Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Intro to Vaccines

Quite a while ago I put out a piece called "A Little About Vaccines."  I spent a lot of time talking about how difficult this issue is to navigate and how much I believe in parental rights- which is true. I deeply believe that, except in extreme and unusual cases, parents are the only people who have the love, commitment, and investment in their children that would qualify them to make the final decision about what gets injected into their new little bodies.  Note I did not say the medical expertise, or the proper education. Medical expertise is good and helpful information that parents should carefully consider. Properly educating oneself on the relevant information for such decisions is clearly a parental responsibility. But, make no mistake, those things do not supersede a parent's decision. A doctor can think that the risk of harm to a patient from a vaccine is too slim to merit consideration, but in the case of a side-effect with permanent debilitating consequences it is not the doctor who will have to live with those effects (not to mention the financial and emotional burden) on a daily basis- it is the patient and his/her parents. Alternatively, if the child comes down with a "vaccine-preventable illness," whether or not they were vaccinated against that disease, it will still be the patient and parents who are really affected.

And yet, I have continued to study and learn a great deal since that first vaccine post. And the more I learn, the more I lean away from vaccines. The more I learn about the two parts of our divinely designed bodies' immune systems [Humoral Immunity and Cellular Immunity], and how little we know, let alone understand, of immunity at all, the more hesitancy I feel about the ways we may be irresponsibly manipulating it. The more I learn about the history of vaccination, the more concerned I am about the dogmatic allegiance government and industry alike demonstrate for vaccination.

I have really struggled with how to tackle this subject, how to organize what I have found (...and where it is since I have misplaced most of my links), and how to really express my feelings accurately. But in a recent conversation I started to get some ideas of where to start.

For those who are looking into vaccines, but don't have a particular starting place in mind I have a few suggestions. Whenever anyone questions vaccines, one of the most common angry retorts you will hear is "Vaccines eradicated smallpox and saved us from the scourge of polio!" But, is that even true?

1. Watch the video below (also available here). It is a presentation by one of my favorites- Dr. Suzanne Humphries, MD.  She is one of the authors of Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History. This presentation reveals a whole new world of information on polio and the polio vaccine. I would apologize for the length (the video is over an hour long), but I honestly wish it was longer- I don't get tired of Dr. Humphries (in fact, I listen to her radio interviews).

If, after watching this lecture on polio, you decide that you too enjoy Dr. Humphries' style, I have good news!  Just recently, in August of 2014, a 4-part youtube series of a full vaccine seminar Dr. Humphries gave in Sweden. I have linked the series on my vaccine videos post.  

2.  Then read about the less well-known history of smallpox. Then, perhaps, an even more in-depth look at smallpox, history, and herd-immunity

The history of smallpox and polio are so fundamental to the defense of vaccines- if that history has been misrepresented, what else don't we know?

3. Read Vaccines: a peek beneath the hood by the authors of Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and The Forgotten History which I also highly recommend. 

4. Begin the quest of true Herd Immunity understanding by reading Herd Immunity: Can Mass Vaccination Achieve It? by Tetyana Obukhanych, Ph.D and “Herd Immunity” The flawed science and failures of mass vaccination, by Dr. Suzanne Humphries

If you have read and watched all of that and you are hungry for more... I have more. A lot more. This is a list of some of interesting stuff I have read and watched, in no particular order. Start with whatever you want. Don't feel obligated to check out all of it... I just can't seem to stop.

-Learning about the difference between cellular immunity (also called innate immunity) and humoral immunity (also called adaptive immunity) is fascinating direction to go.  Oddly, this Dog Magazine Article contains a fairly good intro.

-Learning about original antigenic sin is also important.

-Dr. Tetyana  Obukhanych earned a PhD in immunology and is the author of Vaccine Illusion and the accompanying website.  The first time I visited the site there were links on the side with great articles and information. The links on the homepage are gone, but the pages still exist, I have linked them below. The video below is a presentation she gave in March 2013. 
          -My Story
          -Herd Immunity
          -Why We Must Preserve the Freedom of Informed Vaccination Choice
          -Maternal Immunity
          -Whooping Cough
          -Immunologic Memory
          -Chickenpox & Shingles
          -Tetanus Protection, Tetanus in AdultsNeonatal Tetanus
          -Hepatitis B
          -Polio & Rotavirus
          -Useful Resources
    -Also, this is was a really great article she wrote on Tetanus

    -Below is a presentation she gave on measles:

*Update: Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych has a new website called Natural Immunity Fundamentals, however I have not found the above articles on the new site.

-This video with Dr. Tenpenny is 1.75 hrs long (and drags at times) but has a lot of info (much of the info is good, but I believe some of it is outdated, and there were some statements that conflict with some of my other sources) 

-A Shot Never Worth Taking: The Flu Vaccine a very worthwhile piece, not just on the flu vaccine but more importantly the mindset of the mainstream parents. One powerful quote "I understand, now, that, my collection of PubMed articles substantiating concerns about inefficacy, neurological, autoimmune, and fatal risks of these poorly conceived and anachronistically relevant immune modulators is not meaningful to someone who is not interested. The questions raised by this information are not provocative to someone who needs, above all, to believe that the government, the CDC, and doctors mean well, are doing their due diligence, and that they are holding themselves to a basic standard of ethical delivery of healthcare. They are not meaningful to someone who needs to outsource their power."
-Side note, this study is a very intriguing example of why true vaccinated vs unvaccinated studies don't get done by pharmaceutical companies (this one was done in Hong Kong and was a relatively small study with only 115 children). The statistics and conclusions are striking.  This study suggests that the flu shot seriously increases risk of other respiratory infections including Coxsackie and Echovirus.  Because this study was not done in the US and was done with a relatively small sample size (but it did make it into The Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases), I would prefer to cite a bigger more prestigious study, but there are none.
-While we are on the topic of the flu shot, the misleading citing of manipulated statitsics regarding the danger of contracting the flu is really buggin' me. This article breaks it down quite well

-Shawn Siegel wrote an article called The Great Divide: spanning the chasm between truth and egregious lies which I rather appreciated. The great divide he speaks of is the time that most often lapses between the injecting of a vaccine and the negative reactions. As he puts it "If after a vaccination your arm immediately atrophied, folks would get the point."

-If you are interested in more videos and radio interviews, I have a whole post dedicated to a list of links to both called "Videos Regarding Vaccines"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Big Three Series: 3 Things I Wanted to Share If You Choose to Vaccinate

I have been thinking about publishing a three part series focusing on specific vaccines for a while now. I envisioned calling it "The Big Three" since there were already two sets of three vaccines that I knew I wanted to talk about. But I could not figure out what to do for the last set of Big Three.  Well the last set has turned into the first set, since the other two are not even close to finished.  And this set is not about any specific vaccines at all.

One of my sisters has told me that she is at least partially vaccinating, and I respect her decision.  When I say I believe in parental rights, I don't just mean in theory.  One of the many reasons parental rights are so very important is the fact that every parent, every child, and every family are so different and unique that it is often genuinely the case that what is right for one at one time will not be right for another or at a different time. Once again, the gift of the Holy Ghost is such a phenomenal blessing. I feel in many ways that my appreciation for the breadth and scope and individuality of this gift continues to increase the further I travel my parenting journey.

This sweet sister has inspired me to put together some information and recommendations for her and any other sisters who may decide that full or partial vaccination is right for some or all of their kids. 

Much of this information comes from the National Vaccine Information Center's page "If You Vaccinate, Ask 8!" and Dr. Stephanie Cave

Three notes for my beloved sisters who may choose to fully or partially vaccinate (in chronological order)

1. As the appointment approaches, remember that if your child is currently ill (fever, runny nose, diarrhea, constipation, etc.) or on antibiotics, or has very recently been ill or on antibiotics, your child may be at increased risk of reaction and therefore it is recommended that you reschedule the appointment. Also consider giving your child cod liver oil and sodium ascorbate (vitamin c) for three days before and on the day of the shot.

2. Keep a written record of the the shot and specifically the manufacturer name and lot numbers for any vaccines your child receives.  Also write down any reactions, or possible changes in health/behavior following a vaccine. Recognizing Vaccine Reaction Symptoms has a list of things to look out for and information on how to report vaccine reactions. 

3. Please, consider avoiding acetaminophen (Tylenol) around the time of vaccination as Routine Use of Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) After Vaccination Not Recommended for Infants, Study. Essentially, it seems to impair the detoxification systems and increase risk of vaccine injury. 
Also, there is THIS article suggesting that Acetaminophen following vaccination may have a causal connection to Asthma, Autism, and ADHD in genetically vulnerable children (there is a link to a webinar that was done by the author). And THIS is a similar article published in Alternative Medicine Review.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Videos Regarding Vaccines

This is just a list of vaccine documentaries, lectures, and interviews I have seen. I thought about trying to pick out the best one or two, but I couldn't.  Sadly, this is not because they are all too good to leave out. Mostly this is because each has different (or just better worded) info that is good, mixed in with a bunch of stuff I would not put into the New Momma Musings Vaccine documentary (which isn't going to happen, but if it did it would probably be unsuccessful since I would leave out most of the individual vaccine injury stories that tug at the heartstrings and personalize the issue, but make the films too emotionally draining and take time away from the "meat" of the issues).

-If you start watching Silent Epidemic and want to skip much of the individual injury stories (which I prefer) skip to 17:38.  It does have some really good info and some unusual footage and explanation of the vaccine manufacturing process around 43:42.

-Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D. presented a lecture titled Vaccines & Brain Development with a ton of info. Note there is brief political commentary at the beginning (and lightly scattered throughout). He also gave a different informative lecture called Vaccines and Immunoexcitotoxicity (I don't recall any political commentary in it).

-Shots in the Dark and The Greater Good (this link is for the trailer only as the full film is not available for free) are fairly mainstream films (the implied suggestion here is that they are actually too mainstream for my current views... but they were part of my road of getting to my current conclusions). Parts of both are in a patchwork youtube video called Vacciness-The truth behind vaccinations (and yes, I am aware of the spelling error, but I wanted to keep the searchable title).

-Lethal Injection: The Story Of Vaccination Documentary has some parts that really drag, so if you get too bored or disinterested (in the excavation to find the flu of 1918) to continue just skip ahead a bit and it usually picks up.  Also note that large chunks of info in this video are not read aloud, the text is displayed on screen (I note that because I sometimes "watch" informational videos by listening while I am doing something else and this is not a good one for that).

-The newest vaccine documentary is called Bought.  I have not seen it yet, but the trailer is intense. It focuses on GMOs and vaccines.  It is a Jeff Hays film (same guy who produced Doctored).  I hope to get to see it soon.

-If, after watching the lecture on polio, you decide that you enjoy Dr. Humphries' style (as I do), I have good news!  Just recently, in August of 2014, a 4-part youtube series of a full vaccine seminar Dr. Humphries gave in Sweden became available.  The links are Part One (1:08:40), Part Two (45:27), Part Three (9:05), and Part Four: Q & A (44:09) (For a grand total of 2:47:21)

-I mention in my Intro to Vaccines that I listen to Dr. Humphries' radio interviews.  Here are a few:
     -Dr. Mercola Interviews Dr. Suzanne Humphries
     -Suzanne Humphries, MD: Boosters Ineffective, Infant Immunity & Aluminum. 8-3-14 (with Shawn Siegel) in which Dr. Humphries explains how vaccines are an assault on an infant's immune system
     -Suzanne Humphries, MD: Did vaccines eliminate polio and smallpox? 8-18-13 (another with Shawn Siegel)
     -Interview with Dr Suzanne Humphries about vaccines (with Mike Adams)
     -Dr. Suzanne Humphries - Scientific proof that vaccines are harming hospital patient and more (with Dr. Mayer Eisenstein)
     -Dr Suzanne Humphries: The Truth Treatment - Truth Connections Radio - 29th November 2012 (with TruthConnections, whoever that is) NOTE: the first 4:20 are worthless (and I find creepy) intro music... and words... just skip to 4:20.

Friday, June 27, 2014

More about Circumcision

My first post about circumcision ended up focusing on the religious (non-)requirement in my faith. However, there were certainly other issues my husband and I had to assess and resolve concerning circumcision. 

There are several common concerns about circumcising or not circumcising, and some are more valid than others.  I would like to address this list of the most common ones I have encountered in my research on the topic.
  • Cleanliness/The Perception of Uncleanliness: As far as I know, the United States is the only place where there is an active cultural "dissing" of the intact male anatomy. The harshest displays I have encountered were only from internet comments, but I know I tend to be relatively sheltered. Anyway, you may run into statements like "uncircumcised men stink because they can't get themselves properly clean" and "its gross" and even a desire to link intact men with a lower "class" of people (dirty, uneducated, even criminals), exists out there on the web. Even if you know those things aren't true, you can feel like you are putting your son in a difficult social situation.  I really do understand that instinctive desire to give your child the best possible start to life- including social aspects. It bothered me to think that because of an elective medical procedure that we might choose not to have performed on our brand new baby, he would automatically be labeled dirty, disgusting, or anything else. There is good news though. First of all, the statistics seem to show (to varying degrees) that this practice is being reconsidered by a growing segment of the population. In the 1980's something like 85% of boys were circumcised, now that number is less than 50% in some states (it varies greatly by region- western states have the fewest circumcisions, but in the north east it is still very popular). Also, as Latter-Day Saints, we should probably be accustomed to doing things the rest of the world considers "strange" or "different" especially since it should feel a little weird to do something just because "everyone else it doing it." It is still uncomfortable sometimes though. THIS page is one of a series and the best resource I think I have found for dispelling hygiene myths. 
  • Fear of Later Problems: Perhaps the strongest fear-based argument in favor of circumcision goes something like this; "I know a man who was forced to get circumcised for medical reasons when he was 30! He says he wouldn't wish that on anyone and that he wishes he was circumcised as a baby."  Just for arguments' sake, consider this hypothetical story; "I know a woman who had to get a mastectomy when she was 30! She says it was a horrible experience. Wouldn't it have been so much better for her if she had been able to have that done as a baby?" My answer to that question would go something like this: I imagine if she had been able to have the procedure performed in her infancy she would not remember the trauma of the surgery. She also would have missed out to some degree. More importantly though, what would that have meant about her parents that they would decide to deprive her of a part of her body for the first 30 years of her life because of the risk of needing to have it removed at some later period? One day I may have to have a mastectomy or appendectomy or tonsillectomy or any number of procedures if a part of my body fails to such a degree that it must be removed. However, I would not find that to be a reasonable justification for my parents to have a part of my infant body removed before it was necessary.  This argument, while scary, and accusatory ("if your son's penis catastrophically fails later in life it will basically be your fault for not performing prophylactic surgery on him in his infancy"), is not logically sound. 
  • Father-Son "Matching": This is, perhaps, the dumbest argument I can imagine- yet one of the most popular. Let me address it in two ways. First, your son is not going to "match" his father's looks entirely in any way (unless he is a clone)- he is likely to have different color hair and eyes, be a different height, and even have a different skin tone than his father. He is not going to match the way his father's penis looks, even if they are both circumcised, for a very long time. Among other things, I imagine the presence of hair would be one of the most obvious differences to a young boy.  Secondly, this argument sounds as absurd as it ought to when we replace it with any other procedure. Is this a good reason for a baby to get his tongue pierced? To have his appendix or tonsils removed? To have his arm amputated?  Think about it.
  • Fear of Minor "Issues": This usually boils down to things like urinary tract infections and "extra trouble." As far as "extra trouble" is concerned, this usually is in reference to washing, baths and diaper changes. Ironically, it is circumcised boys that are significantly "extra trouble" initially since they have an open wound in their diapers that must be protected, kept clean, and watched for signs of infection. But after that wound is healed, hygiene is not much different. As a baby, toddler, and small child the foreskin is fused on, and only the visible outside needs to be washed (the inside keeps itself clean like the inside of your eyelids keep themselves clean).  More is explained about that on THIS excellent website that I refer to all over this page.  As far as urinary tract infections go, girls are at a much higher risk of UTIs than intact or circumcised boys (and we don't normally suggest surgery as a solution for that).  There are studies that suggest that circumcised boys are at a slightly reduced risk, there are also some concerns about the accuracy of the conclusions of those studies. Quoting from the article linked above "This claim [that circumcision protects boys from UTIs] is based on one study that looked at charts of babies born in one hospital (Wiswell 1985).  The study had many problems, including that it didn't accurately count whether or not the babies were circumcised(!?), whether they were premature and thus more susceptible to infection in general, whether they were breastfed (breastfeeding protects against UTI), and if their foreskins had been forcibly retracted (which can introduce harmful bacteria and cause UTI)  (Pisacane 1990).  There have been many studies since which show either no decrease in UTI with circumcision, or else an increase in UTI from circumcision. Thus circumcision is not recommended to prevent UTI  (Thompson 1990).  Girls have higher rates of UTI than boys, and yet when a girl gets a UTI, she is simply prescribed antibiotics.  The same treatment works for boys." 
  • Desire to Protect "Women"/Desire to Sacrifice Son: Not really sure how to address this one other than to suggest you watch THIS video (it is less than a minute long) of famous obstetrician Lisa Masterson (who I disagree with on almost everything I have ever heard her say) and the host of some late show, Craig Ferguson. Also THIS page I continue to recommend you read. If you want information on the ways circumcision of male babies may be harmful to women I have links at the bottom of the page.
  • Concern For Dad's Well-Being: This is a very real concern and one that all loving wives need to be conscientious and considerate about. It can be hard to approach this topic.  It is important to find a way to discuss this topic without hurting your husband's feelings or ego.  If you and your husband find yourselves in perfect agreement (whatever that may be) it is much easier, but you can have a great marriage and not start out in perfect agreement about everything. If you find yourself leaning against circumcision and your husband leaning for it, please tread gently. It is hard to hear that your wife doesn't want her son to be like you. It is very personal. As THIS page explains "The real issue at play here is [...] the father: if it is okay for his son to not be circumcised, then he did not have to be circumcised, and so he is missing something from his penis" and that is a big deal and a really overwhelming thought. I actually really liked this little essay on discussing this issue with your husband- the best part starts near the end (about paragraph 7). But I like how he explains the goal: "So, the problem is how do we save our son's genitals without psychologically emasculating their fathers?"  Because as much as I didn't want to circumcise our [hypothetical] son, I am not sure sacrificing my marriage or my husband's psychological health would have been worth it. I am grateful that I didn't have to choose between those options, but some women do. 
  • Fear of botched Circumcision: This one did influence my decision, and is also part of how I addressed the above concern. You see, in my digging, I found some surprising stories. Obviously one should not make a decision based on one, or even multiple, anecdotal horror stories.  However, one also rarely makes decisions based on statistics alone, particularly on a topic in which statistics are frustratingly unavailable. It is hard to be sure that the data we have on the percentage of boys who are actually circumcised at all are very accurate- let alone the statistics that are openly "guesstimated" such as circumcisions that require corrective surgery, circumcisions with "complications" and deaths caused by circumcisions. And there are horror stories. There are stories of little boys who came back from the experience with problems that required additional corrective surgeries. Stories of little boys who died from hemorrhage, or who lost their entire penis.  Stories of men who live with unique mutilations, usually in silence.  I remember telling my husband, that if I could be 100% certain that our son would have a perfect circumcision, with no complications, that I could be certain he would look just like his dad, I would think about it differently, and I would probably have considered it more heartily. But nobody could give me that kind of guarantee- and I knew it. So regardless of what the actual (unknown) statistics are- is it worth the risk? For me, it wasn't.
Interestingly, one of my personal greatest concerns came from a story I had heard in regards to a very different issue that came up when my brother was born. The relevant part boiled down to this: when my brother was born my Mom had some concerns about circumcision, she thought she would rather not do it (which was rather radical at that time; yes my dear sisters, we come by it honestly). My Dad, who deeply respects my Mom and her concerns, was cool with that plan. My maternal grandfather, who is not circumcised, heard about this plan and... basically panicked.  He talked to my Dad and the two of them came back to my Mom and basically told her that it really needed to be done; and it was.  

The first time I heard that story I was not pregnant and though I casually inquired as to the nature of the problem Grandpa had brought to my father's attention, my Mom told me she didn't know or couldn't remember and I left it at that.  But once I was pregnant, and considering that the circumcision question would have to be addressed in the event my baby was a boy, this story quickly came back to haunt me.  I had to know- what was the big deal that had changed everyone's minds? What was this incredibly persuasive argument?  I asked my Mom, but she again told me that she couldn't remember if she had even ever heard the argument. So I asked my Dad. Amazingly, he also couldn't remember what it was that Grandpa said that persuaded him. I am however still very curious and may ask him about it if I get a good opportunity.

In the meantime, I have made the educated guess that it was related to his military experience and the theories of the medical establishment at that time.

Like so many parenting decisions, the circumcision question is a tough one.  And if you have a boy, there is no escaping it.  I am not even sure that the "right" answer to this question is the same for everyone. But I do know that Heavenly Father will comfort and guide you if you invite His help through fasting and prayer.  


If you are looking for additional resources with information against circumcision, I have compiled the following links with descriptions. While my husband and I decided not to circumcise our baby, I want to make it clear that this is a very personal decision and that many of the sites and videos I share below have opinions with which I disagree.

-This YouTube video (14:40) is a critique of an episode of "The Doctors" which aired on January 12, 2011 in which the panel of doctors discuss the proposed circumcision ban in San Francisco. The creator of the video tries to use logic-based arguments and has references at the end for his assertions. There are no visually graphic scenes (but because of the nature of circumcision, discussions are almost inevitably verbally graphic- we are talking about male anatomy), although some of his video-editing gets obnoxious and annoying (but it does get better later on).

-Ryan McAllister, PhD,  from Georgetown University has several YouTube videos regarding circumcision.
     -Child Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital (33:32) if you are interested in academic/scientific rebuttals to some of the controversial conclusions of various studies and arguments in favor of circumcision, he addresses several starting about 26 minutes in.  At the beginning he talks about the history of circumcision and the procedure itself and the functions of the foreskin and really its just an overall very thorough informative video- but it has a very strong anti-circumcision position and there is a graphic video of a circumcision being performed on an infant as well as pictures of male anatomy- he usually gives a warning/heads up before showing anything like that to give his audience an opportunity to turn away.
     - Unrepresented Voices in Circumcision (15:43) has some personal perspectives from men. The most memorable part of this video for me starts at 6:50 and is about a botched circumcision that was not medically addressed. There is also a brief clip of an interview with a circumcised gay man who is in a relationship with an intact man. There are pictures of male anatomy (without warning).

-Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon made a documentary on Circumcision called Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision (which I cannot recommend as it is *very* graphic, as I found out in the first 5 seconds of the YouTube preview- I only watched the first 8 seconds so I don't know much else about it). But honestly, this interview clip (3:27) had a big impact on me. This is exactly the sort of thing that is hardest and scariest for circumcised Daddy's to consider, but as a Mommy I am glad I saw this. This YouTube video (33:32) is an interview he gave on how he decided to make the film (Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision) and some of his experience and perspective on circumcision (which is not visually graphic- only shows him talking)- one of my favorite quotes in this starts at 18:53 where he says "Its not a comfortable subject. Its not something people want to spend time thinking about. If you are a circumcised man it is definitely not something you want to think about. And if you've done this to someone else- if you're a mother or a father who has done this to your child, its probably not something you want to think about. And that sort of covers a lot of people." One of the most indisputable statements on circumcision I have ever heard!

-History of Circumcision (it says "short history" but it still takes a fair amount of time to read) also, if you prefer, Chronological Timeline of Circumcision (doesn't really get interesting until about the 12th century)

-THIS page contains the basic intactivist spiel. It is not particularly academic or scientific, but it does contain links that are more so.  What probably hit me hardest was this little piece at the end:

It takes a brave man to admit
that his sexuality might not be
all that it could be.
It takes a strong man
to grant his son
something that was taken from him.

-How male infant circumcision harms women. This is at the very end for a reason.  I almost didn't include it at all. There are other resources for information on this subject if you are really interested, but I will share two. THIS essay by Ronald Goldman, PhD, is very thorough- too thorough in fact- I don't agree with all of his suggestions for harm, but as he mentions, more research is needed (Also, he refers to THIS study, but I did not notice an actual reference). Speaking of research, there is THIS article from sciencenordic.com about some research that has been done and what the results were. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I Want My Sisters to Know about Carseats

Long before a baby's arrival, new parents start thinking about safety- which is good and important.  Car seats are all about safety and they are important too-  but there are some myths and common misunderstandings about them that I would like to address.

Lets start with a crash course in car-seat basics. A car seat is a restraint that you purchase separate from your vehicle to keep your child safe while driving... sort of. Actually, to be honest, it doesn't keep your child safe while driving- it reduces the likelihood that your child will die or suffer permanent damage in the event of an accident. This is why members of certain generations like to joke that "it is a miracle that we survived- not only did we not have car seats, we didn't even have seat belts!" All said with a smirk and a smile that suggests that parents who value car-seats enough to make sure they use them properly (and most parents don't even install them correctly) are over-protective.  No. No it is not so surprising that you survived without a car-seat- obviously the majority of people did. It is only relevant or surprising if you were actually in an accident and survived (read #10 on this list). 

So, we have these devices that you hope you never need- but they are still important. How many will you need for your child?  Well, this chart suggests three, though you may need more- especially if you are ever in an accident. I would like to talk about these three different seats you may use.
  • Rear-facing: this will actually probably be two different seats (but don't worry- your total can still be 3), namely an infant seat (tailored to short and low-weight babies, often with good side support for little heads), and a convertible seat (the name comes from the ability to convert from rear to forward facing). The infant seats are the ones that have handles so that you don't have to take a baby out of the seat to take him/her with you if your baby fell asleep during the ride. They now also have bases that "permanently" stay in the car so that you don't have to re-install the seat every time you take it out which is AWESOME. 
Above is an example of an infant seat- it has a sun shade and a base that stays in the car

 This is an example of a convertible in rear-facing mode. There is no handle because the seat is not made to be taken out of the car without a complete re-installation
  • Forward-facing: this will also probably be two different seats. The convertible that you used rear-facing until the height/weight limit for rear-facing will have a different weight limit (usually) for forward-facing. For example, my Graco Size4Me 70 has a rear-facing weight limit of 40 pounds, but a forward-facing weight limit of 70 pounds. However, it is very common for children to outgrow their car-seats by height long before they outgrow them by weight, and height limits are not as well advertised as weight limits- so be sure to check. When your child outgrows the convertible forward facing they get moved into a combination seat (a combination of 5-point harness mode and belt-positioning booster mode) or a dedicated booster (which may be high-back or backless) depending on the child's size and maturity.
 This is an example of a convertible in forward-facing mode

 This is an example of a combination seat utilizing the 5-point harness
This is actually the same combination seat as the previous picture but in the belt-positioning booster mode (using the car's seat belt)

This is an example of a high-backed booster (notice there is no harness- you must use the car's seat belt)

This is an example of a backless booster

Because of this concern for safety that comes over parents in waves as a new baby's arrival approaches, they often search desperately for "the safest car seat out there."  Consider this likely scenario: Mommy & Daddy in anticipation of the arrival of the most precious bundle they have ever known, go out and spend hundreds of dollars on an infant seat made by the brand that is recommended to them as the"safest."  The baby is born and grows- quickly.  By 13 or 14 months (or even as early as 4 or 6 months) the baby has outgrown the seat and the parents are faced with spending a large amount of money again.  And their frustration with having just spent so much on a seat that they used so briefly is understandable.

So, let me talk about this.  First of all, despite what the ads for the seats will suggest, all of the infant seats meet the same crash test standards and we do NOT have access to the safety results. We get to know ONE thing: that they passed.  Different brands tout different bells and whistles that "exceed" safety standards- but we don't have access to any results that would prove those safety claims. PLEASE read this thread about the safety standards and lack of official ratings (and why the NHTSA and Consumer Reports ratings are both unhelpful and unreliable).

So if you ask a true expert they will tell you that the safest car seat for you will meet the following criteria: 
  • Properly fits in your vehicle (some smaller vehicles won't fit certain seats as well)
  • Properly fits your child (by weight and by height)
  • The one that you are willing and able to use (install, buckle child into, etc.) correctly every single time. This is where the bells and whistles can make a difference. Britax is often touted as the "safest" brand, which is legitimate only in so far as they tend to be among the easier car seats to use properly.  I REALLY liked this thread on car-seat.org talking about what you are paying for with the nicer seats.
This is true for all of the types, whether it be the infant, convertible, combination, or booster.

This means that you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars so that you put your baby in the "safest" seatAlso, the infant seat is the one that you will use for the shortest amount of time, so you may want to consider that when you decide how much to invest. The $52 infant seat at Walmart met the same safety standards as the $440 seat at Target (and yes that is the same thread as before- but in case you didn't click before here it is again).  Does that mean you should just go with the cheapest option? Not necessarily.  Find the one that works best for your child, car, and family in your budget.

This brings me to my big soap box spiel. Rear-facing to forward-facing: it is a big deal. And most people do it far too early. A few years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendation for when to turn your toddler forward-facing. The old recommendation was when the child was at least one year old and twenty pounds.  Parents, it seems, thought of this transition as a milestone for their child and were eager to make the change.  However, it is not a milestone- it is a safety downgrade.  The updated recommendations are that a child stay rear-facing to the limit of their convertible car seat because rear-facing is the safest way to travel in a car. Rear-facing makes a bigger difference in safety than the EPS foam or lock-offs or whatever other "safety" extras a car-seat boasts. 

There are some great articles out there on this- and some great car-seat resources on the internet (I will link to a bunch at the end). But for now let me share one piece of information that made a big impression on me.  There are a lot of places that will tell you that rear-facing is safer, but one of the biggest reasons for rear-facing toddlers doesn't seem to be as well known. I am taking the following quote from rearfacingtoddlers.com, but the emphasis is mine.
[...] In a one year-old each vertebra consists of three pieces of bone which are connected by cartilage. The vertebrae start to fuse together at the age of three, when the small bits at the bottom fuse together. It takes until they're six years old for the three pieces of bone to form a sold 'ring' around the spinal cord. [...]

The bones in the neck of a small child are not developed enough to protect the spinal cord. When they are involved in a car crash in a forward facing car seat, the weight of the head combined with the immature skeleton, can cause the spinal cord to stretch up to two inches. [But] [i]f it stretches just half an inch it will snap. This is known as internal decapitation and causes paralysis or death.
 Note that this has nothing to do with the child's weight or neck strength/head control. The vertebrae fusing is called ossification (this article is the most informative I have seen and also has some great pictures) and since it isn't complete until six years of age it seems to me that six should be the ideal for rear-facing (*wink wink*), though most children will not fit rear-facing in any convertible even close to that long (but if they do...).

I thought the following video did a pretty good job as well

Because this is such a big deal to me, one of the biggest factors I checked on when we started looking for for our convertible was the height (and to a lesser degree, the weight) limits for rear-facing on convertibles. Most convertibles go to at least 35 pounds now, many to 40 or 45 pounds (the highest I have heard of goes to 50 pounds) rear-facing, but many of them have a 40" height limit- which will be the way the child outgrows the seat rear-facing.  This spreadsheet was very helpful to me in my search (and these spreadsheets may help me in the future).

A few reference numbers:
  •  A quick search suggests that infant seats run somewhere around $55 to $400+ but some top recommendations from car-seat.org are about  $90$190, and $250.
  • Convertibles run around $40 to $500+ but the "favorites" are around $95, $180, $280, and $290
  • Combination Seats unfortunately can still be very expensive. The most affordable "recommended" models are about $75 and $105. The more expensive recommended models are close to $300.
  • Boosters can be very inexpensive- and some of the "best bets" are some of the most budget-friendly (like $13 friendly). I highly recommend the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety page of booster ratings.   
Here is a video explaining the IIHS booster ratings
So if you go with the cheapest recommended seats in each category, with no coupons or specials, you are looking at a grand total of about $275.  For example, my daughter may be able to stay in her convertible until she is ready for a booster.  If that works out, and with the great deal we were able to get on her seat, we may be able to keep her in the proper seats for closer to $200 through boostering.

Well, I guess that is enough info for one post. Here are the links I promised.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If you are curious about cloth diapers...

I have been (mostly) using cloth diapers with my little one since before she was three months old. You would think it wouldn't be so weird for me to admit it, but it still kinda is.  

I grew up as the oldest hearing Mom talk about how wonderful it was that disposable diapers were available by the time she started having children. I thought the cloth diaper was as dead as the slide projector. Then, as an adult, I started hearing about the liberal hippies who were going to cloth diaper to save the planet from the disposable diapers that were overwhelming landfills from coast to coast.  It seemed bizarre that anyone would choose not to take advantage of the many benefits of disposable diapers, but it really didn't affect me and I didn't really care what anyone else used on their children's bums (some things never change).  Then I remember reading about how the liberal hippies who were going to save the world with cloth diapers were in a bit of a pickle because they determined they had to use so much water to wash the diapers that it was negating the environmental benefits, but I digress...

So anyway, whenever anyone finds out that I cloth diaper I feel obligated to first explain that I am not, in fact, trying to save the planet (just to be clear, I am all for being responsible occupants of this planet- I just don't consider myself a martyr for cloth diapering).  I actually cloth diaper for one main reason- I have found a way to do it that makes too much financial sense for my family that I would be foolish not to do it. 

That said, it personally bothers me to hear so many people talk about cloth diapering as if it was automatically or always the cheapest option, because there are obscenely expensive ways to do it, and there are extreme couponers who get their disposables practically for free, but again, I digress...

This page is for my favorite cloth diapering introductory resources. When I first started looking into cloth diapers I was so confused. As embarrassing as this is, I could not even begin to understand the first few articles I read that were supposed to be introductions to cloth diapering! That is because it is confusing- especially when you can't really see what people are talking about. Also because there is such an overwhelmingly large variety of types of cloth diapers. That is why if you are just curious about the basics of how they (can) work I recommend you start with the videos below- so you can actually see what she is talking about.  I like the explanations in the videos, but she is somewhat long-winded so the videos are all kinda long, sorry.




This video addresses the "snaps vs velcro" question

 Not exactly on topic, but it was very informative

I guess that is enough for an introduction.  If you find yourself genuinely considering the cloth option I would be happy to answer any questions you have through private message or if there is a specific topic you would like me to cover I would be happy to write a post by request on the topic- just leave me a comment below!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When The Internet Calls You Names

In case this is the first post you are reading- I subscribe, at least partially, to multiple controversial parenting philosophies.  This makes me (along with everyone else who reads the internet with an opinion) an anonymous target. And yes, sometimes it hurts- and not just in the way that stupid hurts. 

One of the crappiest things about parenting in this era of the internet (which has a LOT of benefits) is that you cannot realistically shield yourself from the plethora of anonymous voices out there who, no matter what you choose to do or not to do, no matter whether you follow the mainstream or the beat of a distant drummer, they will call you names. They will call you ignorant, naive, foolish, irresponsible, and even abusive. And that can cut deep.

You would think I would be accustomed to web-based vitriol directed towards those groups with whom I count myself, since I have been very politically involved and opinionated since at least middle school. I grew up noticing the political slant in subtly political stories and recognizing when my views were being called names. And sometimes it infuriated me, and sometimes I took it a little personally, but as I grew up I found that I took it personally less and less frequently. I knew how "the other side" perceived my views and how they categorized my intellect, compassion, and soul. And I could live with that.

But with parenting, its different. When people attack my political views my vulnerable part turns off- it doesn't have to be personal. But when people attack my religion, and when people attack my parenting, it seems to hit the same soft spot. The main difference is that with religion you will almost always have that moral majority expressing their disgust with those who openly attack others for their religious views- whatever they are. You don't need to be Amish to feel a bursting of compassion towards them and anger or frustration towards any anonymous internet commentator who is purposely attacking their religion.  Essentially, you don't have to be with them to be for them. But with these explosive parenting decisions, the philosophy seems to be far more harsh.

Like religion, parenting frequently comes down to faith. No matter how many people begin their accusations of you and your philosophy with phrases like "FACT-- studies x, y & z PROVE..." or "this link to this well-respected organization's website...." or "history shows..." the miserable truth is that there are studies that demonstrate, or suggest, or imply almost anything you want. There are organizations that are well-respected that are wrong, or that change their position on all sorts of topics throughout their existence. And history can be studied and interpreted a whole host of different ways- and many of them are valid. You will have to decide, for example, whether or not to circumcise your son. You can't decide to stay out of it- your son will either be circumcised or intact. And whichever you choose, you will likely have the studies and the documentaries, and the organizations and whatever else, that convinced you to make whichever decision you did. But the fact is, that these are the things that you decided to trust. There are studies and organizations that suggest this procedure carries benefits that make it worthwhile, there are studies and organizations that suggest the opposite. Some will be more convincing to you than others. Those are the ones you have faith in. It will still come down to faith. As scientific as the medical field tries to be, it isn't that simple. A friend of mine recently graduated from her nursing program. As she was studying for her test she posted the following on facebook:
So sick of studying for nursing. Graduation is riding on an exam worth 40% of my grade and this is the crap I have to deal with!Textbook:"dont splint fractured ribs it increases the Risk for ineffective breathing"Teachers:"use splinting to decrease pain of breathing""
Don't tell me that you are either with the science or against the science! It isn't that simple.

I hope as I "grow up in parenting" I will find that I take it personally less and less frequently, but in the meantime, I will try to practice compassion and understanding for others' parenting as I travel this wide opinionated world.