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Weaning: Baby’s First “Solid” Foods

New mothers often wonder if they need to know their baby’s constitution to help them choose what foods they should feed them. Actually, though, all healthy babies have very similar nutritional needs. If there is some chronic health issue present in a nursing or formula-fed baby, weaning them should, perhaps, proceed more slowly, but is otherwise basically the same.

There are many opinions about what first foods to give to baby, but most cultures agree on when to offer baby solid food. It is best for babies to be exclusively breast-fed for at least the first 4-6 months.

Baby’s First Solid Foods

We began offering food to our son when he was about 4 ½ months old. I had heard many suggestions for first foods that I liked (including egg yolk and bone broth), but in the end I began with the traditional Ayurvedic first food (and good staple) which is a mix of toasted basmati rice and mung dal cooked with ghee and spices. My body has always digested mung and rice well and I figured that Milo would do well with it too. In the beginning, I would wait for it to cool some and then add some breast milk to thin it out.

babyporridge

Store dry porridge mix in a clean, dry glass jar.

It took Milo at least a couple of weeks to practice his swallowing, so at first he wasn’t really “eating” that much. For that time, we offered it only once a day, still breast-feeding on demand. As he learned to swallow, he would usually eat a small bowl of it once a day and then twice a day.

Once it was clear that he knew how to eat—which took about a month or so—I began offering orange vegetables. I started with carrots cooked well and added to his porridge. Next I added butternut squash and sweet potato, each time waiting about a week before trying the next vegetable.

 

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Sankalpa: Experimenting with Change

Ayurveda and yoga offer many wonderful recommendations on living a life closely aligned with nature. When we first hear these suggestions and take a step back from our habits to imagine what we would like our life to look like, we might feel compelled to change everything at once. For any but the most extraordinarily strong-willed person, this approach will probably lead to failure and frustration.

Other times we might just feel paralyzed by the enormity of what we realize needs to change to help us experience more freedom and happiness, and do nothing at all.

What area of my life needs more attention applied to it?

The thing is, these beautiful practices weren’t created to give us more opportunities to punish ourselves. And change doesn’t have to be a constant struggle.

One of the practices that yoga offers us to support change is called “Sankalpa.”

What is Sankalpa?

Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word that refers to a vow or resolution that we make internally which will help us to experience a deeper connection to our life.

A Sankalpa is not another “should” that we lay on ourselves and then feel guilty when we fail to fulfill it. Especially when beginning, it is often best to choose something very simple.

The most effective Sankalpas are “discovered.” This involves being still and silent for long enough to listen to your deeper intentions. It may only take a few moments to listen in this way and with practice it will take less and less time.

Start small and trust yourself to guide you in the right direction.

And you might be surprised what arises. For example, maybe you think that you need to get more things done, but perhaps what arises is that you actually need more rest to be more aligned with nature.

The point is that Sankalpa is the result of something you discover for yourself, it has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks is important for you.

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Flower Medicine: Peony Power

Flowers are good medicine. Just having flowers around us can have such a positive effect on our mood. The ancient texts of Ayurveda recommend sweet floral scents in our environment to cool the heat of the summer sun and to soothe the intensity of pitta dosha. Since most of us live in urban areas, bringing flowers into the home can be an important way to stay connected to nature.

Think of buying flowers (or better yet, growing them) as part of your regular health routine!
The beauty of certain flowers has inspired artwork and poetry as long as humans have made art. One of the most exuberant blooms of spring, the peony, has a rich mythological history.

In greek mythology, the peony is named after Paeon who was a student of Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. The story has a few different versions, but in one version Paeon was asked by Leto (Apollo’s mother and goddess of fertility) to gather a root growing on Mount Olympus that would ease the pain of childbirth. Apparently Asclepius became jealous and threatened to kill Paeon, but Zeus instead immortalized him as the flower we know today.

Today, many herbal traditions use the root of the peony flower as a medicine to support blood flow to the pelvis and uterus, to induce menstruation and to ease menstrual cramping. It is also used for its general nervous-system calming effects, for relieving the symptoms of gout, for reducing fever and for easing asthma.

Think of buying flowers (or better yet, growing them) as part of your regular health routine!

What’s So Great About Ghee?

We talk a lot about ghee in Ayurveda. It is said to be the best oil to cook with and it turns out there are lots of good reasons.

From the Ayurvedic perspective, ghee is special because it is the only fat that is said to strengthen the digestive fire. It is also very subtle and so can penetrate deeply into the tissues of the body to increase lubrication and cool inflammation.
First of all, what is it? Ghee is clarified cultured butter. This means it is butter that has been separated out from yogurt. It has then been cooked over a low-medium heat until the water has been evaporated out. During this process, the casein and the lactose have solidified and separated out of the pure milk fat.

Ghee has a very well balanced combination of saturated and unsaturated fats. Fat contents and proportions vary a bit throughout the year and depending upon the cow, but the proportions are about 65% saturated fats, 25% monounsaturated fats and about 5% polyunsaturated fat content. Most of the saturated fat is made up of short chain fatty acids and about 3% of that is linoleic acid which has antioxidant properties.

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First Learn to Taste Your Food

It all begins with taste. Eating always should. Even—and especially—eating that is “Good For You.”

The first thing we need to do is learn to taste our food again. Like learning anything, this will take some time and will involve a fair amount of trial and error.

The problem is, most of us can’t taste our food anymore. We are confused after years of eating food that is artificially flavored to hide what has been done to it to make it stay “fresh” on the shelf and in the refrigerator.

In addition, the typical American diet (which we are doing a great job of exporting all over the world) places a strong emphasis on sweet, sour and salty flavors in food. Even worse, those flavors are usually the result of chemical combinations created in a lab.

Eating the food which is right for you isn’t a huge mystery and ultimately it shouldn’t require constantly consulting a chart or book (or a website), although these tools may prove useful as you begin to rediscover your sensitivity.

Nature is always communicating with us—after all, we are nature.
Each of us was born with the ability to crave what we need, but since we have spent years conditioning ourselves with artificially flavored, packaged foods we may have dulled our capacity to respond appropriately to our needs. Developing healthy and enjoyable eating and lifestyle habits is largely a matter of remembering what we inherently know as humans.

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