Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Staying Healthy... Naturally

My collection is growing.

As my days of breastfeeding my son slowly wind to a close, I am finding myself getting a bit uneasy about the seasons ahead, and all of the little bouts of sickness that are sure to come along with it.

You see, that's always been my primary plan of attack whenever Bug gets sick. Nurse, nurse, nurse. And, in all honesty, it's been pretty successful thus far. I know my milk boosts his immune system, and I know that when he's sick, my body responds and produces milk that specifically helps him fight it off. When Bug gets sick, he often loses his appetite for a few days, but I have never really had to worry before since he has always kept nursing, and I know that he's getting enough nutrients to keep him going through the worst of it. (And then his appetite always returns with a vengeance once he's feeling better!) Bug has had a few stomach bugs over the course of his young life, but even those weren't really that frightening to me, because I knew my milk was the best thing to keep him hydrated and nourished. (For the record, one of those stomach bugs was actually frightening enough initially for me to take him to the ER. But we breastfed our way through it; not even norovirus and all of the grossness it entails could keep my Bug down!)

He still nurses now, usually just a few times per day. My supply is pretty low, but I know this is just all part of the process for a three year old. I'm okay with it all, with this process of Bug slowly weaning himself. But next time he gets sick, I'll probably be suddenly less okay with it!

So it will be interesting to see how things go the next time Bug does get sick. And there will be a next time; I have no illusions about that. It will likely be soon. He's small and is still building his immune system, and every little cold he gets is only making him stronger. But I know we will probably need a new plan of attack for one of these next times, whenever it happens.

For now, I'm just focusing on keeping him as healthy as possible. We eat a good, clean vegetarian diet, with lots of veggies and legumes and whole grains and hopefully a good balance of nutrients on most days. He drinks lots of water. He takes a multivitamin almost every day, just as an added safety net. (Do I lose natural mommy points if I admit he loves gummy vitamins? Yep, store-bought gummy vitamins. From Target. One of these days I'd love to try something like this herbal multivitamin tincture from Modern Alternative Mama, but we're not quite there yet.)

I must admit that I do keep some more "conventional" medicine on hand too. Just in case. I have a bottle of children's acetaminophen, just in case he ever gets a fever that is too high for me to be comfortable with. (I can count on one hand the number of times he's ever taken the stuff though!) For stuffy noses, I have saline spray and a warm mist vaporizer (with some "vapopads" that smell delightful and supposedly help him breathe and sleep even better; one of these days, I'm going to try making my own vapopads though!).

And that's pretty much it for Bug's medicine cabinet. I tend to prescribe more to the school of thought that it is always a good idea to promote health, and that when sickness does strike it's generally better to let it run its course as much as possible, rather than treat every little symptom. So yes, I have the acetaminophen on hand, but I would rather just monitor his temperature and let it run its course (assuming it doesn't get dangerously high), since I know fevers serve a physiological purpose. I will give him saline when his nose is so stuffed up that he can't sleep, but I avoid medicated decongestants. (I don't know that there are any I'd be comfortable with that are safe for a three year old anyway!)

So what else is in our toolkit to stay healthy? The basics, really.
  •  The aforementioned healthy diet and plenty of liquids. We eat lots of real food, plenty of fruits and veggies. I tend to always have some coconut water on hand (all the better to naturally stay hydrated!).
  • If I am worried about dehydration for any reason, I can always make a batch of oral rehydration salts/solution (a natural and completely acceptable alternative to that nasty Pedialyte stuff that Bug won't drink anyway).
  • Doing my best to ensure that Bug is always as rested as possible, by encouraging an early bedtime and doing my best to get him to take a nap at least every once in awhile.
  • Washing hands before/after eating, after using the potty, and periodically "just because" while we're out and about.
  • Trying to minimize exposure to other kids without hiding in our apartment all the time (meaning no daycare, which is absolutely unnecessary for us anyway, and only occasional trips to indoor play areas, as fun as those are!). (Really, what I'm going for here is avoiding spending lots of time surrounded by other children in enclosed spaces.)
  • Keeping the stress down by not rushing too much, keeping our schedules open, and, of course, soothing Bug when he needs soothing.
  • Keeping our home clean without overdoing it.
  • Encouraging exercise; we try to get out and walk or run around every day, and goodness knows toddlers never stop moving!
  • The ingredients to make simple, effective remedies at home. Not only can I give my son "medicine" that I feel good about, but I can also avoid last-minute trips to Target.
    • Mama's Soothing Homemade Cough Syrup from Mommypotamus is made with just honey, olive oil, and lemon juice, all ingredients I always have on hand. Honey is very effective for coughs; when Bug had RSV, that's actually what his doctor recommended I give him to soothe his throat!
    • This Homemade Vapor Rub, also from Mommypotamus, does not contain petroleum or other questionable ingredients. Instead, it relies primarily on essential oils to deal with congestion. There's also a slightly different recipe for babies under the age of two, which is nice, even if my little guy no longer fits into that category.
    • If Bug (or anyone else in the family, for that matter) is ever seriously congested, I plan to make these vapor shower discs to help breathe better; they're made of baking soda, water, and essential oils.
    • Should Bug ever get an ear infection (hasn't had one yet, and I'm crossing my fingers he never will), I can always make him this Magic Salt Sock to help deal with the discomfort. 
    • I keep both kid-friendly elderberry syrup (maybe someday I will make my own elderberry syrup?) and chewable vitamin C supplements on hand for Bug, to help boost his immune system when he is fighting something off.
    • I recently picked up a copy of Healing with God's Earthly Gifts by Kate Tietje, author of the blog Modern Alternative Mama, and I'm very excited to try out some of the recipes in it!

And I'm always on the lookout for new ideas. Like this antiviral spray recipe for fighting off the flu, which just might be what gets me serious about starting to really look into essential oils. Or this purification essential oil blend, which has all kinds of different uses; I finally obtained the last of the oils, but I haven't mixed up a batch yet. (Soon!)

Got any ideas for me? What else should I keep in my natural mama "medicine" cabinet? I'd love to read your suggestions in the comments below!

This post has been shared at the Healthy, Happy, Green, & Natural Blog Party Hop on 3/17/2015.


  1. Hi Holly,
    I agree that it is vitally important to stress prevention and use natural remedies with our families. I love your natural "toolkit"! Your natural health and healing tips are so valuable. I am so glad you shared Staying Healthy... Naturally with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop! I’m pinning and sharing!

    1. Thank you, Deborah! I hope that others benefit from my collection of ideas. I appreciate the work you put into running the "Healthy, Happy, Green, and Natural Party Blog Hop," and I'm always glad to share when I can!

  2. One vital thing I've learned about eucalyptus, and this probably doesn't apply to the trace amounts in Vicks, is that it can slow the breathing of children under 6! So I don't diffuse or use it around Jakob just in case, although I don't think anyone has ever actually gone to the hospital for it.

    The other day I made a list of all the items I want stocked and labeled in our medicine box, including a burn cream and things like that. I'll be keeping your list handy for a few more things to add to it!!!!!

    1. I would love to see your list, once you finish it!!