Raising Healthier Kids - My Experience

Nov 4, 2010

Warning: This is a long post and you may not agree, but this has been our experience and we have made choices for our family based on it and extensive research and prayer. 

Hindsight is 20/20. That may sound cliche, but it is the truth. My parenting has evolved a great deal over the past 17 years, especially during the past eight. Once I opened the door to whole foods, holistic healing, and healthy, greener living, I began to see amazing changes in my family's health. I only wish I had learned it earlier so that I could have saved my two oldest sons from the ear infection/antibiotic treadmill and numerous other maladies.

With my first two sons, I accepted it as "normal" for them to experience frequent illness and ear infections. I also accepted it as "normal" to have a visit to the doctor and antibiotics with every earache. Because I was never given any advice regarding prevention {most, if not all, doctors know that dairy should, at least, be avoided during upper respiratory and/or ear infections}, both of my sons ended up on the seemingly endless cycle of infection and antibiotics during their first year. Note that I breastfed both boys past their first birthdays, so up until then they were exposed to dairy in MY diet. Eventually, M1, my oldest, "grew out of them" around 3 and NG, my second son, got tubes in his ears by his first birthday. Of course, when NG turned one, I gave him whole milk according to doctor recommendations and he began to have diarrhea and rashes. The doctor recommended soy toddler formula and I kept NG on that for a few months until the intolerance seemed to go away. Of course, it only seemed to go away because the symptoms changed. NG continued to have sensitive skin and later developed eczema.

As a young parent, I also followed doctor's orders and took my boys in for every vaccination on the schedule. Fortunately, both of them got the chickenpox before they were due to receive the (then) new chickenpox vaccine. Unfortunately, NG received two doses of the Rotashield vaccine before they recalled it due to some children developing bowel obstructions from it. He did, however, end up getting rotovirus about the time he would have had his third shot. When we moved from Indiana to Kentucky, I took the boys to get updated on their shots and was informed that Kentucky's vaccination schedule required about 2 to 3 more shots. Poor NG ended up getting FIVE shots at once! I felt horrible for him but, at that time, I didn't know I had any other choice. 

Fast forward to baby boy #3. While I was pregnant with IB, I began to learn, via the wonderful world wide web, more about natural parenting and healthy living. As a Christian homeschooler, who practiced attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding, it just made sense to switch to real, whole foods, avoid vaccines with harmful chemicals and toxins, support our immune systems naturally, avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, and keep harmful chemicals out of our home by using natural cleaners. I didn't make all of these changes overnight; it has been a process and still is.

After IB was born, I had learned enough to know that dairy had been (and probably, still was) a problem for my children. Although the medical community, in general, is reluctant to admit a connection between food allergies/sensitivities and ear infections and other conditions, I was becoming convinced that dairy was the culprit behind M1 and NG's ear infection issues and poor immunity. I was exclusively breastfeeding IB when I decided to test my theory with an elimination diet for myself, M1, and NG. We stayed away from all dairy products for almost two weeks, then on test day, we had some sharp cheddar cheese. While I did notice behavior changes in NG, the most pronounced result was that IB developed diarrhea with a horrible bleeding rash in less than a day after MY consumption of cheese. {Fortunately, I had Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on hand and it healed the rash completely within a couple of days. Love that stuff!} Needless to say, I discontinued dairy for all of us as much as possible. It seemed impossible at first but got easier. We have not remained dairy-free completely but do not consume it as regularly and some of us abstain from it when I notice problems or when someone is ill. For example, NG occasionally has an episode of eczema when he's been consuming dairy too frequently. I also choose organic and, primarily, cultured dairy products, like yogurt and cheese.

Another turning point after IB's birth was our thoughts on vaccinations. While I had been researching the pros/cons of vaccines prior to his birth, we were still on the fence about it. So we went ahead and started the recommended schedule, but when he had his two-month shots, I let the pediatrician know that I was considering stopping. She let me know that if I chose to not vaccinate my child than she could no longer be our doctor. As it happened, IB reacted to those vaccines with fever, vomiting, and high-pitched crying for several hours. So, two months later, we had our last appointment with her (with NO vaccinations) and I found a family physician who respected our decisions and selectively vaccinated his own children. That was the last time we allowed any of our children to receive vaccines. Unfortunately, there was a lapse in communication between the nurses at Levi's birth. He came 3 1/2 weeks early and very quickly {20 minutes after I got to the hospital}, so I didn't have time to share my birth plan with the staff. While one nurse was asking me if I wanted him to have the Hepatitis B shot, the other was giving it to him. "Oh, I'm sorry. I already gave it to him." I still wonder if that was really an accident.

In comparison to my first two sons younger years, my younger three have experienced much less illness and have only had a handful of ear infections between them all together. And even then, we avoided antibiotics by treating them with natural ear drops, warmed olive oil and garlic, and occasionally, Tylenol. It is true that most ear infections will resolve themselves within 48 hours. Our doctor rarely sees anyone in our family. What exactly has caused my children to have stronger immune systems? Avoiding dairy? No vaccines? Avoiding processed food in favor of whole foods? Less toxins in the home? Maybe one more than another, but looking back {that hindsight I was talking about}, I can see that all of the changes we have made in our parenting and lifestyle have tremendously affected our family's health for the better.


  1. I agree completely with your choices. I am thankful to have had enough information before my first son was born to completely avoid all vaccines for both of my sons. When autism rates are 1 in 90 for boys, how can you not question about vaccines being related? We love going to the local farmers market for all of our produce every week. We still eat too much dairy though. We try to mix our older sons milk cups with half almond milk, half regular milk.
    Great post!

  2. Oooh, love almond milk. Especially vanilla and CHOCOLATE! The latter goes so quickly here that I can't buy it very often. :)

  3. We learned this a little late too. My third son Elijah had reactions to his shots. We still do some vaccines but that one episode really changed what we thought of as "normal" for sure!


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