GIVEAWAY: Mothering with Ease: A Mini Retreat for Busy Moms

Enter to Win a Mini Retreat for Busy Moms

Share ways you model self-care to your kids and be entered to win a pass to Mothering with Ease: A Mini Retreat for Busy Moms on Saturday, May 14 from 9am-1pm in Hadley! Deadline to enter to win is 4/2/16 by 11:59pm (EDT). Details on how to enter to win are below.

How do you model self-care to your children? What tools help you take a breather when needed? What do you do to sustain your energy so you can parent another day? How about a mini retreat!

Pain specialist, yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner Ginny Hamilton and her colleague, holistic psychotherapist Laura Pontani, are partnering with Hilltown Families by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways you model self-care to your kids and be entered to win a pass to Mothering with Ease: A Mini Retreat for Busy Moms ($120 value) on Saturday, May 14 from 9am-1pm in Hadley!  Deadline to enter to win is Tuesday, May 2, 2016 by 11:59pm (EDT). Details on how to enter to win are below.

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Spring Ephemerals for Spring Ailments

Violets & Nature Providing the Perfect Medicine

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space. But while on our trip, opportunity arose for me to find my groove. That’s when I turned towards violets!

You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.

Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…

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Parenting Green: Spring Ephemerals for Spring Ailments


I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space. But while on our trip, opportunity arose for me to find my groove. That’s when I turned towards violets!

You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.

Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…

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Q&A: Where Do Babies Come From?


“I second/third Robie Harris’ books,” writes Susan Countryman. “We read It’s So Amazing together, and answer questions matter-of-factly as they come up.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Have your kids asked yet how babies are made, or where babies come from? What did you say? If they haven’t asked yet, how might you reply when they do?

  • Amanda Kingsley writes, “My five year old thinks that boy eggs are on one side and girl eggs are on the other… beyond that cuteness we’ve explained that the sperm meets the egg to make a baby.  She hasn’t asked how they meet, but we have a great book for that age group recommended by a client: It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends. We try to answer questions as simply and honestly as we can, never giving more info than they ask for (girls are 5 and 7).”
  • Barbara Dunn writes, “In our house, everyone knows where babies come from: The Social Worker! Seriously, though, we have answered just one question at a time rather than doing the full traditional explanation all at once. Also have left age appropriate library books just sitting around for them to pick up on their own as an ice breaker.”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “Love the “It’s Not the Stork” series. That’s pretty much the same info we’ve given to our 6 year old (he was 5 at the time). It’s enough to satisfy his curiosity and it’s honest/accurate ‎(He knew from whence they birth when he was much younger, though, and we’d seen some birth videos).
  • Laura Lucchesi writes, “Reading books to them from their age group! There are many wonderfully written and illustrated books about everything. I have a collection in my library I started when they where born. From potty training to the World Book Encyclopedias. They had the ability to read whenever they wanted. Explaining things helps when you read to your child.”
  • Heather Dunham Katsoulis writes, “Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex is a fantastic book dealing with each age appropriate response.”
  • Megan Rubiner Zinn writes, “I wrote a piece on this subject for Jezebel a few months ago, “The Moment When Your Son Asks About His Balls” – turned out to be one of the best conversations I’ve ever had with my son.”
  • Susan Countryman writes, “I second/third Robie Harris’ books. We read It’s So Amazing together, and answer questions matter-of-factly as they come up.”
  • Marissa Potter writes, “I am always honest, without over sharing. My kids have been more interested in how babies come out than how they come to grow in the first place, so far. My answer about conception, at this point, has been that is that when two grown ups have so much love between them that there is extra love, a baby grows.”
  • Jackie Amuso Dolby writes, “I think the answer is different at different ages. With four children ages 13-3, my answers have to be age appropriate. You can’t give them too much at 3 but you HAVE TO tell them the real truth at 13.”
  • Rebecca Trow Addison writes, “I agree that it depends on the age of the child. It is a lot more complicated now than it used to be too. It’s no longer ‘a man and a woman’…”
  • Annie Parker writes, “I was straight up with a blunt but simple explanation. The younger the child the less phased they are likely to be. Really penis, eggs, Santa and space ships are all the same amount crazy. Don’t make a big thing of it. They learn their attitudes from us.”
  • John L. Grossman writes, “When I explained it to my son 2 years ago the penis-sperm-uterus-egg thing didn’t faze him until he said, “Did you do that?” and I responded “twice!” (I have 2 kids), then he ran out of the room.”

Dirty Dozen & Clean 15: A Family Guide to Reducing Exposure to Pesticides in Your Produce

Environmental Working Group 2011 Shopper’s Guide Helps Cut Consumer Pesticide Exposure

“Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Environmental Working Group has released the seventh edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce with updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads. EWG highlights the worst offenders with its “Dirty Dozen” list and the cleanest conventional produce with its “Clean 15” list.

Analysts at EWG synthesized data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2009. Produce is ranked based on a composite score, equally weighing six factors that reflect how many pesticides was found in testing of on each type of the produce and at what levels. Most samples are washed and peeled prior to being tested, so the rankings reflect the amounts of the chemicals likely present on the food when is it eaten.

Notable changes in the new guide included apples’ rank as the most contaminated produce, jumping three spots from last year to replace celery at the top of the “Dirty Dozen” list. According to USDA, pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the more than 700 apple samples tested.

“Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic,” says Cook. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Making an appearance in the guide for the first time is the herb cilantro, which had never been tested by USDA until now. The data showed 33 unapproved pesticides on 44 percent of the cilantro samples tested, which is the highest percentage of unapproved pesticides recorded on any item included in the guide since EWG started tracking the data in 1995.

Also appearing in the guide for the first time are green onions, cranberries and mushrooms. Mushrooms made the “Clean 15” list, while honeydew was the only item to drop off that list this year. Cherries dropped off the “Dirty Dozen” list, but lettuce, which has made the list in previous years, were back on.

“Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic.”

Pesticides can be extremely toxic to human health and the environment. U.S. and international government agencies alike have linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits among childrenRead the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Where Can Kids Take Swim Lessons in the Summer?


Swim lessons at Ashfield Lake. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Can anyone recommend a good place for kids to take swim lessons this summer?

  • Megan Rubiner Zinn recommends: “Craig Collins at the Valley Swim School (at the Clarke School, Northampton) is wonderful:
  • Brooke Norton recommends: “I second Craig and the Valley Swim School. He’s great.”
  • Amy Meltzer recommends: “My kids have had great success with sharing a teacher for semi-private lessons at the YMCA in Northampton…”
  • Tom Adams recommends: “JFK Middle School, Northampton Rec.
  • Holly Banister Zimmerman recommends: “Valley Swim School, Craig Collins. He’s a great teacher!”
  • Katryna Nields recommends: “For Conway, Whately, Deerfield folks- the Tri-town Beach has excellent, cheap, flexible swimming lessons. Love them.”
  • Jamison Isler recommends: “Tri-town beach!”
  • Jill Kristek Payson recommends: “For Berkshire County Folks-the Dalton CRA!”
  • Yvette Sousa Estee recommends: “Wilderness Experiences in Southwick! Great people.”
  • John L. Grossman recommends:Holyoke Canoe Club, if you are member.”
  • Kate Erickson recommends: “The YMCA in Westfield is great.”
  • Sienna Wildfield recommends:“Swim lessons will be offered at Ashfield Lake in August.”

Related Post: Q&A: Outdoor Swimming Pools in Western MA

Western MA Folk Remedies for Stomach Ailments

Stomach Ailments

" I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger..."

“How I Found my Plant Ally in Marrakesh: My battle with motion sickness all started on a seemingly endless bus ride through the mountains of Morocco. The hairpin turns were countless. I was not the only one throwing up into the plastic bag provided- so were the locals. This was the only bus ride I’ve even been on that had a hired hand to mop the aisles and between the seats. To make things worse, those who were lucky enough to not loose their already eaten tagine* held a cloth saturated with very cheap perfume close to their nose in an attempt to keep it down, or keep the sour smell out. That wretched smell left me with a vivid memory, a memory that goes straight to my stomach the moment I start moving . . . cars, trains, planes, boats, ferris wheels. You name it, I get sick.

“Morocco is the place I found my plant ally. I finally arrived in Marrakesh. I could still smell that cheap perfume everywhere and I felt sick! I had two weeks left. I needed relief. I walked the streets, the narrow foot paths that led to the market place, filled with jewelry, lamps, rugs and scarves, and people who wanted to decorate my white skin with a deep red henna, monkeys that danced, snakes that hissed. It was a mosaic of color and new finds. When the night air blew in new people came to light. In Marakesh the day time does not hold a space for the herbalist, they come out at night, with their promises to enlarge this and increase that. I met many an herbalist in the darkness of Marakash. One particular man sticks in my mind.

“Laid out in front of him was a square blanket, on it every remedy you could possibly imagine. Like all great herbalists his glass jars of every size were filled with unknown powers, flowers, and potions. Everything from dried lizard head to amber resin. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic. So I looked him in the eye, stuck out my tongue and held my tummy. He smiled and searched for something. He found it and held it to my nose. I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger, plain old, buy at the grocery store powered ginger. I bought a small packet and went to my hotel.

From that day on it’s been the first thing that goes in my carry-on bag. I do get strange looks went I ask the flight attendant “can I please have room temperature water” then I reach into my bag and pour a spoon full of powered ginger powder in. I would put in more but the taste is a bit extreme for my tongue. I mix this up before I even start moving and any time during the trip. It really works. I have not thrown up in a long time. I do get nauseous and ginger clears it right up in a matter of minutes. It’s easy, safe and cheap. A true ally to any nauseous traveler.” — D’Arcy Alyse Gebert (Shutesbury, MA)

*Editor’s note: for a great Tagine, check out Amanouz Cafe on Main Street in Northampton, MA. It makes a good warming winter’s meal.
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Peaceful Parenting: Hay Fever

Dear Dr. Markel,

“My eight year old son has moderate hay fever.  This time of year for the past two his nose runs, his little eyes glaze over and he sneezes and/or coughs continuously.  He’s always rubbing his eyes and sticking his fingers in his ears because they “itch.”  I’m also noticing that every spring he has a hard time in school, which is making me concerned that it is effecting his learning too. I don’t want to put him on medication, but I don’t want to see him suffer or fall behind in school either.  Any advise what I can do to alleviate his discomfort?”  — Pam

Find out what the current pollen count is in your town - click on the photo for a list of towns in Massachusetts. (Willow Pollen - Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Dear Pam,

Allergies are an incorrect response on the part of the immune system, which recognizes substances such as pollen as foreign invaders to the body. When it comes in contact with these substances that would be otherwise harmless, the immune system has an unexpected hypersensitive reaction.

Allergic rhinitis, which is affecting your son, is commonly known as hay fever, and it is the most common chronic childhood disease. Allergic illnesses are usually not life threatening, but they do put a strain on public health resources, work and school productivity, and the quality of life of the individuals concerned.

Two signs of allergic rhinitis in children are “allergic shiners” (dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses) and the “allergic salute” (an upward movement of the hand against the nose that over time causes a crease mark on the nose). As described in your son, these are often accompanied by runny nose, cough due to post-nasal drip, watery eyes, and itchy eyes, nose, and throat.

Because of limited exposure to the environment, there are few things to which infants may be allergic, but once a child gets older, exposure to outside allergens, such as tree pollen, weeds, or grasses increases his chances of developing seasonal allergies because he spends more time outdoors.

Although many drugs are effective in treating allergies once they occur, many parents such as yourself prefer not to rely solely on drug treatments for allergies and prefer a more preventive approach.

You can take steps to reduce the occurrence of environmental allergens in your home by making such modifications as using zippered, plastic covers on pillows and mattresses and washing your bedding weekly in hot water. These steps can avoid the accumulation and continued exposure to pollen which comes into the home on a daily basis.  Optimally, carpets, upholstered furniture, or objects that collect dust should be removed from your son’s bedroom.

Dietary measures can help. Foods high in antioxidants protect against allergies because the antioxidants scavenge potentially harmful molecules called free radicals from the body. Free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, which triggers inflammation and problems like allergies and asthma.

  • Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. Various fruits and vegetables such as oranges, apples, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, fresh tomatoes, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are good sources of vitamin C.
  • Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant. Tree nuts are a particularly good source.
  • Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant found in peanuts and the skin of grapes.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, found in cold-water fish and algae sources, are anti-inflammatory. Wild salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are good sources of marine omega-3 fatty acids. (Be mindful of concerns about mercury contamination when consuming fish.)
  • Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats); these cause inflammation, making allergy symptoms worse.

It is understandable that you want to avoid medical treatment of your son’s allergies Prevention methods described above are always the first line of defense for these conditions. However, if symptoms are interfering with your child’s lifestyle (school, sports, play) then seek proper medical advice from your pediatrician or allergy-and-asthma specialist. With appropriate education, prevention, and treatment, allergy symptoms can be well controlled.


Dr. Susan Markel

Susan Markel, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician who has a private consultative practice specializing in parent coaching and child health. A graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Dr. Markel became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1981 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 1997. For many years she served as a medical liaison for La Leche League and is the author of What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child.

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Western MA Women Share Folk Remedies for PMS

PMS (Menstrual Discomforts)

"I’ve been told by people who’ve tried it that Evening Primrose Oil can clear up all symptoms of premenstrual moodiness, anxiety and breast tenderness." - Cathy Whitely (community herbalist)

“The dark moon is upon us once again, the dark part of any cycle is the transition between death of old and birth of new. I sit here in circle with my sisters as I bleed. It is day one of my cycle. Tonight we share stories of our first blood. We laugh, we gasp, we cry, we empathize. I feel blessed, I know I am blessed. The word “blessing” originates from “bloedswean” an Old English word meaning to bleed. When was the blessing taken away from us, I wonder. . . sometimes I see myself as a pirate determined to plunder and smuggle back all which has been taken from us and reversed.” – Tony(a) Lemos, community herbalist (Ashfield, MA)

“For many many years I have been growing a beautiful plant called Chaste Tree. Vitex agnus-castus is the latin name. It is a beautiful plant that doesn’t do real well up here unless you put it in a very sunny spot. It has beautiful purple flowers and in the third and fourth year it starts to have berries. You can harvest the berries and make a tea or a tincture out of them. I recommend making tincture as the tea tastes god awful. It has been used for centuries as an aid for women from puberty through menopause. It’s great for PMS, mood swings, terrible cramping, or really poor periods. In treating symptoms of menopause it can be used to ease night sweats, hot flashes, or emotional mood swings. You need to take a dropperful twice a day. It is safe to use long term, you will know within two months whether it is the herb for you. It feels pretty amazing.” – Carol Joyce, White Buffallo Herbs (Warrick, MA)

“Lady Moon Tea: A female tonic to be used especially before and during the moon time. Steep at least 20 minutes, make 3 cups for the day and keep it warm in a thermos.
1 part Nettles
1 part Rasberry Leaf
3/4 part Chocolate Mint (or Peppermint)
1/2 part Oatstraw
1/2 part Horsetail
1/4 part Hibiscus
1/8 part Cinnamon
1/8 part Ginger Root
1/8 part Licorice Root
Can add small amount of the following to add up to 1/2 part mixture of: Crampbark (for cramps), Valerian (for nerves), Yellow Dock (for iron), Vitex and Wild Yam (for hormonal balancing), and Rose Petals (for mood lifting).”
Lauren Mills, Illustrator of children’s books (Faery Wings, The Rag Coat) and founder of Woodkin Hollow, a small herbal business. (Williamsburg, MA) (Editors note: though Yellow Dock itself contains no iron it aids the absorption of iron.)

“For menstrual cramps, I heat a home made relaxation bag (made with flax seeds, dried lavender flowers & lavender essential oil) and place on my lower belly until the bag cools and then I do a warm & loving belly massage!” – Rachel Tartaglia NP

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Q&A: Does Your Family Have a Pediatric Dentist You Love Here in Western MA?

Question and Answer

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Do you have a pediatric dentist you love here in Western MA? Share here for other families looking for dental services for their kids.

  • Jessica Grant writes: I have always brought my kids to Dr. Smola’s office in Hadley. They are not pediatric specialists, but kind and thoughtful people. Dr. Smola himself recently retired and the practice changed hands but I am hopeful the quality will remain the same.
  • Heather Richardson writes: Our kids go to our dentist in South Hadley, Dr. Ricard. He’s in the Tower Theater Plaza…
  • Melissa Moody Belmonte writes: Binca Warren in Northampton. My three-year-old has had a lot of dental work done, and he still looks forward to going to the dentist!
  • Rachel Rothman writes: YES! In Northampton… Dr. Kleinman, she is patient, interactive, and educational. We love her.
  • Swansea Benham Bleicher writes: Dr. Maureen Quinn in Chicopee, pediatric and handicapped patients. She’s wonderful. My daughter needed an extraction at age three and Dr. Quinn’s office was stellar.
  • Eugenie Sills Yarmosky write: Pediatric Dentistry in the Berkshires!
  • Abbe Laine Schiowitz writes: For those who have the “will they take our insurance?” issue… Hampshire Family Dental on Center Street in Northampton, to the left of the Iron Horse. Not only are the dentists great but the office staff and music are awesome as well, giggles xo
  • Sue Lowery writes: Triangle Family Dental in Amherst – just next to the High School.
  • Diane Fossen Zamer writes: Dr. Martin Wohl and his daughter, Dr. Wohl, in the Silk Mill in Florence are wonderful. Not only pediatrics, but so great with children.
  • Judy Bennett writes: Dr. Darabi in Turners Falls has been really nice, but we’ve only been for one checkup.
  • Sienna Wildfield writes: We love hygienist Liz Spooner and Dr. Emily Bowden at the Hilltown Community Health Center in Worthington.
  • Emily Gonzalez writes: Oh wow! Yes!! Dr. Brian Kasperowski in Westfield. Absolutely wonderful, kind, patient dentist. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
  • Meagheanne Donahue writes: For the Berkshires, we LOVE Dr. Lisa Gamache in Pittsfield!! She’s terrific with kids. My son adores her!
  • Kate Parrott writes: On the advice of friends, we now go to Dr. Ian Modestow in Florence. Great friendly office and staff! Sarah the hygienist is kind, informative, and fun. Our daughter enjoys going to see them.
  • Jen Hartley writes: We think Binca Warren in Northampton is fabulous!
  • Robin Shapiro writes: We love Geri Kleinman in Northampton at Kleiman, Clayton and Canby. She actually treats our whole family and she is so great with our 4-year-old. We’ve been going since she was barely 3 and she is an incredibly difficult patient. Geri was able to make her feel at ease and get through the exam when all of my bribes failed. They also use digital x-rays so you don’t get all of radiation from older techniques and she is very into minimizing chemicals. They were also able to use a laser technique to repair a cavity for our daughter so that she didn’t need a shot or other treatment. It was a lifesaver!
  • Denise Banister writes: I very much like the staff at Worthington Health Center’s dental department. They are kind and gentle, and give you 100% of their attention while you are there.
  • Hillary Bucs writes: We adore Dr. Kantor in Northampton. He is a pediatric dentist. My daughter, who is 2.5, just had her second appointment. She did not want to leave. My other daughter has had great experiences there too, even when she had 4 teeth extracted. The decor also is so fun, and she loves the prizes.
  • Annie DeCoteau writes: My kids enjoy going to see Dr. Roman in Greenfield. My two year old cried when it wasn’t his turn.
  • Shannon O’Bryan writes: Berkshire Pediatric Dentistry, PC is the place to go!! They are amazing and so kind and patient with the kids.

Peaceful Parenting: Thumb Sucking

Dear Dr. Markel,

I was wondering your opinion on thumb sucking. My son is 7. He sucks his thumb a lot, except never at school. I feel he doesn’t “need” to, but that it’s more of a habit. His brothers are starting to really be annoyed at the sound of it. We have to tell him he can’t when we are all playing a game or watching a movie together. I don’t want it to turn into a negative thing. We have a happy, well balanced, non-stressful house with a lot of love. I know it helps some kids cope with their environment. Does he still “need” it or can we try to help him quit? Thanks for your help.

— Virginia Christi of Colrain, MA

Dear Virginia,

"...praising your son when he is not sucking his thumb is a good starting point." - Dr. Susan Markel, MD

Congratulations on providing the most important ingredient for your children’s health and well-being, a peaceful  home in a loving family.

While, in general, habits or “loveys” provide comfort and security (adults have their own forms of tension-relieving  behaviors), it is true that the thumb sucking has a few negative consequences for your son. First, the permanent teeth will in fact be positioned improperly if the thumb sucking is consistent. Also, his brothers are getting annoyed about the effect on them of listening to the sounds, and that, in turn, is a source of anxiety for your son (perhaps creating a cycle of discomfort and then relieving that discomfort with thumb sucking. Calling attention to the habit may have the negative effect of intensifying it).

Habits are difficult to break, for anybody, as they are by definition established patterns of behavior.  Your son associates certain activities with thumb sucking and those are the times when he does it. As well, other situations are associated with “not thumb sucking” and it is clear therefore that he is certainly capable of giving it up, given the right circumstances.  That said, one of the most important things to remember is that children respond to praise more readily than criticism (the same is actually true, again, for adults), so praising your son when he is not sucking his thumb is a good starting point.

Also, your child is old enough to be reasoned with, and to get into the act of decision making about stopping the thumb sucking.  He is mature enough to understand why this habit harms his teeth and disrupts family togetherness. Discuss with your child why it is better to stop the habit, and come up with some strategies for dealing with it together. One idea is to substitute other (harmless) behaviors, such as a squeeze ball, which will occupy his hands during the time that he would otherwise be sucking his thumb, or perhaps chewing sugarless gum would keep his mouth otherwise occupied.

From the tone of your letter, it is obvious that you realize that your son is not doing this to intentionally be “bad.”  It is not misbehaving in any sense of the word, and it is important that all family members treat your son with respect and understanding as you try to help him through this transitional time.

— Dr. Susan Markel, MD


Dr. Susan Markel

Susan Markel, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician who has a private consultative practice specializing in parent coaching and child health. A graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Dr. Markel became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1981 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 1997. For many years she served as a medical liaison for La Leche League and is the author of What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child.


  • SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Do you have questions or concerns on how you as a parent and/or your children can achieve a healthier and happier lifestyle you would like to see Dr. Markel address? Submit your question for consideration HERE.

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Sore Throats

Sore Throats

I use honey and lemon juice in hot water to soothe a sore throat..." — Becky Loveland (Northampton, MA)

“I’ve learned that when I have stuff in my lungs, its best to get it out, or expectorate  it. Licorice tea works very well, but more recently I tried coffee with cream and sugar (what I drink when I’m not sick). The caffeine cheered me up, the coffee or cream made me cough up phlegm, and the defiance of drinking something so wrong, so chi-depleting, and so pitta felt like it gave my immune system a jolt of righteous anger.” — Dar Williams

“Being a singer I am always looking for potions to cure a hoarse voice. Here are all the cures I use:

• “Voice rest — there is absolutely no better cure for laryngitis than silence, patience, and time.
• “Hot water with honey and lemon. I usually use just hot water and honey to avoid the acid in the lemon, but that’s because I have reflux and have to avoid all citrus.
• “Cider vinegar bath.
• “Avoid menthol — it’s drying.
• “Avoid dairy — it’s mucous producing.
•”Have a cool mist humidifier going in whatever room you are in — especially when you are sleeping.
• “I also have a personal humidifier that is warm steam. I use that just before I have to sing and just before bed.

“I have a friend who swears by ginger tea. Just boil water with a bunch of ginger root in it. Let it steep all day. I find it too spicy, but he swears it works.” — Katryna Nields

“My grandfather was a doctor and attended medical school on the cusp of homeopathy and allopathy (in fact, he went to Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, the home of homeopathy). So I vaguely remember being given homeopathic style remedies when we were very young. He also, according to my grandmother, formulated his own medicinals and enlisted her help in the mixing and measuring process. She would give us a chunk of “licorice stick” for a sore throat. This was no ordinary piece of licorice, but something very intense and hard. We would suck on it and it always helped. By the way, grandpa firmly believed that there was an herbal cure for every disease. — We would also eat a bowl of cooked greens laced with hot red peppers. The hot peppers were supposed to “cauterize” the sore throat, and the greens (escarole, kale, dandelions, or broccoli rabe) were a “tonic”. This was delicious and effective. My modern day version of this is to go to the nearest Chinese, Indian, Mexican or Thai restaurant and order any really hot dish.” — Grace Edwards

“To treat a sore throat: 1 teaspoon of sugar with turpentine drops.  Gag and try not to throw up or you would have to swallow another one!” — Mindy’s maternal great grandmother (Submitted by Kristol St. Claire, Mindy’s mom)

“A cure for a sore throat that burns, aches, feels scratchy, or for swollen glands, or a dry cough is to steep 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried Rosemary & 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried Sage in an 8 ounce cup of water for at least 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then gargle and swallow. This remedy is best when able to steep over night and then stored in the fridge for continued use.” — Alison Kleppinger (Easthampton, MA)

“For an uncontrollable bad cough I go to the Coffee Gallery on King Street in Northampton and ask for the saltiest Dutch Salt Licorice. It’s the best cough drop I’ve ever had. It completely soothes a painful scratchy throat and stops a cough. I use honey and lemon juice in hot water to soothe a sore throat if I don’t have the licorice. Most effective of all: you can just avoid having a lover and you won’t get sick.” — Becky Loveland (Northampton, MA)

“For sore throat and the beginnings of a cold make an infusion of thyme, marshmallow root and mullein leaf. It will soothe the throat, protect the lungs and the thyme acts as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Don’t forget to rest and eat chicken soup or miso with chopped garlic.” — Carrie Desmarais, Affinity Herbals (Northampton, MA)

“For sore throats or strep throat I’ve used sage gargles and drunk thyme tea, but what’s worked best for me is combining usnea and echinacea in tincture form (infusions would also be great). I used to get strep throat all the time as a kid and decided to try this combo a couple of years ago and it was gone in a couple of days.” — Cathy Whitely (Florence, MA)

“To treat a sore throat. Put 3 drops of Ravensara essential oil in 2 quarts of hot water from the tap. Stir. Soak cloth in mixture, ring out, wrap around neck. Secure with plastic wrap.” — Kathleen Duffy

“I do not remember who gave me this recipe, but as a singer and voice teacher it is the one I give out the most. It has rescued me many a time from sore throats and laryngitis, as well as keeping me warm from the inside out all through the winter. As I understand it, ginger is a tonic for the throat and for the digestion, as well as having the ability to keep you warm at the core. Grate 6 tsp (or more) of fresh ginger. Put it in a two quart saucepan and fill the saucepan to the top with boiling water. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain out the ginger for each cup you drink, making sure you add a bit of honey to aid in digestion. I return the ginger to the original pot and let sit, making the remainder tea stronger over time. You can cut it with more water if the original preparation becomes too strong.” — Justina Golden, The Profound Sound Voice Studio (Florence, MA)

“I use the tincture of collinsonia as centerpiece for a throat formula I call Performer’s Throat. Its fairly miraculous for bringing a voice back that’s been rocked by overuse. Even as close to a performance as an hour. The only time it doesn’t seem to work is when the person actually has laryngitis. It brings circulation to that area, widening out tightened cords. Also, interestingly, it does similar things for the colon, so is also good for hemorrhoids, and for prolapse of any kind. My Performer’s Throat formula changes a bit from here to there, but always contains at least collinsonia, calamus, spilanthes, propolis. I’ll add glycerin for taste, maybe a touch of ginger, sometimes elder, sometimes yerba mansa.” — Chris Marano

Previous Posts:

Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offerring alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

Photo credit: (ccl) boo lee

25 Western MA Folk Remedies for Colds & Flu

Colds & Flu

"One home remedy that has really worked for my husband when he feels like he’s coming down with a cold or flu is Elderberry syrup. The trick is to take a tablespoon of the syrup as soon as you feel you’re coming down with a cold or flu and not wait until you are ill." - Blanche Cybele Derby, Northampton, MA

Dar Williams, Singer/Songwriter, writes:

“The Pioneer Valley is positively folkloric when it comes to the cure for common ills. Go to a dinner party and describe the exact nature of your cough. You’ll hear an unparalleled range of spiritual and anatomical folk wisdom.

“Perhaps this is because our prehistoric lake bottom valley left us with rich soil and contemplative scenery, well suited for agricultural and metaphysical concerns alike. Perhaps it’s the New England legacy of self-reliance in the face of hardships that no technology can conquer. Or perhaps it’s all those women.

“All I know is, my friends have literally brought gnarled roots to my doorstep and made me chew on them. Echinacea from their own gardens and burdock from their own yards. They offer tinctures made from plants they wildcrafted and prepared themselves. They have shared countless inventive suggestions for internal and external applications of garlic.

“The valley is blessed this way, and A Cure For What Ails is a compilation of all our cultural richness, not to mention the kind of advice we desperately need when we’ve got a common cold or uncommon cramps. Sure it’s a little weird to live in a place where a five year old can ask for oscillococinum, but when a friend lays a warm, neighborly hand on my shoulder and says my lymph is draining sluggishly, I know I’m home. And when she then pushes down firmly to facilitate the drainage of toxins, I know I’m loved.”

Folks Remedies: Colds & Flu

“When coming home chilled to the bones and feeling sickness coming on. Take a medicinal shower. Turning up heat as high as you can take it, getting used to it, and then slowly cranking up heat, until the room is steamy and you forgot you were ever cold and steam is rising from your skin. Then bundling up. Make and sip a strong cup of fresh ginger tea sweetened with honey. That usually does the trick.” — Chris Marano

“Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I breathe deeply into my shoulder blades, imagining the relaxing of muscles and releasing of blood from all the eddies and knots that form with stress.”— Dar Williams, Singer songwriter

“Peach pit tea is one of my favorite home remedies to strengthen the immune & lymph systems and to help to ward off colds and flu. It is totally safe and delicious, great for children too. So start to collect and dry the pits from all those locally grown juicy peaches you eat during the summer months. To prevent them from molding, wash the pit thoroughly in water before drying. — Here’s how you brew it. Pour 1 quart of water over 6 peach pits. Simmer for half to 1 hour. Strain out the pits & drink this naturally sweet tea. The pits can be reused 2-3 times before returning to the earth.”   — Submitted by Tony(a) Lemos with thanks to my friend and teacher, Kate Gilday, for this remedy. For many years Kate was a community herbalist in Wendell Ma, before moving to upstate N.Y.

“When I start to feel sick I just do the standard stuff, I take Echinacea tincture and vitamin C, drink lots of fluids and go to sleep. Sometimes I use a hot water steam to clear my sinuses. Or I make up a batch of red sauce with lots of garlic, an “Italian Chicken Soup.” — Jeff, Paradise Copies

“Illness coming on is always helped when we feel some love – maybe in the form of a massage from a friend, or simple reassurance from someone close to us that it is really okay to be out of commission for a little while, and that they will take time to make us a healthy meal and bring it to us with a smile and some healing tea. If there is a cold coming on, and that meal has cooked greens in it, the cold may very well u-turn. One thing that I always mention to people is yarrow tincture — it elevates the body temperature so that the body can efficiently do what it is already trying to do — remove waste from the body. Hemlock (from evergreen trees) tea is also warming, full of vitamin C, readily available and free. I also find that when a full blown cold takes me over, if I swerve into the skid (let myself feel deathly ill for a couple days — stay in bed, avoid commercial pharmaceuticals) that there is some lovely gem of transformation going on — some sadness that I’ve been holding onto that I have time to face and answer to in my life once I’m up and out of bed again. So, not resisting, and letting oneself enjoy being sick can be medicine in itself.” — Michelle Wilde, woman of the earth, dreamer, singer, and sacred artivist.

“When I feel myself having problems with regular nosebleeds or sore throats or something, that is the time I just check myself and figure out what is outta balance in my life – whether I am not getting enough sleep or whether I am too stressed out about work or having troubles. I try to address those problems before I do any external remedies.” — David Fisher, Conway, Natural Roots, CSA Farm

“My mother would put me under cozy warm covers and bring me hot chamomile tea. She would rub my feet, my back, hold me and she would ask with a special loving sparkle in her eyes ‘would you like any treats?'” — Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt, Child of the Valley

“In winter when I am sick (or not) my mom makes me hot chocolate. When I am sick I usually rest in bed and do quiet activities.” — Sam Robbins, Age 11

“In winter if I am sick my mom spends money on me to get me medicine. In winter if I am sick my mom gives me shelter.” — Mary Robbins, Age 9

“Whenever my son has a fever and I need it to go down, (I generally let it ride for a couple days to see if it will break on it’s own) but if he’s burning up or it’s low grade and stagnant for a while I give him either a 1/2 dropper of Elder flower tincture in warm water and have him sip it or I give him Elder flower tea 1 tsp./8oz. water. You can administer it by a teaspoon or dropper for younger children and babies. It works like a charm every time.” — Carrie Desmarais

Read the rest of this entry »

GIVEAWAY: Herbal Medicine for Children and Babies

Herbal Medicine for Children and Babies
Four Fall Classes at Blazing Star Herbal School

Herbal Medicine for Children and Babies is a series of four classes that will be offered on Fridays this fall in Ashfield, MA at Blazing Star Herbal School by herbalist, Tony(a) Lemos. Deadline to enter for a chance to win is Oct. 13th, 2010.

Hilltown Families and Blazing Star Herbal School (BSHS) in Ashfield, MA have partnered up to offer one lucky participant free registration for Herbal Medicine for Children and Babies, a series of four classes being offered this fall.  Participants will learn how to raise healthy children, how to prevent compromised immune systems, and discuss both common and and some less common childhood diseases. Find out how to win a free registration to this series of four classes below. Deadline to enter to win is Wednesday, 10/13/10 @ 7pm (EST)


Herbal Medicine for Children and Babies will run for four Fridays, October 16th & 23rd and November 5th & 19th, from 9:30am-1 pm in Ashfield, MA.  The class will begin with pre-conceptive health care and continue throughout childhood, covering pathologies and common and uncommon states. The class will discuss methods to help prevent compromised immune systems and ways to strengthen the terrain. Cultures around the world will be compared and contrasted. Clarity will be given on appropriate dosage for children and methods of administration. Participants in the class will explore creative medicine making and making nourishing condiments. Students will leave with a complete Materia Medica for Children’s Health.  For more information contact Tony(a) Lemos at, or call (413) 625-2030.


Dedicated to teaching traditional herbal medicine in a way that supports a more sustainable future and shows respect for the integrity of nature, BSHS offers a unique perspective on herbalism, weaving social and political aspects of health and healing through the study of medicinal herbs and food practices. Serving as a local and national resource for education and networking, BSHS has been in Ashfield for over 25 years on 26 wooded acres of pine trees, rushing brooks, wildflower meadows and gardens. Right here in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, the school offers unique and exciting programs in herbal studies to give both the student and professional an opportunity to delve deeper into the art and science of herbalism. Their courses have been highly acclaimed for inspiring students to find their unique healing path through personal relationship with the plant world. For more information about BSHS visit them on line at


Your chance to win a free registration for Herbal Medicine for Children and Babies, a series of four classes this fall at Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. POST WHY YOU WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS CLASS BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) You must include your town and state to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 10/13/10 @ 7pm (EST)


Western MA Events for World Breastfeeding Week

World Breastfeeding Week in Western MA

Research shows that the best feeding option globally is the initiation of breastfeeding within the first half hour of life, exclusive breastfeeding for a full six months, and continued breastfeeding through the second year or beyond. Breastfeeding improves short and long term maternal and child health. For local breastfeeding resources, visit the Pioneer Valley Breastfeeding Task Force at http://www.valleybreastfeeding.o

The week of August 1st, breastfeeding advocates all over the world will be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week for the 19th year with the theme “Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps. The Baby-Friendly Way.

Below is a list of breastfeeding events happening in the Pioneer Valley, along with ten steps the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action states every facility providing maternity services and care for newborn infants should follow to support successful breastfeeding.


There are several events happening to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week in Western MA:

Monday, August 2nd in Springfield, MA
The Springfield North WIC program will hold an event for World Breastfeeding Week on August 2nd at 10am at Court Square, Springfield City Hall. There will be giveaways, snacks, information about the Springfield North breastfeeding peer counselors program.

Monday, August 2nd in Amherst, MA
World Breastfeeding Week will be celebrated on Monday August 2nd at 3pm on the North Common in Amherst (the tree-shaded common on North Pleasant Street that is right in front of Town Hall). The event will be a gathering to bring awareness to World Breastfeeding Week through information and conversation.

Tuesday, August 3rd in Springfield, MA
The Family Life Center at Mercy Medical Center, Springfield, will hold a World Breastfeeding Week event, from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Family Life Center Lobby. Come and meet Stacy Rubin, IBCLC, author of “The ABC’s of Breastfeeding: Everything a Mom Needs to Know for a Happy Nursing Experience.” Books will be available for purchase and signing. There will be free breastfeeding information, 10 percent off all Medela and Ameda breast pumps, and supplies. Maternity bra fitting clinic for Bravado and Medela bras – no appointment needed. For more information, please call 413-748-7295.

Wednesday, August 4th in Northampton, MA
Cooley Dickinson Hospital will be holding a World Breastfeeding Week event on August 4th from 2-4pm in the main lobby. There will be informational tables, a display of past infant feeding devices, and a raffle.


Research shows that the best feeding option globally is the initiation of breastfeeding within the first half hour of life, exclusive breastfeeding for a full six months and continued breastfeeding through the second year or beyond. Every facility providing maternity services and care for newborn infants should:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant mothers about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half-hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
  6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming-in – allow mothers and infants to remain together – 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

Make Your Own Sunblock

"Americans know that when they head to the beach they need to protect their skin, which usually means putting on sunscreen. But consumers need to know more than just the SPF rating on the bottle ..." (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Victoria Worth of Ashfield, MA writes:

There is a good article in the New York Times about sunscreens.  Below is the beginning of the piece and HERE is the link to the whole article.

“Americans dutifully slather on sunscreens every summer, hoping to stave off aging, wrinkles and cancer. But with each passing season, more questions are raised about whether the labeling and safety guidelines for sunscreens, created in 1978, are adequate or misleading. The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has been criticized for failing to approve new ingredients that are available in Europe.

“Research is also questioning the safety of certain ingredients that have been widely used for years. Just recently, Senator Charles Schumer of New York called on the Food and Drug Administration to investigate reports suggesting a possible link between skin cancer and retinyl palmitate, now found in many sunscreen products.

“What should the F.D.A. do about sunscreens? And what do consumers need to keep in mind even if they cover themselves with a SPF 70 sunblock?”


Want to try making your own sun block? Local herbalist Tony(a) Lemos of Blazing Star Herbal School shares the following recipe.:

Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA

Sun Block Recipe

  • 1/2 c. St Johns Wort Infused oil
  • 1/2 cup unrefined sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Aloe Vera Gel
  • 2 Tbsp Orange  or rose or lavender water
  • 50,0000 IU’s Vitamin E Oil


  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. borax powder
  • 1 tbsp. unrefined avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp. unrefined jojoba oil

All ingredients can be ordered from, or you can order the finished product from Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA by emailing

Food Allergies and Summer Camp

Food Allergies and Summer Camp
By Hilltown Families Guest Writer, Karen A. Jordan

Summer camp tip: Check EpiPen expiration dates, label each EpiPen with your child's name, and bring enough for each counselor and the nurse. (Photo credit: Stusic)

It’s that time of year again…the final countdown of school days, warmer weather, and plans for summer camp. As a parent with a child with a severe peanut allergy, I am quite familiar with the tension, nervousness, and tremendous preparation that come with preparing for summer camp.

Last year my daughter, who was 9 at the time, spent her first week at sleep away camp. The preparation began as soon as I registered her. I called and spoke with the camp director and food service director to talk about food options and ways to keep her safe. The drop off day for summer camp was crazy, to say the least. Lines of parents and children, talking to counselors that were young (according to my standards!). First up: cabin assignment. Walked over to her cabin and met with the counselor. She was a wonderful college-age girl who already had EpiPen training, but I reviewed with her the procedure. One EpiPen would stay with her, and one would stay with nurse. I went over with her the emergency action plan and the phone numbers to call if needed. Then off to the nurse’s station. Dropped off EpiPen with her along with another copy of the emergency action plan and phone numbers to call. Whew! I was emotionally and physically drained! Swim test, setting up her bunk and last goodbyes.

Some tips for parents who are sending their child to camp, whether it be day camp or overnight camp:

  • Check EpiPen expiration dates and make sure child’s name is labeled on each EpiPen, since the contents of a two-pack may be split up. And make sure you bring enough – find out how many counselors there will be, so each one can carry one, as cabin may be split up into smaller groups. And don’t forget the nurse! And, it may be wise if your child is old enough, to have him/her carry their own EpiPen with them from activity to activity.
  • Send in a hearty supply of “safe” snacks for camp store times. Even if some of the food there is safe for him/her to eat, it may be a bit hectic during these times, making it confusing for label reading. Also, there are the issues of children opening their snacks right in front of your child, immediately exposing them to allergens.
  • Dining Hall: Label reading is a must! One person in kitchen should be responsible for reading labels on the food and help make safe meals for your child. I had met with food service director the week before camp and went over menu with him to help reduce exposure to peanut products. We read labels on all products and determined what foods would be safe for her. We also followed the same plan as her school, where her table would be a peanut free table and no peanut butter would be served in the kitchen.
  • Reminded your child that she needs to read labels, wash her hands frequently, and to not eat food if she doesn’t know the ingredients.

The staff at these camps are all willing to work with you to help make your child’s visit to the camp a safe, happy experience. The best advice is to plan ahead as much as possible and to make sure that you have your cell phone with you at all times in case of an emergency or even if the staff has a question for you. I can’t tell you how many times I have received a call and my heart has skipped a beat to soon find out that they just wanted to read a label to me over the phone!

Like This!


Karen Schneyer Jordan

Karen lives in Lenox Dale, MA with her two children, Katie, age 10, and Christopher, age 6. She has severe allergies to several foods, including tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.  Her daughter is allergic to peanuts. Her son was allergic to soy for 2 years and eventually outgrew it.  Karen started finding out more about food allergies when her daughter, who was two at the time, had her first anaphylactic reaction. Years of research and networking, as well as utilizing skills learned during her work experience in human resources and employee training, led Karen to branch out on her own as Berkshire Food Allergy Consulting Services. Now she spend most of her time working on training and development as well as support for those living with food allergies.

Q&A: Sunblocks that REALLY Work


Consumer Reports recently reported what tests revealed about top performing sunscreens. Click on the photo to read more. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Summer is turning the corner on us and the sun is a blazing. Can anyone recommend a kid-friendly sun-block they like to use on their family, and where you get it? Blocks that are either non-toxic, don’t sting eyes, REALLY waterproof, and/or easy to apply, are all good to know about.

  • Lauren Koblara Kostantin writes: I’m interested in the answer too.
  • Alisa Blanchard writes: California Babies … one of the best rated on and it is easy to apply, all natural, mostly organic, unscented … I also like the Badger Unscented sun screen but it isn’t as easy to get on, but it stays on longer.
  • Melinda Freund Schneider writes: I’ll be watching for suggestions that don’t sting eyes. When running dog agility, my eyes are always stinging … not good!
  • Sara Cahillane writes: A friend swears by one called Baby Blanket. Much less expensive than CA baby. Available online.
  • Susan Rees writes: The sunscreen I swear by (and I burn more easily than anyone I know) is the Target brand SPF 45 for babies. Don’t know how “non-toxic” it is, but sunburn, in my opinion, is more dangerous than whatever is in there.
  • Rachel Cassia Trigere Besserman writes: Zinc 12% and any base oil (shea, olive) depending on wish for consistency. I have bulk zinc 210-0495! and shea/olive/coconut. This is what I use on Emmet (5.5) and me.  It works!
  • Sarah McMullen writes: We like CA Baby too! Pricey, but seems to last a long time, and non-toxic.
  • Lyza May writes: I interested in this too, I have to ask Rachel, you have each of those ingredients and mix them yourself?
  • Lau Mazza writes: I’ve used Audrey Organics 25 for children.  It is the least expensive and most effective. My dermatologist recommends to apply it 30 minutes before being in the sun. We usually apply it before we leave the house to the park or the beach and by the time we get there is dry. That is what makes it truly effective and water proof, we usually don’t apply for the rest of the outing.
  • Judy Bennett writes: I stick to the mineral based ones, rather than the chemical based ones. I think I got a good one that wasn’t too $$ from Whole Foods. Also check out
  • Myssie Casinghino  writes: We like blue lizard brand.
  • Arianna Alexsandra Grindrod writes: I like Aubrey Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea.
  • Share your recommendations with us below.

It Takes A Village: A New Initiative for Families in the Hilltowns with Newborns

It Takes A Village Hosts an Open House
February 28th, 2010 in Cummington, MA

It Takes a Village‘ is a free-of-charge, community service that supports families for the first three months after a baby is born. A family is matched with a volunteer who visits the family home on a weekly basis, providing support with anything from meal preparation and dishwashing, to companionship and playing with older children.

The Village is modeled after Many Mothers in Santa Fe, NM. We are based in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, and dedicate our service to the memory of Heather Egan, who gave her own life bringing a new one into the world.

‘It Takes a Village’ was initiated by Maureen Shea after her son was born last autumn. The first six weeks were the most trying time Maureen had ever experienced and she spoke with her midwives, Tanya Rapinchuk and Lucinda McGovern about the extra support needed for families with newborns.

“There was one particular afternoon when my good friend Samantha came over for a couple of hours and in that time she folded laundry, helped me make dinner, made space for me to express my woes and was a generally glowing support”, Maureen shared, “and that visit was a turning point for me in my healing after the birth”.

Lucinda sent a copy of the Many Mothers manual to Maureen and along with Heather Cupo, Davio Danielson, Bi-sek Hsiao, Jaylin Stahl and Anna Toth, ‘It Takes a Village’ was born.

OPEN HOUSE – 02/28/2010 from 2-4pm

At the OPEN HOUSE on February 28th, 2010 in Cummington from 2-4pm, the founders will introduce ‘It Takes a Village‘ to the community at the Cummington Community House at 33 Main Street in Cummington, MA. Expectant families, families with newborns and interested volunteers are warmly welcome. All those who already work with families post-partum are invited to join us and to add their contact information to our list of resources.

The OPEN HOUSE is a family-friendly event! There will be an appearance of the Green Tara puppet from Moejo puppets as well as an excerpt from Maureen’s latest performance piece, Tremble.

Take Action: Health Education Does Not Go Better with Coke

Advocates Urge American Academy of Family Physicians to End Coca -Cola Partnership

Things don’t always go better with Coke. That’s why the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a letter-writing campaign urging the American Academy of Family Physicians to end a planned partnership with the Coca-Cola Company. As part of a new AAFP program called the Consumer Alliance, Coke is providing a reported six-figure grant to the AAFP to “educate consumers about the role their products can play in a healthy, active lifestyle” on the AAFP’s award winning website,

“In the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity, it’s shocking that the AAFP would partner with a company that aggressively markets empty calories to children,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn.

According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, a child’s chances of becoming overweight increases by 60% for each serving of soda they consume a day. Yet, the Coca-Cola Company markets to children in schools, on social networking sites, and through its sponsorship of American Idol, a top-rated show for children ages 2-11.

“Medical organizations should provide objective information about the negative impact that soft drink consumption has on children’s health,” said Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children’s Center. “They shouldn’t exploit parents’ trust to help beverage companies market their brands.”

The AAFP/Coke partnership has sparked protest from family physicians around the country, including some who have resigned from the AAFP. “How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that put our children at risk for obesity, heart disease and early death?” asked Dr. William Walker, Director of Contra Costa Health Services, as he resigned his twenty-five year membership.

CCFC has launched a letter-writing campaign to support the courageous doctors who are demanding that AAFP’s leadership end the partnership.

“It is disappointing that the AAFP would assist Coca-Cola in the company’s obvious attempt to buy credibility,” said Michele Simon, research and policy director at Marin Institute and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back. “But it’s heartening that so many AAFP members are demanding that their organization stay true to its mission to promote public health.”

Kids Spoon-Fed Marketing and Advertising for Least Healthy Breakfast Cereals

Kids Spoon-Fed Marketing and Advertising for Least Healthy Breakfast Cereals

(Photo credit: Chris James)

The least healthy breakfast cereals are those most frequently and aggressively marketed directly to children as young as age two, finds a new study from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The researchers’ evaluation of cereal marketing, the first such study of its kind, shows pervasive targeting of children across all media platforms and in stores. The detailed findings of this study, which was supported in part by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will be presented in Washington today at Obesity 2009, the 27th annual scientific meeting of The Obesity Society.

Researchers studied the nutrient composition and comprehensive marketing efforts of 115 cereal brands and 277 individual cereal varieties. Nineteen brands (comprised of 47 varieties) were identified as “child brands” because their cereals are marketed directly to children on television, the Internet, or through licensed characters, such as Dora the Explorer.

Cereal companies spend nearly $156 million annually marketing to children just on television. They also market extensively using the Internet, social media, packaging, and in-store promotions.

“This research demonstrates just how far cereal companies have gone to target children in almost everything they do. The total amount of breakfast cereal marketing to children on television and computer screens, and at their eye-level in stores, combined with the appalling nutrient profile of the cereals most frequently marketed, is staggering,” said lead researcher Jennifer L. Harris, Ph.D, MBA, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center.

Key marketing exposure findings include: Read the rest of this entry »

Packaging Girlhood: Halloween & Girls

Your Daughter’s Halloween Costume: Tips for Dads

Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers' SchemesThe search for your daughter or stepdaughter’s Halloween costume can be treacherous, filled with over-sexed and stereotyped “choices.” Here are some healthy ideas from Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D. and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., authors of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), to fight back and let her creativity sparkle!

  1. She can be anyone or anything on Halloween, so help her think outside the box (especially boxes of store-bought costumes.) Imagination and creativity can help girls break out of gender stereotypes… and are great practice for reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Research Shows Children are Critically Susceptible to Pesticides

Research Shows Children are Critically Susceptible to Pesticides
By Michael Jolliffe

Young children are potentially susceptible to certain pesticides for a longer period of time than previously thought. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives has revealed that children are dangerously vulnerable to the effects of environmental pesticides, and for far longer than originally suspected…

… Of particular concern to the researchers were chlorpyrifos and diazinon, pesticide chemicals still used ubiquitously in US agriculture. Pesticides have been cited as a possible cause of developmental difficulties and childhood cancers.

Read more here: Research Shows Children are Critically Susceptible to Pesticides.

Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in Northampton

Cooley Dickinson Hospital Childbirth Center takes baby steps toward national initiative

Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Childbirth Center in Northampton, MA has received a certificate of intent from the UNICEF/World Health Organization Baby-Friendly USA Hospital initiative. Receiving this document is a first step in Cooley Dickinson’s application process toward becoming certified as a Baby-Friendly hospital, according to this organization’s ten-step process.

Paula Mattson, international board certified lactation consultant and the hospital’s liaison to the Baby-Friendly initiative says the receipt of the certificate indicates “Cooley Dickinson has joined other pioneering birth facilities in setting standards of excellence for assisting pregnant women and new mothers with breastfeeding.”

“While the certificate recognizes Cooley Dickinson’s commitment to breastfeeding and to the completion of the first phase of the application process, additional steps such as nurse and physician training need to occur before the Childbirth Center can promote itself as a Baby-Friendly hospital,” adds Mattson. Boston Medical Center is the only Massachusetts hospital that has met all standards of the Baby-Friendly USA Hospital Initiative.

The certificate of intent lauds Cooley Dickinson Hospital for its “sincere commitment to promote, support and protect breastfeeding by striving to implement the Ten Steps to successful breastfeeding of the UNICEF/WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital initiative.” Mattson says Cooley Dickinson employees are working toward those steps, which according to the UNICEF/WHO include:

  1. Maintaining a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Training all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Informing all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Showing mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Giving breastfeeding infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practicing “rooming in”– allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encouraging unrestricted breastfeeding.
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Western MA Nursing Mothers Wanted for Breast Cancer Study

Tanya Lieberman of Northampton, MA writes:

I’m helping to recruit nursing mothers for a breast cancer study based at UMass, and am hoping that you might know of mothers who would qualify. We’re looking for:

  1. Mothers who are 25 or younger and nursing, and
  2. Mothers who are in their mid-30’s and nursing, who also had and nursed a baby in their mid 20’s or younger.

They would be asked to donate a milk sample, which would be picked up from their home, and fill out a questionnaire. They would receive $25 in thanks. We’re trying to recruit locally (within 50 miles of Amherst), but could pick up samples from further away if there are several mothers who qualify. Any interested mothers can contact me at: More information about this and another breast cancer study using breastmilk is at We can also provide flyers and brochures about these studies.

Thank you!
Tanya Lieberman, IBCLC

Autism Speaks Video Fundraiser

The band Five for Fighting is generously donating $0.40 to Autism Speaks each time this video is viewed. The funds raised will go towards research studies to help find a cure for autism. When you have a moment, please watch this informative clip, featuring touching photos of a beloved daughter and her family.

Thank you to Shelly Bathe Lenn, for bringing this video to my attention. It is a powerful, informative video that I hope you will share with as many people as you can. Autism has affected so many children in our community. I encourage you to help bring the much needed services and therapy to these children.

Mindy Brown
Easthampton Family Center Coordinator

Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Coalition Hosts Open House and Training

Did you know that …

  • 80% of mothers experience some symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety within the first year of motherhood
  • 10-25% of mothers (26-32% of teen mothers!) develop diagnosable postpartum depression or anxiety
  • The suicide risk for American women jumps seventy-fold in the first year after they give birth*
  • With approximately 8,000 births per year in Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties, it can be estimates that at any given time 6,000 mothers are experiencing significant postpartum stress, and 800-2000 mothers are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety

The Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Coalition of Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden Counties will host an Open House and Training on Wednesday, February 6 from 9:30-11:30am in the Upstairs Room at Community Action (56 Vernon Street) in Northampton, MA. Refreshments and networking begin at 9:15am. This event is FREE and open to the public. If you work with pregnant women and mothers, or are a member of the public who is interested in this topic, this open house and training is where you want to be on February 6th! Read the rest of this entry »

New Midwifery Medical Director at Cooley Dick

Tucker Kueny, MD Accepts Offer of Midwifery Medical Director Post

Cooley’s midwifery practice to progress at quicker pace; certified nurse midwife recruitment continues with a practice opening planned for June 2008.

Following a nationwide search to locate the medical director of Cooley Dickinson’s new midwifery program, the physician who accepted the post resides in Northampton, MA and was recommended by area women at one of the hospital’s community focus groups.  Read the rest of this entry »

Local Midwifery Program Plans Go Forward


In response to questions from the community, Acting CEO Carol Smith says “fit with this community is essential!”

Cooley Dickinson Hospital (Northampton, MA) has a longstanding commitment to providing a range of childbirth/women’s health services to Hampshire and Franklin residents, but since June, certified nurse midwife-assisted deliveries here have not been an option.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Acting CEO Carol Smith, RN expects that to change shortly.

While Smith does not have an exact date of when the new midwifery program will be available to area women, she respectfully requests that community members continue to be patient.

“Many women are extremely frustrated, and rightfully so,” states Smith, citing feedback she has both heard from patients and read online. “We understand their frustration, but there are many aspects to developing a new health program that the public does not see, and that take a lot of time.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Make Your Own Natural Itch Relief Spray Using Wildcrafted Herbs

From the Apothacary: Families Can Find Some Itch Relief!
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

To follow are a couple herbal recipes to relieve the summer itch of bug bites or poison ivy. Take the kids and wildcraft what’s abundantly local in a clean area in your area. Take what you’ve gathered and head into the kitchen to make a few batches. Give extras to your child’s mom or dad, along with the recipes below. Both recipes are for external use only.


Equal parts:

  • Comfrey Leaf
  • Plantain Leaf
  • Violet Leaf
  • Mugwort Leaf
  • Jewelweed Leaf (whole plant)
  • (If Sweet Fern Leaf is local to you this can also be added)

Make a decoction of Comfrey, Plantain. Violet, Mugwort and Jewelweed Leaf, add Witchhazel 30% of the total liquid, add 1 teaspoon per ounce of Grindelia extract, add alcohol to equal 15% of total liquid (this is the preservative). Decant into a glass jar and store ina cool area. Keep out of reach from your children.


Blenderize the following fresh plants, adding rubbing alcohol and distilled water as needed. Do not strain.

Succous (plant juice preserved in alcohol) of the following wildcrafted plants:

  • Comfrey Leaf
  • Plantain Leaf
  • Violet Leaf
  • Mugwort Leaf
  • Grindelia Leaf
  • Jewelweed Leaf

Decant into a glass jar and store in a cool area. Keep out of reach from your children.

Read the rest of this entry »

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