Healthy Lifestyle

An Introduction to Essential Oils


Article by Alexia Buttigieg

Oh Essential oils! Wait do you know what they are or where they come from? ….don’t fret! here are some interesting and fun details.

We all know what essential oils are right? But just in case there are some who might not know here is a quick brief explanation. Essential oils are not in reality oils, they are made of volatile chemical molecules found in aromatic plants. These are called essential oils as they have oil soluble chemicals and are not able to dissolve in water. Not all plants can produce essential oils, and those that do can be from the fruit, flower, stem, roots or leaves. Commercially there are approximately 400 to 500 essential oils produced worldwide. And most are distilled( like in picture below we find Lavender being processed into an essential oil). Other methods are Expressing which is used most for citrus fruits and Enfleurage which is a cold-fat extraction process used for delicate flowers. Solvent extraction produces a concrete, and than results in an absolute. And finally the CO2 extraction which is quite a modern and sophisticated expensive  technique used to extract aromas even from plants which before where unthinkable of, but since it’s quite a new technique further studies have to be done regarding all benefits. It is considered very safe to use though organic CO2 is recommended as levels of pesticides are marked high in this method.     

 Some describe the essential oils like the blood of the plant. It sounds very poetic and in a way a plant cannot survive without these essential nutrients, but in reality essential oils are not a living substance. These do not carry hormones, vitamins, or any living substance. They work chemically and not because they are like our blood. So why are they so important?

Within the plants they have 2 main functions, Protection and communication, they are than able to do the same in a human body mainly via 2 main ways. Through olfactory(sense of smell) and via the skin. Our body reacts to the chemicals of the particular essential oils being Analgesic, relaxing, sedative, balancing or even more than one therapeutic effect like most essential oils have more than one effect on our systems.

Essential oils should not be taken lightly and it is important to ask your aromatherapist or seek a reliable source if not familiar with. If used incorrectly they can have adverse reactions. There are contra indications to some and can interact with medicinals or other alternative treatments so seek for advice, but Essential oils should be staple in every household for their  antiseptic properties, first aid properties, cleaning properties, relaxing properties and let us not forget the beautiful aroma they emit. Safe fragrances with an added therapeutic effect on all members of the family. Sounds nice hey! So I hope that after getting an idea of what and how these amazing substances are produced you will start venturing more into this amazing aromatic world.

Sources: ; ;

Alexia Buttigieg is a holistic therapist who is passionate about everything that can help people feel better in a more natural approach, from massage to self-therapy to essential oils and reflexology. She believes that stress cannot be avoided but nature has given us all we need to reduce it, and live a more balanced existence. She started her career as a Beauty therapist and has achieved diplomas in Esteticienne and Physiatrics, where she was able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. She furthered her studies by achieving diplomas in Reflexology (including palliative care) and Aromatherapy. Other certificate courses include tui na, facial analysis and ayurvedic stone massage.  In these past years she has ventured into natural cosmetics and read for a diploma and an advanced diploma in organic skincare formulation, which harmonises her passions for Aromatherapy and organic skincare treatments. Alexia still feels like her first role is being a mother to her daughter and prioritises family and their well-being. She may be contacted at

Healthy Lifestyle

Coconut oil and its many uses in pregnancy and beyond

Coconut fruint and oil. spa, alternative medicine

Article by Dr. Antonella Grima

While I have my reserves about the ingestion of coconut oil (read more here), a jar of good quality, food grade coconut oil can be an excellent companion on this wonderful journey that is pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

Very little is known about the effects of substances we ingest or apply to our skin on the growing embryo. It is therefore always advisable to refrain from using products containing harsh chemicals and fragrances and instead resort to alternatives with few or no extra ingredients, such as preservatives, colouring and fragrances.

Coconut oil is composed of medium chain fatty acids, that provide skin with an excellent soothing and moisturizing effect. In addition, its use on the skin has been attributed with antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, among others. Unlike other vegetable (such as olive oil) or petroleum-based (such as baby oil) oils, it is easily absorbed by the skin and does not leave an oily residue. Here are a few suggested uses for coconut oil, but I am sure there are many more.

During Pregnancy

Body Moisturizer: pregnancy may change the texture and suppleness of skin, making it dry and itchy in certain places, and oily in others. If you are suffering from dry and itchy skin, a small amount of coconut oil applied once or twice a day, can alleviate pruritus and restore moisture. It can also be used as a post-shaving balm and to relieve itchiness and skin tightness on your growing belly.

Hair serum: during pregnancy, hair loss is kept to a minimum and sebum production may decrease. This may result in an unmanageable mane of dry hair. Coconut oil applied to the tips may help with controlling unruly hair by giving it moisture, shine and weight.

Perineal massage: while there have not been many studies to prove the effectiveness of perineal massage for preventing tears and episiotomies during childbirth, for those who are willing to try this technique in the last weeks of pregnancy, coconut oil or almond oil are the recommended oils to use. More information about perineal massage can be read here.

Childbirth and post-pregnancy

Hospital bag: it would be a good idea to pack a small jar of coconut oil in your hospital bag as this might come in handy. The hospital air may be warmer and dryer than what we are usually used to. This may result in chapped lips and areas of dry skin which may benefit from some added moisture. The oil may also double up as a nipple cream, a hand cream and a nappy cream for your baby, saving you plenty of space in your luggage. I will go into more details about these uses in the next sections.

Nipple cream: new mothers, and seasoned mothers alike, may experience some nipple soreness or cracked nipples in the early days of breastfeeding. There are many specialized and baby-safe balms and compresses that help with restoring the delicate skin in this area and I recommend their use as they do work. However, this does not keep you from applying a dab of coconut oil in between feeds. It is natural and almost completely absorbed by the time the next feed is due. I would advise removing any residual oil or any cream used with a clean damp cloth or cotton wool before each feed in order to reduce the amount ingested by the infant.

Nappy cream: while this may not be a suitable option for babies with very sensitive skin or newborns who may need barrier creams, a dab of coconut oil after a nappy change is both soothing and rehydrating. You can also use a nappy change as an occasion to rub some oil onto your clean hsnds when you have finished changing the nappy. You will be washing your hands very often with a new baby in the house. Your hands may be longing for some added moisture!

Baby massage: babies may benefit from a massage with oil after their bath, both to replenish their skin’s moisture, as well as to help them relax and bond with their parents. Classic baby oils are mineral oils derived from petroleum distillation. These are easily replaced by more natural alternatives, such as vegetable oils. Olive oil and coconut oil are good oils to opt for as they impart other benefits to the skin apart from moisturising it.

Since coconut oil is a rich oil, it may be comedogenic if applied on acne-prone skin. I would therefore advise one to refrain from using it if there is a personal history of acne or blackheads. In addition, oils tend to irritate the eyes so, like other oily products, one should avoid using it on the face, and especially around the eyes.

Healthy Lifestyle

Be a Healthy Role Model for Children


10 tips for setting good examples


You are the most important influence on your child. You can do many things to help your children develop healthy eating habits for life. Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. They will also be more likely to try new foods and to like more foods. When children develop a taste for many types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals. Cook together, eat together, talk together, and make mealtime a family time!

1. Show by example
Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on raw vegetables.

2. Go food shopping together
Grocery shopping can teach your child about food and nutrition. Discuss where vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods come from. Let your children make healthy choices.

3. Get creative in the kitchen
Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a food your child helps make. Serve “Janie’s Salad” or “Jackie’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner. Encourage your child to invent new snacks. Make your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit.

4. Offer the same foods for everyone
Stop being a “short-order cook” by making different dishes to please children. It’s easier to plan family meals when everyone eats the same foods.

5. Reward with attention, not food
Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. It lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras” — such as candy or cookies — as replacement foods.

6. Focus on each other at the table
Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime. Turn off the television. Take phone calls later. Try to make eating meals a stress-free time.

7. Listen to your child
If your child says he or she is hungry, offer a small, healthy snack — even if it is not a scheduled time to eat. Offer choices. Ask “Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”

8. Limit screen time
Allow no more than 2 hours a day of screen time like TV and computer games. Get up and move during commercials to get some physical activity.

9. Encourage physical activity
Make physical activity fun for the whole family. Involve your children in the planning. Walk, run, and play with your child — instead of sitting on the sidelines. Set an example by being physically active and using safety gear, like bike helmets.

10. Be a good food role model
Try new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture, and smell. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something your child likes along with the new food. Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal, when your child is very hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.

Healthy Lifestyle

The Dangerous Game of the Feeding Interval Obsession


By: Emma Pickett IBCLC

Article as published on
Some how, some where, new mothers got the message that the gap between when a baby stops a breastfeed and the time they start to need another one matters a very very great deal. 24 hours a day.

It seems to matter beyond all logic and reason. They see this magic number – 90 minutes, 2 hours, 3 hours – as a measure of something sacred.

And it’s crap.

There are mums sitting at home, relaxing and nesting with their gorgeous new baby. There’s a disk from a box set in the DVD player, a cup of tea on the go, a recent phone call with a friend. Breastfeeding is going well. Weight gain is fine. Baby is content. But when baby shows hunger cues after only 40 minutes instead of the hoped for 1hr 30 minutes, their heart sinks and they feel a sense something is fundamentally wrong. They aren’t ‘doing it right’. Their friend’s baby ‘goes longer’. Doubts creep in.

As adults, we grab a cup of tea, a glass of water, a sweet, a snack. We respond to our personal cues and we’re flexible depending on time of day, the temperature, our mood, our energy levels. Many go to bed with a glass of water or sip from a bottle throughout the day. I don’t know any adults that look at their watch and say, ‘Only 30 minutes till my next sip of water or mint! Not long now’. But yet we expect teeny growing babies to be governed by this artificial notion of time.

I spoke to a new mother last week who was perfectly HAPPY with her feeding routine but wondered if she should start to stretch her baby’s intervals because ‘that’s what you do’. When I explained that it wasn’t necessarily, she said she was more than happy to go on as she was.

Where do these ideas come from? They don’t come from anyone with any breastfeeding education, nor antenatal classes with breastfeeding professionals, nor books written by those trained to support breastfeeding.

They come from popular baby care books and relatives and peers.

They seem to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of the science of breastfeeding and breastmilk production. Often they come from mid-20th century ideas based around the norms of formula-feeding and pseudo-science. And that’s all incredibly dangerous.

There are still people out there, surrounded by breastfeeding, who believe that a baby who feeds after 4 hours rather than 3 hours will ‘take more milk’. There are people who believe that you need to wait and hold a baby off to let your breasts ‘refill’. There are people who believe that when a baby does want to return to the breast after only an hour that must reflect a ‘problem’ and perhaps the mother even has a supply issue.

It’s scary and extremely frustrating that basic messages about how milk production works don’t reach the people who need them.

So what is normal? Well, how long have you got? Because there’s a lot of normal. A newborn should feed a minimum of 8-12 times in 24 hours. That means some might be going every 3 hours and others will be feeding more frequently than 2 hourly. Some babies may feed every 10 minutes every hour. Some may feed for 10 minutes every 2 hours. Some may feed for 40 minutes every 2 hours. For periods in the day, a younger baby will often cluster feed and not be happy away from the breast for any longer than a few minutes at a time. This natural cluster feeding may dominate an evening.

A very common call to the National Helpline goes like this: “My baby used to sleep in the evenings and now he’s awake for 3-4 hours. The only thing that seems to settle him is the breast. I feel like I must not have enough milk as he’s on there for ages. Surely there can’t be anything there.” As the baby swaps from breast to breast, getting small quantities of very high fat content milk and decompressing at the end of a long day, they know exactly what they are doing.

And soon their patterns will change again. Some babies will start to longer intervals in the day as the months go by. But NOT all will.

One of the most popular babycare books (which I better not name) gives a strong direction that while frequent feeding might be occasionally acceptable during growth spurts, this holy cow of the interval between feeds matters greatly. A 3 month old baby might be going 3 hourly intervals but if this isn’t increasing at 4 months, then oh dear. This same writer believes a woman can measure her milk supply by doing a yield test and using a pump to extract milk which apparently will be the equivalent amount to what her baby extracts during a feed using an entirely different process. What this woman doesn’t know about breastfeeding could fill an encyclopaedia.

What I find particularly dangerous about her message that longer intervals are ‘better’ and ‘correct’, is that is means new mothers doubt their milk supply with absolutely no justification. And I know from having spent time on the message boards associated with this writer, many mothers will end up supplementing with formula to try and reach these magic numbers of minutes.


Babies are no longer being exclusively breastfed and parents are not following Department of Health recommendations because of incorrect information in a baby care book.

There are parents who choose to use formula for a whole host of complex reasons. Some do so happily and some do so miserably. But to do so, merely because you have read a lie in a book, seems tragic to me.

Our knowledge about breasts has been transformed over the last 20 years. Much of the pioneering work has been done in Australia by scientists like Professor Peter Hartmann and Dr. Donna Geddes, Steven Daly and their teams.

We used to think most women had a pretty similar number of milk ducts but the ultrasound research revealed there were less than previously thought and the range was big. One woman had 4 ducts at the nipple. One had 18.

But it’s the findings about breast storage capacity that we need to talk about here. When a baby feeds, some milk is manufactured during the feed itself and some is taken from milk that has been stored in the breasts between feeds.

Ultrasound revealed that a mother’s storage capacity cannot be guessed from breast size. Breast size is obviously not just about glandular tissue. The range in breast storage capacity was huge.

One mother was able to store about 2.6oz per breast. Another woman stored more than 20oz. That’s not a typo.

Women with a smaller breast storage capacity had a healthy milk production over a 24 hr period and their babies had good weight gain. But their babies might need to feed more frequently to access this healthy milk production.
Is this a mother with a supply problem?

No, it is not.

Her baby may continue to feed 2 hourly or even less for a few months during the day, cluster feed at certain points and perhaps continue to wake a couple of times hungry at night. Her friend’s baby may settle into a pattern of feeding less frequently over a 24 hour period. This friend’s baby may not be receiving more milk overall.

When breasts are fuller, milk production slows. When breasts are emptier, we make more milk. When babies feed more frequently and from emptier breasts, they receive milk with a higher fat content. Frequent feeding has value. And as human milk has a fat content of around 3-5% compared to some mammals who have a fat content of 40% +, it seems pretty clear we’re designed as a species to need feeding more frequently.

But let’s imagine the mother with the smaller breast storage capacity has read this baby care book. She might become distressed that her baby still wants to feed 2 hourly. She might even try and stretch the interval between feeds in the mistaken belief this will increase her baby’s intake. And in doing so, her breasts spend longer at full storage capacity and their milk production slows and her breasts receive the signal to decrease milk supply.

So in her attempt to stretch between feeds as the advice she is reading suggests she does, she may actually be decreasing her overall milk production in 24 hours and be doing some actual harm.

So what should we suggest to this mum who never seems to be able to stretch her baby to longer intervals in the ways that her friends seem able?

First off, we should congratulate her for responding to her baby’s cues. Thankfully she knew not to try and impose some routine early on and therefore her milk supply is at its maximum capacity. Let’s check breastfeeding is otherwise going well: that feeds are comfortable for her, baby does settle for periods of contentment after a feed (though it may only be an hour or even less, rather than 3) and latching and positioning is at maximum efficiency. If all this is true, and never reaching a magic ‘interval’ is her only concern, then we need to make sure she knows as much as possible about how milk production works. It is possible she is one of the mothers who has a minimal breast storage capacity and she will need to feed more in 24 hours to maximise the volume of milk her baby receives. And there might be nothing she can do about that. What happens next is about acceptance and support and attitude.

She has to keep that up for ideally around 6 months if her baby is going to get the full benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. She might need greater support with feeding outside the home – perhaps learning how to feed in a sling or experiment with different positions for different environments. It’s possible she may be woken at night more than her friend with the longer intervals – though we would expect night time intervals to be longer and for her to get a block of longer rest. She may benefit from support on safe bed-sharing practices.

And it is just a matter of months. After solids have been established, patterns will change. It’s surprising what we can cope with for just a few months. We have jars of pickle in our fridge significantly older than that. We may even have toothbrushes that are around that long. In terms of an adult lifetime, it’s a blink of an eye.

What won’t help these mothers is the relentless message that they just need to stretch their baby a little more. That if they leave him to cry for 15 minutes, magically he will take more milk and life will change. That just isn’t what science tells us is true for all women.

And I’m talking about myself here, by the way. My children under 6 months never went longer than 2 hours between feeds in the day and not much longer at night. My red record books records me feeding at 3 months every 90 minutes or so. So I learnt to feed while babywearing. I went to friendly groups and friendly places and met up with people at home. I read about safe co-sleeping practices which I know beyond a shadow of a doubt saved my bacon. And thankfully, I never felt anything was ‘wrong’. I just trusted my body. I trusted my baby and we worked as a beautiful team. I sat at home on the sofa and fed relatively frequently, enjoyed my box sets and my healthy and not-so-healthy snacks and that was OK. It really wasn’t for long. But the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding will be.

Why should a watch or clock tell me how to be a mother? I’d rather pay attention to my baby.


Anatomy of the lactating human breast redefined with ultrasound imaging.

DT Ramsay, JC Kent, RA Hartmann, and PE Hartman. 2005.

The magic number and long-term milk production. Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC

Studies on Human Lactation: Development of the computerized breast measurement system. D.B Cox, R.A Owens, Peter E. Hartmann

Healthy Lifestyle


Many people believe that breastfeeding must be normalized; to support families that choose breastfeeding, to declare their rights according to their state, and to show others who may still consider it a taboo that breastfeeding, as challenging as it may be, is beneficial for the health of the mother and is the optimal way to establish a good foundation of nutrition for the child. this powerful video says it all.

Healthy Lifestyle

Q&A: Healthy Lunchboxes for Children


Dr. Antonella Grima interviewed by Daniela Allen for A&H magazine

What should we include and what should we avoid giving children in their lunch boxes?
When preparing school lunches, one should try and include as many fresh ingredients as possible and keep away from pre-packed or ready-made lunches and snacks as these tend to have a higher salt, fat and sugar content. Reducing the salt content of lunches is also beneficial and one may look for low salt bread, spreads, ham or cheese.
Make sure to include plenty of water to cover your child’s fluid requirements, especially on active or sports days. Needless to say, sweets and junk food should be kept away from the lunch box, especially since most schools have strict policies regarding these foods.

How should we cope with fussy eaters and should we worry if they don’t eat everything?
Try and involve your children in the preparation of their lunches and include food choices that you know they like. Do not be afraid to experiment with ways of preparing and presenting the lunch. This may be by adding new ingredients, such as herbs, to enhance flavour, or by including new food, such as, pasta or rice instead of the classic sandwich. It is more likely that a lunch is eaten if it looks and smells appealing.
Unless your child’s doctor is concerned about his or her growth, do not feel stressed if your child returns home with most of the lunch. Children tend to auto-regulate much better than us adults, and eat more on days or at times when they really need it and less when they perceive less hunger.

Any practical tips to ensure healthy and nutritious lunches?
It would be a good idea to use compartmentalised lunch boxes and use the different sections to include a variety of food groups, such as bread or pasta, vegetables and fruit, a protein source, like beans or chicken strips, and dairy, such as a soft cheese, rather than offering only the carbohydrate-rich options, like for example sandwiches.
By offering a variety of food choices on different days of the week, you introduce an element of surprise and make lunchtime less boring. In addition, you would be making sure that your child is receiving a healthy variety of nutrients.