A couple of years ago, my baby got her first fever, at 17 months. A good friend of mine was initially skeptical, and then wanted some "health lessons" for their family. So - here are some tips for keeping your kids well!
Cleanliness and germs:
We were pretty "clean" about everything for her first couple of months. Wash hands before people hold her, anything that goes in her mouth etc. Then, most things were fair game. Normal household germs, dirt, other kids/people. Exposure to lots of microorganisms is good for developing an infant's gut flora. We get outside and play in the dirt most days. We don't use anything "antibacterial". Normal soap/water is just fine. Antibacterial products do not belong in the home, as they increase resistance and promote superbugs. These products are also endocrine disruptors, altering hormone function particularly in children. Scary stuff!
So what do we use? I like the cleaning products by Seventh Generation (they use Thyme, a natural anti-bacterial that does not induce resistance) and the Thieves cleaner from Young Living if you're looking to swap out cleaning products to eliminate these kinds of chemicals. Actually, Thieves Cleaner is the ONLY thing we have used in our home for a couple of years now. One bottle for the whole house - kitchen, bathrooms, glass, everything. I love simple! Thieves Cleaner costs LESS THAN $1/bottle and is seriously the best thing ever. No more holding your breath to clean, and it does such a great job. I dilute mine 1:30, putting a tablespoon of the cleaner in one of these bottles and filling the rest with water. Pro tip: Fill with water first and then add the cleaner to avoid bubbles all over.
Nutrition and Starting solids:
The best evidence for infant feeding is exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and then introducing whole foods. This means starting baby on "real food" and avoiding any type of rice or grain cereal. Avocado is a perfect first food. We still don't do a lot of grains for baby - mostly vegetables, fruits, and proteins. I don't give my child any juice. Fruit and vegetables are best eaten in their whole state to include the fiber. Babies need lots of fat, and we like to do avocado, coconut oil, eggs often. In general, we avoid polyunsaturated oils due to their inflammatory nature and high Omega-6 content. We primarily use olive oil, coconut oil, butter. Avocado oil is another great option. We don't use any low-fat or reduced-fat products, and if you choose to consume dairy I would recommend the full fat products. A "whole foods diet" like this maximizes your nutrient intake from natural sources and avoiding nutrient-poor processed foods.
Want to keep it super simple and not have to remember so many rules? Eat real food! Avoid packaged/processed snack items as much as possible. Take your own food/snacks when you're out for the day. Avoid shakes, powders and other food replacements. Read labels, and avoid sugar, corn syrup, artificial color and flavor, MSG, and other unnecessary additives. If you're not sure what it is, it's probably not food!
I support breastfeeding as long as possible, when it works for both mom and baby. It will keep your baby from getting sick as often, and help them get better faster. The health benefits for both mom and baby are incredible. The World Health Organization recommends nursing at least 2 years, and then as long as baby/mom are interested. Weaning prior to age 2 is associated with increased frequency and severity of illness. KellyMom is a great resource for breastfeeding mamas, full of evidence based educational info and good problem solving advice.
Start with some fish oil. We all need our Omega 3's! We started baby pretty young. There's a Nordic Naturals one for babies I like here. Lots of others too. Consider Vitamin D, or check the dosing in your fish oil. If you're breastfeeding and take an adequate dose of Vitamin D yourself, that may be enough. Consider a probiotic or have mom take one when breastfeeding, as probiotics are also passed through milk. Many people also like the Fermented Cod Liver Oil from Green Pasture.
When anyone at home is sick, we start using Thieves oil. For adults, a drop of Thieves and a drop of Lemon in some hot water with a little honey like tea. For children, diffused or diluted in a carrier oil and put on babies feet several times per day. More about oils: Essential Oil Basics and why we use Young Living.
If baby gets a cold:
While our baby's first fever was at 17 months, she's certainly had a few little colds here and there. The Nose Frieda has really helped us. It's this great little device to suck the snot out of baby's nose. It will not get in your mouth, there's a filter. It works better and faster than the blue bulb suction, which makes everyone happy! Clearing out all the extra secretions will help your babe breathe easier, and may help prevent ear infections.