Constipation Matters (Part 2): Prevention Tips for Toddlers

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Constipation Prevention Tips – Dietitianmom.com

To prevent constipation in adults, the 3 ‘Fs’ are usually recommended: Fluids, Fiber and Frequent Exercise/Activity. Well, it’s the same for babies and toddlers as well. Some time ago, I had posted an entry on some tips for combating constipation in babies (see post Constipation Matters (Part 1): Prevention Tips for Babies). Here is the follow on post with more tips for toddlers:

Fluids
Even if a toddler is already established and used to drinking water, as a parent you can still encourage frequent water intake by offering fluids at meals, water with snacks and making sure water is readily accessible with a water bottle or cup at hand in the play area at all times. The toddler will then know that there is always water available when she wants or needs it, and can regulate his/her own intake. Some days I go into the play area and see the water cup untouched and other days a third or more of the water in the sippy cup (non-spill of course) gone within a few hours! So it is really difficult to predict when or how much your toddler will want to drink on any given day. But reminders to drink water throughout the day and role modeling lots of water drinking yourself definitely helps! Sometimes I also have little water drinking competitions with my daughter, to see who can finish a cup of water faster. She enjoys this but of course you need to make sure she doesn’t drink so fast she chokes on the water!

Fiber
Some recommend not giving a toddler too much bran and bran containing foods as the high fiber content may possibly fill the child up more and make the child less hungry for other foods, compromising his/her nutritional intake. Personally I don’t think this is true. When my toddler was 17 month old, she ate Shredded Wheat squares, Total Cereal flakes, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread, and still had room for foods like milk, fruits and vegetables. So I think it is safe to switch completely to whole grain products and breakfast cereals. The key I find is to watch the amount of crackers and Cheerios a child can get at snacks as well as his/her overall milk intake during the day, as these have a greater likelihood of filling the child up and making him/her less hungry to eat properly at meals. In fact, at around 15 months of age, I cut out giving milk at snacks (but I still give 3-4 ounces at meals) as I found that it was affecting her intake at lunch and dinner. Don’t forget that fiber comes from providing lots of fruits and vegetables into the diet too. These can be fresh, frozen or dried (examples are dried figs, raisins and apricots). Just ensure your toddler has a higher fiber intake with an intake of plenty of water!

Frequent Movement/Activity
I don’t think parents need to worry about this one! It’s probably more about how to restrain excessive activity and movement…Toddlers with their newfound freedom and independence love to move and explore on two feet the surrounding environment, not to mention climb, crawl, dance and play. So let them!

Quick & Dirty Toddler Home Hair Cutting Tips

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Simple Hair Cut Set Up – dietitianmom.com

I’ve started cutting my baby’s hair at 8 months of age, thanks to a very helpful e-How video clip (see Post How to Cut Baby’s Hair). Apart from the first time at 8 months when it was easy to distract her with a new toy on the high chair, it has always been quite a challenge keeping her still long enough to do the job and she didn’t seem to quite enjoy the experience. We have tried many different tactics including toys, food (not a good idea), a skype call, and videos with varying degrees of success. Now 6 tries later, I think I’ve finally perfected the technique with my 26 month old with minimal clean up afterwards. Hope these tips below will help you in your haircutting experience!

Tip #1: Timing
Pick a time right before a shower or bath, as you’ll need to wash off the stray hair bits anyway. It will also work well if the child has had a chance to observe another family member get a haircut. Our toddler was much more willing to get her hair cut after she saw daddy get his haircut. So don’t underestimate the power of modeling!

Tip #2: Set Up
Use a dry bathtub or shower stall to set up your makeshift salon station. This will make clean up later very easy with a dustpan and brush or to vacuum up the hair quickly.

Tip #3: Props
Apart from the obvious haircutting tools of a pair of scissors and a comb, you’ll need the following:
-a child sized plastic chair
-long sleeved art or food bib
-entertainment device (e.g., Ipad)
-soft brush (to brush off the hair from your child’s body before a shower)

Tip #4: Make It Fun
We ended up setting up the seat within the bathtub in such a way that we could prop the Ipad up in the middle hand rest bar in the tub (see photo). So in this way, it became a mini movie station and her attention could be focused on the video while I could have plenty of space to work on the hair on the back of her head (this usually takes the longest). This worked much better than when I was trying to stand within the tub as it could get really cramped and difficult to maneuver around trying to get at all sides of her head. Then get to work and try to finish the job quickly!

Tip #5: Have Help Available
The first time I tried this method, I found it worked quite well. However, I feel things would have gone much more smoothly and quickly if the video on the Ipad didn’t keep stalling and pausing. Hence if you can have some additional help nearby, that makes a difference! I found it invaluable to have a second pair of hands ready (i.e., daddy) to do the IT technical work of keeping the video going or distracting the toddler if needed.

Tip #6: Clean It Up
Brush off the hair as best as you can from the child’s body, then ask the child to stand briefly beside the bathtub, while you clean up the tub. Another option is to transfer the child to sit on the toilet seat, and tell the child to wait there while you remove the hair from the bathtub. Hand the child a toothbrush and ask him/her to brush their teeth while they wait! As mentioned, use a dustpan or vacuum cleaner to get most of the hair out of the tub. Then you can rinse out the tub with some water before proceeding with the shower. A third option is to move the child to another bathroom for the shower so that you will have time later to clean up the bathroom properly without needing to rush.

We have cut our child’s hair twice now using this method. The second time it went even more smoothly because she now knows what to expect. In fact, when I mention it’s time for a haircut, she immediately says ‘Ipad!’ and ‘chair’!

Going Potty (Part 2): A Pretty Potty Comparison

babytoiletpic2During the spring, we went on a ‘potty seat hunt’. There were a few reasons for this: 1) our old toilet top potty seat was cracking so we wanted a better one, 2) our baby has a skinny, small-sized bottom so we needed one that would comfortably fit her, and 3) we were traveling soon overseas, so we hoped to find one that could be easily brought around. In the end, I think we’ve probably tried more potty seats than the average family!

Perhaps your child doesn’t have any trouble on the potty seat you bought. But if your little one is like mine, who continues to be small-sized and more bony-bottomed (at 20 months, she weighed approximately 22 pounds or 10 kg still), then you may have more trouble finding the right seat for your child. I hope our experience can help you. Here are 5 toilet top potty seats we’ve tried (in order of worst to best, with a simple rating in terms of expense (in $ signs).

BabyBjorn Toilet Trainer ($$$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/BABYBJORN-Toilet-Trainer-White-Black/dp/B0009PAN7Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1400244131&sr=1-1&keywords=baby+bjorn+potty+seat

Our Experience: This turned out to be heavier than we thought and it was hard (like a regular toilet seat). Our toddler found it uncomfortable to sit on for a long time, and it gave some harsh red pressure marks on her thighs within just a minute or two. I also noticed that the packaging said it was for ‘2+’, so perhaps this was too big for our 20 month old child at the time.

Dreambaby Soft Touch Potty Seat ($$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Dreambaby-Soft-Touch-Potty-White/dp/B009K8NFG4/ref=sr_1_15?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1400244251&sr=1-15&keywords=baby+bjorn+potty+seat

Our Experience: When the packaging was first opened, I noticed that the material was slightly softer but was put off by the very strong smell of chemicals from the potty seat. It ended up still being too hard for our toddler (who did not want to sit in it long) and we found it also gave some strong red marks on her thighs after we took her off it within a few minutes. Needless to say, we didn’t keep this very long in our home either…

Mommy’s Helper Contoured Cushie Tushie Potty Seat ($) (Also available in UK though price more variable)
http://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Helper-Contoured-Cushie-Tushie/dp/B00081MHI4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Description: The size of this potty seat was smaller than the other potty seats we have bought and tried, which could be a plus or minus depending on the size of your child. The length is about 11 inches compared to the WeePOD toilet trainer which is about 15 inches. The center oval hole is a perfectly round oval. The cushion is thicker (about 1.5 inches) than most other potty seats but it is not as soft and cushiony as the WeePOD products. It is obvious that it is made of a cheaper material as expected given the price, but the cushion likely won’t break/crack as it has a hard plastic circular support ring underneath. This potty seat also comes with a handle and a plastic adhesive hook for you to hang the potty seat on.

Our Experience: In reading some reviews of this product online, some said the seat didn’t work because it was too small and that it smelt badly. However, we were pleasantly surprised that it did not smell and also that it fit our toddler’s bottom quite well (probably because of the smaller size). At first, our toddler complained when she was put on it, but then she got used to it relatively quickly. There were still some red pressure contact marks on her thighs after just a few minutes of sitting on the seat, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as baby is not sitting on it for an extended length of time. I think it helps that the cushion is higher and thicker, because our toddler was able to ‘sit’ better on it with the legs slightly angled down. This likely made it more comfortable for her (rather than the legs sticking straight out). We loved the compact size and ended taking it with us on our travels which worked out really well. It actually fits on the airplane lavatory toilet seats, as well as on all the toilet seats tried in US, Taipei and Singapore! And the biggest selling point to our child? She loved the little orange duck pictures on the potty seat!

Note: Due to its smaller size, this potty seat can slip around, so you need to be careful and supervise your child while he/she is on the seat. Also when you put the toddler on the seat, put the child as far back as possible (instead of perching towards the front of the seat). This will be more comfortable for the child and helps distribute child’s weight more over his/her bottom and legs.

Prince Lionheart WeePOD Basix ($$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Lionheart-weePOD-Basix-Berry/dp/B005ZBI03I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374161187&sr=8-1&keywords=wee+pod+basix+prince+lionheart

Our Experience: This was the first potty seat we got when our baby turned 9 months. Our baby had no complaints from the get-go and it worked really well for a few months. Then as our baby got heavier and got up to about 18 pounds, we noticed that it started to develop cracks. This is likely from the pressure of baby’s bottom sitting on it. We were able to fix the cracks with superglue a couple of times but knew this would not be a long term solution. On the plus side, this potty seat is really quite cushiony and soft. It is also quite light and easy to bring about when traveling on the road.

Prince Lionheart WeePOD Toilet Trainer/Cushiony WeePOD ($$$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Lionheart-weePOD-Ash-Grey/dp/B005ZBHZEI/ref=sr_1_2?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1400244494&sr=1-2&keywords=prince+lionheart+potty+seat

Description: This potty seat comes cushioned and is contoured with a slightly higher back portion (still cushioned), so it actually looks like a little seat (more comfortable for little ones!). You can tell it is an improved version of the basic one mentioned above. The cushion portion is not as soft as the original wee POD basix but it is still comfortable. This is probably a good transition anyway to a toddler eventually using a regular toilet seat. It also has a turn knob at the back to allow you to adjust the seat to fit the specific shape of the toilet seat better. The potty seat has a smaller hole design, making it more suitable for younger babies as well as toddlers. The shape of the hole is also more contoured (smaller width towards the front) so overall there is more cushion support for baby. It also comes with a handle. Furthermore, there is a hard plastic bottom to support the cushion portion so no more cracks!

Our Experience: This turned out to be the best for us! We loved it and our toddler sat on it without complaints from the first day forward. The only downside we found was that it is quite heavy so not suitable for traveling, so we just had this for regular use at home. This is a keeper!

Happy Potty Seat Shopping!

Constipation Matters (Part 1): Prevention Tips for Babies

baby-diaper-toes-cloth-cropped

(Shutterstock)

If you ask me, I think babies have a tougher time dealing with constipation than toddlers. For one, they can’t really tell you what’s wrong apart from wailing, while a toddler at least (for the most part) can communicate a bit better about what’s going on. And I think parents have an easier time dealing with constipation in a toddler than in a baby. It’s much easier to get a toddler to drink more fluid or to be more active. But it’s tougher to get a baby that can’t even crawl or sit up yet to move more. Note though that babies often strain, get red in the face and cry when trying to pass a stool, but this does not necessarily mean the baby is having constipation.

To prevent constipation in adults, the 3 ‘Fs’ are usually recommended: Fluids, Fiber and Frequent Exercise/Activity. Well, it’s the same for babies and toddlers as well.

Fluids
In general breastfed babies tend to get plenty of fluid (think of the more watery portion of the breast m
ilk at the beginning of a breastfeed session) and are seldom constipated. However be aware that depending on age, breastfed babies tend to have a wide variety of normal stooling patterns (from a few times a day to once a week!). While formula fed babies may be more regular (e.g., once a day or so), they may experience slightly thicker and firmer stools, so offer water in a bottle regularly in between formula bottle feeds.

Starting at 9-10 months of age, offer your baby a free flow sippy cup of water with meals and at frequent intervals throughout the day. This way, he/she will not only get used to the taste of water, but will also get used to drinking it often in the course of a day. This shouldn’t affect your breastfeeding, but if you’re worried, you can offer the water after a breastfeeding session instead of right before it.

Fiber
Once baby starts solids, you can begin to add some fiber into your baby’s diet. Some have said that baby rice cereal can be constipating, and this can be true if you offer your baby a lot of baby rice cereal daily since there’s hardly any fiber in it. So instead of only offering baby rice cereal, you can focus on offering more pureed fruits and vegetables like butternut squash, avocado, and mango as first foods to your little one. However, you may have to increase the fiber content in your baby’s diet gradually as some babies have digestive systems that need a little bit more time to get comfortable handling a higher fiber load.

Frequent Movement/Activity
This may be a bit more trickier for babies, especially if they are young and haven’t even learned to lift up their heads yet! But you can still employ ‘baby massage’ techniques to help relax baby’s body and possibly help move down gas and stool in the digestive tract. Taking baby’s legs and doing some ‘cycling/bicycling’ motions a few times a day could help too. But don’t worry, all too soon, baby will sitting and crawling, and then pulling up to a stand. Getting active is something that will come naturally and instinctively!

Going Potty (Part 1): Basic Nuts and Bolts

Following my recent post on potty training (see Starting Potty Training at 9 Months…Yes, You Can!), below are a few simple tips to help you get started:

Observe, Observe, Observe
If you are not already aware of it, take a few days to tune in first to your baby’s current bowel habits. Is he/she usually going first thing in the morning, mid-morning, or in the evenings? How many times a day does your baby go, or is it every other day? If you need to, jot down the time(s) in the day that your child does ‘#2s’ (i.e., poops) until you get a sense of a rough pattern emerging.

Get Ready
Besides observing your baby’s pattern, get prepared by getting a good comfortable potty seat. This will make it more likely that your baby will be willing and wanting to sit on it a few times a day, and for varying lengths of time. What to get may depend on your baby, but we’ve found a soft cushiony potty seat works quite well for a small baby’s bottom. We’ve actually had to try out quite a few potty seats and found our little one really didn’t like the ones that were hard plastic, or were too wide so that it was uncomfortable to sit on for a long time. So make sure to get one that is suitable for infants (or at least for those under 18 months of age or so) and not for older toddlers. If you have more than one bathroom/toilet in the house, it may also be worth designating one of those as the ‘baby potty’ room, so you can keep the potty seat on the commode and your baby may more readily associate that room with where she needs to do her ‘business’.

Get Set
When you feel ready to start, watch your infant closely when it gets around that time of day when baby usually poops. I find the trickiest part is actually just watching her cues closely to see when she wants to go! Then the moment you notice the first signs of straining or grunting, quickly bring baby to the potty seat. These signs can sometimes be quite subtle. For example, at times baby will look at you with clear distress on the face and may even start to turn red in the face. At other times, he or she may only give out the tiniest of grunts or not at all! During these latter times, you may need to be more proactive and just put baby on the potty seat close to the time of day when she tends to poop. This may only need to be a few minutes at a time. I have at times done this, and was amazed when baby actually went and did her #2!

Go! Give Lots of Encouragement!
When baby gets on the potty seat, teach her the hand sign to do ‘poo poo’ and keep repeating  ‘poo poo’ or ‘mm mm’ grunting sounds so that he/she will start to associate it with pooping or sitting on the commode. If baby actually does go while on the potty seat, then clap and cheer to give her lots of encouragement! It helps if you are consistent in doing these actions every day. By 11 -12 months, I found that the moment I put her on the potty seat, she often would seem to know what to do, and at times she began to expect to be put on the potty when she felt a #2 coming, by pointing at her bathroom or making some grunting noises.

A few caveats of course. First, things can get tricky during phases of teething or sickness, so I usually give up the potty training then and wait till things calm down more. Secondly, remember that even though you are starting early, potty training is still a process that will take many months to accomplish (especially when it comes to working on ‘#1s’…i.e., urinating in the toilet instead of in the diaper). Thirdly, potty training is not a perfect process. Even after many months of training, my 19 month old is still occasionally having ‘poo’ accidents in the diaper, especially on days of teething. Don’t get disheartened, just keep on training!

Starting Potty Training at 9 Months…Yes, You Can!

My mother loves to tell the story of how she started potty training me at 6 months, putting me on the toilet seat when I seemed about ready to do my bowel movement. Yes…well while I personally think that is really too young to start the process, I do consider the period between 9-12 months of age to be a quite a good time to start. I see this as the ‘moldable stage’ and a real window of opportunity. By 8 ½ to 9 months old, babies are usually more established on solids and often a pattern in their pooping begins to emerge (e.g., 1-2 times a day in morning/evening). Baby can now sit up quite well on his or her own with minimal support, and loves imitating, attention and praise. So now is a great time to do many things like getting baby used to different foods and textures, as well as starting potty training. Carpe diem!

What are the benefits of beginning potty training early? Tons! Here are just a few:

  • Saves on diapers!
  • Less messy clean-up for you (remember those smelly poo smeared baby bottoms and diapers?)
  • Reduction in diaper rash potential from baby sitting in a moist dirty diaper for too long before you notice it.
  • It may be easier to start the process now to get baby used to it, while baby is relatively compliant and more or less happy to sit on the potty (especially if you give a toy, read a book or otherwise distract baby a little if needed).

Some parents may just decide baby is not ready and want to wait till their child is at least 2 years of age before trying, and that’s fine as well. The benefit is that the older the child is, the process of potty training is often much faster (possibly within a couple of days) especially if there is peer pressure from other children their age!

If you decide you want to start potty training sooner, let me recommend starting with the #2s first (the poos) as this is easier to do than trying to work on #1s (urine). You and baby will feel more of a sense of accomplishment and this will also lessen those poopy diapers faster!

(More tips on potty training to follow – stay tuned!)

 

The Growing Pains…Teeth! Myth Busters

Ah, these growing pains…teeth. Every child has to go through them. For some babies this discomfort starts really early (I know one 8 month old baby that already had 8 teeth), for others the real teething phase seems to kick in after 12 months of age. Whatever your baby’s circumstance, here are three common ‘myths’ that I’ll like to take a moment to dispel:

It’ll hurt to breastfeed if baby has teeth.

Not true! I was afraid of this myself, but it has really only happened once or twice during a year of breastfeeding. And each time it happened, I think my reaction (slight look of shock and pain, with a wince, and then disconnecting the latch with a stern look and verbal warning) was enough to cause baby to latch on more carefully the next time. So it really hasn’t been an issue at all.

 Baby won’t want to breastfeed.

I’ve heard of reports where it has been said baby didn’t want to breastfeed as much when teething. But I’ve found that this is not necessarily the case. My little one actually wanted to breastfeed more, not less. Perhaps the sucking motion was comforting on the gums, and baby seemed to be more needy and wanting more cuddling and comfort during this time as well. I found my breast milk supply often improved a bit during the teething bouts!

It’ll be harder to put baby to sleep.

I’ve noticed the opposite at times. Generally, my baby or toddler actually seems to be more tired and sleepy (perhaps one of the causes of baby’s fussiness during teething?), and wanting to take more naps and sleep more. Other moms have reported a similar observation. That’s good for tired moms who also need a rest!

What I’ve observed instead is that it’s not so much that the baby is more difficult to put to sleep, but that there tends to be a bit more night wakings from the teething discomfort and pain. Hence the baby may not be able to sleep as soundly during the night and this probably also contributes to the increased fussiness during the day…somewhat of a vicious cycle!