8 natural solutions for the common discomforts of infancy

Colic, earaches, diaper rash . . . as all parents know, infancy is a time filled with finding solutions for the ailments that cause our babies pain or discomfort.

Between the glossy ads in parenting magazines and the aisles of choices at the supermarket and pharmacy, it can be overwhelming to try to choose the right thing to comfort the hurts of our little ones. And more often than not, it’s the middle of the night when we discover we need a solution – quickly!  Not the most convenient time for a trip to the store.

Here are 8 natural remedies for the discomforts of infancy – things that you already have in your home:

1. Chamomile Tea

For centuries, parents have used chamomile tea to soothe fussy babies.  For both adults and babies, chamomile has a soothing effect.

In order to keep an eye out for an allergic reaction (extremely rare with chamomile), begin with tiny amounts administered with a dropper or added to a bottle of breastmilk or formula.  Choose a trusted tea company such as Traditional Medicinals, or brew the tea from loose chamomile leaves from a safe source.

Dip a washcloth in chamomile tea and freeze it to create a soothing teether for older babies experiencing teething woes.

2. Grapefruit Seed Extract

Anyone who has ever battled thrush in an infant knows how discouraging it can be – you think you have succeeded in clearing it up, only to have it return again a few days later.

Nystatin and Genetian Violet are commonly advised to treat thrush, but I found GSE to be the most effective solution when my daughters were babies.  To treat thrush with GSE:

  • Make a solution of ten drops GSE per one ounce of distilled water.  (Never apply full-strength GSE to yourself or your child!)
  • Paint baby’s mouth with a cotton swab every two hours and before each feeding.
  • If breastfeeding, use the solution to treat yourself as well.  Allow to air dry.
  • If needed, paint diaper area as well; air dry.
  • If you don’t see results after two days, increase GSE to fifteen to twenty drops per one ounce

3. Raw Honey

Photo by alsjhc

Of course, honey should never be ingested by infants under the age of one because of concerns about botulismHowever, because of honey’s antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, raw honey makes an excellent agent to promote healing for minor wounds and cuts.

Use raw honey underneath an adhesive bandage to speed the healing of a small cut (from a slip with the nail trimmer, for example), or apply to an irritated area in the diaper area to clear a nasty case of diaper rash.  There is also anecdotal evidence that raw honey may be useful in the treatment of eczema.

4.  Apple Cider Vinegar

You probably have a bottle of apple cider vinegar in the pantry for use in the kitchen, or maybe it’s part of your hair care routine.

Because of the natural germ- and bacteria-fighting properties of apple cider vinegar, it also makes a great treatment for diaper rash.  Prepare a 1:1 solution of water and apple cider vinegar and wipe it over baby’s diaper area. Allow to air dry.

5. Breastmilk

Beyond providing nourishment for your little one, breastmilk is also useful in a variety of ways to promote health and healing.

Breastmilk can be used to:

  • Clear a stuffy nose.  Use in the same way you would use saline spray or drops – squirt some into stopped-up nostril, wait a minute or two, and then suction out with bulb syringe.
  • Provide relief from an earache.  A few drops of breastmilk dropped into an inflamed or infected ear can provide relief and may even jump-start the healing process.
  • Clear conjunctivitis.  A few drops of breastmilk administered to the inside corner of the eye is a quick and convenient first response to conjunctivitis.

6. Essential Oils

Photo by Crystalwood Naturals

Essential oils can solve a variety of problems around the house.  Perhaps you have a few on hand already for housekeeping, personal hygiene, or aromatherapy.  Did you know you can use some of those essential oils to provide relief for the very common problem of stuffy noses and congestion?

I recently found a “recipe” for a cold care massage oil that uses essential oils as an alternative to baby vapor rub:

Add
4 drops Tea Tree oil
2 drops lavender oil
2 drops eucalyptus oil
to 2 oz of carrier oil (such as olive oil)

Massage it into the soles of baby’s feet, back, chest, and neck to help relieve the congestion.  If you are nursing, try adding a little to the top part of the breast (right about where their noses would end up while nursing) to help them to be able to breath easily while nursing.

7. Probiotics

Most everyone is familiar with probiotics – dietary supplements or foods that help restore the “good” bacteria in your system to healthy levels.  There is now evidence that seems to indicate that introducing probiotics – particularly from the lactobacillus strain – may be helpful in treating babies suffering from colic.

When either of my girls has been on antibiotics, I’ve found that treating their tummies with probiotics (either in yogurt or in powdered form) greatly reduces the gastrointestinal upset that antibiotics often trigger.  Additionally, increasing the probiotics in their diets helped when we needed to find a cure for a yeast infection or yeast rash.

8.  Amber

Okay, so unprocessed Baltic amber is probably not something you have just laying around the house, but many parents in the United States are discovering a centuries-old truth: amber is a powerful natural analgesic.

When heated by the warmth of the skin, the anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties can stimulate relief from within.  Amber teething necklaces are becoming a more common solution to the pain of teething, but be sure to take care when purchasing a teething necklace.  Necklaces that are well-made should have individually knotted beads and a break-away clasp.

Please do remember that this information is not intended to be used as medical advice, and I am not a medical professional. I’m simply a parent who is always looking for a natural (and easy!) way to alleviate the inevitable pain of growing up.

We all want our little ones to make it through the tough stuff so we can get back to enjoying those happy, healthy baby smiles!

Other helpful resources:

Keeper of the Home: Herbs for the Fussy Baby and Herbs for the New Mama
Allergy Self-Help: Herbs for Earaches

This is only a partial list of helpful natural remedies. What solutions have you found work best for the common pains of infancy?

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61 Comments

  1. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

    Megan, what an awesome post! Seriously. Well done!

    The amber for teething is new to me. I have seen amber necklaces advertised, but I just didn’t understand why. Now it all makes sense. So interesting!

    For teething, I am in love with homeopathics. I use Hyland’s teething tablets and they are my little miracle workers.

    All my best herbal suggestions are already in those two posts that you linked to (thanks!). Oh, except this one… I use chopped up onion in a small bowl near baby’s head at night to clear up congestion. That along with a dehumidifier (with a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil in the water) works so well.

    And my all time favorite natural baby remedy: coconut oil! I use it for eczema, for teething rash on baby’s face (from drooling), for diaper rash, for dry skin, for cradle cap, etc. Makes good lotion and lip gloss for mama, too. 🙂
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home’s last blog: Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Ferments Everywhere =-.

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Thank you, Stephanie! I was looking around for a good solution to cradle cap, but couldn’t find one. Coconut oil to the rescue AGAIN!
      .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: Simple Organic – come and see! =-.

  2. Gina

    great post! Although I do not have infants anymore I use a lot of these on a regular basis in my house. Mostly the vinegar, GSE, and probiotics. I’ve always had great success with natural remedies. Thanks for posting this information, it is really helpful!
    .-= Gina’s last blog: L-O-V-E =-.

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      It’s funny – our littles aren’t infants at all anymore. I suppose I really can’t count my 29 month old as a baby, right?

      But yes – so many great natural solutions out there, even when the babies grow up!
      .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: Simple Organic – come and see! =-.

  3. jaime

    Wonderful information – in fact, I am going to print it and save it in LBC’s nursery drawer for future reference. Just this morning I found that she has developed a stuffy nose, and we have no saline drops. I am definitely going to try to the breastmilk instead of saline drops to see if that helps our situation.

    Thanks for all the resources!

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Isn’t that always the case – we NEVER have the remedy we were looking for at the moment we need it. Never. It’s good to find solutions with that which you happen to have on hand!
      .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: Simple Organic – come and see! =-.

  4. Lillian

    What a great post! It’s great to see them all in one list!
    .-= Lillian’s last blog: 40 Bags in 40 Days – =-.

  5. Stephanie P

    Thanks so much!!

    Do you have any reference recommendations for other ways to use essential oils around the home?

      • Stephanie P

        Thanks Megan!

  6. Courtney

    I am really – really enjoying this site – thank you!
    .-= Courtney’s last blog: looking skin deep =-.

    • Courtney

      Also – we’ve had a lot of good luck with baking soda and diaper rash. We’ve used it as a tub soak – and as a light paste.
      .-= Courtney’s last blog: looking skin deep =-.

  7. Lise

    Thank you for this article! I definitely found a few new things to try.

  8. Amy of Progessive Pioneer

    Wonderful tips! You know, I once used honey on my little one’s diaper rash based just on mother’s intuition. I felt a little silly doing it because I had no concrete reason to do so, but no one else was home and I figured I’d clean up the sticky mess before anyone had to know if it didn’t work. But it did! I was so pleased and surprised to see that it cleared up the rash within a day or two and gave him immediate relief. We love essential oils too; my little guy has a cold and smells like a walking herb shop right now:)
    .-= Amy of Progessive Pioneer’s last blog: MamaViews: Jenny of Dancing Elephant Studio =-.

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Isn’t it amazing how intuition so often guides us down the right path? I never cease to be amazed by that. Thanks for sharing your success with the honey!
      .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: Simple Organic – come and see! =-.

  9. Katie

    Megan, thanks for all these tips! What great resources – every mama to a new little one should print this out and tape it up inside a kitchen cabinet.

  10. Julia Janzen

    Our daughter has excema and has since she was an infant. We’ve had a terrible time getting rid of it. I hate using all the cortisone stuff on her so I’m definitely going to try the honey and then Stephanie’s coconut oil too! I’ve heard a lot of people swear by the coconut oil so I should have given that a try long ago.
    Thanks
    .-= Julia Janzen’s last blog: SimpleMom is Having a Giveaway! =-.

      • Beth

        Coconut oil works wonders on my daughter’s eczema!

  11. Lisa @ WellGrounded Life

    Megan- Fantastic article– very timely for me too since I just had my third babe a week ago and we are back in the infant swing of things here! 🙂
    The amber teething necklace is new to me– I look forward to checking it out soon.
    Thanks again!

    • Aimee

      Lisa,
      Congratulations! All the best for your little family.

  12. Natalie @ Naddy's Blog

    Great post, Megan! 🙂 Love the specificity (is that a word?) of it… I recently purchased an herbal book for baby care, but was so disappointed to have it be (mostly) over my head. I’m a beginner at this whole herbal thing, I need simplicity! 🙂
    .-= Natalie @ Naddy’s Blog’s last blog: New Header 🙂 =-.

  13. Corinne

    It make so much sense to try to use natural remedies, especially for little ones. We recently put an amber necklace on my daughter, and while I know she’s getting her eye teeth, she’s doing so much better than she did with ALL of her other teeth. I think there’s definitely something to be said for them…
    .-= Corinne’s last blog: Fresh slate flakes =-.

  14. Christen

    Megan,

    This is great information….thank you for sharing! And Stephanie, thank you for your tips as well! I am currently 36 weeks pregnant with my second one and it’s amazing how much information you forget (and how much new stuff there is to learn!) the second time around. I am bookmarking this post and will refer to it once “little one” is born. Thanks again for your wonderful insight!

    Christen’s last blog: 5 Techniques to Inspire Healthy Food Choices in Your Child’s Diet

    Christen’s last post:

  15. suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter

    i’ve tried all sorts of natural and conventional products on my little one’s eczema, but recently we’ve had the best luck with a blend of kukui, emu, and jojoba oils.

    my humidifier has a well for adding inhalents (probably like vicks, which i’ve never wanted to do.) i feel a little wary of putting essential oil in with the water, but maybe i’ll try them in that little well…

    great tips.
    .-= suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter’s last blog: buyer beware =-.

  16. Aimee

    Megan–where you were you a few years ago when my boys were younger??

    Well, we’re not finished having babies yet, and when the next one comes, I’ll be trying these remedies.

    Great post!
    .-= Aimee’s last blog: Simplify Dinner with a One-Pot Meal =-.

  17. Becky - Clean Mama

    Awesome post Megan! I just bought some GSE last week to have on hand (just in case). Used the breast milk for earaches and we use honey/raw honey for coughs and sore throats (my kids are over 1). We all take probiotics just to keep our tummies in check – works wonders!
    .-= Becky – Clean Mama’s last blog: Re-purpose =-.

  18. Jennie L

    I haven’t tried many, but look forward to using these suggestions. Thanks!

  19. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    I’m way out of my league here; I think it’s time I start purchasing some essential oils so I can catch up! I have been using coconut oil on my little guy’s eczema, and I’d say it tends to keep it from getting worse, but doesn’t really make it disappear. How do you keep the honey from getting everywhere? He’d think that was a hoot to try, I bet.

    My daughter also still has cradle cap, even though she’s 20 months from the cradle. Totally unacceptable. I wonder if I should grease her up w/the coconut oil. I did try it once long ago, but it gets quite greasy and I don’t usually use soap on her, so thought that was a bad trade-off.

    Some things to ponder for me, for sure!
    🙂 Katie
    .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship’s last blog: Mary and Martha Moment: Celebrating Lent with Children =-.

    • Becky - Clean Mama

      Both of my littles had cradle cap after a year old and the only thing that helped was the CA Baby Tea Tree Oil Shampoo and a comb (it’s gross) to kind of rough up that dryness. I think that the comb was the best solution-that’s a remedy from my grandma 🙂
      .-= Becky – Clean Mama’s last blog: Re-purpose =-.

  20. Courtney

    Wow, great post! I am really loving the new site, thank you for all the great information. Does anyone happen to know if it’s possible to use honey in a cloth diaper? My daughter has sensitive skin and I have to use creams to cure her rash but then I also have to put on a disposable diaper. Thanks

    • becs

      Leaving the diaper off as much as possible so air can get to the rash really helps, but isn’t always so practical. The best advantage to having a baby girl is that you can get away with leaving the diaper off. Baby boys, however, made this really difficult for me, if you know what I mean. I’d try the honey on the rash now, if I had to do it all over again- thank goodness I am beyond that now and just have cats…LOL! I am passing this link on to my kids . My son’s family is having a challenging time with eczema on their little guy, as well as some major food allergies.

  21. adiaha

    Just discovered the Simple site today. I am appreciating the experience. Thank you for the information. In particular the information on Amber is intriguing.

    Peace.

    @Courtney My daughter would get terrible rashes etc from her dapers the first few months. I used every cream possible but then, what worked best for us was letting her sit as much as possible without a diaper and vaseline ( I know). The cloth diapers (Fuzzi Bunz) seemed to help because they allow air in. Good
    luck!
    .-= adiaha’s last blog: We Are the World 25 =-.

  22. Emily @The Pilot's Wife

    Chamomile Tea. I’m getting that on my way home tonight.

    Signed,

    The Mama Who Needs Sleep and Has Pulled Out Most of Her Hair

    P.S. Darn those molars!
    .-= Emily @The Pilot’s Wife’s last blog: Lent =-.

  23. Kathryn

    Love this info–I’ve used a lot of these remedies and found them very effective. A few other options that have worked well for me:
    1. Oatmeal baths or oatmeal plasters are great for dry, itchy skin (e.g., hives, eczema, heat rash). Aveeno Baby makes a great powdered oatmeal bath, or you can make your own bath/plaster with plain oatmeal (run the oatmeal through the food processor if you want it ground up).
    2. An Epsom soak is good for bug bites, mildly infected cuts, and sore muscles (Epsom salts are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and drying). Follow package directions, though–Epsom salts can be unsafe if used too often or at high strength.
    3. If you use cloth diapers, add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the wash to disinfect, soften, and deodorize the diapers. One caveat: vinegar can damage the waterproof coating on some diaper covers, so check with the manufacturer first.
    4. Breastmilk is great for nipples. After each feeding, express a couple of drops and rub them around with your fingers to naturally soothe, moisturize, and protect your nipples from infection.

  24. Nicole aka Gidget

    Love this post, Megan! Definitely saving it for when we adopt our baby, but many of those can be used past infancy, too, which is great!
    .-= Nicole aka Gidget’s last blog: An Adoption Story =-.

  25. Jen

    Great List Megan! Definitely few tricks to add to my mama bag – especially for when babe number 2 arrives. We just discovered probiotics about a year ago and I totally credit them to helping keep us healthier overall this winter!

    Thanks for sharing as always!

  26. Amber Artisans

    Baltic amber is amazing in its healing powers and not just for children. For centuries people have used amber for arthritis, respiratory infections including chronic asthma, as a stress reliever that interacts with the body’s nervous system and much much more. Explore more research from the medical community and you will see some amazing results for natural Baltic amber.

  27. Mama V

    Even better than apple cider vinegar: RAW apple cider vinegar! It’s amazing!

    We too use epsom salts in our children’s bath water. On top of what’s already been posted in the comments above, it also helps the body to remove toxins.

    One can also increase probiotic-rich foods to save money on expensive probiotic supplements by eating more: kimchi, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, plain yogurt, etc.

  28. laura @ hollywood housewife

    This is such fantastic information! Thank you. (and seriously on the coconut oil in the comments – I need some of this!)

  29. Abby @ New Urban Habitat

    Catnip tea is also supposed to be a good remedy for teething, sleeplessness, and fever, and we’ve had great luck mixing it with chamomile.
    .-= Abby @ New Urban Habitat’s last blog: A Taste of Spring =-.

  30. Keri

    Wonderful post. I have a question: is there a specific probiotic that you recommend? One for both adults and children? I get overwhelmed with the brands and choices out there.

  31. bonnie

    I wonder if the apple cider vinegar will work for bub’s neck rash as well. You know how they get that spot in the neck that never dries out. My bub has gotten a nasty patch that just wont heal up. Pharmacy gave me some steroid cream and something else for it but after a week I am really not keen on using any more of it (wasn’t so keen in the first place). So apple cider vinegar? Or can someone recommend something else?

    You guys could dedicate a whole Simple site to Simple home remedies. Love it!

    • Megan

      Thought I haven’t tried it, Stephanie from Keeper of the Home posted a comment above suggesting coconut oil for little skin patches like this. Can’t hurt – might help!

      If you do try the ACV, I would recommend a brand you can get at your local health food store like Braggs. Hope that helps!

  32. Rachel

    I know that this post is no longer active, but I had to laugh when I saw breast milk on the list. God works wonders. I’d never thought of my baby unlatching and getting an ear, eye and faceful of milk as a benefit to him! Now I won’t be concerned when milk inadvertently shoots into his eye!

  33. Karla Heaman

    I’m a big fan of straight jojoba oil for any skin issues: eczema, acne, rashes, etc. I’ve never seen much of anything that can stand up to it.

    I bathe all three of our kids 6, 4 and 8 months in essential oil baths and I swear by it for keeping winter colds and flu at bay. I usually use tea tree, lavender, and/or pettigrain. Essential oils have wonderful restorative, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. I put between 15 to 20 drops in the tub and let the kids play and soak for awhile.

  34. Nicole

    Just FYI, I recently started researching herbs for specific issues I’m having with one of my sons & discovered that lavender & tea tree oils should not be used topically on boys as they promote breast growth! I was horrified as I had been giving my little guy massages with lavender @ nap & bedtime. You may want to spread the word!

  35. Baby Amber

    Apple cider vinegar for hair care? There is a lot things in nature. Ps. i agree with amber artisans about heeling amber powers. In most cases thei work.

  36. accurate jewelry appraisals

    Very interesting and very informative article.I like suggestiongs you have given on coconut oil.I am impressed.

  37. David

    Hi, nice collection of natural remedies here. Personally, having eczema myself, and seeing it develop in my son, the only real remedy for it is to leave it well alone. But that works just for me and my kid so maybe the honey is worth a try. Both my kids have amber teething necklaces and they are wonderful. Anytime during teething that we left them off after baths by accident, they have drooled like mad and been awake for the night so I would heartily recommend looking into them.

  38. Amber Teething Necklace

    Amber is indeed have great healing properties. It was used for centuries in Baltic countries. However right now there is lots of Chinese fake amber on the market. So wherever you want to buy amber product ask for certificate! All amber importers have one!

  39. Jenna Richell

    I gave my Aunt a gift of Amber teething necklaces to use for my fussy baby cousin, who is currently undergoing the teething phase. My aunt was so happy with the results. So I guess that’s already a good testimonial to give. Hehe.

  40. Kait Palmer

    I’m sorry but I just tried ACV on my little one’s diaper rash and you would have thought I cut the poor girl open from the way she screamed! I wondered if it might sting but figured I’d take your advice rather than follow my instincts and boy am I sorry! It was very very painful for her!

  41. Darius Kalesas

    Amber therapy is becoming Quite common these days . Amber necklaces helped the babies in teething but also they are proved to be very trendy measure for various organic skin care .

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