family wellness

5 Easy Immune Boosters for Children

By on November 25, 2019

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A couple of posts ago I wrote about the lost art of convalescence. My little kids are going through their developmental time of catching viruses and building their immune systems. At Mira’s 6 month well-check her pediatrician told us to expect about 1 new virus per month and expect fevers of 103 as “normal”. I am a mom who loves home remedies and tries to avoid antibiotics unless we are in a situation where they can not be avoided, so I spend a lot of time learning and trying new things.

As my kids develop their immune systems I have several things I am passionate about and have found great success with. My new favorite thing is cod liver oil. My grandparents always swore by it, I watched my oldest son’s Norwegian family administer it to the kids, and for me, I never quite caught on until reading some incredible information in Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. This book has several informative chapters on caring for babies and young children through illnesses.

I laugh at myself because I get excited about fat-soluble vitamins and remedies, lol. My five favorites for this season are:

1. Cod liver oil Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K are tremendous for building a healthy immune system. Vitamin A and Vitamin D in adequate doses (so it is truly important to look for a good brand, some commercial brands contain very little Vitamin D) can help to stave off colds, flus, and asthma. Fat-soluble vitamins help with mineral metabolism, cognitive development, intellectual development, and vision. 

When a child runs a fever, the heat and inflammation in the body quickly deplete vitamin A. It is said that a Vitamin A deficiency is why some children have febrile seizures or end up with febrile blindness.

2.Hydration– Staying hydrated is also important, and in the time of a high fever, it is difficult to stay hydrated. Pedialyte and those types of beverages are loaded with crap. I have been mixing up my favorite mineral supplement and having my toddler drink it to stay hydrated. It provides excellent sources of minerals and electrolytes and tastes so yummy. I usually make a glass for myself and just fill his sippy. Babies only need breastmilk or formula.

3. Elderberry Elixir is another super immune booster. I have been interested in elderberry syrups and have researched a lot about elderberry immune-boosting properties. I wasn’t too keen on giving the honey or maple syrups to the little kids and not being able to find where the berries were sourced from was another one of my mind-bogglers, so I was happy to come across this elixir that is farmed in Maine (hubby’s home state), on a biodynamic farm, with a very controlled process.

4. Probiotics— I have blogged and blogged about gut health and probiotics. A healthy gut contains 5-7 pounds of healthy gut bacteria, which secretes vitamins that we absorb, creates anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral substances that fight pathogens and helps us detox and keeps our feel-good chemicals in balance. If our balance gets disrupted then our whole immune system is compromised. A good quality probiotic is vital so that the necessary strains of bacteria survive the digestive tract and juices and can reach the gut to populate and do their job.

5. Outdoor time– Fresh air and sunshine are amazing. 10-30 min per day can work wonders. It supports healthy vitamin d levels. I luckily live in Florida, so our outdoor weather is usually pleasant. However, if you’re in a different climate, appropriate clothing still makes outdoor time possible.

Generally, if it seems like your child is always catching a cold, don’t panic. The advice my pediatrician gave me was that the kids’ immune systems are still developing, and because of that, they are more susceptible to colds and infections. Over time, as long as health is supported with a healthy diet and physical activity their immune systems will catch up and this too shall pass.

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family wellness

Taking a Pause: The Art of Convalescence

By on November 19, 2019

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Cough, cough, sniff, sniff. Those are the sounds that have been traveling through our house the past few days. I have had 2 kids down with a virus, Ezra taking the brunt of it. He has entered preschool a few hours a week this year, and it seems each Friday he comes home with something. This time, the illness truly got my attention and required me to switch my mindset a bit. Recently my focus has been on what to do to care for my sick child when the importance was truly just caring for my sick child.

I’m a great caregiver, in theory. I will calmly make sure all of the logistics are taken care of, however, truly taking time to notice intuitively what my kids needed was missing. My mind fluctuated on everyone’s basic needs, the work I needed to do, and our recent sleep deprivation. Immediately, I went into “fix” mode with them. Fix the symptoms… you know, we have things to do!

I had a little ah-ha when the only thing that could console Ezra was me. I took the time to observe him, both physically and intuitively. What I realized at that moment was that he truly needed time to convalesce. Historically, this was something that was a standard for illnesses. We live in a society now where suppressing symptoms and getting back to “real life” is marketed heavily. We have “quick fixes” for everything. Yes, I believe in being comfortable and will not forgo medical care when necessary. But truly, just riding it out (even if it takes weeks) is often what we really require.

When our bodies are down, and especially when a child is ill, it is important to give space and time to truly heal. Symptoms may subside, but moving back into a hurried pace can keep the immune system weak and allow other illnesses to creep in easily. I have noticed with my kids that very often following a virus, they will have a physical or developmental leap.

The prescription I find the most helpful when we have sick kiddos is quiet time, less stimulation, and TLC. The definition of vitality is the state of being strong and active; energy. The power giving continuance of life, present in all living things. Overstimulation robs children of their vital energy. The very nature of screen time is vitality depleting, so that is something I am very cautious about allowing during illness. If I do allow screen time, we watch very gentle, calming shows. However, quiet play, books, mama cuddles, eucalyptus baths, etc are what I gravitate toward.

For me to nurture and tune into a time of convalescence, I had to release the expectations I have of myself and others and truly invite in a sense of stillness. The slower pace is necessary so the kids can replenish their vitality and do their inner work to heal. These moments are a great time to reevaluate our family rhythm and see what is serving us well and what needs adjusting so that we can all live together harmoniously and with minimal chaos.

The funny thing is, that when I spent a different kind of time with the kids I realized I was way off the mark in recognizing their needs. Ezra needed mama time, Mira needed me to loosen the reigns, and Keenan was squared away (he’s taken a lot of my brainpower lately). Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow and find new awarenesses for sure!

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c-section | tissue donation

FYI: Placenta Donation

By on June 27, 2019

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I learned and participated in something that I had never heard of until the birth of our daughter last month. I work as a doula and have participated in the birth world for several years, so was quite surprised I never heard of placental donation. I assume that if I haven’t heard of it, there are others out there that are also unaware.

The placenta is the only organ that is grown for a specific use and is released when its job is over. The placenta develops in the uterus and is the fetus’ lifeline, providing nutrients, antibodies, and oxygen to the baby, and removes waste from the baby’s blood.

Many women save their placenta, dehydrate and use as a postpartum supplement. From my research, it can have wonderful benefits. This is not something I have personal experience with, although I have been intrigued. Other women may save their placenta and bury it in a ceremony. There is a definite reverence for this organ.

Since I delivered my children via c-section, I have let all of my placentas go as medical waste. Which is commonly how placentas are discarded. This time was different, and I was given the option of placenta donation. From my research, a donation is only an option if the mother is giving birth via a full-term planned c-section. During vaginal birth, the placenta is exposed to bacteria and the tissue can be damaged.

The mother must pass the required blood tests, so she must be free of certain medical conditions or infectious diseases. A mother of any age can donate as well, and it does not interfere with cord-blood banking. The company that my hospital uses for donation uses the placenta for eye grafts. Up to 100 eye grafts can be done from one placenta. That is giving the gift of sight to a lot of people!

The amnion, or amniotic membrane, is the innermost layer of the placenta, and the portion that is used for donation. It has been used since the early 1900’s in many surgical procedures. Human amniotic membrane has properties very similar to other soft tissues and can be used for many reconstructive surgical procedures such as burns and other wounds, dental procedures, eye surgeries and for joint issues.  In surgery, the amniotic membrane can be used as a foundation material for soft tissue healing, or as a natural biological barrier at the surgical site. The other cool thing about it is that the amnion tissue type does not have to be directly matched with the potential recipient, so it benefits a large population of people.

A quick google search will offer many options for placenta donation. My hospital used Regenerative Biologics, Inc., which seems to service Florida. Many of the websites have forms and contact information so that if you have an interest, you can learn more.

 

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diet | recipes

Instant Pot Vegetable Beef Soup

By on March 17, 2019

1 lb grass fed stew beef

2 onions, chopped

2 leeks, sliced white and light green parts

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/3 head cabbage, shredded

1.5 cups trimmed and cut green beans

2 carrots, sliced into rounds

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 c frozen corn

6 c beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes

Salt/Pepper and any herbs and spices.

1. Sauté beef, onions, leeks and garlic in instant pot, until beef is browned.

2. Add carrots, celery, green beans and cabbage and sauté until veggies start to soften.

3. Season with salt and pepper and any herbs/spices you enjoy.

4. Add broth, tomatoes and corn to pot, stir and set on “soup” setting for 30 min. Quick release when complete.

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postpartum | pregnancy | women's health

Preparing for Postpartum: Mama Essentials

By on March 4, 2019

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I had a moment of clarity that I was never preparing for postpartum the way I was preparing for my births.  January Harshe

I ran across this quote on Instagram and thought it was genius. I have had two boys, and of course spent a lot of time and energy preparing for their arrival. Both boys were born early, and as I shared in another post– I didn’t even have a hospital bag prepared. It is amazing how the third pregnancy is so different. I am not stressing anything. We have clothes, a bed, some accessories and I feel we are good to go. I do not have endless baby “to-do” lists, and it is quite a freeing feeling.

The thing I am preparing for is postpartum. With our last birth, I was out of sorts for many months after delivery. I could not quite get my balance back after my c-section, Ezra’s NICU stay, and adjusting to a newborn and sleep deprivation. This time I am going to make sure I have my main bases covered so that when I return from the hospital, our family can easily adjust to our “new normal”.

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Postpartum Recovery

Regardless of how the birth occurs, vaginal or cesarean, it takes the body 6 weeks or so to heal. Pregnancy stretches and changes our anatomy over a 9 month period and it takes time to rebound and recover.

A c-section is a bit slower recovery since we are dealing with an incision and surgical healing. Either way, there are many support tools to have around to aid in the recovery and make things feel as comfortable as possible.

  1. Postpartum Girdle— This was a newbie for me after my last birth and it made a world of difference with mobility. Some insurance companies will even cover the cost of one. I’m in awe with this bellefit girdle and am excited to try it after Mira’s birth (yeah, I know I’m weird). It doesn’t matter if you have a vaginal or c-section delivery, I’ve read many reviews on how the support helps with body mechanics, getting back into pre-pregnancy clothing quicker and general post-delivery achiness.
  2. Perineum careHerbal sitz bath, perineal spray, padsicles or ice packs. If you have a vaginal birth, these are a MUST. Caring for this delicate area and helping aid in healing is important and these tools will help you bounce back faster.
  3. Pads/disposable undies— Tampons and menstrual cups are a no-no and you will likely have a pretty heavy flow for some time. I like organic, chlorine free pads and have even been known to use mama cloth.
  4. Peri Bottle— This is an important tool for mama’s, no matter how you delivered. So important that they send you home from the hospital with one. The fact is, we all will have about 6 weeks of lochia, which is the bleeding and discharge after birth. It is nice to have something to help rinse it away from delicate skin after a vaginal birth and just for extra hygiene post-cesarean. I have heard great things about the Fridet by FridaBaby
  5. Water Bottle— Hydration is a necessity, I love my stainless steel cup and straw or a big mason jar with a stainless steel straw. I know that drinking 4 full glasses per day I’m staying hydrated and after birth and while breastfeeding the more water, the better!
  6. Constipation Remedies— I’m crazy about my probiotic and fiber supplements. They have withstood pregnancy constipation and will be the remedies I use postpartum. Drinking plenty of water is important to reduce constipation, I mentioned some essential oil remedies in this post, as well as the constipation tea from Pink Stork.
  7. Walking— Staying active and moving around after delivery actually speeds up recovery. Muscles will rebound quicker, and your joints and fascia will stay in top condition. Walking around the neighborhood with the baby in a carrier or stroller can do wonders for the psyche. I live near the beach and that was a place we frequented for fresh air and vitamin D.
  8. Meal Prep or Healthy Food Delivery Service & Healthy Snacks— I am prepping 2 weeks of dinners for postpartum. This is something I have not done with my past pregnancies and have learned this is an essential step for ease during the postpartum period. It is nice to not think too much about groceries, cooking and cleaning for the first days when you are bonding with baby, sleeping very little, and trying to regain strength. A food delivery service is another idea, and a gift we received after our 2 year olds birth. It was extremely helpful and took a lot of pressure off of meal prep. There are many food delivery services to cater to different dietary specifications and where we live, we have several local services. Stocking the pantry with healthy, nutrient dense snacks is also vital. Birth and breastfeeding is very depleting, so making sure to things readily available takes the mindlessness out of snacking.

What to Do After the Initial “Recovery” Period

I have never completely felt human until month 3 or 4 post delivery and will often put exercise on the back burner. It is a priority! Things to do after you are physically recovered are moving gently back into an exercise program. I plan on doing a Postpartum Recovery Class which targets pelvic floor and core.

I also kept chiropractic care in my routine, my body was misaligned for quite a while after my c-section and the chiropractor was a major help. Even carrying a new baby, sleeping differently, and nursing a baby can throw the body out of alignment, so maintenance checks are life-savers.

Making the decision to get out and join mommy and me groups, finding a tribe was another biggie for postpartum recovery. New mommyhood can be isolating and redundant (and full of joy and beauty, don’t get me wrong). Women need women, so making time for friends does wonders for healing and rebounding from birth.

Emotional Healing & Helpers

Being prepared for the emotional shift that happens with childbirth is also important. Baby blues is completely normal, however postpartum depression and anxiety are also very real. If your emotions feel out of control, please talk to your doctor and get support from trusted friends or family.

  1. Natural Mood Boosters— Essential oils are my go-to’s for mood uplifting. I use Young Living only, and my favorites are Valor, Peace and Calming, Joy, Frankincense.
  2. Enlist Help– Friends and family are invaluable. Having someone over to hold the baby so you can shower or nap is helpful. A postpartum doula is also a wonderful resource. An additional pair of loving hands can ease pressure and help you find balance in your “new normal”.
  3. Nutritional Support– I suffered from postpartum anxiety, and my major relief happened when I found that I was having many triggers from the food I was eating. I have posted about this many times in my blog. For me healthy fats, removing grains, sugars and processed foods and filling up on good veggies did a world of good for my anxiety. My baby also benefitted greatly, the of my milk improved, his weight improved and his jaundice reduced. Adding some additional supplementation was also a necessity.
    • B-Vitamin Complex– I wrote an entire post about the importance of b-vitamins. Research is now pointing to a vitamin-b deficiency as a link to postpartum depression/anxiety.
    • Probiotics– Oh my goodness, not another recommendation for gut-health. But, yes. There are actually strains of bacteria in our guts that affect our mental health. The probiotic I use is quite potent and contains all of the necessary strains for balanced mental health. The thing is, not all probiotics– no matter how wonderfully packaged and the price-tag– can survive the digestive juices and acids. Which means that you can take a probiotic and never actually receive the benefit. Clearer mind and a calmer emotional state are the first things I noticed with my current choice.
    • Collagen HA- I wrote another post all about collagen. This has been a game-changer in my life. Period.

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Nursing Mamas

Choosing to breastfeed is wonderful, and I am partial to it. Being prepared for it is important as well. Nursing a newborn is a round-the-clock experience and can be challenging at first. Having adequate support and supplies makes the transition much easier.

  1. Comfortable Nursing Clothes–  I basically live in nursing tanks and yoga pants those first few weeks. Being able to be accessible to the baby, having plenty of skin-to-skin contact and mobility make a difference.
  2. A Good Pump– A good pump is great to have around. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of one. I’m not a daily pumper, but I do like having a stash and I use a pump to increase supply when needed. It is also nice to have one to relieve engorgement.
  3. Cabbage Leaves– If engorgement does occur, which mine always happens around day 6, putting cold cabbage leaves in my bra alleviate it very quickly. I did not believe this would be the case, but am always happily surprised.
  4. Milk Production Support– There are many galactagogues, or things to help enhance milk production. My favorites are fennel essential oil, Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea, and power pumping. Having some yummy lactation cookies are also nice to make, freeze and have on hand. Most of the commercial brands are loaded with junk, so making my own or using the brand I linked above is my preference.

This post is quite long, and full of information and recommendations I have found and researched over my 3 pregnancies and doula life. I will follow-up with some freezer meal ideas, more breastfeeding tips, and anything else that is helpful that I find along the way.

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