The first year is so important in your baby’s life. It’s also incredibly overwhelming! Sleepless nights and constant feelings of concern sap your energy and make you feel unsure of your judgement, especially if you’re a first-time parent.
I designed this handy overview based on frequently voiced concerns from friends and family regarding their baby’s first year and beyond. These helpful tips and resources will help you sleep better at night. Well, maybe in a year or two!
Safe Sun Protection
We live at the beach and my daughter has been spending time in the ocean and the pool since she was three months old. I always took the following precautions to protect her delicate skin.
- Buy the right swim wear. There are so many great swim sets for both boys and girls that include a long sleeved rash guard. Covering your baby’s skin comfortably is the least toxic way to protect them from the sun.
- Get your baby a quality hat that will stay on comfortably—and practice having them wear it early and often! My daughter pulled hers off at first, but we put it on for a short period every day so she would get used to it and leave it alone. Flap Happy makes a good one and it’s available on Amazon.
- Use a non-toxic sunscreen and apply it thoroughly BEFORE you dress your baby. This way, you know you didn’t miss any areas or apply it unevenly. Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before you actually get out in the sun and definitely at least 30 minutes before hitting the water. Slapping it on and immediately getting wet is not going to make it very effective. My favorite brands for babies are California Baby SPF 30 Super Sensitive Sunscreen and Babyganics Mineral Based Sunscreen.
- Remember—we need daily sun exposure to keep our Vitamin D levels balanced. Sunshine is not your enemy! Use good judgement and take a break in the shade with the little ones if you’re going to be out in it all day. La Leche League International explains the many health benefits related to sun exposure and Vitamin D.
Safe Bug Spray
Babies put everything in their mouths—even their own body parts! Hands, feet, arms, whatever they can manage. Because of this, we want to be extra diligent about what goes on their skin! Ingesting and absorbing harmful chemicals is dangerous for their tiny bodies. Here are a few great brands available on Amazon:
- The Yellow Bird All Natural Insect Repellant Deet Free
- Badger Anti-Bug Balm: Strong smell, but very effective.
- All Terrain Herbal Armor: Convenient spray, may sting eyes so be cautious.
- Amrita Aromatherapy Bugs Be Gone for Kids
I sincerely hope that circumstances are such that you can breastfeed you baby for a minimum of 6-12 months. There simply is no more perfect nutrition than that for a growing human. Dr. Sears comments on breastfeeding. If you haven’t made your decision yet, I highly encourage you to try breastfeeding—you will have a healthy baby and a bonding experience like no other.
No judgement here! Breastfeeding may not be possible for a number of reasons. If this is your situation, consider this homemade formula recipe. You can read about how this formula changed one family’s health for the better! This recipe provides a high level of vital nutrients and is easy to digest.
No French fries here! If you want your baby to grow into a toddler who loves healthy options, you have to put the work in early. You don’t have to teach kids to like sweets and grains, but you do have to get them used to the stronger flavors of vegetables. Give them a chance to try a variety of flavors and textures from the start.
Don’t despair if your baby doesn’t take to certain foods immediately—some kids have to be exposed up to twelve times on average to develop a taste for a particular food! Most commercially prepared baby foods are full of salt, sugar and preservatives, so purchase carefully. Beech Nut and Earth’s Best are reasonably healthy brands.
A better option is to lightly steam or boil single veggies like carrots, broccoli, green beans, peas and sweet potatoes, then puree in a food processor or blender. For convenience, make two cups or more at a time and freeze into ice cube trays, then store in sealed containers or bags in the freezer. Take out one or two cubes the night before and thaw in the fridge.
Most babies LOVE pureed fruit as well, but use sweet fruits sparingly and use this time to get them to love their veggies too. My daughter loved mashed banana, pureed mangos, avocado, or plain unsweetened applesauce.
For teething, try a teething net like Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder. You can pop in a piece of frozen fruit, like a peach slice or a banana, and let them chew away without fear of getting choked.
Solid Food Timing
Many parents are confused about when to start solid food. There is no one answer because babies are individuals and have differing nutritional needs. Personally, I think most babies do best on just breast milk or quality formula (like the one mentioned above) for at least six months. Babies’ tiny systems are simply not equipped to deal with a barrage of solid food until after the first 6 months at least.
That being said, there are other factors to consider as well. Is your baby showing interest in food when you eat? Does he watch your food with interest as it travels from plate to mouth? Does she make smacking noises or get excited when seated at the table with you? You know your baby best. Go with your instincts and don’t worry about what others tell you. You’ll get so much conflicting information it’ll make your head swim!
When you decide your baby is ready, start with the veggies first. You won’t have to teach them to like sweet foods like fruit—we are hard-wired as humans for that. Introduce foods slowly, one at a time, to see how well your baby digests them. If you notice constipation (like I did with my daughter) add one half to one teaspoon of a good quality olive oil or flax oil to keep things moving.
Finally, take a breath, take a nap, and know that you are doing a great job of caring for your baby! We moms are often way too hard on ourselves. There is no one right way to raise a child. Do your best, love them fiercely, and smile politely at those who imply you’re doing it all wrong. Don’t sweat it, Super Mom. You’ve got this!