Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Natural Sun Protection

I recently read an article about how your diet can affect how your skin reacts to the sun. This was only a few days after I read a couple of articles about making your own non-toxic sun lotion.
Shortly before reading either of these articles I discovered something for myself…

Vitamin D

I started taking 4000-6000 IU per day of vitamin D3 supplement last October. I'd been reading a lot about how it protects against colds and flu so thought I'd try it out for myself. I live in part of the world where it is impossible to get all the vitamin D your body needs from the sun during the winter so, in recent years, supplements have started being recommended. People catch colds and flu when their levels of vitamin D are too low, which is why they are prevalent in the winter and spring when vitamin D levels from the sun are at their lowest. I am not generally prone to lots of colds and I haven't had flu since being a child, however I always get one bad cold at some point during the winter or spring - except for this year. I was expecting to be more likely to get a cold this year as I was in hospital for a month, getting no sun at all, and was on antibiotics for six weeks. So I was worried that my immune system would be very depleted. This doesn't seem to have been the case and I can only put my winter cold immunity down to the vitamin D3 supplements. Lucinda has been having 600-1000 IU on most days throughout the winter too (she likes to copy mummy - and calls them "sunshine tablets") and she has also only had one very minor sniffling episode.
So, we have both been taking vitamin D3 supplements regularly since October. Remember that for further on…

Coconut Oil

I originally got coconut oil for Lucinda's itchy skin. Lots of people had recommended it for eczema and although I don't think it is eczema that Lucinda has, she does seem to suffer from itchy skin on her arms and legs, sometimes that she scratches and makes herself sore. Using coconut oil on her skin has certainly alleviated the symptoms and now she scratches less and her skin is softer and smoother. I also found that my hands were beautifully soft after rubbing it in for her so I started using it as my regular daily moisturiser, particularly on my face.
I am only just finding out about all the other uses for coconut oil, which seem infinite. One other use I have read about is it's use as a sunscreen as it has a natural SPF of somewhere around 4 to 6. As I am concerned about the toxic ingredients that are added to conventional sun products and have always limited their use to only the very hottest days anyway, preferring to seek shade or cover up instead, I was keen to test out the SPF properties of coconut oil as soon as the weather provided the chance.
So, we both also use coconut oil as a body and facial moisturiser. This is what I found when the sun came out last month…

At the end of May we had a week of gloriously hot and sunny weather (yes, just the one week, being in England!). It does tend to be an annual week though, May usually offering some lovely weather for a time. Anyway, this year I had the week off work as I was still on sick leave from having my gallstone op, so I was lucky there! I thought it would be a good time to invest in a paddling pool as we were at home and able to take advantage of spending some time in the sunny garden. We bought the paddling pool on Wednesday morning and spent almost the whole time outside, in the sun (no shade in our garden after mid-morning) until Sunday night. The only thing we used for sun protection was coconut oil, applying it liberally to face, shoulders, back and chest, where there is a tendency to burn. I kept my eye on Lucinda for any signs that she may be beginning to burn, but she didn't. Neither did I. Normally, in May, the first time the sun is hot and I'm out in it all day, I burn. Not badly, but I do end up with a mildly tender back and shoulders for a couple of days. Then it turns brown. After that, for the rest of the summer, I tan quite easily with not much more burning.
What I noticed on this occasion was that, not only didn't we burn at all, we also tanned particularly quickly. After only a day in the sun I was thinking about how brown I looked. Lucinda too. At the time I thought it could be down to using the coconut oil as a sunscreen, that the oil maybe accelerated the tanning process. However, the week after when I read the article I mentioned above, I discovered that the quick tanning probably has more to do with us taking vitamin D3 supplement for the last few months and that the coconut oil helped the vitamin D3 prevent burning.

I'll include a link to the article at the bottom of this post, but here are some quotes I have selected from it as being relevant to my experience…

"Melanin, the dark pigment that we get when we tan, is produced to shield the skin from further UV exposure by providing a type of barrier…. When the body has enough vitamin D, it will start producing melanin to keep from getting too much. There is evidence that optimizing vitamin D levels through sun exposure and even through supplementation will help the body produce melanin faster and retain it longer."

"Research has shown that taking 5000 to 10000 IU of vitamin D for several months can have a sunburn preventing effect and can improve the ability to tan."

"If you have to be out in the sun for extended periods of time and can't seek shade, use a natural homemade sunscreen or plain coconut oil (which supposedly has a natural SPF of about 4)."

and I'm interested in trying this…
"1/4 cup of coconut oil melted in a cup of herbal tea per day -
The medium chain fatty acids and saturated fat are easily utilized by the body for new skin formation and are protective against burning."

So, knowing what I know now, I'll be continuing to use vitamin D and coconut oil for this purpose - and for many other purposes, as I find out about them. I was impressed to find out that what I'd noticed wasn't just my imagination and that, along with other people's anecdotal evidence, there is also research to back it up. I'm also going to look at implementing other aspects of the research, particularly the types of fats we consume. Here is the link...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

3 1/2 Year Breastfeeding Goal!

Most people, when they are expecting a baby (particularly their first baby), have some sort of breastfeeding goal in mind. Usually this is something like six weeks, three months, six months or one year. Of course, when you've never had a baby before and have no idea what it's like to breastfeed, a lot of people just want to see how it goes and have a target to aim for, thinking if they can get to six weeks they'll then be able to keep going for longer.

First night milk. December 2008.

Lucinda is three and a half years old today. I have reached my breastfeeding goal! I obviously like to set my sights higher than most people. It never crossed my mind not to breastfeed and I knew I would allow my baby to self-wean. Anything else was not an option. The reason I came up with three and a half years as a goal is because that's how long my brother breastfed for. It's not really a competition thing but I thought it would be quite good if I beat my mum. My brother only actually weaned because my mum went away for four days and he didn't want it when she came home, saying it tasted different. So who knows what my goal would have been had my mum not joined my dad on a business trip that weekend!

Lucinda and I have not been without our problems. Fortunately, the early days were easy. I naturally found myself adopting the "biological nurturing" style and think that is probably why we never had any positioning or latch issues at the beginning, which affect so many other people. The first "breastfeeding ailment" we had was when Lucinda was seventeen months old, when I took antibiotics to clear a tooth abscess. This lead to us developing thrush. Fortunately, however, due to my breastfeeding management training, I was in a position to diagnose it straight-away and it was very short-lived. Our biggest challenge came when I was in hospital for a month around her third birthday. Not only was I too ill to breastfeed for much of that time, the medication I was on also affected the taste of my milk. Lucinda came to visit me every day and every day she asked for a feed. She always had a go but said my milk tasted "yacky" after a couple of suckles. When I returned home we worked very hard for two weeks to get our breastfeeding relationship back. The efforts paid off and we kept going but I was very worried for a long time that it was the end. You can read more about how we repaired our breastfeeding relationship <here>.

Shortly after we had successfully repaired our breastfeeding relationship,
after my month long stay in hospital. February 2012.

I suppose I'm lucky that I have a lot of support around me. Not only do I have my mum but my closest circle of friends have also breastfed their children for at least two and a half years and Lucinda has a playmate the same age who is still breastfed. I've never been made to feel odd because I breastfeed beyond the 6 - 12 months or so which is considered "the norm" and I know there is always someone on the same wavelength that I can talk to about it.

Only time will tell how long Lucinda will continue breastfeeding for. As it stands now, I can't see her weaning any time soon. She is a very frequent feeder and loves her "mamas" very much. The only way I can see her weaning, certainly within the next year, is if I were to get pregnant and my milk dried up. I don't think she'd continue to dry nurse through pregnancy like some children do. If there's no milk coming out she won't feed. Since I was in the hospital my supply has reduced and though Lucinda feeds frequently, they are only short feeds until my breasts are empty (she tells me). Although I would love another baby, at the moment I am putting Lucinda's needs first as I know how important breastfeeding is to her.

We both enjoy breastfeeding and the closeness it has brought to our mother/daughter relationship. I'm not saying that it is always my most favourite activity in the world - breastfeeding an "older child" can be challenging, with the nursing gymnastics, nipple twiddling and Lucinda's inability to see my breasts without pouncing and suctioning herself to them at any given opportunity! But I'm putting it down to experience. A very positive experience that I can't imagine not having in my life now. So, having reached my first goal, my next achievement will be when Lucinda self-weans. It's not something I am looking forward to at all. I will be very sad that we will have come to the end of an era, as such, but knowing that I have allowed her to wean in her own time and that she has been able to be nourished, comforted and nurtured as nature intended, fills me with an immense amount of pride and maternal satisfaction.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Self-sufficiency update - June 2012

Here is an update of how our veggies are getting on. I'm very pleased with how well they are growing. A hot week last month, followed by loads of rain has really helped. The peas and sunflowers shot up almost overnight and we have already eaten one batch of radishes.

Here is Lucinda showing how tall her sunflowers are now

Here are Lucinda's marigolds

This is Lucinda's planter, showing how big the spring onions are now.

These are my peas.
Lucinda keeps picking the pods off and eating the tiny peas inside already.

This is one of my sweet pea plants.
They're really brightening up the back steps and I think they're really pretty.

Other than what I've taken photos of, we also have the radishes and some mixed salad leaves. They should be ready to eat in another couple of weeks. One chilli plant is also coming along nicely. The mushroom kit I had didn't work but when I looked at it properly I noticed that it was almost out of date. I'll get another one next time I go to the garden centre and try again. We still haven't got as far as planting the tomatoes and carrots as the weather has been pretty awful for the last few weeks. If it's too late to sow those now I'll save them for next year.

So that's about it for now. We're both most excited about the peas. Can't wait for those to be ready. Look out for the next update :o) ....