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!