As parents, we want to protect our kids from everything. Whether it’s a fall or cut, a broken heart, or even just the common cold — we try to figure out the best way to prepare our kids for whatever life throws their way.
Unfortunately, getting sick is just par for the course when you’re a kid, with many averaging 6 to 8 colds or ear infections per year. And when you consider how long each infection tends to last, it may seem like they are just congested and suffering all winter long.
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While the ongoing battle against viruses and infections is ultimately helping your child build a healthy immunity to a whole host of germs, it can’t hurt to try and make sure their system is primed for fighting.
Here are some ways you can help, naturally.
1. Consider Breastfeeding
If you have a sick baby you are able to breastfeed, you may want to make a habit of it. Breast milk is quickly and easily digested. Furthermore, research shows that a mother’s milk can provide antibodies specifically tailored to her baby’s needs. Studies also show a correlation between breast milk and a decrease in allergies.
2. Increase Fruits and Veggies
Cooked, raw, in a smoothie, hidden inside something they like — whatever you have to do, just do it! Plant foods contain phytonutrients like vitamin C and carotenoids which help boost the body’s production of white blood cells. Studies show phytonutrients can also help protect against chronic diseases like cancer, so you can’t go wrong!
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3. Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
We can’t stress this enough! Not getting enough sleep inhibits your body’s ability to produce important proteins that help fight infection and reduce inflammation. Newborns and infants may require up to 18 hours of sleep a day while toddlers clock in at about 12 to 13 hours and preschoolers at 10 hours. Encourage naps — especially if your child seems to be coming down with something — and take advantage of those short winter days by pushing bedtime up 15-30 minutes.
Whether you build obstacle courses in your basement or bundle up for a winter hike — get up and get your kids moving! Research shows that regular exercise increases the number of cells in the body that fight infection and disease.
5. Go Natural
Be sure to instill good hygienic habits in your kids to minimize the spread of germs. Wash their hands before and after meals and school. And always wash after using the bathroom! There are a number of natural remedies that have shown promise in boosting the immune system, like vitamin C, zinc, and elderberry — but talk to your child’s pediatrician before starting a daily regimen.