Parenting, Parenting Tips

5 Ways to Make Sick Kids Feel Better through Intuitive Healing

23 Comments 06 March 2012

Beyond the Sling author Mayim Bialik shares 5 ways to heal a sick child with flu or fever or teething pain using intuitive healing methodsBetween our 6 and 3 1/2 year-old boys, we have dealt with just about every ailment, sickness, flu, and boo-boo in our house. However, neither of them have ever been on antibiotics nor admitted to any hospital. I don’t give my kids acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), medication for teething pain, antibiotic ointment (Neosporin), antihistamines, cough syrups or steroid creams (Benadryl, Cortisone).

I don’t tell you this so you think I’m amazing or special. I’m not; I’m a nervous mother hen as much as the next person. But after watching and learning from people I admire who have healthy lives, outlooks and kids, I have learned some things that I now want to share with you. Almost everything you have right now in your home and in your heart is enough to cope with most of the sicknesses and ailments your child will experience. Just as you know how to parent your baby intuitively, you also know how to care for your baby intuitively.

Our job as parents is not simply to make things not hurt, but also to teach our children that we are not exempt from getting sick; after all, we’re human! In our culture, there is a “pill for every ill.” Fever? Take Ibuprofen. Diarrhea? Take Immodium. Runny nose? Dry it up. That’s not necessarily the best way to heal a body, large or small.

I’m not arguing to be medically negligent. Medical attention should be sought promptly for anything that you deem important and necessary to seek attention for. In addition, children with medical conditions, histories, or allergies need to be watched with special care. However, too often, I see healthy children being medicated with pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, cortisone creams, expensive bug bite lotions, antihistamines, and nasal sprays when an ice pack, rest, even temporary dietary modifications and good old-fashioned holding would probably set them on their way in shorter course.

General Guidelines
Never second-guess the intuitive feeling that something isn’t right. Listen to your intuition, which can protect your baby and child as they grow older. Don’t hover and quash independence, but don’t ignore your intuition either.

If your baby is asleep in another room and you have a feeling that something is not right, check on the baby. Present mothers and fathers alike often have an intuitive sense of their baby’s status that translates to knowing their well being even from afar. It’s not hocus-pocus, and acting on this intuition is a good thing, and not a smothering one.

Another intuitive rule of thumb is the following: Watch how you speak to a hurting child. Shushing in order to stop a child from crying and phrases like, “You’re OK,” “Stop crying,” “Big boys/girls don’t cry,” and “There’s nothing to cry about” send a message that getting hurt and expressing your pain makes your parents uncomfortable.

Here’s how we handle the top 5 sicknesses most households will see in their children’s first years:
1) Earache: About 70 percent of earaches are NOT bacterial and therefore do not need antibiotics. What they do need is rest and treatment for discomfort. Garlic drops in the ears, breast milk in the ears (!), and hydrogen peroxide dosed for your baby appropriately all help discomfort and encourage healing.

2) Fever: Fever can be related to a bacterial infection but is most commonly viral. Fever is there to kill the virus, so first give tepid baths, cool washcloths, and minimal clothing on baby to keep them from overheating.

3) Plugged tear duct/eye inflammation (as distinguished from diagnosed pink eye): gentle and frequent massage of baby’s tear duct (towards the bridge of the nose) and breast milk squirted or dropped into the eye every time you nurse clears this problem up in a day. That’s all!

4) Flu: For respiratory flu, a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the bottom of a shower basin with hot water running can steam up a bathroom and allow relief from congestion; a cut-up onion placed wrapped in a sack or cloth handkerchief near a child’s pillow encourage the mucus membranes to run (and get the virus out), rest and tons of fluids help overall healing. For stomach flu, wait out the vomiting and diarrhea but let the body GET IT OUT; don’t stop it up with medicines since the body needs to get it out.

Avoid foods too hard for the stomach to digest (like protein, meats, and dairy), and encourage foods that bind naturally, such as BRAT: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Encourage fluids, but try not to freak out if even a tablespoon of water makes your child throw up all over again. Know the signs of true dehydration (dry lips, weakness, unresponsiveness) and stay close to your child to monitor them.

5) Teething pain and discomfort, swollen gums: This is a tough one. Some people swear by homeopathic remedies for teething, but we found that the best remedies were: nursing, nursing, nursing, and a wooden teething ring and frozen peas (when baby is old enough to suck on them). Some kids like ice chips; ours never did. Did I mention nursing was our best and most reliable source of teething treatment?

Parenting isn’t just about diapering and feeding a newborn and adjusting to the lack of sleep. It’s a total and complete awareness of your child’s bodily functions and needs in sickness as well as in health. Foregoing Western medicine does not always make life easier in the short term, and this is not an all-or-nothing enterprise. Take each sickness and ailment independently and see what works for your family.

Children hurt for a lot of different reasons, and a parent’s desire for a child to be free of pain is universal. I implore you to take very seriously the charge given to you: Protect this tiny dependent person not only with what Western medicine can offer you, but also with the intuition that is yours simply because you are a caring and loving parent.

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Mayim Bialik


Mayim Bialik, Ph.D., is perhaps best known for her lead role as Blossom Russo in the 1990s television sitcom Blossom, and she currently appears on the top-rated comedy The Big Bang Theory. Bialik earned a B.S. from UCLA in 2000 in neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish studies, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007. She designed a neuroscience curriculum for homeschoolers in Southern California, where she also teaches middle and high school students. Married to her college sweetheart with two young sons, Bialik is also a Certified Lactation Education Counselor. Visit her at

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  • SR

    But you say your children are 3 & 6 and you keep mentioning about nursing, you still nurse them?

  • RJL

    I believe she is still nursing her younger son, yes.

  • Carina

    SR, the natural weaning age for a child is 2-7, so for a 3 1/2 and 6 year old to be nursing is completely normal.

  • Kim

    I have read that tepid baths are not a good way to bring a fever down. Like you said, the fever is there for a reason, so why lower it? Additionally, when the baby tries to warm up from being cold, the fever spikes even higher.

  • Steffj89

    I have 3 boys and haven’t nursed any of them. We use as little medicine as possible and my 3 y/o has only been to the dr twice in his life since leaving the hospital. My 7 and 8 year olds are almost never sick, but we do use a bit of motrin now and then for headaches.
    We do use homeopathic ear drops and eye drops, but have not had in 8 years but one illness I consider serious. Most of our dr visits have been for ear infections w/ different boys. IF home drops won’t ease the pain enough after 24 hours we go to dr.

  • Eliina

    Breast milk (or any kind of milk) is a perfect substance for breeding bacteria, why would you squirt it into the eyes and ears of the children? Just in case – I have breastfed all my children, and let them self-wean.
    With all due respect, Dr. Bialik, I do believe that medical advice should be given by MD who actually needs to examine the child before recommending a course of action. A lot of people trust you, and I am afraid to think how many people will not give children antibiotics or Ibuprofen because Dr. Bialik said she did not give any to her children. I completely agree that viral infections need a lot of fluids and rest, however, apparently you have not seen every sickness in the book if your boys have not needed antibiotics or have never been hospitalized. It is pretty difficult to deal with strep without medication, and yes, my child who starts wheezing when he is near a cat or a dog, does need antihistamines.

  • Nina Andreevna

    She specifically states near the beginning of the article that special care must be taken with children with allergies. If your child wheezes near pets, ie., they are allergic or irritated by pet dander, then you give them what is needed to treat allergies. I doubt Mayim would argue with you on that.
    If you want to bash her on what she said, thats your prerogative, but don’t bash her for something she didn’t even say

  • Lynda

    I agree Eliina – do NOT put milk in the ear! Milk is a bacterisl breeding ground. As someone who has suffered severe ear infections and several ruptured ear drums since I was a toddler and was put on multiple antibiotics for ear infections, I have used pretty much every homeopathic remedy in the book for ear infections, but sometimes you do need antibiotics. Try eucalyptus oil and a small amount of olive oil on a cotton ball and gently place it in the ear canal. It helps with the pain and helps healing. But if the pain persists for more than 3 or 4 days, or gets progressively worse, take your child to the doctor. A bad ear infection can cause the ear drum to rupture – speaking from experience – and it’s extremely painful and can cause long term damage.

  • Bon

    I have heard about breastmilk being placed in the ears by a woman from africa. I am intrigued by this, but not convinced. As for the eye, not so sure about that one. I would like to hear more and see what the medical community has to say.

  • nicole

    Human milk contains immunologic agents and other compounds that act against viruses, bacteria, and parasites. It is scientific fact that 80% of the cells that make up breast milk contain antibodies!!!

  • Vanessa

    I know there are antibodies in breast milk, but this is the first time I’ve heard about them as eye or ear remedies.. sounds strange. I’d probably want to see this done, or have someone prove to me it works before i’d try that one. It sounds a little scary. Overall interesting article. I hate the over use of drugs and medication on children these days. I’m all for using as much natural remedies as possible. Intuition does say a lot. Good share :)

  • Jessica

    I love the premise of the article. We need to teach our children about listening to their body and promoting healing and not just using Meds to stop the body’s natural responses. Fever (heat) kills the virus and discomfort and achiness signals us for rest, for example.

    I also disagree w the tepid baths. I’d only do that if my dr advised me too. A cool washcloth to the face and neck have been sufficient for us

    As for breastmilk, in most cases a child will already be investing it so using it topically seems a crazy concern- but yes it works- it is amazing stuff.

    We add Y to the BRAT-Y diet as advised by Dr Sears- yogurt (unsweetened if possible).

    Both my children self weaned at about 3 1/2 yrs. our first illnesses after weaning were hard but we had set a good foundation supplemented w nursing- that we need to support our bodies healing efforts, not shut down feedback loops or over medicate . Now that my oldest is almost 8 he has started to notice his own system and make requests. He will modify his diet, request a warm drink or tea, ask for a ‘steam’ ( such as eucalyptus oil in the sink filled w hot water and standing w towels over our heads to breathe it in- relieves congestion) and agree to rest and relax. He still very rarely takes naps but will go to bed earlier and we lift tv restrictions and he rests while watching a video or 2 throughout the day. He is listening to and supporting his body.
    This is a skill I feel I was not taught and have started to learn as an adult because of the path I have chosen for my children’s health.

  • Eliina

    Nina Andreevna,
    I am not bashing anyone. I am just saying that it is irresponsible for a celebrity, albeit with a degree in Neuroscience, to give advice on medical treatment of children. Dr. Bialik chooses not to treat her children with antibiotics, but she should not be advising others to do likewise.

  • Laura McCarthy

    I was raised in the Christian Science religion, which completely forbids all medical intervention. Given my experience as a child, I think it bordered on child abuse. I don’t think Dr. Bialik is promoting that sort of extremism. She is suggesting natural options rather than resorting to the “standards” as the first line of defense. We all know that the medical community is driven by dollars and in order to make money the companies need to promote their medicines. That does not mean that all the hundreds of meds available to us are always going to be the best option for our kids. What I’m understanding from Dr. Bialik is that the meds and the doctors are there for us when needed, but don’t overlook some of the natural remedies and just plain common sense when it comes to dealing with childhood illnesses.

  • Kryptonite to Stupid

    Hey Elina, I would argue that Dr. Bialik knows a lot more than some MD’s. Breast milk is loaded with immunoglobulins and probiotics. It’s makes total sense, and the entire article is loaded with common sense. Your own intuition should tell you that kids are being systematically over-drugged, and under-healed by the MD’s you seem to trust.

  • rachael

    i’m really interested in your viewpoint on vaccinations and preventing disease…

    and i just want to point out that nursing longer isnt always possible nor realistic! you have 2 kids, ages 3 and 6 – i have 3 kids, and the oldest just turned 3…only the “baby” nurses until i’m expecting again BH

  • Marleina

    Nursing longer is almost always possible and realistic. If you have three children, oldest just turning 3, I’d guess you probably aren’t nursing enough to suppress your fertility, or you’re SUPER fertile! ha ha Tandem nursing of a baby and toddler is perfectly normal and feasible, too. You can nurse right through pregnancy as well.

  • Suzi

    we love olive oil for earache and breastmilk for most other things, I’ve cured conjunctavitis/pink eye with it, urine infections by washing with it(I thought it was fluke but was at a place where I couldnt get help for her so used it, I then recommended my sister to try it with her daughter and it worked as well) I’ve also used it t aid other things for healing – an ulcer on my mothers leg, amongst others!

  • Lisa

    Breastmilk is not the same as cow milk. It’s not “dairy” in the common sense of the word. It contains antibodies, white blood cells, probiotics, etc. It’s a living organism and is a very valid treatment for many ailments. Stuffy nose, pinkeye, earache, even minor scrapes and burns.

  • Melissa

    This is very good and I agree in most cases, but I feel it’s a little silly not to medicate safely and rarely with some acetaminophen or Tylenol with something like teething when it gets really painful. Honestly, worrying about not saying “you’re ok” but letting your child suffer with very painful teething episodes seems really cruel and overreaching. My son is going on 3 and I can count on one hand how often I’ve used meds for teething pain, but when it’s bad (once in awhile), I think it’s cruel to withhold something to help.

  • Bailey

    I’m a BF mom and I’ve seen how breastmilk can heal little hurts. I’ve definitely used it in my daughters eyes, although I haven’t tried it in her ears, she has only had one ear infection. However I must say that my pediatrician doesn’t really even check to see what’s going on with my daughter, prescribes medicine and then leaves the room. And they always prescribe a daily allergy medicine, even though my daughter has only had cold/allergy symptoms due to teething. I don’t want her to get so used to the allergy mess that she gets sick when she doesn’t take it because that’s what happened with my mom. Also, the teething, if they are hurting a lot, the act of nursing is soothing. It’s not that she is saying to nurse so they can’t cry, it actually makes them feel better. She is not saying to let them continue to suffer, she is saying to soothe them in a natural way.
    I think a lot of people read this with a preconceived notion and took it to mean what they wanted it to.

  • Elaine

    I wish that breastfeeding my 6 month old helped with her teething pain but when it gets really bad she wont nurse. I then resort to homeopathic powders and if they dont help then calpol. More frequently recently – I wish natural remedies always help but when my baby is in pain I would rather soothe it than let her scream until she is exhausted if nothing else helps, when I try everything!

  • Anne

    This advice is medically irresponsible. “Intuition” can be quite wrong … DEAD wrong, in fact. Our intuition is only as strong as our experiences and our native intellect. If you are a dunce and a knucklehead, how are you going to depend on this mystical and marvelous intuition, to help your child recover from illness?

    You might “feel” that kids are dosed up on too many antibiotics, or analgesics. However, other people might “feel” differently. How do medical professionals … “feel” about this topic?

    Urging parents to use some sort of psychic bond with their children to let nature take its course, is anthropologically regressive, in my opinion. How many sick and hungry mothers, in Africa, would prefer to use the clean medical center they are building, to cure their kids’ runny noses? Those people have to use intuition and natural healing to help their kids, and many of them die as a result.

    Please think it through. You are an intelligent person. Please use your critical thinking skills and try to see how your advice could be medically irresponsible, if doled out to the general public.


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