Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Holistic Approach to Special Needs

Three years ago today we nearly lost our second born son. He was brought into this world after a normal, healthy pregnancy and a fast, uneventful home birth. But within 24 hours, he was given last rites at a local hospital, overcome suddenly by the rare staph infection that stunned the medical doctors.

His journey has been a challenging one for all of us and is rich with many lessons. We are enormously grateful for all that modern medicine had to offer and simultaneously frustrated by its rejection of a more holistic and natural approach. Our family chiropractor had to visit incognito to work on our son while he was in the hospital; our insistence to keep our baby close and to hold him whenever possible (in spite of the tubes and wires) garnered sidelong glances (and a few arguments); and the knowledge that I had actually chosen to have both my children at home was viewed as very strange indeed. On the flip side, a number of younger residents were open and receptive, including a cheery nurse who was a fellow breastfeeder and honored our request to give our baby only breastmilk, even waking my husband at bedside in the wee hours of the morning so that he could come home to retrieve more stored breastmilk when they ran low.

When discharge rolled around, we had to fight to remove our child from hospital care and were given dire warnings about his future. The endocrinologist insisted he faced a life of medication and within months, testing at a different facility proved her diagnosis to be completely wrong. Still, our child has special needs and requires that we blend and meld our conventional and holistic options at each and every hurdle.

Today, more and more parents of children with special needs are seeking out holistic and complimentary medicine to maximize their children's potential and health. Parents of children with autism have found enormous results in dietary and lifestyle changes, homeopathy, chiropractic, and craniosacral therapy, among others. According to a 2008 article from the American Academy of Pediatrics, 30% of healthy children and more than half of kids with chronic conditions use complimentary and alternative medicine. From ADHD to Downs Syndrome, there are a wide range of holistic options out there but the medical community may not always embrace these alternatives, much less inform parents of their existence.

All parents need to be advocates for their children. The internet provides us with a huge opportunity to learn and access information that we may not have otherwise discovered. We can also learn so much from the experiences of other families, their trials and tribulations, and the successes that they have had along the way. Bringing parents together to share and to support one another may be one of the most valuable resources we can offer. Knowing that there are others out there who honor your choices and respect your desire to live naturally and holistically can make all the difference - for parents and for their children.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Celebrating Dads

"Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it . . . And what I’ve realized is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children – all of our children – a better world. Even if it’s difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don’t get very far in our lifetime. " - President Barack Obama, June 15, 2009.

Today we celebrate our fathers, our partners, the dads. HMN dads have a passion for their children, for the future, and for protecting their families and the planet. They are gentle and wise, loving and attached, brave and forthright. They stand up for informed choice, embrace green living, and believe in natural parenting. And they work to make a difference for all of our families and for the future.

As parents we are all on a journey. We are figuring our how to raise our children consciously, how to keep them healthy, and how to be the best parents that we can. Parenthood transforms us. It brings out our abilities - the way we can make our children laugh, our lovingness, and our patience. It also illuminates our shortfalls and provides us with an amazing opportunity to grow and develop. And parenthood brings us wisdom as well as an appreciation for the challenges and insights of our own parents.

We honor the dads today and take a moment to show our gratitude for being the teachers and coaches, mentors and roles models described by President Obama. We applaud them as they stand strong to protect their holistic passions. And we celebrate their unique perspectives and insights as we navigate this parenthood journey together!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What's for Dinner?

A trip to the supermarket may be daunting enough (especially with young children in tow), trying weed out artifical ingredients, preservatives, potential allergens, and chemicals in a quest to eat healthier. But lurking beyond the labels may just be the most dangerous "ingredient" yet: modified DNA.

Genetically Modified (GM) foods are those that contain DNA fragments not natural to their species. Lab-created genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are used to boost crop production and bolster profit margins. But the outrage over GMOs is building and more than a few credible sources are calling for the ban of genetically-modified foods. Most recently, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine released a position paper calling for a moratorium on GM foods and for the "implementation of immediate long term independent safety testing, and labeling of GM foods, which is necessary for the health and safety of consumers."

Think that GM foods are not something for you to be concerned about? Naturopathic physician Dr. Nathan Batalion disagrees: "if you recently ate soya sauce in a Chinese restaurant, munched popcorn in a movie theatre, or indulged in an occasional candy bar - you've undoubtedly ingested this new type of food." On his website,, Dr. Batalion offers a crash course in the history of GMOs. More alarming, he provides "50 Harmful Effect of GM Foods" from increased food allergies to soil sterility, cancer and degenerative disease and even death.

What's a parent to do?

First, become informed. According to WebMD, "The most common genetically modified foods are soybeans, maize, cotton, and rapeseed oil. That means many foods made in the U.S. containing field corn or high-fructose corn syrup, such as many breakfast cereals, snack foods, and the last soda you drank; foods made with soybeans (including some baby foods); and foods made with cottonseed and canola oils could likely have genetically modified ingredients." Rice, tomatoes, and corn are often GM foods.

Read labels. Know how to identify soy and corn derivatives, as these are the most common GM food products. Stay away from foods containing high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and soy lecithin, among others.

Eat Organic. Eating certified organic foods may be your best defense. By definition, certified organic foods are free from GM organisms.

Identify GM Produce by their Stickers. Those little stickers on produce carry PLU codes. Codes with just four numbers are conventionally grown produce, those with five numbers starting with a "9" are organic and those beginning with an "8" are genetically modified.

What else you can do:

Rent or puchase a copy of the movie The Future of Food, watch it with friends and family and get everyone involved!

Want to take action? Get involved in organizations fighting GMOs and make a difference for the future - for our health and for the safety of our food supply!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Informed Birth

Just this weekend two Holistic Moms Chapter Leaders brought new babies into the world - both at home. While birthing at home is not uncommon among Holistic Moms Network members, an estimated 99 percent of women birth in the hospital. Homebirthing moms are often viewed as "radicals" who are willing to take risks for themselves and their babies.

But research shows that homebirth is, in fact, quite safe for low risk women. A 2005 study of homebirth in North America (published in BMJ) demonstrated that women who birthed at home with professional midwives had outcomes comparable to their hospital-birthing counterparts but with fewer medical interventions. An American Journal of Public Health study published in 1992 also compared homebirths in rural Tennessee (with The Farm midwives) to more than 14,000 hospital births and concluded that "no significant differences between the two groups regarding fetal and neonatal death, labor- related complications, or low 5- minute Apgar scores were detected." More astounding, they found the homebirth midwives to have a c-section rate of just 1.46%. According to the World Health Organization's 1985 Joint Interregional Conference on Appropriate Technology for Birth, "Countries with some of the lowest perinatal mortality rates in the world have cesarean section rates under 10%. Clearly there is no justification in any specific geographic region to have more than 10 - 15% cesarean section birth." Current trends, however, indicate that here in the United States c-section rates are nowhere near the 10-15% range. Rather the rate has risen to more than 31.5% nationwide and in some hospitals in the NY area this rate is as high as 44.5%.

Why are American c-section rates going up? Childbirth Connection suggests that one reason is a lack of informed choice about birthing options. Many mothers are unaware of birthing center or homebirth options and have been grossly misinformed about their safety. Certainly homebirth is not a viable or even desirable option for all moms. But what is important is that parents are made aware of their options and that they are empowered to make informed, educated decisions. Choices in Childbirth is one organization working to protect birthing choices by offering parents practical information, c-section rates at area hospitals, and helpful guidelines to ask birthing professionals.

Protecting childbirth choice is an important action we, as mothers, can all get behind - no matter what our personal decisions. Birth should be an empowering, healthy experience. Education and freedom of choice will go a long way to achieving that goal.