Thursday, October 24, 2013

Avoiding Halloween Candy Overload

Although we've never allowed our kids to have much candy, Halloween is still a holiday they greatly
Volcano and Dinosaur, ready for trick-or-treating
enjoy.  Pumpkin carving, costumes, and trick-or-treating! Here are some tips for avoiding Halloween candy overload. With all of these options, make sure you talk to your kids in advance of Halloween so they know what to expect. 
  1. Non-edible treats: In advance of Halloween, I buy a few small items that my kids will enjoy, such as small puzzles, coloring books, animal figurines, and even Halloween socks.  I leave these items at my mother's house so that, when we arrive there and say "trick-or-treat", these items get dropped into my kids' goodie bags.   
  2. Natural sweets: Since my kids aren't often allowed to eat things like fruit leather, they serve as a great candy replacement on Halloween.  I'll drop a few natural sweet treats in their bags along with the other items they've collected while trick-or-treating.  Here are some ideas for natural sweet treats (many of these are GAPS-legal): 
  3. Candy Fairy: Before bed on Halloween evening, my kids leave their bags of candy on the
    back porch for the Candy Fairy (they knows that the Candy Fairy is really just me, but nonetheless they enjoy the idea that it is a fairy).  In the morning, they find that their bags of candy are gone, but instead there are a couple new games or toys.  This has worked particularly well for us.  It may not work as well for older kids, but may be worth a shot. 
  4. Teach moderation: In advance of Halloween, take the time to talk to your kids about moderation.  They should know that, while tasty, candy is not good for their bodies.  This can help soften the blow when they are not allowed to gorge on candy.  
  5. Compromise: I would guess that moderating the candy intake gets more difficult with older children. A compromise may be in order, such as allowing the child to select a few pieces of candy that are favorites and then allowing the child to pick a toy or game to have in return for the rest of the candy.
  6. Trade money for candy: Where we live, there are several dentists who will pay kids for their candy.  This may be a good option for some kids.
  7. Celebrate without trick-or-treating: Having a Halloween party or going to a harvest festival at a local school or church can be a great way to enjoy Halloween without trick-or-treating. (This great idea was shared by a commenter.)

Do you have any ideas for limiting candy on Halloween?

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Is the Wrong Toothpaste Preventing Your Teeth From Re-Mineralizing?

In the real food community, it is fairly well known that tooth decay is not caused by bacteria, but is actually an indication that the diet is lacking in nutrients.  Tooth decay can be cured through a nutrient-dense diet, and reports abound of people curing their teeth through eating traditional foods such as raw dairy, bone broth, grassfed organ meats, and cod liver oil.

What is Remineralization?

The process of curing tooth decay is known as remineralization. Remineralization of teeth can occur when the diet has enough vital nutrients to allow the tooth to rebuild itself.  This happens when the tooth is given the nutrients it needs via the blood that feeds the root of the tooth, as well as the saliva in the mouth.  Saliva contains calcium and phosphate which the tooth can use to remineralize.

How Can the Wrong Toothpaste Interfere with Remineralization?

many of the expensive organic toothpastes contain glycerin, too
Most commercial toothpastes, even organic ones, contain glycerin. According to Dr. Gerard Judd, the glycerin in toothpaste coats the teeth and prevents them from remineralizing because it blocks the flow of calcium and phosphate (from the saliva) into the teeth. Judd explains that glycerin adheres so well to teeth that it would take more than 20 brushings to fully remove it from the teeth.

In researching this topic further, I have found that there is definitely no consensus on whether or not glycerin does actually prevent the teeth from remineralizing.  There are now plenty of people that doubt whether this is actually the case. But back in 2006 when I first read this theory about glycerin preventing remineralization, there wasn't much information about it available on the internet, and we decided to go ahead and stop using toothpaste with added glycerin. 

My Family's Experience

Before my husband and I switched away from toothpaste containing added glycerin, we both had some issues with tooth sensitivity. My husband's teeth, especially, were very sensitive to hot and cold, so he used Sensodyne toothpaste to help with this problem.  We decided to switch to Tooth Soap (at the time, it was the only non-glycerin tooth cleaner I could even find).

We were a bit doubtful about using Tooth Soap, and it did take a little while to get used to the taste. But one thing we noticed right away was that our teeth felt very clean, much cleaner than they had with our conventional toothpaste. 

Over the next few weeks, we noticed something surprising: the Tooth Soap stopped our tooth sensitivity problems! We were amazed that both of us lost our tooth sensitivity after just a few weeks of using Tooth Soap.  Whether or not the lack of glycerin was the cause of the improvements can't be said for certain, but we were very happy to find that neither of us had any longer had tooth sensitivity.

Tooth Cleaning Options

Now it has been over 6 years since we switched away from using toothpaste containing glycerin.  We've tried quite a few different tooth cleaning options over the years, and they all have their pluses and minuses. None of these tooth cleaning options contains any added glycerin.

  • Tooth Soap
    • Pros: This has the best flavor of any of the soap-based tooth cleaners we've tried. It comes in a nice glass bottle with a glass dropper to apply the liquid to the toothbrush.
    • Cons: It is very expensive, and not available locally where we live.
  • Lemon EarthPaste
    • Pros: We love Earthpaste! It is a non-foaming toothpaste based on Redmond Clay (which is rich in more than 60 trace minerals that may aid in tooth remineralization). It tastes great, and is easy to apply to the toothbrush since it is thick and not drippy. It is also available locally.
    • Cons: It is somewhat expensive.
  • Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap
    • Pros: Because Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap is very concentrated, only a little bit is needed in the tooth soap mixture. This makes it very inexpensive. Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soaps are also readily available at the local healthfood store.
    • Cons: Dr Bronner's definitely doesn't taste as good as the tooth soap, but it works just fine for us.
    • How to make it: You can vary the amount of soap depending on your preferences, but I generally use about 1 part Dr. Bronner's to 8 parts filtered water. We use old Tooth Soap glass bottles with droppers to hold the homemade tooth soap, and the dropper makes using it very easy. (Or you can buy a reusable glass dropper bottle here.)
  •  Coral White Toothpaste
    • Pros: This is the most similar to "normal" toothpaste.  It tastes great, and people who want something more "normal" will like it just fine.  This toothpaste also contains minerals such as calcium which may help in tooth remineralization.
    • Cons: It is somewhat expensive and not available locally.
  •  Homemade Tooth Powder
    • Pros: My kids don't do so well with liquid tooth soap, because it is so watery and easily drips off their toothbrushes.  Tooth powder works much better for them.  Tooth powder is very inexpensive, and all of the ingredients are readily available at the local healthfood store. Since tooth powder is somewhat abrasive, it works well as a tooth whitener as well.
    • Cons: Since tooth powder is somewhat abrasive, I don't like to use it on a daily basis, as I want to protect my enamel. Using tooth powder just once or twice a week works well for us. 
    • How to make it: The tooth powder we use is made very simply with just baking soda, french clay, and a bit of essential oil. Instructions for making the tooth powder are here.  A little goes a long way: I made a batch over a year ago, and we still have lots left!  I store most of the tooth powder in a tightly-closed container, and just pour out a small amount at a time into a small glass dish on the counter. That way, we can all just dip our wet toothbrushes into the dish to apply a bit.  I tell my kids to use it only a few times a week, and on the other days they just brush their teeth with plain water.  (It works just fine this way; neither of my kids have any plaque on their teeth and their teeth are easily cleaned just by the action of brushing.) 

Have you switched away from conventional toothpaste? What is your favorite non-glycerin toothpaste?

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lessons in Weaning

Long before I had children, I had lots of ideas that later turned out to be false. For instance, I remember thinking that my kids would sleep through the night at a young age, that my kids would never behave badly in public, that I wouldn't want to be a stay-at-home mom, and that having kids wouldn't have any impact on our sex life. Regarding breastfeeding, I remember saying something along the lines that, "If they are old enough to ask for it, they are too old to be breastfeeding!" Now that I'm older and more experienced, I've had the joys of learning that so many of my ideas were wrong and advocating for some of the very things I was so wrong about.

My First Time Weaning

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I thought that two years would be a good length of time for breastfeeding.  After she was born, despite many of the usual early nursing problems, I fell in love with breastfeeding.  The closeness it promoted, the ease of nighttime feedings, the sheer wonder of my body producing a perfect food: I absolutely loved breastfeeding!  As my daughter neared two years old, I knew that my arbitrary plan to wean by the age of two was unnecessary.  Why should we stop doing something that we both enjoyed so much, and that was so healthy for my daughter? Breastfeeding was so much more than I thought it would be, and instead of feeling like I couldn't wait to be done, I found myself thinking of how sad it would be when we were done.

And yet.  As she neared two years old, my daughter was still nursing several times every night.  How I longed for an uninterrupted night's sleep! So when my daughter was 22 months old, I decided it was time to night-wean her.  I spent three miserable nights trying to comfort my daughter in every way I could, except the one way she really wanted: breastfeeding.  Over those three days, it became readily apparent that my daughter was not ready to be night-weaned.  She cried for long periods during the night (even though she was still in our bed and being held by me), but even more troubling were the differences that I noticed in her daytime behavior.  She became increasingly clingy and very insecure.  Anytime I tried to put her down or leave the room, she was upset. And then she became ill, and I realized that this attempt at night-weaning was not working, for any of us.

So I backed off, and let her once again nurse at night.  All was well. My daughter's behavior returned to normal, and we got back into our previous routine.  About 6 months later, I decided to try night-weaning again.  It was a breeze!  There was a small amount of resistance from my daughter, but I was amazed at what a difference 6 months could make.  There was no negative effect on her daytime behavior, and it was obvious that she was developmentally ready for night-weaning at this time.  This illustrated one of the most important lessons of parenting:  every child is different and trying to fit my daughter into a mold of what she "should" be doing was not good for any of us. By balancing my own needs with my daughter's needs, we were able to advance towards weaning at a time that worked well for everyone.

My daughter was 26 months old and still nursing fairly frequently when I became pregnant with my son.  By the middle of the pregnancy, my milk disappeared completely, and nursing my daughter got to be so uncomfortable/painful for me that I really didn't enjoy it anymore at all.  I think my daughter could tell that I felt this way, and she self-weaned herself by around the 4th or 5th month of my pregnancy.  But, at the same time, I could tell that she wasn't really "ready" to be weaned, as she started having temper tantrums for the first time ever, as well as other signs that the milk had been very beneficial for her (such as less immune resistance to illnesses).  I think she would have benefited from nursing for longer, if I had been able to do that.  After her brother was born, I let my daughter try to nurse again, and was surprised to find that she had completely forgotten how to nurse.

My Second Time Weaning

Right now I'm in the process of weaning my son, but this is a much different experience because I am letting things develop more on their own (since I am not pregnant this time and am able to do things much more gradually).  Ten years ago, I never could have guessed that I would someday be nursing a 3&1/2 year old. But life has a way of showing me that I am not always right, especially when it comes to "planning" the way I will do things that I have no experience with.

This time around, I wasn't even thinking about weaning as my son neared 2 years old. Why? Because he had sleep problems, starting from birth, which got gradually worse and worse over time.  By the time he turned 2 years old, he was waking every hour, every night.  Getting 3 hours of sleep in a row was a very rare treat for me.  Around this time I also suffered from strong adrenal fatigue, which was exacerbated by the lack of sleep.

My son could not sleep away from me, and if I tried to let him go back to sleep on his own during the night waking, he would just become more and more awake, eventually getting out of bed even if it was 2am.  The only way I could get him to go back to sleep easily (without having to carry him around for 30-45 minutes each time) was to nurse him back to sleep.  If I could respond quickly enough as soon as he started waking up, I could even get him to go back to sleep in less than 10 minutes, whereas if I was too slow, it would take closer to 30 minutes of nursing to get him back to sleep. Weaning was not on my radar as breastfeeding was the only resource I had to help us try to get more sleep.

Around the age of 3, I talked to my son about how we would no longer be nursing when we were not at our home or grandma's house.  Because of his age, he was able to understand these new rules and he was fine with them. It was no issue whatsoever. A few months later, I established that his only daytime nursing would be at naptime; this was again accomplished with hardly any resistance from him (and no behavioral changes to show that he was not ready).  And then last month we stopped the naptime nursing session, again with only minimal resistance.

Over the last eight months, my son's sleeping problems have had a dramatic improvement through his constitutional homeopathic treatment.  His sleeping pattern has changed from waking every hour to sleeping straight from 9:30PM until 4:30 or 5AM each morning. Since he is sleeping so much better now, I have been able to transition to only nursing him once a day, when he wakes up around 4:30-5am. Retaining this one daily nursing session allows my son to go back to sleep until he can wake up at a more "normal" time of 6:30-7am.  Without nursing, my son would be getting up to start the day at 4:30-5AM every morning.

Fulfilling the Child's Needs While Weaning

While weaning both of my children, I have tried hard to make sure that I still meet their needs.  Breastfeeding certainly provided my children with excellent nutrition and immunity, so I made sure that their diets were nutritious and wholesome as they stopped nursing. As my children grew older and were eating plenty of nutritious foods, I found that their main need for breastfeeding stemmed from the desires for closeness, security, and comfort. Making sure that I still spent plenty of time snuggling and cuddling with my children even when we were not nursing really helped to meet these needs.

Weaning Should Balance the Needs of Both the Mother and the Child

Through my experiences in weaning both of my children, I have learned much about parenting.  Trying to impose my own arbitrarily chosen timeframe on the process of weaning was counterproductive and did not work.  Even though my daughter was over two years old and may have been considered too old for breastfeeding when she weaned, it was still apparent that she was not ready to be weaned in terms of her health or her emotional development.   

Because the timeframe has been so much more relaxed with my son, I've been able to see just how un-stressful weaning can be.  Since we have been able to wean gradually, there has not any big effect on his behavior or his feeling of security, as he still feels like his needs are being met.  And allowing him to nurse well beyond the "normal" timeframe has allowed us to survive through his years of deteriorating sleep.

Of course, every child is different. I've heard of lots of kids who weaned or even self-weaned easily at around 1&1/2 to 2 years old.  My kids just didn't fall into that category, so I had to adjust my own expectations to match their capabilities.  Being able to meet each of my children's individual needs requires me to be willing to do some things in an unusual way, but they don't deserve any less. 

What have been your experiences with weaning?