Archive for July 28th, 2009

A Greener Mama Part 3: Immunizations

This is part 3 in a week long series on becoming a more eco-friendly mama.  Today’s topic is immunizations.  Bare with me, this is a pretty deep topic and this could get lengthy!
vaccinations Pictures, Images and Photos

This has become a hot topic of debate in our country and everyone seems to have an opinion on it.

On one side you have the staunch advocates for immunizations that believe that every child should be immunized on the “correct” schedule as determined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Some people that prescribe to this belief think that parents who chose not to immunize their kids (or chose to delay their immunizations) are stupid, uneducated and are engaging in “risky” or irresponsible behavior.

On the other side of the battle are those that are opposed to vaccinations.  Some chose to delay certain vaccines and others choose to avoid all of the vaccinations altogether.  There are some on this side of the argument that believe that immunizations are to blame for various childhood illnesses and diseases the most common one being autism.

Mothering magazine (there I go mentioning that magazine again–I really do love it though!) had an article about immunizations this month.  It was a great eye opening article.  There are many things I could talk about that were mentioned in the article but one of the most interesting parts to me was in regards to the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Hep B is a disease that affects the liver and eventually if untreated will cause liver failure and ultimately death.  How do you contract Hepatitis B?  It is transmitted through contact with infected blood or bodily fluid that contains blood.  So that would mean through sexual activity, dirty needles or through blood transfusions (although this is rare in this day and age).  Newborns can contract it if their mother is infected.

It is considered the “norm” that infants receive the Hep B vaccine prior to leaving the hospital after birth.  I have often wondered what the hurry was.  I didn’t receive this vaccine until I was 20 years old and was enrolled in nursing school.  What infant do you know who engages in elicit sexual activity (or well, any sexual activity elicit or not!) or who has a risk for being stuck with a dirty needle?  I don’t understand the rush.

There is so much that could be said about the pros and cons of vaccines.  Here are my thoughts on a few:

Chickenpox:  I had chickenpox as a child and it was torture!  I would be all for the vaccine even if the only reason was to prevent a chickenpox outbreak because it sucks.  But here’s the thing about chickenpox.  If you have chickenpox as a child, you can develop shingles as an adult.  If you have never had chickenpox, you will never have shingles.  So I think this vaccine is two-fold.  (Shingles is also a terrible painful illness that can cause long lasting nerve damage).

Polio:  Due to the widespread use of polio vaccinations, polio in America was eradicated in the 1950s.  However worldwide polio remains a problem.  Are children in America at risk for it?  Not really.  But if we don’t vaccinate against it then aren’t we moving backwards and putting ourselves at risk for another endemic in this country?

MMR:  This one’s a big one.  If any vaccine receives flack, it is this one.  This is the one that is most often attributed to causing autism.  I have been asking questions and researching this one because I’m just not sure of my thoughts on it.  One friend who is a teacher and the mother of an autistic child believes that kids are predisposed to autism and the mercury that was once used in vaccines “brings it out”.  Another friend also has done her own research and has decided that she is going to delay this vaccine with her child until she is sure that her motor, speech and psychosocial interaction is developing normally.  What is interesting to me is that Merck is the only drug company that produces the MMR.  They no longer can separate it so if you want your kid to get the “M” but not the “R” you’re out of luck.  What is so interesting to me about Merck is the gobs and gobs of money that they “donate” to the American Academy of Pediatrics each year.  Is it a coincidence that pediatricians are so adamant about promoting this vaccine?  Just something to thing about.

Gardasil:  This vaccine is relatively new to the market.  It is manufactured by Merck and it is promoted as a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.  There are others similar to it but this is the main one you see commercials about on tv and in magazines.  Here’s the thing–the vaccine does not guard against all cervical cancers.  It only protects against 4 strands of HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.   HPV is the most common STD in America and studies show that “most sexually active men and women will become infected at some point in their lives”.  Ok–so if it’s a vaccine against HPV and you can only get HPV by being sexually active then why are pediatricians promoting it for 9 year old girls?  NO, I’m not naive–I know that as disturbing as it is, there are girls at that age that are sexually active.  And no, I don’t think my parenting skills are perfect and I know that kids have a mind of their own.  But my husband and I believe in abstinence and we believe in teaching our daughters to make the right choices in their lives.  I am not going to give my 9 year old a vaccine and not explain to her what it is for.  And how do you tell a 9 year old that you don’t want them to be promiscuous but “just in case you decide to how about we vaccinate you against an STD”?  I might as well put them on birth control and give them a handful of condoms while I’m at it.

Generation Rescue (founded by actress Jenny McCarthy) has tons of information about vaccinations and what I found very interesting was the comparison between recommended vaccinations in 1983 as compared to 2008.  In 1983 children would receive about 11 vaccinations starting at 2 months old all the way up to 16 years old.  In today’s world, they are recommending about thirty-two (!) vaccinations starting at 1-2 DAYS old up to 6 years old!  And that is not counting the recommended yearly flu vaccine!  Thirty-two vaccinations in 6 years time compared to 11 in 16 years time back when I was a kid.

Now I know that medicine is constantly changing and improving and we have to move with the times.  I just think that we as parents need to question why our kids need certain vaccinations.  What are the risks if they do get them?  What are the (real) risks if they don’t?  If my infant is not at risk for contracting Hepatitis B do I really HAVE to vaccinate her at 2 days old?

So with my 2 oldest daughters I let the doctors vaccinate them whenever they said they needed it.  I quickly read through the papers and signed them and that was that.  With Layla I am going to ask more questions.  I am going to investigate the vaccines more thoroughly and I am going to make INFORMED decisions about her vaccinations.  I am thinking that we will likely delay the Hepatitis B and the MMR.  The others I am still researching.  Five pediatric vaccines still contain mercury including the Hep-B vaccine.  Mercury is the preservative component of vaccines that seem to get the biggest blame for autism.

So what about all you mamas out there?  Did you vaccinate on schedule?  Delay them?  Or not vaccinate at all?  How did you make your decision?

A Greener Mama Part 2: Feeding

This is part 2 in my week long series on being a greener mama!  Yesterday I blogged about diapering and today I’m blogging about feeding!

Breastfeeding was the one and only way to feed every baby born on this planet until 1876 when baby formula first appeared on the market.  (Interestingly enough, the man that invented baby formula was known as the father of the fertilizer industry.  How’s that for useless knowledge?!).  Similac (“similar to lactation”) hit the market in the 1920s and by the 1970s there was a huge shift away from breastfeeding.  In fact, 75% of children were formula fed by the early 70s.

I don’t know a single person my age (myself included) that was breastfed as a child.   My mother told me that doctors encouraged formula back then because they thought it was healthier and better for babies.  I wonder if the formula manufacturer’s had anything to do with that?!  I’m sure that was a lot of “encouragement” by way of monetary incentives for the doctors to recommend formula to moms.  Of course, drinking and smoking during pregnancy and immediately after were not unheard of then–I guess we’ve come a long way in the medical field in the last 30 years!

There are so many pros to breastfeeding.  I’m not one of those nazis that think that all mom’s HAVE to breastfeed.  But I do think that all mom’s should at least try.  Not only is it cheap and easy (once you and your baby get the hang of things) but your baby gets so many antibodies from you during those first few months that really do protect them from illness.  Both of my children were very healthy as infants and I know that breastfeeding had a lot to do with that.

I actually saw a “home remedy” mentioned on The Doctors a few days ago involving breast milk.  A mother mentioned it as a home remedy and the pediatrician whole heartedly agreed and said that his office routinely recommends it.  What was it?  Breast milk as a treatment for pink eye.  He stated that the antibodies in the milk will typically clear up any type of eye infection that an infact develops.  Madalyn had a crazy eye infection when she was born and I wonder if our pediatrician had recommended this if I would have done it or told him he was crazy?!

So here is what I did with my first two babies and our plans for the third:

Annagrace:  Breastfed exclusively for the first 2 months, occasionally supplemented with formula when I had to be away.  I rented a hospital grade pump for when I went back to work and I used it all of two times!  Pumping just was not for me.  I could never relax enough at work to have much success–and had a hard time finding the time while working 12 hours shifts as a nurse!  We stopped all together at about 3 months.  I was back at work, I didn’t like pumping and we just gradually let it go.  We switched to Walmart brand regular formula at that time.

Madalyn:  Breastfed exclusively for the first 2 months–even through a horrible bout of mastitis!  Starting supplementing with formula around 3 months.  I knew I didn’t want to pump when I went back to work (I was working in home health so the thought of sitting in the park with my shirt pulled down to my waist and my boobs hooked up to a machine just didn’t appeal to me).  So we went to formula and I nursed her at night until about 4 months.  Then we switched to soy formula–whatever brand I could get on sale is what we bought.  She spit up horribly bad (her clothes were always soaking wet!) and I often wished I had kept nursing because I don’t think she would have spit up as badly if I had.

Layla:  Want to try to breastfed for the first year.  I’m sure we will occasionally use formula but I really hope that I will be able to either pump during the day or come home for Layla’s feeding times once I go back to work.  It will really depend on which job I am working at at the time (one of my jobs is day shift, the other is night shift) but I am going to try very hard to keep it up until Layla is one and can switch to whole milk.  I’m not into the whole “extended” breastfeeding thing and I think one year will be long enough for me and Layla!

What did you mamas out there do?  Any regrets either way?  I regret that I didn’t breastfeed both my kids longer but working full time and being a mom is hard and it just wasn’t working!

Here are some good websites for breastfeeding support:

La Leche League


**I just finished a very interesting article in this month’s Mothering magazine about breastfeeding in Mongolia.  It is not at all taboo there and pretty much all mothers breastfeed there.  The author lived in Mongolia for 3 years and stated that if a mother was engorged and her baby was going to be away for awhile it was not unusual for her to offer her milk to whoever happened to be in the home at the time.  Mothers may even present a bowl of breastmilk to their husbands or keep a bowl in the fridge for whoever may want it.  I am not kidding about that.  Really.  They don’t see breastmilk as being for babies only–and many adults will admit to liking the taste of it.  I don’t care if we never see that in our country but I would like for breastfeeding to be more accepted in public!

July 2009