Category Archives: parenting

Doctor Google

Perhaps I’ve reading into things, but this article on the BBC web site alarmed me just a little bit.

Some UK researchers looked up child health related topics on the Internet and then vetted their findings. If the story were that not everything you see on the Internet should be believed, I would buy that. However, I question whether the point of the piece is to tell people that the only credible source of medical information comes from the government, with statements like, “Government-run sites were the only completely reliable source, they found” and “In total, 11% of the 500 results gave inaccurate information, and 39% gave the right answer.”

I can see why doctors might be concerned that people are relying solely on Google for medical diagnosis, and rightfully so. But while they have a point that not all information found online can be considered credible, I am hoping this is not a push towards censorship. 

When I search for information on a problem, I want to see the alternative viewpoints. I like to see the CAM techniques for solving a problem, as well as the allopathic options. It’s useful for me to know that a doctor would recommend antibiotics for a UTI, but also that some would have you cure it with cranberry.

In addition, several of the topics they looked up are controversial. Even within the mainstream medical community, there is no one single answer or diagnosis.  For example, we don’t know what causes autism. That’s a fact right now. There is no medical conclusion as to why it happens. So how can they say the government has the only credible advice on that topic?

This brings me back to something I touched on in a previous piece. Isn’t it a cornerstone of science that we are always testing new theories, trying to find the answers for why something is the way it is? Then why is it that the medical community and the government insists that theirs is the one and only correct viewpoint? Why aren’t we welcoming additional theories into the fold and investigating those to in order to see if they have merit? Much easier to dismiss something out of hand I suppose.

There was one takeaway from the piece that I did appreciate, and it was also highlighted on the web site. “Healthcare professionals should continue to strive to be the main source of information for patients but we should be aware that most will continue to use the internet to gather information.”

While I’m not sure that I’d agree that healthcare professionals should be the ONLY source of information for patients, and I highly advocate being an informed consumer, I do believe that medical staff need to know that many of their patients do and will continue look things up online. Doctors need to be aware of what’s out there and be willing to look at information a patient brings to their attention. Combining knowledge to tackle the problem seems to be a smart solution.

No surprise that spanking leads to agression

Another study on corporal punishment has been issued that shows that physical discipline is not the ideal when considering the overall well  being of the child and can lead to long term consequences, including aggressive behavior and bullying.

I’m very happy to see the story getting lots of mainstream press. There were some excellent quotes and statements in this version such as that physical discipline, whether wielded by a parent or another authority figure, “fails to teach correct behavior in the long run.” and  “…consider discipline as an opportunity for education — to teach your child impulse control, understanding of cause and effect, and effective ways to manage difficult situations”.

It makes sense to me that kids will model their parent’s aggressive behavior. They imitate everything else!  In my opinion, what physical discipline often shows kids is that the biggest, strongest, or most coercive person or entity gets their way. When you don’t know what else to do to control the situation, hit! So when they’re frustrated or upset, it should be no surprise when kids use similar coping techniques to those they’ve seen their parents use.

I was very disappointed to see the reader comments that followed that same story, and others across the web. Many, many people stepped in to defend hitting their kids, or their parents for hitting them.

Quite a few jumped into the discussions using the rationale that it must not be that bad because they turned out OK. I guess that definition is relative! Some flat out said the study was wrong, or that it couldn’t possibly be  accurate because -insert example here- was spanked and turned out to be a productive member of society.

Whether or not the kid will go on to get an engineering degree or lead the country is not the point of the study or the article!! The children in this study (and others) showed aggressive and bullying behavior with a direct correlation to how often they were spanked.

Several others chimed in to point out that there is a difference between types of spanking said of course that they only do the “appropriate”  kind. You know, not beatings — just a good old fashioned whooping or a slap when their kid just won’t comply. 🙁

It makes me sad to know that there are so many kids out there getting hit on a regular basis, but also to know that they are not learning more  appropriate coping strategies and may not even know what they did wrong, let alone how to correct it. Fear is not an effective parenting technique, at least not in the long term. Logical consequences make a whole lot more sense.

This being said, I recognize that every parent has different strategies for raising their kid, and similar to how I don’t want others to make decisions for me on things like mandatory medical treatment, it’s not my job to make discipline related decisions for others. Unlike the issue of corporal punishment in schools, something I also wrote about recently, this issue is not one for government or the masses to determine.

That doesn’t mean I condone it, not at all. Maybe all this information in the press will show some that there is an alternative? As mentioned in that previous post, children reflect the treatment they receive.

Winter car seat safety

Maybe I’ve been living in the dark, but I learned something new today that I’ve never heard mention of before,  something that seems quite important to let others know about given how often it occurs. Having a kid wear a winter coat underneath the straps in their car seat is VERY unsafe, unsafe to the point that it could seriously injure or kill the child, even in a low speed crash.

We’re in the middle of a cold snap here that has us seeing temperatures around the zero mark. With the winter weather, I have been guilty of snapping our boy  in with his coat on, adjusting the straps if necessary to accommodate. Until today I had no idea this was such a risky move.

Why this is so dangerous is a matter of physics. The force exerted in a crash is great, especially with severe deceleration, and can be several hundred or thousands of pounds in most instances. For example, a 40 pound child in a 40 MPH crash exerts 1600 pounds of force! The coat will compress in a crash and leave the harness slack, allowing excessive movement of the child’s head or even ejection. The more slack there is, the greater the chance of serious head or neck injuries. Ejection from the seat is especially of concern with infants.

This blog has an example that shows the difference in slack between a child strapped in with their coat on and the same child without.  It may seem like you’ve tightened the straps properly even with the coat, but it’s not enough. There is no way you can exert the amount of force needed to counteract the effects of compression.

So what are some alternatives??

  • Have the child wear the coat backwards, putting their arms in after they’re buckled in.
  • Use a blanket tucked around the child.
  • Add a thin coat or shirt underneath, like a fleece.
  • Use special products, made just for use in car seats. Make sure they do not come between your child and the straps.
  • If you are unwilling to leave the child sans-coat, try this trick of fastening the front of the coat OVER the straps. This leaves a little bulk for compression in the back but is much safer than leaving the coat on as-is.

The rule of thumb (even for non-winter car seat use) is that you should not be able to get more than one finger width between the strap and the child.

Car crashes are the number one killer of US children ages 1-14. Many of the children killed were in child seats, just not restrained correctly.  I plan to work harder to make sure that my son is restrained properly. The inconvenience of removing his coat in no way compares to the increased risk of leaving it on.

Additional info:
Directions to check your coat for car seat safety, and other tips to keep your child warm and safe

Winter Car Seat Safety

Car Seat Basics

Vaccine safety debate

The appearance of H1N1, and the resulting vaccine, has brought the issue of vaccine safety to the public square. Unfortunately, it is also bringing out the worst in people on both sides of the fight. The arguments are heated and vitriolic. We see little in the way of balanced, rational, and scientific points of view.

I’ve grown tired of the lies, propaganda and fear tactics I’m seeing on both sides. The pro-vaccine side does not allow any room for criticism, doubt or deviation from their position that all vaccines are a godsend and beyond reproach. The anti-vaccine side often gets their facts wrong and discounts science. (For the millionth time already, the U.S. flu vaccines do NOT contain squalene. Read the package inserts.) Both sides have resorted to name-calling, fear-mongering, and even threats!

Here’s a round up in case you’ve missed out on the fun:

“The anti-vac loonies are killing our kids”

“Because of vaccines, diseases that once killed millions are now invisible. But if only a few families stop vaccinating, the illnesses could reemerge in a community.”

“one drop of mercury on your skin is fatal, we know who owns and runs the FDA…the less shots, the less money they make and they have shareholders that dont care if you or your kids has an allergic reaction, gets sick and dies”

“We’re one mutation away from something that virulent and we live in a world with VASTLY more possible methods of propagation. The next flu we have as deadly as the 1918 flu will kill 100s of millions.”

“The flat-earthers are back! Well, not exactly, but their descendants have come up with the flat-earth equivalent for the 21st century. They reject vaccination.”

” Schoolchildren = guinea pigs. Results to be fully know in ten years. Profit to Glaxo/Smith/Kline? Right now.”

“In the case of vaccinations, insurance companies should deny coverage for vaccine preventable diseases and their complications in anyone who did not get the recommended vaccinations.”

“The H1N1 vaccination program is the equivalent of a day trip to a neo-death camp.”

“It is downright scary to see the US heading back to the Dark Ages. The reappearance of some horrible diseases once thought eradicated is downright criminal and is totally the fault of these lunatics.”

Comments like this hardly help advance debate and are unlikely to win converts for either side. The commenters constantly include accusations that the anti-vax side is not willing to look at, or doesn’t understand, science.  However, by arguing that vaccines are completely safe, the pro-vaxers are also eschewing science.

Doubts and skepticism are at the core of the scientific movement! True scientists should be willing to look at empirical evidence on both sides. They realize that science is not meant to be prescriptive, and what we know as “the truth” can change.

This means letting go of the idea that vaccines are infallible. We already know they don’t work in all cases. Why? There is evidence to show that sometimes vaccines do harm people. Why? If we pay attention to the concerns of parents of vaccine damaged children, rather than dismissing them out of hand, maybe scientists could find out if something is happening to them and if so what the cause might be. Can a test be developed to determine genetic susceptibility to severe reaction?

Further questions raised by mass vaccination programs could also use investigation. For instance, what effects are vaccinations having on virus and bacteria development? (E.g. the pneumo vaccines like PPSV23 and Prevnar have resulted in serotype replacement. How likely is it that this will happen with others, like the HPV vaccines?) Is there a way to make vaccine production safer or more efficient? (We’ve seen the delays in both seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines due to problems getting the egg embryos to proliferate.) Is there a way to formulate vaccines that doesn’t require the dangerous additives or animal derived ingredients? Why are we seeing a rise in immune system disorders, and is it really related to vaccines?

If the CDC and FDA are meant to be the safety watchdogs, looking out for the public health, why are they not looking into these issues instead of undertaking multi- million dollar campaigns promoting vaccines as perfectly safe? If studies aren’t being done to truly understand the issues and make the public safer, why not?

The governmental agencies are far from influence free, and while it makes sense that pharmaceutical groups would do best to remain unbiased, profit clearly plays a role in their work. We need to see more independent, non-biased research undertaken. We need to see more agencies like the Cochrane Collaboration that are looking at all the studies and data on both sides with a more balanced viewpoint.

This debate is not going to disappear any time soon, but by addressing some of the core issues using science we might have a chance to improve safety and put some of the arguments to rest. Both the pro and anti-vax groups need to let go of their beliefs and work together for the benefit of all.

Vegan shoes for boys?

We’ve been having a hard time finding suitable footwear for my son ever since he started to wear out, and then outgrew, his IsaBooties. They had been an awesome find for us, and I was sad to see them go.

I feel like my shoe-buying criteria isn’t that demanding, but it must be because after searching high and low I am still finding very few shoes that fit the bill.

Here’s what I’m looking for:
– Flexible soles
– Non-leather
– Velcro or slip-on, no laces
– Under $30

Bonuses given to those that are:
– Lightweight
– Washable
– Not ridiculously ugly, actually look like shoes!

It always amazes me how thick-soled childrens’ shoes can be. I would never choose to wear shoes so bulky and heavy, let alone choose to put them on children who are just learning to use their feet. One of the
main reasons we chose the soft soled shoes in the first place is that research showed me that children’s feet are maleable, and take years to develop fully. Barefoot walking is the ideal for muscular development, and shoes too tight or hard can actually mold feet into the wrong shape and cause problems. While learning to walk kids should be able to feel what they’re doing and use their toes to grip. When going without isn’t an option, you want something that mimics barefoot walking but also gives them some traction so they don’t slip.

Even once they’re walking well (my guy is always moving these days!) flexibility continues to be important for proper foot development and is useful as they run, climb playground equipment, etc. The focus also
turns toward areas like protecting feet from sharp objects. I know I’m not alone in thinking flexibility is an important quality in kids shoes, given that there are companies specializing in this area, it’s just that they all use leather! True it is a flexible material, but there are substitutes like Ultra Suede that looks just as nice, is durable and cruelty free.

Part of the struggle may be that I’m looking for boys shoes. I see lots of cute girls shoes that are canvas with rubber soles and would work. Also, many girls shoes are slip-ons. Men’s shoes contain both these
features in the form of loafers, so why not shoes for little boys?

I see a lot of small kids wearing Crocs, but they are not flexible, quite ugly in my opinion and sometimes cause injury. I’ve found some canvas options, but they all have laces. (Laces seem nothing but a burden in shoes meant for kids that are nowhere near close to having the dexterity needed to tie them.) Considering how fast kid’s feet grow, I’m hesitant to spend the $50+ that a lot of the “eco-friendly” or vegetarian shoemakers are demanding.

So what’s the problem? Am I really being too picky? Is there really no demand for shoes like these?

I’ve had some luck with Squeaky Shoes. However, they are made in China, by who knows who, using who knows what. I really don’t like the idea that my son’s shoes could possibly be made by children. I’m sure they’re not environmentally friendly and even if they were, they have to be imported. But they are canvas, flexible, and under $10. Sometimes they go on sale or you can get defects for under $5. They hold up well and wash easily. (Note – we pull the squeakers out.)

If only some US-based company would take on this cause the way IsaBooties did! What are other vegan parents buying for their boys?

Corporal punishment in schools

A recent New York Times piece brought it to my attention that corporal punishment is still used in schools, stating that, “More than 200,000 schoolchildren are paddled, spanked or subjected to other physical punishment each year.”

I have to say that I was shocked to realize that it’s still allowed anywhere within the US public school system! In fact, 20 states do not prohibit physical punishment, with some places using it much more often than others.

While the piece focused on how disabled students are subjected to this type of punishment more frequently, I find it a travesty that children are subjected to it all, and worse yet that it is condoned by the state. By allowing this in schools, it gives the subtle message that this is an OK behavior for those in authority.

Many comments, including those within the article and attached to the article, argued basically that “It happened to me and I’m fine, so why not?” I find this cowardly and certainly no excuse or argument for something so abhorrent. Perpetuating the cycle of physical and emotional abuse will not bring about positive change.

Again from the article – “Corporal punishment is just not an effective method of punishment, especially for disabled children, who may not even understand why they’re being hit,” said Alice Farmer, who wrote the report.

I’d argue that it’s not effective for ANY child, and that many don’t know why it’s happening to them, disabled or otherwise. It’s not a logical or natural consequence for their misbehavior.

Punitive discipline may make the behavior issues disappear, at least initially. Kids that are hit learn to do what they can to avoid being hit! They don’t learn what exactly they did that was wrong, how to avoid or fix it. It stops them from developing their own inner conscience that tells them right from wrong. All that’s remembered is the punishment and the upset with the person that inflicted it.

What they do see instead is that the more powerful person should feel free to take the upper hand and that if you don’t know what else to do to gain control, hit! This can be very damaging to the relationship with the authority figure, and set the children up to themselves use violence in the future.

As The Natural Child Project web site says, children reflect the treatment they receive. No child should be mistreated this way, NONE.  Children, like all beings, should be treated with dignity, understanding, respect and compassion.

Hitting children for misbehaving does not bring out the best in the children, or humanity.

Best Decisions – Co-sleeping

We didn’t start out intending to share our sleep space; it evolved from our nighttime breastfeeding relationship. Even though the babe was close at hand in the bedside cosleeper, next to me worked even better (especially once we learned to nurse sidelying) and seemed to make for a happier child. As mentioned in a previous post, some studies show that if done properly co-sleeping decreases the rate of SIDS, promotes breastfeeding, allows parents to more easily know if their child is in distress (and remedy it), and can even regulate the child’s breathing and temperature. For us it’s resulted in better sleep for all involved, meaning better days as well. I hope I never forget what it’s like to have a tiny, sleeping body curled up next to me, totally content and secure in the presence of his parents, his every need fulfilled.

Best decisions – Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding a baby is about so much more than food! In addition to offering perfect nourishment, breastmilk confers immunity and provides comfort. There are numerous health benefits to both mom and baby. No need to worry about having the right equipment or heating to the right temperature. No getting up in the night to mix concoctions or seeking out a microwave when you’re out and about. It’s environmentally friendly (no container waste or shipping carbon footprint) as well as friendly to the pocketbook. Working outside of the house, it provides another way to reconnect when we’re together. And there’s no way I can describe the sense of accomplishment in knowing that for the first few months the growth of this beautiful boy was entirely supported by me!

There’s not a lot more to be said that can’t already be found all over the web, but breastfeeding still deserves inclusion as a best decision because it is a choice not everyone makes. From the moment he first latched on after birth, I knew it was the right move for us. Our breastfeeding relationship continues to evolve, and how long it will last is an unknown, but I am so grateful that I made the decision to nurse our son.

Best Decisions – Natural Childbirth

I decided pretty early on that I wanted a natural childbirth, one without interventions or drugs. At the time, the decision wasn’t made on a lot of evidence, but more of a feeling that it was the right thing to do. I have a high pain tolerance, and felt confident that I could do it. After all, millions of women have been doing it for millenia!

This issue is unfortunately one for the mommy wars. It stirs a lot of emotions, with most women falling down strongly on one side or the other with few in the middle ground. When I was pregnant I constantly had people telling me things like “get that epidural as quickly as you can”, and “you’ll be sorry you didn’t get it sooner”. Meanwhile while I was researching on my own, I was finding articles talking about the effects on the baby, things I NEVER heard from friends or family. The more I learned, the more I knew that attempting a natural birth was something I wanted to do.

As it happens, I had a fabulous birth; things couldn’t have gone more smooth. The Bradley classes were key because they ensured that I was well educated about what was going on with my body, knew what to expect at every stage and realized that the pain had a purpose. It gave me a toolbox of things to try, positions, breathing and visualization exercises, etc. What really got me through to the end though was being in the water in one of the hospital’s large tubs.

A natural birth may not be for everyone, but I feel it deserves consideration. There are obviously times when it’s not even an option (medically necessary c-sections for example), but I think many soon-to-be moms that would be good candidates are scared away by horror stories or aren’t fully informed that there are risks with any intervention into labor and delivery, starting with inductions. Since my son’s birth, I try to share positive stories with people in an effort to counteract the negative and fear inducing things they may be hearing from others.

Ultimately, people deserve to have the kind of birth they want, whether that is a natural one or not.

Best Decisions – Bradley classes

As my pregnacy got further along, we knew we needed to learn more about the birthing process. Research suggested the Bradley Method seemed to be the way to go. Espousing natural childbirth and including a large spousal involvement piece, there are multiple keys to the success of this approach.

Emphasis on nutrition makes sure mom is providing essential nutrients to baby and is in fit condition for the delivery, an endurance event. Specific exercises prepare the body for the birth. Coping strategies, such as physical positions and relaxation techniques to try, can make labor go more smoothly. Detailed information about the birthing process, potential interventions and complications prepares you for all outcomes. Including the spouses puts everyone on an even footing and equips the dads to assist during labor and the postpartum period.

We were happy to find a local class timed almost perfectly to coincide with my third trimester. We lucked out with our instructor, a person almost certainly designed to lead others through this type of experience. Going through the class together allowed us to set aside time each week to focus solely on the baby’s impending arrival. The information we learned in the classes was invaluable. Once labor started, we knew exactly what was going on and where we were in the process almost every step of the way. There was no fear in my labor. Hospital staff commented that we seemed remarkably relaxed for first-time parents.

It’s also created an ongoing social opportunity. We keep in touch with the other couples from the class, and most recently had a party to celebrate our children turning two.