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Feeding & Nutrition

Not all babies are the same, so it should come as no surprise that whatever your little one finds yummy may differ from other newborns. Huggies answers your questions and provides some food for thought when it comes to feeding your baby.

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Weaning: breast to bottle to pacifier

"The campaign of 'Breast is Best' has been amazingly successful and more moms than ever are breastfeeding their babies," says Dr. Daniel Brennan, Santa Barbara Cottage Children's Hospital. "Babies benefit from receiving germ fighting antibodies from mom's milk, so even 'part-time' nursing can be beneficial."

Knowing all the advantages breastfeeding can bring, it may be even harder to break the tie. But take heart. "Weaning is a natural part of a breastfeeding relationship," says Stacey H. Rubin, MN, APRN, IBCLC. "Weaning is a process that begins when a baby is introduced to solid foods that complement breast milk in the baby's diet."

Parting ways with breastfeeding

Making a plan to wean from breastfeeding varies from baby to baby. The simple answer from Dr. Brennan is, "Nurse as long as you can." Looking for a more definite timetable? According to the UCSF Children's Hospital, the rule of thumb is if you're breastfeeding for more than nine months, go straight to a cup; breastfeeding less than that or not at all, shift to a bottle before a cup.

Ready to say bye-bye to breastfeeding? Dr. Brennan offers, "My experience is that most babies will wean themselves over time as their interest in solid foods increases. I usually recommend that a mom who needs to wean before her baby starts to self-wean should try to eliminate one feeding at a time, taking their least favorite time to nurse and offering the baby a bottle or solid food."

Remember the key word in weaning is gradual; taking it at a pace that is least disruptive and most emotionally beneficial for you and your child will ultimately give you the most success in reducing dependency on breastfeeding.

Bye-bye binky

The debate over the binky, or pacifier, is clearly defined. Some say pacifiers should be avoided at all costs, while others celebrate their soothing abilities. If you're one of the parents who have chosen to be binky-bound, knowing how to eventually end binky usage should be part of the plan.

Experts offer that pacifiers used with children beyond a certain age can delay speech development and interfere with teeth alignment. But, with balance between binky time and non-binky time, the decision to use a pacifier is a parental one.

When binky-loving babies reach one year old, aiming to break the binky-bond is ideally best when synchronized with increasing usage of a cup, but every toddler is different. If you can aim to chuck the pacifier around age one, and before age four, you may be able to avoid any dental development issues, which will occur around age five if the binky is still in play.

Easier said than done? If you've ever met a toddler who loves her binky, you'll know that it's going to take more than a plan to part ways with the pacifier. A successful method has been to limit binky time to sleep time, or only in certain places, like the crib. Eventually, the dependence on this pacifying plug will be a thing of the past, if you're lucky. Parents of toddlers who are having a harder time saying farewell to the pacifier may need to get creative, from having the "binky fairy" coming and taking the binky one night and leaving a prize behind, to rewarding their sweetie pie each time they choose to venture out without one.

Bottle break-up

Whether you choose to skip the bottle when you stop breastfeeding or transition slowly from bottle to cup, bidding adieu to the bottle is tougher for some toddlers than others. Weaning your princess from the bottle is important because delay in doing so negatively affects teeth health, interferes with the intake of other foods and may affect their eating habits during these vital growing years.

According to the UCSF Children's Hospital, a baby is ready for a cup when she can sit on her own, eat from a spoon, has a mealtime routine and shows an interest in solid foods. This could be at six months or between 12 and 18 months, depending on which method you choose. Whether you choose the path straight from breastfeeding or go from breast to bottle, the goal is to get your sweet pea sipping from a cup.

Weaning is both an emotional and developmental progression, be it from the breast, binky or bottle. Remember to take baby steps when teaching your tiny tot about the next stage in her growth; neither baby nor parents need to be rushed. Even when weaning is hard, it's helping her grow to be a more independent toddler. Before you know it, you'll be moving on to the next exciting milestone!

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Bye-Bye, Bottle

Many pediatricians recommend weaning babies from bottle to cup sometime between 12 and 18 months. Extended sucking on bottles (or pacifiers or thumbs) could gradually change the shape of a toddler’s mouth, leading to problems with his dental arch or with speech. And while sippy cups have valves, bottles don’t — that means formula, milk or juice can continually dribble out, pooling around teeth and causing decay.

Making the move

To move from bottle to cup, first invite your baby to play with the cup and try it out when she’s not really hungry or thirsty, so she’s not frantic if she doesn’t figure it out right away. After she gets the hang of it, gradually substitute one bottle feeding at a time over the course of a week or more. End with the most beloved bottle, which is usually the one before bedtime or nap.

Bump up snuggle time

Make sure to give your baby lots of close physical contact and hugging when those final bottles are being replaced, so it’s only the bottle she’s missing, not your time or cuddling. And as with bottles, don’t let your child take a sippy cup of formula or breast milk to bed.

Shop around for sippy cups

If your child is really resistant to picking up a cup, try a cup with a different design or character. You can even let her pick a special cup herself. It may turn out that a different type of valve, spout or handles will work better for her.

Sandy and Marcie Jones are the authors of Great Expectations: Baby's First Year. Order your copy from Barnes & Noble

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How to Get Your Child to Use Forks and Spoons

A guide to making sure your child uses utensils as eating tools, not toys.

When should you introduce utensils? Babies don’t actually start using spoons correctly until they’re in that mimic-everything stage at nine months or so. In the meantime, you can give your child a spoon to hold for practice as you feed her.

Spoon or fork first? A baby spoon is your best bet. Truth is, when your little one starts whipping her arms around in excitement over her smooshed pears, even a baby spork can be dangerous.

Plastic? Soft rubber? Wood? "All are good in their own ways," says Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The important thing is that the spoon is in good shape: no pieces missing from the rubber or any splintering in the wood. Give your baby different kinds to experiment with and she’ll find her own preference."

What about metal? That engraved silver spoon from Grandma may be beautiful, but it could be too hard on your baby’s tender gums. "Metal spoons also get colder or hotter, depending on the temperature of the baby food," Dr. Swanson says, "so they can get too warm or too cold for your baby’s liking." Save it for display.

And, come to think of it, what about plates? They’re not necessary when kids are learning to self-feed. "When my son was about 7 months old, I’d seat him in the high chair and put a glop of food directly on the tray, along with a plastic spoon for him to smear the food around," says Tracy Wilkes, a mom of two in Houston, Texas. "It took his attention away from the bowl of baby food I was spooning from, which he would usually try to grab in frustration. This way, he got to investigate food in his own way."

What if your tot takes the spoon from you? Let him have it. "I always have a spoon for me and a spoon for my 9-month-old," says Mandy Tipton, a mom of one in Seattle, Washington. "If he has a spoon in his hand, he’s not always reaching for the one in mine. If he does, then it’s a simple swap—I take the one he had!" She also always keeps a third spoon on hand in case one falls to the floor. "It’s inevitable," she says.

What if the mess is driving you nuts? "Accept the fact that feeding time is never going to be a pristine operation," Dr. Swanson says. "It’s going to be messy. And it should be—the more you let your baby participate in meals, the more she’s going to learn."

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Feeding your new finger foodie

Big step toward independence

About the time that babies start to move around on their own and pick up most anything and everything within reach, they begin to show an interest in feeding themselves. Self-feeding is a big step toward independence and also helps a baby learn eye, hand and mouth coordination.



Prepare yourself for messy mealtime

When it comes time for self-feeding, you'll want to encourage your baby's efforts and get ready for a few months of messy mealtimes — with more food on the face or on the floor than in the baby. This is okay, and a stage that every parent goes through. Take a deep breath and let them dig in!



First they gum

Finger foods should be firm enough to pick up and hold, yet tender enough to "gum" (and later on, to chew) and swallow easily. You can tell if a cooked food is the proper consistency for self-feeding if it can be pierced easily with a fork. Keep the pieces large enough for baby to grasp, but small enough so that even those pieces swallowed whole won't be lodged in the throat.



And then they chew

As your baby grows and becomes more adept at chewing, you can add munchier foods. Try zwieback or French toast, small chunks of soft cheese, or fruits that have been peeled and cut into bite-size pieces. Dry cereal is another favorite finger food, but one that's too difficult for babies of this age to manage. Wait until your child is about nine months old before offering this snack, and when you do, make sure it's the sugarless kind.



Signs that mealtime is over

Some babies may delight in flinging their food about or dropping it to watch it land on the floor. Babies will often do this toward the end of a meal when they've had enough to eat and are no longer hungry. If this happens, simply say that mealtime is over, take the baby down from the chair, and go on to some other — less messy — activity. Or, you may simply prefer to remove the food from the high-chair tray and give your baby a favorite toy or two to play with.



Keep it interesting, keep it healthy

You'll find other suggestions for finger foods in baby-food cookbooks. Of course, if you have any questions about suitable foods, ask your doctor. He or she is the best source of information about the proper nutrition for your baby.

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