Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking good care…

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” We all seem to know this intuitively when we are nursing our babies. Read any breastfeeding or parenting board and you’ll see scores of suggestions for using breastmilk for ear infections, pink eye, burns, candida, diaper rash, cradle cap, stuffy noses, eczema, cuts and so on. Moms advise one another to feed their milk to older children when they are ill and mention hearing of breastmilk being used to treat cancer and other illnesses. We encourage one another to nurse through fevers, teething, infections and injuries. We nurse our babies to sleep and into a new day, we nurse them in new situations and around new people, we nurse them to quiet them on airplanes and at public events, after a nightmare and at the end of a long day. We know we have in our milk the power to nourish, to comfort, to heal, to take good care.

Many common difficulties mothers might face while nursing are also discussed on these boards and pages. We know that babies who are “colicky”, refluxing, vomiting or have eczema might well have food allergies. So, mothers encourage one another to eliminate certain foods from their diets—thus manipulating the nature of our food as medicine. We know that we can increase levels of certain nutrients--vitamin D, for example or change the fat composition of a mother’s milk by changing her dietary intake (or Sun exposure). Our milk is food and it is also medicine.

We know we have the means of taking good care of our little ones while they’re nursing, but we rarely turn that awareness toward developing our innate skills in taking good care of them into childhood. Suddenly, the advice on parenting boards becomes limited primarily to over-the-counter medications, a few comfort measures or a trip to the doctor when children aren’t feeling well. How is it that we do not know the simple means of taking good care of our own human bodies, our own human beings?

To be fair, many mothers also struggle to trust their own bodies, their own milk and their ability to fully nourish their babies as well. Maybe, even most mothers face this struggle. Certainly, nursing has yet to return to us as the biological norm it was designed for, and is far from being the cultural norm either. Even so, when moms put babies to breast, they commonly realize they have something pretty amazing going on. They begin to trust, begin to realize the value of the vast resource at their disposal.

The lesson that nursing offers us here is that taking good care is usually simple, based in nutrition, amplified through nurturing, and offered as a kind of common knowledge, mediated through intuition. But, just as we as a culture have lost both the art and common sense of feeding our babies for several generations, so, too have we lost the art of taking good care of our own families. We have lost the wisdom of our food, the knowledge of its healing properties and the use of plants and common home remedies as medicine. We have lost our energetic connection to taking care of one another and so energy medicine is dismissed as quackery or a placebo by many of us. While nursing, we begin to claim our birthright, our ability to know our bodies, to trust their wholeness, but in the process of weaning, we most commonly turn away from this very same right to knowledge and wisdom. We turn towards an external, rather than an internal guidance system.

In my work as a parent educator and lactation consultant, I have found that once mothers come to trust their bodies and their milk, they are often eager for the knowledge and confidence that comes of learning the deeper art of taking care. But, while nursing our babies offers us wisdom through the very act of doing so, mothers have no such guide in learning to parent holistically throughout their babies’ childhoods.

Yet, I have found that given the choice of using holistic approaches in taking care of their children, rather than over-the-counter medications, more often than not mothers will choose natural remedies if they can feel confident in their use of them. In working with mothers, I am able to guide them through their insecurities in learning to use holistic practices, such as nutrition, homeopathy, home remedies, herbs and in seeking other supportive therapies from holistic providers.

For example, a mother who has come to trust that she can nurse her baby through a fever, relying on the antibodies and digestibility of her milk to help her baby get well, has been prepared by her experience to trust in the body’s innate desire for homeostasis. Once weaned, when her child is not well, she has the option to use “fever-reducing medications” and hydration solutions, or she can continue to trust in the body and choose from among simple supportive therapies such as homeopathy, coconut water for hydration, essential oils or Bach Flower remedies for comfort and herbs and nutrients (such as vitamin C, zinc or vitamin D) for immune support. She can choose supportive foods that encourage healing and restrict foods that do not. It’s a much simpler leap to get there than most parents realize.

During the past six years, I have been developing a project to help parents gain the knowledge, learn the skills and grow in the confidence it takes to use holistic therapies in taking good care of their families. Through my workshops, I have been teaching parents to use holistic therapies within a supportive context with other parents, while offering a Home Remedy KIT ( What's in the KIT?designed to make it easy to access the products most commonly relied upon. Through long-term support via a yahoo group, parents who have taken my workshops have been able to try new therapies while learning from one another, finding confidence in their successes, and in turn, supporting and teaching other less experienced parents. In this project through which I am converting my workshops to webinars, adding a fully functional website and producing other supportive materials, I can turn a small, successful experiment into a full-fledged, large-scale endeavor.

Just this week, a mother new to holistic therapies posted to the yahoo group, looking for a way to avoid the probability that her doctor would prescribe antibiotics for her baby’s ear infection. Several mothers posted my favorite treatment—onion juice in the baby’s ear. Other supportive suggestions included castor oil compresses and immune support. The mom posted the next day that the onion juice “worked like a dream”. The baby’s fever had done its job, broken on its own and the baby was recovering. All of this was new to the mom, but because she had the support of other mothers at her disposal almost 24 hours a day, she gained confidence in trying this new therapy. Through support knowledge becomes wisdom.

Each time, it get easier and easier and as the mother gains wisdom, she will offer that wisdom to others. This is my vision, on a much larger scale. This mom, as do we all, knows we have the option of seeking medical care should we or our children need it, and that as well empowers us. The more we gain confidence in our own skills, the better we know our children and ourselves, the better we are at managing both home care and care from our practitioners. It has been my experience that empowered mothers have better relationships with their health care providers. To see the comments and reviews of the Home Remedy KIT, click here: reviews

This project, the KIT Project, is the foundation of my work in helping parents raise their children holistically. I will be taking the Raising Children Holistically webinars live this Fall. Parents will soon have the opportunity to access the workshops from anywhere on the globe, but a strong support system is essential in ensuring that the information gained is much more than an intellectual exercise; that parents have the confidence to put into practice the skills they learn. 

There are only two more days to my IndiGoGo fundraiser, designed to support the expansion and success of this project. In the past weeks of upheaval, this project has not had my attention. Given that there was amazing support when I initially launched the fundraiser, and that many who expressed support have yet to donate, I am making this final two-day effort to come as close to my goal as possible. If you are as passionate as I am about helping parents gain the confidence to take good care of our families, then I hope you will see the potential in this Project and make a donation in support.  

Please click here to learn more and to donate to the KIT Project: IndieGoGo Fundraiser

Thank you for your support!