Qn of the Month: Can Milk Be Frozen?

milkA: To some this may be a rather unusual question, but since I had to recently test it out myself, I thought I’ll share the results! We usually take 5-6 long car trips a year to visit family and stay a week or two at a time. As a result, I have had to always clear out the fridge and usually dump any extra milk I have on hand the day we leave. I had previously done a quick Internet search but the results did not seem very clear on freezing milk, with some reporting that the quality, consistency and taste of the milk changes upon freezing. Well, prior to this last trip, I got fed up with having to toss milk away, and also with having to rush to the store on the day we arrive back home to get some fresh milk and other supplies. I had a half gallon container of reduced fat 2% milk (containing about 8 ounces as the remainder) left and space in my freezer, so I decided to pop it in there. Can’t hurt right?

Two weeks later, we arrived back home and I immediately put the frozen container of milk in the refrigerator compartment to start thawing out. What did I learn? Frozen milk takes a looonng time to thaw out in the fridge, possibly 24 hours or longer. Think of a chunk of ice melting. Of course it really depends on the amount of milk you have frozen at one time. I found it helped to put the container in some cold water for 10 to 15 minutes, before putting it back in the fridge. Then over the course of time as milk slowly thawed out, I firmly shook the closed container a few times to help break up the milk chunk within. Once thawed though, the milk tasted fine for at least up to 4-5 days afterwards. My verdict? I plan on doing this again the next time I have a car trip!

5 Things I Learned From My Toddler Having Diarrhea

toiletpaper

My 2 year old toddler recently had quite a severe bout of diarrhea. Thankfully she was still generally cheerful and throwing her usual tantrums, without any signs of fever or other symptoms (like teething fussiness), so I knew it was a transient gastrointestinal bug. She didn’t even complain of her stomach hurting during this time and still ate with gusto. However, it became pretty severe, going up to 7 loose stooling episodes in a day! At this point, I had to consider the foods I was feeding and make a few adjustments, although I knew the most important thing was just to wait it out for the bug to pass through her system. Here are 5 things I learned from this whole affair:

1) Stop giving most dairy products like milk and yogurt, and even adding milk into foods
2) Temporarily avoid foods with more roughage like beans and seeds, as well as vegetables and fruits like leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes and pears. Foods with more fiber, especially insoluble fiber, tend to cause a faster transit of stools through the gut
3) Cook things down to a softer consistency (e.g., well cooked oatmeal if cooking with old fashioned oats)
4) Keep nutrition in by adding in soft cooked beef and chicken, meat gravies, steamed fish and chicken, and hard boiled or steamed egg to foods
5) Don’t cook with too much oil or serve foods that are too oily

It was a bit of a diet change as I was so used to giving her high fiber foods all the time throughout the day, with fruits and vegetables with most of her meals. However I did notice an improvement in her stooling after making the few simple changes above. She had to get used to it as well, but adapted well in the end. Thankfully after 7 days, her stooling returned back to normal and we are back to her usual diet and variety of foods. One more note: as in any case of diarrhea, make sure you offer your toddler plenty of water throughout the day, so that your toddler will stay well hydrated during this period!

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!

Qn of the Month: My Baby Doesn’t Want to Drink Water. Should I Worry?

Your baby may sometimes go through phases of whether she wants to drink water. If your baby is over 9 months old, has mastered how to take water from a free flow lidded cup, but just doesn’t seem to actually want to take much, then don’t worry.  He is obviously not thirsty! Know that your baby’s body is remarkable and will adjust to the amount of fluid intake. On days when there is less fluid in, baby just won’t urinate as much so diapers won’t be as wet, but this doesn’t mean baby is dehydrated. As long as there are some wet diapers in the midst of the drier ones, then that’s fine. Babies can often also compensate and make up their fluid needs in a day by taking in more breast milk during breastfeeding or more formula from a bottle. The most important thing is to keep regularly offering the water cup at different times of the day. If baby seems to be in a playful mood, biting or playing with the water spout, then just gently take the cup away from the baby and offer it again later. Trust that when baby is thirsty, he will drink!

My little one was doing really well at 8 months learning to drink and swallow water. Then at 9 ½ months she discovered how to suck water and but let it dribble out of her mouth, getting her shirt very wet! When she started to drink from the free flow sippy cup again, she seemed to need to relearn the process. She would tilt the cup too much and take gulps that were too big, ending up choking quite a few times. Since 11 months though, she is back to drinking better and can now even take sips from an open cup.

During all these ups and downs in her water intake, I didn’t worry as I noted that her intake of breast milk was actually better during this time, and though it was hot summer weather, she still had some good wet diapers (some were definitely not as wet), her bowel movements were still smooth and the stools were not too hard. I also counteracted her drop in water intake by offering more expressed breast milk in an open cup with meals so she could practice drinking more of that, as I had started to make her meals drier and thicker in texture.

If, however, you know baby is definitely not taking in enough fluids overall, then there are some steps you can take. Even if baby is no longer breastfeeding or drinking much formula from a bottle, you can still add in more expressed breast milk, formula or water to baby’s foods to help increase baby’s overall fluid intake, or offer other fluids like expressed breast milk in a free flow lidded or open cup instead. Expressed breast milk or formula provides more nutrients than water anyway. See also my post on ‘Water Please…Upping Baby’s Water Intake’ for more tips that may help!

Water Please…Upping Baby’s Water Intake

Do you have a baby that tastes water in the bottle, and then pushes the bottle away, refusing to drink? You might have already started giving your baby some water in early infancy. Or, you might have waited till baby was 10 months old, before beginning to offer water in a bottle. Either way, if you have a baby that’s 8 months or older and not taking water from a bottle well, try these steps which might help:

  1. Put water in a new snazzy free flow lidded cup (a bright colorful one is best) so it is something new like a toy. Designate this as the water cup. Help baby learn how to drink from it the first few times until she gets it. It’s alright if she wants to play with it more at first, as long as she doesn’t choke on the water.
  2. Offer it every day before and after meals and after breastfeeds (so that giving water won’t affect your breastfeeding milk supply as much) even if it is just a sip, so that baby will get used to it. It works well as a time filler when baby is on the high chair and you are getting baby’s food ready!
  3. Give LOTS OF ENCOURAGEMENT and praise when she holds the cup right, or takes a proper sip (instead of just playing with the bottle nipple). She/he will lap up the attention and praise!
  4. Model. When you give baby a drink, drink some water from a cup yourself (see through is best) so baby can see you are doing the same thing.

Giving your baby water is important. Besides helping with hiccups, offering some water can help when you start your baby on solids by keeping the bowel movements going smoothly and the stools from getting too firm. It’s especially important to give your baby water often if your baby is formula fed as formula is not as hydrating as breast milk. So don’t give up, keep offering that water!

Breastfeeding Nutrition: Nourish Your Body!

Eating well is an important part of self-care, especially during breastfeeding. Nourishing your body can only help you in post-delivery healing, maintaining health, and in keeping up energy levels during this demanding period of life. Plus if you’re going to eat anyway, you might as well be smart about what you are having!

How much to eat?
It is estimated that a breastfeeding woman may need an extra of 450-500 calories a day, though the actual intake a woman needs also depends on other factors like body fat and physical activity levels.  How much is 450-500 calories? It’s roughly equivalent to a Starbucks’ white hot chocolate (16oz) with whipped cream, or a sandwich (made of 2 slices of bread, mayo, cheese and lunchmeat) plus a glass of milk, so not a huge amount more!

At the beginning you may not notice the need to increase your intake (this may be why breastfeeding women lose those pregnancy pounds much faster). However, as your baby’s intake at the breast increases, you may start to feel hungrier. If you’re like me, I felt like I was the cookie monster raiding the kitchen every few hours (especially after a full pumping session). I found I soon needed to add in 1-2 snacks or ‘mini-meals’ during the day to compensate and keep up my energy levels.

What to eat?
As in pregnancy, continue to aim for a varied and healthy diet, with plenty of whole grains, protein-rich foods (e.g., lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, pulses like beans and lentils), vegetables and fruits. Continue to include at least 2-3 daily servings of good sources of calcium in your diet. These include milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu prepared with calcium sulphate, broccoli, okra, and calcium fortified drinks.

Keep meals simple so they will be easy to prepare.  If you are too tired or feel you don’t have the energy to fix yourself three proper meals in between trying to rest and breastfeed, then eat smaller ‘mini-meals’ throughout the day. Alternatively, have lots of healthful nutrient dense snacks available in the house which you can consume quickly and then rest. Examples are a quick handful of nuts, dried fruit or sunflower seeds (or combine these with cereal to make your own trail mix), bananas, granola bars, fresh fruits, tinned fruits (canned in its own juice), salads, yogurts, hummus with pitta bread or vegetable sticks, cheese and crackers, canned soup, tinned fish to make quick sandwiches, and cereal.

Hydration
Along with eating well, is drinking well too. Breastfeeding can make you feel quite thirsty so drink lots! Water is fine, but include other more nutritious options during the day as well. Examples are milk or calcium fortified alternatives (like calcium fortified soymilk, oatmilk, coconut milk, orange juice…the possibilities are endless!), frozen fruit banana yogurt smoothies, soups and broths. Sometimes it helps to have a glass ready near your breastfeeding chair so that every time your baby breastfeeds, you can have a drink too!