It’s been a long time since my last eczema post (see Part 1 and Part 2 for more of our story). These months have been quite a journey, both literally–trying new things, traveling to see practitioners–and figuratively (getting my head and heart into a healthier place). I’m delighted to say that I’ve found more peace in the process, as well as measures to manage the eczema and–fingers crossed–what looks like real healing. Yes, Baby Bear still has eczema, but he doesn’t suffer anymore, even when we made a trip to bone-dry New Mexico. I’m more thankful than I can express.
Just check out the photo above. Doesn’t his skin look beautiful? He has small dry patches only on the tops of his feet where they rub the ground when he crawls.
After many months of guilt, feeling like it was somehow my fault that my baby had eczema (I didn’t do GAPS! I didn’t do enough Bowen work! I didn’t follow an uber-nourishing preconception diet!), and feeling like it was my job to fix it as fast as possible–not just manage symptoms, but fix it–I finally realized, hey, this problem is far bigger than I am. It’s possible my choices played a part. You know what? That’s okay. I did the best I could do at the time, and that “best I could do” involved a lot of great things. Furthermore, I have no doubt that many, many factors beyond my own choices played a part in this. Why is eczema so rampant in this generation? I’ve read a dozen theories. Everyone’s thinking about it for a reason. It’s a big problem. Way bigger than just me, my baby, my family.
So I’ve become much more grateful just to be able to keep the baby comfortable while we explore our healing. Here’s what’s working for our particular situation.
Managing the Eczema
Tool #1: Dry Eczema Rescue Protocol
Oatmeal/Baking Soda Bath + Vaseline/Beeswax-Coconut Oil + Cotton Pajamas = Emergency Relief
THIS IS A LIFE-SAVER! The first time I used this protocol, Baby Bear’s skin went from red leather (even worse than the above photo) to 90% perfect over night. Whoa. I can’t tell you what a relief it was. I generally avoid petroleum products, but these were desperate times. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t stop scratching, nothing natural worked. I first heard about this routine from an aesthetician my mother-in-law knows and later a modified version from a friend on Facebook. Here’s what we do:
- Before you begin, assemble water (we use filtered), organic oatmeal bath* or baking soda, cotton towel, unscented petroleum jelly** (Vaseline) or beeswax-coconut oil blend, diaper, cotton pajamas, and a timer.Note: Make sure the bath tub baby will use has been cleaned with something totally nontoxic and detergent-free, like vinegar, baking soda, true soap (an unscented castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild works well), or Branch Basics (we LOVE this stuff!). Residue from “normal” cleaners will dissolve in the bath water, and wet skin is more susceptible to irritation from chemicals. Even green cleaning products from companies like Ecover or Seventh Generation may cause irritation if your baby is sensitive to detergents. Take similar care with how baby’s pajamas and towel have been laundered–definitely no scents, and maybe even no detergents if you think baby could be sensitive to them. I use 1 tsp Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild and 2 Tbsp baking soda per load of laundry.
- Give baby a tepid bath with either oatmeal bath or 1-2 T baking soda for a baby bathtub or 1 C baking soda for a regular bathtub. Do not use any other bath products. (If you use filtered water, you can heat a small pot of it on the stove and mix it with room temperature water in the tub.)
- Set the timer for 3 minutes and start it as soon as you lift baby from the water.
- Quickly dry baby with the cotton towel and while the skin still a little damp, generously apply petroleum jelly or the beeswax-coconut oil mix all over. You must complete this step before the timer goes off! I use the petroleum jelly when his skin is very bad, but if it’s mild to moderate, I prefer the beeswax-coconut oil blend.
- Diaper baby and zip him up in cotton pajamas. Cover baby’s feet with cotton socks if they’re not footie pajamas.
*You can find organic oatmeal bath packets at the health food store, or you can make your own by processing organic rolled oats in your blender. The latter won’t hold its suspension in the water as well, but I it still works for us.
**Most Vaseline and petroleum jelly products have fragrance in them. You have to check the label. Also, I’ve been warned that using petroleum jelly daily would actually dry out the skin over time. That’s one more reason I prefer to use the beeswax-coconut blend when his skin is less severe.
Tool #2: Lotions & Potions
For killing the itch, a homeopathic gel by Energique called Cortsym works well for us (white tube above). I know lots of other people have good success with calendula preparations too. If the baby has scratched himself up a lot, which thank God hasn’t happened in a very long time, I also add some homeopathic Healing Gel by Energique (I can’t find this gel online. I think that perhaps the company changed the name to Trauma Gel, but I’m not sure).
To moisturize the skin, plain oils never worked, and I tried them all! What works the very best for us to lock in moisture naturally is a salve I make of beeswax and coconut oil (see mason jar above). I don’t particularly enjoy making my own products, but I love the results and the purity. I follow this simple recipe. Over time, I started using Tropical Traditions Gold Label coconut oil because it is supposed to have more healing properties, but that isn’t necessary. Any quality virgin coconut oil will do the job.
When I run out or can’t find my homemade salve, I’ll apply Borage Therapy Kids (blue bottle above), which seems to soothe and moisturize well, though I don’t love the ingredient list. For lighter moisturizing, I sometimes use unscented Tropical Traditions Moisturizing Cream (white tub on right). Most recently, during a trip to New Mexico where there’s almost zero humidity, I applied some Blue Ice FCLO Beauty Balm (small tub with green label) to his feet and cheeks and was really happy with the results. I will definitely keep it on hand for future experiments.
Tool #3: Homeopathy
While I think we’ve found something better than homeopathy for healing the eczema (see more below), homeopathy really did seem to help control Baby Bear’s symptoms. I don’t mean the kind of homeopathic remedies that you can find at a health food store; I’ve never had success with those. These are only available from practitioners, and it was our beloved Dr. Massie in Houston who prescribed them to us. Only a qualified practitioner could determine which remedies best suit your child’s body, but for reference, here are the ones that worked for Baby Bear: R245 Selenium and R233 Mercurius by Professional Complementary Health Formulas and the Dry Eczematosis Formula by PHP Professional Health Products. You might be able to contact the manufacturers to see if there are any providers in your area who stock them.
Tool #4: Goodbye, Cloth!
Sigh. I put a lot of time, energy, and money into my cloth stash, and I believe in cloth diapers as a responsible, Creation-stewarding choice, but no matter what I do, I can’t get cloth to work for the little guy. I’ve also seen lots of information about how cloth diapers are a cure for eczema because you can eliminate all chemical irritants. Not for this baby. After experiments with all-natural fibers like cotton and wool (which made up my original stash), as well as recent experiments in modern polyester stay-dry fabrics, plus many, many laundering and insert experiments, I’m confident that the problem for Baby Bear is the wetness. Even “stay-dry” cloth isn’t dry enough. Cloth is out, period. (I’m keeping my cloth for the next baby, though, as this problem is very unusual.) Instead, we’re using Nurtured by Nature Environmentally Sensitive Diapers, Earth’s Best, and Seventh Generation diapers. All work great for his skin. We use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program to cut 20% off our diaper bill.
Tool #5: Avoiding Irritants
These include wetness (as mentioned above), scratchy fabrics like wool, chlorine in un-filtered bath water or pools, conventional and most “green” cleaning products, and fragrances. For laundry, we use 1 tsp Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild liquid castile soap + 2 Tbsp baking soda (or 1 Tbsp washing soda) per load. For dishes and the dishwasher, we use Branch Basics, and for the rest of the house we mostly use vinegar and water or Branch Basics. I’m trying to use detergent-free personal care products as well, which means real soap on my body and soap-less methods for my face (check out my list of personal care products here.) Just to be clear, avoiding irritants did not eliminate the eczema (you can read all about that here). Lots of people have that experience. They remove fragrances and–poof!–eczema gone. That’s not our story. That said, we continue to keep our home clear of these irritants because I do think it helps and it’s easy to maintain now that we’ve made the switch.
What’s Working to HEAL the Eczema
Here’s where it gets exciting! Have you heard of NAET? It stands for Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique, which is an energy medicine protocol related to acupuncture for healing the body of negative reactions to food and other substances. My practitioner, Rachel Guinn, whom I LOVE, told me from the beginning that I likely wouldn’t see results until at least 10 to 15 treatments. She was right. Even then, while Baby Bear’s skin looked fabulous, I wasn’t sure how much was the NAET and how much was the high humidity levels in our lovely Houston summer. Then we went to bone dry New Mexico, where the baby’s eczema was uncontrollable a few months ago. This time, he had a few little patches that were completely manageable, and most of his body looked gorgeous. He didn’t scratch. Wow, wow, WOW.
Here in Houston, we aren’t doing a darn thing for his skin, and it still looks amazing. In fact, all those things I just listed above for managing eczema? Other than staying off cloth diapers and away from irritants, we’re not doing any of that right now.
Those results, along with the improvements I’ve seen in my energy levels(I’m getting NAET treatments too), make me think that NAET truly works for us. It’s neither quick nor cheap, unfortunately. Baby Bear and I are approaching our 40th treatments, and at $55-65 a pop, well, you get the idea. We think of it as a long-term investment. Is NAET going to be the end all, be all for us? I doubt it. But I do believe it’s the next step in our healing.
You can learn more about NAET at their website here. I also found this article about an MD who practices NAET interesting. And here’s a fascinating summary of a controlled study of NAET’s effects on autism.