Thursday, May 14, 2009


The latest topic on the Momversation site is about whether or not, as a society, we're overmedicating our kids.

As it's not like me to remain quiet, particularly about controversial topics, here's my (very newsy ;P ) response.

Like most hugely controversial topics, it's easiest to battle from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Either you're pro meds or you're pro natural living, and you likely have a long list of very real and rational reasons for your advocacy, but I'm one of those people (and I'd venture to guess there are probably a lot of us out there), who don't have protest-worthy feelings about this topic, who live their lives somewhere in the middle, and who are confused most of the time about what is best in what situation for what child in what instance.


In general, I guess I would have to say that we do not medicate our children.

We have a first aid kit in our home that has a still-sealed-for-6-years bottle of that poison control medicine you MUST have when you first realize you're about to bring a baby into what used to be a carefree and completely uncontrolled environment. We have hydrocortizone cream, bacitricine, all the anti-bacterial ointments, peroxide, calamine lotion, a bottle of children's tylenol, vicks, arnica gel (for growing pains), a humidifier, and naturally flavored cough drops. But that's about the extent of it.

I typically use a crushed tylenol paste on insect bites before I "resort" to hydrocortizone or bacitricine. I use 3 cold glasses of water, cold washcloths, and massages for headaches and have never given my children medicine for that (being a teen with tylenol-controlled migraines that I eventually learned to control with diet in my 30s was a long lesson I don't want my children to have to relearn).

I only "resort" to the children's tylenol when their fever reaches about 103 and it's the middle of the night and I won't be able to monitor it every second. Fevers are a body's sign that it's fighting off something else, and I do try to let their bodies learn to fight off as much as possible -- without endangering them, of course. And the same goes for coughs. We do not give our children cough suppressants, as I feel their coughing is their bodies' natural response and don't want to interfere with their ability to purge themselves of the creepy cruddies. I will mix up honey and lemon or give them an all-natural cough drop to help soothe them if their throat is becoming irritated, but we don't have benadryl or dimetapp or any of those things in our house - for any of us.

A year ago, though, Saia had to be put on an inhaler for about a month. We followed the doctor's instructions to the letter, but stopped the medication when she appeared to be getting better, and have not returned to it. So, it's not like we're anti-meds entirely, you know?

However, we don't get flu shots. We don't go to the emergency room. I've cleaned, disinfected, and patched up all of their wounds at home, and am a big fan of liquid adhesives. We do have our regular doctor's visits, though. And my kids are (a little reluctantly on my part, I will add) completely vaccinated.


We have incorporated more soy, grains, fruits and veggies into our diet since having children. Our kids don't eat any candy or completely empty sugars (like frosting or kool-aids). We've moved to low sugar jellies and apple juices (because "no sugar" actually means they've substituted it with something far worse). Our kids always have two glasses of milk for breakfast, a cup of orange juice, apple juice for lunch, and water for the rest of the day, including dinner. Which means there are no sweets at all after 4pm.  Well, except for when they earn their dessert, and even then, it's a fruit pop or a cup of frozen yorgurt.

But we're definitely not health nuts by any stretch of the imagination (hell, we don't even shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, for crissakes) and are surely doing a million things wrong still by those standards. But even these subtle changes in our diet have helped tremendously with their ability to concentrate and their ability to control their own behavior (they're 6, though, so that's all relative).


Our kids are asleep by 7:30 every night and up by 6am, but they're twins, so we've had them on a pretty strict sleeping schedule since they were about 4 months old. Our kids have never even had an ear infection, and besides breastfeeding them til they were 2, and I don't think I can emphasize this point enough -- I would attribute their excellent health more to the fact that they're still getting a full 12-14 hours a night's sleep than to almost anything else.  I mean, sleep is when you're body goes into self-help mode. It's reparative and restorative, and cannot be discounted when you're talking about making changes that affect behavior and concentration.  Not that they're angels, mind you, but God, can you imagine the terrors they'd be on 8 hours or less?????


So, I guess in response to the question posed, my answer is yes, I do feel that as a society we too hastily make the decision to incorporate medicine into our daily routines solely for convenience. At the same time, I am a huge advocate of science and discovery and, hell yes, especially convenience and having some sort of quality of life, and believe that we do have the brilliant minds in this world and the subsequent technology in this day and age to aid the efforts of caring for our loved ones precisely so that we don't have to resort to things like bloodletting anymore.

So there must be a way, a middle road by which we can balance allowing the amazing machines that are our bodies do the jobs they were created to do while at the same time incorporating those advancements that encourage, but don't obliterate our self-healing efforts. And I think, personally, that you spend the rest of your life negotiating that line every single hour of every single day. And, you know what, that's okay. Because as long as you're not allowing yourself to just be spoon-fed by one side or the other. As long as you're researching (even a little), and asking questions, and trying new things, and allowing yourself to be flexible enough to experience the benefits of both worlds when they make sense for you and your family, then I think you're probably right where you belong.

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