So, it’s smoky here.
So it’s one thing to hear breastfeeding moms crow about how well breastmilk worked to clear up a baby’s red eye, but another to experience squirting oneself in the eye with fresh breastmilk.
First of all, it is painless. Soothing, even, if the eye is already irritated (and if it’s not, why bother?). Breastmilk is the exact balance an eye wants, and doesn’t create any sort of “foreign body” reaction. Mechanically, it washes the eye. But it also, fresh, contains leukocytes which directly fight infection. It contains sugars and nutrients which inflamed cells can use to help repair and function instantly. And it contains stem cells, which helps it repair damage directly. It blurs the vision for a few minutes, because it is not transparent, but it clears quickly, the inflammation settles down, and the pain goes.
But that’s just the beginning. When I burned my arm badly, I annointed the burn with breastmilk. The pain fled. Healing was rapid. Scarring minimal. I love hydrocolloids for burns but I’d rather apply breastmilk. My housemate gasped when a bad, fresh grease burn vanished in minutes with a few drops of milk on it. To the point where a year or two later, when a couple injuries happened at once, plus an old skin inflammation that had been failing to heal for months… I offered to find someone to donate a small amount of fresh milk, and the offer was accepted, strange as it sounded.
But it didn’t sound strange to my community of moms… my request was answered by five volunteers within half an hour. A few hours later we had a small jar of milk fresh in hand, and shortly after that healing had already begun, wounds that had been frustratingly difficult to heal for months had started to close. “More please?” was the request the next day. And another mom offered another half ounce. Not enough to deprive a baby, but such a tiny amount of precious liquid to heal a long hurt.
A couple years ago, I foolishly tried to clean an immersion blender and nearly chopped the tip of my finger off. It was cut to the bone, white, gaping. Direct pressure and breastmilk started helping quickly. By the time the EMTs arrived, it was holding together enough that I didn’t have to go in, by their judgement. The tip of my finger was dead white, and I annointed my finger with milk along the wound, visualized blood and lymph and nerves flowing, healing, functioning. I watched the tip of my finger pink up. They say that people with fibro have more nerve connections than they should, with more connections specifically to blood vessels and that the nerves do more than they’re supposed to. In any event, if I have poor blood flow in my skin, and someone points it out (a white splotch despite massage, for example), the moment they point it out it will pink up. It causes pain, it causes fibro, it causes reynauds… but it also might just have saved my fingertip. I kept applying milk. I kept visualizing. It kept pinking up whenever I thought about it. I thought about my finger for months (couldn’t help it, the nerves felt buzzy everywhere downstream from where they’d been cut.)
Two years later, and I’m still a little buzzy but blood flow and function are perfect. Barely a scar is visible. I wonder if it is because the wound was bathed in stem cells every time I thought to put a drop on it. There was a V-shaped flap. Even that healed. There was no infection.
On my birthday in 2014, I turned 42 and my son fell against a crate and split his lip. It was bad. And bleeding. And I nursed him immediately, and by the time he stopped, the bleeding had stopped, and the wound looked ten times better than when we’d started. He has a scar there, a small one, but milk and nursing saved him a trip to Urgent Care, and healed him fast.
My mother skeptically agreed to try it with one infection, and came asking for it the next time one struck.
The magic of breastmilk is transitory. Even refrigeration can inhibit the best parts of it.
But I think about how a drop of fresh milk could make a new burn vanish (milk was applied within minutes of the grease landing on the arm), and I think about how many gallons of fresh breastmilk a breastfed baby will consume… And yeah, I’m pretty sure formula will never do that.
People ask me why I don’t call formula a second choice, but a fourth choice. And it really comes down to the fact that fresh breast milk is a magic thing. And if it’s not possible, frozen or fridged from the baby’s mama is very good. If that can’t be had, donor milk is very beneficial and has helped many, many babies. (In my community, there are babies who have only ever had breastmilk despite their mothers having had mastectomies or severe blood loss that inhibited milk production). And if those things don’t work for a family, it’s a very good thing that formula is widely available, but it’s still the fourth choice. This is NOT a slam on formula feeding. This is not a criticism of people who can’t breastfeed or don’t feel comfortable taking donor milk. It’s a reality check. The “ideal” is not always possible in parenting, but we really ought to have a realistic knowledge of what the options are before we determine what the best fit is. It would be ideal for me to take my gregarious kid to social gatherings every day. With my chronic pain and fatigue issues, that’s not happening right now. But I’m not going to pretend that our routine is my “first choice”. My first preference would be to get up cheerfully in the morning, get Shiny off to school, go do something fun and educational with Miles with other children, come home, fix a nutritious lunch, do something productive and creative, and then make a fantastic dinner. But I haven’t gotten Shiny to the bus in four months because of an injury. Other people do it. Thank god they’re there to pick up the slack.
I don’t have milk anymore. When I had the embolism last year, I went on coumadin, and my levels jumped up and down on a daily basis because my special snowflake metabolism wouldn’t know consistent liver function from a sparkly unicorn. After shooting from 1.3 to 3.6 and ending up in the ER pissing blood for no good reason whatsoever, I asked to go on Xarelto… and put Miles on short shifts at the boob because the medicine does appear get into the milk, and being orally absorbed, may cause anticoagulation in a child. Not ideal in an active toddler. I dried up quickly. He still nurses now and then, despite saying he was done every day for six days, on the seventh, he lost his shit and begged for boob and I shrugged and let him nurse for 2 minutes and he was fine. Like magic. Even without milk.
So if I was being granular about it, I’d rank my own “preference/ideal” scale for infant feeding (<6 months) thusly:
Fresh mama’s milk at the breast
Fresh mama’s milk in a bottle or SNS (note that logistically this can be the single most draining approach to new baby parenting.)
Fridged mama’s milk
Frozen mama’s milk
Fresh donor milk (assuming a safe donor, which is an assumption that should not be made casually)
Fridged donor milk
Frozen donor milk
Pasteurized donor milk (personally, I react badly to cooked milk from cows. I can drink fresh raw milk or fridged raw milk or cooked-then-cultured milk without issues. It’s an enzyme thing. So feeding babies exclusively pasteurized milk, even human milk, isn’t high on my personal list of preferences, though it may have less risk of infection, it also does much less than fresh milk to help prevent infection and illness. But compared to formula, still gold.)
Cow-milk based formula (and here I’d rather have organic)
Cow-milk based whey hydrolysate formula (i.e. Good Start)
Cow-milk based full hydrolysate hypoallergenic formula (i.e. alimentum etc.)
When people say, “every drop is precious”… yes. Even if a mom only produces an ounce a day for her baby to drink, and the rest comes from something else, think about the magic that even that ounce can do. One drop to heal a small burn. 1/2 ounce to heal a couple of injuries and start healing on several more.
There’s a reason why it was worth it to me, when Shiny was still new, to weigh her, nurse her, weigh her, pump until I got to our “goal” and then feed that pumped milk immediately by bottle. The more of my relative-to-her normal stem cells that colonized in her gut, the better off she would be. I wish I’d bathed her in breastmilk, head to toe, though certainly I leaked enough in the early days that essentially, I did.
Entertainingly, scientists managed to create a rat forelimb using a collagen scaffold and seeded cells recently. It is remotely possible that one day we will have disembodied mammary glands that produce a reasonable facsimile of some of the biodynamic parts of breastmilk for feeding babies who can’t nurse. Add formula to the thing, have it convert that into something more alive.
And it will probably still be a distant second, third, or fourth to a mother’s own milk, to fresh milk from a donor. Because we still don’t fully understand the complexity that is human breastmilk. It’s possible we never quite will. Sometimes it seems that the more we learn, the more we learn that there is still to learn. What we know now is just one drop in the bucket.
My henna recipe, so I don’t have to keep looking for it.Continue reading
Because I’ve typed this out for two or three people in the past 24 hours plus shared it with someone in person, here’s what you need to know about some of the big causes of coughs.
1. Pertussis: ANY cough which goes on for more than 3-4 weeks is suspicious for pertussis. Moreso if it involves sudden horrible bouts of coughing in someone who otherwise feels fine, especially a couple weeks after a “cold”.
What I wrote in 2004 when I had pertussis: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/12/13/79497/-Whooping-cough-the-quot-new-quot-epidemic-that-nagging-cough
(This was a year where they claimed there were 25,000 cases reported, but we suspect there were between 10 and 150 actual cases for every one that got officially recognized by the health departments/CDRC.)
2. Asthma: Chronic low grade coughs not really related to illness (sometimes illness comes because the lungs are already compromised, instead of the other way around), especially in young people, are often related to asthma. There are lots of medications for asthma, but for non-life-threatening asthma that hangs around making people cough, the place to start is magnesium. Read more about it here:
Magnesium for asthma: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=432901887077 is a brief, informal summary. The short of it? Try magnesium if you have asthma, it won’t hurt and might get you off of asthma meds if it works.
3. If you have figured out the underlying issue causing a cough (for example, virus, bacteria, asthma, whatever) you’ll want to find ways of easing it.
My lowest tech approach starts here, with cocoa, honey, and cherry juice. All of which have actual research and scientific rationale, plus they help. They really help. http://jenrose.com/cocoa-water-and-cherry-juice-for-coughs/
Antibiotics can help if a cough is caused by a bacteria AND the problem is bacteria actively producing things which irritate the lungs. They cannot help viruses and while they will shorten the contagious period for pertussis, see the above article for why they’re not a cure-all.
Reflux can cause a chronic cough–treatments vary, hubby takes the generic of prilosec.
Robitussin/Mucinex both are supposed to help thin the secretions. Spicy foods, hot liquids and merely drinking a lot of water can do as well for most people. Skip the drug and go for the hot foods (Thai soups are a family favorite) and chicken soup for a similar effect. Take the mucinex if you can’t deal with soup or spice.
Plain ol’ mentholyptus cough drops can be a big help short term. They also help nausea for some people. Essential oil preparations may help.
For children, a barking cough at night is often croup. First step is to take your phone and your child outside into the cool night air, and do your best to cheer them up. If that doesn’t help their breathing quickly, or they start getting pale or turning blue, call 911 immediately. For kids prone to croup, talk to your doctor about keeping a supply of steroids, a nebulizer and if necessary, oxygen and an oximeter on hand. When Shiny was at her worst with croup, we went from going to the ER every month or two, to almost no ER visits at all, because with the steroids on hand I could just treat her when the telltale symptoms appeared. It never got bad enough to use the oxygen at home. The difference between a croup cough and pertussis cough is that croup cough starts with the barky whoopy cough and they don’t get much of a break–it is a short illness, albeit terrifying. With pertussis, the cough gets worse over the course of weeks, and a kid may appear “fine” in between turning blue coughing. The fever tends to be higher with a viral croup as well. Croup hits like a ton of bricks and is done, pertussis sits around throwing bricks at you and mocking you for three solid months. With croup, keeping a child calm and happy and giving them cool air to breath is the fastest way to stop the immediate problem, but it often gets bad again when you go inside, so it is worth treating medically for most parents (vs. sitting in the cold all night.) Steroids work within hours to bring the breathing under control, and a single d0se may work for 3 days, by which time the body has usually fought off the underlying problem. Epinephrine or albuterol will open the passages immediately, the two together take a bout of croup from potentially deadly to merely annoying within a very short time.
There are many, many causes of cough–I’m only covering the ones that seem to come up all the time for my circle of friends.
Rule of thumb is if the cough is productive and the chest is congested, work harder on thinning the secretions and reducing inflammation than on suppressing the cough. Suppressing the cough at night should be done cautiously, and with the least means possible. Cocoa is good because it does not eliminate the ability to cough, it just gives you more control, which means you can sleep longer.
If the cough is not productive, suppress all you want. Start with cocoa and cherry, consider basic cough drops, I generally skip dextromethorphan (the “DM” of Robitussin DM) but I do like Benzonatate, which has the side effect of actually relieving some of the chest pain. Opiates (codeine and others) can be effective but have a LOT of potential side effects (headache, constipation) that make them particularly not fun.
An experiment worth repeating….
In a jar:
1/4 cup chia seed
1/8 cup coconut sugar
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon “power tea” (Power Tea is a mixture of organic spices including: Ceylon Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper and Cayenne Pepper., very chai-ish, LOTS of anti-inflammatory action.)
1 tablespoon elderberry syrup
1 cup almond milk or coconut water or raw milk or coconut milk or whatever. I used a blend of almond milk and coconut water.
I actually tripled this recipe though had to short the milk a tiny bit to fit in a quart jar.
Stir well and let sit in the fridge for a couple hours.
It makes a spicy chocolate pudding that unlike refined-sugar-based desserts, actually leaves one feeling better. I’ve been fighting off the flu for a couple days, and I feel almost 100% after a bowl of this.
The cocoa, spices and elderberry all have good evidence for being medicinal. Also very tasty.
Basic recipe (the TL:DR version!)
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
Honey to taste (preferably raw!)
1 cup tart cherry juice (must be pure cherry, should be tart, use black cherry juice if you can’t find tart)
Water, seltzer or almond/rice/coconut milk to taste. NOT dairy milk (and I don’t ever recommend soy for anyone but that’s another post.)
Mix cocoa and honey into a paste.
Add a tiny bit of hot water and stir
Add a little more and stir.
Once it is thin enough to mix well, add the rest of whatever liquids you want. They can be hot liquids if you prefer. The cherry juice is not just for flavor, it helps pain.
Drink up to half right away. Sip the rest as needed.
For more discussion, look behind the cut.