Author Archives: NW

Ready, Set, Rest a Thon!

Have you ever been in a situation where you just had to survive, not think or feel or enjoy—just make it through? This was my experience with Motherhood.

I had always wanted to be a mother. I read all the books, took all the natural parenting classes, achieved my labor and delivery goals, and then I was given this precious, screaming newborn.
But he just kept screaming, and screaming, and screaming. I knew something was wrong. Nothing soothed him. He cried in pain 22 out of 24 hours per day, he never slept, he couldn’t eat. Everything was put on the backburner to solve this problem. It took me 10 months to solve it. 10 months of pure survival-mode hell. I have very few memories of this time. It’s been blacked out.

And as life goes, things improved, but it was not sunshine and roses. Mothering life was very, very hard. And then I was pregnant with baby #2, achieved another dream labor and delivery, and was ready for a second chance to enjoy motherhood. And this next baby cried and cried and cried. Thankfully I solved the problem in 2 months. But this baby required very intense bodywork and occupational therapy and physical therapy and feeding therapy. To nurse her required me to sit up vertical 3x per night… for 21 months. I remember more of this time, yet I was still operating in survival mode daily.

And then I got a severe case of the shingles. Life was getting very good at kicking me when I was down. Doctors would say, “You must be extremely stressed to trigger the shingles.” And I would say, “Doc, this is the least stressed and most-rested I have been in 3 years.” I began having flashbacks of my firstborn’s year that would send me into a tailspin. I would take my children to the park and lay on a towel in the sun because I was physically too exhausted to sit up or push them on the swing or play chase. Why now? Why was I having PTSD and illnesses and intense fatigue now? I had survived the hard part. Now should be better, not worse.

As many mothers have done before me, I put everyone’s needs ahead of my own for too long. My energy tank was blinking Empty. Any little self care effort I made was too little, too late. If your car is on Empty and you put in a ½ gallon, you are not getting far before you break down again.

fuel-tank-empty

Fight or Flight vs Rest and Repair

Your body’s nervous system operates in two modes: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.stressvs.calm-image
Your Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for perceiving threats and responding to stimuli. It is your Fight or Flight response. It triggers adrenaline, cortisol, and many other tools to get the body to act. This works well if you wander upon a grizzly during a hike in the woods. However, modern day stressors (work deadlines, schedules, To Do lists, social media political debates, parenting obligations, etc) are keeping us trapped in SNS far too often.

fightflight2

“Its biological opposite is the parasympathetic system of nerves. This is the “rest and digest” system. When parasympathetic activity dominates, healing and regeneration occur. The body performs activities like digesting, detoxifying, eliminating, and building immunity (article).” 18033313_10110816359311051_4317099980779400499_n

To rest we must put our screens away and just surrender. It could be swinging in a hammock, planting a garden, yoga, prayer, meditation, journaling, or sleep. “Sleeping is one way that your body recovers from damage and protects itself against illness,” says Michael Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research for the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (article). I hadn’t slept in 4 years. I was beginning to understand what was occurring.

My chiropractor’s office had a sign “If you listen to your body whisper, you won’t have to hear it scream.” How can I listen better to my body? How can I rest and repair?

My sage friend, Kim Rowe, runs Healing Collectives to target such challenges. Her course focuses on returning to the feminine by learning to surrender, flow, create healthy boundaries, and listen to your body. During her bout with Lyme disease, she took a week off at home to just Be. This sparked the idea that I was in desperate need of a Rest a Thon! I told my sister about this idea and she became my Accountability Buddy to ensure that I made it happen. Sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants to remind us to remove the obstacles we are putting in our own way. AccountabiliBuddies are great for this.

butt-kick

 

My Rest a Thon

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I went away for 2 days to just be with my own thoughts. No obligations or things I should be doing. I only focused on myself. I didn’t allow thoughts of work or other real world demands to invade my space. I released ideas of guilt or what others might think of this. I thought about the things I had been burying and avoiding a long time. I didn’t trim, tweeze, or shower. I made everything simple.
Here was what I did all day. Each item took about one hour.

  • awake, lying in bed
  • made breakfast and ate by the pool
  • sat on a rock and stretched
  • laid on a raft in the pool
  • selected trees to set up hammock
  • read book in the hammock
  • phone call with Mom
  • made lunch and ate by the pool
  • laid in recliner by the pool
  • did yoga and guided meditation by the pond
  • laid on raft and read book in the pool
  • laid in the hammock and journaled, no deer tonight
  • made dinner and ate by pool, a baby fawn joined me!
  • shower, face mask, and Yoni egg
  • hand and foot massage during a movie
  • went to sleep early

18033104_10110783986401621_3548724363678178646_n

I filled up my tank. I rested and repaired and boosted my immunity.

This was my Rest a Thon. This was the location, and time, and way that my body would receive rest. And I had to advocate for it. I had to help my wonderfully, supportive husband understand why this Rest was absolutely necessary, and how this rest did not reflect on him as a husband, father, and person also needing rest. This was about Me and my needs. When we put our own needs last for a long time, our support team may need some time and conversation to help them adjust to the change. The people closest to us generally want to do right by us. We just need to show them how. No one was going to gift me a Rest a Thon no matter how much I thought I deserved it. I am an adult, I suddenly realized I didn’t need anyone’s permission or blessing to create this for myself. I felt selfish, and it felt damn good.

Your Rest a Thon may look very different. In fact, it should. We are all individuals.

This is not a new concept that Mothers burn out, Mothers need a break. But perhaps putting these stories out in the open will allow a new normal, that mothers take more breaks before they reach breaking point.
Jennifer Tow, IBCLC, focuses her work on the principle ‘Heal the Mother, Heal the Baby.’ Imagine how much more our children will get from us when we take the time to address our needs and prioritize our health.

My Rest a Thon was appropriately timed because I returned home to my husband and sweet children. Later that night, my son began vomiting and fever, and my husband left for a 24 hour shift. This is life. But now I was prepared. I was rested. I was able to mother him with kindness and gentleness instead of being sent into a Fight or Flight response.

My goal is not to frequently need a Rest a Thon. My goal is to regularly keep my tank filled up with consistent self care. If there are major events that require deeper healing and rest, then I know that a Rest a Thon is a wonderful way to top off my tank. I will keep it in my Self Care toolbox.
Happy Healing!

Treatment Options for Ear Infections: A Least Invasive to Most Invasive Approach

Ear infections (otitis media) are all too common among the pediatric population. And what is the status quo treatment? You probably didn’t even have to think twice on that answer. Antibiotics. There are different treatments of course, but antibiotics are the most common prescription for an ear infection. Why?
Antibiotics have been proven to have negative effects on our gut health due to their focus to destroy ALL bacteria, not just the bad bugs. And they are very effective at their job. Once they have kicked your ear infection to the curb, your gut is ready to rebuild with new bacteria. Bad gut bacteria are more than willing to step up and replenish the gut with bacteria that will feed a host of pathogens, fungi, and bacterial infections if not rebalanced by good bacteria. Maybe your gut will easily replenish the good-to-bad bacteria ratio. If you’re taking a high quality probiotic, avoiding processed foods, and getting plenty of direct sunlight daily, then your gut is likely headed to balance. If not, antibiotics have opened the door to a host of major issues. The CDC explains the issue,
“Ear infections will often get better on their own without antibiotic treatment.”
“Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful, and may lead to unwanted side effects like diarrhea, rashes, nausea, and stomach pain. More severe side effects may rarely occur; these include life-threatening allergic reactions, kidney toxicity, and severe skin reactions.”
“Each time you or your child takes an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics.”

pro-vs-anti-biotics

What’s a parent of a child with an ear infection to do?
Here is a hierarchy of treatments for Ear Infections. I am a parent, not a medical professional. Take any information learned here to your provider to create an individualized plan for your child that better reflects your wishes to use antibiotics as a last resort.

1. Prevention.
Well that seems simple and maybe irritating advice. Parents are thinking, “Don’t you think if I knew how to prevent ear infections I would?!” Well, have you tried these evidence-based otitis media preventers?
Risk factors: exposure to second hand smoke, bottle fed instead of breastfed, poor nutrition and wellness habits.

Mother nursing son

So, breastfeeding baby, keeping baby’s diet as organic and whole-food-based (i.e. not squeezy pouches), and avoiding exposures to well known toxins such as smoke will give you the leg up to maintaining baby’s wellness. Vitamin supplementation and probiotics have also been found to provide overall health benefit and reduce ear infection occurrences.

2. Treatment Options
The following have evidence-based literature to support their use in successful treatment of otitis media.
Homeopathy (This article can help you determine which remedy fits)
Osteopathic/Chiropractic manipulations
Xylitol
Probiotics
Acupuncture
Naturopathy

tug-in-ear So finding a good Bodyworker that will adjust your child at the first signs of ear tugging has research-proven benefits. Ask other parents which Alternative Medicine providers treat children regularly in your area.

More tried-and-true treatment options to look into:

onionwoman02Garlic Mullein Oil (excellent ear infection discussion and garlic Mullein info here)
Onion over the ear
Hydrogen Peroxide solution (sometimes referred to as Swimmer’s Ear– *for specific types of ear infections*)
Essential Oils (This article discusses which oils based on the research)
Colloidal Silver
Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET)

3. Managing Ear Pain
For a parent of a child with an ear infection, pain management is crucial because baby is miserable.

ear infection
“Treatment of the ear pain early in the course of [Acute Otitis Media] decreases both parental anxiety and the child’s discomfort and accelerates the healing process.”
This study concluded, “that in cases of ear pain caused by AOM in children in which active treatment, besides a simple 2- to 3-day waiting period, is needed, an herbal extract solution may be beneficial.” They found that the group randomly assigned to naturopathic ear drops had better pain management and resolution than the group assigned anesthetic ear drops with amoxicillin.
The Naturopathic Herbal Extract Ear Drops they used in their double-blind study contained “allium sativum, verbascum thapsus, calendula flores, hypericum perfoliatum, lavender, and vitamin E in olive oil. 5 drops 3 times daily.”
Other pain management options include essential oils, homeopathy, bodywork, and Garlic Mullein Oil.

4. Chronic Ear Infections
This beast deserves its own separate article. Please read Curing Recurrent Ear Infections to learn more.
An excerpt… “I keep treating my child, but their ear infections continue to reoccur.” The number one question that I believe gets missed too frequently and is critical to stopping chronic ear infections is: Why?
Your provider does a great job of identifying the ‘What’ –type and severity of ear illness. This article gives you resources to tackle ‘How’ to treat. But figuring out the ‘Why’ is going to require detective work on your part.
Chronic ear infections are caused by two things:
• structural abnormalities (i.e. babies with Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders have small ear structures that may be inverted and poorly move fluid out)
• environmental triggers that create inflammation resulting in increased fluid
Common environmental triggers include foods, pet dander, secondhand smoke exposure, and any other things that cause an increase in your individual body’s inflammatory response. An Audiologist and/or ENT would be the professional to diagnose structural abnormalities as a potential cause of recurrent ear infections.

 

“But my Pediatrician is strongly urging me to go with the antibiotics, what should I do?”

I can’t tell you what is best for your child, but this article can help you identify resources to give you confidence in your decision-making. Because it is ultimately your decision.
Does your child meet the *now stricter* guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics to properly diagnose otitis media and avoid antibiotic overuse?
“The [2013 revised] guideline provides a specific, stringent definition of AOM [Acute Otitis Media]. It addresses pain management, initial observation versus antibiotic treatment, appropriate choices of antibiotic agents, and preventive measures.”
Additionally, “The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery guidelines recommend topical medications as the first line of treatment for ear pain in the absence of systemic infection or serious underlying disease.”
Are you aware of the risks versus benefits of choosing antibiotics. I will repeat the CDC’s position statement:

“Ear infections will often get better on their own without antibiotic treatment.”
“Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful, and may lead to unwanted side effects like diarrhea, rashes, nausea, and stomach pain. More severe side effects may rarely occur; these include life-threatening allergic reactions, kidney toxicity, and severe skin reactions.”
“Each time you or your child takes an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics.”

Have you exhausted this hierarchy of treatment options?
Does your child show signs of a serious infection or illness that the ear infection is a part of?
The next step is Trust Your Doctor. You have followed the current best practice guidelines for ear infection treatment. Feel confident that you have done everything in your power to use antibiotics as a last resort. Some of you may get to the end of the list and need antibiotics. That’s what they were created for. Let them do their job, and feel confident and optimistic that you can replenish your child’s gut with good probiotic bacteria during and after antibiotics use.

Happy Healing!

Curing Recurrent Ear Infections

“I keep treating my child, but their ear infections continue to reoccur.”

The number one question that I believe gets missed too frequently and is critical to stopping chronic ear infections is: Why?
Your provider does a great job of identifying the ‘What’ –type and severity of ear illness. This article provides resources to tackle ‘How’ to treat, but figuring out the ‘Why’ is going to require detective work on your part.
Chronic ear infections are caused by two things:
•structural abnormalities (i.e. babies with Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders have small ear structures that may be inverted and poorly move fluid out)
•environmental triggers that create inflammation resulting in increased fluid
I am going to discuss environmental triggers. An Audiologist and/or ENT would be the professional to diagnose structural abnormalities as a potential cause of recurrent ear infections.
But how can a food allergy cause an ear infection?
Inflammation.
Eating an offending food will create inflammation in the body. One way inflammation is expressed is an increase of fluid and congestion. This can look like recurrent ear infections, puffy eyes, frequent runny nose, allergic shiners under eyes, excess phlegm, etc. snot bubble

“The middle and inner ear are immunologically responsive and this includes responsiveness to food hypersensitivities. Both chronic otitis media with effusion and Meniere’s disease can improve with treatment of food allergies.” ¹ Other common signs of inflammation include eczema, rashes, and asthma. Symptoms sounding familiar?
In a study that looked at the association between recurrent otitis media with effusion and its association to food allergies, “the most common food found to be associated was milk, egg, beans, citrus, and tomato.”²  They removed the food(s) for a few weeks; symptoms resolved. They added the suspected offending foods back in; symptoms returned. This practice is commonly referred to as an Elimination Diet.
So Milk and Eggs are top causes of recurrent ear infections in this study. They are also on the Top 8 Food Allergens list for the world.

topeight  Allergy to milk is THE most common food allergen in the entire world! This is not rare. So, why aren’t parents being advised to eliminate milk for 30 days as a Least Invasive, evidence-based approach to chronic otitis media?

This is how I observe it usually play out…
Ear infections begin around age 1. Round(s) of antibiotics resolves. Next month, new ear infection occurs. Repeat same antibiotics treatment. Following month, same thing again. Professional assures you that if it happens again your child is a candidate for PE Tubes (Do they expect us to start cheering?). Next month, guess what? Yep, ear infection again. PE Tube surgery is scheduled and completed under general anesthesia. You are relieved that this is over… Unless you have one of the thousands of children that go on to have continued drainage issues sometimes resulting in the surgically-placed tube falling out. No problem. They will surgically put the tube right back in under general anesthesia. Repeat the cycle of most invasive, symptom-focused treatment…
This story is far too common. As an early interventionist and a Hearing Specialist I can tell you that this same story is told to me monthly. Every time I ask the parent, “What did the professional say is CAUSING the ear infections?” ***crickets***
“They never talked about a cause…”

So I begin asking basic, non-medical questions.

Me: You said ear infections began monthly around age 1. What else changed around age 1?
Parent: I can’t think of anything. She wasn’t in daycare yet, no illnesses.
Me: What did she eat or drink around that time?
Parent: We switched her over from Breastmilk/formula to cow’s milk after her 12 month checkup. **ding ding ding**
Me: Does anyone in the family have food reactions?
Parent: Well I am lactose intolerant, but she hasn’t showed any negative reactions to dairy thankfully.

And this is the problem. Intelligent, well-intentioned, loving parents have ZERO clue that the #1 Allergen in the whole wide world can CAUSE ear infections. And they are led on a journey of pharmaceutical and surgical interventions, many times without any discussion of there being a  cheap, easy, and less invasive solution for the vast majority. And all the literature that clearly demonstrates the association is never discussed even with high risk families such as parents with a history of food intolerances.

Here is what I wish would occur…
12 month check up:
Pediatrician: Many kids start cow’s milk at age 1. Do you or anyone in your immediate family have a history of food allergies/intolerances, eczema, allergies, or asthma?
Parent: Yes, I am lactose intolerant, have asthma and allergies. My other child has eczema and allergies.
Ped: Well, dairy is the #1 Allergen and with your family history you may want to either wait to introduce dairy or observe for the following signs that a reaction is occurring…

Ear Infection Appointment:pediatrician-2
Pediatrician: Here is a list of Ear Infection treatment options. If there are no signs of other infections in the body, let’s pursue a Least Invasive to Most Invasive approach. This means we will save antibiotics as a last resort.

 

Recurrent Ear Infection Appointment:
Pediatrician: What new foods or environmental triggers has your child been exposed to?
Let’s try 6 weeks of an Elimination Diet of the Top Allergens to see if food is a factor. Let’s also review the treatment options so we can pursue a Least Invasive to Most Invasive treatment path. Read my other article, Treatment Options for Ear Infections: A Least Invasive to Most Invasive Approach.

I used examples citing cow’s milk as the culprit because it is the most common. However, any food can cause an inflammatory response. We are all individuals with individual responses. There are a variety of ways to identify food culprits. To read about Why and How to do an Elimination Diet to identify food triggers read Dr. Axe’s article.
Remember to assess your child’s environment for other environmental triggers as well. The Top 6 Environmental Allergies list.
Check products that you put on your child by using an app like Skin Deep to see the Environmental Working Group’s toxicity rating on skin products, foods, cleaning products, and more.

The most important focus of this article is empowering parents to ask Why questions and Cause questions. These are the questions that will Heal Our Little Ones.

  1. The role of food allergy in otolaryngology disorders. Ramakrishnan, JB. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Jun;18(3):195-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20168232?log$=activity
  2.  Recurrent otitis media with effusion and food allergy in pediatric patients.  Arroyave CM. Rev Alerg Mex. 2001 Sep-Oct;48(5):141-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11759256

“You’re Just a First Time Mom”

“You’re Just a First Time Mom”

Have you ever heard this? How did it make you feel? Were you quietly seething inside or did this finally convince you that someone else knows your baby better than you?

This is one of the most dangerous statements I feel a professional can use. It’s dismissive. It’s belittling. Yet it’s rampant in our culture. Why?

mom-calming-crying-newborn

Is it us?

Are all of us new mothers accepting this statement and all it implies instead of politely correcting it?

Is it the professionals?

Have they forgotten their medical school training to trust the parent’s instincts and observations?

Is it society?

Too many social network blog articles that tell you how to be with your baby because you must not intrinsically know? Too much social sharing/emphasis on the What Could Go Wrong instead of an awareness of how the majority of babies are born healthy and thriving?

I would venture to say it is a combination of the three that has perpetuated this                      ‘First Time Mom = Idiot’ stigma. How can we abolish this inappropriate, inaccurate portrayal of motherhood?

First, let’s explore the history…

Since the dawn of civilization, mothers have been the direct caretaker of their newborns.  There was usually a support team of other women as guides during labor and breastfeeding, but they did not replace the Mother’s caretaker role. And babies know this. They have done countless studies to prove that babies can locate their own mother’s voice, heartbeat, and breast. Mothers are also able to identify their own newborn baby’s unique cry. Have you ever watched a Breast Crawl YouTube video? Amazing! That healthy newborn baby that doesn’t even have head control or open eyes just crawls to its mother—not the OB, or the nurse, or any other female hanging between your legs that also has breasts. Baby crawls to you, the mother. Your baby knows you have what he needs.

Second, let’s see where it goes wrong…

Baby is born and put skin to skin with Mom. You have a regular delivery and stay in the hospital 24 hours before heading home. How many times does a well-intentioned professional (doctor, nurse, lactation, the friggin hospital photographer) tsk tsk you and laugh if you ask a question or note a concern? Why are we dismissing moms who are concerned that their baby is crying? “Babies cry. You’re just a First Time Mom, you’ll get used to it soon.” Then you head home and a well-intentioned relative laughs when you bring up your concerns, “You’re Just a First Time Mom.”

Let me see if I understand… Mothers are dismissed and belittled over concern for baby crying because All Babies Cry. So how are we to distinguish the difference between a healthy crying newborn and one that is crying because of newborn encephalitis or severe reflux if not by their cry? Many a lawsuit has been won by a parent whose concerns were dismissed by hospital staff only to find out the child had a serious issue that could have been prevented or minimized had parent concerns been addressed in a timely manner.

From a Behavioralist viewpoint, we are conditioning mothers to stop voicing concerns.

Mother voices concern > Concern dismissed = reinforced that behavior (voicing concerns) to stop.

But Baby doesn’t stop causing concern for the Mother.

So Mother again voices concerns > Concerns dismissed= behavior is reinforced to stop.

Repeat until either a) Concerns acknowledged or b) Mother seeks new source to voice concerns.

Mother holding baby, using cellphone and laptop

Wonder why all these concerned mothers have taken to social media Mom’s groups? Do you think the recurrent theme is that their Pediatrician truly listens and pursues their concerns? No. And then the dreaded eye roll when we confess our source of information comes from a Facebook group of *gasp* mothers.

But we need our medical professionals’ trained eye. And there are tons of fantastic, highly-educated professionals that are also great listeners. We need to understand what appropriate expectations for our professionals are, and then hold our professionals accountable to them.

Ways to reshape our view from ‘First Time Mother = Idiot’ to ‘First Time Mother= Expert on her Baby’

  1. It should not be up for discussion or dismissal whether Mom should be concerned. She either is or she isn’t. If she is, it is the provider’s role to then identify possible causes in the mother-baby dyad. If it is beyond their skill set, refer to the most appropriate specialist. Using language such as, “I am concerned and need your help to get to the bottom of this” is more effective than questions such as, “Is this any cause for concern?”
  1. Mothers should be politely correcting any and all professionals that suggest we are something other than an Expert on our child. I am not a cardiologist. I am not a Lactation provider. But I have an advanced degree in My Child. I know how many farts he had this last hour. I know the color and texture of his poop. I know if the latch is right because only I can feel what my nipple feels like. How can someone presume to tell me it’s a good latch or ‘weight is not an issue because he is maintaining his growth curve’ when they are not the one feeding my child 12 times per day? We must understand the parameters of each expert’s scope of practice. Doctors should not be commenting on the latch just as Lactation should not be prescribing reflux treatments just as I should not be interpreting x-rays. Understand what your scope of practice as an Expert Mother is, and what your professional’s scope of practice as an expert in their field is.
  2. Give your professional the opportunity to identify their role on your baby’s team. After all, baby is new to them too. They may need a little time to find out how best to support you (caveat: babies with feeding issues need immediate supports). There are parents out there that want to be told exactly what to do by professionals. Some parents become defensive when being told what to do. Professionals are not mind readers. Clarify with them how you like to receive support best, and be clear in articulating what expectations you have about your role on your baby’s team. And if you have given your professional ample time and instruction to support your family best, but it’s still not working, cut your losses. Consider yourself lucky to have identified that you were paired with a Dismiss-er when your baby is still young. Go on to find a better match.
  3. Take some time to acknowledge the many ways you are an expert on your child. Use that to strengthen your resolve as your baby’s mother and advocate when issues arise. Feel empowered by the awesome role you have in Baby’s life.

 

I leave you with an affirmation:

“I am a First Time Mom. And that makes me brilliant. My maternal instincts are powerfully attuned to my baby’s body and needs. It makes me my baby’s voice. It makes me confident in my abilities to care for my child. First Time moms, like me, are amazing!”