Naturopaths Asti Renaut and Natasha Berman offer advice on natural treatments that support babies through life’s little challenges.
Arriving in the outside world must be a rather interesting experience for a baby. Along with all the love they receive from these giant humans there are shadows and light to adjust to, warmth of cuddles to experience and some more difficult bits too. Adjusting to noise, to touch, to breathing air, to drinking milk, to digesting, to sleeping routines – these are all brand new and it’s no wonder that sometimes there is some fine-tuning to be done.
A natural approach to soothing baby starts with assessment of the absolute basics; checking comfort, warmth, nappy, hunger, tiredness and over-stimulation. Unfortunately, it is often the simple things, like eating and sleeping, that babies tend to have difficulty with, and where they need extra support from parents and healthcare providers. And typically, just when it feels like baby has settled into the rhythm of life (and we have settled into parenthood), along comes a new challenge – teeth, for example – opening up a whole new world of discovery.
Keep calm and pass it on
A calm parent may not always equal a calm baby, but it sure helps. When we as parents are feeling calm, we are better able to tune in to what our baby is communicating to us, and thus make good decisions about what to do next. So much of parenting is about responding in the moment, and the calmer and happier we are, the more easily we can follow our instincts and use our amazing head/heart analysis combination to best effect. So no matter what is upsetting your little one, learning how to keep our own stress as low as possible is an art we must develop for the sake of our whole family. For you, this may involve developing an ability to ask for help, or perhaps it is making sure you have a window of time-out every week. The quest for calm is a highly personal one; one person needs yoga while another needs time to read some juicy celebrity gossip.
Perhaps you need both!
The absolute basics for keeping yourself calm are:
• Eating regularly – ideally enough protein and fresh veges.
• Getting enough sleep – we know this is a challenge, but try and nap when you need to.
• Fresh air, deep breathing and moving your body.
• Friends, laughs and connection – this helps us keep a sense of humour and puts our own situation in context.
• Be encouraged and remember: you’ve got this! Keep in mind that you are learning too, so be gentle on yourself – just as much as you are with your baby.
When you need extra support, herbal and nutritional medicine has so much to offer. One of our absolute favourite herbs for exhausted parents is withania somnifera, also known as ashwaganda and available in liquid form from your naturopath. This amazing root can balance your stress hormones and nourish your nerves, while helping your mind and body adapt to stress. It actually helps you increase the absorption of the minerals you get from your food and helps you improve your stamina, calm anxiety and get deeper sleep. Yes, we do think every parent should have some! It's a breastfeeding mother’s best friend. Adequate B vitamins, zinc, calcium and magnesium are also so important here.
Parents have been using natural remedies for babies since babies began. Natural medicines are, after all, the oldest medicines, with centuries upon centuries of use under their belt. As time has rolled on, scientific enquiry has meant that we now understand more and more about how these natural medicines work. The beauty of using natural remedies for babies is that they are gently supportive of all your baby’s natural functions. Natural remedies are not trying to stop anything, or shut down any natural processes, but rather they support little bodies to come back into balance. But just because they are gentle, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t powerful!
Like any medicinal product, it’s always best to look for remedies that are formulated and manufactured by the experts. In the case of natural remedies, that means naturopaths. Using naturopathically formulated products means you have professional expertise at your fingertips. It also means you know that the products are safe for your baby. And when the naturopaths happen to be mothers as well, you know that a whole lot of thought will have gone into making it easy for you to dispense the remedies – and easy for baby to take them! Always look for remedies that are hypoallergenic, dairy-free, gluten-free and can be given alongside food, milk or other medicines, to make your life easier. Also, make sure products don’t contain excess sugars, artificial colours, sweeteners or preservatives.
No one would wish for their baby to have a colicky tummy. Colic is characterised by prolonged and upsetting crying that is not easily resolved. Crying is often worse in the evenings and early hours of the morning, ie the hardest times for a parent to cope! While the potential causes of colic are controversial and complex, there is no doubt that herbal medicines have proven to be effective in many clinical trials. Qbaby ColiCalm is a formula containing a blend of herbs known for their ability to reduce spasm and tension in the digestive tract, move trapped wind, improve digestive function and calm the baby. As it is given in drop form, it is so easy to administer and can be given at greater frequency when baby is at his most upset.
Cows' milk intolerance can sometimes be implicated in colic, as can vegetables from the broccoli family, onions and chocolate. It can, therefore, be of benefit for the breastfeeding mother to avoid these in her diet, and also to reduce coffee and sugars. If in doubt about reactive foods, a hair test can be done with Allergenics Health Assessment Services. We often find that when a breastfeeding mother is drinking medicinal lactation tea, that this also has a beneficial effect on soothing a baby’s digestive system and reducing wind in baby.
Reflux is another common digestive issue for our little babies. Whether it’s the ‘happy chucker’ who vomits readily and prolifically with no apparent discomfort, or the silent and spew-free kind that is incredibly painful, reflux is no fun for anyone. Qbaby Spill Drops utilise botanical medicines which not only calm acid production, but also reduce nausea, soothe the stomach lining and promote better tone in the gastro-oesophageal sphincter (the wee gateway between the stomach and the oesophagus where the acid and milk escapes upwards!). The lovely thing about these drops is that they actually support, rather than suppress, digestive function.
I know that I didn’t fully appreciate how fraught and complicated the topic of sleeping babies was until I had my own! I think I just naively expected that I could put my baby down and she would sleep, end of story. Ah, the innocence! As most of you will know, sleep can be tricky. Whether it is naps or night-times, cots or co-sleeping, helping our littlies to sleep well (and getting enough sleep ourselves) can be a continual work-in-progress. Even if you are blessed with a fabulous sleeper or have mastered a wonderful parenting technique to coax the sleep angel into your lives, there will be times when even she abandons you!
These are the moments when it can be very helpful to have some support on hand. The wonderful thing about using natural sleep support for babies is that it is gently soothing and relaxing, and entirely appropriate for their age. We love Qbaby Sleepytime, which contains a blend of calming herbs to help your baby wind down for the evening. This product can be given to help with naps too, or whenever your baby needs calming. With any natural sleep support, I always recommend that people start with the highest dose for three to seven days, so as to help establish a new routine, and then reduce the dose until it is only
It’s very exciting to finally have a natural teething gel available to prescribe to babies who deserve something powerful, which is also completely natural.
Being able to offer relief to our babies in pain is what we as parents all want, and being able to do this without compromising on natural quality is even better. The Qbaby TeethEase Gel is totally unique in that every ingredient in it has a beneficial action on the teeth and gums. The numbing effect of the botanical extracts is coupled with an anti-inflammatory action to reduce pain and irritation for your baby. Even the sweetener, xylitol, has been proven to be effective at reducing dental decay and promoting oral health. When teething is especially bad, we also recommend the TeethEase drops, which have gentle herbal extracts known for their ability to reduce pain and calm a fractious baby.
One of the very best things about using natural remedies for soothing babies, no matter what the cause of their upset, is that you know you are actively supporting your child when they need it most.
Asti Renaut and Natasha Berman are naturopaths based respectively in Christchurch and Auckland. They both enjoy working with children of all ages and helping parents find natural solutions to their children’s health needs. Qbaby products, information and advice can be found at qbaby.co.nz. Read more from Natasha at allergenicstesting.com.