Natural Isn't Always Safer for Baby

Amy Keyishian

chamomileWhen caring for a brand-new baby, we’re so careful about checking every little thing we give them -- but sometimes, when someone mentions a traditional remedy, we can be tempted to try it. Hey, if it (allegedly) worked for the last thousand years, it can’t be all bad, right? Tylenol, bad ... chamomile, good!
A recent look at some traditional, all-natural supplements says what smart moms already know -- that we should look at anything we put in our kids with the same skeptical eye. Because as my mom used to say, “Poison ivy is natural, too.”
Is your favorite natural remedy as safe as you think?

I know that in my colic-induced desperation, I reached for the gripe water before I even asked my ped what it was. He gave it the thumbs-up, but said it probably works because it contains sugar, and oral sucrose (sugar water) works as a painkiller for infants -- something we knew from the NICU, where it was often given to Penelope before she got an IV.
Part of the reason I’m so willing to double-check any supplement is that I really trust my pediatrician, who has a healthy respect for natural and alternative medicine and even points me toward remedies I can get at the local Chinese herbal emporium. I know many moms aren’t as blessed, so I’m hoping there are good online resources to help us double-check the effectiveness and safety of teething, colic, and other remedies.
The study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, notes that moms who use herbal remedies themselves, moms who breastfeed longer, and moms from Latino backgrounds were more likely to use herbal remedies on their babies, and across the board 9 percent of babies get such supplements.
The study encouraged pediatricians to ask moms if they were using herbal remedies, to round out the full picture of the kid’s medical history. In other words, the herbal remedies aren’t necessarily bad, but they are powerful enough that they should be taken into account. And a parent could be overusing them (even inadvertently, by using a product that puts too much into one dose) or using a contaminated batch (since these remedies aren’t regulated the way medicines are).
I think this is good news for those of us who like herbal remedies. It means the medical community understands that these remedies are useful and powerful, and will make sure we understand how to use them properly. I just don’t want them to regulate them so much that I can’t get my hands on them when I need them!
Do you use natural remedies? Did you double-check before you started?

Image via This Lyre Lark/Flickr

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