Beneficial Uses of Coconut Oil for Moms and Babies
What Is Coconut Oil?
The mighty coconut is all the rage these days. In your nearest grocer, you'll find coconut milk, coconut water, shredded coconut, coconut ice cream, and the list goes on and on. But coconut oil, above all else, seems to be the "miracle cure" for so many health ailments and has hundreds of practical uses that glean amazing results.
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts. It is rich in lauric acid. It is this lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid, that is so healing and nourishing for the body. It is particularly useful and helpful for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, taken internally or used externally on the skin. It also has fascinating and practical uses for babies.
Coconut Oil for Pregnant Women
Pregnancy, although a glorious and joyful time for many, comes with a host of issues. As the female body changes to compensate for the growing baby and belly, moms can experience some very unpleasant and annoying side effects. Coconut oil may just be what the doctor ordered!
1) Immunity: Taken internally, coconut oil, helps women absorb necessary fat soluble vitamins and other nutrients that sustain both her and her growing fetus. According to the Western A Price Foundation, a non-proft nutritional research organization, pregnant women should consume two tablespoons of unprocessed coconut oil per day. When women are pregnant, their bodies devote lots of energy to maintaining the pregnancy and sustaining their baby's health. Coconut oil helps to maintain a more robust immunity.
2) Morning Sickness: Pregnant moms can also experience illness in another way. The dreaded "morning sickness" is no joke for many women. The nausea and vomiting that accompany it can be a nuisance or even debilitating. A little coconut oil, either taken by the teaspoon or mixed with a smoothie or other beverage can help to balance blood sugar. Irregular or low blood sugars are often at the root of morning sickness.
3) Heartburn: Heartburn, another very common ailment, plagues many pregnant ladies. Women's growing bellies during pregnancy can also displace organs and cause upward pressure, resulting in a mechanical cause of heartburn. Coconut oil can coat the throat and digestive tract, reducing burning sensations. Because it is alkaline, coconut oil neutralizes acid, reduces inflammation, and helps repair tissue damage caused by heartburn. Interestingly enough, heartburn is often not caused by too much acid but a lack of acid in the stomach. Food is therefore not properly broken down and digested. Coconut oil also triggers the production of hydrochloric acid, which is essential for proper digestion.
4) Constipation: And what about the ghastly issue of constipation? Coconut oil can even help with that. Due to its medium-chain fatty acid content, coconut oil can act as a safe and natural lubricant and laxative. It is also fibrous, and thus, helps to pull water into the intestines.
5) Energy: Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, coconut oil can help prep the body for carrying a healthy baby and for breastfeeding, should a woman choose to do so. It helps to build up adequate fat stores and to maintain energy. This does not mean coconut oil causes one to become "fat", just that the fat a woman necessarily and ultimately puts on during pregnancy will be rich in the good and nourishing kinds of fat.
1) Stretch Marks: A fear of many moms is that stretch marks will cover her belly like tiger claw scratches. While stretch marks are largely genetic, coconut oil rubbed onto the belly may help to slow down the process. And even after baby is born, applying coconut oil to the abdomen may help to fade those stretch marks.
2) Itchiness: The belly, flanks, and back may become quite itchy as the skin expands with the growing fetus. Coconut oil may help relieve the itchiness. It is recommended to apply the oil and wait at least 10 minutes before putting clothes back on to allow the oil to be absorbed. It can leave stains on fabric that do not wash out easily.
3) Dry Skin: A common occurrence during pregnancy is mild to moderate dehydration. Blood volume increases 40-50% in pregnant women, so requirements for hydration also greatly increase. If one is plagued by heartburn or just overall feelings of fullness, she may not feel like consuming more water. If a woman becomes dehydrated, so does her skin. It's not uncommon to develop dry patches of skin. Coconut oil can be used as an effective moisturizer. It is great for massage, too! What pregnant woman wouldn't want a little soothing massage from her partner?
4) Perineal Massage: Coconut oil can also be massaged into the perineal area in preparation for childbirth. Perineal massage can decrease the incidence of tearing during delivery. It is recommended during late pregnancy, after 34 weeks.
5) Hemorrhoids: Finally, pregnant women can also find relief from hemorrhoids by using coconut oil. With the added pressure from baby coupled with constipation, hemorrhoids are a common occurrence. They can cause itchiness and soreness. Coconut oil relieves both and is safe for moms to use.
The Role of Coconut Oil in Nursing
1) Nourishment: Coconut oil has been deemed the "Breast Milk of Mother Nature." Like breast milk, coconut oil contains lauric acid which turns into a compound called monolaurin. Monolaurin is directly responsible for strengthening the immune system. As mentioned previously, lauric acid has antimicrobial properties. Thus, consumption of coconut oil can be healing and nourishing for both mom and the nursing infant.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that lactating mothers who eat coconut oil and other coconut products, have significantly increased levels of lauric acid and capric acid in their breast milk, creating milk rich in health promoting nutrients. These nutrients also help establish a solid foundation for baby's brain development. Coconut oil is easy for an infant’s immature digestive system to absorb and utilize.
2) Help With Milk Supply: Coconut oil may also increase mom's supply of breastmilk. Many women struggle with adequate production of milk. This can make nursing and pumping quite difficult and frustrating. Consuming coconut oil can help. Healthy fats are a key component of breast milk and are essential for the production of hormones, which assist in regulating milk production. A diet high in essential fatty acids will also produce fattier, more nutritious, breast milk.
3) Help for Cracked Skin and Thrush: Although breastfeeding can be a beautiful bonding experience between mom and baby, most nursing moms will tell you it's not always an easy and pain-free time. As baby works to "latch on", mom's breasts often take a beating. They can become sore, calloused, cracked, and may even bleed. This can lead to infection or a painful case of mastitis. Applying coconut oil directly to the nipple can alleviate pain and sooth soreness. It can also help to heal wounds because of its antimicrobial properties.
It is completely safe to nurse with coconut oil on the breast as well. Babies can ingest it without issue. In fact, as mentioned, it has many beneficial qualities for the baby. Not only does it promote nutrition, but it can also help to support healing of the baby's mouth if needed. Sometimes nursing infants can develop thrush, a fungal infection that presents as white patches on the tongue or inside of the cheeks and mouth. Thrush can pass back and forth between the infant's mouth and the mother's nipple. Often anti-fungal medications like Nystatin may need to be prescribed by a doctor, but coconut oil may help prevent thrush from occurring in the first place.
4) Energy Booster: A nursing mother expends an extra 500 calories a day just feeding her baby. She needs to consume at least that many more calories in addition to her regular diet. Coconut oil provides 117 calories per tablespoon. By adding coconut oil to smoothies, by cooking with it, or by simply eating it off the spoon, a mother can easily meet her daily calorie quota.
Because we know it is rich in healthy fats and lauric acid, coconut oil is a great choice for the mother's and baby's nutritional needs. Coconut oil also helps to stabilize blood sugar. Mothers of infants are often so busy tending to the baby's needs that they forget to feed and care for themselves. Blood sugar levels can drop dramatically when a mother is nursing and constantly "on the run." Coconut oil, because of its medium-chain triglycerides, is wonderful for balancing erratic or low blood sugars.
Coconut Oil for Babies
1) Help for Skin Ailments: Babies are often plagued by various skin ailments as their delicate epidermis gets used to its new environment. Diaper rash occurs when the skin around a baby's bottom becomes excoriated due to prolonged wetness, diarrhea, or even a change in formula or foods a mother consumes. Applying coconut oil to the area helps with skin healing.
Cradle cap also happens during those first few months of life. "Cradle cap" is the scaly, flaky, yellowish crust that forms on a baby's head and scalp. It can be verydifficult to get rid of. To easily get rid of cradle cap, wet the baby's head during their bath. Apply coconut oil directly to the scalp and hair. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then brush the baby's hair with a soft bristled brush. Wash the baby's hair per normal, then brush it again. The cradle cap should subside or be totally eliminated within a few days.
Many babies also develop baby acne or, worse, eczema. Eczema can be caused by food allergies or intolerances, so it is important to look into the root cause. However, once eczema, rashes, or acne present, applying coconut oil to the affected area soothes the skin and helps to eliminated itchiness and redness.
2) Elimination Problems: When a baby is born, the first bowel movements he or she passes are called meconium. Meconium is a very thick, black, and sticky substance. It is often difficult to remove from the baby's skin, and parents are hesitant to rub too hard for fear of breaking down the skin. A cotton ball coated in coconut oil can easily remove the meconium from baby's bottom and it also promotes skin integrity.
Occasionally babies also suffer from constipation. This occurs more frequently in formula fed babies, but it might also happen once a baby begins to eat solid foods. Of course, adding foods like pears or prunes and upping the intake of water can help with constipation. However, sometimes a baby may just struggle to push to eliminate. Applying coconut oil to the tip of a Q-tip and inserting it gently just inside baby's bottom can get the "juices" flowing.
3) Teething: The pain of teething may cause restless nights for baby and mom. Applying coconut oil to mom's finger and rubbing that onto the gum line acts as a natural pain-reliever.
And what about brushing teeth? It's not recommended to brush with a fluoridated toothpaste until a child is at least 3. There are "training toothpastes" and baby or toddler toothbrushes available. Why not try coconut oil as an alternative to the toddler toothpaste?
4) Sickness: As mentioned previously, coconut oil contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties because of its lauric acid. If a baby is ill, coconut oil can be added to formula, food, or given by teaspoon to help in fighting off infection.
Coconut oil can also be made into a natural vapor rub. Try mixing a few drops of peppermint and/or eucalyptus essential oils into coconut oil and mixing this with some melted, grated beeswax to thicken it. This is a safe alternative to the petroleum based rubs.
Ear infections are quite common in babies and toddlers. According to an article on ehow.com, coconut oil can be inserted into the ear to help clear an infection. It is important to note that this should only be done to an intact eardrum and should also not take the place of medical treatment by a doctor.
"Using coconut oil in the ear has relatively few side-effects or risks, whereas other approaches, such as medications, involve numerous side-effects. In addition, many are concerned about the overuse of antibiotics. 'Coconut oil kills a long list of bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and protozoa,' according to Coconut Oil Central. Using coconut oil for an ear infection is relatively easy. Coconut oil is solid, so melt it slightly until it becomes liquid. Place the oil into an eye dropper. Have the person with the infected ear lie down, and carefully place several drops of the liquid oil into the affected ear. The person with the infected ear should continue reclining for several minutes to allow the oil to absorb into the ear. To prevent the oil from coming out of the ear, place a small piece of a cotton ball into the outer part of the ear."
5) Nourishment and Development: As mentioned in the breastfeeding and nourishment section, coconut oil contains lauric acid which becomes monolaurin, an immune boosting nutrient. Coconut oil can be added to baby food. It is easy to digest, and thus, not harmful to a baby's digestive tract. More importantly, it also promotes absorption of key vitamins found in foods like carrots, leafy greens, pumpkin, and squash.
Brain and bone development are paramount during the early months of life. Studies show that coconut oil helps with the absorption of calcium, thus fortifying bone formation. Also, coconut oil provides nourishment for developing brains because of its good fats, the medium chain fatty triglycerides. MCT fats pass through the blood brain barrier and act as a neuroprotectant. Our brains are made primarily of fat, so it makes sense that providing the body with the right kinds of fats makes for good brain health.
What Kind of Coconut Oil is Best?
Pregnant or nursing mothers and babies can all benefit from the many advantages of coconut oil implementation. One should look for the highest quality coconut oil to ensure maximum effectiveness. Organic, virgin, unrefined coconut oil is the best bet. Any mother is sure to find good uses for coconut oil in her or her baby's diet and health regimen.
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