Cloth diapers are not what our grandmothers once used- a cloth towel held together by pins. Gone are the days of hand-washing and line drying cloth diapers, too. (Unless of course, you choose to do so.)
We are entering a more environmentally friendly generational wave right now, and one trend is coming back with a new style. Keeping disposable diapers out of landfills can help to lessen your carbon footprint, and it can have significant health benefits for your baby. Choosing cloth diapers over conventional diapers is an easy decision when you understand just what it can mean for your baby.
The Benefits of Cloth Diapering
Keeping the chemicals from disposable diapers off of your baby’s skin should be a priority. Sodium Polyacrylate, Tributyl Tin, Phthalates, and Dioxin are only a few of the most common chemicals found in disposable diapers. These are all linked to lifelong health risks such as endocrine disruption, obesity, and cancer.
By choosing cloth diapers, you also lower the risk of diaper rashes and UTI’s because you will be changing your baby more frequently.
9 in every 10 American babies use disposable diapers. This adds up to 27.4 billion diapers in landfills each year.
- Just for the disposable diapers U.S. babies will wear, over 200,000 trees are cut down every year.
- In one year, 3.4 billion gallons of fuel oil will be used to manufacture disposable diapers.
- Disposables generate over 3.5 million tons of waste each year.
- Those diapers can take up to 500 years to decompose.
Earlier Potty Training:
Because cloth diapered babies can feel when they are wet, they want to potty train earlier than those in disposable diapers. They tend to have less bed wetting issues as they potty train and grow, too. It is easier to notice your baby’s bathroom cues when wearing cloth diapers, making the transition to underwear smooth and easy.
Your Bank Account:
Purchasing disposable diapers will cost you over $800 a year per child, but (depending on how many cloth diapers you purchase) cloth diapers can be bought for $5-20 a piece. You can survive with about 25-30 diapers, easily. (It’s even cheaper if you use prefolds and a cover!) These diapers can be reused on siblings, too.
The Selection of Cloth Diapers
It is an overwhelming world to jump into these days! You can choose between:
But don’t shy away because of the choices, you’ll find your favorites as you start trying them out. The easiest will always be an all-in-one, hybrid, or pocket diaper. They require the least amount of work, but all cloth diapers are pretty easy!
Perhaps the pattern options may sway your choice, too. Whales, monkeys, plaid, stripes, ice-cream cones, you name it and you can find it on a cloth diaper. Ruffles and bows? No problem. An attachable dragon tail? Yep. You may just find yourself starting a new obsessive collection!
How to Clean Cloth Diapers
If you are breastfeeding, there is literally nothing to do but toss your diapers directly into a diaper bag, and then wash the contents of the bag every other day (empty and toss the bag in, too). You’ll rinse the diapers on a cold cycle, wash them on a hot cycle with minimal soap, and then rinse them again on cold. You can hang them to dry or toss them in the dryer for convenience.
If you are using formula, or after solid foods enter the picture, you can knock the poop into your toilet before throwing the diapers into the wash.
Learn More About the Risks of Disposable Diapers:
Parents are also not aware of the adverse effects of disposable diapers being in contact with their baby’s reproductive organs 24 hours a day for more than two years and the long-term effects it causes.
Disposable diapers have been implicated by diapering proponents like leak proof polymers, super absorbent polymers, and some scented chemicals which are the key factors for everything from chronic diaper rash, respiratory problems like asthma, liver damage, skin diseases, infertility, and even to cancer.
Continue the research:
Between the age of seven to ten months, most babies begin to crawl on their hands and knees. This milestone is highly anticipated by parents, but it is more than just something to note in the baby book.
I am constantly telling my patients about the importance of crawling. New research is being published regularly that links certain developmental stages to brain growth and future learning abilities. As children crawl their brain is making more and more connections. Each connection is a solution to a problem that they have solved by, and with crawling. The more a baby crawls the more efficiently these connections become and the more automatic the skill becomes. Crawling provides an opportunity to explore the surroundings, and as the skill becomes more intentional, a baby’s spatial skills also begin to develop and improve. (Spatial skills are the ability to locate objects in three dimensions using sight or touch.)
Research also shows that crawling facilitates the development of cognitive skills, including the skills that allow a child to locate an object by sight or touch. One study showed that children who were crawling on hands and knees were able to locate a hidden toy correctly more often than children who were not able to crawl in this typical fashion.
Crawling plays an important role in the development of spatial and cognitive skills. Some development experts call this stage the “psychological birth” of a baby because it spurs specific growth and refines many other skills. It increases hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, balance, and overall strength.
Unlike army-crawling (belly crawling), hands and knees crawling requires contra-lateral or cross-lateral movements. This simply means that opposite hand and leg move together – or “cross movements.” Doctor and author Carla Hannaford explains, “Cross lateral movements, like a baby’s crawling, activate both hemispheres (of the brain) in a balanced way. These activities work both sides of the body evenly and involve coordinated movements of both eyes, both ears, both hands and both feet as well as balanced core muscles. When both eyes, both ears, both hands and feet are being used equally, the corpus callosum orchestrating these processes between the two hemispheres becomes more fully developed. Because both hemispheres and all four lobes are activated, cognitive function is heightened and ease of learning increases. Additionally, with the spinal axis giving her an up and a down, she will now be able to move any way she wants – three dimensionally.”
The cross midline ability plays a role in:
- Spine rotation: a twisting coordination through the torso
- Strengthening the lower back in preparation for standing and walking well
- Preparing the ankles for the bending and straightening needed for walking
- Strengthening hand-eye coordination
Crawling also helps reshape the hip sockets to prepare for walking. But the research doesn’t stop there. The brain development that is taking place throughout this stage of infancy is linked to reading skills years down the road. When a baby crawls, her body acts against the weight of gravity, developing her vestibular and proprioceptive systems. When crawling, the baby touches different surfaces and textures and will develop the sensibility in her palms and fingers, allowing her to grasp and hold small objects (such as a pencil or crayon to draw, write, or play a musical instrument) in the future. This is extremely important for her neurological and cognitive development. All in all, crawling supports learning, creative problem solving, and overall brain function.
If you are a new parent and want to help encourage your baby to crawl, remember that daily ‘tummy time’ is key to setting your baby up for success.
Did you know that tummy time exercise is essential for future developmental milestones? Your newborn is learning and growing at a rapid rate, and she will experience new sensations as she matures. It is common for most infants to cry, fuss, and typically not enjoy being laid on their stomachs while awake. Actually, most babies tend to fall asleep instead of working on their neck and core strength. However, you are not failing if this is what happens in your house.
Over the years of adjusting families with young infants, I can tell in a single adjustment if a baby is completing tummy time at home. I tend to bring the subject up often in the families that I notice it may not be happening. There was false information spread a few years ago about this exercise being useless, and sadly, many moms bought into it. This, paired with the “Back to Sleep” (“Safe to Sleep”) campaign, has led to developmental delays and problems with many babies.
Laying a baby on her back does significantly lower SIDS risks; however, a baby who is always on her back is not going to develop on track. There are concerns about an infant’s head shape, especially if she is left on her back or supine position for most of the day. Babies who spend a majority of time lying on their backs in car seats, rockers or on play mats, can develop a misshapen or flattened head. You can read more about the increase in helmet wearing and Flat Head Syndrome here.
The problem is not just a flat spot on the head; your baby can develop problems with her neck and head muscles, and this misshapen head provides less room for the quickly expanding brain to grow. As a result, several children may be prone to developmental delays, sensory issues, speech and language trouble and attention and focus issues. Research has found that many students who struggle academically (and emotionally) lack the proper muscle tone in their neck, shoulders, and back to comfortably sit in a class, take notes, and look at the white board.
Crying when introduced to tummy time is common, as it is a hard workout for a baby. She is working on strengthening her arms, legs, core, and neck so she can crawl correctly and eventually walk, run, and continue to develop on track. Tummy time also promotes proper posture, mental and visual stimulation, and exploration and interaction with the world around. Research shows that babies who spend at least 80 minutes per day (in small increments) playing on their tummy while awake are more likely to reach their milestones faster than those who spend less time on their tummy.
A 2017 study found that parents who report even the slightest head asymmetry in their newborn’s first month of life were more likely to prevent further asymmetry from occurring, and they were able to reverse the problem while working with their pediatrician and following side-lying technics and tummy time exercises. This I valuable information, as many parents believe the only solution is a helmet.
Do you struggle with tummy time? Here are a few ideas to make it a more peaceful practice:
- Spread out a blanket in a clear area of the floor
- Try short sessions after a diaper change or after your baby wakes from a nap
- Put a toy or toys within your baby’s reach to help your baby learn to play and interact
- Sit with your baby while she is on the floor so that she doesn’t feel abandoned
- Increase the session duration as your baby gets older
There is nothing more eye-opening than becoming a parent. The moment you find out that you are pregnant, it is as if you realize just how dangerous everything is that surrounds you. That soap? Toxic. That packaged food? Poison. The microwave? Death. Suddenly, you throw yourself into learning about the healthiest, safest items possible. This little life you are growing will enter the world completely perfect, and you want to provide an environment full of safe items and positive experiences. There are enough uncontrollable toxins flying around to worry about, make sure that the things you bring into your home don’t add to the list.
One of the biggest fears most new parents experience is SIDS. It is terrifying because the cause has not yet been determined; although, we can look at a pattern of toxic exposures in relation to SIDS occurrences and form our own opinions. While keeping your baby in your room is highly recommended, one thing that is often not talked about is the quality of your baby’s mattress. Toxic chemicals are found in the materials used to make the most commonly sold crib mattresses (and all mattresses for that matter!). Did you ever even think that a mattress could be dangerous?
All crib mattresses have the same overall construction: the core, the padding, flame retardant material/chemicals, and a cover or “ticking,” which may also have chemicals added to make it waterproof. Crib mattresses range from those made almost entirely of petroleum–based products (petroleum = SCARY dangerous) to others made of natural fibers like wool or cotton.
According to Women’s Voices for the Earth:
- 72% of surveyed mattress models use one or more chemicals of concern identified in this report, such as antimony, vinyl, polyurethane, and other volatile organic compounds.
- 40% use vinyl coverings.
- 22% use proprietary formulas for waterproofers, flame retardants or antibacterials, keeping potential health impacts secret.
- 20% of surveyed mattresses offer some “green” components but do not take meaningful steps to ensure products are free of toxic chemicals.
Crib mattress may contain chemicals of concern in any of the four layers. For example:
- Some flame retardants are made with antimony, which is also a contaminant of polyester. Long-term inhalation of low levels is linked to eye irritation and heart and lung problems.
- Vinyl, used as a waterproof cover, relies on many toxic chemicals throughout its production, including cancer-causing chemicals, asthma triggers, and developmental toxins.
- Polyurethane foam, also appearing as “memory foam” or “soy foam,” is made with a potentially cancer-causing chemical, and may emit harmful “VOCs”—volatile organic compounds—in the home. VOC’s can also be found in synthetic latex foam. VOC’s can irritate eyes, nose and throat, cause headaches and some cause cancer.
- Companies that use proprietary chemicals, or refuse to disclose chemical use, make it impossible to determine potential health threats. In the absence of disclosure, assume they may cause harm.
What brand mattress should you go with?
The following companies have been noted to be safe and reliable (this is not an all-inclusive list):
- White Lotus
- Land and Sky
- Natural Mat
- Organic Mattresses, Inc.
- Pure Rest
- Savvy Rest
- Shepherd’s Dream
- Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company
- Suite Sleep
This information is also relevant for all mattresses, not jus crib mattresses.
Take the time to research before you purchase and air your mattress out for at least a week before using it!
Learn more about mattress chemicals and dangers:
An Elimination Diet For Breastfeeding Moms?
I’ve discussed the importance of seeing through an elimination diet for yourself and your children, but I have not mentioned new moms yet. When speaking with pregnant clients, I tend to discuss their nutritional habits, which leads into the rabbit hole of gut health conversations. We know that gut health is linked to just about everything in the body, and that holds true for the developing fetus and soon-to-be newborn. The mother’s gut health effects the baby’s gut health, which impacts a newborn’s skin, sleep, moods, poop, and so much more.
Breastmilk is superior to formula. This is not an opinion, but a fact. A breastfeeding mother has the power to manipulate and heal her infant’s gut and eliminate or improve issues that arise all by eliminating or adding foods into or out of her own diet.
Within those first few months of infancy, many parents assume the ‘witching hours’ of crying are normal. They assume that butt rashes are to be expected. They think that spitting up is why bibs were created. They believe that their baby just doesn’t sleep, but that there’s nothing to do but survive this stage. Many turn to medications, ointments, sleep training, formula, baby cereal, or other non-natural band-aids that truly cause damage to a baby. It is lack of education, and the lack of support from a pediatrician that sends parents running for these alternatives.
These issues are not normal and are a sign that something is off. More often than not, the answer lies in learning what foods (through the mother’s milk) are causing these issues. This can be discovered through an elimination diet. Food sensitivities are typical with infants, as their digestive systems are still maturing and are not ready to handle specific proteins (or other nutrients) just yet. Every baby is different, but there are many similarities that have been discovered.
I highly recommend to pregnant women in my practice the elimination of dairy beginning around 36 weeks gestation. This gives the body a few weeks to process and detoxify from the food group. Dairy is milk products derived from cow’s milk. They are over processed and stripped of all natural nutritional value anyway, so eliminating them should make your body feel better overall. However, cow’s milk is meant to be processed by baby cows, who have 4 separate compartments to their stomachs. They are also meant to weigh a ton (a literal ton). Our newborns are not meant for this. Their tiny bodies ache when trying to process dairy. Eliminating it before baby arrives should help keep those first few weeks peaceful.
There is no research to share on food preservatives being passed from a mom and found in breastmilk, but elimination diets speak for themselves. While you can choose to eliminate dairy alone, your baby may need more or other items removed as well. Dairy is typically the best place to start, as the newborn period can be overwhelming. If your baby is already in your arms, and you are experiencing troubles, you may choose to consider a full elimination diet that includes processed items, gluten, dairy, and other common triggers.
Things to Note with a Breastfeeding Elimination Diet:
There are two guts working, not just one. This takes more time. It can take 2-4 weeks before seeing improvements. However, many mothers testify that results can begin to be noticed within days.
Just as typical elimination diets go, breastfeeding diets aren’t forever. Once baseline is established, (meaning the issues have leveled off and life is calm and happy) you can continue for several weeks and then start adding in one eliminated item at a time to see if the issues arise again. Baby’s digestive systems tend to mature between 4-6 months of age, so what bothered them as a newborn may be better tolerated later.
A baby’s sleep should improve, but the goal is not to train the baby to sleep through the night. Research links dairy and wheat consumption to poorer sleep patterns. This isn’t surprising because it’s hard to sleep when your stomach hurts. Finding the trigger foods will help your baby find better sleep, but infants are supposed to wake to nurse throughout the night. An elimination diet may help them sleep longer, but no baby is meant to sleep 12 hours without waking.
Colic is a term used to label all crying with no known reason, and while an elimination diet should help most colicky infants, there may be other issues to look at.
The main food allergens (dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, etc) are the most common foods to eliminate, but consider citrus foods, processed items, dyes, and grains, as they are becoming more well-known for causing issues today.
(The American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s clinical protocol for infant allergies offers a plan for an elimination diet.)
It is becoming a more common site: babies wearing helmets, or babies without helmets, but with a noticeable flat portion to the back of their heads. You stare for a moment and look away, but you are wondering what the cause is and how you can avoid this with your infant. There is also the possibly that you are experiencing this right now and want answers. I’m going to break down the science of what has happened, or could happen, the history behind it all, how to prevent, and ways to treat the problem.
Let me start with this: Infants should not have flat heads.
Before I dive into cranial malformations, known as plagiocephaly, let me first brush upon Infantile Idiopathic Scoliosis (IIS). IIS is scoliosis in children under 3 years of age. While you may not think it has anything to do with plagiocephaly, there is a link. IIS was a rare phenomenon in past decades; however, in the last 15 years, authorities in the field of scoliosis have noticed a steady increase in children with this condition. Many researchers have taken this a step further and linked a relationship between IIS and cranial malformations. The link is this: an infant being laid in the supine sleeping position, on their backs. In 1993, Canada and many other countries around the world began recommending that infants be placed to sleep on their backs, and this was later reinforced with the “Back to Sleep” campaign. The incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in Canada subsequently declined by 50% between 1999 and 2004. Obviously, the reduction in SIDS is wonderful, and I am not advocating a return to the prone (belly) sleeping position. But within two years of the recommendation, there was a six-fold increase in the cases of plagiocephaly. This is research that needs to be noted, and there are changes that need to be made.
Interesting though, when babies spend time in the prone (belly) position, IIS and cranial malformations are significantly reduced. While this contradicts SIDS information, it does explain why, when babies are not asleep, they need to be held, worn, experience tummy time, or other options that do not include being on their backs. http://www.canadianchiropractor.ca/patient-care/the-rise-in-infantile-scoliosis-2301#sthash.uPlDTj0S.dpuf
Studies also show that 16% of babies, mostly male, are found to have torticollis. Congenital muscular torticollis can be present at birth or develops soon after. It is usually discovered in the first 6 to 8 weeks of life, when a newborn begins to gain more control over the head and neck. With tortocollis, the infant is unable to turn his head away from the affected area, which over time may cause mild facial asymmetry, range restriction of the neck, delayed development of postural control, and alteration in visual gaze to one side. Physical therapy involving stretching or deep neck massage may be needed. Prior to physical therapy, it is important to obtain cervical x-rays to rule out structural abnormalities. Surgical release of the sternocleidomastoid muscle is done only as a last resort if other therapy fails. Torticollis shows in the form of a shortened neck muscle, and can be seen easily by the parent or pediatrician. A specific cause is not known, but is assumed to be non-ideal positioning in the womb. Chiropractic care can also help greatly. The larger problem occurs when these newborns are then sleeping in a supine position (on the back), and are spending extra time throughout the day in this position. They are then at higher risk of developing deformational posterior plagiocephaly. Identification of affected infants may allow early implementation of positioning recommendations or physical therapy to prevent the secondary craniofacial deformations that are part of this increasing problem. http://adc.bmj.com/content/93/10/827.short and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595182/#citeref13
Historically, a dolichocephalic (elongated) head shape was always the norm. Currently the norm has changed to a more brachycephalic (shorter and broader) shape. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Back to Sleep Campaign,” the incidence of positional plagiocephaly has increased dramatically with a concurrent rise in the incidence of torticollis.
Infants who require NICU care, and particularly premature infants, are more prone to positional plagiocephaly and dolichocephaly. This is because they spend days, weeks, or longer being laid on their backs. Both can be prevented or minimized by proper positioning. http://journals.lww.com/advancesinneonatalcare/Abstract/2005/12000/Impacting_Infant_Head_Shapes.11.aspx
Another interesting fact is that the incidence of cranial flattening is 13% in singletons and 56% in twins. Risk factors include: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595182/
- assisted forcep vaginal delivery
- prolonged labor
- unusual birth position
- male gender
It is important for parents to be informed about the importance of supervised prone (belly) playtime to enhance the development of early motor skills. Parents also need to be aware of their infant’s head position preference and remember to alternate head positions when putting the infant to sleep. This is even more important when cranial flattening is noticed immediately following the birth of an infant.
Preventativev measures include:
- Daily tummy time
- Limit the time in supine position in car seat, infant swing, and infant carriers.
- Encouraging increased head and neck movement.
- Hold your baby more often: Reduce the amount of time your child spends lying on her back or often being in a position where the head is resting against a flat surface (such as in car seats, strollers, swings, bouncy seats, and play yards).
Preventative Chiropractic Care: Cranial adjusting techniques can be done to prevent plagiocephaly.
If plagiocephaly is left untreated, the infant can have prolonged developmental delays. It can also cause abnormal occlusion, temporomandibular joint difficulties, and strabismus. Any altered physical appearance, without treatment, may be permanent as well.
In most cases of plagiocephaly, the condition is self-resolving. A study found plagiocephaly to be present in 20% of 8 month-old infants, but that by the age of two years, this number had decreased to 3%.
- 73% of infants suffering from plagiocephaly have the problem resolved with frequent head turning.
- 23% of infants are cured by use of helmet molding therapy
- 4% require surgery
A helmet called a thermoplastic orthotic device involves the use of thermoplastic materials that can be molded directly onto the infant’s head. The device is lined throughout, using a soft material to protect the skin of the infant. It is light, comfortable, and tolerated well by the infant This method of treatment is most effective if used between 4 and 12 months of age and involves the infant wearing the helmet for several months with weekly adjustments made by a technician. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595182/#citeref23
Again, chiropractic care can aid in the treatment of flat head syndrome, as well as in the prevention of it. Please do not hesitate to take action if you feel as though your infant is showing signs, as you do not want motor skills to be effected long term.
We have discussed the effects of stress on the human body as a whole, but what most people forget to consider are the women who are pregnant. Yes stress affects them just as it does the non-pregnant woman, but did you know that it can also have an effect on pregnancy and the unborn baby? It’s true, and it’s enlightening. This research has prompted many feelings for me, as my 4 year old has gut and speech issues that have “no medical reasoning.” His pregnancy was during a time of my life when I was battling stress more often than not. Let’s just say that the hours of research I’ve read through leads me to better understanding my son’s issues.
Research shows that stress experienced by a woman during pregnancy may affect her unborn baby as early as 17 weeks after conception, with potentially harmful effects on brain, gut and overall development.
Pregnancy in itself is a stressful time on a woman’s body. The normal physical and hormonal changes can be quite daunting, but the reality is that excessive stress during pregnancy can have some severe consequences for the health of an unborn baby if it is not managed. It’s already known that extreme stress during pregnancy can lead to increased risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy. In the later stages of pregnancy, extreme stress can lead to premature labor, premature birth and low birth-weight babies. But more than that, the latest findings indicate that prenatal stress can also increase the risk of a baby being born with asthma or allergies, and so many other lifelong challenges.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, naturally increases 2 to 4 fold in pregnant women. Cortisol is passed through the placenta to baby, but the amount of maternal cortisol that crosses the placenta barrier is limited because its passage is regulated by the enzyme 11B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Maternal cortisol does still account for 30-40% of fetal concentrations of cortisol. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11231985
Women under higher than normal stress levels, chronic stress, or stress that is not handled well are unknowingly exposing their babies to increased levels of cortisol. These maternal cortisol levels can affect birth and infant outcomes in multiple ways. For one, cortisol stimulates the synthesis and release of placental corticotrophin-releasing hormone (pCRH). In humans, elevated cortisol early in pregnancy predicts pCRH levels later in pregnancy, and pCRH predicts preterm birth. Maternal cortisol also acts directly on the fetus and its developing nervous system. For example, results of some studies have documented that relatively high levels of prenatal maternal cortisol predict:
- greater behavioral and physiological stress reactivity in fetuses, infants and children
- decreased cognitive ability in infants
- increased affective problems in young children
- altered amygdala volumes in young girls
Stress during the first trimester of pregnancy alters the population of microbes living in a mother’s vagina. Those changes are passed on to newborns during birth and are associated with differences in their gut microbiome as well as their brain development.
According to research presented in 2013 by the Society of Neuroscience, “features of the mother’s vaginal microbiome were altered by stress, and in turn, changes were transmitted to the offspring’s gut.”
During a vaginal birth, a newborn is exposed to its mother’s vaginal microbes, collectively known as the microbiota, which importantly colonizes the newborn’s gut, helping its immune system mature and influencing its metabolism. These effects take place during a critical window of brain development.
Tracy Bale, senior author on the study and a professor of neuroscience in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Perelman School of Medicine states:
‘As the neonate’s gut is initially populated by the maternal vaginal microbiota, changes produced by maternal stress can alter this initial microbial population as well as determine many aspects of the host’s immune system that are also established during this early period.’
These findings not only highlight the important role that the mother’s vaginal microbiome has in populating her baby’s gut at birth, but also the profound effect of maternal stress experience on this microbial population and on early gut and brain development.
A study released in March 2015, utilized the information provided by baby’s first blood draw (heal prick) after birth shows that infants whose mother’s cortisol levels were consistently higher than normal early on in pregnancy, had higher than normal cortisol levels themselves. These infants displayed a much higher sensitivity to stress than other babies with lower cortisol levels. As these babies grew into toddlerhood, they exhibited heightened levels of anxiousness compared to other children, and by the time they were six years old, MRI scans revealed their amygdala (the section of the brain associated with the human response to frightening stimuli) were larger than normal. http://www.newsweek.com/how-calm-your-anxiety-during-pregnancy-315242
Increased stress in pregnancy also elevates the fetal heart rate. Research comparing stress to mood changes shows that a bad mood or bad day does not alter the fetus, but stressful situations and lifestyles do. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549003/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12002098
The intelligence of more than 100 babies and toddlers whose mothers had suffered unusually high stress in pregnancy was studied, and in January 2015, results were released showing their IQ’s were generally about 10 points below average. Many of these small children also had higher than average levels of anxiety and attention deficit problems. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2007/may/31/childrensservices.medicineandhealth
Numerous studies have found that males appeared most affected and may have implications for the development of disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, both of which disproportionately affect males in our society.
Shown below: Maternal stress also impacts normal fetal tissues and organs’ development and increases the risk of development of cardiovascular, metabolic syndrome, stroke and various neurobehavioral, neuropsychological, neuropsychiatric diseases later in life. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404248/
The brain development is strongly compromised by maternal stress. Expression patterns of key functional mediators that contribute to the heightened susceptibility of neonatal HIE (Neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a devastating disease that primarily causes neuronal and white matter injury and is among the leading cause of death among infants.) The response of these mediators may be stress-specific.
Prenatal stress changes normal brain developmental trajectory, alters brain cellular behavior, remodels cerebral structure and morphology, disturbs neurotransmission, and reprograms the vulnerability or resiliency to neurological diseases in later life.
Other Possible Effects of Stress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404248/
Asthma and Allergies: Babies born to mothers who are experiencing extreme stress levels had more immunoglobulin E (IgE) in their blood at birth than babies who are born to mothers with normal stress levels. IgE is an immune system compound (antibody) that indicates an immune system response. This suggests that these babies would be more likely to have asthma or allergies because IgE is an antibody involved in allergic and asthmatic reactions. Obviously this is not conclusive as there are many other factors that determine whether a child will be asthmatic or allergy prone but certainly elevated IgE is suggestive of an increased risk.
Enhanced vulnerability of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: Studies indicate a close link between prenatal stress and enhanced risk of development of cardio-metabolic syndrome, stroke, neuro-behavioral, neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric pathogenesis in adolescence and/or adulthood. However, little research shows the potential harmful effects of fetal stress on the susceptibility of neonatal HIE. Given the impact of prenatal stress on programming of brain structures and functions as discussed above, it is possible that fetal stress may induce the sensitive phenotype of HIE in the neonatal brain through reprogramming expression patterns of some key functional genes and/or proteins involved in the pathophysiology of HIE. More research needs done in this area.
The most common forms of stress that pregnant women noted:
- Relationship Problems
It is vital that pregnant women are given adequate support and reassurance from their family, friends and employers, to ensure they have a happy and healthy pregnancy.
Stress is going to happen. It is inevitable. But how one handles the stress is what seems to be of importance. Working through it before it becomes ongoing and overwhelming will help lower the chances of any maternal stress-related complications.
Before diving into the benefits and confusion of fevers, I will start with explaining a fever by age. You see, a newborn, infant and baby’s temperature is not categorized as a fever at the same numerical reading as a grown adult, or even a child for that matter.
Did you know that a temperature up to 100.4* is completely normally in an infant under 12 weeks of age? A child over 12 weeks, a toddler, even an adult has not reached a true fever until 104*. Nothing under this (100.4*) for a newborn is even considered an elevated temperature. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, the normal range of temperature for an infant is between 97-100.4*F. It is important to remember that a fever is not a form of illness. In fact, a fever is typically brought on by the body fighting off an infection or as a result of an immunization. Because a fever is generally caused by fighting off an infection, this can even be taken as a good sign of a baby’s developing immune system! With a healthy immune system, the fever should break within 48 hours.
When the immune system is weak, or fighting something, it is smart to start supplementing to strengthen it. By adding extra vitamin D, probiotics, and including colloidal silver, you can boost the immune system and have it ready to head into battle.
Fevers show that the body is doing exactly what it is designed to do. They are the body’s way of healing itself. When the child’s body increases in core temperature, it is preparing to battle. The temperature will rise to a level that is necessary to keep the invading virus or bacteria from growing or reproducing more. The fever causes everything to slow down and allows the body a chance to build up antibodies to fight off the disease. Treating the fever with medication reverses this situation and tricks the body into cooling down before it is ready. The fever also acts as a catalyst to speed up enzyme reactions and metabolism. It is during this time that the body begins to repair tissue. Allowing the fever to run its course is the easiest and smartest way to beat the invading illness.
The best piece of advice you will get is to step away from the thermometer. You will know when your baby is under the weather and feverish. Unless that baby is so hot that your mama bear instincts are screaming at you to run to the ER, then knowing a specific number won’t do anything but cause you anxiety. (And have you rechecking that temperature every 10 minutes!) Fevers are more frightening than harmful. They are usually a sign that the body is fighting an infection of some kind. According to www.askdrsears.com the top three reasons for a fever in an infant are:
Viral Infection: The most common cause of fever in children. Roseola, colds, flu, hand-foot-mouth disease, chicken pox, fifth disease, along with many other viruses cause fever. Most viruses are not dangerous. They simply need to run their course over several days. They are not treatable with antibiotics. They are contagious, though, and baby should be kept home until the virus has passed.
Bacterial Infection: Ear infections, sinus infection, pneumonia, bladder infection, and strep throat are all bacterial infections that cause fever. Antibiotics can be used (or homeopathy and other natural remedies), but a trip to the emergency room is not needed, call your pediatrician in the morning.
Teething: A fever up to 101*F is common while teething.
Fever is also a very common side effect of vaccines and should be treated as a vaccine injury if the fever causes a seizure, brain swelling, or any other illness. (Directly from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm )
Being skin-to-skin with baby in a lukewarm bath will assist in cooling baby off gradually and will prevent him from getting too cold too quickly. It is also encouraged to ensure your baby is drinking a lot of liquids and kept in a cool room, out of the sun. If you are breastfeeding, nurse him around the clock. Breastmilk has antibodies in it created specifically for your child and the environment you are currently in. (www.kellymom.com )
If your child is old enough to consume food, is no longer nursing, and is showing signs of illness, most people will recommend you supplement with pedialyte. Before you go grabbing the sugar, preservative, and dye-filled drink, think about making a homemade version instead.
Homemade Pedialyte Recipe: (Source: 100 Days of Real Food)
- 1 quart water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Note: If you fear your child will think this drink is too plain consider adding in a couple splashes of orange Juice. Also, the sugar and salt may dissolve more easily if you warm up the water first.
The main reason to treat your child’s fever is to make him feel better. When he is achy, fussy, crying, not sleeping, or slightly lethargic, you may want to try a handful of natural methods of lowering the temperature to help with his comfort level. Just remember that you are treating a symptom and not the illness by lowering the temperature. Another note worth mentioning, a fever does not always present itself as a hot forehead, a fever can show as lethargy, overly thirsty, a poor appetite, poor sleeping, or a seizure.
Ways to help: (www.askdrsears.com )
- Skin-to-skin, kangaroo care keeping baby chest to chest with you to help regulate body heat
- Rest: Do NOT wake your child up. Rest is best!
- Give your child plenty to drink to prevent dehydration (not enough fluid in the body) and help the body cool itself. Water, clear soups, and popsicles are. If your child isn’t getting enough fluids, don’t force him to eat if he doesn’t feel like it. (Breastfeed around the clock if possible.)
- Keep your child quiet. Moving around can raise the temperature even more.
- Keep the room temperature between 70°F to 74°F.
- Dress your child in light cotton pajamas so that body heat can escape.
Don’t over bundle your child. Overdressing can trap body heat and cause your child’s temperature to rise.
- If your child is chilled, put on an extra blanket but remove it when the chills stop
A fever is the body’s way of testing the immune system. Regular chiropractic care keeps the immune system ready to fight. A study showed the effects of specific upper cervical adjustments increasing healthy cell counts. Along with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, chiropractic care adds to the building blocks of a strong immune system. (http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/FULL/Kent_Model_of_Subluxation.pdf)
Most pediatricians recommend to alternate ibuprofen and acetaminophen to help reduce fever. Here is the APA stance of alternating therapies:
“…questions remain regarding the safety of this practice as well as the effectiveness in improving discomfort, which is the primary treatment end point. The possibility that parents will either not receive or not understand dosing instructions, combined with the wide array of formulations that contain these drugs, increases the potential for inaccurate dosing or overdosing. ”
So, it is best to let the fever ride out and don’t panic it’s just a fever.
Contrary to everyone’s belief, taking the temperature rectally is quite controversial should not be done at home. A thermometer must be inserted at least 5 cm to obtain a stable core temp. This insertion temp risks perforating the rectum and can possibly end in death. Perhaps, leave this for the extremely rare instances in the hospital when the absolute most accurate reading is needed. (http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/nixrectl.html )
Above all, trust your gut instincts. If you truly feel that your child is seriously ill, contact your doctor or head to the emergency room. You have every right to call your pediatrician and ask questions to calm your anxiety and have your questions answered.
Reflux: How to Help Naturally.
Arching his back while screaming, spitting up when eating, not sleeping, these are all signs of reflux in an infant. While some choose to overlook these symptoms, others want to know more, to understand what their baby is suffering from, and more importantly, to help.
Over 50% of infants suffer from reflux.
Doctors will typically ask parents to cope with their unhappy child for a few months until their reflux dissipates. If the parent is persistent or the child shows poor signs of poor growth, a doctor may perform one of the following tests:
- Ultrasound: detecting an obstruction in the opening between the stomach and small intestine
- Blood Work: to rule out or identify any possible causes of recurring vomiting
- Esophageal pH Monitoring: measuring the acidity in the esophagus by inserting a tube through the nose
- Upper Endoscopy: using a tube with a camera lens inserted through the mouth, the doctor will see into the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. Samples of tissue may be taken for study. This procedure is done under general anesthesia.
Less invasive doctors will first suggest that a breastfeeding mother remove dairy from her diet. A formula fed infant will be given a list of different formulas to try. If the reflux continues, medication will naturally be recommended. H2 Histamine Blockers such as Zantac or Pepsid are prescribed, followed by stronger medications such as Prevacid or Prilosec (proton pump inhibitors). As all medications do, these have a laundry list of side effects from dizziness to vomiting. There have been no studies conducted on children and dosages of zantac.
There are other ways. Natural ways. Ways to help your crying, pained child.
Let’s discuss reflux.
Did you know that reflux is actually the symptom of TOO LITTLE stomach acid? This can be traced back to pregnancy and mom’s morning sickness and heartburn. These ailments can be passed to baby in-utero. As we get older, our acid drops and there is an increase in GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
The medications given are actually making the problem worse by suppressing the acid. The absent acid is hydrochloric acid (HCL), and when low, an organism called Helicobacter pylori or H. Pylori causes a low grade inflammation of the lining of the stomach, and over time the body’s response is to want to get rid of it. This is reflux.
Make sure to wean from any medications gradually, as the body will rebound and worsen the reflux if you quit cold turkey.
Behind ear infections, reflux is a close second as to why parents visit the office. After learning more about the child, mother, pregnancy, diet, supplements, and medication usage, we will discuss and plan dietary changes and a supplement plan. If breastfeeding and keeping the baby’s gut “pure,” the plan will be only for the mother. But infants can be supplemented as well as the mother. If not breastfeeding, infant should be supplemented.
- Vitamin D: More than likely, the mother is deficient in Vitamin D. Without knowing your vitamin D levels, you can follow recommended doses of a liquid vitamin D; however, testing to know your levels is most beneficial. (I usually recommend Xymogen brand.) If you are not as concerned with keeping your child’s gut “virgin,” then you can supplement your child with recommended dosage.
- Probiotics: (AMAZING) They help heal the gut and boost immunity. Did you know 85% of your immunity comes from your gut? You want a probiotic with a minimum of 7-10 strain. You just don’t want to take acidophilus. (We recommend Davinci Mega Probiotic davincilabs.com ) Taking care of the gut, yours and your infant’s will boost your immunity and help with a healthy life. Please follow the label for dosage. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166766/
- Digestive Enzymes: Mom can incorporate these alongside the probiotics to help break down fats, proteins, carbohydrates and milk sugars. Our foods today are not broken down like they once were due to over-processing.
- Limit/Eliminate Dairy, Gluten, Caffeine, Alcohol: Dairy can produce histamines, which cause irritation to the lining of the gut and causes a decrease in the production of acid. Gluten also irritates the gut. Stick with organic as far as your budget allows. Look for no antibiotic use, no hormone, and free range with meat and dairy.
- Water: Stay well hydrated for breastmilk supply.
- Unrefined Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt: These salts help produce HCL(hydrochloric acid) in the stomach, fighting off parasites and aiding in digestion.
- Complex Minerals: The body needs an average of 80 essential minerals a day, but the typical person gets 10-15. Also, a diet high in meat and processed foods can demineralize the body; and a diet low in salt will make the body deficient in nutrients. (Schroeder, HA. Losses of vitamins and trace minerals resulting from processing and preservation of foods. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 24: MAY 1971, pp. 562-573.) We recommend Youngevity’s Cheri minerals http://youngevity.com/
- Aloe Juice: Aloe coats the lining of the gut to allow healing from the repeated acidity that has irritated the lining, therefore allowing nutrients to be absorbed. Mom should consume in the morning on empty stomach and before night time on an empty stomach for 4-6 weeks or until the reflux has resolved. Aloe juice can be given directly to the baby, morning and evening.
- Inclined Sleep: place a wedge or small pillow under the mattress of child’s bed/crib to prop her up at a slight This keeps the body in proper alignment for digestion.
Reflux in Toddlers:
Along with supplementing a toddler, helping to close the cardiac sphincter, the valve that allows everything in and out of the stomach, will help control the reflux. This can be done by laying the child down after eating and feeling under the breast bone and sternum (small knob) for a pocket of tissue, no bone. That is the sphincter. Depending on if the child is infant or older, you may use 1 or 2 fingers, pressing down about ¼ to ½ inch and then aiming your hand toward the feet (almost like a scooping motion) using sustained pressure for 20-30 seconds after every feeding.
Chiropractic Care for Reflux:
Misalignments in the upper neck due to childbirth or not being positioned correctly in the womb can be a cause of reflux. Parents tend to place baby in a swing or seat inclined to aid in reflux relief. This then causes the legs to be elevated and the spine to flex and curve forward, putting added stress on the infant’s body that shouldn’t be there. This causes tight and spasming muscles. The chiropractic adjustments will help to calm the muscles down and align the spine, allowing for the body to function more effectively.
In light of the news that this year’s flu shot is, at best, 23% effective (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/flu-vaccine-working-23-percent-effective-28249610), many people are wondering what they can do to help protect themselves and their family from the flu. In fact, there are a lot of lifestyle changes that you can make in order to help keep your family healthy during what we have been calling ‘the sick season.’ In addition to influenza, norovirus (what most people refer to as a ‘stomach bug’ or ‘stomach flu,’ that includes vomiting, diarrhea, and fever), and rhinovirus (the common cold), all run rampant this time of year. Many of the tactics that you can use to prevent the flu will also prevent the spread of other common contagious illnesses.
First and foremost, practice proper hand washing! Check out this awesome poster from the World Health Organization. You can print it out and hang it in your bathroom for your kids: http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/How_To_HandWash_Poster.pdf. One of the best best strategies that you can implement to help prevent the spread of illness, is have everyone take off their shoes and jackets, and WASH HANDS as soon as you get home. From anywhere! When you get home from school, the drugstore, the mall, the grocery store, a friend’s house, your mom’s house, anywhere. Every time you walk in the door make it a habit to wash your hands. If you are running multiple errands, or will be in a location where soap and water is not readily available, it is a good idea to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but keep in mind this does not kill norovirus, clostridium difficile bacteria, or many strains of the flu virus. Experts have said that hand sanitizer is more effective at preventing germ proliferation, rather than at killing it off, so it’s important to use soap and water whenever it’s available, and not to rely on hand sanitizers.
In addition to hand washing, when you are out and about, it’s important to try not to touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth! This is more difficult than people realize. It’s habit to rub our eyes when we are tired, scratch our nose, or eat something with our hands. Spend any time with children, and you will notice how often they have their hands in their mouths, and fingers in their nose! That’s one of the best ways to spread germs, so talk to your kids about keeping their hands away from their face. This will be almost impossible for them! But it’s still important to try, and it’s never too late to begin instilling good hygiene habits in our children.
Typically, the influenza virus is considered a “droplet transmission” virus, which means you must come into contact with the secretions of someone who is infected. Some strains have been known to be “airborne,” which means the microscopic droplets can stay suspended in the air for some time and you can become infected by breathing them in. For this reason, if you are going to be in contact with someone with the flu, or if you MUST go out in public when you have the flu, it is prudent to wear a respiratory mask. These are available at any drugstore. While you might feel silly wearing it, it’s better than getting the flu or spreading it to someone else! Alternatively, you could wear a Scough and pretend you are covering your face because you’re cold! http://wearascough.com
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help keep you and your family in optimal health. In order for our immune systems to function appropriately, our body and brain need to be able to send effective messages to each other! These messages are sent up and down our spinal cord (in a complex process I won’t bore you with here), and a simple adjustment can make all of the difference if some of those pathways are blocked. Chiropractic adjustments can be especially helpful for children who have frequent sinus and ear infections as the adjustments help to keep those areas open for drainage.
Vitamin D deficiency is almost epidemic in this country, especially during the winter months when we are exposed to very little sunshine. However, vitamin D is crucial for proper immune function and many other functions in the body. In order for our bodies to make adequate vitamin D, we need to have adequate levels of cholesterol in our bodies, and at least 15 minutes of face and arm exposure to sunlight per day. Clearly no one one in the Northeastern United States is getting that amount of exposure during the icy cold winter months. A high quality vitamin D supplement can help fill in the gaps until we can all lay out in the sunshine during the warmer months. We like Bluebonnet brand, Xymogen, and Nordic Naturals, but you can ask your chiropractor or naturopath which supplement brand they recommend. It is especially important for breastfeeding mothers to make sure that they are not vitamin D deficient. Many pediatricians mistakenly claim that breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D and that babies need supplementation, but this is only true if the mother is deficient. Some breastfeeding mothers need as much as 5,000-10,000 IU supplementation in order to have enough vitamin D for themselves and their nursing baby. Your chiropractor or other health practitioner can order a blood test so that you know what your vitamin D levels are.
It is very important to maintain the healthiest diet possible when trying to prevent the flu and other illnesses. By now, most of us know how damaging excess sugar can be to the immune system, so it’s especially important to keep the sugar down during outbreaks of illness! We know how hard it is to maintain a healthy diet when fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t as available and when all you want to do is curl up with some hot comfort food. Nourishing soups that contain a lot of garlic, onions, and ginger will help fight the flu and other illnesses. Bone broth is a wonderful addition to everyone’s diet, see our favorite recipe here: http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth/ Organic oatmeal with grass-fed butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup is a delicious and nourishing way to start the day. Pastured eggs have plenty of protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D. Don’t forget to eat the yolk! That’s where the vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats are. Snack on organic almonds and walnuts, organic dried fruit and seeds, and grass-fed cheeses. If you must have something sweet (as we all must sometimes), you can make your own organic low-sugar hot chocolate. Organic, fair-trade pure cocoa powder, plus the milk or milk alternative of your choice, and just a couple teaspoons of organic cane sugar will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Remember also, that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut. There are certain food additives and over-the-counter medications that are known to harm the beneficial bacteria inside your large intestine that protect you from infection. NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can damage gut flora when taken in excess or over long periods of time. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) have been known to kill off beneficial bacteria. Always read labels of all over-the-counter medications as many contain sucralose or aspartame. Pedialyte, often given to children for dehydration during illness, contains sucralose, which is almost guaranteed to make your child feel worse. Check out this blog for an all-natural rehydration drink for kids: http://dontmesswithmama.com/homemade-citrus-electrolyte-drink/
If you or your family members do happen to come down with the flu, in the absence of other serious medical conditions, it is usually a self-limiting illness. It is important to stay at home, preferably in bed, and to REST, when you are ill! Our culture encourages pushing yourself to the limit, but it’s important to STAY HOME when you are sick in order to prevent passing the illness along to others. Plenty of rest also results in a quicker recovery. Keep hydrated and eat nourishing meals such as bone broth. For kids without an appetite, I make a delicious, immune boosting rice dish that I have put on my birth blog here: https://birthinfullbloom.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/immune-boosting-rice-dish-for-sick-little-ones/
Stay hydrated with coconut water, electrolyte drinks, organic juices, and tea. Organic Lemon Balm tea is both antiviral and delicious! Even kids like it, sweetened with a little raw honey (honey is not recommended for babies under 1 year of age). Breastfeeding babies and kids are much less likely to come down with the flu, but if they do, it is important to nurse frequently for hydration, calories, and immune boosting effects. If you are nursing a baby and your older child comes down with the flu, pumping breast milk and giving it to your older child in a cup can help them benefit from the antibodies it contains. We have yet to read a convincing study indicating that Tamiflu is indicated for treatment of the diagnosed flu, but this is something you must discuss with your healthcare provider.
There are many herbal remedies that are safe for treating common illnesses at home. These include Echinacea and Elderberry, the two most common, Lomatium, Olive Leaf Extract, and others, but as herbal remedies are out of the scope of this blog post, we suggest directly contacting an herbalist or naturopath for dosing recommendations. As always, boosting probiotics and vitamin C will help almost any illness. Note that too much of either can cause loose stools in both adults and children. If this does happen, remember that is normal (and often indicates you have just passed the therapeutic dose), and simply discontinue or back off the dosage.
There are so many ways that you can help protect your family from the flu this season, and not all have been listed here. If you have any questions about the information you’ve read here, please contact us at peaandthepodchiropractic.com or 302-368-0800.