Lets talk about sleep baby, let’s talk about sleep….
As parents we try our best to assist our children in anyway we can to have good naps and a good night’s sleep.
The problem is, there can be soooo many factors that affect a good nights sleep, especially when it comes to our precious children. From my own personal experience of having a child who is what you would call ‘not a great sleeper’, I’ve had to assess every facet of her sleeping environment to try and improve her sleep.
Unfortunately, Grace our daughter who is nearly 4.5 years suffers from very sensitive skin, eczema and rhinitis and Noah, who is nearly six months has recently developed eczema too. Grace recently had allergy testing and I was convinced that she had a dust mite allergy as she had all the symptoms, but it came back negative! Although the testing came back negative, I’m still trying to minimise the amount of dust mites that might be lurking in our home for good measure.
I’ve recently taken some proactive steps to try and create a more healthy sleep environment in our home, this is what I have done:
Regularly vacuum the carpets and dust surfaces
Yearly dust mite extraction on all mattresses
Placed a Dyson air purifier in the master bedroom where the air quality was captured as the worst
Infuse oils in both bedrooms for naps and bedtime (I love Lavender Peace by DoTerra)
Protect our beds with Protect-a-bed mattress protectors
I was recently gifted Protect-a-bed mattress protectors for our bed, Gracie’s single bed and Noah’s cot. It was a no brainer to try their TENCEL® Signature range as we’ve been using this brand for years already as they’re such good quality. What I love is that they are designed to protect against dust mites present in mattresses. They’re also approved by the National Asthma Council Australia Sensitive Choice Program and the Eczema Association as Sensitive Skin Tried and Tested.
As we always try and buy the best mattresses we can afford, I always try and buy the best protectors, especially now we have children. These protectors do an amazing job in shielding them from accidents, spills and bacteria! They’re also fitted with a ‘miracle layer’ that provides the ultimate waterproof, silent and breathable skin.
What are your tips for creating a healthy sleep environment in your home?
Please note: I was gifted the Protect-a-bed mattress protectors, however all opinions are of my own.
As many of you would know Dr Leila Masson has made a huge impact on the success we have had with helping Grace get back on track and improving her overall gut health, so I’m very excited to share this interview with you all.
Dr Masson is a paediatrician with a Masters of Public Health from Harvard and has extensive training in nutrition and environmental health. Dr Masson has a special interest in biomedical treatments for children on the autistic spectrum, a holistic approach to behaviour and learning challenges, as well as assessment and treatment of children with allergies and other paediatric health problems, she also lectures around the world on children’s health.
You’ve recently relocated back to Berlin (unfortunately for us!), what are you currently working on?
I am writing a book on anxiety in children to help parents figure out the cause and find effective, natural treatments. I have also given lectures on nutrition in children, in particular the benefits (and risks) of a wholefood plant based diet. Berlin is the vegan capital of the world right now – with lots of research going on about plant based nutrition. It is very healthy if done right – but there are still some families that eat a so-called vegan pudding-diet high in processed grains and sugar, which of course is not healthy.
I will return to Sydney in December as the medical director of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine’s Kids Clinic in Bondi Junction. So keep an eye out for an announcement on my FaceBook page and my newsletter (you can sign up for it atdrleilamasson.com)on how to book an appointment.
As an Integrative Paediatrician how would you describe the main difference in how you treat patients compared to mainstream paediatricians?
My approach to children’s health, developmental and behaviour problems is to look for a treatable cause – so for example if a child with a diagnosis of ADHD spends hours a day on a screen and does not get enough outdoor exercise I would address the child’s lifestyle first. Another big focus is nutrition – children who eat an unprocessed wholefood diet with plenty of vegetables, little sugar and no artificial additives are generally healthier compared to children who eat a standard Australian diet which is high in fats, sugar and processed foods.
What are your top three tips that parents can adapt to assist with good gut health in their children?
My top tips for gut health are: minimise sugar and processed flours like white bread and white rice; eat plenty of vegetables as the fibre is a prebiotic which feeds the good gut bacteria; and offer a little bit of fermented food every day – such as kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi – these foods provide probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria for the gut.
What are the main deficiencies you come across in children and what can we do about them?
The main nutritional deficiencies I find in children are:
Low iron – which can be caused by not eating enough iron rich foods (meat provides iron, but so do green leafy vegetables and you can increase the absorption by adding vitamin C, for example a bit of lemon juice or tomato).
Low zinc – the soils in Australia are quite low in zinc and therefore foods grown in Australia may not provide enough zinc for a growing child. We need more zinc when we grow, so especially children and teenagers are at risk of low zinc which can cause symptoms such as irritability, frequent infections and acne in teenagers.
Not enough vegetables – very few children get the recommended 5+ servings of vegetables per day. A serving is the size of the person’s fist – so a child should eat at least the equivalent amount of 5 times the size of their fist. Just doing this could prevent a lot of constipation, improve the gut flora and in the long term reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
Sleep or lack of it has been an ongoing issue in our house, what steps can parents take to encourage a good nights sleep for their children?
Turn off all screens at least 2 hours before bedtime as the blue colour from digital screens interfere with melatonin production and will make it difficult to go to sleep. Do not eat sugary foods for dinner, as they may wake up the child. It is ok to lie down with your child – don’t be scared of a cuddle. I have a whole chapter on sleep in my book Children’s Health A-Z which is available as an e-book on amazon and as a printed book on fishpond.com – this will give you lots of tips on how to help your child to settle to sleep and have a good night’s sleep.
What’s Leaky Gut Syndrome and why is it becoming more common for children to suffer from it and how do we heal it?
Due to processed foods and an unhealthy gut flora some people’s gut lining becomes inflamed and leaky. There is increased permeability of the intestines. Food that are meant to be fully digested are absorbed only partly digested and can cause reactions, such as tummy aches, diarrhoea, and irritable behaviour. The first step is to clean up the diet (another chapter in my book!), work on the gut flora and correct any deficiencies, such as low zinc which is needed to heal the lining of the gut.
What advice would you give parents who suspect their child has food intolerances?
Keep a food diary and write down everything your child ate each time he or she has a reaction. This way you can figure out what foods are causing the reaction. Avoid those foods just while you are cleaning up the diet, improve the gut flora and heal a leaky gut if that is part of the problem (it often is).
In your opinion what do you think is causing the prevalence of food allergies and intolerances in children in today’s society?
Some of the risk factors start very early in life: being born by C section affects the gut flora. Instead of a flora that resembles the mother’s gut flora the baby’s gut flora will be closer to the skin flora of the hospital staff that attended the birth. That is why many doctors recommend to give babies born via C section a probiotic with bifidobacter. The next big influence on the gut flora is what goes into it. Babies who are breastfed exclusively have predominantly bifidobacter which do not cause inflammation. Even just one bottle changes that and it can take weeks to repair. There is controversy of when to introduce high allergenic foods such as peanuts. WHO and Unicef recommend to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and to introduce solids from around 6 months, as this appears to be the best protection against allergies. Breastfeeding should be continued until 2 years of age as it modulates the immune system and reduces the risk of allergies.
The average diet of children in Australia lacks nutrients, fibre and is filled with sugar and processed flours and artificial additives which can all affect health in general, and gut health and immune health in particular. So if you would like to prevent allergies and sensitivities in your child clean up the diet and improve the gut flora.
Dr Masson has also written a book, Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents. I have it, it’s a fabulous book and a must for every parent if you’re interested in natural health for children!! It covers all the common health problems children and families encounter as well as how parents can support their children’s health and wellbeing through a healthy home, sleep, nutrition and outdoor play.
‘Healing Gracie’s Gut’ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
I am mummy to a sensitive little tot who has many, many food allergies and intolerances.
My husband Scott and I have been on quite an eye-opening journey on our quest for health and healing.I’m thrilled to say that we have seen amazingly positive changes in my daughter’s health by overhauling our diets and lifestyle.The results have been slow but overwhelmingly positive!
Our success has motivated me to begin a little blog (My Petite Pantry) to share the recipes I have developed along the way.I have great hope that my recipes will help to nourish, comfort, and delight other families with similar struggles… especially the breastfeeding mummies out there who sacrifice so much for their allergic and/or intolerant babes.
Anyway, to stop beating around a bush let me tell you ‘the story so far’ of my sweet Lila Daisy, the sparkliest little girl I have ever met, who also happens to be the little girl who calls me ‘mummy’.
My pregnancy with Lila was a mixture of joy and awe at the miracle taking place inside my body.I simultaneously experienced moments (AKA months) of horridly unglamorous morning sickness like many women before me.I also spent much of this time concentrating my mind on positive birthing stories and quieting unhelpful fears that tried to plant themselves in my head. Much to my own scepticism I took a hypno-birthing course and did all the homework diligently.
Long story short, the birth was a dream come true and I even got to finish delivering my own baby!With a rush of overwhelming love, relief and heady euphoria I held my baby girl for the first time, and all was right in my world.
Over the following hours and days my husband and I soaked up the miracle that was our ‘Daisy girl’, but slowly things began to unravel.
She didn’t take the breast until six hours after birth and did not feed well from the start. Our breastfeeding story is a novel in itself so I will try to give you a brief summary that results in only a little yawning! I ended up with chronic Mastitis in both breasts that resulted in four months of oral antibiotics, and two re-hospitalisations (during which I received intensive antibiotics via IV for 72 hours – each time).The antibiotics resulted in a rather extreme thrush infection in my breasts requiring three months of intensive antifungal treatment.
You might be wondering what this has to do with my little girl.You see, she was exclusively breastfed the entire time, so she was technically medicated too. More and more the research shows just how detrimental both antibiotics and anti-fungals are to our entire microbiome, and unfortunately my little girl was not an exception, in fact she was of the most vulnerable, and her poor little body continues to suffer terribly from the damage that was done.
From four weeks of age we noticed our little girl begin to show signs of extreme gastrointestinal distress.Her nappies varied from dark greeny brown to frothy fluro green and always had an unhealthy dose of mucous.
In the hours following her first vaccinations she developed a high pitched scream and level of distress that will haunt me forever.After speaking to a ‘nurse-on-call’ we ended up presenting at our local hospital with a nappy full of jelly-ish blood, and a floppy, unrousable child who would suddenly burst into bouts of hysterical rigid screaming that could not be comforted.Unfortunately life with a newborn continued to be a high stress time in which our daughter suffered and we would receive no answers.
At six months of age – and six months of numerous doctors, hospital visits, IBCLCs and Osteopaths – she continued to suffer from extreme sleeplessness (she would wake in distress every 2-20 minutes *every single* time she slept), reflux, passing blood, gut lining, and mucous in nappies, extreme gastrointestinal distress, constipation, vomiting, eczema, and poor weight gain.
Finally a paediatrician advised me to trial a dairy free diet guaranteeing that CMPA(cow milk protein allergy) was her problem.After a month on a dairy free diet (and a reduction in bloody nappies) her level of distress hadn’t reduced at all.In the subsequent months we removed soy, gluten, eggs, nuts, and fish.Removing these foods made very little improvement to her reflux and distress.During this time her constipation got to a point where she was on quadruple the dose of 2 laxatives at once – used alongside suppositories – to no avail.At this point she was completely dependent on enemas to pass a bowel motion and her distress had my mummy heart in shreds.
During that time my mum mentioned a compounding pharmacy that made a product to help babies with “extreme unexplainable colic”.I promptly visited this pharmacy and spoke extensively to the pharmacist who referred us to their in-house Naturopath.
At this point of utter desperation I was willing to try anything, as long as it wouldn’t result in greater distress for my little girl.
The Naturopath listened to our story attentively and gave us a clear plan forward.Meanwhile, he scared the pants off me about the reflux and laxative medications that we had been administering to her, thankfully he gave us natural alternatives that worked SO much better than their conventional versions.
After multiple evaluations he recommended a new diet for Lila (and I, as her breastfeeding mother).This allowed us to carefully (and successfully) trial Lila on eggs, nuts and fish but required us to remove corn, rice, legumes, lentils, nightshades, mushrooms, yeast, garlic, ginger, and apples, as well as dairy and soy.This change in diet made the biggest, positive change for our Lila so far and she began to gain slightly more weight, her eczema reduced, and her vomiting ceased.
Unfortunately I knew that things were still far from right with my little one and at 12 months of age I took her to see an Integrative Practitioner (both a qualified GP and Naturopath) with a special interest in gut health and allergies. He initially prescribed some melatonin drops to help her settle at night (at that stage it was taking over 3 hours to settle her).He also ordered a comprehensive stool analysis, multiple blood tests, and urged us to remove any preservatives and additives that remained in Lila’s diet.
The result from the stool analysis was rather alarming and found that Lila had an overgrowth of some particularly nasty bacteria.One strain of bacteria was of particular concern because it eats away at the intestinal wall.These perforations in the gut lining cause food proteins to leak out into the body (where they aren’t welcome) and, to put it simply, allergies are born.Unfortunately, until we could heal Lila’s gut we were to expect more food sensitivities to appear and her symptoms to either stagnate or keep spiralling.
As overwhelming as this was to discover it was a relief to know a little about what was going on.To my despair treatment involved round after round of antibiotics.Going against my gut, we proceeded with treatment. This part of the story gets rather foggy for me.But the gist of what happened is that after 5 courses of antibiotics, and a child in an absolute world of pain, I pulled the plug on her treatment.With nothing else to offer us our Doctor decided to take a ‘wait and see’ approach and I delved head-first into managing and treating what I call ‘Lila’s labyrinth’ on my own.
At eighteen months of age she had been failed by medical professionals more times than I care to recall, and I had a gutful of condescending language and useless (if not damaging) treatments.My approach was simple.I followed my mother’s intuition.I kept a diary of what we ate, where we went, and how she was each day (sleep, poo, reflux, behaviour, sinuses, development, and skin condition).I weaned her off all alternative supplements for her sleep, reflux and laxatives, and managed her symptoms the best I could through diet and lifestyle. Over time we honed in on triggers and adjusted our lifestyle accordingly.Lila began to gain weight, sleep better, her eczema all but disappeared, she was able to pass bowel motions without assistance, and her reflux became manageable.
At two years of age we took Lila to a birthday party where she came in contact with dairy and soy.Over the next three days we watched a complete unravelling in the health and happiness of our little girl.Her reflux came back with a vengeance, as did her eczema.After much crying and complaining of a sore tummy she passed shreds of gut lining, blood, and mucous in subsequent nappies, but most terrifyingly she experienced a series of worrying episodes that I would later learn were “most likely allergy-triggered absence seizures”.
This reaction resulted in a midnight visit to the Royal Children’s Hospital and a thorough assessment by one of today’s leading gastroenterologists.Relieved and nervous we felt that we would *finally* get our little girl the medical diagnosis that she (and we) so desperately needed.
Fortunately/unfortunately no such diagnosis was found.Instead the gastroenterologist told us to keep “doing what we are doing”.That her allergies are “real, alarmingly unusual, and may or may-not diminish as she grows”.It was concluded that the level of antibiotics and antifungals that she has received was essentially like an “atomic bomb to the gut” and we should expect improvement to be very slow.Moreover she impressed the need to be “extremely vigilant” that Lila doesn’t come into contact with any dietary or environmental triggers, that is, until a controlled trial is scheduled in a few years time.
So, where are we now?We eat a meticulously careful, ‘from-scratch’, whole-food diet that is free from dairy, soy, grains, legumes, lentils, beef, potato, eggplant, apples, preservatives, additives, and seed oils.Our diet optimises healing foods and whole-body nourishment whilst also catering to the needs of the fussy toddler palate.
If she receives an allergen we fill her with preservative free organic prunes and plenty of filtered water.This flushes the offending proteins out of her body as quickly as possible, minimising the amount of time these proteins can damage her body.
She has regular magnesium salt baths to help her body with detoxification and all household products and toiletries are as clean, pure, and homemade as possible.
I manage this whilst I continue to read medical journals, papers, and research during the twilight hours.I’ve come to learn that education is key, especially in the area of gut health where the research is still rather new and many doctors are often fairly ‘green’ on the topic.
Now to you reading this story, if this world of gut-health and healing is new to you, or if it feels overwhelming, please know that there is a fabulous, loving community of mums out here who are willing and happy to offer support and advice.Mostly, I urge you to educate yourself.I know that for most of us mother’s time is scarce, BUT whenever you do find a little time, grab it with both hands, and read the latest literature out there.I’d also encourage you to keep an open mind to the very powerful ability of food to be your, or your child’s, medicine.
Last of all I’d love to leave you with one of my delightfully allergy-friendly recipes.
This lovely little recipe is simple, quick, and perfect with a cup of your favourite tea.
Hi there my name is Kim Holmes and I am a mum and Nutritionist. I have 2 children, my little B’s, hence the name of my business; The Healthy Little B. My eldest, daughter Billie has had in the past, only mild eczema, but a little patch on her face – it needed to go! If it were behind her knees or in the cracks of her elbows (where likely spots can be) – I wouldn’t have cared as much. In addition, she also had dust mite allergies, irritability and sensitivities – I knew I had to heal her internally as there was definitely a hypersensitivity going on. And by internally I mean treating her gut, reducing inflammation, performing food sensitivity tests and altering her diet.
Of course the food intolerance test showed up the ‘usual suspects’ – gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs. My kids don’t really have any gluten or much dairy but I was a little sad that eggs came up – a great nutritional powerhouse! Spelt, pineapple and almonds also were present. Perhaps I was over-dosing with almond milk!
Anyway, cutting a long story short, we removed the culprits, began our rotation diet and developed (with also the help of a fab Naturopath), a great supplement regime.
Here is what works with healing our eczema:
Probiotics – there are many strains out there but the probiotic strain Lactobacillus Rhamnosus (LGG) is specific for its use in healing eczema.
Other gut-healing nutrients – such as glutamine is a lovely nutrient to really heal any inflammation that may be present in the gut.
Omega 3 – the ultimate in reducing inflammation and hydrating the dry eczema patches.
Vitamin A – is needed for the health of the lining of our digestive system.
Vitamin D – studies continue to show that vitamin D is needed for skin health and plays a role in allergy reduction. Don’t be afraid to get your little ones out in the lovely winter sun!
Hydration – dry winter weather, heated air-conditioners don’t help with eczema. Drink loads of filtered water and research natural + organic topical creams to aid the healing.
(PS – after doing this for a while, we re-tested her intolerances. Pineapple, almonds and spelt had no reaction – yay! There was even a better tolerance to goat’s cheese).
Whilst it is great to have a diet rich in the above nutrients such as oily fish, flaxseeds, fermented foods etc – in order to really get a hold on eczema – it is good to invest in high quality supplements and in therapeutic doses to get any effect, just for a set amount of time.
This really worked for us. My daughter hasn’t had any patches for a while now. I believe a diet rich in wholefoods, low or nil gluten, sugar and dairy really does help. Not only for eczema but also for bloated little bellies, behaviour, attention and sleep.
Be sure to contact myself or another qualified health professional before you embark on a supplement regime.
Kim is mother to two gorgeous children and a qualified nutritionalist based in Sydney, Australia. She also holds a Bachelor of Health Science as well as a certificate in paediatric nutrition. Kim’s passion is to share her knowledge with other families and to help them reach their potential in terms of living a healthy nourished life through private consults, cooking workshops, education and more.
Gracie absolutely loves doing yoga with her Nanna, it’s become their thing! I know Yoga is good for your general well-being, but I’ve recently been reading more into the benefits around doing Yoga for gut health and, as you know, we’re all about good gut health here! I’ve teamed up with Flavia Munn to share some tips on Yoga poses beneficial for Children.
Downward Dog time!
Flavia Munn is a Yoga teacher based in London (and also an award winning Journalist) who as a child suffered from frequent constipation, bloating and was also prone to anxiety. She found things did improve with age, but when she took up yoga in her 20’s the bouts became rare to never.
Flavia says there are many postures you can do to improve bowel issues. But really it is yoga itself that’s doing the work. Yoga asanas (postures) stimulate the rest and digest part of the nervous system, known as the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).
Here are a few tried and tested poses that may help your child with gut conditions:
Cat-cow with lion breath – On hands and knees, round the spine and look to the belly button. Then, arch the spine, look forward, open the mouth and stick the tongue out to let the air out in a lion ‘roar’. Even teenagers laugh at this…in the end.
Breathe fully – Make it fun by suggesting they are blowing their bellies up like balloons and then letting the air out. Anything working with the breath helps to relax the body. It’s the exhale that works the PSNS so aids relaxation and digestion.
Wind-releasing posture – Lying on their backs get them to pull one knee into the chest, with the other leg out straight. Repeat the same on the other side. You can always make fart references as who doesn’t find that funny?! This does literally release trapped wind!
Twist again and again – Lying on their backs, take the arms out to either side (in a T-shape) and then bring both knees into the chest and over to one side. Repeat on the other side. Move the knees from one side to the other like windscreen wipers. Twists help to stimulate our digestive organs.
Go upside down – Kids do this naturally. Handstand anyone? But a simple downward dog (inverted V) or legs-up-the-wall are very calming. They can do legs-up-the-wall by lying on their back with either feet flat on wall, or bottom up close to the wall and legs straight up the wall. Try playing some (soft-ish) music they like or reading them a book to keep them in position.
Also, if your child is at an age that they understand they have gut problems, try not to make it a big issue. Be relaxed, even about not going for a while, as tension will get no-one anywhere, least of all to the toilet.
To find out more about Flavia and her wonderful classes go here