Crying Over Milk, Part 2

Nikon photos 022Hi Everyone,

Yes, it’s been 2 months since I’ve written anything.  I can’t believe it!  The last time I wrote I mentioned I was just starting to wean little Ela.  I was certainly having mixed feelings about it, but I decided after she turned one in March that it was time.  Over the last few months I’ve been dropping feedings, going gradually, to see how we would do.  We were down to one last evening feed before bedtime, probably my favorite time to feed her b/c she is so tired and relaxed and peaceful. All seemed fine.

And then it wasn’t.  And it hasn’t been.

About four weeks ago I developed a clogged milk duct. A painful, sore to the max, awful lumpy clogged duct.  I was exhausted and stressed out, but this was a new kind of exhaustion.  Not to mention I couldn’t sleep b/c every time I was on my side it killed.  I knew this was a possible side-effect of weaning, but I’m not sure I was really expecting it (at least not that kind of pain). I knew dropping that last feeding at night had to be done, if only to set my body and boob back to some sort of normal.

Boy was I mistaken.  I finally got up the courage to stop nursing Ela and since then nothing has been “normal.”

Yes, the infection cleared up. But It’s been a horror of hormones, emotions, fatigue and everything else since then. When I say horror, that is exactly how it feels. I feel like I am grieving something, which sounds ridiculous, but I have feelings of grief that remind me of when I lost my mom ten years ago. I cry at EVERYTHING. I cry at bottles, at heating up milk that comes from a carton out of the refrigerator and not me (mind you, I’d been giving Ela a bottle in the daytime so it’s not like we went cold turkey or anything).  I cry at songs, TV commercials and in the shower. I am absolutely bereft and never in a million years did I expect to feel this way.

Physically it has been no picnic either.  I am exhausted, like first-trimester exhausted. I get chills at night where my teeth chatter, and no number of fluffy blankets can make it stop. I’ve had heart palpitations, weird food aversions, loss of appetite and just feel sort of blah in general.

I scoured my baby books for any information on weaning side effects. Understandably, there is a lot of literature on the effects it has on a baby, but I was actually surprised at the dearth of info out there for how it affects a woman’s body.  An internet search did lead me to lots of blog posts and some journal articles about this and thank God, because I was beginning to think I was crazy!

Why doesn’t anyone talk about this?! Weaning is HARD! I am finding there are TONS of women out there that have experienced what I’ve been feeling…heavy, low feelings, physical aches and pains, a basic withdrawal of some sort that is hard to just put into words.

I’ve been struggling with this so much, but I think I’m starting to piece things together.  It was important to write this blog post today because I truly do think there is not enough out there for women who are weaning and experiencing these side effects.  For me, I definitely think there is a physical component at work.  When you nurse, all those good endorphins and oxytocin are released into your bloodstream, basically giving you a high whenever you feed.  After a year, my body must be used to that natural pick-me-up.  It will take time for my body to go back to it’s pre-nursing, pre-pregnant chemistry (let’s hope this happens fast b/c this sucks. Er, well, it doesn’t suck, that’s the problem, ha. ).

Mentally, it’s more challenging I think.  Ela is our last baby.  She is the last baby I will ever nurse.  She is the last baby who I can cradle in my arms, who will play with my gold necklace and pull my hair when she snuggles next to me and nurses.  I will never give that kind of nourishment to a living creature again.  It’s the end, simply put, of that charming baby phase.  No one even calls her a baby anymore.  She’s a toddler.  Gasp!

For days I grappled with whether I was doing the right thing.  I even researched ways to go back to nursing (which apparently you can.  It’s called re-lactation).  But deep down I know I will have to wean someday.  I will have to confront these feelings of sadness, of loss.  I know this all might sound ridiculous.  Loss of what? Your baby is fine! She is. But I’m perhaps not.  Not yet anyway.  I think it’s not something that is not often discussed, but grief can come in so many forms, so many shades.  Particularly after losing your mom, or parent, or a loved one, any other kind of loss feels so amplified.  It’s like your mind doesn’t know how to keep things in perspective and it goes into extreme grieving mode…the memory of past grief sends your brain into a tizzy.

So how’s Ela been with all this? Just FINE. More than fine.  She eats, and eats and eats some more.  She’s a tiny little thing who just loves food, loves to be fed, loves to laugh and loves to smear yogurt all over her face (and mine).  I actually tried to nurse her a couple days ago to see what would happen.  She looked confused and then laughed at me.  Something she’d always wanted and within a matter of days she’s moved on.

But that’s a good thing.  It’s reassuring to know she’s ok and not dwelling.  She’s growing and moving onto the next phase of her life.  Walking. Talking. Growing some more teeth (she still only has two!).

I woke up this morning feeling a little better.  I am getting there in small baby steps and am excited I actually had the drive to write.  And some time to cook up some yummy food for her and Kirina.  Let’s hope for brighter days. 🙂

From Ela’s (yogurt-smeared) highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Crying Over Milk: The Unexpected Sadness of Weaning

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Wow.  Ela is 11-months-old.

When did that happen?!

She started off as a 5lb peanut and suddenly she is a crawling/standing/cruising 15lb butterball!

This week’s post isn’t really food-related.  But definitely nourishment-related.  I’ve made the decision to stop nursing in a month.

I can’t tell you how mixed-up I am over this decision.  I thought when the time came I’d be jumping for joy.  No more nursing in the car in a supermarket parking lot.  Yay!  In restaurants while trying to eat a meal.  Yay!  In front of llamas at the zoo (for real, this happened).  Yay!

Instead, I’m left with a rather heavy, emotional feeling, which I can only call sadness.  But why? I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few weeks.

I never even thought I’d be able to nurse Ela.  I couldn’t nurse Kirina, my oldest, and didn’t expect anything different the second time around.  With Kirina, who spent time in the NICU while I recovered from a difficult childbirth, nursing never came naturally.  I was sad, frustrated and unfairly chided myself for being a mommy failure because I didn’t produce enough milk.  But I didn’t have to chide myself—Kirina enjoyed her formula and whatever breast milk I had and has grown into a fine, happy (sometimes crazy) toddler.

My experience with Ela, on the other hand, has been completely different.  She was handed to me minutes after she was born (an astounding feeling in and of itself) and almost immediately started rooting around looking to nurse.  For real!  I was completely and utterly amazed.  She knew exactly what to do.  I still find it pretty awesome that such a synergy, such a bond can exist between a mother and child, only minutes after meeting one other.

I cannot adequately describe the wonder of watching a little being grow and thrive, solely on the milk that I’ve been providing for her.   But it isn’t just Ela who’s been thriving–it’s been me too.  In unexpected ways.  Biologically I feel relaxed, calmer, when she latches on.  But mentally, that feeling of providing, of nourishing Ela on so many different levels…it leaves me content, happy and full of love.  I’m not sure how to even describe, adequately, that part of it.  I’m just stunned that in my life, I’ve had the opportunity to nourish someone’s tummy and someone’s soul.

We are not having anymore children.  So Ela is it in terms of all things baby.  Perhaps I am sad because the end of nursing means the end of that sweet baby phase, which I will never be able to experience again.  It’s overwhelming to think that phase of my life can be over just like that.  No more nursing her to sleep, no more rocking her in my arms in that way, no more playing with her little wisps of hair while I cradle her.   The fleeting nature of those tender baby years…I really feel that right now.

This post is certainly a bit sad.  But I am happy little Ela is thriving and ready for the next phase.  She’s starting to walk, use a cup, eat more varieties of food.  She is a sweet and happy little soul and I have to let her grow up.  I realized this a few weeks ago when I gave her some water in a cup.  She was thrilled! Her face said it all: “Mommy, you wench, you’ve been holding out on me! This cup contraption is great and it takes HALF the time to suck down liquids. Cool beans.”

Ok. She doesn’t talk. And she didn’t say “cool beans.”  But she will one day.

At any rate, I am thankful to have had this experience with Ela.  Anytime you feed your baby it is an amazing thing.  You, and only you, whether through breast, bottle or spoon, are nourishing your baby and helping them grow.  It’s the most important work you will ever do.

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetite!

Ela’s Eggs: Healthy Finger Food for Babies

Happy New Year everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season. We’ve recovered, knock wood, from various tummy bugs and colds. Yay! I am not only appreciative of everyone’s health, but very happy to get back to cooking and feeding my babies good food (Saltines and Pedialyte get pretty old fast).

For Ela, who just turned ten-months this past week (omg!), I’m on the hunt for fun finger foods.  She’s not always in the mood for mommy shoving a spoon in her face and enjoys feeding herself.  For Kirina, that tummy bug took its toll!  We’re trying to gain back some weight, so each bite needs to count (and you all know, parents of toddlers, how much effort it can take to get even  one bite of anything healthy into a finicky mouth).

Enter the humble egg.

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Fast. Healthy (high in protein and good yolk fat for baby).  Budget-friendly.  Easy to cook. And versatile. Yes, you can cook them in various ways (scrambled, boiled, omelettes, etc.) but you can also season them.

Yes, season!

Ela’s current way to eat eggs is scrambled (I scramble eggs with a touch of half-and-half and a pinch of salt and cook them in over low-medium heat in a lightly buttered pan) with a pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning.

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Dried Oregano

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My husband introduced this to me the first year we met and he made me the tastiest batch of scrambled eggs.  His secret was using the slightest pinch of oregano in the egg mixture.  It totally transformed the eggs into something new and different!

But don’t stop there! You can try a pinch of just about anything on a scrambled egg.  Paprika, cinnamon (Kirina’s favorite), basil, onion powder, cumin or coriander powder.  What’s great is that you can serve a different “flavor” of egg anytime you want, making for a different meal each time.  Toddlers will get a kick out of choosing their “egg flavor” which might also help them eat more of it (ah, the budding independence of a tyrant, um, toddler). And babies will learn to taste new and yummy spices.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  A quick note on eggs: make sure you check with your pediatrician and ask when your little one is allowed to eat them.

From Ela’s high chair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Ginger to the Rescue: Using Spices to Boost Baby’s Immunity & Soothe Tummies

My babies are sick. 😦

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In fact, my whole family got sick this past week. Ela, who just turned 9-months, has been battling a cold and chest congestion, while Kirina, 3-years, got nailed with the stomach bug. My poor husband (who shouldered most of the cleaning-up and rescue duty because he 1) has a stronger stomach than me 2) is more mature about baby throw-up, meaning, he doesn’t scream and run away and 3) he’s just better at this stuff, or, so I tell myself.  Whatever, he’s just the better parent and I suck! But I digress) also got nailed with some hybrid of whatever the girls have.  Me?  I’m coughing a lot, and losing my mind (update: I started this post a few days ago. I now have a fever and am totally miserable!).

We haven’t been able to eat much in the Saini household this week, but some things have been wonderful.  In fact, they’ve been surprisingly effective.  The first being ginger, our new best friend.  Did you know ginger has been around for a zillion years and is known to soothe all sorts of tummy problems?  It reduces inflammation and is very protective. Asian countries use ginger in just about everything, particularly ginger teas (I remember drinking hot water and ginger infusions when I was pregnant).  Kirina’s nurse even recommended flat ginger ale for her stomach.

How could I use ginger with Ela?  Too young for soda for sure, but it got me thinking, what if I infuse cooking water with ginger and boil/steam her veggies in it?  I tried a carrot and ginger combo.  I thought it would be a great immunity booster, and also a gentle way to introduce ginger to her palate (hey, I have to multi-task. I’m still in the business of spicing up baby food people!).

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It was awesome! And super easy. Simply take a slice or two of fresh ginger root and add it to your water while boiling/steaming your vegetable of choice.  The carrots took on a lovely, light ginger flavor.  Ela ate them all up! I think this cooking method would be fabulous with lots of different herbs and spices.  Mint, cilantro, basil leaves, etc.  Even a clove or two in boiling water would create a nice perfume and gentle flavor.

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts! And most of all, stay well this holiday (and cold and flu) season.  Lots of love!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

Just say no to bland baby food!

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Is your little one on a “no” streak? A good friend of mine recently asked me how to get her little one to be more adventurous with his tastes.  He started solids recently and would only eat bland veggies out of a jar.  Frustrating indeed.  As a new mother it is always exciting when you get clearance from your pediatrician to start solids.  Part of you thinks you will be able to give your baby all sorts of foods and flavors and they will just gobble it all up.  Easy peasy.

Not so.

It’s quite normal for babies to take 10-15 tries to get used to a flavor.  And even then, we are not all programmed to love everything (my 3-year-old, Kirina, can’t stand potatoes in any form to this day.  Me? Fish of any kind).  But before you write off a certain food for your baby, it is important to keep offering diverse foods and flavors so that your little one’s taste buds will have a chance to acclimate to something new.  Your baby will get used to trying different things, and also be able to handle more adult flavors with ease as time goes by.

I told my dear friend to try adding a pinch of this or that to her baby’s food (seasonings) to liven things up.  A pinch of salt or pepper, a pinch of cinnamon in sweet potatoes, some basil in carrot puree.  All easy ways to liven up baby food.  Guess what? It worked!  Her son branched out and began accepting new flavors.  Yay for yummy baby food! This little guy is definitely on his way to some culinary adventures.

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Spice is nice!

In short, babies are people too. If a food is tasty to you, chances are it will be tasty to your little one.  Most of us don’t eat bland mush. But if mush has to be eaten (which for young  babies is sort of a given), then at least let it be tasty mush. 🙂

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Happy Halloween! How About Some Pumpkin For Your Little Pumpkin?

Hello everyone,

Happy Halloween! It’s the best day ever! Or, well, one of the best days ever. 🙂  I am, and always have been obsessed with Halloween.  I love everything about it…the dressing up, the decorations, lights, pumpkin picking/carving, and most of all, trick-or-treating.  In fact, I love it so much I’ve been waiting for Kirina to grow old enough for trick-or-treating, just so I can re-live those days of ringing doorbells and getting candy.  Mmm, candy.  Yes, it is what you’re thinking.  I am going to raid my innocent 3-year-old’s candy bag and treat myself to whatever I find appealing.  I figure this is the least she can do for me since I had to, um, birth her, which might I remind everyone involved lots of pain and bad hospital food.  Nothing a free peanut-butter cup won’t fix. 🙂

At any rate, what about baby Ela?!  She needs a treat too.  A special new meal is in order.  On pumpkin day, why not eat pumpkin?!  It’s time for Ela to branch out on her veggies, which quite frankly, we are struggling with.  She doesn’t eat them straight like Kirina used to…Ela wants it sweet, mixed in with applesauce or some other fruit puree.  Which is fine, but it is important to keep her tastes diverse.  Well, we found winners with two great recipes today.  We made pumpkin two ways:

Pumpkin Puree with Cinnamon Butter

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The recipe is easy. I lightly coat a small sautee pan with butter and add 1 tsp of finely chopped onion or shallot.  Add a pinch of cinnamon and cook onions until very soft, about 5 minutes.  Add 4-6 ounces of preferably organic canned pumpkin puree (you can make your own puree too, but it’s Halloween and we need some time savers today!).  Sautee for a minute or two with the onions and add water to reach your preferred consistency (Ela always likes things on the thinner side).  Finally, blend with a stick blender or food mill to create a smooth puree.

Questions I often get from parents? Why onion? Why butter?

Because they taste GOOD. I agree that we should not be adding lots of “stuff” to baby food, but I think a little bit of these ingredients (yes, butter) gives the food so much taste and dimension. Babies are people too! Serve them interesting meals and they’ll keep exploring and asking for more.

The second variation I made was a Pumpkin Sage Puree.  I took a fresh sage leaf and sautéed it in the onion/butter mixture for a few seconds. Sage is strong, so just a scent of it will do if you are introducing this spice to baby for the first time.

So give a little pumpkin to your pumpkin!  Have fun and enjoy tonight.  I have to run and get outfits ready (Ana & Elsa, what else?).

From Ela’s high chair to your little one’s, BOO! and Bon Appetit!

Happy Diwali! Festive Foods for Baby and Family

Hi Everyone,

Wow, what a busy month it has been!  A lot of cooking, feeding and writing….and celebrating!  It’s Diwali folks!

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Diwali décor at my toddler’s pre-school

Diwali is a festival of lights and is one of the biggest Hindu celebrations that happens every Fall.  The celebrations last for 4-5 days.  Without getting into super esoteric conversations (this is a baby food blog after all), Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, of lightness over dark.  People all over India and the world celebrate by dressing up in fancy clothes, doing prayers, and shooting off fireworks (illegally if you are in my neighborhood.  Last time I checked rocket blasters were illegal in suburban NJ.  My rule-loving lawyer self gets very bothered by this, but I digress).  People also eat during Diwali. And eat. And eat. And eat.

Did I mention eat?

There’s seriously no end to the eating! It’s like Christmas, Fourth of July, a Seder or two and a whole blast of Thanksgiving meals wrapped into five days of indulging.

Or something like that.  I’m still working on being a writer, guys.

Anyway, Diwali is a wonderful time for children and adults alike.  It’s a great opportunity to sample sweets and savories.  It’s also a great time to play with spices.  One of my Kirina’s favorites?  Milk-based desserts with cardamom and saffron. I made her a simple milk pudding last week:

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Kheer with saffron, cardamom and almonds.

The recipe is simple! I boil milk, basmati rice, saffron, cardamom, sugar and sliced almonds together until thickened.  The milk is a familiar and comforting taste for toddlers…spicing it up adds dimension and adds new (often adventurous) flavors.

For baby Ela I made a yummy banana semolina or what is called sooji porridge.  Since she is still nursing and not on cow’s milk, this recipe was great for her.  Warm, soft and soothing.  Semolina is similar to pastina, tiny bits of pasta that when cooked take on a porridge-like consistency (perfect for new eaters).  I added mashed banana and cardamom to boiled semolina:

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Banana and Cardamom Sooji for baby.

Festive and flavorful! Diwali is a great excuse to introduce new foods and flavors. And not just Diwali. Thanksgiving, Christmas and other upcoming holidays all offer opportunities to introduce spices to your baby. Stay tuned!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetit!

Nourish Your Baby, Nourish Your Soul

Hello Everyone,

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Wow, what a truly amazing few weeks it has been! Ela has been eating solids now for a week or so. I think I’m in baby food heaven!

Yes, I have a thing for baby food.

I seek out farm stands and gather the best pears, peaches and apples (what’s in season here in NJ). I wake up early in the morning to make batches of purées for little Ela.  I get excited to try out new flavor combinations on her—be it saffron with pears, or cardamom with apples.

One morning, in the middle of one of these purée-fests, I got to wondering why I love preparing meals so much (particularly baby food). How did I go from practicing law to dreaming about apple mash?

It’s actually quite a tender thing, isn’t it, to feed your child?  I couldn’t nurse Kirina, my 3-year-old, too well (she was in the NICU, I was a first-time mom, the whole thing was stressful), but with Ela, it’s been all nursing.  And that has been a really unique and wonderful experience.  It’s something only I can give her and it feels like a huge responsibility.  It is wild that you can actually grow a little creature just from breast milk!

Solids are a huge step though. It is a baby’s first introduction to earthly delights—ripe fruits, sweet and juicy.  Savory vegetables with herbs and spices.  New tastes, smells and flavors.  It is an amazing food world to savor and experience.

And you, the parent or caregiver, gets to be in charge of introducing her to those tastes and first experiences.

When you feed your little one good things, you are not only nourishing them, but you are nourishing their taste buds, their appetites, their souls. Feeding food to anyone is nourishment on so many different levels. Feeding is showing love, constancy and caring.  Feeding creates a bond, whether it is between mother and child or grandfather and granddaughter.  Your little one looks to you for what she needs to grow.

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For me, with every spoonful given, I find myself nourished.  My soul simply feels more open.  I felt this way with Kirina, and also now with Ela.  Even more with Kirina actually since we didn’t have that nursing bond as much.  Those first spoonfuls were a new sort of bond.  I finally understood what my mother and generations of mothers who cook feel–the need to feed someone, to help them thrive, to have the satisfaction of helping someone feel satiated and safe.

It doesn’t matter whether you breast-feed or bottle feed, cook your own baby food, or spice up a jar from the grocery.  Always remember you are doing good soul-work by feeding your little one.  You are keeping them happy, healthy and alive with every bite.  It is the most important work you will do in your life.

Nourish your baby, nourish your soul.

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Baby’s First Applesauce: Four Ways to Spice it Up

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Hello Everyone,

Apple season is here! Fall has to be one of my favorite times of the year. And it’s perfect that Ela is starting solids right now because she gets to munch on freshly picked apples.  Farm to highchair!

As I learned with Kirina, applesauce is one of the easiest meals to make at home for baby.  No need to buy jars, pouches or the like.  The basic recipe? Core, peel and slice some apples (get them from your local orchard if you can; if not, grab what you can.  All varieties work well with the exception of maybe Red Delicious).  Place in a saucepan with a few spoons of water, cover and simmer on low to medium heat until soft.  Puree in blender or use a stick blender.  That’s it!

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Applesauce

For real. It’s that easy.

Now for the fun stuff:

Spice Up Your Applesauce

Applesauce is amazing.  But it can be even more amazing by adding a pinch of this or that. Applesauce is one of the easiest meals to use when introducing your little one to a new spice. The sweetness of the apples is usually a hit with baby taste buds and it will be easier for them to accept a new flavor through the sauce.  It’s easy to do! Just add a pinch of ground spice during cooking time.  Here are Ela’s favorite flavors:

Cinnamon Applesauce

Cardamom Applesauce

Nutmeg Applesauce

Clove Applesauce

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Applesauce, four ways. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and cardamom. Spices are for photo only. Add a pinch of ground spice to actual sauce!

This list is not exhaustive! Other spices work well too, including saffron, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla (or vanilla sugar).

I guarantee you will not only have a happy baby, but a house that smells divine!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Ela’s First Spoonful! Find out what it was…

Masala Baby Food

Hi Everyone!

IMG_3790 Ela getting ready for her first bites!

Finally!! The moment is here! Ela turned six-months-old this past week and we got the official clearance from her pediatrician to start solids. YAY!

Oh the pediatrician.  Ok, before I mildly rant about anything, I want you to know that I love this office.  They are wonderful souls and are always there for us.  But the fellow we saw yesterday is a bit old school and gave me the run-down of what I should be feeding Ela for her first bites.

Surprise!  It was all bland, boring and yucky!

Sigh.

As with Kirina, the same box of pasty rice cereal was mentioned.  And eating applesauce for five days in a row before trying anything else.

And, “no need to use seasonings.  babies don’t need them.”

Um, ok, this kind of kills the entire premise of my book, my blog, and my general culinary mission…

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