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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  1. Anonymous October 30, 2009 at 8:43 PM  

    informative...looking forward for more...

  2. Mama Sez October 31, 2009 at 2:01 AM  

    Hi Estel, your comments inspire me to share more. Thank you very much.

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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.