Vitamins

a.k.a. Vitadims, Viamins, Vy

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Do you give your kids vitamins?

I can be a bit vitamin obsessed with my own health so as soon as my kids were old enough to start taking vitamins, I enthusiastically started supplementing. At first it was just vitamin drops that our pediatrician prescribed. Vitamins A, C, and D.

At my daughter’s 12 month check-up they checked her hemoglobin levels and she was low. Following an excruciating blood draw (my first of many kid’s blood draws to come), our doctor diagnosed her with iron-deficiency anemia and prescribed iron drops. Oh, and because our water does not contain fluoride, my daughter started fluoride drops as well. So just like that, I had an infant taking 3 different supplements, two of which had to be given at different times of the day because they interfere with absorption if taken together (fluoride and iron).

Taking vitamins became routine for us and Penny thrived on the iron drops. I noticed immediate changes in her mood, appetite and sleep. Without the iron drops, she would become a cranky melting-down child that refused to eat much and was obviously over-tired but could not ever sleep!

Well, iron worked really well for us but it did not come without side effects, namely constipation. Despite a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, I decided to try fiber gummies for kids once Penny was a toddler and could chew well. They worked well and helped keep her regular so fiber gummies joined the daily regimen.

When Penny was around 2 years of age, I realized that I had options with our multivitamin. I could give more than just the limited A, C, and D that the drops had to offer. I was excited to shop for the best kids vitamin out there and start my daughter on a more complete supplement, preferably all natural.

When I scoured the vitamin section of our health food store, I found that most of the formulations had little to no iron. With Penny’s history of anemia, these were just not an option for us. Out of at least 10 different brands (yes, I sat in the isle and read every bottle) there was only one that had 50% of daily iron, which was way better than the usual 0-10%. So that was the one that I bought and we loved it at first (it’s called Rainbow Light Kid’s One, contains 5mg iron).

After being on iron drops for over a year at that point, I figured that I could safely take Penny off of them and give her the multivitamin containing half of her needed iron, with her diet making up for the other half. Well, I was wrong. Within 6 months of no iron drops, Penny’s anemia came back. To this day it is a mystery as to why she is so susceptible to anemia!

Some background factors may be at play.

  1. I was vegetarian through my pregnancy and anemia was detected in the third trimester, after which I started iron supplements. So she was probably born with low iron stores to begin with.
  2. I was vegetarian through the first year of nursing Penny so my milk may have been lower in iron than meat eating breastfeeding moms.
  3. Anemia runs in my family so there may be a genetic component
  4. Penny is a picky eater, especially when it comes to meat.
  5. We live in an industrial neighborhood so environmental exposure to heavy metals that can interfere with iron storage and blood cell health may be at play.

We will probably never know the answer as to why, we just know that Penny is prone to anemia so a more complete multivitamin was in need in order to avoid the iron drops.

I finally just asked our pediatrician for a recommendation and he suggested Flintstone’s Complete with Iron. There are several formulations of Flintstone’s vitamins. The Complete with Iron formulation (it comes in a red box) has the highest iron content of any kids multivitamin that I’ve found to date (18 mg ~100% for a 4 year old). This is what I’ve been giving for the past couple of years despite my preference for all natural brands. We still reach times when iron drops are needed and I will give a small amount, usually about 25% of what was originally prescribed, just to quickly bump back up to normal.

You may be wondering how I know when iron is low… The truth is, I don’t know most of the time. The only way to know for sure is to have blood drawn and a full panel run and that is hard on the child and not always fully covered by insurance. Signs that I look for in my child include irritability, trouble sleeping, pale skin, and the most obvious sign that our doctor mentioned to me was pale gums. They should be nice and pink! Keeping track of how much iron rich food my daughter is eating is also very helpful in predicting whether or not she needs additional iron.

Once little brother was born, we pretty much followed the same pattern of vitamins because he too was slightly anemic at 10 months of age! I had him checked early since I noticed behavioral signs and knew what to look for after dealing with it for so long with Penny. I was much more careful about iron during my pregnancy with him and accordingly, his anemia was not as severe. In fact, he quickly bounces back to normal by just giving his Flintstone on a regular basis. He loves to eat meat too, unlike his sister.

One new variable that my son introduced to our vitamin regimen was the fact that he is dairy and soy intolerant. This means that a major source of calcium is missing from his diet. He does still get calcium from breastfeeding. However, I have chosen to give a calcium supplement as well, just in case. Penny caught wind of his extra gummy and now she demands a calcium vitamin too, of course. With calcium, it can also interfere with iron absorption so I give it at a separate time from both iron and fluoride. This means that I often forget to give calcium and that’s ok because my kids do eat other non-dairy forms of calcium, and too much calcium can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

A few other supplements that I feel are important are are Omega-3/DHA and probiotics, as well as Vitamin C, and Echinacea during cold season. I give Omega-3/DHA when our diet is lacking in the fish department and probiotics mostly to Shea to help him with intestinal health, especially after eating a bit of dairy or soy.

I realize that all of this may be unnecessary. Our diet is pretty well rounded and all of our nutritional needs should be covered. But, we are talking about kid’s diets here and even though I serve them well balanced, healthful meals, they often pick and choose and don’t get everything they need. So for now, I’ll continue to be the crazy vitamin lady, potentially wasting my money. My kids see them as a special treat anyway.

Do you give your children any supplements? If so, which ones and why?

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Flintstones Children’s MultiVitamin Supplement With Iron Chewable Tablets 


L’il Critters Fiber Gummy Bears

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Drosophila Trap

It’s summer and that means lots of delicious fruit is in season! And, if your home is anything like mine, we always have to have fresh fruit available for our essentially fruitarian children. This combined with our warmer temperatures and indoor food waste bin, means that we have basically created an ideal breeding ground for fruit flies (aka drosophila), ack!

I tried using a commercially available trap and it caught some flies but then stopped working. It was pretty inexpensive, can’t remember exactly but under $5. However it could add up quickly when you have to keep replacing them every few days to remain fly free. Luckily, a friend told me about this DIY trap. I realize that this is not my invention by any means, but it works so well that I wanted to share this with you in case you are in a similar position. Plus, I’ve been working out the kinks to get it to work optimally!

So here you go:

How to make a drosophila trap

What you’ll need:

Glass jars (clean and odor free)

Apple cider vinegar (unfiltered is key!! Braggs brand or knock off equivalent work best)

Dish Soap (citrus scent or possibly other fruity scent, but lavender scent did not work as well, environmentally friendly solutions work well and are better for our oceans)

Paper (any kind will do from printer paper to card stock, not sure if color reduces effectiveness, so to be safe stick with white)

Tape (clear scotch tape works fine)

Instructions:

Add a drop of soap and some apple cider vinegar to your glass jar. You should have about 3/4-1″ of liquid on the bottom. Adding a little water is fine but it should smell strongly of vinegar.

Make a cone out of paper and add a piece of tape to retain shape. Trim down excess paper. Place in jar and tape into place.

Set your traps near fruit or other fly hotspots and trap some flies!

Don’t forget to empty your traps and start fresh every few days while flies persist. They become ineffective at attracting more once a few dead ones have been sitting there for a while. My guess is that once dead, the flies release a repellent. If you dump them out and start fresh,  the traps start working again. Happy drosophila trapping!

Sprinkler fun!

We have had a slow start to our summer but our temperatures are finally reaching the HOT spectrum these days. When it gets too warm out, we tend to stay indoors, in the dark, with fans running because we don’t have air conditioning. It can be pretty depressing actually, not what you’d imagine for a nice sunny day. Our back yard is partially shaded but it basically just gets too hot to be outside for more than a few minutes.

Our first water toy purchase for the kids was a kiddie pool. They enjoy it but it gets pretty filthy quickly, and it’s a lot of work to clean it out so we haven’t been using it much.  Plus, our cold tap water is SUPER cold so I always have to plan ahead (something I’m not great at) and fill it up earlier in the day so that it can warm up enough for them to use in the afternoon.

Enter our new whale sprinkler (named Olivia by my daughter). We were not actively searching for one, but I had been considering buying a sprinkler for water play. We were mostly just poking around a fun local kids shop when my daughter found it and begged me to buy it. I am so glad that I did because we love Olivia! For set up, it took just a few minutes to blow up (we used a bike pump for this). Then, you just connect it to a hose. Easy peasy!

What I love about Olivia is that she deflates and folds down for compact storage. It is also easy to control the sprinkler intensity. My kids preferred it on a lower setting but it can spray pretty far too.

Here are more details on Olivia:

Product name: Sprinkler Buddies- Giant Whale Inflatable Sprinkler (by Toysmith)

Retail: about $16

Also comes in Octopus form!

Toysmith is a PNW company and you can support a local PDX business by purchasing this from Grasshopper! http://www.grasshopperstore.com/

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Sugar cookies!

My daughter loves to bake and help out in the kitchen. While there are lots of hazards, like sharp knives and a hot stove, with some care and education, we’ve had nothing but safe and fun experiences cooking together.

Over the weekend, we made sugar cookies. We modified the recipe to make them dairy and soy free so little brother could have a taste too! She measured out all of the ingredients– an exercise in fine motor control. We also counted and talked about fractions of cups so it was a mini-math lesson as well!

Once our dough was formed, my job was to roll it flat and hers was to cut shapes or roll small dough balls. Teamwork.

While the cookies baked, we whipped up some frosting and partitioned it into several bowls so we could make different colors. She added food coloring to each bowl, counting each drop and talking about what colors we could make if we mixed our food coloring. After frosting the cookies, she decorated each one with sprinkles.

Sure, there was flour and other ingredients everywhere, but nothing a quick vacuum and wipe couldn’t take care of.

In the end she was so proud of her cookies and the best part was that we had a BBQ to take them to the next day making it so she could only eat a couple and avoid all that sugar!

Find the recipe that we followed here 

(modified to use Earth Balance soy-free butter instead of butter)

For frosting we used:

1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance soy-free butter, softened

2 1/2 – 3 cups powdered sugar

Splash non-dairy milk

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Why I Started Babywearing

 

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Day 1 with this little girl. Even then she was happiest in my arms, held tight.

As a first time mom with a fussy child, I was seriously struggling to adjust to new motherhood and I was having a hard time figuring out how to keep my baby happy. I had always considered myself to be good with kids but I had little experience with babies. In addition, I initially felt like I was on my own for a good part of this journey. My husband returned to work after taking just one week off and our parents, who visited and were extremely helpful while they were with us, lived about 1,000 miles away. I cried when my mom had to return home even though I knew that I’d be ok. What was I supposed to do with this baby that seemed to cry all the time? We tried going for walks in our stroller. She hated it. We tried getting in the car and going for a drive. She screamed the whole way. She was only happy when swaddled and carried close, and she would only sleep if she was laying on top of me or by my side. I really loved holding her all the time and was willing to do anything I could to make her happy, so I just carried her in my arms most of the day. It was exhausting (and I developed deQuervain’s Tendonitis)! But still, much better than dealing with a screaming baby.

 

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The only was that I could get my baby to sleep for more than a few minutes, before I tried wrapping.

When my daughter was about 7 weeks old, a couple of my best friends, who also live very far away, visited. One brought along her son who was almost a year older than my daughter. When my more experienced mama friend saw what I was up against, she said “have you tried a baby carrier yet?” I had not and I was sure that she was too small for one, but she wasn’t. So the next day we tried our Moby wrap and a few days after that we tried our Beco Gemini (two carriers that I had received as baby shower gifts, thank you, thank you). You can probably guess what happened… She loved it! She was no longer a fussy baby when in the wrap (if all other needs were met). I could suddenly leave my house without fearing that my daughter would have a meltdown in public and I wouldn’t be able to regain control of her. And, though somewhat limited, I suddenly had the use of my arms again! It was liberating really.THIS was why I started babywearing. Initially it was just a tool– another  necessary baby device that she’d outgrow at some point. But, it turns out that there is so much more to babywearing than I could have ever imagined!

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Moby Wrap success!

A couple of months went by of happily wearing my daughter in our Moby and Gemini and then I saw that a friend’s facebook profile picture was of her wearing her son in a woven wrap ON HER BACK! How did she do that? And what was that beautiful fabric that was holding him? I sent her a message asking these questions and she suggested that I join the local babywearing group on facebook. That was the first time that I had ever heard of a “group” on facebook. I joined and immediately met several like minded local mothers who were very understanding of my position. They became my postpartum support group of sorts—something that I had not even realized that I needed. Through this group I learned how to properly use a variety of baby carriers, but more importantly, I made new mama friends, went on play dates, learned about family friendly events in town, found other parenting groups online, and learned of other tips and tricks for just about every type of baby related issue from breastfeeding, to diapers, to baby shoes! You see, I think I was having a really hard time transitioning into motherhood. Feeling completely on my own, I was not performing at my best as a mom until I found this group. It may have been postpartum depression or maybe just a slow transition into motherhood. But things started looking up once I found the support that I so desperately needed and everyone was happier.
THIS was why I got hooked on baby wearing. As a friend once said, and is now common language in the babywearing community, “I found my tribe.”

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In Honor of World Breastfeeding Week

It is world breastfeeding week and I’ve been reflecting on what this really means to me for several days now.

Breastfeeding means giving up a part of your body to grow another person. It means losing a good portion of your day to just sitting (or laying) next to your child. Breastfeeding means that you must take care of your body and eat well because all of your nutrients are being passed on to your child. It means always being available to feed your baby or taking a cruel and unusual device with you to “pump” if you must be away. Breastfeeding means that you are constantly tired and always starving as your body works overtime to produce food for your baby.

It is truly a labor of love. It is a full time job all on its own. So you may be thinking, “why would you put yourself through that when you can just give formula?”

For me, I was lucky because I had a choice to begin with. To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? And if so, for how long? Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that option.

This is why I chose to breastfeed and why I continue(d) to breastfeed well into toddlerhood:

  • Breastfeeding is natural. We are mammals after all. The definition of mammal from the Cambridge Dictionary is “any animal in which the female gives birth to babies, not eggs, and feeds them on milk from her own body.”
  • Breastmilk is magical! While its composition is mostly known, scientists continue to find more than just vitamins, proteins, and fat in breastmilk. Aside from the constantly changing mixture of nutrients that reflect the mothers diet and environment, recent studies have found that breastmilk also contains antibodies (1), stem cells (2), and microRNAs (3).
  • Breastfeeding is ecofriendly and cost effective.
  • Breastfeeding is easily transportable! As long as you are near, baby will always have food. No need to worry about how many bottles to pack or whether milk will spoil. If you learn to nurse in a baby carrier (see reference 4 and more on this soon in my babywearing section) you don’t even need a place to sit and nurse. You can literally do it on the go, anywhere you go with no planning or preparation involved.

Reasons I chose to breastfeed past 1 year of age:

  • It is good for both mama and baby’s health. Studies have found increased IQs with longer durations of breastfeeding, improved mental and emotional development, as well as protection against ovarian and breast cancer for mom when nursing occurred for more than 18 months.
  • Toddlers can be picky eaters. Nursing as a compliment to solids provides more adequate nutrition. Plus there are probiotics in breastmilk and other gut healing properties. As toddlers eat more and more foods and grow their inner microbiome, breastfeeding can help promote early gut health which can have  life long ramifications.
  • Again, it’s natural! Other mammals nurse their young into the equivalent of early adolescence!

There are many other important reasons why I breastfeed, but my tired mama brain needs a break. So with that, I leave you with our #worldbreastfeedingweek #normalizebreastfeeding #brelfie

My baby boy and I breastfeeding at 19 months and counting. We’ll try to get to 2 years of age and then take it from there. For us, this is what is best.

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References:

1. See  http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/ for several references

2. Hassiotou F1, Beltran AChetwynd EStuebe AMTwigger AJMetzger PTrengove NLai CTFilgueira LBlancafort PHartmann PEBreastmilk is a novel source of stem cells with multilineage diffrentiation potential. Stem Cells. 2012 Oct;30(10):2164-74.

3. Alsaweed MHartmann PEGeddes DTKakulas FMicroRNAs in Breastmilk and the Lactating Breast: Potential Immunoprotectors and Developmental Regulators for the Infant and the Mother. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Oct 30;12(11):13981-4020.

4. http://blog.ergobaby.com/2014/08/tips-for-breastfeeding-in-the-baby-carrier/?gclid=CI_W3LO7rs4CFQFqfgodGvQBVA&gclsrc=aw.ds

Resources:

http://www.kelleymom.com

http://www.lalecheleague.org

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs342/en/

http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&id=78:breastfeed-a-toddlerwhy-on-earth&Itemid=17

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Introductions

I am the mother of two very silly small kids.

Big sister is 4, little brother is 1.5.

We wanted to have our kids close in age so that they could grow up together and be good friends.

I knew that this meant that life would be crazy for a while but I had no clue what I was really getting myself in to…

Up until a few months ago, I had a full time professional career in the making. Before that I had spent 10 collective years of my life learning about biology and neurobiology, first in college and then graduate school. I was never planning to be a stay at home mom. In fact, having started working as a teenager, and being so career focused through my 20’s,  it was hard to imagine a world where I did not work!

In later posts I’d love to share in more detail why daycare was not working for us and why to have me work was not the best answer for our family, but for now, let’s just say that that with the insane costs of childcare for two, it didn’t make sense financially for me to work. The other huge reason for leaving my job was that once my daughter was able to communicate more clearly, she expressed her desire to have me around more– a request that I took very seriously!

So, I have spent the past few months figuring out our new day to day, redefining my role in life, and finding ways to remain sane without very much adult time. This remains and ongoing process. Wish me luck!