Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Preventing Home Poisonings

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

In an earlier post I blogged about carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  (Carbon Monoxide – Lost Wanderer)   But, there are obviously many other ways you can poison yourself: 

According to the CDC, poisonings killed 32,691 people in the United States in 2005.  About 72% of these were unintentional (23,618), 10% undetermined (3,240), 18% suicides (5,744), and 0.3% homicides (89).  To understand where the bulk of this risk is coming from it’s important to know that 95% of the unintentional poisoning related deaths were caused by drugs.  The most common drugs involved, in descending order, were opioid pain medications, cocaine, and heroin.  Benzodiazepines, sedatives, hypnotics, and antidepressants were also commonly involved.  (Poisoning in the United States: Fact Sheet – CDC)   

If we look at poisonings of children under age 6, in 2001, drugs accounted for 42% of poisonings, and non-drugs accounted for 58% of the total.  90% of these events occurred at home.  (Pediatric Poisoning by John P. Lamb)

Drug poisonings in this age group involved analgesics (19%), topicals (19%), cold/cough (15%), vitamins (10%), antimicrobials (8%), GI preps (9%), hormones (7%), antihistamines (7%), minerals/Lytes (3%), and antidepressants (3%).  Among analgesics the percentages were ibuprofen (40%), acetaminophen (31%), others (11%), combination (10%), aspirin (5%), and opiates (3%).  

Non-drug poisonings in children under 6 involved cosmetics (26%), cleaners (22%), foreign bodies (15%), plants (13%), pens/inks (6%), pesticides (5%), hydrocarbons (4%), foods (3%), rodenticides (3%), and alcohols (3%).  The pesticides involved were insecticides (51%), rodenticides (22%), repellents (14%), herbicides (10%), fungicides (2%), and fumigants (1%).  Insecticide exposures in 2002 were from the following sources: Pyrethrin (37%), organophosphate (22%), others (16%), borates (8%), unknown (8%), Carbamate (6%), combinations (5%), Chlorinated HC (3%), Arsenic (1%), and Metaldehyde (0%).  Herbicide exposure in 2002 was 14,021, and was from the following sources: other (43%), Glyphosate (32%), Chlorophenoxy (15%).  

The effects of pesticide exposure broke down in the following way: no effect 21,844 (55%), minor effect 14,563 (37%), moderate effect 2,661 (7%), major effect 274 (0.7%), death 18 (0.05%). 

The routes of exposure were oral (76%), dermal (8%), inhalation (6%), ocular (5%), bite/sting (4%), and other (1%). 

The common characteristics across poisoning situations for children were availability, attractiveness, and taste.  This isn’t surprising since 47% of households with children under 5 living in them had pesticides stored in an unlocked cabinet less than 4 feet high.  75% of households without children under 5 also had pesticides stored unsafely, which might not seem to be much of a problem, except for the fact that 13% of pesticide poisonings occurred in a home other than the child’s own. 

Hazardous substances fall into a number of categories: Reactive ones are unstable and produce dangerous byproducts.  Corrosives are acidic or alkaline, and will eat away at substances.  Ignitables can catch fire.  Toxic substances are by definition poisons.

In your garage or shed you might have antifreeze (which tastes sweet to dogs and cats), other automotive fluids, cleaning fluids, hand cleaner, car soaps, rust remover, lamp oil, polish and wax, fertilizer, weed killer, gasoline and kerosene, lighter fluid, lime or lye, mothballs, paint, paint thinner and stripper (paint strippers are among the most dangerous products in your home), pesticides (such as rat and other rodent poisons), insecticides (such as roach sprays and ant baits), insect repellents,  turpentine, pool chemicals, charcoal lighter, windshield washer fluid, and anti-freeze .  

In your kitchen you might have ammonia, bug sprays and traps, floor wax, cleansers (including floor, carpet, oven cleaner, and window), disinfectants, drain openers, medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter), glues, polish (for furniture, metals or glass), soaps and detergents.  (Note: You should be very careful about mixing cleaning products.  For instance, if you mix bleach with toilet bowl cleaners (or ammonia) this combination will form very deadly chlorine gas.)

In your bedroom you might have cosmetics, perfumes, colognes, cough medicine, prescription drugs, and sleeping aids. 

In your bathroom you might have aftershave lotion, baby oil, toothpaste, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, bath oil, cleansers (including floor, window, toilet bowl, and tub/tile cleaners), disinfectants, deodorizers and sanitizers, products used to kill mold or mildew, drain openers, hair removers, hair colors and perm solutions, nail products, personal hygiene products, mouthwash, ointments, flea and tick shampoos, powders and dips for pets, and shampoo. 

In your laundry room you might have laundry detergents, softeners, bleach, cleaning fluids, soaps, stain removers, and spray starch.

One special case is that of your art supplies.  Lead glazes can cause lead poisoning.  Rubber cements can cause nerve damage.  Acrylic paints can contain formaldehyde.  Oil paints, or anything that requires solvents, can be toxic.  Darkroom chemicals can be hazardous.  Dust from sanding can trigger allergic reactions.  Copper salt dust can be toxic.  Turpentine can strip oil off skin, making it vulnerable.  “Zinc shakes” and “bronze fever” have occurred. 

Often the dose does make the poison, so be aware of the extent of your exposure and try to space it out.  Temperature can also make a difference, since in warm temperatures liquids evaporate more quickly.   (Using Art Materials Safely) (Art and Hobby Materials) (Health Hazards Manual for Artists by Michael McCann) 

For children you should make sure everything is labeled non-toxic.   Safe materials for children include crayons, colored pencils, water colors, finger paints, many modeling materials, some inks, and some glues.  (ACTS : Arts, Crafts & Theatre Safety) (Kids Art)       

Other hazards you might have in your home are alcoholic beverages, vitamins, supplements, diet pills, hair sprays, colognes, nail polish and remover, furniture polish, cigarettes, nicotine patches, folk remedies and herbal preparations, ammunition, and batteries (including button cell batteries like those in watches). 

One basic way of minimizing the danger from hazardous substances, etc. is by limiting your use of them and educating yourself about safer alternatives.  Most household cleaners can be replaced by five things: plain soap, borax, baking soda, vinegar, and ammonia.  Instead of cough medicine you can mix honey and lemon juice with hot water.  Instead of iodine you can use soap and water.  (Home Safe Home by Deborah Lynn Dadd, Nontoxic, Natural & Earthwise by Deborah Lynn Dadd, and Green SealThe general rule is to use the least powerful chemical necessary to do the job.  The warnings run from “DANGER, DANGER – POISON,” to “WARNING,” to “CAUTION.”  Get the product designed to address your specific problem, and, unless you are an expert, only buy pesticides labeled for general use. 

For the dangerous things that you do decide to keep in your house (the following advice includes medicines) store all hazardous substances separately in a locked and high cabinet protected from heat and cold.  Return a container to the cabinet immediately after removing the amount needed.  (You need to consider how best to secure your cosmetics, given the number of poisonings they cause.)  For a second layer of defense put child safety caps on all of the containers you can.  But don’t rely on packaging to protect your kids, since child-resistant packaging does not mean childproof packaging. Keep children and pets away from a work area, and remove toys.  Obviously, a woman who is pregnant should stay away when hazardous chemicals are being used.   

Always keep dangerous substances in their original containers, since their labels provide valuable information in the event of an accident, and substituting other containers invites deadly confusion. (You should apply transparent tape over the labels to keep them legible.)  You should read these labels (and any relevant safety data sheets that are available) and know the details about what you have. (1)  Follow their advice regarding the recommended safety precautions and product restrictions, and contact the manufacturer if you have any questions.  For example, use neoprene gloves, eye goggles, long sleeves, long pants, socks, shoes, proper cross-ventilation, and masks if the label says to. 

Make sure your equipment is in good working condition.  Open containers carefully with a rag around the cap.  Proper ventilation requires by definition a large turnover of air.  Turn on a fan (unless a substance is highly flammable) and open several windows when using chemical products such as household cleaners.  Don’t use power tools with flammable materials.  Mix insect sprays outdoors away from areas used by people and pets, and stay upwind.  Basements can allow fumes to collect near the floor.  Don’t spray when it’s windy.  Follow the waiting times before allowing anyone into the area treated.  You should never keep gasoline in your home, but if you do use a specifically designed container for gasoline.  Some paint strippers will produce toxic gas if used in direct sunlight.  Only use the amount of product recommended for the application, clean up any spills as soon as they happen, and wash off thoroughly after any contact with a hazardous substance.  Don’t apply a pesticide more often than recommended.  Be sure you know how close to harvest you can apply a product.  If you are working with poisons don’t wear leather belts or shoes.  Don’t smoke, drink, or eat when handling these materials.  Re-close containers if interrupted (e.g. phone call or doorbell) during an application or dosing.  Remember that most poisonings happen when a product is in use.  Often something is going on which distracts people, such as someone is sick, there has been a death in the family, or it is mealtime. 

Wash all sprayed fruits and vegetables.  One method is to put them in vinegar and water for a few minutes, and rinse again with water.  You should wash your clothes three times separately after exposure to strong pesticides.  Triple rinse tools, equipment, or empty containers.  Puncture empty containers so they can’t be reused, and dispose of them according to directions. 

Only buy and mix what you need, then use it up.  In other words, don’t buy in bulk.  If you store hazardous substances for long periods of time they can react with their containers, which can then leak.  Another problem is that their labels can become worn. 

You should properly dispose of expired materials.  Do not burn them.  Also, don’t  burn or reuse their containers.  Don’t burn plywood or lumber that has been treated with preservatives, the resulting fumes can be thick with heavy metals. 

Your local public health or hazardous-waste organization is often the best place to find information about how to dispose of a product.  Some things such are motor oil, or batteries, can be recycled.  Hazardous waste often needs to be put into special landfills. 

You need to know the names of your medications and supplements, both prescription and over-the-counter.  When you take or give medicine put your glasses on, turn on the lights, and read the label every time.  Always check for the proper dose, and be sure you are giving the right medication to the right person.  Never take another person’s medicine.  Take medicine at the correct time of day, and keep track of when you took it by writing it down if necessary.  Know and don’t confuse the abbreviations for tablespoon (Tbsp) and teaspoon (tsp).   Avoid making conversions.  If the label says two teaspoons, and you’re using a dosing cup with ounces only, get another measuring device.  If the medicine came with a measuring device use only that device.  Know how much medication you have, so you can tell if any is missing by regularly doing a count, and keeping a line marked on bottles.  

Never guess on the amount of medicine that should be given to someone.  For example, kids aren’t just small adults; half an adult amount may be more than your child needs, or not enough to help.  Always follow the age limit recommendations.  Twice the dose obviously isn’t appropriate just because your child seems twice as sick as last time. 

It can be confusing when there are multiple caregivers giving medications to someone.  Be sure to communicate to each other every dose you give, and also write down each dose given in a log.

Medications can interact with each other.  If someone is already taking one medicine, check with your doctor before adding any other meds to be sure they are compatible.  If multiple doctors are prescribing a variety of medications, be sure to communicate with each doctor and your pharmacist so they can check for drug interactions.  Some medicines will interact with certain foods, some need to be taken with food, some without. 

Never leave vitamin bottles, aspirin bottles, or other medications on kitchen tables, countertops, bedside tables, or dresser tops.  Children will imitate you, so ideally take your medicines where children can’t watch, and never call medicine candy.  Teach children to ask before eating or drinking anything.  Talk about prescription drugs, and stress that they are only safe for the person who receives the prescription from the doctor.  (For advice on how to talk to your child/teen go to  Something as seemingly harmless as pain-relieving skin creams will often contain benzocaine, dibucaine or lidocaine.  A child who swallows just a small amount of these can have seizures and might even die.

Throw away expired medications in the garbage.  Don’t put them down the sink or toilet because they can contaminate the water supply.  For privacy sake remove the labels.  Keep children and pets away from the garbage.  Crush old pills and mix them with sand, coffee grounds, or kitty litter.  Place them inside a container such as an empty yogurt or margarine tub and tape it shut.  Your health department might know of a place to take old medicines.  (Poison Prevention Tips)

At Christmas time don’t put presents like perfumes and after-shaves under the tree, but put them out of the reach of children.  Clean up immediately after parties, so alcohol or cigarettes won’t be a temptation for children.  

Mothballs should be hung in containers. If they are used in closets or chests, they should be put out of children’s reach.  Bait traps should be tamper-resistant.  Store bottles of alcohol in a locked cabinet far from kids’ reach, and remember that food extracts, such as vanilla and almond, may contain alcohol that can be harmful to kids. 

When you have party guests designate a locked room where relatives and guests can place their coats and purses that may contain medications.  Ingesting as few as six cigarette butts can send a child to the hospital, so you should empty ash trays often.  Remove and empty partially filled glasses of alcoholic beverages.  Be aware of any legal or illegal drugs that guests may bring into your home. Do not let guests leave drugs where children can find them, for example, in a pillbox, purse, backpack, or coat pocket.  Be aware of all medications in your home (and in the homes of your relatives if your kids spend time there).

If relatives come to stay through the holidays, be sure their medications are put away.  Lock medicines in a suitcase or, if in a purse, place it out of reach.  Buy plastic plants with fake berries, not the real ones.

You should have the national poison hotline by each phone, the number is 1-800-222-1222.    They will want to know the condition, weight, and age of the person.  Have they been sick, and if so, what medications have they been on?  Do they have any allergies?  Also, have a poison first-aid chart at hand.  (Poison First Aid) (Poison First Aid) (Emergency First-Aid Chart

Here is some general advice for specific situations:  Has the person collapsed or stopped breathing? Call 911 or your local emergency number right away.  Do you have poison in the eyes?  Then rinse your eyes with warm running water for 15 to 20 minutes.  What about poison on your skin?  You should take off any clothing that the poison touched, and rinse your skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.  Have you Inhaled poison?  You should get to fresh air right away.  Did you swallow the wrong medicine or too much medicine?  Then don’t take anything by mouth.  Have you swallowed something that’s not food or medicine?  You should then drink a small amount of milk or water.  You should also keep a supply of ipecac syrup on hand (to induce vomiting if necessary). 


Identify all the plants in your home and yard by taking them into a nursery, greenhouse, or florist.  Label the pots, and make a map of the yard.  Don’t assume a plant is safe because birds or wildlife eat it.  Remember that even a safe plant can be a choking hazard.  You can try to remove material from a child’s mouth with a damp washcloth wrapped around your finger.  Store seeds, bulbs, and plant food out of the reach of children.  Seeds and bulbs might be coated with fungicides and insecticides. (Poisoncenter Brochure)

Teach children to not eat wild plants or mushrooms.  It’s easy to confuse safe and unsafe ones.  Unless you are an expert, you cannot tell poisonous mushrooms from safe mushrooms.  Mushrooms that are called “death caps” (Amanita phalloides, Amanita verna) grow easily in yards and parks. Eating even a few bites can cause fatal liver damage. Mushrooms will often sprout up after a rain.  Inspect your yard and remove them.  If you do decide to go mushroom hunting get a good guide and read up. (Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora, The Mushroom Hunter’s Field Guide by Alexander Smith, and Mushrooms of North America by Orson K. Miller)   You should note the environment, shape, color, odor, terrain, whether it is growing in a cluster or alone.  Since many mushrooms are very similar, all of the characteristics must match for you to know what you have.  Check for a fetid odor, signs of decomposition, or worm infestation.  Try only a few at first, and set a few aside in case you are poisoned. 

Dividing plants into safe and unsafe ones is a crude method of categorizing them.  So, the list below is only a very rough guide, and, of course, it is far from complete.  Ideally you should identify each plant you are likely to be exposed to by its scientific name, and know the degree and nature of its toxicity. 

Safe Plants:

Houseplants: African Violet, Air Fern, Aluminum Plant, Asparagus Fern, Baby Tears, Beauty Bush, Begonia, Common Blood leaf, Boston Fern, Bridal Veil, Bromeliad, Christmas Cactus, Coleus Blumei, False Aralia, Gloxinia, Hoya, Hibiscus, Inch Plant, Jade, Kalanchoe, Lipstick Plant, Norfolk Pine, Palm – Big Leaf, Peperomia, Piggyback Plant, Poinsettias are not that harmful, Prayer Plant, Snake Plant, Spider Plant, Spider Aralia, Swedish Ivy, Umbrella Plant, Wandering Jew, Yucca, Zebra Plant, and Zinnia.  Garden: Aster, Baby’s Breath, Coral Bell, Crocus - Spring, Dahlia, Fuschia, Golden Sedum, Impatiens, Lily (Easter, Tiger), Nasturtium, Petunia, and Snapdragon.  Field Plants: Dandelion.  Trees:  Mountain Ash and Mulberry.  Ornamentals: Autumn Olive, Forsythia, Lilac, and Pussywillow. Miscellaneous: Christmas tree preservatives are usually not toxic, but check the label, and Nandia berries.

Unsafe Plants (It’s probably best to simply not have these in the house.):

Houseplants:  Amaryllis, Bird of Paradise, Burro Tail, Caladium, Crown of Thorns, Dumbcane, Elephant’s Ear, Gardenia, Jerusalem Cherry, Mother In Law’s Tongue, Philodendron, Pothos, and Purple Passion.  Garden Plants:  Aconite, Bleeding Heart, Bloodroot, Christmas Rose, Crocus - Autumn, Daffodil, Daisy, Delphinium, Dutchman’s Breeches, Eucalyptus, Four O’clock, Foxglove, Gladiola, Heather, Hellebore, Hyacinth, Iris, Jimsonweed, Jonquil, Larkspur, Lily of the Valley, Lobelia, Lupine, Monk’s Hood, Morning glory, Narcissus, Nicotiana, Star of Bethlehem, Sweet Pea, and Wolfsbane.  Field Plants: Angel’s Trumpet, Baneberry, Bittersweet, Buttercup, Dogbane, Goldenrod, Nightshade, English Ivy, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Pokeweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, Snow on the Mountain, Spurge, and Virginia Creeper.  Trees: Black Locust, Buckeye, Chinaberry Tree, Elderberry, Dogwood, Jatropha, Oak, and Wild Black Cherry.  Ornamentals: Atropa Belladonna, Azalea, Carolina Jessamine, Cotoneaster, Daphne, Golden Chain, Heath Family, Holly, Hydrangea, Jessamine, Juniper, Lantana, Mistletoe, Mountain Laurel, Oleander, Privet, Rhododendron, Wisteria, and Yew.  Woods: Baneberry, Death Camas, Jack in the Pulpit, and May Apple.  Swamps: Cowbane, False Parsley, Hemlock, and Skunk Cabbage.  Miscellaneous: Boxwood, Castor Bean, Java Bean, Jequirity Bean, Potato (green parts), Rosary Pea, and Rhubarb (leaf blades).  (Know Your Plants – Connecticut Poison Control Center)

(1)  Having said this, you can’t fully trust the instructions, since researchers have found they can be wrong.  They have also found that local poison control centers will often be wrong, so the advice is to call the regional and national ones.

(Poison Prevention Tips)(Poison Prevention Brochures)(Poison Prevention Checklist)(Pesticide Poison Prevention Checklist) (HOUSEHOLD GUIDE TO POISON CONTROL) (Household Safety: Preventing Poisoning) (Preventing Poisoning: 10 Things You Need to Know)(Tips to Prevent Poisonings - CDC) (Poisoning in the United States: Fact Sheet) (Holiday Safety Tips) (Preventing Poisoning) (Preventing Poisoning: Safety Tips for You, Your Family, and Friends) (Poison (Poison (Home Safety Council Index) (Home Safety Council – Bathroom Poison Safety)  (Kitchen Poison Safety- Home Safety Council) (Poison Prevention Tips – Home Safety Council) (Outdoor Poisonings and Chemicals – Home Safety Council) (Pediatric Poisoning by John P. Lamb) (Poisoning in the United States: Fact Sheet - CDC)  



Orgasmic Childbirth

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I somehow overlooked this topic in my previous posts about pregnancy.  (Pregnancy and Child Related Information and Child Rearing Information, etc.)  It seems that, instead of experiencing childbirth as painful, some women have a rather good time at it.  Orgasmic Birth and Bornfree are two sites which discuss this. 

From my very brief skimming of this topic, there is no surefire formula for how to achieve it, and there are only general hand waving explanations of it.  The best people seem to be able to offer is to not be burdened by negative expectations, and to be totally relaxed about the whole thing.  Of course, this sounds easier said than done.

Child Rearing Information, etc.

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Following up on my earlier post, Pregnancy & Child Related Information, here are a few additional bits of information, along with many citations you can follow up if you wish:

A friend pointed out the book, The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears, in which they advocate attachment parenting. (See also: Attachment parenting – Wikipedia)  In addition to what I posted earlier, they emphasize bonding with the baby early, with no separation from the mother unless it is absolutely necessary, and reading and responding to the baby’s cues.  They argue a baby isn’t spoiled by this, and actually will cling more later if their needs aren’t met in this way. 

From Wikipedia,  attachment parenting tends to be associated with such things as natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, home schooling, co-sleeping, breastfeeding,  babywearing,  unschooling, the anti-circumcision movement, natural health, cooperative movements, naturalism, organic foods, and local foods. 

(See also: Alternative education – Wikipedia, School-at-home – Wikipedia, Autodidactism – Wikipedia, Radical Unschooling – Wikipedia, The Natural Child Project, Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative – Wikipedia, Baby-led Weaning – Wikipedia, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg, Orthomolecular medicine – Wikipedia, Health Freedom Movement – Wikipedia, Evidence-based medicine – Wikipedia, and Wild farming – Wikipedia)

Pregnancy & Child Related Information

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I’ve previously blogged about how geophagy (eating clay) has been practiced for thousands of years to prevent morning sickness.  Pregnant women become hyper-sensitive to environmental toxins, and morning sickness helps protect the developing fetus from deformities.  It now turns out that all that misery could pay off for yet another reason, because women who have a greater degree of morning sickness might have more intelligent babies.  (Morning Sickness may be Sign of a Bright Baby)  The researchers involved theorize that the hormones which cause it might also protect a baby’s brain.  

S. Boyde Eaton, et al., have written (Dietary Intake of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids during the Paleolithic, p. 20) that our brains are somewhat smaller than our Paleolithic ancestor’s brains, and that one reason might be our modern dietary deficiency in DHA omega-3 fats.  Along with DHA, it seems that, for rats, enriching the environment of the mother long before she becomes pregnant can affect the learning of her offspring.  Researchers theorize that the mother’s learning affects the nature of the hormones she will release during her later pregnancies.  This will affect epigenetic chemical markers on her offspring’s genes, which will in turn affect these genes’ expression during brain development, finally causing changes in the brains of the pups.  (Can Experiences be Passed on to Offspring? and A Mother’s Experience can Alter her Offspring’s Memory Performance)  Meanwhile, stress during pregnancy very likely harms a baby’s brain, and might increase the risk of schizophrenia.  Researchers think the mechanism is likely related to the stress hormone cortisol crossing the placenta.  (Stress Harms Baby’s Brain While in Womb)  Another possible factor that could increase the risk of schizophrenia is having the flue during pregnancy. (Flue During Pregnancy may Increase Risk of Schizophrenia in Certain Offspring

There are some indications that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for preeclampsia.  (Vitamin D for the Prevention of Preeclampsia?  A Hypothesis.)  This is a condition that occurs in pregnancy, which causes the patient to develop hypertension, along with protein in their urine.  It’s widespread, affecting about 10% of pregnancies, and is currently only treatable through termination.  It is most common in first pregnancies, and some researchers think that it’s the result of the mother’s immune system inappropriately attacking fetal cells.  The theory is that they are being triggered by the foreign antigens that were introduced by the father.  So, besides vitamin D supplementation, another recommendation is to delay pregnancy for a while after beginning sexual relations, on the theory that this allows the mother’s immune system to become acquainted with the father’s sperm’s antigens.  (Introduction and Overview of Evolutionary Medicine (p.24) by Wenda R. Trevathan, et al.) 

Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with chronic pain and muscle weakness, which suggests this might be a possible factor in a painful difficult birth. (Lack of Vitamin D Linked to Pain, and Recent Developments in Vitamin D Deficiency and Muscle Weakness Among Elderly People)  Stephan Guyenet, of Whole Health Source, reports that pelvic inlet depth index was larger in our hunter-gatherer ancestors (97.7% versus 92.1% today), and that this might be still another reason why childbirth is difficult for modern people.  (Longevity & Health in Ancient Paleolithic vs. Neolithic peoples)  Because vitamin K2 deficiency narrows the bone structure of the face, it seems natural to speculate that this could also be part of the reason for our lower pelvic inlet depth index today. 

Difficult births lead to caesareans, and, using MRIs, researchers have been able to show that women who have had c-sections had lower response levels to their baby’s cries.  This might indicate weaker bonding with their infants.  Researchers suggested that this possibly occurred because these women missed out on the hormonal priming from oxytosin that takes place during a vaginal delivery.  (C-sections may Weaken Bonding with Baby)  

Home birthing is as safe as in the hospital.  Two studies, one from the Netherlands and the other from Canada, found no evidence of greater death rates among home births, for low risk pregnancies, in either the mothers or their babies.  In the Netherlands study nearly 1/3 of those who started at home did end up being transferred to the hospital, but the risk was no greater than those mothers who had started out in the hospital.  Researchers said that a good midwife was the key. (Home Births “as Safe as Hospital,” and Home Birth with Midwife as Safe as Hospital Birth, Study) (See also: The Natural Family Site, and Why Have Natural Childbirth?) 

Also, as I previously blogged, some people claim that placenta eating can prevent postpartum depression.  (Placenta

The natural childrearing people argue against circumcision on a number of grounds, including that they believe there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for it.  (Put Down that Knife!  11 Reasons not to Circumcise, Circumcision – Wikipedia, and Circumcision Rates)

Pacifiers reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about 90%.  (Pacifier Greatly Reduces Risk of Sudden Infant Death)  They reduce the risk regardless whether or not the infant sleeps on his/her stomach, in soft bedding, or his/her mother smoked.  Problems such as thumb sucking, tooth development, and difficulties breast feeding can be avoided by waiting a few weeks before using one, and stopping when they become toddlers.  (However, there apparently is a trade-off, because, according to Gabe Mirkin, studies from Finland found that children who use pacifiers are more likely to have recurrent ear infections.)  Other people also recommend co-sleeping as protective.  (See below)  One more way of lowering the risk of SIDS is by using a fan to circulate the air in the room.  This reduces the risk by 72%. (Fan Use Linked to Lower Rate of Sudden Infant Death)  (See also: Sudden infant death syndrome – Wikipedia)

Coming to very similar conclusions as The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, here is an article on Evolutionary Psychology: Natural Parenting - Back to Basics in Infant Care by Regine A. Schon.     Matt Metzgar wrote up this outline.  (I inserted some additional materials and links):  

Evolutionary Function of Crying (For a second opinion see: Should Infants be Allowed to Cry Themselves to Sleep?)

  • Crying signals genuine needs of the infant
  • Crying should be immediately attended to by the mother or caregiver
  • Crying takes significant physical effort on the part of the infant
  • The immediate response to crying should be to restore physical contact between the caregiver and the infant

Infants as Carried Young

  • Hunter-gatherer women carried their infants in slings close to the body
  • This increased beneficial skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the infant
  • The common leg positions of babies suggest they are adapted for carrying

Cosleeping  (Regarding co-sleeping: Mr. Metzgar cites this article (which argues in favor of it), Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A Review of the Co-sleeping Controversy in Relation to SIDS, Bedsharing, and Breastfeeding, and this site, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.  See also: The Benefits of Co-Sleeping)       

  • Cosleeping for the infant and mother has been the universal norm throughout most of human history
  • Bedsharing is the environment to which the vulnerable newborn is best adapted
  • Cosleeping may reduce some forms of SIDS

Breastfeeding (See also: Breastfeeding Linked to Smarter Babies (Again)  This article points out that, as well as being correlated with 5.9 points of higher IQ, breastfeeding also apparently reduces the chances of a mother later developing rheumatoid arthritis, and lessons the child’s odds of later developing cardiovascular disease.  This article, Big Bad Cavities: Breastfeeding is not the Cause, states that more than three dozen studies have shown no link between breastfeeding and the disease of Early Childhood Carries (ECC).  Medical News Today reports that the concentration of volatile organic compound toxins in breast milk are much lower than indoor air, and also much lower than the safe levels for drinking water. (Concentrations of Certain Toxins in Breast Milk are Low, Study Finds))

  • No alternative to breast milk existed before the transition to a farming economy
  • Therefore, infants have been breastfed for 99% of all human existence
  • Artificial substitutes have been unable to replicate the complex structure of breast milk
  • There is mounting evidence about the many benefits of breastfeeding on child development


  • Human infants are born in an exceptionally immature state
  • The conditions for the early part of infant life should attempt to mimic that of the womb
  • This includes close contact with the mother’s body in a tight, warm embrace
  • Heartbeat sounds are comforting to an infant; women tend to hold infants on the left side of their body, close to their hearts
  • Rocking an infant provides a calming effect since it mimics the movement stimulation the infant received from the mother’s normal daily movements
  • Swaddling replicates the feeling of the womb and has been proven effective in calming infants

Toilet Training  (What is Infant Potty Training, Benefits of Infant Potty Training, Infant Potty Training, The Controversy over Infant Potty Training, Shaping self-initiated toileting in infants)  (There are also major health benefits of squatting instead of sitting for defecation.  (The Squat Toilet)  The repeated refrain is to do things the way nature intended.)

  • Infants were historically toilet trained much earlier than in modern times
  • Natural toilet training depends on reading an infant’s signals and responding appropriately
  • Children trained in this way complete toilet training anywhere from 6 months to 2 years

Matt also reviewed this book, The 90-Minute Sleep Baby Program.  As he says, the basic idea behind the book is that humans have a 90 minute cycle of activity and rest.  This means that when a baby wakes up their next nap should be 90 minutes later.  (Older children might string several of these together.)  22 out of 27 reviews on Amazon gave the book 5 stars.  Matt speculates that many children today are sleep deprived, which is obviously troublesome.  It turns out that sleep deprived children have twice the risk of becoming obese.  (Sleep Deprivation Doubles the Risk of Obesity in Both Children and Adults

Matt also very favorably reviewed, The Happiest Baby on the Block.  The author argues that babies need a uterus like environment, and he suggests a number of tactics for mimicking it.  These include swaddling, shh sounds, side/stomach position, swinging, and sucking.  He claims that his program will calm almost all babies.  

Matt also pointed out Baby Sign Language, which allows the infant to communicate his/her needs at a much younger age.  I think it’s very surprising that this wasn’t stumbled upon thousands of years ago, yet it is a remarkably simple and wonderful advancement.  It apparently isn’t some sort of silly fad, but brings real benefits, which I think all parents would appreciate, including greatly reduced frustration on everyone’s part, and increased language skills. 

Matt has blogged about Baby Led Weaning, which takes the position that children shouldn’t be fed pureed foods (Pureed Food “isn’t Natural for Babies’), but instead weaned directly onto solid foods.  The argument behind the idea is that this is much closer to the way our ancestors would have done it.  (It should be said that hunter-gatherers often did pre-chew the child’s food to help him/her along.)   

I have blogged before about going barefoot, and children who go barefoot as long as possible have about half the rate of flat footedness later on.  Having said that, being flat footed doesn’t appear to be as big a problem as people once thought.  There appears to be no relationship between the height of children’s arches and their ability to perform athletically, and it very well also might not affect their injury rates. (Flat Feet don’t Impair Kid’s Motor Skills)  

A study from Sweden concluded that risk factors for snoring as an adult include respiratory and ear infections as a child, being raised in a large family, and being exposed to a dog at home as a newborn. (Have A Dog? Your Child is More Likely to Snore as an Adult) 

Children who suffer from cyclic vomiting might actually be suffering from migraines. (Gabe Mirkin: Cyclic Vomiting

Low levels of carbon monoxide, 25 parts per million, might cause oxidative stress on the cochlear nerve, and permanently damage the hearing of children.  Such carbon monoxide can come from tobacco, cooking, and heating appliances.  (How Chronic Exposure to Tiny Levels of Carbon Monoxide Damages Hearing in Young Ears)  However, the main cause of hearing loss in modern world is loud noise.  The blast from a single gunshot, or the loud prolonged noise of a rock concert, can result in permanent hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Many cases of bed-wetting might be caused by breathing problems.  63% of bed-wetting children stopped when they had surgery to remove their adenoids or tonsils, and the use of a plate to widen the palate of bed-wetters with narrow palates ended the condition in 70% of cases. (Breathing Troubles the Cause of Bed-wetting?)   Gabe Mirkin discusses another theory, that it’s the lack of antidiuretic hormone that causes the problem.  This hormone causes the kidneys to shut down at night.  (Bedwetting

The BBC reports that a 10 minute test for dyslexia has been developed that can be used starting at age 3 & 1/2.  (Early Warning Test for Dyslexia)  The test has children repeat sentences and re-tell a story while looking at how the child builds sounds up into words.  For parents of children who seem a little different there is the book, Quirky Kids: Understanding and Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In- When To Worry And When Not To Worry.  One reviewer thought the book would be most helpful to parents who are just beginning to suspect something is unusual, but don’t know what might be the problem.  It also debunks a number of folk myths out there, and reportedly has a good section on the pros and cons of various medications.  Science Daily has this article, Specific Behaviors Seen in Infants Can Predict Autism, New Research Shows, which reports that Canadian researchers have discovered that there are behavioral signs that can accurately predict autism in children as young as one year old.  (See also: The Vitamin D Theory of Autism)

According to a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center, there is no detectable risk to children from the mercury in the seafood their mother’s ate, up to 12 servings a week.  The study period was before birth to age 9, and the children were tested for 21 different cognitive, neurological and behavioral functions.  These abilities included concentration, attention, problem-solving, and motor skills. (No Detectable Risk From Mercury in Seafood, Study Shows

Tonsils serve to trap germs and train the white blood cells when children are young, but as they grow older their importance lessons.  Doctors generally seem to say that their removal can be justified if they obstruct the throat, or the child suffers from frequent throat infections.  (Dr. Alan Green on Tonsil Removal)    

Not surprisingly, mother’s who talk about people’s mental states, such as beliefs, wants, and intentions, have children with a greater understanding of social interactions.  (This obviously does not establish causation, because mothers with greater social skills might pass on genes that also dispose their children to have those same skills.)  Researchers note that these greater social skills do not necessarily imply that these children will be better behaved. (The Secret to Building Children’s Social Skills)   The Incredible Years is an organization which hosts a variety of programs for teaching parents, teachers, and children social skills.  It turns out the ability of a mother to read her child’s emotions is more important than her social status for the child’s development. (Why Mind-Reading Mums are Best

Not surprisingly, children are happier who have a sense of spirituality, that is meaning in life, and they think that their lives have value.  Good interpersonal relationships also helped, and accounted for 27% of the happiness variation between children.  Being more sociable was also a happiness predictor.  (Spirituality is key to kids’ happiness

Researchers want to know why some children are resilient in spite of bad upbringings.  They have found that resilient children tend to share a number of characteristics:  They have at least one supportive person in their life, have a positive outlook, a pleasant altruistic personality, they are eager to learn, and have problem-solving skills.  They take responsibility for their mistakes, and move on.  They also have an interest or friend they can turn to when they need to.  (This description to me sounds somewhat like the characteristics of lucky people.)  (Raising Resilient Children Foundation, their book, Psychosocial Characteristics of Resilient Children, and The Resilient Child)

Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, in The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting our Children and What We Can Do About It, argue that there’s almost no evidence that homework helps kid’s academic success.  They point out that the amount of homework has skyrocketed in recent years, which is contributing to an epidemic of obesity, and robs kids of the time they need to be kids.  They also give advice on how to separate useful assignments from the time wasters.  Richard Louv, author of, Last Child in the Woods, argues that children suffer from a nature-deficit disorder. 

For preventing myopia, besides a low glycemic diet/ Paleolithic Diet, it seems that playing outside is also protective.  Researchers in Australia have found that kids who spend a lot of time outside have lower myopia rates. (Kid’s eyes need the great outdoors)   

I have previously blogged about The Freedom to Learn site.  Peter Gray has a series of articles which argue that play is essential for healthy human life, and maintaining a band’s existence.  John Holt takes a similar approach in his books, How Children Learn and How Children Fail, that children are natural learners, and the process of forcing them to learn in school changes their personalities for the worse.  David Elkind’s book, The Power of Play: How Spontaneous Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier Healthier Children, argues that play is changing from teaching children social roles, vocations, and academic skills to teaching them brand loyalty, fashion consciousness, and group think.  Matt Metzgar reviewed Susan Linn’s book, The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, which argues that many of today’s toys are scripted, and that they don’t foster the development of social and critical skills.  Matt also discussed this article, Sucker-Me Elmo, which questions the merits of electronic toys.  Meanwhile, New York City is developing the next generation playground, which is designed to foster the imagination of kids. (New York developing a next-generation playground)  Here is a site that features educational products for children We Make Stories, which allows the child to write and print their own stories.

It turns out that pedophiles don’t randomly search through MySpace sites searching for kids.  Instead they go for those kids in chat rooms who are presenting themselves in sexually suggestive ways. (Welcome to Crimes Against Children Research Center, and Salon – Stop Worrying about your Children)  This information is from the same woman who runs Free Range Kids, which I have written about before.  Boing Boing favorably reviewed this book, If Your Kid Eats this Book Everything will Still be Okay: How to Know if Your Child’s Injury or Illness is Really an Emergency by Lara Zibners.  Zibners is an emergency room pediatrician who says that 75% of late night emergency room visits are unnecessary, and this book is a guide to all the things you don’t have to worry about.

On the other hand, there are real risks out there, and Dreambaby makes safety products to help reduce these.  Science Daily has a story, Homes Need More Protection Against Falls, which points out that falls are the second leading cause of death among children, and that this is because many homes have inadequate protection against them.  Such homes are lacking such commonsense things as banisters, grab bars, anti-slip bathtub strips, and child safety gates.  Eco Child’s Play has a similar outlook, and advocates “Green Parenting for Non-Toxic Healthy Homes.”  This site focuses on alternative medicine, and sources of toxins from such things as plastics, medicines, and cleaners.  (See, for example: 12 Warnings for Parents and Kids in 2008, 10 Ways to Avoid Toxic Plastic - BPA (Bisphenol A), Synthetic Estrogens and Your Child, Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, 9 Best Articles for Natural and Home Remedies on Echo Child’s Play in 2008, Another Reason We Can’t Trust the FDA, Melamine…, New Study Suggests Link Between Hairspray Exposure and Genital Birth Defect, How Safe is Your Child’s Playground?, Balloons Cause More Deaths than Marbles, and Finding Safer Products for our Children)  They also discuss products to make parent’s lives easier. (Postpartum Bamboo Belly Wrap Helps Shrink Your Belly and Prevent Stretch Marks, and Why Tilty is a Better Sippy

In recent years people have been taking bullying far more seriously, and researchers have found that, at least with rats, bullying might scar the brain for life.  When rats were bullied new brain nerve cells would form, but then die, and they acted depressed.  (Bullying May Scar Brain for Life

Psychologist Randall Flanery has this advice for being a great dad:  Run a benevolent dictatorship.  Be friendly, but not a friend.  Admit when you’re wrong.  Remain firmly flexible.  Stick around even when they don’t want you to.  Ask questions.  Don’t take it personally if they express unhappiness.  Know that parenting is 24/7, and then some.  Keep in mind that who you are is more important than what you buy them.  Laugh.  Of course, there is also the book, Supernanny: How to Get the Best from your Children by Jo Frost.  For the sport parent, there is Who’s Game is it Anyway: A Guide to Helping Your Child Get the Most From Sports, Organized by Age and Stage by Amy Baltzell.