Soothe and Relieve Baby Woes with Herbs

Healing recipes and products to nurture new babies and prevent colic, diaper rash and more.

| November/December 2006

When I was pregnant, I imagined that my baby would be perfect, with clear skin, shining eyes, glossy hair, smiling mouth and all anatomical parts in working order. Considering my then-recent internship in pediatrics, you would think I’d have known better. But no. Under heavy hormonal influence, I believed both of my babies were flawless. Secretly, I felt sorry for people with lesser versions of the newly minted human.

Hindsight and photo albums provide evidence that my offspring, though spectacular, possessed a few flaws. My son cried a lot, mostly at night. His skin broke out in rashes. Although his 10 strands of hair were quite lovely, he was a nearly bald babe. In contrast, my daughter’s capacity to sleep seemed almost unnatural. Her skin was clear, but her respiratory tract occasionally wasn’t.

As in most children, these run-of-the-mill quirks passed with time. When you’re in the thick of early parenthood, however, some days drag so slowly you may want to snap at the next person who tells you to enjoy these fleeting days of childhood. If you have a colicky baby, you will come to understand the expression, “The years are short, but the days are long.” Nights can seem endless.

At such times, simple home remedies can serve as life savers. If you’re a first-time parent, you might be learning to recognize which mild maladies are easily managed at home. But whenever you’re in doubt, whenever your child seems sick, call your physician. Infants, particularly those younger than 2 to 3 months, can become very ill very quickly. Body temperature isn’t a reliable sign in newborns. Regardless of what the thermometer says, seek immediate medical attention for a sick infant. Alarming signs include extreme irritability, lethargy, convulsions, difficulty breathing and dehydration. Signs of dehydration include dry lips, crying without tears, no urination for eight hours, sunken eyes and a sunken fontanel (the soft spot atop the head).

Now that I’ve terrified you, let me say that all the problems discussed below are minor and generally resolve on their own. Natural remedies can hasten the process.

Clear Up Cradle Cap

This charming name conjures a lacy bonnet and is as apt as calling dandruff fairy dust. The medical name, infantile seborrheic dermatitis, cuts through the euphemism. Cradle cap lacks the benefit of hair cover and is more extensive than dandruff, albeit more transitory. The greasy flakes grace not just the scalp but also the eyebrows and the skin of the forehead, behind the ears, and sometimes the armpits and groin. The exact cause of this inflammatory condition is unknown, but it has to do with an exuberant production of oil, which dries to form yellow, oily scales. The scales plug the oil glands, stimulating them to produce even more oil.

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