Monday, June 13, 2011

Legos, Mega Bloks & plastics

I recently bought some MegaBloks at a garage sale for $3. I'd been thinking about Legos for awhile now but never could buy it because I wasn't sure about the plastic. The purchase of Mega Bloks made me do some research.

When Little Thumper was born, I was paranoid about plastics for a bit. But after awhile, seeing all these other parents with cool cheap plastic toys, and their kids seemingly fine, I relaxed my standards a bit. And we started buying some plastic toys. Recently I read Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax and it's made me stressed out and anxious once again. One of his reasons for the way boys are now adays is the phthalates that are in plastics. And it has a bigger effect on boys because endocrine disruptors are feminizing.

Greenpeace has a great breakdown of plastics in order of toxicity. I'll expand on them a bit.

1) Polyvinyl chloride (PVC #3) and other halogenated plastics

2) Polyurethane (PU), Polystyrene/styrofoam (PS #6), Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS #7), Polycarbonate (PC #7)

3) Polyethylene-terephthalate (PET #1), high/low density polyethylene (HDPE #2, LDPE #4), Polypropylene (PP #5)

PET is the one which Sax says leaches. Though there are arguments about PET being safe or not. Some say maybe PET doesn't leach but it can get contaminated if it's made from recycled materials.

4) Biobased plastics

Apparently, Polystyrene (PS #6) and ABS are used to make toys.

In a nutshell:
  • Use #2, #4, #5 plastics
  • ABS Plastic probably okay because it withstands high heat (which is when plastic leaches?) Just don't burn it as in liquid and vapor form it's pretty toxic. Legos are made from ABS. Mega Bloks are made from polystyrene.
  • Green Toys have plastic blocks made from HDPE #2 plastic. But the reviews say they don't interlock well.
  • Most Japanese bento boxes they sell here have #5 containers with #1 lid. This is why I won't be buying them.
I'm thinking I will get rid of the Mega Bloks since it's made of #6 plastic as well as most plastic toys in the house because Astroboy likes to chew on things.   Legos are a necessary evil because no wooden blocks interlock that I can find. And I couldn't find any research papers that says ABS plastic leaches. 

Interestingly, it's not just the plastic you should worry about. I found an article about Mega Bloks trying to prevent a company from publishing results that showed their blocks have lead in them. Healthy Kids doesn't list them as having lead anymore. But still, doesn't sound like a good business.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Treating Infant Eczema

Finally, my post about treating Astroboy's eczema. After a few weeks of trial and some repeated flair-ups, I think I've finally got it down.

So background again, but in very short format. Astroboy has had eczema since 2 months. Silly mama didn't know it was that bad and got it infected. By month 7, it was so bad, it had spread from 1 check to both cheeks, both lower legs, and started on the body. I went to see allergist James Nickelsen, read some books, and saw Vivia Kushner. Tried a few things.

What finally worked
A combination of an eczema salve from Momma Jen's blog, CeraVe, and antibiotics cream.

The eczema salve is made from one quarter size Shea Radiance Shea Butter, and one capsule Evening Primrose oil. It needs some warmth for the butter to become creamy. What I ended up doing was measuring out a few quarter sizes, and mixed the several capsules in (had to cut it open) and then put it in a glass container. I would use the baby's body to warm up the cream and rub it on. It really only takes a very tiny bit for each area. I was having trouble mixing and applying on the spot because a quarter size was kind of too much for a baby and I would get too lazy to do it.

The first week, I tried just the eczema salve but things got bad again and I thought it was not buttery enough. So I went back to CeraVe for a few days. But now I think it's actually because it's infected.

Because of our overseas trip and humidity, the only persistent spot are the cheeks. So if it's just read, I apply the shea butter after a bath. Then after every nap or before every nap, I re-apply the butter or CeraVe. I also re-apply whenever the skin gets "chappy". When the skin is bumpy, it means it's gotten infected again, so I apply the antibiotics cream when I know he won't eat it or smear it (so not before nap time because he starts rubbing his face).

What I've noticed is that the shea butter needs to be applied only once a day because it's so oily. It keeps the skin moisturized. AND the primrose oil supposedly has anti-fungal properties? Anyways, his skin usually looks less inflamed over night. The CeraVe works as well. But I see chappy skin more often and so I'd have to reapply 2-3 times aday.

Also, I have to be very diligent about the anti-biotics cream. Otherwise, once the skin is infected the shea butter doesn't work as well and that's when I have to go back to CeraVe. BUT, if the infection is kept under control, the shea butter seems to work on the "root causes" more. By that I mean it makes is red splotchy area shrink in size. And it's also made his skin softer. His legs used to look like the texture of alligator or rhino skin. And now it's gone. The CeraVe moisturizes, but the problem doesn't really go away.

And I also have to be diligent about cutting nails. It's really hard because sometimes it doesn't look like there is nail to cut. But when I see scratches or raised skin, I know it's because he scratched and an infection is starting.

Now that I've read Boys Adrift, I'm more concerned with phthalates (CeraVe doesn't have it, but has parabens which have the same effect), so I'm going to see if the shea butter will do the trick and toss the CeraVe. But until I can be sure that the shea butter will do the trick, I can't toss it yet. Parabens are bed but right now his eczema is worse evil I have to deal with.

The other thing I did was to be diary, gluten, egg-free. I think it helped but the boy has some slow food allergy because his eczema is still there w/o the cream....

What didn't work
  • antibiotics
  • Still mad at my pedi for making me take that
  • Cetaphil
  • Didn't work as well as CeraVe
  • Zinc creams
  • Read somewhere that it could be zinc or vitamin-c deficiency so I thought I'd try that. It didn't work
  • Other brand "natural" eczema cream and oil
  • It didn't really work. I now realize that it's because it's not creamy enough. Eczema is about keeping the skin moisturized. Also the infection got in the way of healing. But it didn't really work on the parts that were infected either.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Using BioSet to treat eczema a scam?

This has been in my mind awhile and I'm semi-hesitant to post. Basically I want to say that I'm not sure BioSet is what it proclaims to be.

A few weeks ago we went back to our follow up appointment w/ our BioSet practitioner. The night before, I finally found the time to Google BioSet. There's a website out there that basically lays out what it's all about, how it's derived from this other type of treatment (N something), who started it, what she claims, etc. After reading that, I started wondering about the whole thing.

Bear in mind that during the 3-4 weeks between our appointment, our eczema got better. But I think due to the antibiotics cream and CeraVe we kept applying, not the neuropathic stuff we were given; because w/ my busy schedule, I only seriously fed Astroboy that for 3-4 days before I gave up. Just no time.

So at our appointment, I really looked at what the woman was doing and that's when I started thinking that she's manipulating the whole thing.

Let me back up and talk about how this all works.

During first appointment, we'd discussed what was going on. I talked about how I was on full-course antibiotics for 3 days due to blood infection, how Astroboy had baby acne and then eczema starting from month 2. How our diets have changed (vegetarian first month of life, how I craved carbs, how our trip to Taiwan cured his eczema mostly). At that appointment, that's when we found out what we were both sensitive to. She wanted me to bring the detergent and water to our next appointment to see if we were sensitive to it.

Now bare in mind that I think we're not like some children who are very allergic to many things and have very severe reactions to certain food. All our symptoms so far have been just eczema. The baby is very sweet tempered.

So our second appointment I didn't tell her that we hadn't even really been taking the medicine. She thinks his eczema has improved due to it. We talked about what's happened since then. She noticed how his breathing is kind of "wet/congested". I talked about how he'd caught a cold from sister. She then ran a whole body test to see what parts of his body is having issues. (it turns out to be only lung and some other related body part). The test is just like the first time. I hold a rod in my hand, with one finger touching his body. Then the machine will run some energy through this rod to see what part of body is "blocked" (that's how I think of it, whether or not the chi is flowing correctly).

I believe in Chi so this is why I didn't think this was a hack in the first place.

Amazing how the only body part he has issues with are his lungs. *sarcasm*

She then cleared his body a bit by having me still hold the rod while she massaged his back. I don't know how this helped but it supposedly did. I guess some sort of good chi was flowing through the machine/rod?

We tested to see if he was sensitive to the water and detergent. She pored some of each into a clear glass and put it on top of the machine. Somehow the machine can test the chi passing through this?

This is when it gets way too new-agey and highly suspicious for me.

We then cleared his body by again, having both things in the glass on top of machine, while she massaged him and I continue contact w/ rod in my hand and finger touching him.

Afterward, we tested again other food I had questions about. This is when I asked again how the machine worked. So, she takes a metal pen, dips it in water (for connectivity I assume), and presses it in the palm of my hand. The computer registers a particular food with a graph while making this swoosh sound. If the graph goes up really fast (or was it really slow?) then it means we're sensitive.

What *I* noticed was how she manipulated the pen. I didn't notice it the first time because I was busy talking to her and looking at the computer output. But this time I noticed that she'd press down on my palm (the graph starts low), then press down again. And that's when the curve graph goes up. Sometimes when it didn't go the way it's supposed to go, it's because she didn't press down twice.

This is why I think the thing is a hoax. First, I just don't think you can clear any chi/energy by having it in a container, passing through some machine, through a rod, to me, to baby. Remember, I actually believe in this whole chi thing. Being Asian, I've seen/heard a lot of chi-related stuff, things that may seem unbelievable to Westerners. But still, chi through a machine, chi with objects? hmmmm......

Don't get me wrong, the woman is also a nutritional consultant so I don't necessarily not believe what she says. BUT, now that I've read up more on allergies, I would say the same thing! I think she's basing her diagnosis more on what I say than anything else. I'm Asian, so very likely I'm sensitive to dairy. I was on antibiotics so not surprising I'm sensitive to wheat now. Since I am sensitive to these things, baby more likely to be. Baby has eczema, so obviously baby sensitive to something. I'd told her RAST test shows wheat and egg, so of course those show up on her test. The rest of the stuff he's allergic to, those are all things babies can't eat (eggs, dairy, wheat, citrus, nuts) before the age of 1 because many babies are sensitive to it. And since his eczema shows that he IS a sensitive baby, then she made the graph go positive on all THOSE things. Some of the things I was surprised at (apples) I've since learned from my slow food allergy book that it is a common allergen.

When we left, she said that now that the vitamin C sensitivity has been cleared, his eczema should get better in a day or two. That didn't happen.

Another thing that's changed my mind is how she couldn't explain how humidity helped because humidity usually exacerbates people w/ asthma/allergies. But from my allergist point of view humidity of course helps (and his reasons makes sense to me)

What I'm unhappy about is that people actually believe in this. I don't want to diss the people who really think it worked for them because one never knows. But it's one of those things that maybe it's not the machine or clearing that's working for people, but the change in diet, lifestyle, combined with neuropathic medicine (which I think COULD help) that's actually doing the trick. And I just wish if this were the case, why can't they treat people with the diet/medicine advices without the equipment?

Or maybe I should just say that maybe BioSet worked for others, but not for me/us.

Anyways, now that I've read up more on allergies, another post forthcoming on what I've learned.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Long road with treating baby eczema

The Story

Astroboy has always had skin issues since birth. During the first month, he had baby acne. From second month till now (8 months) he's had baby eczema.

At first, I kind of ignored it thinking it would go away. My friend told me it did eventually for her first born. I was trying to figure out how to juggle work and two babies and just didn't have time to deal with it.

As the months progressed, the eczema became worse and worse. It started with red, splotchy skin on his lower legs. Then the skin became white and scaly. For awhile I thought maybe it wasn't eczema but things like psoriasis. He even had two scabs on his head and lots and lots of cradle cap. By 6 months, it was so bad on his face they started scabbing. The dry skin (a precursor to the scaly skin) creeped up to his chest. He scratched himself constantly and wasn't getting good sleep. But because he's such a gentle tempered baby, he didn't complain much so it was hard to get my butt moving on treating the eczema.

Finally, I asked our doctor, Elizabeth Salsberg, at Kiwi Pediatrics during our wellness checkup. It turned out it was infected. This is what happens when you're a lazy mom and don't cut nails religiously.

I asked to see an allergist and she recommended that we just get a RAST blood test as that's what the allergist would have us do anyway. They drew two vials of blood! It was very hard as he's so small and it's hard to find the veins. It turned out that Astroboy is allergic to egg whites and maybe wheat. I say "maybe" because the doc didn't even mention wheat till we asked more questions about the allergy; because the #s for wheat allergy were so low.

We then went back to Taiwan for 3 weeks, where most of his symptoms went away by themselves except for the red cheek. Even that got smaller and smaller. He stopped scratching, the scabs on his head went away, and depending on the food I ate (I stopped eating egg mostly but continued with the wheat) the red cheek would flare up more.

When we came back, the red cheek got very bad and oozed and scabbed terribly. Within the first 3 days the itchiness came back and the dry skin came back. We'd made appointments to see Vivian Kushner in Kentfield the Friday we got back. She's a BioSet practitioner. We tested both Astroboy and I for food sensitivities. It turns out that Astroboy is sensitive to: wheat, dairy, vitamin c foods, spicy food, some mold, egg, vinegar, peanuts, and some other stuff. I was sensitive to dairy and peanuts. Another thing Vivian brought up was the possibility that he was sensitive to the water we have. It has chloramine in it which is fairly harsh. I'll bring that in for her to test next time. She didn't know what to do with the info that he got better in Taiwan with the high humidity though.

BioSet is a funky alternative treatment thing which I'm willing to try as it's kind of based on Chinese medicine ideas. My thing is that I don't want Astroboy to grow up and be allergic or sensitive to all these food, or have eczema all his life, as a lot of people seem to have. It seems very suitable for babies because there is no acupuncture or a lot of Chinese medicine, which is hard to get young child to take.

Anyways, the following Monday, we then to see an allergist, James Nickelsen in Berkeley. I love the doc! He's the first doc I've ever met who doesn't look like he's in a hurry to get out the door. He really sat and listened, and waited and waited while I thought of more and more questions. And didn't laugh at me or judge me for trying alternative treatments. This made me realize that I really must change my pediatrician.

Dr Nickelsen took a much different route. His whole attitude was that this was not really terrible eczema, just infected. And that Astroboy will probably grow out of it, as most children do. That based on the RAST test, I should definitely avoid egg whites, but not wheat. And maybe when he's older, we can test for other allergies, like nuts.

While I don't agree with his attitude that Astroboy's food allergy isn't that bad, I'm definitely going back to see him again. His attitude made everything seem treatable, rather than this condition he'll have to live with his whole life. But at the same time, because Thumper didn't have this problem, I feel that Astroboy's body is sensitive in general and it's a condition I would like to improve upon through diet and herbs. I don't want to wait till he grows up to see if this is something that'll be there all his life. From everything I've read, they either grow out of it by 5-6 or they have it for life. And I have a chance right now to guide him toward not having it for life.

The Cause

Since the reason for eczema can be very varied, I'm still trying to figure out what Astroboy is allergic to. I say this because in Taiwan, his symptoms improved so much even though I was still eating wheat every day. So it's hard to believe that he's that sensitive to wheat. Yet at the same time I can't deny that he scratches more when I eat things other than egg white.

What I'm learning is that there is a difference between food allergy and food sensitivities. Allergy is body's antibodies (blood) complaining about the food you ingest. Sensitivity is when the body shows other symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, etc. Another example is peanut allergy vs milk sensitivity. You don't get a rash from being lactose intolerant or go into shock. But your body does complain about how it doesn't like it in other ways.

Anyways, the problem is that there are so many variables on what could be causing his eczema and I'm trying multiple treatments at once. So I can't see what's working, what's not, and consequently, what's causing the allergy.

One thing I forgot to mention is that a week after birth I was admitted to the hospital for a blood infection (VERY BAD) and had 3 days of various antibiotics coursing through me. Plus antibiotics 1-2 days before the admission and 7 days after. I feel that this is partly to blame for his allergy right now though of course it's just an unproved theory.

The Treatment

Here are the things we've tried so far.

First, I changed my diet. In the beginning I was only half-assed about it. It takes a few weeks for the food to leave your system and I felt like his symptoms improved with the humidity more than anything else. But, now that I know what we need to cut out via BioSet, I'm on a very big diet restriction. Then I'm going to add food back in to see when he itches.

I have to say that he definitely doesn't scratch his face and head as much as before. But I can't tell if it's because his infection is gone or if it's because of my diet.

As Astroyboy's eczema symptoms got bad, I started reading up on it and bought lots of different creams. First I tried the more "natural" route and bought Eczema cream and eczema oil from Healing Scents. The cream and oil worked on reducing the scaly skin but I had to apply often. They weren't really creamy enough.

Next I tried Cetaphil, as recommended by friend whose boy also had eczema. I did a comparason test with Cetaphil on one leg and Healing Scents eczema cream on the other. Cetaphil definitely worked better. But I don't like it because it's got paraben in them. In any case neither of these really helped w/ his cheeks.

The doc at Kiwi Pediatrics prescribed a 7 day antibiotics regimen for the infection. I wish I'd taken pics. His one persistent red patch on his right cheek was super red, raised, and splotchy. The treatment only worked to improve it a bit. And as I've stated above, it's really over kill for this. Plus bad for a body that's already got sensitivities as anti-biotics kills all the good flora in the gut.

We went back to Taiwan the day after we were done w/ the course of treatment. Within three days of high humidity, most of his symptoms were gone! By the end of our 3 week stay, the only symptoms he had was one very red cheek.

James Nickelsen (allergist) prescribed some antibiotics cream and that did the trick for us. I think he didn't like how we were prescribed antibiotics as he found it un-necessary. I'm going to switch pediatrician soon. They just havn't really spent the time helping us w/ this issue.

He also recommended CeraVe Moisturizing Cream . It's the same as Cetaphil but he liked it better.

On the improving body front, we're taking some homeopathic remedies from Vivian Kushner. 3 drops of SyDetox and 5 drops of Notatum drops twice daily. In addition, we got some Chinese medicine from Taiwan, also twice daily. There are some probiotics in there which is one thing many people recommended in the blogs I read for eczema.

Going Forward
I would say that the antibiotics cream and cream in general is first defense against the symptoms. But if I want him to be completely cured and not be allergic, it'll require some diet changes.

I'm continuing to look for other eczema creams that aren't full of paraben. This blog entry for an eczema salve sounds promising. When I get the money, I'll also switch over to Whole Child Wellness as our backup pediatrician.

I think Whole Child Wellness kind of reflects my philosophy in general. That you can try alternative, more gentle, approaches to treat any medical condition. But when it gets down to it, Western medicine has its place and you need to use it.

Another thing I learned is that I can't discount things just because they've got terrible ingredients like paraben. Clearly the CeraVe works so much better than Healing Scents's eczema cream. What I needed was some education (which was courtesy of our allergist) that I need heavy heavy cream to keep Astroboy's skin hydrated.

That's the hardest part in all of these. Too much info on the web about eczema and hard to distill them. Yet another reason to have really good doctors!

I still need to do more research. But other things I've read about are evening primrose oil and good long soaks in baths with oatmeal. The funny thing is that I don't think Astroboy's eczema is that bad compared with the true food allergies of other babies. It just looks bad because of the infection. So some of these remedies may be overkill for him. But I'm going to try them all in order to get an idea of exactly what works for him and what his conditions are.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

lil Thumper's final alternative newborn vaccine schedule

Here's Thumper's final vaccine schedule, along with brand names and notes. I will update it as we go. I'm very happy with my schedule as I've had several months to really think about vaccines, what risks I'm willing to live with, and coming to the understanding that the schedule needs to fit my lifestyle.

Remember, you have to get your vaccines at least one month before hand to build up that immunity before you do your traveling. Not a requirement. But good idea.

BirthHepBDidn't do the research so just got it cuz they offered.
2 monthsDTaP (Deptacel)

3 months

Caught a nasty chest cold. Worried mommy endlessly.
4 monthsDTaP (Deptacel)

6 months

Caught a really bad head cold. Mommy worries about ear infection. And skips the vaccination.
7 monthsPc (Prevnar)Skips the final shot of DTaP since starting summer travel and opt for Pc instead since will encounter lots of people.
8 months

Yosemite trip.
9 monthsPc (Prevnar)Decided with Pc instead since liklihood of whooping cough lower than Pc as we're not going to daycare. This way, we're up to 90% on both vaccines before we take that cruise.
10 months

11 months

Starting shared nanny. Since the other kid doing regular vaccination, it'll allow me to continue with my alternate schedule.
12 monthsDTaP (Deptacel)
Mobile stage requires that I finish her T shots. Skipping chicken pox and MMR while I catch up on other shots.
14 or 15 monthsPc (Prevnar)Since 3rd dose is > 12 months, we only need 3 instead of 4! If we go back to Taiwan, I'll move this up to 13 or 14 months since antibiotic resistant strains come out of Asia.
16 monthPolio #1

17 monthPolio #2

20.5 monthHIB (ActHIB)Only need one shot. More reasoning here

2.5 yearsEveryone catches a month-long cold with nasty cough. My research said DTaP efficacy rate after 3 doses is about same as 4. But I worried nevertheless and got her tested just to make sure it wasn't pertussis. Even though gut feeling said it wasn't, it was still good to make sure.
3 yearsMMRHappy with my decision to delay till 3. We had a very small circle of vaccinated children as friends, are not going to preschool, and don't go out to places w/ lots of other kids much. But at 3 years, our social life is expanding so it's perfect timing.
4+ yearsDTaP #4, Polio #3, MMR #2The Swiss trials says 3 doses of DTaP vs 4 have about the same efficacy rate. So I'll wait till 4+ to get the 4th shot instead of getting 5 shots total.

Still need:

  1. Chickenbox - torn about this one
  2. HepB - need to finish the series
  3. HepA
  4. Meningoccocal

Friday, October 29, 2010

New pneumococca PC vaccine (PCV 13)

We're planning to travel to Taiwan in either December this year or March next year. I spent several hours this morning looking at Taiwan's CDC website. I looked at the vaccine schedule in Taiwan and tracked down vaccine and disease info in Taiwan to try and figure out if we need to get those vaccines. My eyes are crossing now, but at least I've got Astroboy's vaccine schedule down. In addition, we're going to add a vaccine to Thumper's schedule.

Some of the vaccines I was looking at are Japanese encephalitis, BCG, HepA, HepB, and PCV. After hours of reading, I decided to just get the PCV.

BCG is recommended by Taiwan CDC. It's a vaccine for tuberculosis. I was relieved to learn that if you're not going to travel to remote villages and stay in Taiwan for a long time, you can skip the Japanese encephalitis, BGC and HepA vaccines. Also learned that HepB really is transmitted via blood and sex. There's a higher rate of infection in Taiwan (10-15%) than US (0.5%?) but it's mostly because it was passed through babies. Since they've started vaccination program for HepB, that rate has gone down. So I don't need to worry about it as much.

As for PCV, apparently the PCV 13 vaccine just came out this year, replacing the PCV 7 vaccine. One of the strains it protects against is A19. In my googling, I found news report of kids dying from A19 strain in Taiwan. A lot of these strains are immune to antibiotics in East and Southeast Asia due to the prevalent use of antibiotics. And transmission season is in the fall/winter. So we're definitely getting this vaccine for both kids before we go back.

Astroyboy definite has a more aggressive vaccine schedule compared to Thumper due to our travel schedule and outbreak of pertussis in California. His schedule for the next 6 months are:

  • 2 Month - DTaP
  • 3 Month - Pc
  • 4 Month - DTaP
  • 5 Month - Pc
  • 6 Month - Pc (month before we leave for Taiwan)

I will have to decide what to do about the rest of the vaccine after we come back from our trip.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Astroboy's newborn vaccine schedule

With a second kid, it's time to revisit the vaccine schedule to see what vaccines we're going to get. I think we're probably going to do it a bit differently this time because we have a sibling who gets exposed to all sorts of stuff and we now have a busier social life with playdates and other exposures to kids. Plus, we live in an area where there are lower vaccination rates for many of the diseases.

I havn't quite decided on what the schedule is going to be yet. But for sure, first up is the DTap. Don't actually think we're going to be exposed to it ourselves because the children we hang out with day to day are already vaccinated. But since Thumper will be exposed to preschool children soon, I'm going to just follow the 2/4/6 months schedule on this one.

In between 2/4/6 months, we probably will get one more vaccine because we're traveling overseas. I havn't quite decided which one yet. We skipped the Rotavirus the first time around. But the country we're visiting doesn't give out Rotavirus vaccine so I'm kind of worried; especially because it's a very densely populated country. Another option is HiB or Pc. I have heard that Pc is pretty prevalent there and this is the area where newer strains not covered by the vaccine are endemic. I need to go to the US State Travel advisory website to read up on it and also the country we're visiting's own website to see what vaccines they give to children.

More research to do!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

potty training post #3, nap & night diaper training

Thumper is now completely potty trained at 2.5 years. I'm so very happy! The kids around her aren't quite yet so I can see that sometimes it's biological. Because apparently she just has a large bladder and can hold her pee from the time she sleeps till morning, which is usually 10-12 hours.

Between 2 and 2.5, Thumper was already dry during day nap and 25% dry during night nap. But we'd still put her in training pants because we were a bit lazy. That and the fact that I couldn't find the time to buy my supplies. I needed to buy some waterproof bedsheets and chocolate cover raisins. But we were getting ready for it by restricting liquid intake at night and drinking at most half a glass of milk or just have her drink soup I cook.

Finally, around 2.5, I decided to get my act together. All the stories I've been reading and people I know successfully train their kids around 2.5 or so and I knew for sure Thumper was ready by then.

So on the day I finally found the raisins, we offered Thumper one to sample. (she normally doesn't eat chocolate). She loved it. We told her that if she didn't pee in her bed, we'd give her one when she woke up.

And the next morning, she did! Granted, she woke up at 7:30 or so instead of her normal 8:30. This actually makes sense to me because I know she doesn't pee in her sleep but rather wakes up in the morning for a bit before going back to sleep and I'd suspected that's when she pees.

For the next few days, she woke up earlier and earlier, sometimes as early as 6:30AM! That was kind of hard on us, esp because she doesn't really go back to sleep. And she had accidents twice. We kept to our promise and didn't give her any chocolate covered raisins during those days.

Because I didn't want to get up early, I finally gave in to the waking her up before we go to sleep (around 11PM) to pee method. I don't like this method because my mom did it to us and I feel that that's why I still wake up in the middle of the night right now.

But the method did work for a few days. Until one night when we'd put her to bed too late (10PM) and woke her up at 11PM to pee. Because she was in her first deep sleep period, she DID NOT like being woken up and she cried hysterically for 15 minutes.

Needless to say, we gave up after that. I think she had one more accident but other than that she's been fine. I think it just took awhile for a bladder to adjust. She wakes up at her normal time now and pees prodigiously.

The whole thing took maybe 2-3 weeks? 2 weeks of waking up early and some accidents. 2-3 days of waking her up at 11PM and then we were home free.

Friday, September 18, 2009

potty training post #2, Thumper's experience

So here's the short version on Thumper's potty training experience. Started at 13 months. Got serious at 20 month, finished around 21/22 months.

The long version.

When I was pregnant, I spent some time researching EC (elimination communication). I knew that my mom potty trained us really young and I wanted to do the same because I'm lazy and I did not want to change diapers. There's a lot of information out there on EC. It was all so overwhelming, trying to remember what you need to do, what you need to buy.

Then I had a c-section. So there goes the idea of starting training right after birth. Then I was in a sleep-deprived daze till Thumper was 9 months. I was more obsessed with her getting enough sleep. And I know now that I wouldn't do what others have done even if I could; which is to sleep close to their baby, and take them to the potty when it seems like they're peeing, even in the middle of the night. I value sleep, both the baby and mine, more than potty training. On top of that, there's all this other thing a new parent have to learn, what to feed, breastfeeding, what to dress them, what to do w/ them when they're awake, trying to get them to sleep, etc etc. No time for yet one more routine.

Anyways, my mom said she started w/ us shortly after 1. So after Thumper's first birthday, after most of the traveling was done, we started putting her on the potty. We weren't too consistent. But we tried to do it after her meals (20-30 minutes), first thing when she wakes up, before we leave the house, etc. She didn't really pee in the toilet most of the time. But she got used to sitting in it. And eventually she learned how to say peepee.

In hindsight, this whole period was really just about her getting used to the idea. If you don't go diaper free, you can't know when your kid pees. If you don't know their schedule, you don't know when to put them on the potty. And it's all about you catching pee in the beginning. For us, it was all a guess. And I always seemed to do it right after, or right before she actually peed in the diaper. And of course, for Thumper, she never pooped in the toilet.

But the getting used to using a potty part I think is important. Because around 15-18 months, she went through a "no" phase. She didn't want us to put her on it, and she was adamant about the no. At that time, I imagined what it would be like when they really have a will (2 or 3 years old), and I could see how that would be a struggle of wills. So if I had to do it again, I'd start even earlier, 9 months.

Anyways, I remember the potty training book I read. It said that if you started early, you have more of a chance of finishing training around 20 months. Otherwise, it's 30 months. So around 20 months, and after another round of traveling, we hunkered down for a week. We had the nanny help us during the day. She basically went around with only clothes underwear. It still requires regularly putting them on the toilet. But w/o a diaper, you suddenly realize your kid does have a schedule and it gets so much easier to catch them. And when they see the pee going down their legs, they see what they're doing. And suddenly they connect the words they've been saying all these months (peepee) with an action.

We were 75% potty trained by the end of 3 days. It took another week or two to really get the pee down and have Thumper tell us when she needs to pee. In the beginning, she tells us she needs to pee often. We found that putting the potty in the living room, where she plays most of the time, really helps remind her. We also asked her often after she drinks milk. (could never do it every xx minutes like people suggest) and we'd just put her on the potty after awhile if she doesn't tell us. Usually she pees anyway.

So now, (23 months) she tells us majority of the time. We put her on the potty ourself after awhile if she doesn't. And we're mostly accident free except when she gets excited playing. She'll just pee in her pants when that happens.

Poopy training took slightly longer. Thumper always always pooped in her diaper standing up. She likes to hide when she's about to poop and we always know when she's gone in her diaper. The nanny trained her in this area. She asked her often. And let her poop w/o a diaper crouching down (imagine using those hole in the ground toilets in Asia and Europe). I think she had to learn how to poop crounching down before she learned how to poop in her potty.

For me, that's potty trained. I don't think potty is a kid's priority at this age so I accept the accidents. As long as I don't have to change diapers often, I'm happy! My mom says to start the night diaper training after 2. I know others who are trained before then. But I don't mind waiting as I don't want to have to wake up in the middle of the night to take someone to pee.

Potty training post #1, tools

Thumper will be 2 this month and I can say that she's day potty trained. I was asked about potty training the other day and realized how I have a lot of opinions about it. So I thought I'd jot them all down into different posts.

The firs thing is tools. I thought I was one of those people who was cheap and just have one potty. We have 4 or 5 now. And I've seen other models at my nanny share. I havn't tried all the ones out there, but based on what I have tried and seen, I know what I'd look for.

1. Ease of sitting child down w/o taking off pants.
Very important when you're a lazy parent! Apparently some of them require that you straddle. This is not too bad when you potty train later. But if you're holding a really tiny baby, I think it's harder.

2. Ease of dumping.
I love the Bjorn but that would be my one complaint, it's totally gross when you dump it cuz of its shape. I love my Chinese potty because it has a handle and I just pour.

3. Doesn't tip over.
I'm sure most American models don't tip over when babies stand. But something to keep in mind. They should have a pretty heavy base so the butt doesn't take the pot with them.

4. Easy to clean.
All toilets are easy to clean right? Well. I think it depends on where you're cleaning it. If you're like me, you use the sink to fill it with water. If a toilet is too big, it's a bit hard to do that.

5. Appropriate size & height
I read somewhere that it's easier for kids to poop when they don't have to dangle their feet. This kind of makes sense. You wouldn't want to poop on a super tall toilet would you? On the other hand, I also don't like the ones with the little etty bitty pot. What happens if you're a boy? You'd have to scoot back a lot to aim right. It just doesn't seem to have enough space to do both #1 & #2. Though I'm sure people manage somehow.

Anyways, in order of when we acquired them.

1. Potty from Taiwan.

This is the exact same potty I was trained on as a kid. It is very different from American potties. We actually have 2 of these.
Pros: easy for parents to plop child on. Comes in 3 sizes. SUPER cheap! Has handles.

Cons: Doesn't have enough weight on the bottom so kid likes to take it with her when she finally learned how to stand up from it. Not low enough for it to be comfortable. I wondered if it made it harder for Thumper to learn to poop as she had no leg support when she was young. But she learned.

2. Potty from LA Chinatown.
Similar from Taiwanese potty, except newer design. The base is weighted somehow. It's lower so easier for kids to sit. I like this one better over all compared to #1, except it was wider so a bit harder to put under the sink to put water in. Pros and cons similar to #1.

3. Bjorn
We got this when we were seriously potty training. Thumper just would not learn how to poop. I thought it was because the potty wasn't low enough so she had no leg support. But I only used it once and then just gave it to nanny to use when we do nanny share because I hated trying to figure out how to dump since I was so used to having handles. And it turned out that kids do just learn how to poop regardless of whether or not the potty is low profile.

Pro: Nice simple design. Low profile so easy for kids to sit down and get up. Really easy to carry for travel.
Con: hard to dump poop because of its shape. It has a little rise on the front which to me makes it harder to plop kids down.

Our nanny share child wouldn't go poop except in this potty. Probably due to its low-profile design.

4. Pottette
A traveling potty. It's basically one with fold out handles. You can either make it into a regular potty or put it over public toilets.
I think this is a really good tool for when you go out. It comes w/ a plastic bag lined with really thin liners (or make your own w/ pads). But the handles aren't really too long so if your kid has to poop in it it's kind of gross, as the poop will just smear. But really great option for public toilets. Though we've just been holding Thumper over the toilet. I find the sitting on public toilet thing just too gross, esp w/ a toddler who likes to touch everything. But we still use it once in awhile.

5. Potty insert
Got a cheap one at Target with handles on the side. The kid never used the handle part. Like the cushy seat. But I'm seriously looking for one of those real potty inserts, the ones that look like smaller toilet seat. It's a real pain to have to take the thing off when you need to use the toilet. The seat comes with a ring on the bottom to prevent splash, but when you take it out, you take the splash with you usually. Kind of gross.
I started Thumper on the potty insert when she was really young, before 1. But she always hated it till recently. I think it's the whole lack of balance thing. So potty inserts are probably better for when they get older and can balance better.

6. Other toilets
Our friends have the bjorn and potty inserts as well, and many have the pottett. My friend also has one of those that converts to a step stool. They only used it a few times before converting to using the Bjorn and potty insert. It's now just a step stool. I think that one was not useful.

She has yet another one that she got from her mom. It was really cute animal shape. But totally useless because it was in the shape of a turtle and the turtle head was in the way. This means that for a little baby, they had to take off everything in order to use the potty. Totally useless as well.

So, if I had to do it all over again, I'd go w/ the potty I got in Chinatown because it's cheap, it has a handle, and it's sturdy enough. I'd get the bjorn as a second potty if I were training really young since it's low profile. And then I'd get a toilet insert as soon as I can because it's very nice when you just flush!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The HIB vaccine

The last time Thumper was at the pedi's office, we wanted to get the combo HIB + Hep B vaccine because it had the same amount of aluminum as just a straight Hep B vaccine. However, the pedi didn't carry it! So we ended up getting another does of Polio.

I finally had some time to research what they did offer. Apparently the combo HIB+HepB (Combvax) had a recall a year or two ago. I guess just as well we don't get it.

I then started looking into what shots Thumper actually had to still receive. It turned out that we only have MMR, HepB, and HIB. Plus more catchup shots at 4. There are so many combo vaccines out there and it turned my head for awhile trying to figure out which combo was the best since I'm trying to minimize shots and aluminum in shots.

Dr Sear's Alternative Vaccine schedule has you get HIB before 1. Since we'd been doing just one vaccine per wellness visit, and I deemed Pc and DTaP more important, it just happened that we havn't gotten around to HIB till now. I did some reading and Minnesota had some incidents recently. But otherwise HIB incidents is really low since they introduced the vaccine.

Looking over CDC's Catchup Immunization schedule I realized that we actually only need *1* shot of HIB because Thumper is over 15 months old! So that made me really happy. I finally decided to just go w/ the ActHIB that the pedi offers since we only need one shot and it has no aluminum in it at all. Since menigits is so serious and I'm already mostly done w/ DTaP and Polio, AND I still want to wait for MMR till later, I thought I'll just get this shot now instead of when Thumper's 4, as part of combo shot w/ DTaP and Polio. The third reason is that the reason why the rates are done IS because of the vaccines I do want to get it to keep the herd immunity going for everyone else.

My feelings are mixed about this. One the way hand, I'm really really happy that we only need one shot. And I know logically that the rates are really low. And because we don't do day-care I'm more at ease w/ my choice. On the other hand, you think about how you're really just playing odds and if the odds aren't in your favor, the more dire consequences is really hard to swallow. I read some heart-breaking cases where parents said they wish their kid had the vaccine cuz their kid died from it. There's the logical and rational side that reminds me that my decision to not vaccinate till now IS okay. But there's always that emotional "what-if" that tugs at you, making you doubt your decision.

But, ultimately, I think for the next kid, I will probably do the same thing. Except maybe this time we'll get it straight at 15 months. Since as a second kid, the chances of infection are bigger w/ the older kid going to school and such.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: Haba Sticki-Bausteine & Haba Pyramis

Finally sprung for another toy for Thumper last week. She's 16 months now and I figured it was time to get some age appropriate toys for her. At her age, she's supposed to be into push/pull, open/close, stacking etc. Given how easily she loses interest in any toys she's received as gifts, it took me awhile to decide that I'd spend the money on some more blocks. We have the Haba Erste Steine Wooden Baby Blocks and she hasn't been too interested in them. But I figured that with these she can actually stack!

These are really well made blocks; they feel solid in your hands, the colors are bright, and they're very big, just right for a toddler's hands. I'd probably get more of these rather than Legos till she's of Lego age.

I bought the blocks since Thumper had been playing with stacking circles on a pole at the nanny's place. But I think these blocks may still be a bit too old for her. She doesn't quite get the concept of fitting the holes of one block into the pertuding part of another. For the Pyramis, she just like to put the largest circle block into the largest hole. For the Sticki-Bausteine, I told her the little triangles are hats that she can put on the long blocks. And she has fun commanding me to put the hats on the blocks. But otherwise, the blocks are still too old for her to actually stack with.

So what's the verdict
All in all, I love the blocks and I'm hoping in another month or two, she'll be totally obsessed with putting one block on top of another.

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.