Natural Remedies for Common Breastfeeding Issues

Natural Remedies for Common Breastfeeding Issues

Breastfeeding provides the best start to life for your new baby – but this natural process does not always come easy and minor problems can sure feel like major ones when you’re lacking sufficient sleep and clarity. So Hello Charlie has compiled a few natural remedies for mothers who may be faced with some common breastfeeding issues.

Low Milk Supply

Of the biggest concern to many breastfeeding mothers is low milk supply – cue sleepless nights wondering whether or not you are properly nourishing your baby. Of course, stressing about this issue is one of the most likely culprits to the cause of insufficient milk supply! Fatigue and not drinking enough water are the other most common offenders, staying hydrated of which is the easiest contributing factor to fix.

Nursing frequently assists with the supply of breast milk and is quite normal – babies digest breast milk quite quickly, in around 1.5-2 hours – and will also be going through growth spurts increasing the frequency and length of their feedings, which in turn increases your milk supply. It’s important not to panic about feeding your growing baby enough and don’t supplement their breastfeeds with formula as this will slow down your milk supply.

If you’ve tried doing nothing but lie in bed and nurse for three days and you’re still worried about low supply of breast milk, you could consult a naturopath about natural herbal remedies to help increase your supply. An herbal tea infusion of galactogogues such as fenugreek, shatavari, fennel seeds, hops, comfrey leaves, raspberry leaves, nettle and plenty more in the form of tinctures such as blessed thistle; aromatic seeds such as anise, cumin, fennel, caraway, coriander and dill; and a diet comprising of well-cooked foods rich in carotenes are all natural remedies to resolve issues of low breast milk supply.


Thrush is a fungal infection that can affect the nipples and also your baby. It may be identified by severe, burning nipple pain or radiating breast pain but is easily identified by white spots in your baby’s mouth or a red rash on the buttocks. Using coconut oil on the nipple and baby’s mouth, reducing sugar and yeast in your diet, adding yoghurt, probiotics and good hygiene can offer natural solutions, however you may need to opt for an anti-fungal treatment if symptoms do not improve.

Cracked Nipples

Cracked nipples is another common issue with breastfeeding – you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s almost inevitable but it need not be and can be easily treated with a nipple cream containing calendula, like the one from Nature’s Child. Calendula is a delicate anti-inflammatory herb for sore, cracked nipples doubling as a healing herb for cuts, sores and nappy rash.


Engorgement is where the breast becomes hard and difficult for your baby to latch onto the breast. Alongside regular feeding and expressing milk, one natural remedy is the cabbage leaf treatment. Studies have suggested that sulphur in amino acid methionine acts as an antibiotic and anti-irritant, drawing extra blood flow to the area which dilates capillaries and relieves inflammation, allowing milk to flow freely.


Mastitis is a bacterial infection in your breasts, which can be caused by cracked skin, clogged milk ducts and engorgement if these issues are not treated early enough. As antibiotic use will also affect good bacteria and that imbalance can lead to other side effects, natural remedies for mastitis include plenty of rest, heat compresses before nursing and cold compresses after nursing, massage, staying extra hydrated, raw garlic, Echinacea, Vitamin C, fermented cod liver oil and plenty of probiotics.

Whilst the issues described above are extremely common for breastfeeding mums and bubs, breastfeeding should be an enjoyable, pain-free experience for you both. Some of these issues can become serious infections, and not all cases can be helped with natural remedies. Always trust your instincts and speak with your doctor, midwife or health professional if you have any concerns at all. Further resources and support can be found at the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website.


Low milk supply:………





Copyright © 2015 Hello Charlie

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Dirty Thirty – Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products

Dirty Thirty Personal Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Dirty Thirty Personal Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

The wonderful website Turning Green has a fantastically useful list of chemicals to avoid in personal care products.

I’ve reproduced it here, but I encourage you to go and have a look at this website – there’s heaps of useful information.


Function: Used to control sweat and odor in the underarms by slowing down the production of sweat.
Present in: Antiperspirants. Banned by EU.
Health concerns: Linked to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease; may be linked to breast cancer; probable neurotoxin; possible nervous system, respiratory, and developmental toxin.


Function: Solvent; hidden within “fragrance”.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Linked to pancreatic cancer; easily absorbs into skin causing quick systemic effects; animal studies show hyperemia of the lungs; possible gastrointestinal, liver, and respiratory toxicant; possible neurotoxin.


Function: Antimicrobial agent, deodorant, preservative, biocide.
Present in: Moisturizer, sunscreen, facial cleanser, acne treatment, pain relief. Restricted in Japan and Canada.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; may trigger asthma; possible organ system toxicant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and brain, nervous system, respiratory and blood effects; possible carcinogen.


Function: Preservative.
Present in: Moisturiser, body wash, facial cleanser, makeup remover, anti-aging products. Restricted in Canada.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; lung and skin toxicant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and gastrointestinal, brain and nervous system effects; irritant.


Function: Solvent in polishes and treatments, prevents chipping.
Present in: Nail polish and nail treatments.
Health concerns: Repeated exposure causes skin dryness and cracking; vapours may induce drowsiness or dizziness; flammable.


Function: Anti-Oxidant; slows down the rate at which product ingredients change in colour.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Banned by EU.
Health Concerns: Immune system toxicant; endocrine disruptor; probable human carcinogen; animal studies show brain, liver, neurotoxin, reproductive and respiratory toxicant.


Function: Surfactant, emulsifying or cleansing agent, penetration enhancer.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Animal studies show brain, nervous system and sense organ effects; irritant; reproductive and skin toxin, alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; may contain harmful impurities.


Function: Controls itching and eczema, softens and promotes the dissolution of hard, scaly, rough skin, also used in hair dyes.
Present in: Shampoo and hair dye. Banned by Canada and EU.
Health concerns: Known human carcinogen; skin and respiratory toxicant.


Function: used as foaming agents in shampoos and bath products, and as emulsifying agents in cosmetics; foaming and cleansing agents for “mouth feel”.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Human immune system toxicant; forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with nitrosating agents; animal studies show sense organ effects and skin irritation; may contain harmful impurities.


Function: pH adjuster.
Present in: Sunscreen, moisturiser, foundation, hair colour.
Health concerns: Skin and immune system toxicant; possible carcinogen; irritant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and neuro developmental, brain and nervous system effects; may trigger asthma.


Function: Solvent.
Present in: Nail polish products, mascara, tooth whitening, perfume.
Health concerns: Probable neurotoxin; possible nervous system toxin; possible carcinogen; irritant; highly flammable


Function: Disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, preservative.
Present in: Deodorant, nail polish, soap, shampoo, shaving cream. Restricted in Canada. Banned by EU.
Health concerns: Immune system, repertory, hematological, and skin toxicant; probable carcinogen and cardiovascular toxicant; can damage DNA; may trigger asthma; animal studies show sense organ, brain, and nervous system effects; possible human development toxicant.


Function: Anti-microbial preservative.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Forms nitrosamines when in the presence of amines such as MEA, DEA and TEA; probable immune system, blood, cardiovascular and skin toxicant; possible carcinogen; animal studies show endocrine disruption, nervous system and organ system effects; may contain harmful impurities.


Function: Deodorant, masking, perfuming
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; possible neurotoxin; can contain between 10 and 300 different chemicals, many of which have never been tested for safety; see phthalates. Labelling can be confusing. If uncertain, check with manufacture.


Function: Antioxidant, fragrance ingredient, skin bleaching agent, hair colorant.
Present in: Skin fading/lightener, facial moisturizer, anti-aging, sunscreen, hair colour, facial cleanser and moisturiser. Restricted in Canada.
Health concerns: Immune system and respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; possible carcinogen; irritant; animal studies show endocrine disruption.


Function: Preservative.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Restricted in Japan.
Health concerns: Human toxicant; possible liver immune system toxin; allergenic.


Function: Colourant.
Present in: Hair dye, hair products. Traces found in some red lipstick. Restricted in Canada.
Health concerns: Probable carcinogen; developmental, respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive toxicant; reduced fertility; animal studies show metabolic, brain and nervous system effects; suspected nano-scale ingredients with potential to absorb into the skin.


Function: Preservative.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Restricted in Canada and Japan.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; animal studies show restricted growth of the axons and dendrites of immature nerves, neurotoxicity and positive mutation results; can lead to a malfunction in the way neurons communicate with each other; especially detrimental to a developing nervous system.


Function: Sunscreen Agent; Ultraviolet Light Absorber, UV Absorber; UV Filter.
Present in: Sunscreens and makeup
Health concerns: Associated with photoallergic reactions and immunotoxicity. Probable carcinogen and endocrine disrupter; Enhanced skin absorption and bioaccumulates to dangerous levels; biochemical cellular changes. Developmental and reproductive toxicity.


Function: Preservative and anti-bacterial agent.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: May alter hormone levels, possibly increasing risk for certain types of cancer, impaired fertility, or alteration of the development of a fetus or young child; studies have found parabens in breast tumours; probable skin toxicant; animal studies show brain and nervous system effects.


Function: Forms barrier on skin; makes lipsticks shine and creams smoother; inexpensive skin softener.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Banned by EU.
Health concerns: May be contaminated with impurities, linked to cancer or other significant health problems.


Function: Fragrance ingredient, plasticizer, solvent.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Banned in EU.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; developmental and reproductive toxin; respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; possible carcinogen and endocrine disruptor; bio-accumulative in wildlife.


Function: Hair colorant.
Present in: Hair dye, shampoo, hair spray. Restricted in Canada.
Health concerns: Immune system and respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; eczema; possible nervous system, skin, kidney and liver toxicant; irritant; may trigger asthma and gastritis; shown to cause cancer in animal studies.


Function: Solvent, penetration enhancer, conditions skin, controls viscosity and keeps products from melting in high or freezing when it is cold.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; animal studies show reproductive effects, positive mutation results, brain and nervous system effects and endocrine disruption.


Function: Surfactant, penetration enhancer.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin, increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; Irritant; animal studies show sense organ effects.

26. TALC

Function: Absorbs moisture, anti-caking agent, bulking agent.
Present in: Blush, powder, eye shadow, baby powder, deodorant.
Health concerns: Carcinogen; link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer; talc particles are similar to asbestos particles and data suggests that it can cause tumors in the lungs; probable respiratory toxin;


Function: Antioxidant, solvent to improve adhesion and gloss.
Present in: Nail polish and hair dye.
Health concerns: Liver toxin; probable developmental, nervous system and respiratory toxin; possible cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, renal and sense organ toxin; possible carcinogen and reproductive toxin; irritant; highly flammable;


Function: Anti-bacterial agent, deodorant, preservative, biocide. Reduces and controls bacterial contamination on the hands and on treated products.
Present in: Antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, face wash and cleaning supplies. Restricted in Japan and Canada.
Health concerns: Probable endocrine disrupter and carcinogen; easily bio-accumulates to dangerous levels; irritant; animal studies show reproductive and other broad systematic effects; potentially contaminated with impurities linked to cancer and other significant health problems; studies have shown it can actually induce cell death when used in mouth washes.


unction: Fragrance ingredient, pH adjuster, surfactant.
Present in: Hand and body lotion, shaving creams, soap, shampoo, bath powders and moisturizer.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; possible carcinogen; animal studies show endocrine disruption; may trigger asthma; forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with nitrosating agents.

30. 1,4 DIOXANE

Function: Penetration enhancer
Present in: Body lotion, moisturizers, sunless tanning products, baby soap, anti-aging products.
Health concerns: EPA classifies it as a probable carcinogen found in 46 of 100 personal care products marketed as organic or natural, and the National Toxicology Program considers it a known animal carcinogen. Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to high levels of 1,4 dioxane has caused vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs of humans. It may also irritate the skin.

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How to Choose Breast Pads and Nipple Creams for Breastfeeding

How do you choose breast pads and nipple creams for breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding might be natural, but boy … it can be very hard going on your breasts! Here’s our guide on how to choose soothing nipple creams and breast pads for those hardworking breastfeeding breasts.

How to Choose Nipple Creams

Weleda Nipple Care Cream

EWG Skin Deep Rating: 1 (Low Hazard)

Water (Aqua), Sweet Almond Oil, Sesame Oil, Olive Oil, Ethanol, Yellow Beeswax, (Unbleached), Marigold (Calendula Officinalis), Flower, Lemon Juice, Marshmallow (Athaea Officinalis) Root, Jojoba Oil, Glyceryl, Monostearate (Vegetable), Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) Herb, Lesser Nettle (Urtica Urens) Herb, Echinacea purpurea whole plant, Sodium Alginate (from seaweed), Silica, Angelica archangelica Root, German Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita) Flower, Lavendula angustifolia Flower, St. John’s Wotr (Hypericum perforatum) Flower, Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) Concentrate, Lecithin, Rose Maroc (Rosa Centifolia) Absolute Oil, Lavender Oil, Fragrance, Styrax Benzoin Gum.

Weleda Nipple Care Cream is available to buy at Hello Charlie

Nature’s Child Nipple Balm Certified Organic

EWG Skin Deep Rating: 0 (Low Hazard)

Sunflower Oil*, Olive Oil*, Evening Primrose Oil*, Beeswax*, Shea Butter*, Calendula infused in Sunflower Oil*, Natural Vitamin E*  

*Certified Organic

Nature’s Child Nipple Balm is available to buy at Hello Charlie

Lanolin Nipple Creams

There are a number of nipple creams on the market that are 100% medical grade, hypoallergenic lanolin. The instructions on these products say that the creams don’t have to be removed prior to breastfeeding. Products include:

  • Lansinoh Nipple Cream
  • Marcalan Nipple Cream
  • Nuk Nipple Cream
  • Medela PureLan

Lanolin based creams are a natural option, however, be aware that a small percentage of the population can have an allergic reaction to lanolin.

All of these products have rate as 1 (low toxicity) on the EWG Skin Deep Database.


The most natural nipple cream of all is breastmilk. According to lactation consultants, just smear a little around your nipples after each feed, and this should be all you need.

I have to say though, that this definitely didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s just because I have very dry skin, but I found that I needed a nipple cream when I was breastfeeding. However, you may find that you only need the nipple cream when your breasts are really sore, and the rest of the time you can get away with breastmilk. It’s definitely worth a go!

PawPaw Ointments

I’ve also heard of pawpaw ointment being used, but personally I’d be a bit wary of this as not all pawpaw ointment manufacturers disclose all their ingredients (Lucas is one of them that withholds all ingredients as it’s apparently too ‘commercially sensitive’ for them to share).

Unless you’re sure that they’re safe for baby to be ingesting, you either need to remove it before each breastfeed, or avoid it.

Ingredients to avoid:

Whichever nipple cream you choose, it’s a really good idea to avoid any that contain phenoxyethanol, as I know that there was a cream recalled in the US because it contained phenoxyethanol. It can cause nausea and vomiting, among other things, so it’s really not good to put on your nipples when you’re breastfeeding as your baby will then ingest it.

How to Choose Breast Pads

Reusable/Washable Breast Pads

As for breast pads, I’d always go with organic and I preferred reusables rather than disposables, but this is kind of a personal choice. It’s good to have at least 3 pairs if you’re going with reusables, as it means you don’t need to wash everyday!

Breast pads made from bamboo rayon are more absorbent than organic cotton, but this depends on how you feel about bamboo.

Hello Charlie stocks a number of different kinds of reusable breast pads:

Nature’s Child Breast Pads – these are all organic, and come in light, regular and large sizes, which is very useful as everyone has different breastmilk flows! Each pack has three pairs.

Pea Pods Bamboo Nursing Pads – these come in soft bamboo, in a handy pouch for washing.

Disposable Breast Pads

I’ve had customers tell me that having some disposable breast pads is really useful for the first few weeks, while you’re getting used to breastfeeding and the whole new baby things, and I think this is probably good advice. Once again, I’d recommend organic cotton breastpads, as some disposables can be chlorine bleached.

Hello Charlie stocks Organyc disposable breast pads that are 100% organic cotton, with no chlorine bleaching.


One of our lovely customers, Leah, made some great comments that I just had to share:

I used nipple creams when establishing feeding for each baby and had sore cracked nipples. I was happy with Lansinoh because it helped and it stayed on. I used breastmilk as well. Another great product was one that was handed to me by my Mum’s friend (it was almost as old as I was). It was a Medela Breast shell. The news ones look more flattering and comfortable than than mine but either way it worked. It is a plastic shield that sits over the nipple with lots of holes in it to allow air flow. It also keeps clothes from rubbing on a sore nipple making it worse. I have used both reusable breast pads and disposable pads and the reusable ones were so much better. I would have used them for my first baby if I’d have known that they wouldn’t be smelly or awkward and would be reliable. I used them for babies 2, 3 and 4. The only downside is that you don’t want to loose them under the cushions of couches or leave them on your friends coffee table when you go home!

Should You Use Baby Powder on Your Baby?

Should You Use Baby Powder on Your Baby?

Should You Use Baby Powder on Your Baby?It’s one of those scents that have become synonymous with babies – baby powder. For decades it’s been associated with being a symbol of freshness and cleanliness, used liberally for preventing nappy rash.

However, the American Academy of Paediatrics now recommends against using baby powder for concerns over respiratory problems. Talc is made of finely ground powder developed from magnesium silicate, a mineral composed primarily of magnesium, silicone and oxygen. The particles are light enough to be carried through the air and inhaled by baby, adversely affecting their breathing.

And that is the least of our worries, with the president of the industry’s Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association conceding in 2002 that talc is toxic and can reach the human ovaries. There is even a class-action lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson – arguably the most well-known manufacturer of baby powder in the world, as plaintiffs argue that the company has known about the risks of ovarian cancer with the use of these products for decades, yet failed to warn their consumers.

What are some alternatives to talc-based baby powder? 

At first, we moved from talc that contained asbestos, to talc that did not contain asbestos. Phew! What a relief. But as we learn more about the toxicity of talc, we started seeing corn starch based baby powders emerge. Corn starch is made up of larger particles that are less likely to be inhaled.

Common ingredients in non-toxic baby powders might include:

  • Aloe Vera for soothing and healing chafed skin
  • Arrowroot powder – a soft, herb based powder frequently mixed with corn starch, ideal for healing irritated or blemished skin
  • Corn starch, made from corn kernels
  • Kaolin clay, an absorbent mineral ideal for use on sensitive skin
  • Essential oils for natural fragrance

All the baby powders we stock here at Hello Charlie are based on corn starch.

Even if you are using a talc free baby powder, you still need to be careful when you’re applying it. Step back from your baby and apply some into your hand first, to reduce the risk of inhalation from particles in the air and prevent irritation. Be sure to store your baby powder high out of reach to prevent a cloud of powder being inhaled or trodden into the carpet.

If ‘less likely’ to be inhaled still concerns you, skip the corn starch baby powder altogether. 

Some say that corn starch can worsen a yeast infection of the skin and create a really bad nappy rash. It’s for this reason that baby powder, both talc and corn starch based, is used as a preventative and not a treatment. Always ensure that you remove any baby powder from the last nappy change, and thoroughly dry baby’s nappy area before applying more.

Some fresh air and a little sunshine during ‘nappy free’ time does wonders for preventing and treating nappy rash. There are also plenty of natural creams for treating nappy rash once it starts to develop.

Do you use baby powder or do you skip it altogether? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Eight Top Tips on How to Get Rid of Head Lice

helpful hint head lice

We’ve had a fun time in our house the last couple of weeks trying to rid my youngest son of head lice. He’s in prep, and I noticed him scratch, scratch, scratching the other week. Sure enough, I checked his head and there they were – headlice!

Cue scratching from the whole family (although it was only the youngest who had them, thankfully). I can remember having headlice as a child, and the horrible chemical preparations my mum used on me to get rid of them. When we were talking about this the other day, mum was telling me that none of them worked, and she eventually poured metho over my hair and scalp. It did kill them, but apparently it burnt my forehead!

Thank goodness, we know a bit more about lice these days. I did a bit of googling, and came up with the following useful information about how to prevent and control head lice in your family.

1. You don’t need to wash everything in the house to get control head lice

Headlice feed on human blood, not on animals, and they need to feed 3-4 times a day. They dehydrate and die within 6 hours in a dry climate, and within 24 hours in a humid climate.

There’s no need to wash everything, as the lice will not survive.

2. You do need to wash hats and pillowcases to get rid of lice

Wash hats and pillowcases at 60 degrees celcius, or dry them in the tumble dryer on the warm or hot setting to kill them.

3. Headlice can’t jump

Head lice can’t jump – they have no knees! They can’t fly, either, as they have no wings. They can (and do) crawl from head to head, and can be transmitted by sharing things like hats and hairbrushes.

4. The best non-chemical treatment for head lice is conditioner and a fine tooth comb

Put any kind of hair conditioner on to dry, brushed hair. The conditioner stuns the lice, and allows you to comb them out easily.

Divide the hair into small sections, and comb through carefully with a fine tooth comb. Wipe the comb onto a piece of tissue or paper towel, and you’ll be able to see whether there are any lice or any eggs.

Comb through each section of hair 4 or 5 times.

Wash the nit comb out with very hot water to kill any remaining eggs.

Yes, we know how tedious this is. It’s even more tedious if you’ve got daughters with long hair. There’s always a silver lining, however. Look upon it as an excuse to spend time with your children, and chat to them about their day. Alternatively, you could do as we did, and watch Frozen together!

5. Prevent re-infection by repeating the treatment

Repeat the conditioner and fine tooth comb treatment every third day for 10 days until no more live head lice can be found.

6. No need to treat everyone in the family for head lice

Fortunately, you only need to treat the person who has the head lice. The whole family doesn’t need to be treated, although it’s a good idea to check everyone periodically – and you’ll all be scratching whether you’ve got them or not!

7. Try prevention with the homemade head lice remedy of tea tree oil

Pop a couple of drops of tea tree oil into a spray bottle with some water, and spray on to hair before school. Supposedly the head lice don’t like the tea tree oil smell!

8.  If you’re using a chemical head lice prevention preparation, you’ll need to alternate

Lice can become immune to chemical preparations, so if you do choose to use an over the counter, chemical preparation be prepared to change treatments each time.

I’m happy to report that we seem to be head lice free now. We did have one round of re-infestation, but having used the conditioner and fine tooth comb method to control head lice, and ensuring that we did the conditioner and combing every few days for ten days to control the whole nit life cycle – we’re free of head lice.

Not sure how long we’ll be free, though, as I watched my son give three of his friends a big head-to-head hug in the playground as we left school!

More information can be found at the Victorian Government Health website. Check out the Victorian Government’s handy PDF guide to preventing and controlling head lice here.

What’s your top tips for preventing and controlling head lice? Let us know in the comments below.



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Tips for Healthier Grocery Shopping Part 3 – The Cereal Aisle

Healthier Choices in the Cereal AisleHealthier Choices in the Cereal Aisle

I’ve got my children pretty well trained when it comes to the ‘junk food aisle’, as we call the confectionary, chips and soft drink aisle. They know it’s junk, and they know it’s occasional food. The cereal aisle is a different ballgame, though.

One of my children, especially, loves cereal and rarely eats anything else for breakfast. Now that the boys can read, they love to tell me that this cereal is ‘high fibre’, and that one will ‘give you energy, to counter my ‘it’s not healthy’ claims.

The key with breakfast cereals, as with most processed foods, is to ignore that front of the pack and go straight to the nutrition information panel. This panel is your friend. Learn to read and understand it.

So, I’ve decided to do a helpful guide to healthier grocery shopping in the cereal aisle.

  • Needs to be high in fibre – at least 10 grams of fibre per 100 grams
  • Make sure it’s wholegrain
  • Low GI (although don’t choose this over low salt and sugar). A GI value of 55 or lower means low GI.
  • Low salt/sodium – good levels are less than 150mg per 100 grams
  • Low sugar – look for something less than 15 grams per 100 grams
  • Low in saturated fats – less than 1.5 grams per 100 grams

Be careful of phrases like ‘added vitamins and minerals’. This can sometimes be a disguise for too much salt, too much sugar and not enough fibre.


How much fibre do you need? According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel, adults should be eating 30 to 35 grams of fibre per day, children from ages 1-3 need around 14 grams, older boys need 28 grams a day, and older girls need 22 grams a day.

CHOICE Magazine did a wonderful review of breakfast cereals, which includes a table of supermarket cereals and how much fibre, sugar, salt and fats they contain.

Have a look at cereals aimed specifically at children – very scary!

A high fibre cereal should contain 10 grams of fibre per 100 grams.

Saturated fats:

The Heart Foundation Ticks are for foods that are healthier than comparable foods, so this is good to look out for. It’s worth noting that manufacturers pay a fee to use the Heart Foundation Tick, and not all manufacturers choose to do this, so just because it doesn’t have the Tick doesn’t mean that it’s not good. As ever, read the nutritional information on the pack

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, no more than 10 percent of your child’s daily calories should come from saturated fat, regardless of age or gender. In a 1,300-calorie diet, that’s 14 or fewer grams of saturated fat. A diet made up of 1,500 calories can consist of no more than 16 g of saturated fat.

Cereals with less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams are great, but stick to under 4 grams per 100 grams, and you’re doing okay.


CHOICE Magazine’s review of Australian breakfast cereals makes a great point about sugar in cereals. When you read the ingredients on the box, ingredients must be listed in order of the highest amount. If sugar or sugar additives are high on the list of ingredients, give it a miss. However, if fruit is high on the list, the cereal might be okay. The sugar content on the nutrition panel will be high, but it’s better to have sugar from fruit than from additives.

For example, Sultana Bran is a pretty good choice of cereal, but it has a very high sugar content. However, most of this sugar comes from the sultanas, so it’s still a reasonable choice.

As a general guide, try to choose cereals that contain under 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

Low salt (sodium):

Approximately 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods. Cut down on the processed foods, and look for foods that are low in sodium, i.e. have 150 mgs or less per 100 grams. It’s handy to know that no sodium foods should have 5mgs or less per 100gs.

I was looking at our box of Rice Bubbles the other day, and realized that these have about 550 mgs of sodium per 100 grams – making it a high sodium food. Just because it’s a plain cereal, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good for you.

We should be eating less than 2300 mgs of sodium per day, so keep an eye on the nutrition panel and go for lower sodium products.

There’s a great fact sheet on salt intake from the Queensland Government at

Artificial colours and flavours

One of my hobbyhorses, it never ceases to amaze me how many artificial colours and flavours are added to our foods. I was very pleased when Aldi announced that none of their products contain artificial flavours, and it’s certainly one of the reasons I buy a lot of our cereals from there.

My eldest son is gradually being allowed more independence in the choice of foods that he eats, and he unwisely chose some horrible lollies for his weekly treat last week. I read the ingredients panel, and couldn’t see one natural ingredient. I pointed this out to him, but he still wanted them. He ate a few, and then broke out in a rash. He told me he’d be reading the ingredients next time.

We’re lucky that he just itched for a while. Artificial colours and flavours can cause all sorts of problems (see my earlier post about Code Red ingredients:

Needless to say, check the ingredients list and avoid cereals with artificial colours and flavours.

As ever, the less processed it is, the more likely it is to be lower in salt, fats and added sugars. The favourites in our house (okay, let’s be honest, they’re my favourites – but I do the shopping!) are:

  • Rolled Oats;
  • Uncle Toby’s Shredded Wheat
  • Sanitarium Kids Weet Bix
  • Kellogg’s All Bran; and
  • Uncle Toby’s Vita Brits Weeties

The big problem with these cereals is that they’re pretty dull. I get around that by putting out small containers of sultanas, chopped dried apricots, cranberries, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, linseeds, pepitas and fresh fruit and letting the kids add these to their cereals.

Occasionally we have other cereals (like the aforementioned Rice Bubbles) that one of my children in particular loves. He’s allowed these, as long as he adds oats and All Bran.

I’ve also found a high fibre sprinkle that has carob powder in it. I’m not a huge fan of carob, but my I’ve got my two thinking that this is a ‘chocolate’ breakfast sprinkle.

What are your favourite healthy breakfasts?

Helpful Links:

CHOICE Magazine review

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Tips for Healthier Grocery Shopping Part 2: The Dirty Dozen – Which Fruit and Vegetables Should You Buy Organic in Australia?

The Environmental Working Group have a great guide to organic fruit and veg, called the Dirty Dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have high levels of pesticide residues, and that are really worth buying organic.

However, this is based on US fruit and veg, and it’s slightly different here in Australia.

As a general rule, tree fruits, berries and leafy greens (including herbs, it’s worth noting) have the highest residues. Fruits and vegetables with thick skins have much lower levels of pesticide residues.

I think that I could probably guess which fruit and vegetables have the most pesticide residues, as they’re the ones that I had problems growing in my organic garden! Anything that the pests get into at home, by my reckoning means that commercial growers have problems with, too, and need to use lots of pesticides.

There are three groups of things that you should really buy organic, and they’re pretty easy to remember:

  1. Soft fleshed produce – stonefruit, grapes, berries
  2. Edible skin produce – carrots, apples, pears, capsicums, celery
  3. Leafy greens – lettuce, spinach, leafy herbs like parsley.

As a general rule, if you have to peel the skin, like a banana or an avocado – it’s a safe alternative. Same with thick skinned produce like watermelons or oranges.

Here’s a handy guide to the Australian Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries
  3. Carrots
  4. Apples
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Capsicums
  8. Lettuce
  9. Celery
  10. Pears
  11. Tomatoes
  12. Grapes

Safer alternatives:

  • Kiwi fruits
  • Pineapples
  • Watermelon
  • Rockmelon
  • Avocado
  • Citrus fruit – oranges, grapefruit, tangerines
  • Bananas
  • Mangoes
  • Broccoli
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Corn
  • Eggplants
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cabbage

Although potatoes are on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen, Australian potatoes have been tested and show almost no chemical residues, so paying extra for organic may not be worthwhile in this respect.

Top Tips:

  • Make sure you wash all fruit and veg – both organic and non organic – really well
  • Peel the skins off, especially on potatoes, carrots, stonefruit, apples, pears and cucumbers.
  • Grow some of your own – lettuce, spinach and herbs are especially easy to grow in pots or in your back yard.

See the CHOICE magazine article for comments on Australian organic foods:

According to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, testing of Victorian produce for chemical residues shows that they are cleaner than like-testing in other countries.

Friends of the Earth study:

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Tips for healthier grocery shopping – Part 1

Five Ingredients to Avoid in Kids FoodsIt can be tricky trying to work out which products to buy at the supermarket. We all know we should eat less processed foods and more fresh foods.

A times, however, you need or want to buy packaged foods. Over the years, I’ve come up with a list of ingredients that I absolutely, no matter what, won’t buy. I call them the ‘Code Red Ingredients’.

Code Red Ingredients

  1. High fructose corn syrup
  2. Trans fats/hydrogenated fats
  3. Food dyes – ingredient numbers 100-199
  4. Sodium Benzoate
  5. Aspartame

Here’s what they are, and here’s why I won’t buy them.

High fructose corn syrup – this is a sweetener that research shows contributes to diabetes and obesity. Sugar is bad enough, but there’s no place in our diets for this cheap, fattening stuff!

Trans fats – found in hydrogenated oils. Trans fats are unsaturated fats, but they behave similarly in the body to saturated fats. Hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fats – avoid wherever possible.

Food dyes (these are listed as numbers 100-199 on ingredients listings). Combining food dyes and sodium benzoate has been shown to increase hyperactivity in children.

Sodium Benzoate – (listed as chemical 211 on ingredients lists). A preservative which is widely used as it is good at killing bacteria, yeast and fungi. There are concerns that when combined with ascorbic acid, or vitamin c, that it forms benzene, which is carcinogenic. Found most often in soft drinks, fruit juice and other products with a high acid content, like salad dressings. Coca-Cola pulled sodium benzoate from soft drinks in the UK, but as far as I can tell, not in Australia. I could be wrong on this (as I don’t drink Coke), but it’s certainly one to avoid.

Aspartame – NutraSweet. There are so many reasons not to eat or drink aspartame, but here’s one that’s easy to grasp. Aspartame contains methanol, which the body breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde. Yep, formaldehyde is the stuff that’s pumped into bodies during the embalming process. Not so good.

So there you are – pop this five onto your phone, and the next time you shop, you’ll have them right there so you’ll know to avoid them.


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Teething is an issue we are often asked about, and we carry quite a few products that our customers have recommended to us as being useful.

My two children seemed to get through teething relatively unscathed, although I did find that a chilled cucumber baton or two were always well received when the pearly whites were popping through! Likewise, the cooling teether rings were a favourite toy when they’d been popped in the fridge. Having two on the go was a great idea as there was always a cool one available.

If your little one does seem to be suffering from nappy rash, or diarrhoea, or any of the other health problems often associated with teething, it is a good idea to get them to the doctor to be checked out, as research has proved that these are not necessarily teething issues.


  • Teething is natural. A lot of research has been done which shows that babies are not more irritable or unwell when teeth come through.    
  • Despite this, many people, including parents and doctors, believe babies are in pain, irritable, have sleep problems, and get snuffly around the time they get new teeth.    
  • If your baby seems to have the problems that are often called “teething problems”, the problems are real, but may not be caused by teething.    
  • When a new tooth is moving up through the jaw into the mouth, the gums might look red and swollen. We might think this causes pain, but it might not cause pain.    
  • Teething gels, biting on something hard (such as a teething ring), paracetamol or ibuprofen seem to help some babies. If your baby seems distressed you could try them. They do not cause harm. Work out the correct dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen for your baby, using information on the bottle.    
  • Do not use lemon juice on your baby’s gums. Lemon juice has a lot of acid and can harm new teeth by dissolving the tooth enamel.

Other Health Problems  

Other health problems when babies are at the age that teeth come through may include:

  • waking a lot at night    
  • being restless and irritable in the daytime    
  • colds or other infections    
  • a temperature (fever)    
  • a rash, especially a nappy rash    
  • diarrhoea.

These are not likely to be caused by teething. If your baby seems unwell, see your doctor.  

What parents can try  

If your baby seems to be in pain, the following suggestions may help.

  1. Give the baby something firm to bite on, such as a cold teething ring, a toothbrush or a dummy.    
  2. Some babies prefer mushy food for a while because it needs less chewing, while others like something firm to chew on. Rusks can be good.    
  3. Try a stick of cold cucumber, or a cool, wet facewasher.

If there is a lot of pain, some dentists or doctors may suggest using paracetamol or teething gels (please see your doctor or dentist before using these).

Please note that the information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, dentist or your health practitioner.

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