Coping Naturally: Swelling

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A few years ago, I was playing volleyball and returned a hit that shouldn’t have caused any trouble.  But for some reason, I felt a tiny ache in my wrist.  I thought nothing of it and kept playing.  By the end of the match, I realized I had probably bruised it.

By the time I got home, I knew something was wrong.

A few days later and in constant pain, I finally called my doctor.  He sent me for X-rays.  Nothing was visibly wrong.  I iced it, I used that hand sparingly, but it didn’t get better.  The following week my doctor sent me for an MRI.  The results?  Edema inside the bone.  I followed up with my doctor and he sent me off for a wrist brace saying to wear it 24 hours a day for a month.  If the pain didn’t improve, he wanted to send me to a hand specialist.

The pain didn’t subside.  As a matter of fact I spent three months in that flippin’ brace, unable to comfortably rotate my hand 360 degrees during any of that time.  This is not useful when you are a full-time legal assistant by day and full-time student at night.

Or while you're playing with your puppy dog at the beach...

Or after teeter tottering at a playground (excuse the hair!)

My brother-in-law (Mr. Natural Lifestyle himself) and his family came to visit one weekend and bought me something he swore would help.  What was it?

Yep.  Plain old ginger.  He left with instructions on how to use it and said that if swelling was indeed the problem, the ginger would cure it.  At that point in my life, natural remedies were not my first instinct.  But ginger. changed. everything.  From that experience on, I’ve used nature to solve every ailment possible!

To relieve swelling:

  • Slice ginger into 1/8″ – 1/4″ rounds
  • Place the rounds on and around the affected area.
  • Wrap with plastic wrap and leave it for an hour.
  • Expect a mild burning sensation; it won’t last the entire time.

Why it works:

  • Ginger is a natural anticoagulant, meaning it prevents clotting.
  • The swelling inside my bone meant that blood was flowing more like sand than liquid.
  • The absorption of ginger thinned my blood back out to let it flow freely again which reduced (and eventually healed) the swelling.

I’ve been fortunate to not need the ginger again, but I’ve recommended it countless times to friends and you know what?  The results never caused any complaints.  Nature wins again.


Coping Naturally: Teething

The teething baby:  miserable.
The parents of said baby:  miserable.
The older siblings:  miserable.

So what do you do?

I’m on round two of the teething infant.  V cut her first two teeth at ten months old and her next two at 12 months.  D cut his first tooth at five months and at eight months old is now working on number eight.  I feel like I’m ready (though not necessarily willing) to deal with teething at any age in whatever manner these teeth will choose to come in.  All at once?  Slowly but surely?  This mama is ready!

My arsenal of most effective crabby baby soothers.
  1. Keep Baby occupied.  As occupied as possible.  Verging on over-stimulated.  I tend to keep things simple with my kids.  An hour or two of TV a week, limited flashy/noisy toys, no portable DVD player, no Youtube on my cell phone.  But when the teeth are coming in, load ’em up!  The goal is to distract them from the fact that they are in pain so you can pull out the pain relief at bedtime when distraction is no longer possible.  Put on a movie, hand that baby some Mega Bloks and let him go to town.
  2. Always carry a teether in your purse.  Preferably a roughly textured teether that has a way for you to easily hold on to it.  We love Baby having something to gnaw on.  We hate when Baby gnaws on something that’s repeatedly dropped on the grocery store floor.  Keep that teether in your purse until Baby gets crabby.  Let him enjoy being out and having new things to look at. When the whimpering comes out, so does the toy (distraction).
  3. Hold off on the meds.  After all, we are coping naturally!  One of the best pain relief methods is ice.  Pop an ice cube in a mesh bag and let Baby go to town.  Hand him a frozen banana or a teething ring meant for your freezer.  My personal favorite is the ice.  With all the drooling that goes on, it doesn’t hurt to replace some of those fluids.  Or, simply try another toy.  Anything with edges and corners.  After all – the more rough the toy, the quicker the gums wear down and that tooth is through!  D’s personal favorite?  A toothbrush.  And it makes total sense.
  4. Prevent bedtime trouble.  When I know my kids will have troubles at bedtime, I don’t bother waiting for the crying to start.  I just give them some teething tablets and they don’t know what hit ’em!  Loaded with chamomile and belladonna, these bad boys can handle almost anything.  I’ve even been known to use one or two on days my kids just need a little extra help calming down.  Because these are homeopathic, I’m awfully generous with these little “cherry candies,” as V calls them.  (Tip:  For the very young teether, crush these with the back of a knife before dissolving in water.  For the older ones, just pop them in one at a time.)
  5. Go ahead, give ’em the good stuff.  If my kids are in so much pain they can’t sleep, I do give them the Ibuprofen. And why not?  I know I’ve done everything in my power to keep them comfortable and it isn’t worth their losing sleep.  So I give them a touch of the OTC so that, come morning, they aren’t in pain and overtired.  But honestly?  This is a very rare occurrence.  We’re talking bleeding/blistered gums, two teeth at a time situations.  In all others, the teething tablets held their own.

If your poor baby’s teething is also accompanied by a runny nose or coughing, be sure to check out Coping Naturally: Cold Remedies.  And remember, these are common symptoms associated with teething and are not always indicative of a virus…take his temperature to check for a fever.  According to the AAP a fever is 100.4 degrees F / 38 C or higher.

Coping Naturally – Infant Reflux

My little V had acid reflux from the age of two weeks until she was sixteen months.  She cried eight hours straight every day until we figured out that reflux was the problem.  It was a long couple of weeks.  Mr. M and I learned a lot in our search to find ways to help her and I am now passing on that knowledge to other parents in the same situation.  I am no expert, but I did read a lot about how to help V without prescription medication.  Keep in mind that by following these simple rules, V’s crying stopped.  That’s right, stopped.

I’m a firm believer in learning as much about a situation or condition as possible to make the most informed and best decision for my child and family. Not one solution works for everyone and I don’t think people are reminded that as often as they should be. That being said, there are MANY things parents can try to help babies with reflux. It’s important to know that it will be trial and error and that not every option works for everyone, but there are a few general rules of thumb.

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WHY do some babies experience reflux? A nurse friend of mine explained it to me before we ever talked to our pediatrician about it. There is a flap between the esophagus and the stomach that should open downward to let food into the stomach. However, sometimes the digestive system is underdeveloped and the flap occasionally opens upward allowing stomach acid (and sometimes food) to flow into the esophagus and therefore cause heartburn. And there is the “acid reflux.”

1. The good news:  If you are breastfeeding, your diet determines how much acid reflux baby will experience. The bad news:  You’ll need to eliminate all coffee (I know, with all that crying you need that caffeine…but hang in there!), tea, chocolate, citrus, and tomatoes from your diet. That’s the list our pediatrician started us with. If you look into other things, a lot of people will say to eliminate dairy, but the likelihood of a baby being sensitive to dairy is slim to none and it’s really difficult to diagnose simply by eliminating it. Start with that list and you should see improvements within a day.  Changing your diet will PREVENT the worst of the pain because whatever you eat he eats.  If you remove heartburn causing foods, the food itself is no longer causing additional problems.  Even if you decide to treat with a prescription, this rule should be followed.

***It is important to know that reflux babies can deal with breast milk much better than formula. So if adjusting your diet is possible to continue nursing, it will definitely help baby’s tummy.  From everything I’ve read, formula is not the better choice if reflux is the only issue.  Furthermore, we had to supplement with formula as V got older (due to a supply issue on my end) and that simply made things worse.

2. Treat the reflux:  Even if you’re not eating foods that will create heartburn, baby will still experience some. We used gripe water EVERY TIME we fed V and sometimes in between if she was still having major problems. It is a natural dietary supplement and the most effective formula we found included both ginger and fennel. We tried about five brands and these two worked the best: Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water or Little Tummy’s Gripe Water (cheaper of the two and who doesn’t need to save a few bucks, right?). They can be found at Target (cheapest), drugstores, or Babies R Us. We even found it at our grocery store in the digestive aids section. IT DID MIRACLES for V’s crying. We started by taking the minimum amount of gripe water she was allowed in one day and dividing it by the number of feedings she took. Then we gave it to her at every feeding. If she seemed to have problems later, we could always give her a little more in between and I would note what I ate 4-6 hours before that feeding to try and find the cause of the problem.

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3. Preventing throw up:  Not every reflux baby experiences vomiting, but our daughter literally threw up everything she ate. If she had a 2 oz bottle, 2 oz came back up. When she was taking 4 oz bottles, 4 oz came back up. LET GRAVITY HELP YOU. After baby eats, keep him upright for 30 minutes. Put him in a snuggly, a swing, prop him on a boppy, whatever you can do to keep the food DOWN. Just as importantly, never bounce him. Not while playing, not to soothe him. Never. Any up and down movement will slosh the milk in his stomach and help it come back up.  If possible, prop his crib mattress. He will sleep better because gravity will keep his food down and his stomach acid where it belongs. This was not an option for us for very long because V was incredibly active in her sleep, but while we could do it, it worked very well. You can ask your pediatrician about the safest method for you: propping the mattress with a towel, using a sleep wedge or a sleep positioner.

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4.  The rice cereal debate:  We had no luck with adding rice cereal to bottles of breastmilk. Our daughter just threw it all up. The goal of the rice is to make the milk heavier and harder to come back up. However, it didn’t work for us. If you do add cereal, pay close attention to whether or not it makes a difference for your little one.  If it doesn’t help, why do it?

5.  Contain the throw up:  I highly suggest using old fashioned cloth diapers or old bath towels. We used the diapers, our daughter’s sitter used the bath towels.

6.  It’s going to get worse.  Reflux will peak at 4 months of age. However, at 4 months, he can start eating solids if he’s ready. That is a whole different ball game and was a HUGE struggle for us so in the future I’ll hopefully share information on how to transition. Reflux should phase out by 10 months of age. Our daughter had it until she was 16 months. Until she was 10 months, she could only eat 5 different baby foods. Until she was 16 months, we slowly were able to introduce other things. But again, it was very trial and error.

7.  A vicious cycle:  Crying will upset his stomach which will in turn upset his reflux which will in turn make him cry more. It sucks, I know. Our daughter also had colic (oddly enough…they are saying colic is most likely caused by an underdeveloped digestive system which is why gripe water works for both. Hmm…) so we struggled with that. But we watched a video (Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby method) that showed us how to calm her naturally. The biggest thing that helped her is white noise. We took the “shushing” in her ear up a notch and used static on the radio to calm her down. We played it loudly until she was calm and gradually turned down the volume. We still used it as she got older when she had a hard time going to sleep. I highly recommend it for times that baby gets hysterical. If he’s just upset, you can do the swaddle, sucking, and shushing steps, but keep him upright.

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So I know that’s a lot of info, but I sincerely hope it helps anyone in need. V’s reflux was fairly severe until we got it under control. She wasn’t “cured” just because we did all of these things, but she was happy and comfortable and we managed her symptoms without a fear of side effects.

As a toddler there is no sign of V’s previous reflux.  She’s happy, healthy, and her digestion is on track.  I love knowing that Mr. M and I did everything we could to let nature work in her favor.

Coping Naturally: Cold Remedies

My 19-month-old now has her first serious cold. An oozing nose that turned into a congested chest that turned into a mix between the two. In general, our family does not use over the counter medicines if possible. For headaches we drink peppermint tea, for stomach aches ginger. And as fluids and rest are the best medicines, we tend to pump those instead of cough syrup and Ibuprofin.

That being said, my poor daughter sounded so miserable that I almost gave in to getting some cold medicine. Almost.

But then I did a quick google for natural remedies. A hot bath did wonders to get her nose flowing so her cough slowed down a bit. Then I fought her to the floor and held her down to use the nasal aspirator. Good grief, those things are mini miracle workers. Awhile later I noticed she still sounded congested in her chest so I gave her a toddler spoonful of honey and twenty minutes later she was good as new. (The article I read actually suggested 1 Tbsp of honey, but why start with a max dose?)

I also have her sleeping with a humidifier and yesterday was a wonderfully rainy day so I left the living room window open all day.

Who needs cough medicine? Not this mama and surely not her little girl.