If you are a parent or are soon to be one, chances are you've heard a little about the controversy surrounding the practice of routinely vaccinating babies. Many parents do a lot of research on their own and decide to either go forward with the vaccinations, or they decide not to. However, the information that is out there is very difficult to sort through, and it is often hard to know just what to believe. The choice of whether to immunize or not is an important one, and I've gathered some tips to consider when the time comes for you to make it.
1. Space out the immunizations.
One of the biggest concerns about vaccinations is the possibility of their link to Autism. While there have been studies done in which the link between the two has been disproved, the anecdotal evidence supporting a link continues to mount. There has also been a growing support for a third theory, the theory that there is a link, but it has to do with how many vaccinations are given all at once. The reasoning is that when you vaccinate a baby, their body is tricked into thinking it is being attacked by various illnesses, and when a baby's body has so many confusing signals going on, things get mixed up and a cloud of symptoms is formed. This cloud of symptoms is what many who support this theory blame for the development of Autism. If this theory has any truth to it, there is a simple and effective way to avoid it. Schedule your vaccinations for once every few months. Don't worry about meeting preschool deadlines for vaccinations, you can always start preschool a little late, or find an in-home preschool with no vaccination schedule required.
2. Delay immunizations.
Another related theory about the link between Autism and vaccinations supports the idea that it is not so much the lumping together of the vaccinations that is harmful, but the young age at which the vaccines are given. Part of the reason that the vaccines are given at such a young age is because the younger a child is when they contract one or more of these ailments, the more likely they are to die from them. Delaying having your child/ren vaccinated is a calculated risk, but the payoff of possibly lessening the risk of developing Autism is worth it to some parents. One of the only drawbacks to this strategy is that it could delay preschool. Also, for most kindergartens children need to be fully immunized, so delaying too long could affect their eligibility. If you do decide to delay immunizations I recommend the double strategy of waiting until your baby is 18 months old, and then also spacing out the immunizations as far as you can.
3. Verify the ingredients of the vaccines.
Another of the concerns that people have discussed as a possible cause for the autism link is the idea that there is lead and other harmful ingredient in the vaccination shots that are distributed to kids. Although lead has not been an ingredient in vaccines for some years, it is best to double check the exact ingredient list with your pediatrician. Don't just read the information booklets given by the vaccination producers, and don't only read the information put out by those who oppose vaccinations. Research for yourself any ingredients that you are not comfortable with, and ask for alternative methods of vaccination if you have doubts about the safety of any of the ingredients. Often there are oral vaccines or even inhaled vaccines that have fewer ingredients, but because they are somewhat less effective they may not be carried by your pediatrician. Ask for a special order if your pediatrician does not carry the particular type of vaccination that you would prefer.
4. Consider risk factors.
There are certain risk factors that you should consider when deciding whether to immunize, or not. I'm not talking about the risks that stem from the vaccinations themselves, I'm talking about the risks that are posed to your baby if he was to contract one of the horrible diseases that are routinely vaccinated against today. Many people have said things like "no one gets Polio anymore" or "how bad can Diphtheria really be?" or even "how could my baby even contract Hep-B?", but the very fact that we are unfamiliar with just how bad these diseases are is attributable to routine vaccinations. If you are considering risking your baby's exposure to any of these diseases I strongly advise that you both do actual research on exactly how devastating they can be, and how common they are in your part of the world. Also, consider pre-existing risk factors such as prematurity, compromised immune system and regular exposure to other children. In cases where your baby's personal risks of contraction is higher than normal, use careful and very deeply thought out reasoning before deciding not to immunize.
5. Use natural methods to reduce your risk factors.
Whether you decide to immunize or not, there are some natural methods that, while they have not been proven to work, are said to be able to reduce and even eliminate Autistic behaviors in some children. Using these methods earlier, during the first exposure to foods and throughout the first four years is one way to try and reduce your baby's chances of developing Autism-spectrum symptoms. The most commonly used is the DAN! diet. Of course you should carefully monitor your baby's nutrition and ask your pediatrician for advice before starting any child, but especially a baby, on a specialized diet. This diet basically eliminates wheat gluten, milk casins and artificial food colorings and flavorings. While your baby is still receiving most of his nutrition from breast milk you might also want to reduce your own consumption of these foods. It has been suggested that nursing mothers should limit their intake of any of the 8 common allergens anyway, so reducing especially those two, wheat and milk, is something you might want to seriously consider. As you introduce foods, try to steer toward rice, beans, veggies and fruits that have not been processed and that are organic when possible. Also, a daily multi-vitamin is always a good idea, to help supplement you and your baby's diet. Ask your pediatrician for recommended brands. Though these food suggestions are not proven to help reduce or eliminate the symptoms of Autism, there are many parents that swear by them. As long as this type of dietary change is something that you can do safely, if it even has a chance of reducing your baby's risk factor it may be worth it to give it a try.
Unfortunately there is still no known cause for Autism, and no proven cure. The fear that parents feel when confronted with the possibility of raising a child with Autism is very strong, and it can sometimes lead to decisions that are based more on feelings that on actual facts. Carefully read and weigh the validity of any information you use in making your decision of whether or not you will have your baby vaccinated. There is a lot of information out there on both sides of the issue, and all of it cannot be true. If you have found these tips to be helpful please forward this site to any new or expecting parents you know. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!