There is no greater gift than healthy children. My kids are what I term "garden-variety" meaning that they are just good healthy kids. They aren't especially spectacular in any particular area, but they are good and strong and are growing just as they should.
This is a gift!
I don't know why some kids get so sick all of the time, or why so many children are prone to severe food allergies. I have my suspicions on some of it. I think that scoring a garden-variety kid is part good fortune and part behavior.
Some of these may sound silly or superstitious! But here are some behaviors that I believe help to encourage one's odds of having healthy children.
1. Don't use hormone contraceptives (birth control pills are the most common). I've read way too many articles and have seen enough presentations here on the ol' 'net to convince me that the hormones in birth control not only kill a woman's libido (which is not a fun way to live!) but can actually disrupt a woman's natural mate selection process way back in the beginning. Now some may say "Well why is a woman on birth control before she even meets somebody?" And the answer to that is "I don't know, but it seems to happen a lot." While on birth control a woman is more likely to be attracted to someone who is genetically similar (and this isn't about looks, but it's more of a pheromone thing) and that isn't ideal for future offspring. A woman who is not on any hormones or drugs is more likely to choose a man whose genetics are dissimilar and their children have a higher likelihood of being healthy.
2. Eat real food, whether pregnant or not. I find that some people when asked "do you have a good diet?" say yes but when asked more about it say that they drink Naked Juice smoothies and eat protein bars and veggie chips. This is not real nutrition, this is someone trying to "buy" nutrition. Buying these foods with an overall diet of processed junk food isn't going to fill the nutritional gaps. A woman who eats good food, tends to cook good food for her husband, tends to eat well in pregnancy, and tends to feed her children well. All of this leads to good health for the entire family. When I'm feeding my children I always have in mind what they've eaten for the day. So if they have something junky, I also know that it will get balanced out by real food. For example, my son had cereal and milk this morning (which I don't consider much of a breakfast), string cheese for snack, Pasta-Roni with some hot dog cut in for lunch, a cookie, and if he asks me to eat again I'll offer him an apple. I keep the whole day in my head and make sure they don't have one junky thing after another after another.
3. Protect their immune system- avoid antibiotics!! Antibiotics are so bad for a child's developing immune system and if a child is suffering from conditions that seem to require their use, I would absolutely encourage a mother to become their child's personal detective to figure out what is the cause. Also, many conditions can be cured via natural remedies. We want to help the body heal itself, not kill the entire bacterial system of the gut. A body that heals itself is so much stronger! We want our children's immune systems to be strong. I have never had to give my two older children antibiotics for anything, not even an an ear infection. If they complain of a hurting ear, I have them lay down with that ear up, and put warm mineral oil and garlic juice down in the ear and have them chew gum. They lay that way watching a movie and chewing gum and this has always worked to help the ear drain. I do the drops while they take a nap too. It works! Now, the little one has had to have antibiotics twice for bronchitis. The second time she got bronchitis, I started thinking "What is causing this to happen?" I know that milk causes mucous to form and I realized that my allowing her to have a sippy cup of milk before bed and naptimes was likely contributing to the build up of mucous in her chest. So I stopped that right away. Most doctors don't have the time to really delve into a child's nutrition and so it's up to caring parents to think and research and not always just rely on prescription meds. Furthermore, most illnesses heal themselves. A few days of TLC and there is really no need to visit a doctor at all. (Apparently this mom agrees! Just saw this article today.)
4. Nutrition is far more important than what height/weight percentile your child is in. I personally believe that the AAP is partially responsible for childhood obesity. Why? Because parents get really freaked out by their child's height/weight percentile and will over-feed their children to get this number higher. The fact is that it has been drummed into many people that 90% is an A and 50% is an F. Not really understanding the nature of percentiles (and many less educated people really don't understand this), I have personally seen children in the 50th percentile have freaked out moms who complain that their child doesn't eat. And so what do they do? Buy Jimmy Dean sausage sandwiches because "That's all she'll eat for breakfast!" I'm not making this up. It is no surprise to me that now at 10 years old that particular child is very heavy. I wish pediatricians would just smile and say "Everything looks good!" and not even share the percentiles as a routine part of the visit. Too many parents just don't get it. I also wish that when the child is in a low percentile that the doctor would look holistically at the child and ask about nutrition etc... My oldest daughter was in the 5th percentile for weight when she was 12 months. But she was very active, had good skin color, bright eyes, slept well, pooped and peed well, and was developmentally right on target. And still this doctor hyper-focused on her weight. The truth is that she was just a tiny kid and at 7 years old is STILL a tiny kid! My cousin (who is now 22 and at the Berkley School of Music in Boston) wasn't even on the growth chart until he was 6 years old. I also have a friend whose daughter is above the weight percentiles and the family eats super-healthy. Her daughter is just a bigger person and many women on her husband's side of the family are quite tall and big-boned. Holistic evaluation is so important.
5. Have a pet if possible and don't be a Lysol freak. Numerous studies have shown that when a child's environment is too sterile their body does not come into contact with enough bacteria to help their immune systems develop well. And so they get sick. A lot. Pets help by keeping kids around a certain amount of funk which is good. Dirt is good too. So if your kid needs a bath and your floor needs to be mopped and you prefer a sponge with water to antibacterial wipes then that's probably a really good thing.
6. Consider vaccinating the way you were vaccinated. Check out this 1983 vax schedule and compare to 2012. Dr. Lauren Feder believes we are trading acute self-limiting diseases for chronic disease. I believe the current vax schedule definitely contributes to the increase in severe food allergies. At what point does something that is a health benefit become a liability? What will the vax schedule look like when our grandchildren are born? I'm not comfortable with this and basically want my children to have a similar combination of vaccinations that my generation had.
7. Fast food means oatmeal or eggs. Back in the days I figure kids ate the same ol' stew or sludge day after day. Oatmeal is nutritious and filling and fast and cheap. Eggs are nutritious and filling and fast and cheap. If I don't have time to make dinner then that's what the little people get! (And usually what I get too. With bananas and walnuts, oatmeal is super delicious. And made into a spinach and cheese omelette, eggs are yummers.)
8. Avoid all-day day care. The kids just get really sick there is no doubt about it. Germs are good and all, but lots of tiny kids all together is like germ-city. And it is hard for kids to get regular naps. A chronically sleep-deprived kiddo is very grouchy and prone to illness. Which means more trips to the doc where they will likely be prescribed all kinds of antibiotics. Little ones need home the most.
I think the above behaviors have contributed to my kids being healthy. Some of it is just genetics and good fortune, but beyond that, we do have some decisions that can contribute to a foundation of health for our kids.