Detox: The Body’s Spring Cleaning

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CDE CPT

spring-cleaning

Tis’ the season for spring-cleaning! Take the opportunity to peruse through things acquired over the last several months. Some people truly enjoy the refreshing nature of starting fresh with the turn of this season, and others dread the time it takes to sort, scrub and discard. The body also has a spring-cleaning process, but it happens more than one time per year; it is constant.

 

The Dispute

There is much debate in the nutrition community whether the body needs assistance in the detoxification processes. Some healthcare professionals state that the body can eliminate any toxins it comes into contact with without assistance. Detox critics warn consumers against fad diets that encourage people to hit their body’s “reset button.” Many detoxification protocols are quite extreme and include unhealthful behaviors that can cause more stress to the body; there are healthful habits that can support this natural process.

 

How it Happens

Detoxification is the physical removal of toxins from a living organism.When the body is equipped with healthy lungs, kidneys and a liver the body is constantly detoxing. In fact, the liver’s main function is to process toxins that we ingest purposefully (alcohol, cigarette smoke, charred meats, etc.) and unintentionally (pollution, heavy metals, etc.). In general, the detox process occurs in three phases:

  • Phase I: A family of enzymes, known at Cytochrome P-450, lead a series of reactions that create an unstable form of the toxin. These reactions are known as oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis.
  • Phase II: This step continues the process initiated in phase I and creates a water-soluble product that can be removed via bile or urine.
  • Phase III: Activity in this phase occurs in the intestines where the intestinal cells (enterocytes) pump toxins, known as xenobiotics, back into the bowel. When the toxin re-enters circulation, phase I and II activities also increase, and the overall detox process occurs at a higher rate.
Source: Carahealth.com

Source: Carahealth.com

It is important to note that not all toxins cause this up-regulation. In fact, toxins from charred meats and cigarettes only increase phase I activity and not phase II. Therefore, there is potential for these toxins to reach unhealthful levels in the body.

 

How to Help

Research in the area of nutrition-supported detox is well underway, but remains inconclusive. Researchers do know that there are several nutrients, parts of foods that help to support the body’s spring-cleaning. Read on to learn how to help:

Reduce Exposure

The simplest way to support detox is by reducing the body’s exposure to toxins. This would include smoking cessation, consuming alcohol in moderation (0-2 servings per day), and avoiding the “dirty dozen.”

The dirty dozen plus are 14 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residues. If a person is interested in purchasing organic foods, these are the best ones to start with:produce

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • White Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell Peppers
  • Kale and Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash

 

Support the Process

Many of the detox reactions require specific nutrients. Therefore, the theory is that by increasing a person’s intake of these compounds they could support the detox process. These include B vitamins, glutathione and flavonoids:

  • B Vitamins are found in dark green vegetables, orange fruits, whole grains, beans, poultry, fish and eggs.
  • Glutathione is a potent antioxidant made of three amino acids (glutamate, cysteine and glycine). Milk thistle and curcumin (turmeric) have been shown to increase levels of glutathione in the body, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products.
  • Flavonoids are yellow-colored antioxidants that are found in several foods, including parsley, blueberries, tea, and citrus fruits.

 

Pick up the Pace

There are two ways to increase the rate of detoxification processes in the body:

  • Choose foods that can increase the phase I and II activities, including cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), onions and garlic.
  • Stay hydrated by choosing water as the beverage of choice. When the body is well hydrated it is able to carry out its natural functions with ease.

The V-5 “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”

The V-5 definitely “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) I couldn’t miss the opportunity of featuring my beautiful children during National Nutrition Month®!

Lily enjoying some pre-meal tummy time.
Lily enjoying some pre-meal tummy time.

Eating well is a pillar in the pursuit of overall wellness, especially if you are/were a premature infant. I attribute my children’s well-being to their healthcare team’s (which includes Mommy & Daddy) dedication to feeding them well from day one.

I have bragged on and on about breast milk in past posts, including Mommy Nutrition and 2 Simple Acts, so the following will feature the best solid foods for infants, or Baby’s Super Foods. These also happen to be super foods for the oldest of children- aka adults. I selected the following foods based on their nutrient density, ease of digestion and preparation and friendliness to the young palate.

Tummy time-out for Kali
Tummy time-out for Kali

Grass-fed Beef & Organic Poultry

Meat and poultry are great first foods due to their iron content.  Baby’s stores of iron begin to fade around 6 months so, a food rich in iron is important. Additionally, iron from animal sources (heme-iron) is much easier to absorb and use by the body. Meat also is loaded with B-vitamins and zinc. If you opt for grass-fed over grain-fed cattle, you will also get meat with more healthy omega-3 fats, vitamins A and E, and less of the unhealthy saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics. Organic poultry is ideal for the same reasons; basically more time and attention are directed towards the birds living quarters and nutrition creating a better quality end product.

Lentils

Lentils may be small but they are mighty. They are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, zinc and a host of B-vitamins. They are also a good source of copper, potassium and molybdenum. These legumes are quick and easy to prepare and generally more tender than other types of dried beans.

Bone Broth

This nutritional powerhouse can be made by boiling chicken or beef bones in water and a touch of vinegar. It is a significant source of GAGs, or glycosaminoglycanschondroitin sulfatekeratan sulfate and hyaluronic acid, which are all “ingredients” for cartilage. Additionally, the red marrow has myeloid stem cells, which supports red blood cell development and the immune system. This broth also is a great source of glycine and proline, which are the building blocks for other amino acids (protein). Glycine and proline are also used by the body to aid digestion, promote healing, and create healthy plasma. Logically, bone broth also provides a good source of minerals found in bone: calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to aid in bone development and maintenance.

Theo chowing down on avocado
Theo chowing down on avocado

Avocado

This fatty fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins K, E and C, a few B-vitamins, as well as, potassium, and copper. Avocadoes provide a host of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals (antioxidants from plants) and can help with absorption of other nutrients, like carotenoids (orange, yellow and red phytochemicals). Besides aiding in blood sugar regulation and heart health, they also make a great beauty product.

Butternut Squash

This orange, winter squash may require some extra prep work but the sweet flavor and benefits are well worth it. Although squash are a starchy vegetable, their carbohydrate is much different than a potato; it has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The orange color gives away that it is a great source of vitamin A, but it is also loaded with vitamins C, B6 and several minerals.

Gluten-free Oatmeal

This hardy cereal is a great first food for infants. My vote goes to oats over rice for an infant cereal because it is rich in iron, zinc, phosphorus, fiber and protein, as well as, several other vitamins and minerals. It also comes without the worry of arsenic toxicity.

Why gluten-free? Well, gluten is a very inflammatory agent that is found in wheat, rye, barley and some oats and can be difficult to digest. Often times, traditional oats can also be “contaminated” with wheat due to shared processing equipment. I feel it is best for babies to be wheat-free until their first birthdays when they dive into that cake! Overall, I opt for gluten-free because it is much nicer to the kiddos’ digestive tract.

Bella loves to help feed herself
Bella loves to help feed herself

Banana

I had to include at least one common fruit. Bananas are a great first fruit because they are a good source of vitamins C, B6, B2 and of course, potassium. They also provide bone-building minerals, including magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Besides the benefit of being very convenient to prepare, they are also known as nature’s antacid because they contain a substance that can help the stomach and intestines produce the mucus lining.

Another bonus of the foods mentioned above is that when they are pureed they contain at least 20 calories per Tablespoon, which is equivalent to the average amount of calories in one-ounce of breast milk. When you have picky bottle-feeders who love solids this can be a huge lifesaver!

Ellie loves to help feed herself, too.
Ellie loves to help feed herself, too.

Whether these foods are old favorites or perhaps news ones to try, I encourage children of all ages to serve up these super foods and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!”

The sign of good food (Kali)
The sign of good food (Kali)

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Focus on Family: Daddy Nutrition

The Focus on Family series would not be complete without a post on Daddy’s nutrition. Unfortunately, men get moved up the totem pole when babies are on the way. [Fun fact: the higher you are on the totem pole, the less important you are]. However, this certainly is not the case. The presence of a father in the home and in a child’s life is often more critical for their behavioral development than the mother- research says so.

Therefore, it’s uber important to keep Dad strong during the transition of a growing family. The following will explore several facets of men’s nutrition focused primarily on supporting testosterone levels.

tetosteroneTestosterone is the primary male hormone. This androgen is responsible for the characteristic “male” who is strong, muscular, vibrant and quite the opposite of the weakening, emotional and tired grandpa. Testosterone levels begin to decline naturally when men enter their 30’s and after 40 these levels decrease about 1% a year. This decline can begin even earlier if a young man is under a great amount of stress, overweight and unfit. The best way to support healthy testosterone levels throughout the life cycle is through good nutrition, regular intense exercise, and stress management.

The easiest way to remember the following recommendations for Daddy’s health is to think Caveman.

Pass the Meat, Please

protein_foodsNutrition plays a huge role in testosterone regulation due to the importance of providing energy and ingredients for hormone production, as well as, muscle mass. Overall, the most appropriate diet for men appears to be one that is high in lean protein and healthy fat and moderate in carbohydrate. This meal pattern would encourage lean sources of beef, skinless chicken, and fatty fish while also encouraging good sources of fat like nuts, seeds, avocado and olives. Be sure to also minimize intake of unhealthy fats, or saturated and trans fats. Carbohydrates are also very important, so a low carb diet is not the way to go. Rather it is best to choose carbs that are digested and processed more slowly, or those that are loaded with fiber such as beans, peas, and whole grains including oats, brown rice, barley, etc.

This dietary pattern will also help to maintain adequate levels of zinc. This mineral is required for an assortment of processes in the body. It is necessary for the activation of over 100 enzymes, and plays a large role in immune function, protein and DNA synthesis, cell division and wound healing. The DRI (dietary reference intake) for zinc is 11 mg and daily intake is very important because it is not stored in the body. However, supplementing with zinc can be dangerous, because it is easy for it to reach toxic levels. Therefore, choosing foods high in zinc is best. Zinc is found highest in protein-rich foods mentioned above, including lean beef, skinless chicken, fish, shellfish, beans and yogurt. If you do go for a supplement, choose one with at least 11mg and less than 40mg per day.

Additionally, it is important for men to be weary of phytoestrogens, or estrogen from plants. Although researchers do not encourage avoidance of all foods high in phystoestrogens. They do encourage men to consume soy foods (soy milk, tofu, edamame, soy nuts, etc.) in moderation.

Lastly, occasional fasting, or intermittent fasting (IF) appears to boost testosterone levels via interaction with several hormones, including growth hormone. IF is a 24-hour fast one time per week or a 14-16 hour fast daily. This strategy has mixed reviews because everyone’s metabolism will respond differently. In general, by fasting for at least 14-h you give your body and organs a break from digestion and dig into your stores. Researchers have found that persons who perform IF versus those who follow a traditional, calorie-restricted diet lost the same amount of weight and fat mass, but retained more muscle mass.

Get Moving

Healthy eating is not enough to maintain healthy testosterone levels. Men need to get moving. Aerobic workouts that provide short bursts of intensity are best. Again, think caveman hunting, or… being hunted. High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, may be ideal. HIIT is exactly what it sounds like intense exercises that vary between time periods. An HIIT work out may look like the following:

  1. Warm-up (brisk walk or slow jog) for 5 minutes
  2. Warm-up II (slow to moderate pace jog) for 5 minutes
  3. Interval I Sprint for 30s to 1 minute
  4. Return to moderate jog for 30s to 1 minute
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 for a total of 15 minutes
  6. Cool-down (brisk walk or slow jog) for 5 minutes

If you are not a runner, no worries, HIIT can be completed with calisthenics as well:

  1. Warm-up (brisk walk) for 5 minutes
  2. Jumping Jacks- 15 reps
  3. Lunges- 10 reps per leg
  4. Side Lunges or Grapevines- 10 reps in each direction
  5. High knees for 25 yards
  6. Arm circles- 20 reps
  7. Side bends- 20 reps
  8. Butt kicks- 25 yards
  9. Repeat routine for a total of 15-20 minutes

dumbbellsAerobic exercise is important to help maintain calorie balance and heart health, but anaerobic exercises- strength training- is the most important for stimulating testosterone release. Men with greater muscle mass tend to have greater levels of testosterone. Working the large muscle groups (Legs, Back and Chest) give men the biggest bang for their buck. Therefore, adding in exercises such as the following can keep these muscles in tip-top shape.

  • Legs: squats and lunges
  • Back: pull-downs, pull-ups, and rows
  • Chest: Push-ups, press and flies

One can increase the intensity of their strength training routine by slowing down the movements. The slower contraction and release can stimulate the muscle greater than pumping quickly.

Aerobic and anaerobic routines can be completed on the same day or different days depending on the amount of time an individual has. Ideally, it is recommended to exercise for 30-60 minutes everyday.

Calm Down

We don’t want to be fighting or flighting 24/7, so identifying ways to cool down and manage stress is also important for men’s health. When the body is under stress it releases cortisol. Cortisol actually blocks the effects of testosterone and thus mimics symptoms of deficiency.

Tips for calming down include:

  • Creating margin in your life, or “you” time. Even if it is for 15 minutes on a Tuesday morning at least you know that that block of time belongs to you.
  • Have a buddy. Social support is critical to emotional and mental health. Just the fact that you have someone to call if you need them can help to ease tension.
  • Breathe deeply. Shallow breathing can perpetuate the fight or flight response. Taking a time out to count to 10 with 10 slow, complete breaths can do wonders for combatting stress.
  • Eating well and Exercise. Both of these pillars of health mentioned above in detail are also critical for stress management.
  • Catch some zzz’s. Often easier said than done but quality sleep is essential for allowing the brain to hit the reset button, Without REM sleep, the brain cannot organize its processed efficiently and eventually the neurotransmitters that impact mood and mental health enter disarray.

In summary, it is critical to take care of Daddy, too! Practice good health by passing the meat, get moving and calm down on a regular basis and the benefits of these healthy habits will greatly increase your energy, stamina and longevity.

Focus on Family: Mommy Nutrition

While feeding your baby, or babies, it is also important to be cognoscente of mommy’s nutrition.  A breast-feeding mother who is attempting weight loss needs on average an additional 300 Calories per day then baseline intake, however this is very individualized. If a mother is feeding multiple children, she may need up to 1000 Calories more per day to prevent extreme weight loss and maintain quality breast milk. An ideal approach is to weigh yourself one time per week, and try not to lose more than ½ lb per week. If one is able to maintain this rate of loss, then they know that they are consuming adequate calories.

In addition to the amount of energy required for a breast-feeding mom, the quality of their diet remains important. The following are key nutrients found in breast milk, so if mom is not consuming enough of these vitamins and minerals, she may become deficient. Once a mother is deficient the breast milk will also be compromised.

Listed below are specific proteins that are found in breast milk and their benefits:

Fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K, are all  stored in our fat cells. Most Americans eat enough vitamin A, which is found in orange colored foods (carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, etc.). The remainder of these vital micronutrients are offered skipped. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and is found in a variety of healthy fats and oils and Vitamin K is found in dark leafy green vegetables. Adding nuts and seeds to a yummy green salad will do the trick! 

Vitamin D  is unique in that in can be synthesized in our skin with the help of the sun. Unfortunately, for folks in the Midwest there is only adequate sunlight in a small window of the year. Therefore, most are commonly deficient in this vital amine. The DRI for vitamin D is 200 IU, however the human body can make 10,000 IU in about 20 minutes in the sun, which tells us our bodies can handle much more. Vitamin D is not found in very many foods, but can be found in mushrooms, eggs, and fatty fish. It is also added to some foods such as in the case of milk.

Most people know that vitamin D helps to support bone development and maintenance by increasing the absorption of calcium and magnesium from the gut. It also plays a role in preventing cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, and some forms of cancer.

Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and specific B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and panthothenic acid). B-Vitamins are critical for the metabolism, or breakdown and use, of protein, fat and carbohydrates. They also helps to form the developing brains and nervous systems of all the growing babies, while  playing a role in the formation of new red blood cells, antibodies to support the immune system, and neurotransmitters, which are those happy hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and DHEA. They can be found naturally in chicken, fish, pork, beans, peas, legumes, dairy, eggs, dark green vegetables and baked potatoes.

Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron are three important minerals found in breast milk. All of which have fairly high bioavailability, which means they are easy for the baby to use once they consume them.

Calcium and Magnesium are the super heroes for building and maintaining mom’s bones while constructing baby’s skeletal structure. The DRI for calcium is 1,000 mg, however the research literature recommends closer to 2,000 mg and the DRI for magnesium is 36o mg but again the literature suggests 1,200 mg per day. In addition to calcium’s bone building role, it also acts as a signaling messenger for some hormones and a co-enzyme, or “right-hand man” in blood clotting. Magnesium also has significant roles in over 300 bodily reactions, including muscle and nerve function, maintaining a steady heart rhythm and regulating blood sugar and blood pressure.

Calcium is found in high amounts in tofu/soy, green vegetables, sardines, molasses and of course dairy products. Magnesium is found in wheat bran, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds and beans and legumes.

Phosphorus is also critical for bone development in infants and maintenance in mommies. It is found throughout the body, including in the membranes (outer layer) of every cell. Phosphorus not only provides a structural role in the body, but is vital to energy production as ATP, or adenosine tri-phosphate.

Almost all foods have some phosphorus, but the amounts are greater in animal products, such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, but is also found in nuts and seeds.  Phosphorus intake is typically not an issue in the US due to soda-pop intake. However, the phosphorus in carbonated beverages (phosphoric acid)- if consumed excessively- can interfere with calcium metabolism.

Iron is commonly supplemented and is the cause of several unwanted side-effects, such as nausea and constipation, but it is important in providing oxygen-rich blood to both mom and babies. Iron can be found in red meat, liver, chicken, fish, beans, leafy vegetables and molasses. But, typically a supplement containing Iron sulfate is recommended.

Carbohydrates. Breast milk is 40% carbohydrate, which is in the form of lactose- a milk sugar. The body is very good at creating carbohydrates out of other energy sources, but it is still important for a mother to consume a meal pattern with at least 45% of her energy from carbohydrates.

Fat, primarily from unsaturated sources high in omega 3’s. Omega 3 fatty acids have exploded in popularity due to their powerful role in reducing inflammation, or putting out the fire, in the body. This decrease in inflammation can be attributed to two of the omega-3′s found in fatty fish, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  DHA, specifically, is now being added to some prenatal vitamins due to studies noting that DHA can help reduce risks of poor retinal (eye) development and poor cognitive development. The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids currently recommends 300 mg per day of DHA for pregnant and lactating moms.  A new article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that mom’s who took 600 to 900 mg of DHA per day had longer gestations, bigger babies and longitudinal data points to better cognition for the children in their preschool years. Therefore, mom should not cut short on fat and load up nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios), fatty fish (salmon, sardines), avocado and olives.

Focus on the Family: How much does my baby need?

corbis_rm_photo_of_baby_with_bottleInfant nutrition can be as simple as putting a baby to breast every time they cue, or as complex as navigating the multitude of formulas that your child can tolerate.  Either way it is critical for parents to understand their child’s nutritional needs to promote growth and development.

As we know from a previous post, 2 Simple Acts, breast milk is the ideal food for infants, however there are circumstances where a mother’s milk may not be appropriate for the child, such as in the case of a food allergy or intolerance. Or, some children do not have the enzymes- molecules that help to breakdown food- to digest and use breast milk and thus require formulas that are already broken down, or hydrolyzed.

Once the form of food (milk or formula) is selected, it is then important to configure how much the child needs. Registered dietitians use calculations that utilize a child’s weight to configure their energy needs. Then, the volume of the food is configured using the caloric content of the food (milk or formula). The following will depict the steps in this process:

1. Identify your infant’s current weight.
2. Using your child’s age, choose an appropriate energy calculation:

  • < 6 months: 110-120 Calories per Kilogram (kcal/kg) body weight or 50-55 Calories per pound (kCal/lb) body weight
  • 1 year: 95-100 kCal/kg or 45 kCal/lb

3. Multiply your child’s weight by the energy requirement.

For example: 9lbs * 55 kCal/lb = 495 Calories per day.

4. To identify the volume, first determine the product: Breast milk and most formulas are 20 Calories per ounce. Therefore, using our example above we divide 495 Calories per day y 20 Calories per ounce to get 24.75 ounces or 25 ounces.

5. Most infants eat every 2-3 hours. Using 3 hours, we determine that this child needs 3.1 ounces or 88ml every 3 hours.

Tada! Now you can be confident that your child is receiving adequate calories for growth!

images

If you do not feed your child by bottle, no worries. Simply weigh your child before and after breastfeeding to determine the amount consumed. Every gram gained equals one milliliter consumed. So, after breastfeeding for 15 minutes if your child gains 60g they consumed 60ml, or 2 ounces of breast milk.

It is best to continually adjust a child’s volume to insure that they are meeting their needs. This process is called “weight adjusting.” To do so, first confirm an ideal rate of weight gain with your child’s pediatrician. Typically, this is about 1 ounce per day or 20-30 grams. Then, one time per week repeat the calculation referenced above using your child’s new weight. Convert the weight in lbs by dividing by 2.2 (9lbs /2.2lb per kg = 4.1kg).

  • Example: Previous weight (4.1kg) + Weight gained (25g/day * 7 days) = New weight (4.275 kg or 9.4lbs)

Happy Feeding!

Focus on the Family: Building a Baby Domain

A home with a newborn can quickly transform into baby central with pack and plays, bouncy seats, burp cloths and pacifiers abounding. Everywhere you look you see signs of little ones. It is important to create an environment at home that is conducive to growth and development. This type of domain will:

  • Help them differentiate between night and day. 

During the day keep babies on the main level in well-lit areas. Here they are exposed to the sounds and hustle and bustle of day time. At night try to keep themin their nursery where it is dark and quiet. Be intentional about not talking or playing with them during their night-time care times. Get down to business at 12am and 3 am. This has proven to be very helpful in getting them on a care schedule.

  • Practice good nutrition.baby-bottle-1983

Work with a dietitian or pediatrician to determine an appropriate feeding schedule, equipped with goals for growth velocity, caloric intake and volume at each feeding. Calorie goals vary quite a bit and like adults are based on their weight, ranging from 108-120 Calories per kilogram body weight. On average breastmilk has 20 calories per ounce, and depending on a baby’s growth they may require a more dense formula and extra vitamins, such as a multivitamin (poly-vi-sol) daily.

  • Exercise their Mind.

Lots of time and attention is poured into identifying strategies to develop baby’s brains. There are an assortment of toys, books, apps, programs, etc. that promise to make your baby a genius. However, I’m a firm believer in simplicity and believe that attention, bonding and communication, or ABC’s, develop the brain just as efficiently as any of these other tools. Some toys touted for brain development can actually over-stimulate the child and increase the risk of ADHD/ADD.

Enjoy tracking exercises. Use black and white images or toys and move the image from left to right. This activity strengthens communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, or communication across the corpus callosum. Chat and sing with your little ones. An ideal time to chat is when you are changing them, because you are 12-14 inches away from their little faces and are able to maintain their attention.

  • Massage for Emotional Well-being. 

There are many benefits of baby massage, including stress management. Massage can help to foster emotional health and promote self-soothing.  Touch via gentle strokes stimulates the central nervous system to produce more serotonin, the happy hormone, and create less cortisol, a stress hormone. Typically, as a result the infants breathing and heart rate will slow and they become more relaxed. Often times, this relaxed state does not result in sleep but rather a quiet, alert state perfect for play-time, snuggle-time, or positive feeding interactions.

BBanner

  • Massage for their Tummies.

Take them on bicycle rides all over “town,” moving their little legs in a circular fashion. They will come to enjoy this and almost do it on their own when you lay them on their backs. Practice the “I Love You” strokes on their bellies, which can help to stimulate movement throughout the digestive tract. A fool-proof method for gas relief is to place them on their tummies with rounded shoulders and knees tucked up and to glide your hands down their back while supporting their bottoms.

  • Stretch their Bodies.

Since sleep is one of an infant’s favorite past times, these little ones can get awful stiff. It is also important to try to prevent flattening of their heads and promote good neck mobility. Moving their limbs up and down and inward and outward can help to prevent these little hedgehogs from staying all bound up. Try “windshield wipers” with their bent knees to help open up their hips.

Tummy time is also a great way foster good motor development and upper body strength.  It is best done when the infant is alert. Some will love tummy time and others are still learning to like it. It can be quite a frustrating position for them, so be sure to keep the sessions short and sweet.

  • Encourage Good Coordination.

Newborns are able to open and close their hands, but often times these movements are reflexive. During the first three months of life grasping becomes more intentional and an ideal time for developing foundational skills for hand-eye coordination.

All of these activities certainly add up for a full day, but are well worth the time and attention.

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