste
pumpkin stock+cinnamon
did not spit out but cried after a few spoonfuls
hold it for a few days
carrot stock
did not spit out but cried after a few spoonfuls
hold it for a few days

A cursory glance at the table above will show that there are not many items I have introduced at the beginning. Also my baby did not like the taste of each item introduced to her. And it takes immense amounts of patience to feed your baby even a few spoonfuls, out of which many will land on you and your baby’s dress or your carpet/bed, where ever you might be sitting. My suggestion is, train the baby early on to sit in one designated place or location, and eat. This is a super energy saving tip for the future, when your baby learns to crawl and walk, making you run around the house with spoonful of food. Also prepare the food in extremely small quantities and use only the purest ingredients to make each item. And also accept that some days the baby will not eat anything from ‘hotel Momma’ at all n just prefer the breast/bottle. Let that happen once in a while, because even we adults need chaat n snacks instead of dal-chawal some days.. J

And just on a side note, why do we need a table? Well we need to ensure that the baby gets well rounded nutrition, including good fats, proteins, and vitamins and is able to digest them all easily. The table helps us keep a tab on our baby’s food intake, reaction to food and general food preferences and areas we need to work, to ensure our babies are getting well rounded nourishment, which is vital for their overall development. Watch this space for quick and simple homemade baby food recipes and how to store them and carry them out during travel.