Consider these natural alternatives in baby care

For expectant parents, a lifetime of choices awaits: baby names, what brand of diapers to use, what color to paint the nursery and even what kind of doctor to use.
Complementary and alternative approaches to medicine are on the rise, especially in Vermont where naturopathic medicine is not only a part of the culture, but also recognized by insurance companies in the same way as any other physician.
“It’s not surprising in Vermont that people would have an affinity toward a natural approach to life,” said Dr. Katina Martin of Vermont Natural Family Health.
Dr. Martin is licensed to practice naturopathic medicine, midwifery and acupuncture in the state of Vermont. For her, the naturopathic approach is not only natural, it’s rational.
“It’s what our ancestors used and what makes sense,” she said.
According to the Vermont Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the naturopathic approach focuses on six principles. The principles represent the common bond between NDs around the world: first do no harm, the healing power of nature, identify and treat the cause, treat the whole person, prevention and doctor as teacher.
“Our job is to educate and collaborate with our patients on their health care,” Martin said. “We’re just trying to be proactive.”
For new parents, the naturopathic approach is simple and basic.
“Most newborns are born healthy and don’t need anything except proper sleep and proper nutrition,” Martin said. “We’re helping a parent learn how to care for this new being.”
When problems do begin to arise as children get older, the naturopathic approach harnesses a number of treatment options including dietary and lifestyle changes, stress reduction, manipulative therapies, exercise therapy and homeopathy to treat symptoms.
Where a conventional approach would use antibiotics or other prescription drugs, naturopathy focuses on causes within the body.
Martin explained that for treating eczema — a common skin rash among children — she might look to changing the child’s diet.
“We ask ourselves, what’s causing this? Why is it present? What’s going on internally? 80 to 90 percent of the time it’s food,” she said.
Additionally, the naturopathic approach might include the use of traditional Chinese medicine practices such as acupuncture and herbal treatments.
While acupuncture isn’t normally used until children are older than 10, Dr. Martin suggests herbal medicines for even her youngest patients.
In the form of capsules or teas, the herbs often give off a strong, bitter taste, which can make this approach tricky, especially for picky eaters. Martin suggests adding honey and maple syrup to mask the taste of any strong herb.
While naturopathy can be used for most issues, conventional medicine is sometimes necessary. However, according to Martin, natural medicine can be used 90 to 95 percent of the time.
“There’s definitely a place for conventional medicine, she said. “But it’s nice to have alternatives. We have a lot more tools in our bag to treat patients.”
To learn more about naturopathy and find a provider visit the Vermont Association of Naturopathic Physicians website: visit www.vanp.org.

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