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Family Matters: Sleepless Nights


The first six months of my boys’ lives are largely defined by how tired I was. I had NO IDEA of the impact of waking up umpteen times a night. Mildly put, it wreaked havoc on my emotions, my energy, my moods and pretty much everything in between.

With my first son, I was so certain, as most first-time parents are, of how things would be done. He would not use a pacifier. He would sleep in his own crib. He’d be sleeping through the night by 8 weeks old.

Ahem.

After his first week of life spent sucking a blister onto my pinkie finger when he wasn’t actively eating, I made a middle-of-the-night dash for the stash of pacifiers – still in packages – that I’d received for my baby shower. Ripping open the first pack I found, I hurriedly boiled water on the stove, sterilized the paci, then popped it into the freezer to cool it off.  When the temperature was moderate and my left arm was cramped from the bouncing baby in it during that process, I popped that pacifier into his puckered lips. He went right to sleep. Ahhhhhhhh…..

Now, my older one did sleep in his own crib from the first night he came home. He had a cute little sleep positioner that kept him on his side (his preferred position), and I kept him swaddled like a baby burrito (easy to do with a January baby). After about the first three weeks, he was like clockwork. He woke up at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. and went right back to sleep. I fed him in the rocking chair in his room in the dark and quiet. Soon, he weaned himself off of the 1 a.m. feeding and by 16 weeks was sleeping through the night. A little longer than I’d hoped, but still, not unreasonable.

So, with baby No. 2, I figured it would work pretty much the same way.

What was I thinking?

Second son didn’t stop eating his first month of life. I mean, I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop at all. At least that’s how I remember it in my sleep-deprived state. Forget the crib. I was too sore after a second c-section to get up and down every 30 seconds all night to feed him. I borrowed a bassinet from a friend and popped him down next to me.

I kept telling myself, “You can make it 16 weeks; you can make it 16 weeks.”

Soon he became too congested to sleep in the bassinet. He slept, partially upright, in his bouncy seat. After we got his cold cleared up, he just decided not to sleep at all. Now at this point, not only did I have Mr. Eats Nonstop, I also had Mr. Terrifying Toddler, his older brother. I had to sleep.

Going against everything I’d done the first time, I stripped all the blankets off the bed and popped that baby right beside me at night. He ate, we slept. All got better in our world.

He did make it to his crib eventually. He wasn’t sleeping through the night at 16 weeks – or 20 weeks – or 24 weeks… I’ll just stop there as not to be forced to reveal how long it did take. But he did sleep through eventually. Now he’s my kid who is impossible to wake up. Go figure.

Point being: every kid is different. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep. Your child won’t be scarred sleeping only in his crib OR only in your bed. And if he has to sleep in the bouncy seat for three weeks, so be it. They sleep. You sleep.

All gets right with the world.



Family Matters: Baby Love


One of my very best friends had a baby this week.

I got to be there with her when that beautiful little girl made her entrance into the world.

I’m not sure my friend realized how much it meant to me to be there.

For me personally, there is no greater validation of the presence of God than watching the birth of a baby. The sheer miracle that is 6 pounds, 11 ounces of perfect person is overwhelming.  The sheer miracle that is the human body, producing another human body, is overpowering. How perfectly everything works in glorious orchestration is awe inspiring.

I got to watch that sweet little girl take her first breath. I heard the mewling kitten-gasps of her first sounds and was there when she pried her eyes open for her first look into her mama’s face.

I’m not that sweet baby’s mother; I’m not even a blood relative, but witnessing and sharing in her birth has given me a bond with this little girl (and her mother). It’s a good reminder that family doesn’t always mean bonded by blood. Family means bonded by love.



Family Matters: Baby


As I sit down to write this blog, my son is celebrating his 11th birthday. 

Eleven years old.

I can’t really remember where the past 11 years have gone.

I also can’t remember where I got the idea for the tradition of the Birthday Chair.

Each year, in the dark hours before the birthday boy wakes up, the Birthday Chair is born.  It started with balloons fastened to a high chair for a 1-year-old to bat around with cake-smeared hands. When the boys were toddlers, they were bent on dismantling the Birthday Chair moments after waking up; not on purpose, but that’s just what toddlers do. 

The Birthday Chair is usually decorated with balloons – we used to have one balloon per year of age, but 11 balloons didn’t fit on the chair when I was decorating it last night. Some years it’s festooned in crepe paper matching the theme colors of the birthday party. One year it was Batman crepe paper for a child particularly captivated by the Dark Knight. One year the crepe paper ribbons and balloons were all primary colors to match the bounce house rented for the occasion.  One year I made a fabric cover for the back of the chair in festive birthday fabric. 

No matter how it’s decorated, the Birthday Chair is always the place of honor for the birthday boy, until the crepe paper wears off days later and the balloons pop (or are spirited away for balloon wars). 

The past few months leading up to this 11th birthday have been an exercise in all things being too babyish for my fifth grader. I wondered how he’d react to the Birthday Chair this morning, as I never quite know what will set off an episode of “THIS IS TOO BABY!!!” 

“Mom, make sure I always have a birthday chair,” he said. 

And I will.



Family Matters: Baby Wearing


When I had my first son, I knew everything about parenting.

Cough.

Choke.

Snort.

Sputter.

OK, I didn’t. I didn’t know a thing.

Phew. There, I admitted it.

But when I had my second son, 17 months later, I knew all there was to know about parenting.

**crickets**

Busted.

I’m not going to pretend I knew everything then, either, but I did do things a bit differently with son number 2 than I had with son number 1.

One of the biggest things I did differently was embrace babywearing.

What’s that, you ask?

Babywearing simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a cloth baby carrier.

My friends wanted to buy me a ticket to Woodstock and make sure I had some recycled sandals.

It’s not like that at all, people!

And truth be told, it was as much as having my hands free for my 17-month old as it was having my newborn up close next to my body. We called my sling, the cloth wrap I wore Luke in, the “papoose.” Luke was often not happy at all if he wasn’t in the blue denim sling I wore him in for hours and hours every day.

(Before you argue with me, he’s 9 and has no attachment issues, thank you very much)

Experts say some of the benefits of baby wearing include:

• Happy Babies. It’s true carried babies cry less! In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours.

• Healthy Babies. Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not.

• Confident Parents. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression.

• Loving Caregivers. Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you.

•Comfort and Convenience. With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier.

But of course, never put safety second.

Some tips:

Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things, but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.

1. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.

2. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.

3. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.

4. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.

5. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of eight to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.

Baby wearing was such a great experience for us that I highly recommend you try it. Bottom line, you have to do what works for you.



Family Matters: Traveling With Baby


My older son, Curt, was about five months old on Memorial Day weekend 2002. His dad and I thought it would be a great idea to rent a beach house on the Bolivar Peninsula for the holiday weekend and enjoy our first trip as a small family.

We opted for a beachfront cabin, not right in the thick of things so we could enjoy some quiet, but not too far out that we couldn’t get to the convenience store easily, either. This proved to be quite a serendipitous choice. This was the first time we’d be away from home with our son. Overnights to see his grandparents in Houston didn’t really count – their house was already stocked with a crib, swing, bouncy seat, diapers and a lot of the things we’d need for a long weekend with a baby. 

I never realized how much it takes to get one small baby to the beach for three days.

First of all, we needed the portable play yard – and several changes of sheets to keep the sand off – for him to sleep in. We loaded the jogging stroller into the back of the SUV thinking it would be easy to transport him over to the sand with the big wheels (we were right – the jogging stroller with its sun shade was a lifesaver on the beach). It also came in handy to lull him to sleep on long walks along the ocean so one of us didn’t have to leave the beach during his naptimes.

Then there was the beach bag. And the baby beach bag. Diapers. Swim diapers. Hats. Suntan lotion in 19 different baby varieties. Baby powder (very helpful for getting sand off of mom and baby!). Pacifier. Baby sunglasses. Water. Baby wipes. Toys. And the list goes on and on, seemingly interminable.

We found ourselves running to the convenience store for things we’d forgotten, paying so much more than if we’d shopped at our local Brookshire’s before we left home.

So here’s a checklist of things you might need to travel with baby this summer, or any time.

• Car seat
• Stroller
• Portable highchair
• Portable crib
• First aid kit
• 1-2 outfits for baby per day
• Bibs and burp cloths
• Extra shirt for mom and dad in case baby has a blowout
• Toys and books
• Baby’s lovie
• Breastfeeding cover or 2 bottles filled with formula
• Sippy cup with water
• Baby food
• Diapers – about one for every two hours
• Wipes
• Plastic grocery bags to store or dispose of dirty clothes or diapers
• Infant car seat or convertible car seat
• Stroller
• Baby carrier (optional)
• 2 daytime outfits, 4 pajama/loungewear outfits
• 3 pairs of socks
• 3 days worth of bibs and burp clothes
• 1 pair of shoes
• 3 days worth of bibs
• 1 weather appropriate hat.
• Baby toothbrush and baby toothpaste
• Baby bath soap and lotion
• 1 baby bottle and 1 Sippy cup
• 2 favorite books (1 bedtime, 1 anytime)
• Baby formula and food
• Hand pump or breast pump if needed
• Baby detergent (optional)
• Baby bottle squeegee and dish detergent
• Baby monitor
• Noise maker
• Baby proofing stuff

Oh, and the baby.

Happy travels!



Family Matters: Lavender Baby Bath


As most parents know, multi-tasking becomes a way of life when you have small children, especially babies.

My boys are close together in age, about 18 months apart, so the ability to multi-task was critical to the smooth flow of our household.

Plus, as a new parent, I was tired. Did I mention, TIRED?  Luke, my younger son, needed to eat every 90 minutes, at most, for the first several months of life. I remember waking up to his hunger cries, incredulous that he was hungry again. But sure enough, he’d eat vigorously and fall back to sleep…until the next time his belly needed filling.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and more-than-a-bit stressed out those first months of both boys’ lives, but then I discovered a way to double up on a task and get much-needed-relaxation.

Enter Lavender Baby Wash – Brookshire’s carries several brands of the lavender scented-baby wash.

Each evening, I’d fill my large bath tub (it was such a blessing to have!) with warm water and add a capful of lavender-scented baby wash, which bubbled up just enough to entertain the babies.  I’d put the boys in the tub together and inhale the soothing, steamy scent of the lavender-scented bath water. Both boys were bathed at once and we’d take advantage of the comforting, tranquil properties of lavender at the same time.

Lavender, sometimes called the “Mothering Oil,” is known for its relaxing properties and is used to alleviate not only stress but also anxiety. The ancient Egyptians added it to their baths for extra relaxation. Lavender settles irritability and is gently sedating, restoring mind and body to a state in which healing – and rest – can take place.

In closing, I have a confession: my boys are now 8 and 10 years old and I will STILL buy lavender baby wash.

No, they don’t use it; it’s for me.



Family Matters: Homemade Teething Relief


The months when a baby starts to grow his or her teeth are some of the most trying as a new parent. I can remember trying anything – from my own fingers and fancy refrigerated baby toys to all kinds of teething biscuits – to try and bring relief to my son’s restless little gums.

One thing I noticed was that many purchased teething biscuits contained palm oil (a saturated fat), as well as more sugar and preservatives than I wanted. One day, I decided to do a little research and find a recipe or two to make homemade biscuits that hopefully my teething toddler would like – and would be a bit healthier.

These are not very sweet, but because I did not have much added sugar in my child’s diet this early in life, he thought they tasted great….and it provided much-needed chomping!

Homemade Teething Biscuits

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose or oat flour
1 cup dry infant rice or oat cereal
1 very ripe banana, mashed until smooth
2 Tbs canola oil
2 Tbs water
1 Tbs honey, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375˚F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and cereal. In a small bowl, stir together the banana, oil, water and honey if using. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until dough comes together and is not too sticky. You might need to add a little more flour our water, depending on the ripeness and size of the banana.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/4-inch thick and cut into smooth circles. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely and store extras in an airtight container. You can also freeze up to two months.



Family Matters: “The Suzanne”


The months before my first son, Will, was born were some of the most stressful in my life. He wasn’t easy to get here, and I was worried sick for months that something bad was going to happen.

On top of that, I have a tendency to obsess when I am passionate about something, whether it’s working on a project, training for a race or becoming a mother. I am either all in or all out…nothing in between.

I read every baby book I could find, researching cribs, car seats, food, diapers and anything else I thought a mom needed to know to ensure success from day one.  But there is one thing I forgot to factor into my equation: Will was a real live baby – not what I came to call Handbook Baby.

Handbook Baby is the baby in all the parenting books who apparently follows a schedule, eats and burps on command and sleeps through the night from the time you bring him or her home from the hospital.

Handbook Baby does not exist, and all I could think was someone without children had to have written these books.

Little by little, I learned to recognize Will’s cues and figure out what he and I both needed to survive our first year together. For me, part of that meant he slept on my chest for the first three months, and right by me for the next nine.

I could not bear to hear his cry, and if it weren’t for the wisdom and experience of my dear friend, Suzanne, Will and I would have had many difficult late nights of tears…both of us.

Suzanne came over just after Will was born, bringing us a homemade apple pie and some advice that I use to this day when holding restless babies. In fact, among my friends, we came to call this calming move, “The Suzanne.” It isn’t a complicated move, but it works to quiet crying babies almost every single time.

Holding your baby, simply stand with your feet together. Take a step to the right with your right foot. Bring your left foot over to your right foot. Then bend at the knees, like you would to sit in a chair but not quite that far. Stand back up and repeat moves to the left. Back and forth.

There’s something about the rhythm of “The Suzanne” that is almost magical. I’ve seen babies quit crying in under a minute. It worked for Will – and his younger brother – again and again.

My sons are now teenagers and twice my size. It was a sad day for me when I realized I could no longer hold them. These days, I like to find a crying baby in a restaurant and ask the parent if I can hold the little one for a minute. Most of the time people will let me, and “The Suzanne” gets passed to another grateful family.



Family Matters: Celebrity chef creates baby food


Now that I have teenagers, I look back and realize that things may not have been as difficult with my babies as I face now, but at the time, I worried myself to death about everything from how long my children would sleep each night to if I were giving them the best nutrition possible.

A child’s relationship with food begins earlier than you might think, and I did not want to create any stress or bad habits that might haunt them later on. I just wanted them to grow strong, be healthy, and learn to enjoy the pleasures of good food.

My first child was born 15 years ago, and honestly, there just wasn’t a lot on the market I felt really good about feeding him. And although I did make a lot of his baby food from scratch, hours in the kitchen were not a practical, long-term solution for my schedule – which of course only seemed to add stress and guilt to my list of new mom angst.

Thankfully, parents today have many great choices for giving their children the best possible start in life when it comes to creating a healthy food relationship. Some of these new choices have sprung to life because of to the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs. We are paying more attention to how we cook and eat, and although some of it may not be only entertainment, chefs such as Tyler Florence are making a real difference.

“As a father, I’m always thinking about how I can get my children to eat healthy, even when time is an issue,” Florence states on the Sprouts website. “As a chef, I want to treat them to foods that are delicious, and create a good relationship with a variety of foods.”

Being the chef he is, he rose to the creative challenge and started the company, “Sprouts.” Sprouts is a 100 percent organic line of nutritious, delicious food options for young eaters, and Brookshire’s is proud to be carrying it now as part of our initiative to help our customers make healthier lifestyle choices.

We all know that obesity is on the rise in our country, and thanks to companies such as Sprouts, we can take the steps needed early in our children’s lives to instill good habits and delight in healthy eating.



Family Matters: Beech-Nut Stage 2.5 baby foods


As every parent and grandparent knows, babies change so fast it’s hard to keep up, and it’s all completely on their own schedule. One week you’re elated when you catch a rare smile from your baby; then the next, she’s giving you belly laughs. One week, he can’t sit up on his own; in no time, he’s crawling and climbing. And you can never predict a baby’s development based on what his sister or brother achieved at the same age.

The same is true with your baby’s eating habits. Babies may seem to go almost instantly from breast milk or formula to solid foods, but as you probably know, learning to eat solid foods is a huge milestone for infants, best accomplished in small steps, and taken at the child’s own pace.

That is why Beech-Nut has expanded their “stages” of baby and toddler food, and has introduced a new “intermediate” stage of solids, Stage 2.5. The longtime baby-food maker now offers six stages, geared to the specific needs and likes/dislikes of babies and toddlers, from about 4-6 months to 24 months and up.

As you’d guess, Stage 2.5 foods are meant to be introduced after Stage 2 foods (fairly smooth foods, either single ingredient or simple combinations) and just before Stage 3 foods (more complex infant foods with slightly more texture.)

These Stage 2.5 foods are designed for babies who are ready for slightly more texture than the plainer Stage 1 and Stage 2 foods, and are intended to help babies explore more  complex, sophisticated flavors. The flavor combinations include a mixture of things your baby may have already tried and enjoyed, like apple and pears, with slightly more unusual flavors like zucchini and mango. To help babies’ sensitive palates adjust to the new flavors, Beech-Nut often combines the new flavor with at least one familiar one, so you get combos like apple, mango and carrot; banana and mixed berries; squash and apples; and sweet potato and zucchini.

Of course, exactly when and how you begin introducing solid foods to infants depends on their individual development, your feeding preferences, and your doctor’s advice. Beech-Nut recommends Stage 2 foods for babies 6 months and older, so they suggest you consider adding in the Stage 2.5 foods when your baby is about 8 months or so.

But aside from age, you can also judge your child’s readiness for Stage 2.5 by his or her behavior and development. You can give these foods a try when he or she eats most or all of the solid food offered at any given meal, and even indicates a desire for more; is beginning to have some success with self-feeding; is able to easily chew (or gum!) the foods you’ve already been feeding; and/or has begun sprouting teeth.



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