Follow parentsjourney on TwitterHaving a sick child is one of the most unwelcomed occurrences in every parenting journey. The sound of your child’s coughing; complaints of body pain, chills, or high fever; and vomiting are all heartbreaking for parents. If only you can take all these on your child’s behalf…too bad you can’t, but you can do a lot to prevent him/her from becoming sickly. Though sickness in growing children is normal, its frequency and severity affect the overall wellbeing of your child. Yes, you can help him/her so that he/she seldom gets sick or can easily recover if ever he/she does.

The following are natural immunity builders that parents and would-be parents should know about. I strongly recommend that you consider these when deciding what’s best for your child. Nothing compares to the peace of mind in knowing that your child has all the necessary natural defenses to common diseases.

1. Normal Child Delivery. Your role in building you child’s immunity to sickness starts even before he/she is born because you will have to decide on how you will deliver your baby. Studies have shown how birthing options tremendously affect our child’s future health. When a child is born through the natural/vaginal delivery, he/she passes through the birth canal and thus gets in contact with microorganisms necessary to ‘prime’ his/her immune system. In contrast, a baby born via Cesarean operation bypasses this natural provision for the development of a strong immune system and thus, it is delayed. An article I read from the Lifestyle section of a newspaper talked about this in detail.

There are clinical conditions when a mother is left with no choice but to undergo Cesarean operation. But for those who can choose, complete and accurate information on advantages and disadvantages of each alternative should be made available before the mother decides. A well thought of decision on this matter should have taken the baby’s best interest as the number one consideration. And I did…four times.

2. Breastfeeding. To those who had or about to deliver their babies via Cesarean operation, don’t despair. There’s another effective and natural way of boosting your child’s immune system….nourish them with your breast milk. Actually, if you missed the chance to start developing your child’s immune system at birth, the more that you need to breastfeed your baby. Aside from nutritional superiority of breast milk, colostrum (produced during the first three days) is loaded with antibodies that help develop your child’s immune system and immediately fight off early ailments.

The advantages of breastfeeding are very well documented, but still a relatively lower proportion of mothers do so for a variety of reasons. The most common are dread of pain and high demand for mother’s time and attention. It is true that the first few feedings will bring unexplainable discomfort to a point of being painful especially when the baby is not properly latched on. This is another case of ‘sacrifice’ of the mother for her child. The loss of a mother’s freedom from discomfort/pain and the necessary deviation from her usual life focus and activities will never outweigh the benefits that a mother and her child can get from breastfeeding. After this period of adjustment, every feeding time will surely be a delightful bonding moment for you and your baby.

The first two weeks I breastfed my eldest child was so unforgettable. I cried every time she cries because I knew it would surely be another toe-twisting experience; and she fed every half an hour! To make matters worse, she had a tongue-tie that made latching difficult. But I endured, for I was confident even then that I was giving one of the best gifts a mother can give her child. I breastfed all my kids and I always grin from ear to ear when their pediatricians say, ‘Hey you guys, you only visit me for immunization shots…your babies don’t get sick, that’s good… I miss you though.’ It’s all worth it! And I am a proud breastfeeding advocate.

3. Adequate Fluid Intake. How much then is adequate for a child? Fluid requirement depends on your child’s age and weight. For some idea on how to determine your child’s daily fluid requirement, signs that a child needs more, and good fluid sources, you can access this factsheet. Proper hydration is necessary to maintain normal body functions and to eliminate toxins.

As for my school-age kids, we determined that they need to drink six glasses of water a day, on top of other fluid sources like milk and juice (note that we are using 150 ml glasses to make it easier for a child to finish a glass). Coffee is prohibited in the house (ooh I miss coffee), and soft drinks are only allowed on occasions. We are experimenting on a way for our kids (and us parents) to reach the above requirement. I’ll tell you about it in a separate blog.

Part of the fluid intake regimen I recently included is Lemon Grass Tea every morning. Lemon grass is a good immune system booster from what I read. When there is an impending throat infection in anyone of us, I just add ginger. Details on preparation and other benefits from this concoction will be posted soon.

4. Proper Diet and Vitamin Supplement. There’s no substitute for proper, balanced diet. Vitamin C and E and carotenoids are probably the best immune system boosters that can be found in our diet. Vitamin C increases infection-fighting white blood cells, vitamin E reinforce the production of B-cells, which are immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria, while carotenoids increase T-cells that can also fight cancer cells.

Though we provide daily vitamin C supplement for the children, the kind of food they take in is of utmost importance. You can never go wrong with fruits, vegetables, and grains. Consciously, veggie soup with squash and malunggay (Moringa oleifera) is included at least twice in our weekly menu (Malunggay soup used to be a daily entry when my baby was still fully breastfed). We have mixed vegetables or veggie salad paired with fish very often. Meat and poultry are served from time to time, also with vegetables. Mangoes, bananas and pineapples are regulars from the market, while calamansi, guava and papaya are harvested from our yard.

The kids are allowed to have candies and chocolates…hey they are kids!!! This is done in moderation and my school kids have been trained not to overeat. Even if a friend or relative gives them a whole bag, they will only try one piece or two for they know that too much of anything is bad. It is always their Mama who finishes the sweets in the house (good for me!). Now it is my toddler’s turn to get disciplined in this aspect (too bad for himdog throw toys).

Our second child is the most voracious veggie eater in the family and so he has the strongest immune system. He is the least likely to get sick, and if ever he catches one, he gets well fast with just an additional dose of vitamin C, more fluids, touch therapy and rest. He doesn’t need to take in antibiotics.

5. Restful Sleep. I cannot provide a concrete recommendation as to how much time a child should sleep. Even the experts don’t know for sure. To understand why, this page is worth reading. The emphasis should be that sleep be restful regardless of duration. Not having a full rest will make one feel fatigued and also weaken immunity, thus predisposes him/her to infection. Inadequate sleep is also linked to irritability, attention deficiency and obesity in kids.

The regular nightly routine for my three oldest kids is: after they freshen up, the school kids each get hold of a book while the toddler gets hold of his feeding bottle and then asks me to sing ‘Are You Sleeping Brother John?’ for nth times. My children love to read. My seven-year-old son is already reading illustrated classic novels (He wants to finish Robinson Crusoe over this weeklong semester break). By 9 pm, my kids are sound asleep. They wake up at 5 am if there is school and I would know if they had a restful night based on how quick they move to prepare their clothes and ready their own selves. They are cheerful and attentive even if it is still dark outside. The relaxing sleep time routine probably helps them plus the positive impact of ‘no TV on school days’ policy. On weekends, they get an additional hour of sleep.

Whenever stress is emergent, usually in very few occasions when there is much work in school or anxiety over a major performance, touch therapy before bedtime works wonders.

6. Get Them Dirty. Allowing children to play outside to touch the plants and even the soil, to run around and sweat will not only enrich their learning and childhood experience but also make them stronger physically and boost their immunity to many ailments. I have to warn to not overdo this, of course, and to take precautions regarding exposure to perils in the environment (e.g. deep waters, falling branches, wild animals). What we want is to let them enjoy and at the same time expose them to both good and bad microbes to develop the natural immunity they need as they grow. Overdoing this may make them sick.

Being overprotective to your children is also a health risk in itself. As a first time mom, an Aunt kept the whole house so clean and disinfected (she was studying Medical Technology back then) to prevent my cousin from getting sick. But what happened was the opposite. My cousin had frequent visits to the doctor due to various illnesses. Doctor’s advise? Get him dirty!

I hope you find what I shared above useful. I subscribe to Benjamin Franklin’s “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, so let us boost our children’s immune system and give them the best gift of health and wellness. It benefits us as well in terms of lower stress associated with taking care of a sick child and reduced medical bills.

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Who Needs a Job?

Posted by Mama Sez | Monday, October 26, 2009

It’s been two years since I gave up my job to become a full time mother and wife. The decision did not come quick and easy though my tummy was heavy with our third child at that time. Although the child was a welcome addition to our family, the job I had was an ideal one, I thought, and therefore hard to give up.

I was Manager and Head of a Research and Development Department, which I myself built. I had the liberty to experiment on all sorts of ideas to solve pest problems, come up with recommendations and see for myself the impact of such when implemented. I was making breakthroughs in real field and business situations. But what was inside my womb was also for real.

The first trimester was extremely challenging because I experienced excessive vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum. I endured the three weeks ordeal and immediately went back to work after I felt a little better. Episodes of premature labor set in during my second trimester. The daily drive of 2 to 5 hours, field work and the high stress level were not compatible with my physical condition, which was aggravated by frequent breathing difficulty and blue lips. This was later diagnosed as mitral valve prolapse (MVP), a congenital heart disorder that I didn’t know was there until my body can no longer hide it. Doctor’s advice was “take it slow and rest from work” while my husband’s pleading was “leave work and concentrate on taking care of us.”

After weeks of contemplation, a phone conversation with my mentor ended the struggle. This is what she said, “You are sacrificing your career for you family and I believe that it will be all worth it in the end. Sacrifice means giving up something good for something better, so it’s not sacrifice after all.” It’s like saying that the loss will never outweigh the gain. With those words, I got my much needed affirmation and made my decision. Despite the insistence of my former boss for me to continue working with special arrangements so I can fulfill work and family duties at the same time, I had come to the conclusion that having both worlds at this stage of my life is only a wishful thinking.

Few months after I gave birth, my husband and I ventured into business, hoping to address our financial obligations and have more time with the children, eventually. Apparently, since the business is just starting, it took much of our time and energy with very little left for the family. The challenge did not end there though. We have just opened our second outlet when I learned I was pregnant again and history repeated itself. I was again asked by my husband to stop what I was doing for the baby’s sake. Though vomiting was never an issue in this pregnancy, minor bleeding during the first trimester, premature labor and signs of MVP during the second and third trimesters were major concerns. I gave in to my husband’s insistence to close down the business for there was nobody else to take over my business task. This time the decision came quicker and easier.

All these events had taken a great toll on our finances but we remained consistent with our commitment to raise happy, healthy and well-rounded children that will make a difference in society when they grow up. We tried to cut our expenses to live within our means but the children’s health and education is non-negotiable. The first batch of our children who are now school-age stayed in a pure Montessori school, which command higher fees than any other private school in the area but provide a learning environment we believe in. The school provides an environment that promotes competition with one’s self and not with others; this will help them be the best that they can be. In that school, they are allowed to express themselves and be creative. I will share more about the school in another blog. They don’t get to wear nice, new shoes and clothes in school (they don’t wear uniforms) as they used to but they get the kind of education we want for them. Anyway, they look good in their old, undersized shirts, skirt and pants; well, shall we say, it helped that they are naturally good-looking.

Breastfeeding has been my advocacy. My children were all fully breastfed for at least six months from birth and mixed-fed for the next month or two, and this helped a lot in reducing expenses not only on the cost of milk formula but also on medicine and other medical expenses. They don’t get sick easily because of the immunity they get from breast milk. Other cost-cutting measures we did and breastfeeding issues deserve entirely new blogs.

Months have passed and I am still jobless, the family is struggling financially. But thanks to my husband who is taking good control of this matter so I can focus on child care and other household matters. A number of opportunities came my way including an exceptional job offer. Though tempted to grab an opportunity at times, I remained fully committed to my family and the agreement I had with my husband.

My children have become ‘delightful burdens’ in my professional growth and in our pursuit for financial freedom. But I felt so delighted that I decided to stay with the 'burden' and forget about the rest, making my children a burden no more. With this arrangement, my children are just so grateful. To them, everything is simple; ‘Mama quit her job to care for us because Mama loves us’, not mindful of the consequences of this move. But who cares about the consequences? They are what matters most in my life, anyway. My husband has always been so appreciative of me and with what I do for them. Being far from an emotional, I can see his conscious effort to show me his appreciation and that made it so sweet of him.

Now, as I see my children grow before my eyes, as evidenced by their undersized clothing, the sense of dignity and pride are immeasurable. The list of positive adjectives to describe them will be very long, but here are some. They are good-looking, smart, talented, confident, God-loving, well-behaved, healthy and happy. I have been blessed with four wonderful children, a blissful marriage and a happy family. Who needs a job? Not me, at least for now when my family needs me most.

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About Us (circa 2009)

Our journey led us to this place. A little more than 10 years ago we began our journey as husband and wife. Three years later, we found ourselves with two bundles of joy- a daughter and then a son. They're the children we've dreamed of having.

About five years since the birth of our son, an unexpected gift came- a younger brother to our school-age kids. And soon enough, a baby girl arrived to round the family membership.

Brave was a term used by a friend to describe us. Challenging... and loving it -- yeah, this journey is not for the faint of heart.