The Cub Connection

I’m that mean Mom. The one at the playground who sees that my kid is about to fall, but sits there and watches it happen. Before you pull out your pitchforks, hear me out.

I am an attentive mother, and I would run as fast as the mother wolf to save my child if she were truly in danger. I have even surprised myself at my ability to move quickly in a primal response to my child in danger, such as when she was heading toward a street. Maternal instincts are powerful! But when we are talking about things like bruises and skinned knees, I’m less concerned about them, and yes, I often do nothing to stop them from happening. That is because I believe it is important for the development of my children to allow them to experience failure and learn from their mistakes and natural consequences. As parents, it can be difficult to see our children upset from a skinned knee, a burned egg, a losing game, or a broken heart. But that is life, and we can’t live it for them. We can advise them when necessary, guide them, encourage them, wipe their tears, bandage them up, and be there for them, but we would not be doing them any favors by padding them from every one of life’s blows. Not if we want to raise independent, confident, capable people.

We practice safe bedsharing with our babies, as the majority of the world does where cribs do not exist. People often ask, “How do you keep your baby from falling off the bed.” The short answer is, you don’t. A wise friend of mine told me, when my first born was a toddler, that children have been climbing on the side of cliffs for thousands of years. That has been a really interesting thing to think about and read about. Knowing this information, I became less worried about my babies falling off the bed, but I’m not careless about it. We make sure there is nothing sharp or otherwise hazardous that they can fall on. We do try to prevent them from falling when we can. We do show and explain that this is the edge of the bed where you will fall down and get hurt. And when baby is capable of standing, we teach baby how to turn and get off the bed feet first. Our oldest was getting off the bed by herself when she was seven months old. The second, at nine months. And it usually takes just one fall for them to learn that they will fall if they are not careful. After that fall, they approach the edge more cautiously and look down, recognizing the distance. Babies are intelligent people.

I was on a woodland retreat with my oldest when she was 18 months old. At that time, I was still so new to mothering and had so much to learn (and still do. That never ends). My wise friend assured me that it would be okay to let my daughter wander. “There’s no one here. Just nature.” I thought about it long and hard. I was learning, on that retreat, to listen to my instincts. So when my little one began to walk across the meadow or into the woods by herself, at a distance further from me than I was used to, I observed, ready to run and scoop my child up if needed. Quietly, I watched and listened.

What I observed over the course of those days time and time again was incredible to me. My little one would run a certain distance, but then she would pause and look over her shoulder to make sure she could see me. Her instincts directed her to always know where her mother was. It’s such a simple concept, but I was truly in awe watching it in practice when the hustle and bustle of the modern world seemed lightyears away. I even gave this phenomenon a name. I call it the cub connection. My cub was directed by her instincts to explore and play, but to always know where her mother was. When she felt that she was too far from me, she stopped and came back to connect, always remaining within a certain radius.

That lesson was valuable for both of us, and it launched me deeper into the rewilding process to regain my instincts as a mother, which are often devalued and undermined at every turn in this culture we live in. And here’s the important part: Our children also have instincts. It is so important that we nurture them and do what we can to keep their instincts intact. This is how we raise deeply in tune people, confident and capable. Sometimes the other parents at the playground just have to witness the mean Mom calmly watching her kid fall down and then calmly offering comfort before letting them fly again.

So You Plan to Breastfeed

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I want new mothers and mothers to be to know that YOU CAN BREASTFEED YOUR BABY. It is not always easy, especially the first month or two, but it does get easier, and you can overcome obstacles if you seek qualified help. Do NOT seek breastfeeding help from a pediatrician or even the nurses at the hospital. Unless they are lactation consultants or have personally breastfed successfully, they won’t be able to truly help you, and may even inadvertently sabotage your efforts by giving you poor advice.

If I had listened to the advice given to me by nurses, pediatricians, and MDs, I would never have reached my breastfeeding goals. When the nurse told me to use a nipple shield, I chucked it in the trash. When the pediatrician told me to supplement with formula, I got another opinion and didn’t give up. When the GI doc told me to wean my baby to take meds she prescribed, I called Infant Risk Center and an IBCLC only to find out the medication was compatible with breastfeeding and I didn’t need to wean.
If you want to succeed at breastfeeding, you need to talk to other mothers who have breastfed successfully. You need to talk to lactation experts.

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it doesn’t usually come very easily, and you will most likely need help. If you’re pregnant and planning to breastfeed, educate yourself about breastfeeding before you are sleep deprived and stressed with a crying baby while recovering from birth. Now is the time to start. EXPECT to need help, and get your resources together. Get the phone numbers for your local IBCLC, your local La Leche League chapter, your experienced breastfeeding friends. When you need help in the middle of the night, you will want this information in an easy to find place. ASK FOR HELP. Breastfeeding is hard, but you can do it. Only 5% of women physically cannot produce enough milk to breastfeed. All the other supply problems come from BAD ADVICE and LACK OF SUPPORT.

Here are some more truth bombs:

💥 Your breast size is irrelevant. I was an A-B before I became a mother, and I have sustained two human lives with my breasts.

💥 You can breastfeed with flat, inverted, or small nipples. The baby doesn’t even need to latch onto the nipple. They latch onto the skin *around* the nipple.

💥 Supplementing with formula can DECREASE your milk supply, making you need to use formula. It’s a trap.

💥 Babies don’t need pacifiers. Pacifiers are artificial nipples meant to replace your breast, which is the most magical thing you can use to comfort your baby. The more you comfort your baby with your breast, the more milk your body makes!

💥 Pumping is a pain in the ass. It’s hard, it’s time consuming, and it’s uncomfortable. Don’t think you’re saving yourself any effort by pumping. It’s way easier to simply stick your baby on your breast. The milk is already the perfect temperature. No dishes to wash.

💥 Breastfeeding “from the tap” has benefits that pumping and bottle feeding cannot match. Your baby’s saliva communicates with your body so that an instant “custom order” is created. Your milk will change to meet baby’s needs. At night, your milk contains more sleep hormones. When baby is sick, it contains more antibodies. When baby is dehydrated, the water content of your milk increases. Cups and bottles can’t do that.

💥 Nipple shields can sabotage you. Don’t use one unless you’re under the guidance of a lactation consultant, and make sure it’s truly necessary before resorting to them.

💥 If you plan to pump and bottle feed, make sure you are using a SLOW flow nipple and doing paced bottle feeding. If your baby gets used to easily and quickly getting milk from a bottle, and if your baby gets used to getting overfed from a bottle, that is a recipe for a baby who will not be satisfied at the breast. This can create supply problems. You can overfeed from a bottle, but you cannot overfeed from the breast. Make bottle feeding mimic the breast as closely as possible for breastfeeding success.

💥 Fathers can bond with babies in a lot of ways. Don’t believe the myth that fathers or siblings, or anyone else needs to feed the baby in order to bond. It’s a lie.

💥 You may think it’s helpful for your partner to feed the baby a bottle so you can have a break, but the truth is, you don’t get a break. If you miss a feeding, you need to pump to make up for it, and remember pumping is more work. Just feed your baby and let them change diapers, rock them to sleep, bathe them, cuddle, read, or sing to them. That is a helpful way for them to bond and for you to have a break without worrying about pumping.

💥 If you follow ecological breastfeeding by putting baby to breast on cue, early and often, day and night, for nourishment and for comfort, you most likely will not need any special supplements, lactation teas, lactation cookies, etc. Really.

💥 Nursing bras and tops are certainly convenient, but they’re not a requirement. You can breastfeed just fine without them. Don’t feel like you have to spend money on them if it’s going to hurt your budget. They’re luxuries, not necessities.

💥Though babies certainly can be sensitive to foods in the mother’s diet (both of mine reacted when I had any dairy), it’s not usually necessary to stop eating or drinking things you enjoy. Don’t believe the hype. Unless your baby reacts to these things, you can drink coffee and breastfeed. You can eat garlic, onions, broccoli, and beans and breastfeed. You can even drink alcoholic beverages and breastfeed (within certain levels). You don’t need to starve yourself or be miserable to feed your baby.

💥 Drink to thirst. There’s no need to stress yourself over the bad information floating around telling women they MUST drink a gallon or whatever of water every day to produce milk. Yeah, stay hydrated. Drink often. Listen to your body. The same as you should be doing anyway. Don’t gorge yourself on water and stress about it.

💥 Interventions and drugs during birth can increase the risk of breastfeeding complications. This doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed if you have a c-section, pain meds, etc. It just means you might not have the easiest time starting out. Keep at it.

💥It can take several days for your milk supply to come in after birth. This is normal and your body isn’t broken. All your baby needs is the tiny bit of colostrum your body makes. Keep at it.

💥 Babies have growth spurts where they fuss at the breast and want to nurse literally nonstop. This is normal and healthy, and does NOT mean you aren’t making enough milk. Keep at it. The more you nurse, the more your body makes. It’s supply and demand.

💥The amount of milk you pump is not a reliable indicator of how much milk you actually make. Pumps are not as efficient as babies when it comes to getting milk out. Some women don’t even respond to pumps at all, but successfully breastfeed.

These are all things I wish I had known before I had my first baby. I hope this information helps someone!

Natural Teething Remedies

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No matter what your parenting style is, having a teething baby is a universal experience that all parents can feel some solidarity with. However, it’s true that every baby seems to experience teething differently, and the symptoms they may have can also vary widely. Therefore, nobody has found The One True Teething Remedy. Instead, what we have to work with is a wide range of holistic and pharmaceutical options. The most frustrating part can be that you never know which ones your child will respond very well to until you try them, and for some of us, our first baby and second baby will respond to totally different things.

Many of us remember the folk remedy of rubbing whiskey on the gums used by generations past. If you’re going to try that, might I suggest using vanilla extract instead? It contains a small amount of alcohol and tastes a heck of a lot better to babies. But before resorting to something like that, consider some other natural options. Have a teething baby? Solidarity fist bump. May the odds be ever in your favor. Since our family prefers to use holistic options first, I’m going to share some of the things that have helped us survive the teething days.

Amber Teething Necklace

This was hit or miss for us. We tried two different brands for Wildflower, and the only difference we noticed was less drool, but Sunshine seems to be responding very well to hers, which is the third brand we have tried after doing more research on brands. It is my understanding that brand matters (because there are some fake amber necklaces on the market), and the lighter colored amber has more anti-inflammatory power. So while it may be tempting to choose some of the gorgeous dark brown amber, the bright yellow ones actually work better. The ones we used without good results for Wildflower weren’t as light as Sunshine’s so we don’t know whether it was the difference in brand, the difference in color, or that she just didn’t respond well to amber. At any rate, it’s an easy and non-invasive thing to try for teething. A lot of parents swear by it.

But is it safe?

One concern I hear a lot is regarding the safety of amber necklaces for babies, so I just want to explain how that works. First and foremost, it’s common sense to never leave your baby unattended with an amber necklace on, but really…isn’t it common sense to never leave your baby unattended anyway? Secondly, companies that make amber jewelry specifically for children have some safety features on their products. There are knots sewn between each bead so that, if the necklace breaks, the beads aren’t all going to fall off and become a choking hazard. At most, one bead might fall off, and they are small enough that they can be swallowed without causing much trouble for the digestive tract. The second safety feature is the clasp. Some have pop clasps, and some have screw clasps, but these are both designed to open under pressure if they get pulled or caught on something. Screw clasps are one and done. Once they break, the necklace needs to be replaced. Pop clasps can pop open again and again. The downside to the pop clasp is that they are more prone to coming open accidentally, and then you might end up with a lost necklace. I personally prefer the screw clasp for older toddlers who are more likely to lose their necklace while playing, and the pop clasp for infants who are more likely to yank their necklace off out of curiosity. And if you’re really nervous about the necklace being on at night when you’re asleep, there are also amber ankle bracelets, though they may not be as effective since they are further from the site of inflammation in the mouth. Of all the brands we have tried, the one we have had good results with and recommend is Hazelaid. They also have excellent customer service.

Frozen Breastmilk

Breastmilk has natural calming and analgesic effects, and since it’s also nutritious, it makes a perfect remedy for teething. There are a few different ways to do this, but after much trial and error, here is what works for us. I take a bag of frozen breastmilk out of the fridge, break it up into chunks, and fill one of these silicone feeders. Baby enjoys chewing on it, it seems to help a lot, and the holes in the silicone are small enough that you don’t have to worry about baby swallowing a large chunk of frozen milk.

Frozen Fruit or Veggies

A variation on the frozen breastmilk method is to add frozen fruits or veggies to the silicone feeder. It’s a fun treat for baby that also helps inflamed gums. Since it is not recommended to give babies anything to eat except breastmilk or formula for the first 6 months, it is best to only give the frozen fruits and veggies to babies 6 months or older who are ready for solids.

Frozen Chamomile Tea

Another variation to add to the silicone feeder is frozen chamomile tea. Chamomile is a gentle herb that is anti-inflammatory. It also has a nice taste. Simply brew a cup of chamomile tea and freeze it (in an ice cube tray works well). Then add chunks to the silicone feeder for baby to enjoy. Like the fruits and veggies, this is best to use for babies who are 6 months or older.

Homeopathy

There are a lot of different homeopathic remedies that can be useful for teething, and for some babies, one remedy may work while another doesn’t, so it can take a little research on understanding homeopathy in order to navigate what the most effective remedy might be for your child. There are also several combination remedies available, which contain multiple homeopathic remedies in a blend made for teething. We have had good results with this one. While I don’t like the excessive/wasteful packaging, it is convenient that each dose of these drops is individually packaged and already dissolved in liquid. It’s easy to pack them in the diaper bag when on the go, and easy to administer in the middle of the night when you’re tired and don’t feel up to preparing anything. They also just taste like water, so Sunshine enjoys taking them.

Hydrosols

Hydrosols are the water-soluble plant constituents that remain after steam distillation of the plants (used when making essential oils). These are very gentle and safe to use with babies. Unlike essential oils, hydrosols do not have to be diluted in a carrier before applying. You can apply hydrosols directly to the gums. I like to wet an organic baby washcloth with filtered water, add a few drops of chamomile hydrosol, and then chill the washcloth in the refrigerator for a little while. The wet washcloth with the hydrosol is soothing for babies to chew on.

Have you noticed I have mentioned chamomile in many forms already? That’s because chamomile is a great anti-inflammatory, is a very gentle herb, and also has a pleasant taste. But there are some other options to consider. For example, lavender hydrosol is very calming for an irritable baby having trouble with teething. Hydrosols are gentle, yet powerful. We get our hydrosols here.

Essential Oils

I almost didn’t include any mention of essential oils on this post because of how controversial their use is with infants. However, our Wildflower responded very well to essential oils when she was teething, and I think it’s worth mentioning in case it can help others. I also know that some people are going to use them whether I mention them or not, so I would like to provide some information on how to do so safely to hopefully dilute (no pun intended) the amount of posts parents will see with unsafe instructions on how to use them.

On one extreme, you will see overly cautious sources telling people to never use essential oils on children under age 2. On the other extreme, you will see people claiming that it is totally safe to apply undiluted (or inadequately diluted) essential oils directly inside baby’s mouth. Some will even suggest oils like clove, which is NOT safe to apply on babies. This is a far cry from the traditional use of clove infused oil (not to be confused with the highly concentrated isolated compounds in clove essential oil). Infused oils and essential oils are not even remotely the same. Seriously, don’t put clove essential oil or blends containing clove essential oil inside your baby’s mouth. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to tell you what worked for us. As usual, a common sense approach can be found somewhere between those two extremes.

Once again, we are turning to the magical chamomile plant. Roman chamomile and German chamomile are extremely similar, but there are some subtle differences. In regards to their constituents, German chamomile is better for inflammation, and Roman chamomile is better at calming. However, they are so similar that they can usually be used interchangeably. We have used each of them for teething with good results. Note that German chamomile essential oil is blue! This is normal.

I added 1 drop of chamomile essential oil to a 10ml glass roller bottle (the dark colored ones prevent light from breaking down the essential oil, so I prefer those), then filled the rest of the bottle with a carrier oil. I used sweet almond oil, but there are many different options for carrier oils. 1 drop in a 10ml bottle brings the dilution ratio to 0.5%. This was plenty potent to help Wildflower with teething. With essential oils, and especially when applying to children, more is not better. When essential oils are not diluted adequately, adverse reactions can occur. Always dilute essential oils.

After creating this roller bottle, I applied it as needed to Wildflower’s chest. I could have applied it along the outside of her jawline, but I knew she would rub her face, get it on her hands, and the potential for it to get in her eyes was a concern. Therefore, I chose to apply it to her chest so that it was covered with clothing, still close enough for her to inhale and benefit from near the site of the inflammation. Some people have good results with lavender for teething, and that is certainly a safe oil to try. However, we had much better results using chamomile. NOTE: I personally would not apply essential oil on a baby under 6 months old. It’s a great option for older babies and toddlers. We get essential oils here.

There are many more teething remedies that one can consider, so this is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope you find some useful ideas to try when going through the teething days (and nights) with your little ones.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

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I have been really enjoying overnight oats lately because the flavor combinations are limited only by my imagination, they’re healthy, easy, can be taken on the go, and what’s not to love about waking up to breakfast already made and ready to eat?

I created this apple cinnamon overnight oats recipe last week, and I’m happy to report that it is toddler approved. I make overnight oats in single servings in mason jars. This allows The Artist to grab his jar and take it with him when he heads to work, and it packs easily in a lunch box when on the go with kids. It’s good to eat as a cold cereal, or warm it up first if you prefer it warm. Enjoy!

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Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats
(1 serving)

Ingredients

3/4 C oats (We use Bob’s Red Mill certified gluten free)
1/4 C organic apple sauce
2 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp raw local honey
3/4 C almond milk (or your milk of choice)
optional: 1 Tbsp coconut butter, melted
optional: cinnamon granola mix (we use KIND brand)

Instructions

  1. Layer the oats, apple sauce, chia seeds, cinnamon and honey in a jar or other container of choice.
  2. Pour milk over the ingredients.
  3. Put the lid on and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  4. In the morning, stir it up in the jar, or pour it into a bowl and stir it up. (If you want to warm it up, now is a good time to do that in a pan on the stove.)
  5. (optional) Drizzle melted coconut butter over the top like icing
  6. (optional) Add cinnamon granola mix as a crunchy topping

ENJOY!

Elderberry Syrup

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Elderberry is an antiviral herb high in antioxidants, and has been shown in studies (1, 2, 3) to be effective against the common cold and ten strains of influenza, reducing the duration and severity of symptoms. There is also evidence of elderberry possibly being effective as a prophylactic in preventing viral infection, as it appears to fortify cell membranes to prevent virus penetration.

Controversy
There are a lot of conflicting opinions on social media regarding whether elderberry is safe for people with autoimmune conditions and whether it’s safe for anyone to take for long periods of time as a prophylactic. Some have expressed concern that elderberry increases inflammatory cytokines, so it’s important to note that it also increases anti-inflammatory cytokines. Whole plant extracts tend to have built in checks and balances like this, unlike isolated compounds used in other substances, such as pharmaceutical drugs.

The other concern is with long term use of elderberry. Some people insist that it’s safe to take daily for months at a time, while others strictly only use it during active infection. My opinion, based on my own research and experience with elderberry (and I have an autoimmune condition), is that the middle ground is generally the place to be. Common sense tells us that it’s probably not a good idea to have the immune system ramped up on high alert all the time, especially when you have an autoimmune disease that already means you have an overactive immune system. In my opinion, it is okay to use elderberry prophylactically when the benefits outweigh the theoretical risk. For example, if someone in my house has flu, I would take elderberry prophylactically to protect myself until it’s gone. If I worked in health care or at a daycare where my exposure to viral infections was very high during “cold and flu season,” I would take elderberry prophylactically in an on and off pattern, giving my body a week off from it here and there, during the times when I am at high risk of viral exposure. If I am someone who mostly stays home during peak flu season, and I am not at high risk of contracting viral infections, I would take elderberry only at the onset of symptoms and stop once the infection is gone. But keep in mind that when it comes to any kind of remedy, nothing is one size fits all, so it’s always wise to pay attention to how your body responds to elderberry.

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Recipes
Elderberry can be prepared many different ways ranging from tinctures to syrups, and there are as many ways to make elderberry syrup as there are to make chicken soup. Everyone has their own way of doing it. Today I’m going to share three tried and true elderberry syrup recipes of my own, ranging from the simplest with the least ingredients to the most potent formula with added ingredients for extra immune support.

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Basic Elderberry Syrup
(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients
1 cup dried elderberries
6 cups distilled water
1 1/2 cups raw local honey

Instructions
1.Bring berries and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low about 30 minutes.

2. Strain out berries and return liquid to pan.

3. Simmer until liquid reduces by about half.

4. Remove from heat and cool completely.

5. Add raw honey and stir until well blended.

6. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

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Better Elderberry Syrup
(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients
1 cup dried elderberries
6 cups distilled water
3 TBSP fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups raw local honey

Instructions
1. Bring berries, ginger, and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

2. Strain and return liquid to pan.

3. Add cloves and cinnamon.

4. Simmer on low until liquid reduces by about half.

5. Remove from heat and cool completely.

6. Add raw honey and stir until well blended.

7. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

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Best Elderberry Syrup
(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients
1 cup dried elderberries
6 cups distilled water
3 TBSP fresh grated ginger
2 TBSP dried rose hips
1 TBSP elder flowers
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups raw local honey

Instructions
1. Bring berries, ginger, rose hips, flowers, and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

2. Strain and return liquid to pan.

3. Add cloves and cinnamon.

4. Simmer until liquid reduces by about half.

5. Remove from heat and cool completely.

6. Add raw honey and stir until well blended.

7. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

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Usage Guidelines
Daily support: Adults and children over 12, take 1 tablespoon 1x per day. Children 12 months-11 years, take 1 teaspoon.

Acute support: 3x per day

(For children 6 months-11 months: Substitute pure maple syrup instead of honey. 1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon)

Notes

  • Although the suggested amounts listed above work well for most people, some people are more sensitive to elderberry. If loose stools or other GI discomforts occur, back the dosage down. This occurs sometimes when too much is taken.
  • Ginger root is easiest to grate after it has been hardened up in the freezer for a bit. No need to peel the ginger for this recipe, as it’s going to be strained out anyway.
  • The elderberry syrup will not be very thick as some people may imagine a syrup to be (e.g. corn syrup). It will be a bit on the runny side. This is normal.
  • Some people like to buy decorative bottles for their elderberry syrup, but you can use just about anything from a mason jar to a repurposed apple cider vinegar bottle.
  • You can use measuring spoons or medicine cups to take the elderberry syrup. I have found that pouring it into medicine cups is less messy.
  • The shelf life in the refrigerator is several months to a year, as long as you use raw honey and don’t heat it. Just keep an eye out for mold and discard if it occurs. (I’ve never had to throw any away.)
  • When substituting pure maple syrup for the honey, the shelf life may be shorter.
  • You can freeze elderberry syrup for a longer shelf life. I sometimes split my batch up into smaller containers and freeze some portions for later use.

Instant Pot Chicken Soup

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This is a no nonsense chicken soup recipe made with real food. You won’t find any cream of crap soup cans in this recipe, but it is quick and easy for busy evenings, or when you are feeling under the weather and don’t want to exert too much energy for a nourishing meal. Perfect for snow days and sick days, this chicken soup is full of antimicrobial herbs and nourishing veggies for immune system support, or even just adding a little bit of hygge comfort to your life.

The quality of the soup will depend on the quality of the ingredients you use. Ideally, we should use organic free range chicken, a high quality salt like Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, herbs grown in our own gardens, homemade bone broth, you get the picture. But you know what? You can still get the job done with whatever you have to work with, and it will still be delicious. Feel free to add or omit, increase or decrease to suit your taste and resources. Truth be told, I don’t even measure the herbs when I throw them in. I grab the jars of our dried homegrown herbs and just eyeball it. It’s good every time. Just get witchy with it and don’t overthink it.

I hope you enjoy this recipe from my family to yours!

Instant Pot Chicken Soup

Ingredients
3-4 lbs (give or take) full chicken
4 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup kale, chopped (frozen or fresh)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sea salt
A few cranks from the pepper mill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup filtered water

Instructions
1. Put veggies, herbs, and seasonings into the pot
2. Add chicken on top
3. Pour in broth and water
4. Close lid and set vent to sealing
5. Select “soup” and let cook under pressure
6. Allow pressure to release naturally
7. Once pressure is released, open pot and place the chicken into a large bowl
8. Debone chicken, adding meat back to the pot
9. Stir and serve!

Variations:

  • Add up to a tablespoon of fire cider to your soup bowl for an extra kick of immune support.
  • Sub any leafy green in place of the kale. I have used bok choy and spinach with good results.
  • Use water instead of broth if water is what you have to work with, or if you prefer a milder taste.
  • Use boneless chicken breasts for a quicker and easier time. This is not nearly as flavorful or nourishing as a whole chicken, but works in a pinch.

 

Inside Our Natural Medicine Cabinet

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Sometimes people look at me in disbelief when I tell them we don’t keep any pharmaceuticals in our home, including over the counter meds. The one exception is ibuprofen, which we rarely ever use. Besides the ibuprofen, I’m not exaggerating when I say we have an all natural medicine cabinet. So what does a natural medicine cabinet look like? You might be surprised to hear that many natural remedies are foods, so they aren’t actually all stored in a medicine cabinet. Before I walk you through the contents of my family’s natural medicine cabinet (and basket, bag, fridge, and herb shelf), I want to stress a few important points.

  • Not everyone needs all this stuff. Really. What you need will vary from what another person needs.
  • Some of the things we have came from experimentation to learn what works for us and what doesn’t, which things are our favorites, and which ones aren’t so much.
  • Everything we have was purchased/grown/foraged/created for a specific purpose. I recommend starting there and trying to avoid just buying all kinds of random things aimlessly because you think they might help you. Be intentional about it.
  • Start small. Replace what you can when you can. You don’t have to go totally natural overnight. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

My original plan for this post was to write a quick note on why we have each item/what we use it for, but after I got through about ten herbs, I realized that would be way too much time and a very lengthy blog post. Therefore, I am going to list everything for you, with the exception of all our first aid supplies, and you can feel free to ask me any questions you may have about these items. Check back for future posts on natural health and beauty items and natural cleaning products.

LOOSE HERBS

Yarrow
Ginger
Thyme
Wild Cherry Bark
Peppermint
Elderberries
Mullein Leaf
Lemon Balm
Catnip
Skullcap
Meadowsweet
Raspberry Leaf
Marshmallow Root
Basil
Oregano
Fennel
Rose Hips
Goldenrod
Motherwort
Red Clover
Dill
Nettle
Stevia
Calendula
Rosemary
Corn Silk
Sage
Lavender
Yellow Dock Root
Rose Petals
German Chamomile
Spearmint
Elder Flowers
Hawthorn Leaf & Flower
Hawthorn Berries
Alfalfa
Dandelion Root
Eucalyptus Leaf

herb shelf

TINCTURES

Shatavari
Hawthorn leaf, flower, & berry
Peppermint
Nettle, raspberry leaf, red clover
Yellow dock root, dandelion root, nettle, rose hips
Ginger and fennel
Olive leaf
Lemon balm, catnip, roman chamomile, meadowsweet, lavender
Yarrow
Motherwort
Mullein leaf
Chickweed
Wild cherry bark
Angelica
Wombstringe
Afterease
Placenta

GLYCERITES

Echinacea
Chamomile, Lemon balm, catnip, fennel, and ginger

ESSENTIAL OILS

Peppermint
Lemon
Lavender
Cedarwood
Tea Tree
Bergamot
Elemi
Coriander
Clary Sage
Frankincense
Grapefruit
Carrot Seed
Spearmint
Copaiba
Rosemary
German Chamomile
Eucalyptus
Oregano
Nighty Night
Sweet Dreams
Sniffle Stopper
Sweet Slumber
Germ Destroyer
Relax

EOs

OTHER

Cod Liver Oil
Kids’ Cod Liver Oil
Liquid Chlorophyll
Probiotics (Adult, Kids, Infant)
Pickled Garlic
Fire Cider
Ear oil (Mullein & Garlic)
Oil of oregano
Colloidal silver spray
Lavender hydrosol
Chamomile hydrosol

SYRUPS

Herbal Sleep Syrup
Elderberry Syrup
Ginger Syrup
Pure Maple Syrup
Raw local honey
Blackstrap molasses

fridge shelf

VITAMINS

Vitamin C powder
Vitamin C spray
Kids’ Multi
Prenatal Multi
Baby vitamin D3 drops
Vitamin D3+K2 drops

CAPSULES/TABLETS

Activated Charcoal
Blood Builder
Papaya Enzymes
Digestive Enzymes
Cranberry Capsules
Placenta Capsules

HOMEOPATHY

Arnica
Aconite
Bellis Per
Calendula
Carbo Veg
Cauloph
Chamomilla
Cimicifuga
Gelsemium
Hypericum
Ipecacuanha
Kali Carb
Kali Phos
Phytolacca
Pulsatilla
Secale
Sepia
Staphis Agria
Nat. Phos. 6x
Oscillococcinum
Camilia drops

medicine cabinet

TOPICAL

Calendula Salve
Green Salve
Comfrey Salve
Healing Balm
Coconut oil
Sesame oil
Almond oil
Olive oil
Avocado oil
Neem oil
Castor oil
Vitamin E oil
Magnesium lotion
Aloe Vera gel
Arnica Ointment
Bentonite Clay
Baking Soda
Goldenseal & Oregon Grape Root Powder
Shea Butter
Cocoa Butter
Epsom Salt
Beeswax
Colloidal Silver Gel

EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES

Stethoscope
Fetoscope
Otoscope
Pulse Oximeter
Sphygmomanometer
Thermometers
Nose Frida
Strep A Swab Kit
UTI Test Strips

*You may notice some Garden of Life brand products in the photos. In December 2017, Garden of Life announced that they were acquired by Nestle. Therefore, for ethical reasons, my family will no longer be using Garden of Life products effective immediately.

 

Communing With Plants

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Since the dawn of time, humans and plants have had an intimate relationship, as plants have provided so much life for us in the form of food, medicine, tools, and more. They exhale and we inhale, doing a sacred dance of breaths between us. We have cared for them, and they have cared for us. Even today, 25% of pharmaceuticals are derived from plants, and the World Health Organization recognizes that traditional plant medicine is the main healing modality in much of the world. But we here in America have lost our way. Most people in industrialized nations are no longer in touch with plants. The human-plant relationship has suffered due to cultural disconnection and modern conveniences that always come with a price. When we no longer spend time with plants, and when we take them for granted, we all surely suffer. Generational wisdom is lost in the pages of time. When you can buy a plant under the fluorescent lights at the grocery store, wrap it in plastic, and drive it home to your refrigerator, you aren’t fostering connection with the plant the same way you would if you had spent time with the plant, your hands in the soil, communing with its pollinators, watching, listening, smelling, feeling, learning.

Plants are conscious beings, and they thrive with love and connection just like the rest of us do. There is something extra special about a well loved plant that has given its permission to be used by us, and is eager to help. That is where I find myself in my relationship with plants. Getting to know them, respecting and honoring them, and being truly grateful when they help me. My relationship with plants connects me with my ancestors and those who came before me. It connects me to my instinctual wisdom, and makes me a more conscious human being. Since I have opened my heart to the wisdom of our green friends, I have found them presenting themselves to me in funny ways. Right when I am in need of some blood strengthening and liver support, yellow dock appears in my herb garden. Birds must have carried her to me. Right when I’m defending pokeweed from those who disrespect her and fear her, I see a little pokeweed poking over my fence to say hello. Right when I’ve got a bleeding wound on my finger in the woods, I hear the whisper of wild yarrow at my feet. Every intention I set for the new year has coincidentally revolved around one common theme: Connection. I can only hope this means more connecting and communing with plants, too.

Umbilical Cord Burning

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Baby Sunshine was born over the summer, which is why I haven’t been posting. It was a perfect, peaceful waterbirth at home. Baby and placenta remained intact for several hours before we performed a cord burning ceremony when the time was right. Many people have asked me questions about cord burning and placenta, and I had many questions myself during my pregnancy, so I hope to provide valuable information here about those things.

I read a book during my pregnancy that absolutely stunned me. Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra by Robin Lim is something all people need to read. If you’re planning on having a baby in the near future, make it a priority. I had already come to know placenta as a sacred life force to be honored and respected, but the information presented in this book helped me understand so much more about placenta and the importance of lotus birth (aka intact birth). If you’re not into the spiritual aspects of it, there is still plenty to be gained from the book, including some practical information and studies.

Placentas are part of babies. They share the same DNA. Some people believe placenta is baby’s twin. Others believe placenta is a spiritual guardian, such as an angel. Whatever the case may be, they are together from early on in the baby’s womb life as companions. Separation should not be forceful and quick. Placentas should not be treated as trash or medical waste. Would you throw the body of a deceased loved one in the trash? I would hope not. Most people have burial or cremation rites, or some form of honoring their departed. May it be so for placenta. Many babies let out a cry or otherwise show signs of distress when their cords are cut. I have seen it compared to being with someone you love for your whole life, then going to sleep, and waking up without them. Most people I know are wounded from this separation, even if they don’t know it. Robin Lim discusses this in Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we want to raise unwounded, whole people, we must start with birth, and placental separation is an extension of the birth process. Delayed cord clamping has gained traction as an evidence based practice, but delaying until the cord stops pulsing only scratches the surface. It’s a good start, but it’s the bare minimum of what humans deserve at the beginning of life. (Words to search to research and know your options: Extended delayed cord clamping, lotus birth, intact birth)

In addition to deciding when to separate the baby and placenta, you need to know your options for deciding how to separate baby and placenta. One option is a full lotus birth. This is when they are simply left alone to separate naturally. The placenta is usually preserved with salt and herbs, and they are otherwise left alone, generally separating on their own with a dried up cord on the third day (give or take). Interestingly, mother’s milk comes in around the third day (give or take). Could it be that there is some wisdom to this design that modern science does not yet understand?

Not everyone wants a full lotus birth, nor is it something that works with every set of circumstances, so there are other options to consider. Some people use homemade cord ties, clamps, or other such tools to clamp the cord before using sterile scissors to separate the cord, but I want to show you a different way. A slower, gentler, and more sterile way: Cord burning.

Burning the umbilical cord is a slow and gentle separation that allows us the opportunity to reflect on and honor the placenta. It allows baby time to say goodbye to placenta, and transition gently to life outside the womb. In some cultures, it is believed that the element of fire helps to move any remaining life force from the placenta to the baby. Besides the spiritual implications, it also has practical benefits. It is the most sterile way to separate an umbilical cord to prevent infections, and it requires no additional cord stump aftercare or clamping. It cauterizes as it separates. It also allows the cord stump to dry up and fall off faster. Sunshine baby’s cord stump fell off on day five.

I’m going to share our cord burning ceremony with you, and then I will address some frequently asked questions about cord burning. I hope this information helps you understand the importance of placenta, and some options that you have when including placenta in your birth plan.

OUR CORD BURNING CEREMONY

This placenta protected Sunshine and me during pregnancy and after birth by providing a barrier against pathogens, providing life-sustaining hormones, nutrients, and oxygen, and providing her with the foundation for lifelong immune system health. This is a miraculous organ only created in the womb when growing a new life. In some cultures, the placenta is honored as the deceased twin of the baby, and is given full burial rites. After all, everything in the universe requires balance. We cannot have life without also having death, and in the wake of death, we can be sure that new life always emerges. Right now, we are honored to witness the full circle of life and death. The way babies and their placentas have been prematurely and forcibly separated in modern times has prevented many people from understanding this important knowledge.

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Dear placenta, your sacrifice has given this baby life, and we are grateful. We are here now to honor you as the sacred life force that you are, the first mother, and the tree of life. You are the roots, the cord is the stem, and sweet Sunshine is the fruit. A sacred trinity. Just as trees give us oxygen here on earth, you provided oxygen between the worlds. While your earthly purpose is now complete, we understand that you will continue to protect Sunshine in spirit, and we thank you. It is time for gentle and peaceful separation, bringing Sunshine fully earthside and releasing placenta back to the spiritual realm.

Welcome earthside, Sunshine!

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FAQ About Cord Burning

Q: Can cord burning be done in the hospital?

A: Most hospitals won’t allow you to have an open flame during your stay, but that need not stop you from cord burning once you get home. Just keep baby and placenta together until then. If it’s going to be longer than a few hours, you’ll want to preserve placenta with salt and herbs following instructions as if doing a full lotus birth, or keep placenta on ice in a thermal bag. If the hospital insists on taking placenta for testing (drug testing is routinely performed in some hospitals) and you consent to that, they don’t need the whole thing. They can use just part of it while the rest remains intact.

Q: Is cord burning compatible with placenta encapsulation?

A: Yes, it can be. If you wish to consume placenta before separation occurs (such as raw in a smoothie), a small piece of placenta can be cut off for such use (with baby’s permission, of course). Encapsulation or other such processing of the placenta for consumption can be done as long as the placenta is not attached for longer than four hours, or as long as placenta is kept preserved with ice in a thermal bag if intact longer than four hours.

Q: What tools are needed for cord burning?

A: A flame that will stay lit for a few minutes (e.g. a candle or two), something heat proof to catch hot wax that drips, and a heat barrier between baby and the flame (can be as simple as a piece of cardboard). We used a cord burning box, which acted as a barrier and a place for the wax to drip. It had grooves to help hold the cord and candles. but I’ve seen people use something as simple as a plate to catch wax. It doesn’t take much. Be resourceful.

Q: What kind of candles should be used?

A: Any candle will work. We chose 100% natural beeswax candles so baby would not be inhaling toxic fumes.

Q: How long does it take?

A: We had two candles going at once, and it took maybe about 5 minutes. With only one candle, it can take a bit longer.

Q: Does it have a bad smell?

A: Not really! Maybe a mild campfire type smell, but not like burning flesh or anything like you might expect. It might crackle and pop a couple times in the process though, so don’t be alarmed if this happens.

Q: How far from the baby should the cord be burned?

A: 6-8 inches from baby

Q: What do you do with the remaining cord stump afterwards?

A: Nothing special needs to be done other than making sure it doesn’t accidentally get pulled. Just leave it alone, and it will dry up and fall off in a few days time. Wrapping a piece of gauze or other fabric around baby’s belly to keep the cord stump in place is helpful. If you want to, you can even make the stump into a little heart, spiral, or other shape before securing it in place.

Plantain

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Not to be confused with the banana-like plant of the same common name, plantain is an abundant and useful backyard herb. Plantain is native to Europe, and was brought to the Americas by European settlers. This plant is both edible and medicinal, and you probably have some growing near you right now. It is commonly found in areas frequented by people, such as lawns, and along driveways and roadsides.

Briefly touching on herbal actions and energetics again, as I mentioned in the post about wild violets, plantain is cooling, astringent, vulnerary, and diuretic. It is most popularly known for its usefulness in topical applications, and has earned the nickname, “fairy bandage.” Its cooling nature lends itself to assisting with inflamed skin conditions, such as burns, stings, and rashes. Its astringency and vulnerary abilities make it a useful plant when dealing with wounds.

b plantain

Broadleaf Plantain (plantago major)

n plantain

Narrowleaf Plantain (plantago lanceolata)

Last time I had a bee sting, I chewed up a plantain leaf and stuck it on the sting as a poultice, which yielded good results for me, but one of my favorite ways to use plantain is in a salve after infusing it in organic olive oil for at least six weeks. In fact, it’s one of the herbs I use in my favorite multipurpose skin salve, which I’m going to share the recipe for in an upcoming post.

I have both broadleaf plantain (plantago major) and narrowleaf plantain (plantago lanceolata) growing abundantly around my home, so I use the leaves of both for my salve. You can use either one or both. It’s a good idea to at least let the leaves wilt for a day or two before infusing in oil because too much water content can result in spoilage in the oil. Dried leaves also work fine. Go forage for some plantain, and check back soon for a great salve recipe you won’t want to miss!