A blog for new parents looking for healthy living and tips on raising their baby.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Why I Changed My Mind About the TDaP Vaccine

The second I found out I was pregnant, my brain went into research mode. Being the left-brain dominant person that I am, I had to know anything and everything there was to know about pregnancy and babies.

Inevitably, I crossed the topic about vaccines. At first, I wasn't particularly interested in reading much about it, because I thought I still had time before my baby was born. But, I was actually surprised to discover that some vaccines are recommended for pregnant women. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was to accept the vaccines, after all, hadn't there been thousands of studies confirming the safety of vaccines during pregnancy?

So, when my midwife finally offered the TDaP vaccine, I froze.
"I need more time" I said. When it came right down to it, I couldn't just blindly allow her to inject me.

And then, I came across this article by blogger and child advocate, Tamara Reese. The article is all about a, once-skeptical, mama who ultimately decided to take the TDaP vaccine during her pregnancy. Oddly, it was her article that helped change my mind.

Today, I'm going to respond to Reese's post, and explain why I changed my mind about the TDaP vaccine.

You can easily read in the article, but Reese opens up by explaining her doubtfulness about needing the TDaP vaccine. After being hounded by her midwife, she decides to go home and do a little research.

"According to the Centers for Disease Control, in October 2012, the immunization advisory committee recommended that providers, “administer Tdap during each pregnancy irrespective of the patient’s prior history of receiving Tdap. To maximize the maternal antibody response and passive antibody transfer to the infant.”

This is very true. In fact, you were recommended to receive the TDaP vaccine, even though you had already been injected just 18 months prior during your previous pregnancy. What you fail to mention here is that, while it may be recommended, TDaP still remains in the Pregnancy Category Risk C. According to drugs.com, the definition of a Class C drug is: "Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

Reese continues on about pertussis (whooping cough) 
"which is on the rise, particularly in areas where community immunity is compromised because of parental refusal of vaccination."

This assertion is interesting to me, because unvaccinated children make up a very small percentage of the United States. In fact, in the 2013-14 school year, only nine states reported a kindergarten class with less than 95% vaccination rates. With that in mind, let me show you the numbers. In 1994, there were 4,617 documented cases of pertussis. In that same year, 93% of children had been vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine. 20 years later, in 2014, there were 32,971 cases of confirmed pertussis, despite the number of vaccinated children being even higher at 94.7%. 

Continuing in the very next sentence, Resse warns that 
"Pertussis is particularly life-threatening to infants under 6 months of age, many of which are hospitalized or even die."

The fact is, pertussis remains deadly among underdeveloped countries. In areas with high levels of disease (like HIV/AIDS) and malnourishment, little or no access to clean water, and no available healthcare, diseases like pertussis are catastrophic. But, is a vaccine really needed in developed countries? In 2012, England saw a pertussis epidemic, where an estimated 9,300 were documented as infected. Many people got sick, but most recovered. Out of the nearly 10,000 who were affected, how many would you guess died? The answer? Five. Of course, no one is arguing that it wasn't a devastating blow to the families affected. But, is it worth injecting pregnant women with a risky drug?

Downplaying the very serious risks associated with a Class C Drug, Reese continues on saying
"There is some minimal risk to receiving multiple does of the tetanus portion of the vaccine in a 2-year period..."

A very interesting fact to note at this point is that in 2008, only three years prior to recommending TDaP for pregnant women, the CDC said "Available evidence does not address the safety of Tdap for pregnant women, their fetuses, or pregnancy outcomes sufficiently." Continuing, "The safety and efficacy of using Tdap in pregnant women has not been demonstrated, and Tdap is not recommended for use in pregnant women in any country. No evidence exists of excess morbidity or any fatality among pregnant women ascribed to pertussis." Oddly, with no additional research or studies, and within 3 years' time, this recommendation changed. 

Shortly after the recommendation to vaccinate during pregnancy, the CDC even admitted that  "...the safety of administering a booster dose of Tdap to pregnant women was not studied." Actually, Tamara, did you know that by changing your mind and accepting that TDaP vaccine, you were consenting to, essentially, becoming the CDC's guinea pig. "Because information on use of Tdap in pregnant women was lacking, both manufacturers of Tdap established pregnancy registries to collect information and pregnancy outcomes from pregnant women vaccinated with Tdap."

Furthering her thought, Reese completes that sentence with 
"...the risks are completely overshadowed by the benefits of passing even some immunity of a life-threatening disease to my unborn child."

A very noble act, indeed, Tamara. The problem? Even if all those risks are worth it to you, studies just don't back up the idea of cocooning. Cocooning, the belief that by vaccinating all those around a baby will protect them, has been disproven many times. Actually, a recent study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says that this mentality can infect young infants. 
"Our data show that aP-vaccinated animals are infected and transmit pertussis to naïve contacts. Consistent with these findings, seroepidemiological studies have concluded that B. pertussis circulation is still high in countries with excellent aP uptake (27, 50), and a crosssectional study showed that postpartum aP vaccination of mothers did not reduce pertussis illness in young infants"

Did you read that? Those who are vaccinated are infected and can transmit pertussis.

The idea of cocooning is being disproven so often that Australia has pulled their funding of the cocooning strategy. 

At the end of the day, the choice to vaccinate yourself is up to you. And, people are beginning to take that choice upon themselves. The French continued to question vaccine safety, and they remain one of the leading countries of vaccination skeptics. Even with 58% of French doctors questioning the usefulness of vaccines, France continues to see only about 300 cases of pertussis per year. 

Ask questions. 
Be like France. 

Until next time, 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Homemade All-Natural Toothpaste

My family hasn't used regular traditional toothpaste in quite some time now. We've been getting our flouride-free toothpaste from Amazon, but I knew we could do better. In price, and ingredients. Conventional toothpastes include toxic ingredients like triclosanaspartame, fluoride, and propylene glycol. These ingredients can absolutely wreak havoc on your body, and destroy your teeth.

I finally made the decision to step away from these harmful ingredients, and factory-made toothpastes. This 6-ingredient homemade toothpaste will protect and heal your teeth like no toothpaste ever has, and keep your mouth feeling fresher than ever!

To make this toothpaste:

1/2 c. filtered water
1/4 c. diatomaceous earth
1/4 c. bentonite clay
3T coconut oil 
20 drops peppermint essential oil (optional; for taste)
3T xylitol

Mix everything together by hand, or in a food processor, until smooth like paste. Use daily like regular toothpaste.

Why Diatomaceous Earth?

So, many years ago, there lived an ancient type of algae organisms called diatoms. Over the course of millions of years, these diatoms fossilized and accumulated in the sediment of freshwater. Today, this is mined and collected and is, what we know as diatomaceous earth (DE). It's a very fine, but very abrasive and tough, substance. If there was a number scale of hardness, and diamonds were Number 10, DE would sit somewhere around an 8.

This characteristic alone already makes DE a great candidate for teeth cleaning. Fine, abrasive powders (like DE and baking soda) are great for removing plaque from on and between the teeth. Before going any further, it is so important for me to point out that only food-grade diatomaceous earth should be used on or around living beings. Industrial DE is superheated and is deadly to humans.

A high percentage of DE is silica, and this is vital to tooth and enamel health. It is a naturally occurring substance, so there is very little concern about the body rejecting it.

There has been a lot of talk about remineralizing your teeth by naturally supporting them, and DE is at the top of quite a few lists. Another interesting feature of DE is the fact that it has a strong negative charge. This unique factor causes things like chemicals, viruses, bacteria, and heavy metals to be drawn to it. You can see why drawing these toxins out, and then spitting them into the sink with the toothpaste could be greatly beneficial for oral (and overall) health.

Why Bentonite Clay?

Bentonite Clay is a huge name when it comes to drawing out toxins, maintaining pH, and addressing gastrointestinal concerns. It's pretty obvious that clay attracts toxins, because it is so popular for face and body masks.

The incredible properties of bentonite clay can be seen the moment it is mixed with the water. This clay is actually aged and weathered volcanic ash, and it changes right down to the molecules when moisture is added. Once it becomes wet, bentonite clay becomes somewhat of a sponge, soaking up every bit of moisture, and multiplying in size. This "soaking up" action continues when you brush your teeth with it. Bentonite clay is super porous and once the toxins are sucked in, because of the electrical charge, they remain there.

Why Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial. Oils with antibacterial properties have been found to cling to the biofilm, or plaque, of the teeth, removing high numbers of bacteria. Coconut oil alone has shown huge benefits to the mouth and teeth.

Why Xylitol?

Like the peppermint oil, the xylitol is mostly for taste. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is made from the fibrous material of plants. Traditional, refined sugar basically feeds the bacteria on your teeth. The sugar throws them into overdrive, causing them to multiply even more rapidly. That's why more sugar = more cavities. 

This rapid growth in bacteria causes your body to respond by lowering (making it more acidic) the pH of your saliva. Xylitol helps maintain the pH of your mouth, while also acting as a barrier on your teeth. The bacteria that cause tooth decay are unable to process Xylitol and their numbers begin to fall dramatically.

I store my toothpaste in a container on the bathroom sink, and simply dip my toothbrush to coat.

The mint and xylitol really help with any dirt-like flavor from the clay or DE. The first time I brushed, a little of the clay did begin to coat my tongue, but once I got some saliva and water working in there, it quickly washed away.

This toothpaste left my teeth feeling smooth and clean for hours. Even after I ate lunch (and a cookie), I found myself running my tongue over my teeth because they felt so smooth.

I hope you love it as much as I do!

Until next time,

Friday, September 9, 2016

DIY Almond Flour

I LOVE almonds.
Seriously, I cannot believe I spent a majority of my life thinking they were just a nut. The only place I saw for these versatile little guys was inside a bag of trail mix.

I've been making my own almond milk for quite some time. We typically grab a HUGE bag of almonds during our monthly shopping trip to SAMs Club. I like to use our almond milk for smoothies, baking, and even a bowl of cereal. We like to party sometimes.

Anyway, it took me making two batch of almond milk, and throwing the pulp in the trash, to realize that I wasn't doing something right. There was no way that all that delicious almond was supposed to just go to waste.

So, for the next few weeks, I saved all my pulp in a ZipLoc in the freezer, until one day I decided to make some homemade almond flour.

You want to first take all of your pulp, and spread it onto a baking sheet. I decided to get this all ready and going one night before I went to bed. Toss it into the oven on the lowest, or "warm" setting. The lowest temp my oven gets is about 140F.

I left the pulp in the oven overnight, and then took it out the next morning-about 6 hours later.

Sift to sort through any big pieces.


Until next time,

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Struggle of the Boy Mom

On Friday morning, I woke up to a dreary, windy day. The clouds were abundant, and the air was chilly and wet. And, just like that, fall had arrived.

I'm not going to lie: I've secretly been counting the days on the calendar until autumn's arrival. Last October, we spent so much time in the woods, among the changing leaves, and it was magical. But, it wasn't nature that was calling my name this time. Instead, it was the abundance of downright adorable little boy clothes that sat, waiting.

I know, I know, now you're rolling your eyes. But, hear me out, I'm a boy mom. And, while I love gooing and gaaing over the tiny little girls in their adorable pink dresses, and matching hairbands, I'm not so enthusiastic over the little boy collection. Sure, you've got the precious button ups that your son looks like he may strangle in, but for baby boys you're pretty much stuck with onesies, and maybe a cute romper.

But, this year, this year was different. This year, my boy is a toddler, and he's got a closet full of plaid, and button ups, and even little bowties.

Somewhere along the way, our clothing opportunities seemed to have opened up from "dressing a blob" to "dressing a little man."

Now that little A is walking running everywhere we go, shoes have become a necessity. We were able to get away with a sock-footed blob in the early days, but who knows what kind of disease his little feet could pick up from the ground.

So on the first cool day, I rushed to the closet to retrieve the cutest shoes ever! I've been hanging onto them since last winter, and was absolutely thrilled to see that they'd fit him this year.

These baby adidas are honestly the PERFECT addition to any fall/winter outfit, and we are going to wear them out this year, because I know they'll be far too small next autumn.

The fuzzy material goes all the way into the shoe and, from what I can feel with my hand, it feels like a pillow inside! My favorite aspect of these are the support they give to new walkers. Little A has been toddling around for about 4 months now, so his balance is definitely evening out. One thing I have noticed is that he walks on the side of his right foot. While he'll probably grow out of it, and it doesn't seem to be causing him any trouble, supporting his feet the right way has become pretty important to us.

These shoes keep his feet nice and flat on the floor, while also allowing him to maintain his balance. He's only worn these a couple of times, and is already walking like a pro in them.

What are your favorite baby boy styles?

Until next time,

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mining for Gemstones

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, it's pretty apparent that we love the outdoors. I'm constantly browsing the web for different adventures to take with my boys in our area, so I was so excited to discover that the "Gem Mining Capital of the World" was only a couple hours' drive from us.

As soon as big A had a day off, we were making plans. We've never gone mining before, so we had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, there were several mines that took a lot of the guesswork out of it.

For this trip, we honestly just wanted to get our feet wet in the idea of gem mining. We had no idea what to expect, or even if we'd like it, so I was so excited when I found a mine that was affordable, family friendly, and provided all the needed tools!!

We started by heading into the "mine" with our buckets. Because this was a more family-friendly place, the mine was actually just two huge mounds of dirt that were collected from real mines. We were instructed not to "pick through" the dirt, which was so hard to do because we could see the shimmer from some of the gems!

After collecting our buckets, we headed over to the water to sift through the dirt and collect our treasures.

We ended up getting pretty lucky and finding soooo many gems! I was so surprised to see how dull and rock-like they looked. I honestly thought they'd be shiny and beautiful. I've since learned that they need to be buffed and polished before they'll be anywhere near what they're like in the store. 

Since our trip, I've been using our Dremel tool to buff some off the gems, and they're really starting to shine through, so watch out for my updated post on that!

Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time looking for our very own gems! I think we've decided that next time, we want to go to a real mine.

Until next time, 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I Don't Love My Husband Like I Used To

My husband's laughter echoes throughout the dark house, as his hands graze lightly across my swollen belly. He eagerly waits, a hint of a smile still on his lips, and laughs again as a series of punches and kicks erupts from my midsection.

Like most soon-to-be parents, we found ourselves awake in the early hours before the sun rises, talking about how much our lives were going to change in any moment. After all, it was just a matter of time before our family grew by one whole person. We'd manage our way through the sleepless nights, we'd decided, and we could tackle the mountains of poop. As long as we had each other, we would succeed. Our love would never change. 

And then, our little boy was born.

And as I sit here and remember the final weeks of my pregnancy, I can't help but think how everything has changed.

I had no idea how much I would relish in the delighted screeches that now bounce along those same walls, as my son chases his daddy throughout the house. We imagined them. Oh, we couldn't wait to hear his little voice for the first time. But, how was I to know how much I would anticipate the sounds of my husband's tires in the driveway after work. Not because I needed a break, but because the sounds of my boys laughing as I cook dinner melt away any stresses of the day.

I could have never dreamed of the amount of love and pride my heart could simultaneously hold as we stood, with his arms around me, watching our son confidently take his first steps. It was impossible for me to predict how much my heart would burst for my husband, as I looked at our son.

This love, it's deeper. It's far stronger. It's so much bigger than I could've ever imagined.

Because, after a long day with a teething baby, and a mountain of laundry, he's the one I want to laugh hysterically with when our son does something hilarious. He's the one who understands that our kid has been a sassy-pants for the last two days, and he's the one who tells me to sleep in anyway.

Our love has changed.

We find deep joy in watching the amazement in our son's eyes as he sees a duck for the first time. We occupy ourselves with discussions about diapers, and toys, and potty training. We no longer have a  burning desire to sneak away, just the two of us, onto some great adventure. Because we're now a party of three, and our love has only multiplied.

Of course my love for him has changed. I knew it the instant I softly placed that 8-pound newborn into his arms. In that moment, I saw how miraculous life itself was, and I knew that parenthood was going to be an incredible journey. I am so lucky to be on it with my best friend.

Until next time,

Monday, August 22, 2016

Surviving the Road with a Toddler

It's been a few years since we made a trip to the beach, so you can imagine my excitement when my mother-in-law contacted us for a spur of the moment beach trip!

*Cue excited screech and happy dance*

Not only was I thrilled to dip my toes into that salty water, but I was even more excited because this was little A's very first trip to the beach! After 5 minutes of excitement, it really started to sink in. I had signed up for 8 hours worth of driving with my rambunctious, uncontainable 16-month-old.

Little A is still teething pretty hardcore (I mean, when is he not?), so I was definitely kind of worried about the trip. At the same time, it was settled, we were going to the beach. And, to the beach we went. And we had a wonderful time. Little A is a total water baby, so the salty waves were right up his alley. The water totally grossed him out, but it never stopped him from splashing and enjoying it.

Our little day road-trip consisted of a wide range of reactions from little A. From excitement and happiness, to sleeping, to screaming bloody murder-we dealt with it all. These are my top tips for surviving the road with a toddler.

1. Snacks

I don't know about you, but here in my house snacks are a lifesaver. Whether it be Cheerios or little bits of fruit, the best snacks are the ones your toddler can easily grab with their chubby fingers, and feed themselves. We have a little snack cup that I like to put things into so he can access them without a problem. Little A stayed pretty content with a sippy full of homemade juice, and some Cheerios!

2. Company

Halfway to the beach, we stopped and picked up one of my best friends. She has childcare experience, so I knew little A would have a blast around her. Thankfully, during the periods that he would begin to get fussy, she could soothe and distract him. It really was such a help to have her riding with us.

3. Fun

Honestly, I think the most important thing is to keep them busy. Toddler brains are active little things, so staring at the back of the car really isn't going to keep them happy for very long. We brought along several toys, especially ones that he hadn't played with in awhile. Next time, I think we're going to load some music and videos onto the iPad because I think that would be beneficial!

4. Pull Over

When it's all said and done, there is no shame in pulling over and calming your baby down. About halfway home, little A woke up and started crying. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, so we turned on some music and hoped to soothe him back to sleep. It wasn't working. In fact, the crying quickly escalated to screaming bloody murder so we had to pull off somewhere. After a quick nursing session, he was happily sleeping, and we were on our way.

Overall, I think it's just the work-up that really gets you going. I was so worried that he would be miserable the whole time that I was more anxious before the trip than during it! I'm so happy that we were able to go, and I think my little beach bum was too.

Until next time,