Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Teething unhindered

There's nothing worse than seeing your little ones suffer, and teething is a time when there can be a lot of that happening, especially when the molars start to come through, as they are for my wee boy, Kaya, who has just turned one.
Yesterday he had a really uncomfortable time of it which culminated in him slapping his cheeks with both hands, clearly letting me know what was going on!
Instead of rushing for the pills and potions I bought him a length liquorice root, that is, liquorice in it's natural form.
Liquorice seems to work as it cools and numbs the gums.
Also when Kaya was about 4 months old, the time when teething begins for most babies, I was advised by my local healthfood shop to get him a piece of iris root. He seemed to like it. Chewing on the soft wood of the iris root has been known since ages to be soothing and helps the teeth break through naturally.

Here are some other ways to help your child through this natural process

Amber Teething necklaces

Natural Baltic Amber is used for relief from inflammation, fever and pain and is commonly used in European countries to relieve teething pain in infants. 

Whilst there are various types of Amber jewellery on the market, the only form suitable for a teething necklace is Baltic Amber. This amber can only be found close to the Baltic Sea and is the only one that contains Succinic Acid. Succinic Acid is the compound that relieves the pain and fever of teething. A natural analgesic, Baltic Amber will have a calming and soothing effect on a baby without resorting to over the counter drugs and remedies during teething. An amber teething necklace is not designed to be chewed on by a baby! When a baby is teething and the amber teething necklace is worn on the skin, the skin's warmth releases oils from the amber (a resin) which are absorbed via the skin into the bloodstream. Unlike teething gels, powders or pain relief syrups, the traditional beaded amber necklaces imported from the Baltic region are a less intrusive remedy for teething pain and side effects of teething, such as drooling, lack of appetite, upset tummies, ear ache, fevers and colds. Ambers anti-inflammatory and therapeutic properties are also recognized by allopathic medicine. 

Massage your baby's gums

Teething pain is caused by the pressure of the new tooth pushing up through the gum. By putting gentle pressure on the gum, the pressure and pain caused by the new tooth can be alleviated. You can massage your baby's gums gently with your finger, which will not only relieve the pain, but will also improve circulation of blood in the gums which helps the new tooth to push through. You can try using a small amount of clove oil on you finger as you massage your baby's sore gums as this can have a numbing effect on the gums. Carefully limit the amount of clove oil you use, as to much can upset your baby's stomach.

Why not to use painkilling medicines and teething gels

I have never and will never use painkilling medicine and teething gels on my baby's gums for the following reasons.
Teething gels contain a range of chemicals that although in the short term can assist with teething discomfort it is thought that the actual relief comes from massaging the gums and not the gels themselves. Most gels contain a mixture of chemicals such as lignocaine, tannic acid, menthol, thymol and glycerol, and in some cases up to 40% ethanol!
If you are breastfeeding the teething gel can numb the tongue of your baby making it difficult to breastfeed.
In the case of fever associated with teething I have never resorted to medication which would lower the temperature, that includes any time either of my children have had high temperatures. This is because the unnatural lowering of the body's temperature goes against nature, the high temperature is there for a reason! I would like to add here that I have not been in a position where my children and ever had a raging temperature for a prolonged period of time.
When there has been some signs of fever like Kaya and his teething yesterday I simply breastfed him, if he allowed me,(it is unheard of for him to not want to be breastfed), if not, just holding him close, singing his favourite tune or his favourite past time at the minute is watching the birds out of the window. I've always got the liquorice root and iris root at hand

Hope this helps and most importantly, don't panic! Remember we went through it....and just like child birth it's one of the most natural processes, so hand's off and let nature do its job.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Women Who Run With the Wolves - contacting the power of the wild woman

Only now as a 34 year old woman and mother of two I find myself coming back into alignment with my wild woman nature. This post has been sparked off by an amazing book, "Women Who Run With the Wolves" by a Spanish writer, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I came across this deeply insightful book as it was recommended to me by a dear, Spanish friend Belen, who I met in Mysore, India while studying Ashtanga Yoga a few years ago. Thank you so much Bel!
As a mother I feel it is my duty to pass on to my children the true knowledge so they can grow up in touch with their intuition and deeper selves and not be too concerned or caught up with external things. I can only do this if I myself am in touch with my own true nature which at times I am but frequently find myself being caught up in my head with trivialities. Children don't allow space for triviality, they only want to know the real. What a journey we embark on when we become parents.
There's no more to say only if there's one book every woman should read it's this one. The gifts of wisdom are on every page. Don't we all love spontaneity, when just when we most need it the right person, book, poem comes along to inspire us once again and keep us moving along the right path.

Elimination Communication explained

With the debate still current as to whether disposable, eco-disposable or cloth nappies are best, there is another alternative that many people are unaware of. It’s the cleanest, greenest and probably the oldest way of dealing with babies’ elimination. Elimination Communication (EC), also referred to as Infant Potty Training or Natural Infant Hygiene, is rarely practiced in Western society but it is the most common way of managing infant hygiene in the world today. While ECing makes good sense where water is scarce or disposable nappies are unavailable, there are many other advantages that babies and parents can also enjoy.

What is Elimination Communication?

Parents carry their babies before they can walk. Mothers help their baby to the breast before they can lift our shirts and self-serve. We help babies get to sleep when they are tired until they are old enough to do this unassisted. With Elimination Communication we are simply helping the baby to eliminate, just as we do, into a receptacle and not into their clothing until such time as they are capable of using a toilet independently. When a baby is never trained to use a nappy or taught to ignore the body’s signals that tell them they need to eliminate, they never have to learn to use a potty or re-recognise their body’s urges at a later date.
We are commonly told by doctors, child health experts and other parents that children develop bladder and bowel control between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. We also assume that babies are unaware of the sensation of having the need to eliminate before this age. Human knowledge of anatomy and physiology reveals both of these beliefs to be misconceptions. Not a new practice; the use of EC has been the norm in many non-western cultures for centuries and is still widely practised today.
We know that babies have bladder and sphincter control from birth. All mammals, including the human newborn, instinctively avoid soiling their nest and will follow the lead of their parents as to what is expected of them to achieve this. All babies are born capable of feeling the need to eliminate and if consistently given the opportunity, can easily learn to communicate to us when they need to eliminate as well as understand when we would like them to eliminate.
In contrast to toilet training, Elimination Communication is primarily about parent training. A close bond between baby and primary carer is essential as the adult must learn to recognise when baby needs to “go” through timing (regular elimination patterns), baby’s cues (body language) and intuition. For this reason, it is consistent with Attachment Parenting as the parent and child are in-tune with each other. This is achieved by being rarely separated, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and parenting instinctively and responsively.
Different parents approach EC differently but a common factor is the adult teaching the child a cueing sound (e.g. “ssss”). When the baby is newborn, the parent makes the cueing sound as baby eliminates and baby soon learns to associate this with elimination. Once this cueing sound has been learnt by the child, the parent can hold their baby over a suitable receptacle and ask the child to eliminate by making the cueing sound.
In time, babies learn how to clearly communicate to their parent their need to eliminate through their body language, baby talk or in some cases by using a hand signal that they have been taught or have invented on their own. Most ECed babies clearly signal either a full bladder or bowel from around 3-4 months onwards and are able to wait long enough for their carer to get them to an appropriate spot to eliminate.
Parents practising Elimination Communication might occasionally use a nappy as back up e.g. for long car trips or when baby is ill with diarrhoea. Some parents choose to EC part-time, perhaps during the day using a nappy only at night or perhaps only when at home. The human body in any healthy person excretes an anti-diuretic hormone during sleep which lessens the need to eliminate during sleep.
Contrary to popular belief, with the exception of people with medical conditions, humans don’t eliminate in their sleep but become semi-conscious when they need to eliminate. The mother who co-sleeps with her child and who is in tune with her baby can awaken to their stirring as they come out of deeper sleep and can respond to their baby’s elimination signals.

What are the advantages of Elimination Communication?

The most obvious benefit is avoiding the time and effort involved in frequently changing wet nappies and the sometimes unpleasant task of dealing with soiled nappies. This is a boon for me who started out as a mum wothout a washing machine and now manages using a twin tub which is very time consuming(see my very first post about off grid washing) It is much easier and generally quicker to take a child of any age to the toilet than it is to change their nappy. Avoiding using nappies means that there is no need to pack a nappy bag and lug it about whenever out of the home.

Elimination Communication is the cleanest choice for the environment

Disposable nappies and the plastic bags they are usually wrapped in once dirty are a major contributor to landfill. For those environmentally conscious parents who choose cloth over disposable nappies, ECing saves the environmental cost of nappy production plus the extra laundry detergent and water involved with washing 6 to 12 reusable nappies per child daily, nappy covers and soiled clothes from nappy “blowouts”.

It’s cheaper

With Elimination Communication we avoid the financial cost involved in both the initial purchase of the nappies plus all the other nappy changing essentials such as change mat, baby wipes, creams and nappy liners. For users of cloth nappies as well as the initial outlay there is the associated costs of laundry powder and running the washing machine which can add up over the years. Clothes fit for longer without the bulk of a nappy.

EC is the healthiest choice for babies

There is no doubt that EC is kindest to babies’ delicate skin. A baby in nappies will have them next to their skin almost continually for many years which can lead to irritations. With disposables there is the issue of chemicals used in the production and in the absorbent gel which can enter a baby’s bloodstream and in the case of girls get into their vagina. With cloth there is the constant issue of keeping baby dry so they are more comfortable and sleep better. With both cloth and disposable nappies there is the age old problem of nappy-rash which can be painful and difficult to clear up. An ECed baby will never have nappy rash and ECing parents will never have to purchase nappy rash salves or preventative barrier creams. Elimination Communication reduces the risk of UTI’ and constipation plus enables parents to take closer note of baby’s elimination patterns to develop a better sense of a child’s digestive system and potentially react to allergens more quickly.

Elimination Communication supports positive child development

EC is considered to be the approach to toileting that optimises healthy sexual development. A baby who is constantly wearing a nappy becomes to an extent desensitised to that area of the body and can’t get in touch with their bodies uninhibited by a nappy. EC respects babies’ abilities to communicate their needs from birth which builds the baby’s self-confidence. Older siblings can be involved in the EC process thereby reducing rivalry and also helping them to develop healthy attitudes about bodily functions.

Elimination Communication leads to enhanced bonding

Perhaps most importantly, the development of a trusting relationship between the parent and the child is enhanced through communication about a basic human need. Baby feels more secure: “Mummy and Daddy listen to what I am saying and respond to my needs.” Parents learn to trust their instincts through accurately reading their baby’s body language building their confidence in their parenting ability. They have an additional parenting tool under their belt because they understand that a baby may be crying due to the need to eliminate and can therefore respond in the appropriate way.

What happens when a nappy free baby is old enough to use the toilet?

Achieving toilet independence for nappy free babies means a gradual transition from needing help to confidently using the toilet on their own. One big advantage for families is that many children are dry at night from around 12 months of age and have achieved complete toilet independence by 14 months. However, while early independence is common with ECed babies due to their increased awareness of their bodily functions, that is never the aim and indeed some ECed babies are independent from an age that might be considered late.
While the focus of being nappy free is primarily on being responsive to our babies and respecting their awareness of their elimination needs and ability to communicate those needs from an early age, the benefits to the whole family as well as to society are many.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I firmly believe it is a myth, a very recent one at that, that babies should be in nappies for say at least 3 years, some perhaps less some of course much longer. Why is that? And why is it that we presume that if our baby girl was nappy free by 3 there's no way our baby boy will be nappy free earlier as, "it always takes longer for a boy to do everything!" Well that's just pure conditioning. Our culture has done a good job of making us believe many things that we should do in our lives to make the whole system tick along nicely for those at the top. Unfortunately we're carrying these values over to our parenting and therefore passing on our conditionings to our children.
I'm a great advocate of the continuum style of parenting, ie no prams/pushchairs, cots, contraptions, even nappies!
I did dabble with the EC(Elimination Communication, see next post for more info) method for a few days when Kaya was first born. It was pretty messy so did opt for the organic cotton and bamboo nappies with woollen overpants after that.
Why is it though that all women in say Africa know instinctively when their babies are going to pee or poo? Of course the warm climate helps so they only have a simple covering on the baby's body but it's mainly because they're in constant contact with the baby and as well as feeling a physical tensing in the baby's body which let's them know they're just about to go, they haven't lost the knowledge, an innate knowledge which involves being totally in tune with our children from day one.
Gwendoline who's now 3 was totally nappy free by 2. Shortly after her first birthday a friend visited and left us her daughter's potty so there it was from then on and we'd let Gwendoline wander around bare-bottomed most of the time. There was certainly plenty of cleaning up to do but no big deal with tile floors. By 20 months the only time she wore a nappy was if we were going out not even in bed(yes, a few accidents in the bed too but It was worth it.) A nappy free 2 year old is almost unheard of in this day and age.
Kaya who has just turned 1 is allowed to be bare bottomed even more (and younger) than Gwendoline. He has about half his wees in a potty. Now that saves me a lot of washing! And imagine if I'd been using disposables with either of my 2 how much waste that would have saved! All of the nappy companies are making a fortune having us believe our children need to use nappies for longer than they have to, if at all! Ok maybe that is a bit much to imagine in this climate but it's worth considering.
We have to start considering all the possibilities in all the areas of raising our children instead of just doing what is the done thing. Let's bring about some real change for a better future for our children.