Saturday, October 27, 2012

Love the Elders

We are fortunate to have several herbal apothecaries in Eugene. I have recently learned of Sol Botanicals and we attended a family-friendly workshop last weekend where we learned to make elderberry syrup. I think every single person attending the workshop was a parent of young children, all of us inspired to lead healthier lives since becoming parents.  Sol Botanicals is mama-owned and operated and the workshop we attended had sliding-scale payment options and childcare available. Such a wonderful local business to support! I think it is awesome that the owner wants to make her workshops available to as many people as she can.

So, elderberries. Wow. Where have I been? I am just learning about this amazing plant, native to Oregon. Elderberries have been used for centuries for their medicinal benefits, and elderberry juice was even used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995. Studies have shown elderberry extract to be effective in preventing the H1N1 infection in vitro. This stuff is impressive!

Elderberries are used for their antioxidant properties, to help lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to improve heart health, and as a remedy for cold and flu, bacterial and viral infections, and tonsillitis.  Studies have shown that elderberries have bioflavinoids and other proteins that destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell!

I prefer natural remedies to any ailment. I am so not a pill popper for any reason. There are so many limitations to medications that are safe with breastfeeding, so my stance has just been to eliminate it all. There is a time and place for modern medicine, but for the most part I haven't needed it in my life (for that, I am thankful). I came down with a cold a few weeks ago, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was really sick! I chopped up several cloves of raw garlic, ate them right up, and literally 24 hours later my cold was all but gone. I can't saw for sure it was the garlic, but I can say for sure that I have never recovered from a cold that quickly before. More on garlic later.

Simply put, you make elderberry syrup by de-steming then juicing (potato masher works well) the berries over a heat source (plus one cup water). Once you have juiced, let it all simmer for an hour. This helps release of all of the healing properties in the berries. After an hour, strain the berry/juice mixture through cheesecloth or pressing bags (this involve squeezing and squeezing to get all of the juice out). Measure the amount of juice you have, pour in equal amounts of honey or glycerin. The honey/glycerin are what help preserve the juice. It is good in the fridge for 1-2 years.

We added other herbs to our elderberry recipe: ginger, eleuthero, and osha roots. All of these are also healing herbs for sickness. Oh, and did I find another new love...Osha! This herb I had never heard of before that day. That is some potent stuff. Perhaps another blog post to come...

Elderberry juice can be used daily as a preventative tincture or as a medicine for sickness. Our fridge is stocked for this cold and flu season. We have syrup with honey for us and syrup with glycerin for baby, since she is too young to be eating honey. Not to mention that this stuff tastes excellent. Other than taking it as a cold syrup, you can put it on ice cream or on your waffles for breakfast, seriously. Yum. I'd drink it all in one day if I could.

You can find elderberry products in stores or online if you don't have the time or berries of your own. I bought some elderberry tea at Fred Meyer just today. My newest plan is to plant an elderberry shrub in our yard! We might first have to install a pond...elderberry shrubs thrive in marshy wetlands!

Here's to a Winter season of health and prosperity for the whole family.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Baby-led Weaning

I have been reading a book called "Real Food for Mother and Baby." The author, Nina Planck, is amazing. She is a mom who doesn't seem anxious about her baby learning about and eating foods at all (maybe she hides it well).

Two weeks after her son's first meal he ate these things in a 14-day span:  guacamole, cayenne pepper, olive oil and coconut oil (from his momma's nipples, no less!), White Cow Dairy (a local farm in her area) yogurt and custard, crème fraîche (I don't know what this is, let alone have I ever eaten it!), sucking on a piece of chicken, egg, salsa on an egg, a dark black cherry, a strawberry, white peaches, yellow nectarine, apple, chevre on a cucumber, banana-milk-coconut pudding with cinnamon and cayenne, olive oil and avocado dressing, banana with crème fraîche, coconut, and cinnamon, Parmigiano Regiano with olive oil (!!), organic roasted chicken drumstick, chicken soup, blue cheese, 85% Lindt chocolate (again, !!), and a grape or two.

She said: "If he had a bad reaction to something, we'd figure it out." Wow! Talk about setting your child up to appreciate a variety of foods. I think it's awesome, and we want to practice this approach, in theory. I haven't been as brave. Our girl has eaten avocado with salt and pepper, sweet potato with curry and pepper, bananas with cinnamon, tastes of apple, boiled egg yoke with avocado, green pepper, and the tiniest bite of chicken. We have kept it pretty simple, and I keep going back to the same things, because she enjoys them and it works. Everything she's had so far has been organic, which is a top priority for me. Scott and I will undoubtedly be eating better than ever before!

I have heard time and time again, from Ms. Planck and from other parents in our community "I never made purees," "I don't make special food for my baby, she just eats what we have," "I don't want to make more work for myself, so he eats what we have for dinner."

There is also this Baby-led Weaning (BLW) (also baby-led solids, baby-led eating) idea. Put food (a few options is best) in front of baby. Keep her company while she touches it, moves it around, pokes it. Wait until the baby puts some of the food to her mouth, but don't shout or do a happy dance when this happens. No utensils (or give baby the spoon), no purees,  no scooping the food into baby's mouth,  just food exploration and baby eventually learns to eat. Meals are never hurried. The idea is that with pureed food, baby learns to swallow first and eating goes along just fine until she meets a lump of food. With BLW, babies chew first and eventually swallow. The theory says that when babies learn this way, the chance of choking is actually reduced. This kind of eating puts the emphasis on exploring color, texture, taste, and smell when eating. It promotes motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and it encourages baby to learn from imitating others who are eating. You may decide to time the meals between nursing, so baby doesn't get frustrated due to hunger. Baby also gets to decide when she's done, so mom and dad aren't in charge of filling baby's belly by spoon feeding.

My take on it...I love the idea. It makes sense, and I think it undoubtedly promotes a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Implementation has had its challenges. For one, I have found myself sometimes avoiding the meals because we don't have very much time and I don't want to feel rushed. Also, our munchkin LOVES food and she wants to eat it. So, Mom and Dad have a hard time sitting back watching her attempt to put bites in her mouth, when she hasn't quite mastered the skill. She wants to eat (seriously, it's obvious), so what is the harm in helping her out a bit? This morning, I was eating a banana for breakfast, she showed interest in it as she was crawling around exploring the living room, so I broke some bites off and placed them in her wide open mouth with tongue hanging out! Yum, yum.  I have also had the tendency to do a lot of mashing and cutting the food into teeny tiny bites. Okay, I'm a little anxious about the choking thing... but the small bites are harder for her to grab. If you do a Google image search of baby-led solids, these babies have seriously big chunks of food on their tray. We might just have to bite the bullet and see how it goes.

 I like that we have this knowledge of baby-led solids and that the ideas will inform our approach to food with our babe. The meals where she makes a mess spreading avocado, banana, and sweet potato all over her high chair tray are super messy, fun and entertaining. Quincy loves them too! We will definitely learn and grow into this approach together as a family. Scott and I both love food! The adventures in sharing meal times with our child are sure to be so very rewarding.
I can't wait for our first Thanksgiving meal together!

This is fun, Mom!

Monday, October 22, 2012

For the Love of Mommyhood!

There are a lot of "natural" parenting blogs out there...and the fact of the matter is that this is another one! The idea of starting a mommy blog came to mind, and of course I knew right away that this idea was NOT unique. Oh well, I want to do it anyway. I love reading blogs, and I love to write. It gives me a chance to reflect on my place in the world. I once had a realization that reflecting an experience is just as important to me as the experience itself. Reflecting is part of the experience for me. And, wow has motherhood been an experience! My mind is constantly turning and mulling over what this new identity means. So, as narcissistic as it may seem, why not reflect for an audience? It might just be a way to build community and connect with people who get it.

"Natural" is a great way to describe our parenting style. A little search in the handy thesaurus led me to "unprocessed." To process something is to prepare or convert it from it's natural state, and processing might include artificial modification. We try to avoid processed foods, and we certainly avoid that for our baby. Our approach to parenting shant include artificial modification! So, we're true to ourselves and make decisions for our baby based on research about what is most natural, healthy, and developmentally appropriate for her. And of course, we can't deny our mommy and daddy intuition! We stay tuned in, and if we get advice that doesn't sit well with our intuitive thinking, we do a little research and make the decision that seems most natural to us. It just makes sense! We believe in natural birth, natural products, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, cloth diapering, organic foods, alternative medicine, natural and creative toys and play, sustainability, modeling and supporting gender equality/neutrality, peaceful parenting and most things attachment parenting related. We aren't perfect, some things are cost-prohibitive and sometimes convenience gets in the way. Has anyone ever mentioned that there are a lot of decisions to make in parenting?

Now, if that doesn't spell it out for ya! Let's just be real from the start. There seems to be a lot of controversy in parenting, and to me that is sad.

The bottom line here is that I love being a momma. It suits me waaay more than I ever imagined. I wasn't one of those kids dreaming about becoming a mom. I had my doubts about parenthood even a few years back. Obviously you want to make the right decision, and having/raising babies isn't for everyone. Of all the things I've done in my life so far, becoming a mom has happened most naturally.  So, this is my destiny! Who knew?