On Parenting, Social and Emotional Learning

Manic Brain

When I decided that screen time would no longer be a part of my 4-year-old’s life, I knew I would have to deal with screen detox.  The first day of Spring Break was also the first day of the “No More Screens” rule.  Almost immediately after waking up, Zach asked to watch videos.  I said no and reminded him of the new rule.  He got very angry and cried.  I acknowledged his feelings and stood my ground firmly and with love.  When he calmed down, we had breakfast and played trains while the baby napped.

When his play was winding down, he again asked for videos.  I said no.  He cried but seemed less frustrated.  We had lunch and read some books while the baby again napped.  Later that afternoon, he asked for videos again.  I said no.  He didn’t cry.  At that point, I knew he was ready to listen.

I said, “You know that inside your head you have something called your brain, and that’s what you use to think, learn, and solve problems.  When you watch vgiphyideos, your brain is like this…” I made quick panting noises while shaking my head manically from side to side.  He smiled.

I continued, “When we turn off the videos, your brain is still going like this…” I again made the manic gestures, and he laughed.  “The problem is that the rest of the world doesn’t move as quickly as the videos, so your brain makes you feel angry because it wants things to move quickly again.  You have a wonderful brain; it’s a brain that can learn a lot and can solve problems.  My job is to help you keep your brain healthy and calm so that it can think and make good decisions.  And that’s why I decided that you can’t watch videos anymore.”  He thought about what I said but didn’t have any questions.

The rest of our Spring Break week passed without a single request for videos, and with lots of wonderful work and play.  I had my gentle, sweet, and mostly cooperative son back.

Today was the first day of school, and I knew he’d ask to watch videos because screen time had been a part of his after-school routine.  He came through the door after school and videos were the first thing on his mind.  I said no.  He asked why.  I repeated my “manic brain” explanation and offered an audiobook and a trip to the park as alternatives.  He happily accepted, and we had a fun afternoon.

During dinner, my husband asked Zach if he’d felt excited today about seeing his friends again after the break.  Zach said, “When I saw my friends this morning, my brain felt like when I watched videos.”  And that’s when I knew he understood.  Metacognition at four years of age.  Never underestimate a child.

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Making the Soup

Last week I wrote about our experience with the Jaramillo Soup.  The beauty of this soup is that you can make it with whatever you have in your fridge, so it’s economical and uncomplicated.  When I started making it for Zach, I began by giving him 2 oz. three times per day, mixed with breast milk (plus nursing on-demand the rest of the day).  This meant that I was making about 1/3 of the recipe featured here.  I gradually increased the amount of soup based on his demands and hunger level.  By six months of age, he’s drinking four 9-oz. bottles of soup each day (plus purees for lunch and dinner made from other things like sweet potato, corn & spinach, etc. to practice spoon feeding).*  When you see how much he eats you’ll find it shocking and cruel that anyone would expect THIS big baby to be on a breast milk-only diet until he turned six months.

*Since I started this post a week ago (hello, busy life) I have weaned Zach from the bottles and I’m spoon-feeding him 100%.  This is described at the end of the post.

Ingredients:

Vegetables

  • 1 chard leaf
  • 1 kale leaf
  • 1 lettuce leaf
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 5 green beans
  • 1 large broccoli floret
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/3 sweet potato

Legumes & grains (soak all legumes and brown rice the night before)

  • 1 tbsp. mung or azuki beans (or any beans you have)
  • 1 tbsp. green lentils (or yellow or brown)
  • 1 tbsp. brown rice
  • 1 tbsp. quinoa (doesn’t need to be soaked)

Animal protein (a portion approximate to the size of your baby’s palm)

  • Dark meat chicken, grass-fed beef, chicken livers* or fatty fish (i.e. salmon)

*Liver can cause constipation but it’s a great source of nutrition, so play it by ear and go easy at first.

Fruits

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 sliver of papaya (approximate size = three of your fingers)
  • 6 prunes
  • five chunks of mango, 1/2 peach, handful of blueberries, OR any other seasonal fruits without the peel (note: NO bananas, strawberries, or citrus)

Optional: DHA cod liver oil for babies (2-3 ml) or a tbsp. of quality olive oil

Water: Ideally use spring water or reverse osmosis water, but at least use purified water (no tap water!!)

Equipment: pressure cooker (or regular soup pot, but it takes longer)*, blender, ceramic or glass bowl, glass bottles, cross-cut nipples (use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the nipple so the soup will go through).

*I have a T-Fal pressure cooker; it’s affordable and works really well.

Instructions:

The night before, measure out the legumes and grains and leave them soaking in two cups of purified water in a glass or ceramic bowl (no plastic, even if it’s BPA-free!).  You can

You can chop up the veggies or cook ’em whole.

also prep baggies with washed and pre-measured veggies for the whole week (note: if your veggies are not organic, make sure you disinfect them with grapefruit seed extract).  Do the same thing for the animal protein; portion the meats, wrap them in parchment paper and then put them in baggies to freeze.

I prep the veggies every Sunday.

In the morning, pour the legumes and grains into your pot with the water they soaked in, and add the vegetables and animal protein.  DO NOT put in the fruits or oil, and DO NOT use any sweeteners or seasonings.

Cover the pressure cooker and turn on the heat as hight as it will go.  When it has built up pressure and starts steaming, turn down the heat to medium-low (just enough to maintain pressure) and set a timer for 15 minutes.  Alternately, you can pressure cook the grains and legumes for 10 minutes, bring down the pressure, add the veggies and protein, increase the pressure again, and pressure cook for five more minutes (I just find this to be more of a hassle).  If you are using a regular pot, you will have to let the grains

Grains, legumes, veggies and animal protein ready to cook.

and legumes cook for about 45 minutes, then add the veggies and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the fruits and oil in a blender.  When the timer goes off, quick-release the pressure and transfer all the soup ingredients from the pot to the blender.  Blend on the highest setting for at least 30 seconds, or until everything has been perfectly pureed because little chunks of food can clog the nipples.  (I bought a $15 Oster blender with a glass blender jar, and it works great on

“liquify” mode). If the soup is too thick, add a little more water or some 100% organic fruit juice (I like prune, pear, or apple).  It takes a few days to get the consistency just right; have a toothpick handy to unclog the nipple if necessary.

Pour the soup into the bottles, screw on the nipples, put on the caps and put the bottles immediately into the fridge.  Try to put them on a bottom shelf, not in the door racks, so that they’ll stay very cold.  If your fridge isn’t very cold, put ice in a large container and nestle the bottles among the ice, and then put the whole thing in the fridge.  Failure to cool down the bottles can cause your baby to have gas, especially with the afternoon and evening feedings.

Ready to blend…

It sounds like a huge hassle to make the soup, but it’s actually quite quick once you have a system.  It takes me about 30 minutes each morning, and I can rest assured knowing that my child has wholesome, healthy, and home-cooked meals for the rest of the day.

CAVEAT: You MUST makethe soup fresh each day.  This soup should not be stored overnight nor should it be frozen.  Your child deserves fresh food to get off to a healthy start!

To heat up the bottles, you can use a bottle warmer (I have the Dr. Brown’s warmer and it works great if you set it for 5:30 minutes).  Always make sure to shake the bottle thoroughly to even out the soup temperature and test the soup on your hand before giving to baby.  The soup should be served warm.

Yummy!

If you are going out, take the soup in a thermal bag with ice and make sure it stays as cold as possible.  To reheat on the go, ask for a large cup half-filled with hot water and immerse the bottle for 5-7 minutes, then shake.

It is also possible to make the soup thicker and spoon-feed it to baby.  Now that Zach is eating really well with a spoon, I am making three separate purees from the items I cook (I still cook everything in one pot but I use less liquid during blending to ensure a thicker consistency):

  1. A puree made from legumes, grains, a 4-minute egg yolk and some pastured butter (this is for breakfast and mid-afternoon meal)
  2. A puree made from veggies, animal protein, and cod liver oil (this is for lunch and dinner)
  3. A puree made from the fruits and avocado (this is “dessert” after each meal)

    Bottoms up!

In just two days, he successfully weaned from using the bottles, which he had been using since he turned 3 months.  He LOVES to eat with a spoon and has made great progress in that department.

This soup has changed our lives for the better.  Our child is happy, healthy, strong, and sleeps like a champ.  It’s never too late to start making it!  If you have any questions on how to make it, please e-mail me or leave a comment.

The first time we tried spoon-feeding the soup… It’s gotten a lot better since then!
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A Mission of Nutrition

I’m aware that what I’m posting here might not be viewed favorably by everyone, and that’s OK.  I just ask that if you have negative comments, please keep them to yourself or write them on your own blog (I won’t approve negative comments for this post, so don’t bother writing them).  This is a very sensitive topic for me, but I chose to write about it both for future personal reference, and to provide an alternative to mothers out there who might find themselves in my shoes.  Thank you!
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.”   -Bertrand Russell
I nursed Zach exclusively from the day he was born, but because he gained a lot of weight and grew well, I soon realized that breast milk wouldn’t be enough for him (he was 10 lbs. at birth and has been in the 98 percentile for size, weight, and head circumference since his first check-up).  At 2.5 months of age he weighed and measured more than most 6-month olds; he was constantly crying, nursing non-stop during the day, and waking up to nurse desperately several times a night.  Imagine a growth spurt that never stops… He and I were both exhausted!
My mother, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, had become familiar with a doctor in Colombia who had developed a special soup for newborns that had wiped out malnutrition in several rural areas of his country, and which has been used by millions of families around the world for almost 50 years.  She had recommended the soup to several of her patients, and their babies were thriving!
I began making this soup for Zach the day he turned 3 months, giving him a few ounces and following up with my milk.  The first day, with much hesitation, I gave him two ounces in the morning, two at lunchtime, and two in the evening.  That night he slept from 8pm to 4am.  Not only did his body readily assimilate this food, but his entire personality changed.  He immediately stopped crying, became more engaged and focused, napped more consistently, and started regularly sleeping 6-8 hours in a row at night (when before he would sleep 3 hours if I was lucky!).
I was both sad and happy; sad because my baby had been HUNGRY for weeks and I had done nothing to help him, and happy because I had finally found the solution to what was ailing him.  Every few weeks, he demanded an increase in the amount of soup I was feeding him and was angry when he emptied the bottle… It was like he was telling me that this is what he needed to thrive!
Just like we tailor education to fit the needs of each child, we must tailor nutrition to satisfy each child’s requirements as well.  Expecting all 3-month olds to have the same nutritional needs is as crazy as expecting all 6-year olds to have the same cognitive abilities and interests.  
I weaned him from breast milk by the time he turned 5 months because he is lactose-intolerant, but thankfully the soup provides the nutrients, vitamins and minerals he needs to continue to grow strong.  I am approaching the weaning process considering the soup to be “breast milk” and all other foods to be “solids”; as he becomes more adept at eating with a spoon at the table I will slowly reduce the amount and frequency of the soup until he’s obtaining all his nutrition from solids, ideally sometime between 9 and 12 months of age as recommended by Dr. Montanaro.
A Mission of Nutrition
The soup was developed by a Colombian doctor, Hernan Jaramillo, who worked with malnourished children in a rural area of the country.  Before he initiated his nutrition program, malnutrition was rampant at the hospital where he worked and babies were dropping like flies.  Mothers who didn’t have enough breast milk were told by doctors to put their babies on formula, causing the parents to go into debt and making already weak children sick (because formula is full of chemicals, processed cow or soy milk, and sugars).
Dr. Jaramillo understood that although breast milk is essential, it does not measure up to the complete nutrition that the child was receiving in utero.  As any true scientist would do, Dr. Jaramillo studied the composition of breast milk and conducted HIS OWN tests on the digestive systems of newborn corpses.  His experiments led him to conclude that babies are perfectly capable of digesting and using the nutrients from whole foods when prepared in certain ways (in stark contrast to the campaigns of “only milk for the first 6 months” promoted by medical associations, who are financed by the pharmaceutical companies that make infant formula).
A few years after Dr. Jaramillo introduced the soup in the pediatrics ward of his hospital, the level of infant malnutrition in his town plummeted to – and stayed at – 0.05%, while in other comparable regions it’s anywhere between 50-100%!!!  He implemented the policy of feeding all the children in the hospital this soup as a complement to breast milk (or in the place of formula) from the day they were born, and soon the hospital pediatrics ward emptied out because the children weren’t getting sick anymore!!  He also noticed that their cognitive development had increased dramatically; even children with mental retardation were benefitting, in many cases improving enough to go to normal schools!
The beauty of this soup is that it is made with the foods that families already have in their homes.  Even the poorest family in the countryside has the ability to make it, saving THOUSANDS of dollars (a study calculated that the Jaramillo diet is 10 times more affordable than purchasing formula) and providing their child with appropriate nutrition and a dietary education that lasts a lifetime.
My mother’s Mexican housekeeper, whose 6-month old granddaughter has benefited tremendously from the Jaramillo soup, recalls that when she and her siblings were babies, their mom would breast feed them but would also give them atole (a porridge made from corn) and mashed fruits and vegetables from their small plot of land.  “We ate what we had, from the time we were babies, and we all grew up strong and healthy, with none of these allergies that kids have now,” she told me.
I decided to go back to the basics and chose to listen to my maternal instincts, the wisdom of my cultural heritage, and especially to my son.  As Montessorians, we dedicate our lives to supporting each child’s right to develop to his full potential.  This support must include the area of nutrition, for what is our body and brain but the product of what we consume?  Without appropriate nutrition, the brain and body cannot function correctly.  An incomplete nutrition is as much an obstacle to development as a crib or a walker.  Isn’t it time we did something about it?
Here is Dr. Jaramillo’s website (in English): http://dietajaramillo.org/jaramillo_en/index.htm  (Note: some of the links show up in Spanish but when you click on the link, the ensuing text is in English)
Here are the instructions for the soup: http://dietajaramillo.org/jaramillo_en/complementaria.htm
There are two Facebook groups where parents share their experiences and provide advice to others interested in making the soup.  They are both in Spanish but worth visiting if you can understand the language.  The soup gets nothing but rave reviews from parents; many admit to being hesitant at first, but all are thrilled by how happy, strong, and healthy their children have become:
On my next post I will explain how I make the soup, in case anybody finds it useful.