Thursday, December 25, 2008

how to research on vaccines

Really liked the following list of things to consider when researching vaccines. Got it from a mailing list from a woman named Laureen:

1) Don't take it as "vaccinations", take each and every vaccine as an
individual decision. Makes it much more manageable.

2) Figure out your risk for any given disease. Is your baby at risk?
Is that disease common or even likely where you live?

3) Figure out if there are alternative treatments should your child
contract the disease. The vaccine debate is often presented as
"vaccinate, or die of illness", when there are often many other
treatment options for a given disease.

4) Examine the original research. Often, the sample sizes are
inappropriate, the statistics are not rigorous, the assumptions
flawed. Pitch any research that's badly done, no matter what opinion
it supports. Only use the good stuff.

5) Examine the chemical composition of any given vaccination
formulation. Find out which company and which lot number your
pediatrician administers. Formulations vary a whole lot, and you need
to really understand *all* of the ingredients. Folks with egg
allergies, for example, should never be vaccinated with things
cultured on egg (like the flu shot).

6) Examine the long term effects. Some vaccinations only confer
immunity for a limited time, some require a booster schedule, some are
associated with adult health issues. Know what you're signing up for.

7) Consider the timing. A child passes through various states of
robust and compromised immune system, and you want to make sure that,
should you choose to vaccinate, the vaccination is administered at a
time appropriate for the state of your child's system, *not* some
arbitrary schedule or appointment. Never vaccinate a child in the
advanced stages of teething, for example.

8) Examine the research. Not just the studies and their construction,
but follow up on the researchers themselves, and who's paying them,
not just who's sponsoring the studies. You find some fascinating links
that way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Finding that perfect infant sippy cup

Thumper is going to be 11 months this week and I've yet to buy her that sippy cup. I've been trying to get her to drink from a glass cup half heartedly and while she's getting better, she's also slurped up water and then choked way too many times and developed an aversion to drinking from cup.

I finally sat down tonight and spent a few hours reading on the different alternative sippy cups.

The biggest thing on sippy cups is BPA, in that many plastic sippy cups are made from materials that contain them. My thing with plastic in general is that people say #5 plastic is safe now. But what happens 10 or 20 years from now? It's like plastic, they said it was safe before, and now it isn't.

Much like looking for that stroller, looking for a sippy cup is hard when you've never bought one and you have to go w/ what people say. There are lots of things to consider when you buy a sippy cup, and there are so many reviews out there for one to sift though. What makes it doubly hard is that there are different requirements for kids of different age. For example, an older kid may want a good looking one. A younger kid may need one with handles.

Some things I'm looking look for are:
  • doesn't leak
  • have a handle for infants to grasp
  • is easy to clean
  • not too heavy for infant
  • can handle lots of dropping since Thumper is still very young
  • will last a long time
Some features that are nice to have but not too important for me are:
  • doesn't have too many parts as it's easy to lose them
  • a training sipper
  • has a thermal sleeve as to keep warm liquids warm and cold liquids cold.
The things that people have mentioned in reviews which are irrevalent to me are:
  • design. Since Thumper is an infant, she doesn't care about design yet.
  • dish-washer safe.
What I really want is a sippy cup with a metal cover. But no such things exist. All metal sippy cups have #5 plastic covers. I don't understand that at all. Sure, the water will not sit in plastic. But come on, the child will be licking and chewing the plastic, I don't much like that either. So I'm going to settle for a metal one if I can. I just don't trust that someone won't say, one day, that #5 plastic isn't actually that healthy either.

In regards to metal, the most common ones are made with either stainless steel, or aluminum. I'm going with stainless steel, because according to The Green Guide:
Aluminum bottles with an enamel inner coating are also a healthy alternative, though aluminum requires more energy to produce and has greater environmental impact than stainless steel.
Anyways, here are two websites with great reviews on sippy cups so I won't relist them: Natural Moms and Z Recommends. Instead, I will list my own contenders and then add info from my research of their recommendations. I think when it comes to leakage, you'll always have people who find that it leaks and others who find that it doesn't. So you just have to buy it and try it for yourself.

1. Sigg Baby Water Bottle
It got great review on one site and not so great on the other in terms of leakage. I think I will pass because the paint can chip after some drops. Important since Thumper is still young. Otherwise I think it's one that older kids will love because of its design; again, something not important for me right now. Don't like the alumnimum part to begin with. In addition, some people don't like the epoxy lining.

2. Thermos Foogo Sippy Cup
Pro: Thermo design means that bottle isn't cold to hold when you put cold water in it. It's got good componets you can get like side handles (good for Thumper's age) and get straw spouts.
Cons: It leaks terrible for some people, and not at all for others.

3. Born Free Sippy Cup
Bottom of my list as it's all plastic.

4. Kleen Kanteen
My first choice until I heard there were other choices. The pro is that it is stainless steel. The con is that it doesn't insulatel. And of most concern to me is that it has no handles and since it's stainless, it's a bit heavy for a small baby.

5. Safe Sippy
Another product much like the Foogo: stainless wrapped in rubber-like plastic. Z Recommends had a really good review of this sippy. Said that it leaks less than the others but doesn't work as nicely. Other reviewers loved this more.

Anyways, after writing this all down, I think I'm going to go with Kleen Kanteen first. There is a Klean Kanteen With Insulated Totes apparently. But I think I'll just get the plain Klean Kanteen Bottles for the following reasons:
  • The bottle can grow w/ the baby. There are other caps we can use as we get older and no longer need sippy adapters
  • We're planning to only put water and maybe milk in the bottle. Our family does not normally drink cold stuff as a rule so I can have lukewarm water in the bottle instead. For milk, we're going to train her to use cup still and no it won't be too much of an issue too often. Worse comes to worst, I can buy some sleeve or knit some cozies for her. Because of this, temperature won't be an issue.
  • There are other adapters I can buy if I don't like the Avent sippy.
  • Because Thumper is so young and she likes to chew on everything, I don't want her to chew on plastic, even ones that are BPA-free.
  • It can double as a cup if Thumper drinks straight from the canteen!
My second choice is the Safe Sippy and third choice the Foogo by Thermos

If Thumper were older, the Safe Sippy would probably be my first choice because it actually fits my criteria better. But the Kleen Kanteen wins due to the chewing factor, and the fact that it can grow with the baby. I'm going to buy it and see if the dropping onto floor is an issue. If it works out, it'll be a good investment compared to the Safe Sippy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

alternative vaccine schedule considerations and general schedule

As I was updating my alternative vaccine schedule to reflect Thumper's recent vaccines, I started wondering what I'd tell my sister if she were to ask me what vaccines her little ones should get, when she has her little one.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it's such a personal choice once you start going down that route. It's a choice that is based on so many variables that no doctor or government would have time to tailor one for you. Many of it is based on what you think your lifestyle will be like. And also, who would want to assume the liability if they told you to have it one way and your child end up having serious problems from not being vaccinated?

So if my sister were to ask me, the long answer would be a series of questions for her. Questions such as.
  1. How comfortable she would be if her child got sick from an illness that could have been prevented.
  2. How much she thinks vaccines and autism are related.
  3. If she or immediate family and friends have contact with people who will travel overseas, or are planning to travel overseas themselves. And if so, where.
  4. If she is planning to travel to places that may have lots of people.
  5. How long she plans to breastfeed.
  6. When she plans to put the little one in daycare.
  7. How often she or immediate family has contact with others in general, especially during flu seasons.
  8. How often she takes the little one out to public places.
  9. How often the little one has contact with other little ones.
  10. If the little one has siblings or cousins that visit often.
  11. If she practices good hygiene such as washing hands after every diaper change and before every pumping or handling of baby. Covering mouth when coughing. Washing the little ones hands after every outing once they get more mobile.
  12. Family history with allergies.
  13. Where she lives, how much immigrants there are, what the climates are like.
That said, she might be very confused and un-sure of her answer. In which case, I would have her do

DTaP - 2, 4, 6 months. Should not get it together with HIB/HEPb or DTaP.

Rotavirus - Her choice. I skipped. Though she should be careful if she takes her kid to Asia before the age of two as it's prevalent there, especially in winter months. By prevalent I mean, it does result in deaths.

HIB/HEP B - 4 months before child is in situation where others can bite them. So if she's in day care where they're all infants, then she can wait 4 months till biting age. If she's in mixed day care, then 4 months before the oldest gets to biting age. Should not get it together with HIB/HEPb or DTaP.

Pc - 3 months before going overseas or having contacts w/ people who go overseas, especially during winter months. Or 3 months before daycare starts. Should not get it together with HIB/HEPb or DTaP.

Polio - Whenever. 5 months before she's going to go to a country where Polio is endemic if the child is young. For an adult, it's at least 9 month before traveling.

MMR - I will get back to her on that. haha!

Chickenpox - I lean towards no vaccination, but I'll get back to her on that.

Flu - No. Has mercury

Hep A - Don't know either

Meningoccocol - Don't know either.

HPV - Nope. Too new and don't know the side effects.

safe non-toxic sunblocks for infants?

Over the last week, I noticed that Thumper has started getting a tan on her face and feet. She's usually covered in long sleeve clothing, hat, and socks. But even then, she's tanning. She even grew a little sunspot already on her leg, which rarely sees the sun! Her father is very fair skinned and has lots and lots of sunspots.

So I just spent over two hours researching the Internet looking for the best sunblock for Thumper. It's mildly frustrating and makes my head spin. Each website says something different, sometimes contradicting other websites. This means that I then need to side track and double check facts. By the time I get back to the original website, I've got 20 other windows open and have already forgotten what I thought about what I'm reading.

To start, a few links:
  • Terressential's statement on why they don't make sunscreens. I like this company because whenever another report comes out on toxic stuff in "natural/green" products, they are almost always on the list of exceptions.
  • Cosmetics Database lists all the ingredients in your sunscreen and gives it a rating on how toxic it is. Unfortunately, since ingredient lists change, their database might not be accurate. But it gives you a real good place to start, and you can find out what each ingredient's potential problem is in depth.
  • Cosmetics Database Sunscreen Summary a good overview of concerns with sunscreen.
  • Mayo Clinic summary of skin cancer risk factors
I was going to list the links of other bloggers who's reviewed sunscreens but I find that some list things that are toxic and they conflict w/ each other. What I ended up doing was to start with their list, cross reference it against the Cosmetics Database, then cross reference that with the company website to find out the latest ingredients. It's made more difficult by the various names and the fact that there are so many products from the same company!

Anyways, here is my conclusion. No sunscreen is good for your body but you weigh the potential damage done by sun vs the damage done by products and you pick the best options that minimize both sun and product damage.

Here are a few things I'm learned and am thinking about.
  • Infants under 6 months can't wear sunblocks. I don't know what happens if your infant was born early. Is that 6 months after EDD or just 6 months?
  • Sunblock may contain skin cancer causing ingredients. However, sunburns (and really, sun tans) are risk factors for skin cancer.
  • People accumulate 50%-80% of sun exposure by the time they're 16. So limiting exposure to sun is important.
  • Children also have a higher body surface to volume ratio. This means proportionally they have more skin to their body size than adults. So if they absorb the sunblock on their skin, it's at a higher level than adults.
  • The best way to avoid the sun is to stay indoors, second best is to wear loose fitting, long sleeve clothing in a tight weave/knit and wide brimmed hats. However, don't forget that sunrays reflect. So even under a wide-brimmed hat, your face will get hit by sun indirectly.
  • A lot of people get a false sense of protection wearing sunscreen. Many times, you forget that you need to reapply. There are sunscreens out there that have indicators that tell you when you need to reapply. But of course, they contain bad chemicals.
  • If you're going to be concerned with the ingredients in sunblocks, then you ought to be concerned with other cosmetic items you're using in your home. Thumper is using regular soap to wash her hands, and then sucking on whatever bad residue it leaves behind. I'm using regular shampoo and then breastfeeding Thumper, who knows what bad things I'm passing to her?
  • Whenever baba sprayed sunscreen on, I don't let him hold Thumper. I know it's paranois, but Thumper is so grabby I didn't want her to rub the sunscreen off of us and then lick it as she's in the put everything in mouth stage right now.
Basically, you have to pick your poison. Cancer by sunblock? Or cancer by sun? Okay, it's not *that* cut and dry. But we shouldn't be scared away by all the "bad" stuff in sunblocks and just not wear any. I think the best way is to minimize exposure to both sun and sunblocks. This means that
  • We're going to cover Thumper up as much as the weather permits.
  • We'll apply the gentlest sunblock on areas she can't lick or suck on.
Some general rules
If you're a lazy person like me and don't have time to do research, I think there are a few rules in order of importance you can follow to minimize your exposure to cancer causing ingredients, without doing all the research. You can eliminate things that don't fit the criteria from top to bottom, and when you run out of choices, skip the higher number rules.
  • Titanium dioxide and zinc are better ingredients than other chemicals. Many people don't like how titanium dioxide makes your skin look "white". But I think you just have to rub it in very well.
  • Don't buy spray-on version. It's easy for you to inhale stuff that would otherwise be okay on the skin, like nano versions of zinc.
  • Skip the big name brands as they most likely will have the bad stuff in it. Not all of them, but that's one easy way to weed out your choices.
  • Don't buy them w/ bug repellent. Supposedly the ingredients in the sunscreen makes the bug repellent part more absorb-able.
  • If the ingredient list contains lots of long sounding scientific names, esp ones with lots of scientific beginnings and endings, and there are other versions w/o it, maybe try the other versions.
  • Avoid things with fragrance in them. First of all, they're not required to list what makes up the fragrance. Second, even fragrance made from natural stuff (like orange, lemon, etc) can be irritating to the skin as well. Just because something has natural ingredients doesn't mean it won't irritate your skin.
  • So try to avoid things with very long lists of ingredients as well. The longer the list, the more chances for it to contain items that are bad for you.

Which one I'll be getting

The top 5 choices on Cosmetics Database are:

  1. Keys Soap Solar Rx Therapeutic Sunblock, SPF 30

  2. Cost: $7.09/oz
    Active Ingredient: Nano Zinc Oxide 16%, not waterproof
    Pro: Has the easist to read ingredient list.
    Con: non organic ingredients. Doesn't say what essential oil blend is. Nano is new technology and easier to absorb than others, which isn't necessary a good thing!
    Conclusion: The nano ingredient is a no go.

  3. TruKid Sunny Days SPF 30+ Natural Mineral Sunscreen Water Resistant Face Stick

  4. Cost: $16.67/oz
    Active Ingredient: Micronized Titanium Dioxide 8%, micronized zinc oxide 5%, water resistant
    Pro: They seem to only use enough to get complete UVA/UVB coverage. So small % of each ingredient.
    Con: Has 7 ingredients with scores > 0, most of which are oil fragrances. The vitamin E additive can have potential harmful impurities in it.
    Conclusion: Favorite as they only used minimum active ingredient. Though I"m a bit concerned w/ the oil fragrance.

  5. California Baby SPF 30 + Sunblock Stick - No Fragrance, .5 oz

  6. Cost: $25.98/oz
    Active Ingredient: Micronized titanium dioxide 18%, water resistent
    Pro: Seems to have less of fragrance type additives that are bad for sensitive skin. 5 ingredients with scores > 0
    Con: One of its ingredients Japan has a concentration limit on. The vitamin E additive can have potential harmful impurities in it.
    Conclusion: A bit too expensive and a bit concerned with the Japanese concentration limit.

  7. Sunscreen-Everyday/Year round SPF 30+ - 1 - Stick

  8. The only difference between this one and previous is the addition of lemongrass as fragrance.

    Cost: $25.98/oz
    Active Ingredient: Micronized titanium dioxide 18%
    Pro: Seems to have less of fragrance type additives that are bad for sensitive skin. 5 ingredients with scores > 0
    Con: One of its ingredients Japan has a concentration limit on. The vitamin E additive can have potential harmful impurities in it.
    Conclusion: Too expensive.

  9. Badger All Natural SPF 30 Sunblock for Face and Body

  10. Cost: $5.51/oz
    Active Ingredient: Micronized zinc oxide 20.5%, water resistant
    Pros: Has the smallest number (3) of ingredients with scores > 0. It's basically zinc with lots of different oils.
    Cons: But people seem to have allergic reactions to this. Probably because of its natural oil ingredients such as citrus and lavender. Also scented. Some people also don't like the greasy application.
    Conclusion: Given the allergic reactions and added fragrance, I'm going to skip this.
It was a toss up between California Baby and Trukid. The things that gave them scores > 0 are all fragrance or oil related stuff. Except for the Japanses concentration limit ingredient that California Baby has. Give this, and the price point, I think I'm going to go with TruKid Sunny Days SPF 30+ Natural Mineral Sunscreen Water Resistant Face Stick. If it turns out that it doesn't feel good, then I will switch to California Baby non fragrance version. The price will be worth it since Thumper will only have it on her face. She's still chewing on hands and toes so can't have it anywhere else.

I explored other products by TruKid and California Baby, wondering why I couldn't buy the lotion version, since the stick version are so expensive. It turns out that the lotion version typically have additives that ARE bad for you; whereas the ingredients that scored > 0 in the stick version are usually due to the oil and fragrance. I will research lotion version for baba and me if I don't think the stick version will go a long way. Unlike Thumper, baba wears shorts and shirts every day and I don't think a little stick will cut it. There shall be a post about that when it happens. In the meantime, it's long sleeves for me or hats or just hiding from the sun!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

what solids to feed infants

Now that Thumper is more than 9 months old, I feel that I've got more of a handle on the whole baby food issue. I spoke w/ my pediatrician during our 9 month check up and she said that you feed your baby breast milk on demand as usual and if they're still hungry after that, give them solids.

Around 4-5 months, I was in a hurry to start Thumper on solids. I have since decided that there really is no hurry. They *will* show interest when they're ready. The clue is when they're not just trying to touch what you're eating when you're eating, or staring at you intently, but almost being fussy when you're eating by yourself and they're not a part of it. Of course, you could also breastfeed them, and then offer them solids to see if they will eat it. Definitely start w/ breastfeeding first though. Sometimes I get lazy and forget and then I notice a drop in my supply.

So, what to feed them? I think it depends on baby's development and how lazy you are. The laziest method is to of course buy baby food. That's the fastest. We're very lazy but we almost always cook dinner at home so it actually hasn't been that bad cooking for Thumper while I cook dinner. I don't know if it really saves you money esp if you go the organic food route w/ homemade food. But it saves you having to recycle lots and lots of glass jars. Yes, I'm THAT lazy. I recycle but I tend to just reduce instead as then I don't even have to do that. Thumper also doesn't have teeth. So at 9 months, we're still feeding her pureed food. But another baby I know, at 8 months, can stuff crumbled chocolate chip cookies into her mouth because she has two teeth.

So here's what I did. I started out by buying super duper organic apple/pear at the grocery store. By super duper, I mean it's in the refridgerated section. There are no additives like Vitamin C or citric acid in the food. It's pure pureed apples/pear. That gave me containers to use once I started making my own food. Another way is to ask friends to donate to you their used baby food jars. Beware though! They're not supposed to be heated up or frozen as there may be microscopic cracks from doing that.

Since I try not to buy anything, we used existing equipment at home. These include
  • grater
  • blender with the smoothie making attachment
  • rice cooker
What to cook?
In various websites and baby books, there are always "rules" for what you need to feed your baby to make sure they get their nutrients. I don't know how you can do that while you have to work and take care of the house. I just can't keep track of everything and remember if Thumper had her vegies or her fruit and who knows what else for the day. And she eats such a tiny portion that unless I feed her lil bits of everything, I don't see how she can get a variety of food. And that's too much work. Yes I"m lazy. The good thing is that breastmilk provides a lot of the stuff for you already, and the food is extra.

But I don't feel that what I'm feeding Thumper is bad. She gets no junk food, and nothing is cooked in oil. She doesn't get processed food like Cherrio. (Yes I'm against Cherrio). We feed her rice (starch), fruit, and vegies if we have them. That's your basic food groups right there. I mix and match and try not to feed her all starch or all fruit or all vegi if she's eating more than 4 oz at a time.

Month 5-7
For awhile, all we feed Thumper was apples and bananas. Apples are the easiest thing to make as all you do is grate it into a bowl, and dilute with a bit of water. Some people say you have to seriously dilute as it's too acidic? But I did my research and it seems that some people say it and other don't. Bananas are simple too as you just puree it in a blender.

Month 7-8
After awhile, we got tired of just apples and bananas. So we started on smoothies. We make lots and lots of banana + pesticide free strawberry smoothies. It's usually 1 banana + 3-4 strawberries. They're so easy to puree and keep for a few days in the fridge and you can serve them cold. It's what I do when I don't have time. Beware that strawberry is one of the fruits w/ lots of pesticides so try to get organic if you can. Other things we've tried are pureed carrots, banana + skinless organic necterine smoothie, papaya puree, tofu, tofu custard, and sweet potato.

Bananas or papayas are great base for any smoothie you want to make. I've found the necterine have lots of water in them so if you need to dilute any fruit to make it runnier, you can use that.

Month 8-9

Eventually, I decided that I may be starving Thumper by not feeding her a variety of food. So we finally started her on rice pouridge. Rice pourridge is basically rice cereal and it's what I ate while growing up. Rice pouridge is easy to make too if you eat rice almost every day. Cook rice as you normally would in a rice cooker. Then scoop a bit into a pot, add enough water so that it covers it and then some, then simmer for as long as you like, stirring occasionally. Usually we stop when most of the water has boiled down and the rice is gruel like. You then just puree it, put it into individual 4 oz serving bowls and you can serve it over a few days. I've started adding ground cooked sesame seed into the pouridge to give it a bit more calcium. Sesame is a good source of calcium if you don't drink milk.

Other things we tried this last 2 months are organic chicken thigh, carrots + peas + corn puree, necterine puree, carrots, mashed up egg whites. This are all in addition to the staple of rice and banana + strawberry smoothie we inevitably feed her. The chicken were a bit interesting. I had to add quite a bit of water to get it to a very creamy consistency, otherwise it was too dry and I had to only feed Thumper a teeny bit at a time in case she choke. I did not add chicken stock as people suggested in recipes because it's too salty.

The things that I have found did NOT work as baby food are: pure corn by itself, and watermelon. My mom has also said no beans as its makes you have gas and thus can make the baby uncomfortable.

I think that if you eat a variety of semi-healthy food daily and you feed the same variety to your kid, you can't really go wrong.

How to prepare homemade baby food?
In general, I basically set aside a bit of what I'm eating, or use whatever vegetable I have in the fridge, boil, then puree, adding water if necessary. That's it. Everything can be pureed and fed to baby. Sometimes the quantity is so tiny that we can't puree, in which case I mash by hand. (Yes, too lazy to go shopping and buy a food mill). That is what I did w/ the egg whites: mashing and cutting by hand. It wasn't that bad. And if you feed a bit at a time to the baby they shouldn't choke.

I tend to reheat anything non-fruit dishes by putting them in a rice bowl and steaming it in the rice cooker for 2-5 minutes. A steamer would be fine too. It's not really extra work as I can do that while I'm cooking dinner.

How much?
We put things them all in the 4 oz containers we got in the beginning and that gives us an idea of how much we're feeding Thumper. Supposedly, during introduction of new food, you want to add 1 Tbsp a day and watch for reactions. I'm on mailing lists where people keep precise records of how much they're feeding their baby. But I'm too lazy for that and I just use to stop feeding when they turn their head away method.

Usually, we make sure to have the rice or more substantial vegies or meat for dinner and leave the fruit smoothies for lunch or snack. I feed Thumper milk only at 6, milk at 10, lunch at 2, then dinner at 6. That's just what I try to do but the times aren't set in stone.

In the beginning, we did 1 meal a day. Then a month or two later, I arbitrarely decided to up it to 2. Right now, when Thumper eats her food, she chomps it down, even w/ all the milk I'm feeding her. So I think it's time to up it to 3 meals a day. For each meal, it's milk first (when I remember), then 4 oz of rice or whatever is the main dish, then if she wants more, whatever we have left in the fridge in whatever portion she likes.

Yes, a very "whatever" goes way of feeding!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

infant toys 7-12 months

I've been pulling my hair out on is trying to find toys suitable for Thumper the last few months. I did some research on the Internet, but most suggestions on age appropriate toys for infants are so generic as to be useless. At the same time, from 6 months on, all Thumper does is put anything you give her in her mouth. It's gotten worse the last few weeks. At 8 months, she is now putting things in her mouth she didn't use to! She'll even bend over and lick any surface she sits on. I fail to see the point of getting her interesting things when all she does is put it in her mouth.

What's making my search harder is my two requirements. 1) the toys last awhile, preferably through several developmental stages. 2) they're non-toxic.

So what's an age appropriate toy for 7-12 months?
I went by Target the other day to look at their infant toys. From what I can tell, most of the small toys are all teethers and clutch toys. The big playmats have other stuff, but I think Thumper will most likely just lick them.

The PDF File put out by US Consumer Product Safety Commission has been really helpful.

For infants 7-9 months, they say that infants like to bang, insert, poke, twist, squeeze, drop, etc with their toys. Basically, things they can do w/ their hands. And at an more advanced level than 2-6 months, when they just hold, bat, turn, shake, and taste.

For infants 10-12 months, they like to play with containers, such as stacking, putting in/out, open/close, pushing, turning things.

There's also fascination with appearing/disappearing objects and operating simple mechanisms.

The PDF file breaks toys down into different category. For each one they have suggestions.

Active Play
  • push toys w/o rods
  • infant swings
  • soft low climbing platforms for crawlers
  • transparent/chime/flutter/action balls at least 1 3/4 inch in diameter
Manipulative Play
  • Soft/rubber/rounded wood blocks
  • 2-3 piece puzzles (10+ months)
  • teethers
  • pop-up boxes
  • small, hand-held manipulables
  • clothe toys
  • pop up boxes, containers to empty and fill, etc (10+ months)
  • large rubber/plastic beads
  • nesting cups
  • stacking rings/cones
  • graspable mirror toys
Make Believe Play
  • soft baby dolls with no loose hair
  • small plush animals or big soft toys
  • simple push cars
  • low wall-mounted mirrors
Creative Play
  • rubber or wood blocks that rattle/tinkle
  • adult operated music stuff
Learning Play
  • cloth/plastic/small cardboard books

As you can see, it's a long list! I think my focus will be on chewable toys that can be easily grasped. Thumper eats everything, including the cloth book we got as a gift, so I'm not sure how good any of the other stuff are. Combined with my requirements (non toxic and lasts), I think these are what I want Thumper to play with for 7-9 months.
  • Sophie the Giraffe wasn't as big a hit as every review made it out to be because Thumper's little hands still have problem grasping it. But she still likes it once in awhile.
  • Plastic measuring cups are great as they're free and Thumper has now finally discover that you can bang them together. She wasn't interested in them at 7 months. The bad thing is that it's plastic and I have no idea what type so I really don't like her chewing on them.
  • Haba First Blocks have gotten good reviews. Even though it's rated for 1 year old and up, I'm going to see if she will like them. Since they're wooden blocks, they should last longer than the clothe version Haba makes for younger infants. It's made in Germany with maple wood, painted with non-toxic laquers.
  • Haba Salto Teething Toy is the 2nd teething toy I"m going to get Thumper. I really hope she likes it. I chose this one over the other Haba teething toy as the center pieces will allow her to push. Some parents had pinching concerns w/ the simple round one.
  • Haba Technicus Discovery Cubes I'm hoping she'll like the cube as it has peek-a-boo elements to it.
  • Haba Great Vehicles Soft Book is another item I hope Thumper will like, better than her gift cloth book. That one didn't have good stuff in it at all and so all she does is chew on it.
  • ABC book is totally unappropriate for Thumper's age as she can't read. But it has push panels for her to push around and she likes to push them. Though lately, she's down to just licking the books.
  • Wooden puzzles havn't been too useful because Thumper likes to chew on the pieces. These are 6+ puzzle pieces so it's not quite age appropriate for the puzzle part yet. But I think they're great for developing pinching skills as the pieces have little knobs on them. I should last several years as I've used the puzzle on a 3 year old.
  • Mirrors are free! The great thing is that DH has a shaving mirror. I used it on Thumper around 4 months, she wasn't interested. Very interested around 6 months for a few days. I think it's time to take it out again so she can watch herself when she flips over.
I think worse comes to worst, all Thumper does to these toys is to chew on them. But at least I'll have the ease of mind that they're all non-toxic toys (except the measuring cups). I'm so glad I've finally decided on her toys for the next 4 months. Now I can toss all the little stuffed animals and plastic chew toys she's been chewing on. They get washed in terrible detergent and I hate seeing Thumper sucking on them.

I hope these toys are good enough from now till 1 years old. The measuring cups will come in handy when she's into stacking. The Discovery Cubes should be handy for object permanence development after 9 months. I also bought a little push cart awhile back. I'm hoping she'll also find that fun when she's ready for it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's hard being a bpa-free, toxic-free parent

Today, I spent about 30 minutes doing some research and ultimately gave up because I was overwhelmed. I started because I was looking into Duplo, Legos for infants. I wanted to know if it was BPA free. That lead to reading up on lead in toys, aluminum, wood, and toys in general.

Did you know, that if you want to be a green parent, you need to worry about:
  • lead paint (in toys)
  • BPA (plastic)
  • #1, #4, #6, #7 plastic
  • vinyl
  • mercury
  • aluminum
  • adhesives used to bind wood together
  • flame retardant
  • phenols and phosphates
  • breastfeeding
Trying to research and figure out what to get Thumper due to these restrictions gave me a headache. There *is* a reason why we don't have too many toys for her. Because for every one of them, I have to research and I don't have time. I think the big bad things are lead, flame retardant, and plastic. Especially plastic, it shows up everywhere.

These things baby use, or might touch could have toxic stuff in them:
  • pacifier (the MAM one we got from the hospitable isn't BPA free!)
  • vinyl (used in bibs!). Something about lead and vinyl.
  • alumninum (used in rice cookers or any number of kitchen products)
  • sippy cups and baby bottles (could have bad plastic in them)
  • rattlers and teethers (could have BPA)
  • any number of toys (could have lead paint!)
  • baby-wear (flame retardant)
  • playpen (flame retardant)
  • mattresses (flame retardant)
  • detergent (phenols and phosphates)
Breastfeeding was on the list because not only do you want to minimize your baby's exposure to the stuff, if the mother touches these things, or drinks from containers made of these things, it can get into breastmilk and get passed on to the baby! I don't know if I should go run away to a forest somewhere and live like a hermit or be a hippie or something. Just thinking about all the stuff I touch daily that has flame retardant in them. yikes

Thumper has been licking and biting away at her pacifier the last few days because she's teething. Who knows what plastic products she's put in her mouth since she started. And she's licked her Graco playpen (Graco puts flame retardants on their products).

And no matter what, your kid has to live in this world. Which means that the minute that go to school or day care, they'll be exposed to things that you might have limited at home. And really, that's where they'll spend a big chunk of their time unless you're a SAHM.

le sigh.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

how to choose a pediatrician

Before Thumper was born, I dutifully researched the Internet for list of questions to ask potential pediatricians. I dutifully called one up (based on a recommendation of a friend) and chatted w/ her for a few minutes. The doctor seemed nice over the phone. I found out a few things about what happens after birth, and basically didn't ask most of the questions they tell you to ask.

I just don't feel right asking questions when all I'm going to do is just accept the answers they tell me. Until I'm educated on a subject, how would I know that their answers are good? Therefore, I tend not to have opinions until I see that there are options; in this case, different doctors approach things differently. Yes, so intuitive for some people, but not me!

We're sticking with our pediatrician for now because they are a 5 minute walk from our house. But I'm on the look out for another pediatrician who can offer me what I want, now that I know what I want.

Anyways, here are a few things I've learned about pediatricians.
  1. You need to choose a pediatrician before you give birth so they can discharge baby from hospital. If you don't, I think they use the hospital pediatrician.

  2. Different peds have different views on vaccines. I didn't even realize that before I picked mine. So I'm really glad I found one that was willing to let me go on an alternative vaccination schedule. Apparently some doctors will drop you if you want that. I think it's the pediatrician's job to play the devil's advocate and try to convince me to get vaccines, without using scare tactics. But I now know that I want one will is open to a different schedule. I think what that tells me is that they're willing to listen to my concern as a parent without dismissing it.

  3. The ped office should follow good isolation protocols. Once you have your kid, you start to realize how easy it is for kids to get sick and how important it is to have good hygienes. Our ped office doesn't have an isolation area. But once, when I called and said that Thumper has a rash, they told us to wait in the parking lot when we come so someone can come take a look.
    I think a good way to ask about this is to say, if my child is really sick, or has a rash, what would you have me do?

  4. After hour care: I did not realize that our pediatricians are not on call 24x7. If your kid gets really sick, they may just tell you to go to the emergency room. For after hours, we call this hotline and they direct our calls, or something like that. I think I would really like a doctor who is available as much as possible. This one doctor I found makes housecalls!

  5. Another thing I did not realize is that most of the time I can just call the office, leave a message, and a doctor or nurse will call me back and answer my questions w/o me having to make an appointment and go in. Quite handy and an option I didn't realize I have!

  6. Who do you actually see? Our ped office has 3 doctors and 1 nurse. We actually just saw the RN for the first few appointments because we didn't know better. Nurses are great for wellness checkups as they are willing to spend time with you. But I've found that they don't have all the answers. Especially important if you're a curious type and a first time parent and have lots and lots of weird questions!

  7. How long are wellness visits? What is the average wait?
  8. During each of our visits, we have ended up waiting 30 minutes or more for a doctor. The nurses are usually on time. When the doctors are late, they start rushing through the appointment. They ask questions on development, tell you a few things, and then kind of push you out the door. I always feel rushed and don't have enough time to ask follow up questions. Also, the longer you're waiting in an office with potentially sick children, the more likely it is for your child to catch it!

  9. What kind of bedside manners do you want your doctors to have? I've gone through 2 of the 3 pediatricians, and 1 nurse, in the office. And after a few visits, numerous phone calls, I think I know have an idea of what kind of doctor I want. Of course, you can't tell until you've actually seen a doctor but I think there are some questions you can ask.

    I now know that it's important to have a doctor who you click with, someone who goes with your personality. This means that you need to know what kind of a patient you are. Do you like to ask questions? Are you a worrywort? Do you tend to just trust and follow what your doctor says? Are you the shy type who will do will with an outgoing doctor? Or are you an opinionated parent who needs a laidback doctor?

    One of the ped we met was able to answer all our questions and did the checkups fine. But she made me feel really rushed and I did not like that. It makes me feel like my questions aren't important. The other ped talked slowly and calmly, smiled a lot, asked us lots of questions and waited for our answers. We liked him much much better. It was only after the fact that I realized that he didn't actually do all the checkups that the nurse and other ped did. The nurse was nice but her answers to our questions weren't very helpful.

  10. What kind of office staff do they have? This might not be important to some people. But for a perfectionist like me, I dislike office staff that are disorganized. It irks me that they ask me at EVERY visit for $15 when my wellness visits are covered. It irks me that they don't ask me for my vaccination card at the end of each visit to update it. It irks me that they're not friendly or helpful at all.

  11. Good office hours. Our ped office have hours of 10-12, 2-5. That's it. Any other time you call, they've got their phone turned off so they can do other stuff. It's hard for a worrywort parent to have to leave messages on a machine and wait for someone to call you back.

    Another parent I talked to told me that their ped office had a welcome meeting between them and the whole staff. I thought that was very cool. Basically, I want good customer service. For our ped office, I did not get any information about the office till after I gave birth. And the info we got was on a sheet of paper. Noone talked to us. In hindsight, I didn't like that.

So here are the things I'm looking for in a doctor:
  • accepts alternate vaccine schedule
  • tells me facts and info w/o me asking; such as what the next developmental phase is, what I should do for feeding, for playing w/ Thumper, etc. I want them to be my reference instead of a book. Sometimes you don't have questions until you're told some information!
  • spends as much time as they can during each appointment. It takes a special ped to do this. Because of the healthcare system, pediatricians have to form groups and see lots of patients every day to make money. Only a few will buck that system and spend as much time as you need.
  • clicks w/ me personality wise so that I feel comfortable asking them questions instead of feeling like my questions aren't important.
  • Have good phone or after hour care. Ideally, I'd like a doctor that I can call anytime and even better, make house calls!
  • follow good isolation protocols. If you don't think this is important, read up on that California measles outbreak we had a few months ago.
  • someone who explains things well. I don't tend to accept answers I hear unless the how/why is explained to me.
  • someone who will take any of my concerns seriously. For some people, it's better for them to have a doctor who dismisses their concerns as they worry too much. As a worry wort, the only way my worries are alleviated is when they can explain to me, in detail, why my concern isn't valid.
  • An efficient and organized staff.

Monday, May 26, 2008

reference books for new parent

Here are the books I bought after Thumper was born. I borrowed a bunch of books from the library and then bought the ones that I thought would actually last.

The Vaccine Book (0+ months)
This is the book I bought to learn all about vaccines.

Playful Parenting (1 year+?)
I'm reading this book right now and I really like it. It's about how you can use play to communicate and build relationships with your child. It totally makes sense to me and the author also gives a lot of scenarios of when you use play. I'm not quite sure what age this book is good for yet though.
Mother Food: A Breastfeeding Diet Guide...(0+ months)
I really liked this book even though I only read a few pages on Google books. It's on my Amazon wish list to buy and read through. I wish I'd read this book while pregnant so I'd know what to eat. I found this book when I was looking into info about DHA and all those other brain-building food. It's on my wish-list because there was a section also on what food to eat/avoid when your baby has eczema. I didn't even realize that you could change your diet when that happens! Not that Thumper has eczema....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Newborn vaccines information link

Some links for vaccine related stuff.
Other people's alternate vaccine schedule
I actually came across a lot of blogs but I didn't save their links. Will update as I find them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Things you can adapt for baby use.

Since I don't like buying things, I've discovered that I can adapt other items from the house for baby use.

  1. Grater

  2. We use a regular grater to puree apples and pears. It's not in pure puree format but it's darn close. Saves me the trouble of getting a food mill.

  3. Blender

  4. We've been using the blender to puree bananas, mangos, strawberries. Our blender comes a small container for making smoothies. And it's perfect for pureeing Thumper's food. I'm foregoing buying a food mill for now.

  5. Measuring cups

  6. Replaces baby stacking cups. Used as a regular toy or bath toy.

  7. 1/4 teaspoon

  8. Just the right size as a baby spoon. We ended up buying real baby spoons because ours was metal. But if you had a plastic shallow (not the half moon size ones) measuring spoon, they probably could double as a feeding spoon.

Friday, May 2, 2008

California measles outbreak

There was a measles outbreak in San Diego, California earlier this year. A 7 year old child went to Switzerland and brought back the disease. He then gave it to his siblings, 5 children in his school, and 4 children from his pediatrician's office. 3 of those children were infants too young to get vaccinated. The rest were children who decided not to get vaccinated. 70 children in all were exposed.

The CDC website description of the outbreak is actually pretty easy to read. It has a lot of info that most news stories didn't mention. As I was reading this, several things crossed my mind:

  • These diseases are really like STDs!

  • I know I've said it before and I'll say it again. Some infectious diseases are just like STDs. It's not who you come in contact with, it's who those people came in contact with, ad infinitum.

  • Why don't people talk about the fact that none of the kids came down with something really serious?

  • The concern with measles (I had them as a kid) is that it'll develop into something serious and life threatening. But none of these kids had it. So having an outbreak itself isn't that bad right?

    Then I read that the outbreak in Switzerland "resulted in hospitalizations for pneumonia and encephalitis". eep!

  • Most of the kids infected chose to not be vaccinated, including the carrier

  • I guess you really have to understand the chances you're taking when you decide not to vaccinate. I wondered if the parents thought about vaccinating their kid before they traveled? Switzerland has a 86% vaccination rate for children under 2 while the US has 95% vaccination rate for children between 1 1/2 to 3.

  • You need a 90% vaccination level!

  • I read about this before. But the importance of it didn't hit home till now.

  • The choice to not vaccinate comes with responsibility

  • I'm okay with parents choosing not to vaccinate their kids. I'm doing an alternate schedule myself. Their choice, their risk. But like second hand smoke, it seems somehow wrong when you affect the health of other children. Not sure what the solution would be since CA allows children to be in school and not be vaccinated. Maybe just more awareness on the parents part? Wherever we go, I think about how Thumper could get infected from people she comes in contact with, and think about who she could infect if she got sick. I tell people with really young children that I hang out with that Thumper is on an alternate schedule.

    The good thing is that since Thumper isn't in day care and doesn't actually come in contact with lots of people, I'm not too worried. But if I started going into daycare, I'd be more concerned and want her to be vaccinated.

  • Why didn't the pediatrician office take precautions?

  • When my daughter came down w/ a rash and I called the ped's office, they said that I could come in but I'd have to wait in the car and wait for someone to come out just in case. According to the article, the office in this case didn't take any precautious measures. I wonder if this is something you could ask your pediatrician about. Ask them what kind of preventive measures they take.
I really hate the fact that Thumper needs to go into daycare soon. I just don't want her to get infected w/ all these diseases and then infect me. I'm starting to look into nanny-care instead, esp if it makes financial sense.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

how long to breastfeed?

Thumper is 7 months old today and I finally got some chance to research how to feed her. This led me to researching breastfeeding.

Lots of people say breastfeeding is good because:
  1. Babies need the antibodies the first 6 months.
  2. The World Health Organization recommends up to 2 years and longer if baby wants to!
  3. supposedly it helps them not get sick as often
  4. supposedly it cuts down on ear infections
  5. supposedly babies can get what they need nutritionally all from breastmilk for 1st year and 25%-50% second year.
  6. You save on the cost of formula.
Kelly Mom has a whole section on why breastfeeding long term is good.

But I've always wondered about this long term feeding recommendation though. It makes sense for the WHO to recommend 2 years or beyond because a lot of people in this world live in countries where they have poor nutrition. It's conceivable that people feed up to 4-5 years because it helps make the baby feel full when solid food isn't available or enough. It makes sense to think breastmilk would have more nutrition than what the child would eat if they didn't breastfeed. But what about in Western countries where we eat fairly well to begin with and if we try, we can eat really well nutritionally too? Do we then really need to breastfeed that long?

In my search, I came across two articles that I thought were really interesting. The first one is titled Successful Breastfeeding....and successful alternatives. It talks about how nutritionally, breastmilk isn't necessarily as good as people tout it to be, as it DOES depend on the mother's diet. That the Western diet has a lot of transfat in it (pre-packaged food, fast food), which is bad for the baby.

The second article is titled Diet for Nursing and Pregnant Mothers The diet recommendation was an eye opener, much better than the normal "take prenatal vitamins, eat balanced, nutritions meals".

I think I'm going to continue to breastfeed past 1 year, as it's very cost effective to do so. But I need to make more changes to my diet. No more fried food (transfat), no more nitrites/nitrates filled food (hotdog, salami, etc). Back to drinking whole milk and more fish, eggs, and bone soup Fat is very important to baby's diet as it aids brain development.

Yikes! more cooking!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

newborn shopping list after birth.

As I've said before, I hate to buy things for thumper. It's been made easier by the fact that I work from home, so I could afford the time to do things the slower way. We have not bought a stroller nor a high chair yet. We have gotten all our clothes from our friends and family.

Anyways, here are my list of things I've bought after I gave birth, other than toys. Toys are in a separate list I'll keep updating it as I go.

Trying to go for more natural, less plastic, and yet pretty affordable products.
  1. Gerber Soft Infant Spoon (4-10 months)

  2. Silicone tip and metal handle. Easy on the gums, harder to put in than using our metal 1/4 teaspoon because it's bigger. Shallower too.

  3. Innovia Earcheck Middle Ear Monitor

  4. A great product to have when your baby gets sick and you're worried that they have an ear infection but it's after hours or weekends.

  5. Nail clipper

  6. We clipped Thumper's nails by tearing it off for a few months. But eventually I succumbed and bought a little nail clipper. It don't clip the nails that often actually as she somehow always tears them off by herself. But the emery board comes in real handy when you want to file it all the way down. It's hard to clip that close to the finger w/o clipping them.

  7. REI Kid Tag-along backpack

  8. At 17 pounds, Thumper is getting a bit heavy for us old folks to tote her around in the Ergo Carrier. Shocking isn't it? Since the Ergo is rated for minimum 15 pounds. I already have a bad back so it's bad for me to carry her on the front. We've switched her over to the back but that's kind of tough on the shoulders too. So two weeks ago (@ 7 1/2 months), we bought the baby hiking carrier. It's a pain to put on and for quick trips I still prefer the Ergo. But it's definitely better in terms of support and baby can also sit higher and see more.

  9. Toys

  10. I finally succumbed today and bought Thumper some new toys Her toys have been getting pitifully small as I realize that half of them are clothe (and therefore bad if we use bad detergent) and the other half are plastic (bad also since they were mostly gifts and I have no idea what kind of plastic they are).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why I opted for the Pc vaccine.

"The Natural Mommie" has a pretty good post about what the Pc vaccine is so I won't detail it again here. Simply it's a baterium that can cause meningitis.

My original plan was to get the HIB and not Pc. But after some thinking I decided to get the Pc instead of the HIB early. There are several reasons.

1. I'm traveling soon and will be in contact w/ people. In Asia, where we're traveling, the diseases is pretty endemic AND it's the breeding ground for antibiotics resistant strains.

2. The symptoms are common cold symptoms. A lot of times it can be too late by the time you realize it's something worse.

3. It's still quite common in other parts of the world as it's a pretty new vaccine. We're planning to travel to other countries before Thumper's 2. There is a website out there w/ people's stories of their children dying from the disease. After reading the stories, I decided I didn't really want to take that chance, esp since: (see #4)

4. There are lots of strains that are antibiotics resistant. Getting this vaccine will expose the child to the bacteria. Way better than them getting really sick and then having the antibiotics not work.

5. Though the vaccine only treats 7 strains out of the many out there, it also does a partial coverage for another 5.

One thing I think people don't think about when they do delayed schedule is that if your child gets really sick from the disease, you will end up going to the hospital and get lots of antibiotics, plus IV. IV also has aluminum in it! So you may think you're avoiding aluminum by not getting the vaccine, but then if your child gets really sick then they'll be exposed to it. I would have to read up on what the dosage is on IVs, but I don't think it's a good trade-off. You get aluminum either way, plus the possibility of your child dying, and endless worrying on your end.

And you also get drugs in the child's body. I don't like drugs in children in general. And since Pc is more likely to occur in children than HIB, I opted to get this vaccine.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

thoughts on vaccines

There are so many things I could write about, like sleeping, eating, costs of "stuff", but I've decided that I have more to say about vaccines because it's such a controversial topic.

As you know, I decided to put Thumper on an alternate vaccine schedule because of my concerns w/ the aluminum in vaccines. A parents mailing list I'm on recently had several posts on this subject. Since I didn't want to get into the fray of the discussion, I thought I'd post my thoughts here.

There were two posts, one was a parent wondering why pediatricians don't support her desire for no vaccines, and the other was about whether or not non-vaccinated children affect vaccinated children. The majority of the emails were from pro-vaccine people. Most of them had the view that non-vaccinated children are doing so on the backs of vaccinated children (due to the herd effect); that non-vaccinated children make vaccinated children unsafe; and that vaccines are there to save lives.

I think I take the middle of the road approach on this. It's kind of sad that pro-vaccination people and no-vaccination people are very adamant about their point of views and can't see the other side. One reply was from a doctor, who said that he's seen his share of children suffering from meningitis or rubella; things that could have been saved from vaccination. He also said that there's the "let parents be the ones who can make the best decisions for their kids" argument, which is hard for pediatricians to accept, given that they see their share of neglectful parents. And finally, that pediatricians think of themselves as caring for children, rather than "serving" the parents.

I liked his arguments for vaccination alot. When you browse the web for advice, a lot of parents like to use the, "you know what's best for your children, trust your instincts" line. If we knew what were best for our children, we wouldn't be asking for advice would we? While I also think that "experts" aren't much of experts, I do think that there are some ways of doing things are better than others. And sometimes there IS a right way and wrong way of doing something. Would one say that the parents who decided to pray for their children instead of seeking medical help is actually the right way, and that they should trust their instincts?

Anyways, I totally understand where pediatricians come from and that's why I don't really begrudge them when they try to convince me to follow the vaccine schedule. It doesn't mean I think they're totally right, but that I understand their motivation.

Then there's the "your un-vaccinated child has an effect on my vaccinated child". That many children died from these diseases before we had vaccines. That in other parts of the world, un-vaccinated children continue to die from these diseases. I don't think it's that black and white. I think it depends on the specific vaccines and your lifestyle.

And here's my main point. First, we don't know if vaccines cause autism. But supposing there is some sort of link. Then, how many children actually die from chickenpox, vs how many children are affected by autism. We keep seeing ads about how every 26 minutes a child is diagnosed w/ autism; or something like that. That just seems like such a high rate compared to the # of unvaccinated children in the US that get sick and die.

I know that I take my chances when I don't vaccinate my child on schedule. But I'd rather take that chance than to take the chance of having an autistic child. Having an autistic child is something you have to live w/ that child's whole life. That is so much harder to deal with than having a child die. Yes, probably an unpopular sentiment, and not that I want my child to die. But if you could do something to decrease your chance of having an autistic child, wouldn't you take it? Esp since in the current environment, my child is not likely to die from things like polio or HIB AND I'm going to vaccinate them when they start childcare?

Of course, there's the argument that we don't know if vaccines cause autism. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Better safe than sorry I say. I'm also making sure my child eats well, live in not as polluted are, and not touch a lot of plastics, in case other environmental factors play a role. I try to make sure I eat well, both during pregnancy and breastfeeding phase.

On the other side, the pro-vaccination people keep forgetting that it's not that black and white, even w/o the mercury or aluminum issue. It IS true that sometimes vaccines have weird effects on children. And it is also true that there are lots of unvaccinated adults (since they were on a different vaccination schedule) that could transmit these diseases. AND, sometimes you can get the disease even when you vaccinate! Vaccination isn't a cure-all.

Friday, March 28, 2008

If i had to do my vaccines again.....

Someone actually commented on my vaccine post the other day. It reminded me that I learned a few more things from my pediatrician during my 4 month checkup regarding vaccines. As a result of that, I firmed up my vaccine plans a bit more.

If I had to do it all over again, I would not get the HepB vaccine at birth. It is important to get the HepB vaccine if you live in an area where there are immigrants from countries that have high HepB rates. The reason is because kids bite. To me this is a real threat because my relatives live in a country w/ an endemic HepB rate. I know that it is a terrible disease to have. We do indeed live in an area w/ lots of new immigrants from Asia.

So I would not get the HepB vaccine at birth, but rather when thumper is a toddler and starts daycare.

The other thing is that I learned is that my pediatrician has seen kids w/ Pc though she hasn't seen kids w/ HIB since she was in medical school. She talked about how she had a kid who had Pc and from diagnosis to death was only 6 hours. And this was with parents who were on top of things and called the pediatrician as soon as they suspected that things weren't right.

I think that what people forget is that vaccines were introduced so that lives can be saved. And that in countries w/o such rigorous vaccine regimen, parents actually do want their kids vaccinated. I read an article recently about how some country in Africa radically reduced their infant mortality rate from HIB after introduction of the vaccine a few years ago. That said, history is peppered with people/government who had good intentions, and instituted policies that ended up killing people.

Anyways, I reread CDC's vaccine schedule again after the checkup, and also looked at their Catchup Vaccine Schedule. I basically then created a schedule that was based on our lifestyle (no childcare till 10 months, breastfeeding till 1 year), where we were traveling, and what thumper's age is when we travel. I tried delaying vaccines as long as possible, till we needed it. The interesting thing is that if you look at the catch-up vaccine schedule, you'll see that you don't have to get as many vaccines if you started them late. So I tried to push them back as late as possible while still taking into account that the minute she starts daycare, she will likely need them.

In terms of the comments I got, there is a website NVIC where it lists how you can get exempted from vaccines.

Another thing to keep in mind when you determine a vaccine schedule is that vaccines are only good for specific number of years. For example, it is recommended that you get booster shots for tetenus every 5 years, whooping cough if you're close to infants, polio if you're visiting a country that still has polio.

This is an important point because thumper was originally going to get polio vaccine to be a good citizen. I heard somewhere you need to have a high vaccination rate (90%+) to wipe out a disease. And I do think everyone should contribute to that. But, polio is pretty much wiped out in the US AND thumper is not traveling to any place w/ polio anytime soon. And if she were, she'd have to get those shots again. So I'm opting out of it for now. It seems like such a waste of shots if we weren't even going anywhere w/ polio.

And yet another thing to remember is that when a society is vaccinated against certain vaccines, the strain that remains out there can sometimes become resistant to antibiotics. I believe this is the case for whooping cough. So it may be good to get vaccinated just for that reason.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

toys for baby 0-6 months

I don't like buying the baby too many "things". I think this is because I know we're going to move in 6 months, and the fact that I've moved 4 times in the last 3 years.

But a baby's gotta have *some* toys. So here's my list of what we have that I like and what I would get the next thumper. My criteria for a toy is that it's gotta last for awhile or serve some sort of purpose.

  • Fisher-Price Rainforest Peek-A-Boo Waterfall Soother
    This is a great toy once Thumper was 3+ months old. She was not really interested before then. I put it right by her and I had a bedtime routine of stuffing her w/ binkie, turning on the music. She stares at it and it puts her to sleep.

    It basically plays music, and has movement, and light, and also can do rainforest sounds. Some people don't like the fact that the longest time is 6 minutes if you turn on music+movement+light. But I didn't mind that. And really, the baby is actually content just staring at the thing. If I really had to turn it on again and again cuz she's fussy, usually it's for some other reason and the aquarium won't put her to sleep anyway.

    I did some massive research when I was looking for a music toy for Thumper and determined that this Fisher Price version was better than another Fisher Price one. Sorry, can't remember what that model was. But a lot of people didn't like that one.

  • Sophie La Girafe
    A good toy to have once Thumper was able to grasp things (4+ months). This is a teething toy that I bought due to the rave reviews on the mom's mailing list I'm. It's made of natural rubber with food-based paint and it has lots of "parts" that are easy for a baby to hold. It also squeaks. Thumper is under 6 months and isn't too interested in the squeaks yet. I licked the giraffe myself and boy does it taste nasty. But the baby seems to not mind it. With all the scare nowadays in plastic and bisphenol A, this is a good toy to have around.

  • Infant Stim-Mobile
    I actually did not get this because by the time I found out about it it was kind of too late. It's good for a newborn to 6 months though I'm sure the literature says it's good for longer.

    So this mobile is great because the shapes are actually at the bottom where the baby can see. Many mobiles look great to the parent but from the bottom up it's nothing. And it conforms to infant eye development. A newborn sees high contrast the best and eventually likes primary colors. Also, in the beginning they see only about arms length and they see big shapes (circles) and not the details. Eventually around 4 months you want to introduce textures.

    I don't know if it's the end of the world to not get a mobile for your kid. I imagine that before mobiles existed, infants developed just fine. They're really very interested in parents face for the most part, and there are lots and lots of shapes and textures around the house that you can show them.

    Here's an interesting article about what infants can see and you can make up your mind yourself on whether a mobile is necessary.

  • Gerber Soft infant spoons

  • Spoons can act as toys since they're easy for babies to grab on (4+ months). They can bang on it to make sounds too! Just need to be there when they grab these as they have metal handles. And babies don't discriminate between which ends to stick in their mouths.

  • Measuring cups

  • Instead of buying stacking toys, I decided to just use the measuring cups at home. Our 7 months old isn't too interested in it except to eat it. But you can also use it as a bath toy instead of buying rubber duckies. I did some research and I don't think the plastic ones have BPA, though I can't be certain.

  • Wood puzzles (2+ years)

  • I bought several wooden puzzles last week, used, from a parents mailing list I'm on. The thing says it's for two years and up. Two of them were puzzles where you put the cut out shapes back into the holes they were carved out of. The third one has a lot of hinged doors with hidden magnets underneath. You're supposed to match the right animal to the right door. Thumper, at 8 months, has been chewing most of the pieces. But she does like closing the doors after I open them.

Lest you think this is all the toys Thumper has, here are the other stuff we got as gifts that we use to distract Thumper with.
  • 2 little wrist rattlers
  • large alphabet book with sliding panels
  • 2-3 stuffed mobile toy that came w/ playpen

Sunday, February 17, 2008

preparing to start on solids

I had always thought that you don't start feeding babies solids till they were 6 months old. But during the 4 month checkup, I was told that we can start between 4-6 months. Since k. has been so cute licking the food we've been stuffing in her mouth I thought I'd look into introducing solid food, or at least do some research.

All I heard before I started was what j. blogged; something about rice cereal mixed w/ milk/formula. I looked through my two Chinese books, then did some more reading on Internet. The eastern and western methods are mostly the same, but my Chinese books had a lot of details and some stuff were different.

You can apparently start babies, when they're 3-4 months, getting acclimated w/ the idea of food. You're not weaning at this time. But you can let them have some vegetable or diluted fruit juice. I called my mom up and she said to just boil vegetable in some water instead of chopping it up, boiling it and then filtering like the book says. So I'll start her about 1 teaspoon a day. Need to go find a rubber-tipped teaspoon though, and a filter thingie for when we I start pureeing stuff.

There is, of course, a list of stuff you can make into vegetable/fruit juice and what not. What's interesting is that says don't feed them citrus, but the Chinese book says it's okay. The Chinese books also said, no pineapple, grapefruit, or kiwi.

Anyways, what is this rice cereal thing anyway? My mom says to go buy those powdered flour thingie from Ranch 99. The books give me instructions for cooking rice (1 cup in 10 cups of water). Of course, since baby won't eat much I guess that's why you buy pre-packaged food, so it's not wasteful.

But I figure, I have another month to start thinking about the other 3 stages of solid food feeding. That's how my books have it broken down into, w/ which months you do which stage. Basically it's about the consistency of food. You start with REALLY watered down and bland food. About 1/5 as seasoned as your own food. There are also different philosophies on which food to introduce first. If you feed them sweeter food first (bananas) they might not like the blander food.

But my two books are great cuz they have recipes and suggested food preparation for each stage. In the meantime, I have a whole month to watch lil' thumper try to swallow broth.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

First cold!

Welp! Lil thumper got her first cold from grandpa when she was 2 months old. It turned out to be just your average regular cold. One that was quite nasty for the adults (terrible terrible coughs) but just okay for her. I'm guessing it's because I was breastfeeding. Her symptoms were about a day behind mine. Though it did last longer. Either that, or she just didn't cough unless she had to because she didn't understand the sensation of a tickling throat.

As I'm a worrywort mom, the whole time she was sick I was constantly googling the website trying to see if she had something bad. Was it one of things I could have prevented with a vaccine? Was it Rotavirus? Pc? HIB? Or maybe she had an ear infection? Bronchitis? Croup?

This was basically a test, a test of reality. I'd thought that since she would just be around family for the first 6 months of her life, as we don't go out much with her at all and have a very small social life, that the chances of her catching anything would be really small. I hadn't counted on my dad being on an 14 hour international flight and catching whatever was going around. I hadn't realize that catching colds are like catching STDs; anyone you come in contact with have contact with other people who have contacts with other people who could have that cold.

The vaccine choices I made logically collided with the emotional worry you get when your child actually gets that cold and you wonder if you'd made the right choices. It's so hard to watch the baby cough or sniffle or sound like she has trouble breathing. It crossed my mind that if I followed the regular vaccine schedule, I could bypass all this other than the symptoms she'd get when she gets the vaccine.

So I had to keep reminding myself that
1) the likelihood of her getting any of those viruses (Rota, Pc, HIB) right now were small, save for that increase chance due to unforeseen trip of dad to another country.
2) the pediatrician says babies catch several colds during their first 6 months.
3) my philosophy that I wanted the baby to experience colds and other sicknesses as long as they don't don't normally lead to complications; rather than be vaccinated against it.
4) that I DID get the whopping cough vaccine, which is really terrible and actually making a resurgence. So the one that IS going around and HAS terrible complications, I did get vaccinated for.
5) that the preservatives in vaccines are actually worse than the common cold or viruses you can overcome.

It was a hard week all around, esp since I didn't feel so great myself. I'm sure I'll always second guess myself a bit in my choices. It's hard not to when your emotions play with your mind. But I think I'll stick to my vaccine schedule.