Babies and children
Homeopathy is ideal for babies and children as it is a gentle yet effective system of medicine. The highly diluted natural substances used in homeopathic medicines are safe to use in the very young, including newborn babies. By acting as a catalyst to their developing immune systems, homeopathy can effectively raise the immunity of your child(ren) to help them deal with illnesses or other problems as they grow. Plus, on the practical side, the mildly sweet pills, powders or liquids are easy to dispense, being more palatable than many conventional medicines and without the side effects or risk of long term dependency.
Moreover, homeopathy does not only help when your child is ill. It can also help children who are angry, unhappy, frightened or traumatized, who have difficulty accepting change or who suffer symptoms during their natural growth and development (breastfeeding difficulties, colic, teething, weaning and digestion problems, nursery bugs, school and separation anxiety, exam stress, growing pains, hormonal difficulties and more). Also, by seeing a professional homeopath regularly (once every few months), together we can often prevent life’s stresses from developing into more serious conditions.
What complaints can you safely treat at home?
Homeopathy works fast with children because they are usually full of vitality. Acute complaints such as fevers can in many cases be resolved rapidly at home using a well indicated remedy, often avoiding the need for conventional medicine (for more on how to use homeopathy at home please come to one of my workshops). If your child’s symptoms are severe or chronic (ongoing or recurrent), you should consult a practitioner (contact me). If your child is already undergoing homeopathic treatment, it is best to check with their homeopath before prescribing at home.
All the remedies mentioned here should be given in a 30c potency (unless otherwise stated), and should not be repeated more than three times in one day for an intense acute, or three times over three days for a less intense acute. If there is no change, or some change but still some symptoms persist, then try another indicated remedy and / or consult a practitioner.
Almost all breastfeeding problems can be addressed simply by ensuring a good latch and feeding position (see video illustration here), so it is important to consult a breastfeeding counselor if you are having problems. To find one, and for homeopathic suggestions for breastfeeding difficulties experienced by the mother, please see here. Sometimes however, after having got advice and done everything you can, your baby still just can’t latch on or suckle effectively, or cannot hold down, digest or absorb the milk. If that is the case, you may like to consider one of the following remedies (with thanks to Patricia Hatherly for this information):
- Calc carb babies tend to be hungry but lazy sucklers who become disgruntled if they have to work too hard for their milk. They prefer it if thier mothers have a bountiful supply and fast let-down. They tend to guzzle but then may regurgitate much of their milk because they overfill their stomachs. They also tend to get hot and sweaty during feeds, especially at the back of their heads.
- Calc phos babies, on the other hand, have the reputation of refusing their mothers milk, as they appear to have difficulty coordinating their breathing and suckling, and can appear blue around the mouth. Quite often they may have had hiccups in utero, and show an intolerance to cow’s milk, even in the mother’s diet.
- Silicea babies appear physically weak and tend to find holding their heads up to suckle so tiring that they fall asleep at the breast and have trouble pulling the nipple far enough into the mouth to get a good latch (see the video on the breastfeeding page for an example of a good latch). Instead they tend to ‘flutter suck’ which does not help them feed sufficiently, leaves them exhausted, sweaty, and failing to thrive. Often, increasing the protein and general nutrition of the mother’s diet can help, as can switching breasts often to encourage multiple let-downs.
Colic is a general term for when babies cry in pain for no obvious reason, but it is generally thought to be due to abdominal pain due to their developing digestive system resulting in wind, cramps and pain. It usually comes on a few days or even weeks after birth, and usually comes on in the early evening – or can last all day and night. Sometimes changes to the mother’s diet helps if she is breastfeeding, or it is often due to an intolerance of cow’s milk in formula. Cranial osteopathy is highly recommended for colic, as it can also result from the stresses of birth and adjusting to life outside the womb, and some people found infant pro-biotics to be useful. You may also like to consider the following homeopathic remedies:
- Magnesium phos can be useful when your baby doubles up in pain. They may occasionally have colic with few other symptoms. Their pains are better for warmth and for bending double; babies pull their legs up and are better for heat such as a warm hand or lying on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
- Chamomilla is often used when the abdomen and stomach are bloated and the pains are unbearable and severe. With diarrhea, the stools may be green and may smell of rotten eggs or look like chopped eggs and spinach (even though all they may have had is breast milk or formula). Babies needing this remedy scream with anger and are restless. They demand to be carried (fast rather than slowly) and cannot be comforted. They want things that are then rejected and drive their parents crazy.
- Colocynthis can help babies with a bloated abdomen and green diarrhoea. The pains are severe and come in waves. They are worse after eating (especially fruit) or drinking, if over heated and before a bowel movement. They are better after passing a stool and for pressure or rubbing. Babies draw their legs up and are better for having their tummies rubbed. They scream with pain and are better if you put them over your knees or shoulder to give pressure to their abdomen.
If you are breastfeeding, you may also need to consider your diet, as high sugar, including fruit sugar diets can make breast milk hard for some young babies to digest. For more on this please see Patricia Hatherly’s breastfeeding diet suggestions. See alsoMiranda Castro’s article on Colic for more remedy suggestions.
There are other reasons why babies might scream however:
The baby who screamed for a week, by Miranda Castro
One Wednesday morning Susan called to tell me that her nine-month-old baby, Alice, was teething and had been screaming day and night for two days … and two nights! She said “I am so frustrated…
Nappy rash, cuts and scrapes.
Calendula (Marigold) used as a cream is very healing and anti-septic, or it can be used in potency (6c for a week). If symptoms are severe or persistent, please seek professional homeopathic help as they may require constitutional treatment to deal with the underlying susceptibility.
Calendula is also excellent for cuts and scrapes, and healing skin wounds in general.
- Chamomilla is a commonly used remedy for when your child is inconsolable and angry with the pain of teething (usually when they are cutting the gum), with contrary demands (Pick me up! Put me down! Give me that! – then throws it back at you).
- Pulsatilla – miserable, crying, whining, clingy children who want cuddling and soothing and who are much better for being in fresh air.
Constitutional (individual) homeopathic treatment however will most likely help your child through teething most, and should be sought from a qualified practitioner.
Coughs and colds
Often, teething and coughs and colds go together. Even if you can’t see your child’s teeth yet, they are still using a lot of their energy to push them through the jaw bone, before they even reach the gums. This requires the body to produce a lot of lubrication in the form of saliva (drooling) and mucous (especially with the top teeth that have to come through the jaw bone below the nose and sinuses). In fact the whole facial and sinus area can become full and feel swollen just with the work of teething.
If the mucous is clear, then it is unlikely that your child has an infection or cold. But the increased mucous and saliva at this time can still make them cough, especially if they are sleeping on their back at night (for this reason always prop a coughing child up high on a pillow if they sleep on their back). Often however, this is also an opportune time for viruses and bacteria to strike, as your child’s vitality is already compromised just by the work of producing teeth, and the extra mucous, especially if they get tired and cold, is perfect for bacteria to grow on. This is when you see the mucous become thick, green and or yellowy which can make the cough worse, and the symptoms can move into their chest.
The best advice therefore whilst teething is to just keep your child warm, at home, well rested, and if you are breastfeeding, to nurse them as much as possible. This will not only provide them with anti-bodies to fight off any infection, but will also soothe the pain and helps them to sleep (if they bite you, take them off the breast, give them something else to chew on, and don’t offer the breast again until the urge to bite, like an itch, has passed). With this treatment, infections and colds can be often avoided or resolved as rapidly as possible.
If your child is getting repeated bouts of bad coughs or colds, constitutional (individual) treatment from a professional homeopath is required. If they have other symptoms as well, such as pain, a fever, a sore throat or earache, then consider one of the remedies listed below or under the teething section above.
Nursing ourselves and our families through a fever can be an anxious time for many of us. The first thing most people do is reach for some pills (antipyretics) such as paracetamol, asparin, tylenol or ibuprofin thinking that they may prevent febrile convulsions following a high temperature. This is now widely recognized however, including by the medical establishment, as a harmful misconception. Trying to bring down a temperature artificially is not generally a safe option as there are associations between antipyretic use and risk of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, eczema and autism (for more on fever with please see here).
I don’t even necessarily recommend homeopathy for fevers, but it can be helpful if other symptoms are also present. The most commonly used remedies for children’s fevers are the ‘ABC’ of homeopathy. They can even be bought as a combination remedy with all three together in one pill, but I don’t recommend using it as it’s much better to observe your child’s symptoms and select the best single remedy for them. In this way you can learn a lot more about your child and about homeopathy that will help you both in the future.
- Aconite fevers come on very fast, especially after being out in cold winds, and the child wakes in the night (often around midnight) with intense fear, anxiety and restlessness.
- Belladonna is used where the fever comes on suddenly and they are burning hot but dry with a flushed red face (or other painful part – eg ears or throat), with glassy spaced out eyes with dilated pupils, and they may be delirious, having hallucinations or nightmares.
- Chamomilla is also used for burning fevers with shivering, where the child is angry with any pain or discomfort, and contrary in it’s demands – rejecting what it has only just requested and driving carers mad.
Stomach bugs can affect the whole family, so bear these remedies in mind for both children and adults:
- Nux vomica is often used for bad tempered, impatient children (or adults) with vomiting, especially after rich foods.
- Arsenicum is a highly used remedy for vomiting and diarrhea, perhaps with chills and a fever (hot on the inside, cold on the outside), restlessness, anxiety and fastidious fussiness – nothing is right and they may demand things to be ‘just so’.
Bumps and bruises
- Arnica is the most widely used homeopathic remedy because of its excellent action of reducing bruises and bumps quickly and for shock or fright. Typically people needing this remedy will say things like “don’t touch me, I’m fine” after a shock or accident, when clearly they aren’t.
Sprains and strains
- Ruta is the number one remedy for sprained ankles. While Arnica works on the soft muscle tissues of the body, ruta works on the tendons.
Sore throats and earache
Both of these can be very distressing for children and their families, especially when they happen again and again. However usually the cause is viral rather than bacterial, so repeated courses of anti-biotics are likely to do more harm than good. Grommets used for ear infections are also not without problems and do not help to treat the underlying cause of the infections. In most cases, constitutional (individual) treatment from a qualified homeopath can resolve these issues. Studies have found homeopathy to be superior to conventional treatment and placebo for ear infections(http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/304/19/2161.abstract ; and BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007;7: 7).
Another study concludes that homeopathy should be the first line treatment for acute otitis media in children. This study compared treatment by a homeopath with conventional treatment for acute ear infections in children. Out of 103 children in the homeopathy group only 5 needed antibiotics. The children receiving homeopathy had faster pain relief during the initial infection and fewer ear infections over the following year. The results found that median duration of pain during acute otitis media (middle ear infection) was 2 days in the homeopathy group; 3 days in conventional care group. 70.7% of the homeopathy group had no recurrence over the following year, compared with 56.5% of conventional care group. Friese K-H, et al. Homeopathic treatment of otitis media in children: comparisons with conventional. therapy. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther, 1997; 35: 296-301
You may like to consider trying one of the following remedies if it seems to fit your child’s symptoms. If your child also has a fever, then do also consider the fever remedies and advice given above. Remedies to consider include:
- Apis is used for burning, stinging pains with earache or sore throat; worse for heat and better for cold (drinks, compresses, ice packs). Doesn’t want to be touched or covered. Child is weepy, restless and thirstless.
- Calcarea carbonica is often used for infections with swollen glands in teething infants, and throbbing earache with noises in the ear. The child is sweaty, especially the head and back of the neck, especially at night. Everything smells sour (sweat, stools, breath).
- Pulsatilla is used for when complaints may come on after getting wet, when teething, or with emotional stress (especially during any separation from mother, including weaning). Earache with a feeling of pressure from catarrh pressing on eardrum, with hearing loss and noises in ear. The external ear is red. There may be a thick yellow discharge. Also the throat can be dry, irritated and raw, as if there were dust in it. Symptoms are worse for heat and better for fresh air. The child is thirstless, pathetic, clingy, wants to be carried and cuddled. Weeps with the pains and needs lots of reassurance.
For more information see Miranda Castro’s article on homeopathy for earaches and sorethroats.
Here’s an article about how homeopathy helped one aggressive boy threatened with expulsion from school. Excerpt: “The school was aware of Somi’s homeopathic treatment and also saw a huge improvement in his behaviour. During this period there was just one further physical outburst that occurred at school, and both the school and his mother were amazed at what followed. For the first time, Somi seemed shocked at what he had done and felt sorry for the child he had attacked. He spent the night crying in his bedroom and on his own initiative apologised to the boy the next day – something he had never done before! Instead of being expelled, the school agreed on a week-long suspension and watched his behaviour continue to improve.
Four months down the track Somi was a different boy. He no longer had a problem with explosive rage and violence. A happy relationship had developed with his mother and favourable reports were arriving home from school. … Instead of being pushed from school to school and labelled a ‘problem child’, Somi was well on the way to enjoying a normal, happy childhood.”
Healthy children bounce back from acute illnesses and may even experience a growth spurt or developmental leap immediately afterwards. Homeopaths specialise in boosting your child’s natural immunity. We work towards a different health model from the conventional one. Every child is special and has their own physical and emotional way of dealing with disease. This knowledge requires individual treatment tailored to your child’s needs, which homeopathy provides.
Homeopaths acknowledge that there is much anecdotal and scientific evidence to support the arguments presented for and against vaccination. It’s not our job to tell you whether or not you should vaccinate yourself or your family, but it is our job to make sure you have the information needed to make rational, informed decisions on the short and long-term implications of vaccinations. Whatever your stance on vaccinations is, homeopathic treatment can improve natural immunity, lessen the chance of adverse effects from vaccination, and relieve symptoms of vaccine damage – including Autism Spectrum Disorders (for more about vaccines and homeopathy for ASD’s please see here).
More serious complaints
Complaints that need a proper course of treatment with a qualified homeopath include skin conditions, including eczema and cradle cap, recurrent vomiting, ongoing sleep problems, night terrors, digestive disorders, recurrent infections (including of the throat, ear and urinary tract), asthma, menstrual problems and acne in teenagers, as well as behavioral problems such ADHD, temper tantrums, aggression, severe shyness or anxiety and autism spectrum disorders. In children with such complaints, a full case history is needed for a trained homeopath to select an individual course of treatment for your child.
Homeopaths can also help children on long-term medication. For example, there is no doubt that asthma in on the increase – a cough with wheezing that will not go away may be diagnosed as asthma and before you realise it, your child is put on long term medication and will have to suffer the side effects. With the support of your GP however, homeopaths can help your child to reduce or come off their conventional medication, or in some cases can help your child to avoid the need for it altogether.
Treating Childhood Diseases with Homeopathy, by Miranda Castro
Your child has just been diagnosed as having Chicken Pox or even German Measles or Mumps (they are still around in spite of vaccinations) and your doctor has prescribed Tylenol (acetaminophen) for the fever. This may be their first real illness apart from the odd minor cough or cold and you don’t know how you are going to cope. Illness can be scary, especially for new parents…
Miranda’s books can be found on Amazon here, and are highly recommended, although you may have to buy an old edition second hand as her latest prints are sold out last I looked! (The good news is they are much cheaper this way).