Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles Sat, 28 Feb 2015 01:02:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mothering no Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mothering.com/articles “Educational” Toys…May NOT Be! http://www.mothering.com/articles/educational-toys-may-not-be/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/educational-toys-may-not-be/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:33:13 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=68026 Call me an old fart, but I’m not a fan of new-fangled, ring-ding-dang educational toys. My recommendation to parents always is, don’t easily trust the (sometimes wacko) things that our culture takes for granted are great for kids. Err on the side of “First, do no harm.” Trust your inner knowing and common sense, not […]

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Call me an old fart, but I’m not a fan of new-fangled, ring-ding-dang educational toys. My recommendation to parents always is, don’t easily trust the (sometimes wacko) things that our culture takes for granted are great for kids. Err on the side of “First, do no harm.” Trust your inner knowing and common sense, not the zeitgeist.

I guess this began decades ago in R.I.E. groups with both my children, as I saw how creatively engrossed they became in simple objects that most people would never characterize as toys, let alone educational: plastic soap drainers, colanders, pieces of cloth, and the round, soft-edged metal tops from frozen O.J. cans. (Do those even exist anymore??)

The crawlers and toddlers would work their imaginations around these objects like crazy, and who knew what was buzzing inside their bustling brains as they did so! But neurons were firing and wiring, there is no doubt about that.

Elizabeth Memel, our teacher at those R.I.E. classes, taught us over time a simple set of criteria for choosing playthings for our children that would foster rather than thwart their motor skills, imagination, and healthy will (the sense of “I can”). All these playthings shared one quality: simplicity. I’ll share some of this wisdom with you in a moment.

What Builds Brains?

The research is clear: the healthiest psychosocial development of the young brain is achieved through:

  • close and near-constant human relationship
  • hands-on interaction with the world through imaginative play
  • connection with nature

Alas, in our hyper-accelerated culture we’ve lost an understanding and appreciation for just how critically important these simple experiences are for the healthy development of our children. We tend to see them as a waste of time.  A toy cannot simply be a toy — it has to be an educational toy. Play cannot be for its own sake, it needs to be organized, improved upon, and packaged as “enrichment.” And the biggest market in the “enrichment” game these days is screens.

But sitting in front of a television (or gazing at a screen of any portable kind) runs counter to those three brain-nurturing pursuits above, and is in fact a highly unnatural activity for a young child: sitting motionless for thirty, sixty, ninety minutes at a time, watching the flicker of electronic signals play across a back-lit screen, was never part of Nature’s plan for the unfolding of social or cognitive intelligence.

Can We Dish About Screens…Honestly?

I have a snarky side to me, especially when it comes to companies trying to leverage parents’ insecurities and fears (Will my child have what it takes to succeed in this ever more complicated world?) into a frantic market for baby-improvement “info-tainment” that flies in the face of everything science knows about what infants and young children need for healthy development.

Do you remember the big kerfuffle a few years ago over the “Baby Einstein” juggernaut? University of Washington researchers made quite a media splash with their assertion that exposing infants (8-16 months) to baby DVDs/videos such as “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby” was strong associated with lower scores on a standard language development test. The most memorable, viral soundbite from one of the researchers was, “Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons.”

I’ll admit I was giddy over that comment. But my greatest devotion, beyond any particular agenda — even one that I believe serves children — is to the truth. So I want to update here what the most recent upshot of this case was (which happened after my book was published). Baby Einstein founder Julie Aigner-Clark and her husband — together with the Walt Disney company, who meanwhile bought the franchise — entered into legal wranglings with the University of Washington.

The last significant development in the saga came in 2013 after independent scholars reanalyzed the data from the U of W study. They concluded that “depending upon how the statistics were manipulated, the dataset could have been used to suggest that baby videos increased, decreased or had no effect on language development. The reanalysis concluded that it was safest to suggest that baby videos had minimal impact on language development and that linking baby videos to decreased language development was not well supported by the data.”

As the controversy first surfaced in 2007, here’s what Aigner-Clark had to say about her “Baby Einstein” creation, perhaps defending how it thumbs its nose at the American Pediatric Association’s guideline that children under two shouldn’t watch any television, period: “I’m proud of what I made. Welcome to the twenty-first century. Most people have televisions in their houses, and most babies are exposed to it. And most people would agree that a child is better off listening to Beethoven while watching images of a puppet than seeing any reality show that I can think of.”

I guess I found it bizarre that those were the two choices.

MotheringFeaturedBlocksToys That Build Brains

Here are three questions to ask yourself when choosing a plaything for your child:

Is it kid-powered? A truly educational plaything doesn’t do something of its own accord, or even at the push of a button. It relies on the child to produce a result that has meaningful cause-and-effect relevance to the child’s action. (I see the jack-in-the-box is a really non-respectful toy, since the action of the child — turning the crank — creates a startling, even scary, result not related to his action. I suppose for an older child, cognitively aware of the whole process, it could be a hoot.)

This criterion eliminates a huge swatch of current popular children’s playtime fare, which is becoming faster-paced by the decade. While babies and toddlers will stare at the bright colors and motion on a screen, their brains are not yet capable of making sense or meaning out of the sped-up sequences of images and surreal stimulation of most screen-based programs.

Is it versatile? The optimally brain-building plaything doesn’t have just one dedicated use or action, but through imagination it can be or do many things. This is where the Parenting for Peace principle of Simplicity serves you and your child well. When a piece of wood becomes an alligator or a doll, when a spoon becomes a great flag or a king’s scepter, the neural landscape fires up robust new connections. When anything can become a toy through wonder and imagination, a child’s mind is enriched immeasurably. Also, you both experience such freedom to stay off the purchase-go-round!

Is it beautiful? The young child naturally seeks an atmosphere in harmony with his natural impulse to celebrate beauty and feel reverence and awe about almost everything. There are many ways to support this need, including our choice of objects in the home environment. As far as playthings go, this can mean opting for wooden over plastic… handmade over factory-produced… natural fibers over synthetic… gentle colors over neon — you get the idea!

No, But Really…

Of course you’re not going to meet all three criteria all the time. If a good number of your child’s playthings were to meet any two of them, that would rock! Let me give you a few 2-For-3 examples:

  • Brio trains are beautiful and kid-powered, even though they’re pretty much dedicated to being pushed along the track to their destination!
  • The aforementioned RIE objects (rubber soap strainers, metal OJ can tops) aren’t particularly beautiful, but they’re kid-powered and infinitely versatile. Ditto big cardboard boxes as they get a bit older.
  • A beautiful wooden box that plays Bach when opened could be enchanting (and versatile to a point) for a child over the years, despite its self-powered musicality.

A Grand Slam (Shhhh) Educational Toy

Dmitri Christakis, a leading researcher on the effect of toys, media and learning, cautions parents about the over-stimulation of digital media, pointing out that there is now a solid base of evidence suggesting it is “not good for children.” His research spotlights the need for “real time” experiences for young children and zeroes in on one of the most classic “educational” toys ever (but shhh, don’t let him hear you call them that!): wooden blocks!

Blocks — child-powered, limitlessly versatile, and beautiful. And unlike the digital sped-up-mash-up videos that bear his name, Einstein himself my easily have made some of his earliest inventions with them!

I’d be just tickled if you’d share some of YOUR 2-For-3 plaything ideas with me. And if you happen to know of other 3-For-3′s besides blocks, then you’ll be the bees’ knees in my book! (I guess I am indeed an old fart.)

 

Images:
John-Morgan | Flickr / Creative Commons
stevendepolo | Flickr / Creative Commons

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The Gift of Siblings http://www.mothering.com/articles/gift-siblings/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/gift-siblings/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 02:47:55 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=67898 I was exhausted last night.  Tired down to my bones.  I made my way upstairs, eager to nestle under the covers.  As always, I stopped in the girls room to check on them.  And there I found them — my two big girls, ages 3 and 6 — safely tucked into the same bottom bunk. […]

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I was exhausted last night.  Tired down to my bones.  I made my way upstairs, eager to nestle under the covers.  As always, I stopped in the girls room to check on them.  And there I found them — my two big girls, ages 3 and 6 — safely tucked into the same bottom bunk.  They had blankets wrapped around themselves, and my younger daughter had a book open, splayed across her lap.

And they were so peaceful.

This is a sight I see often at night; they don’t like to sleep alone.

But I think it’s more than that.  I don’t think they want to be apart.

From the moment Goosie (my three year old) was born, she found her biggest fan in her big sister.  And the hero worship goes both ways.  The look in Goosie’s eyes and the laughter in her voice as she looks up at what Magoo is saying can make me crumble into a little ball of maternal mush.

I assume I always hoped my children would be friends, but until I had children, I never realized just how important it is to a mother to have her children get along.  I knew many moms felt that way, but I guess I just never understood that desire.  I didn’t know why it was that important.

And now, years later, I can think of few things that are more important to me.

When I was pregnant with Goosie, I worried a lot about Magoo.  For almost three years, she had been our sole focus. Everything was about her.  And I didn’t know how she would react when we brought another baby into the mix.  The one thought that helped me stay sane was remembering that siblings are one of the greatest blessings parents can give to their child.

Parents love their children.  We give our everything to them.  We dedicate a majority of our lives to making sure they have the best start in theirs.  But no matter how healthy and loving and compassionate the relationship, a parent/child relationship requires a separation of sorts.  We can be their emotional support and their teachers and their protectors.  But, at least when they are young, we can’t be their best friends.  Sometimes we need to be the bad guy.  Some times we need to urge them to actions they may not want to take.

But siblings don’t have those constraints.  They can be totally and fully themselves with their siblings.  And that’s for the better and the worse.

A child’s home life is so important to their development.  And the only other people in the history of the world who know what it is like to grow up at that time in that place with those parents are siblings.

So when there are secrets to tell, there’s no one better than a sibling.

When feelings are hurt, who better to understand than a sibling who sees life through the same prism of experiences and teaching.

And when a child needs to learn to stand up for herself and fight her own battles, who better to face combat against than a sibling who has a contractual obligation written into their soul to forgive.

Sibling relationships aren’t always easy, and I would be naive to think that these two will always be as close as they are now. Troubles will arise.  Rivalry might rear its ugly head.  They will distance themselves as they try to form their own identities in this big world.

But every day I pray that the foundation they are building during these early years will bring them back together one day down the road.  When life isn’t so simple and love isn’t always easy.

Every time we have a new baby, I realize that my love grows, but my time doesn’t.  Each child gets slightly less of the already too small pie.  But it’s this hope in the power of siblings that keeps me on track, knowing that each little blessing that comes into our lives comes into theirs as well.

Eventually, I had to walk out of their room last night.  I went in and checked on my youngest, and then I slipped under the covers.  I drifted off to sleep imagining weddings and grandchildren and praying that it will continue to be each other that they seek out at their highest and lowest points.  That it’s each other they seek out when they find themselves floundering in the seas of life.

I trust very few people with my children’s hearts.  But my faith in each of them is limitless.

Perhaps it’s just me seeking reassurance in a world where anything can happen.  But if I am not around to protect their hearts, then there’s no one I trust more for that job than their siblings.

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My Most Shameful Parenting Moments: a Mixed Tape http://www.mothering.com/articles/shameful-parenting-moments-mixed-tape/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/shameful-parenting-moments-mixed-tape/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:58:17 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=67618 By Susan Buttenwieser for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers Side 1 Making a behavior chart so three-year-old will put on her socks without having a meltdown. Using the chart. Chasing someone else’s toddler in the playground who stole your daughter’s beloved cracked turtle bucket and refused to give it back. Even when asked nicely. […]

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By Susan Buttenwieser for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

Side 1

Making a behavior chart so three-year-old will put on her socks without having a meltdown.

Using the chart.

Chasing someone else’s toddler in the playground who stole your daughter’s beloved cracked turtle bucket and refused to give it back. Even when asked nicely.

Tussling with someone else’s toddler once you caught her, both of you gripping tightly onto the bucket handle.

Saying Duckie in front of people outside immediate family members.

Cruising the princess aisle in K-Mart. During work hours.

Purchasing princess bling.

Owning a Barbie after pre-child claims that you would never, ever let your daughter play with them. Or watch princess movies. Or dress up like a princess. And never, ever have Bratz dolls.

Owning so many Bratz dolls, accessories and clip-on shoe/feet that they fill a giant plastic storage container.

Walking down the sidewalk with your daughter dressed in a Barbie wedding dress, the only way she would agree to leave the apartment after long rainy day inside.

Tearing up at princess movies.

Tearing up when daughters wear matching Gap pajamas after their bath.

Tearing up at their dance performances.

Tearing up at everything.

Side 2

Shouting vagina on D train platform when pre-kindergartener asks what part of a woman’s body a baby comes out of, but then had trouble hearing the answer over screeching subway tires, even though the word was repeated six times.

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Through the Lens of Boyhood http://www.mothering.com/articles/lens-boyhood/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/lens-boyhood/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 00:07:10 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=67658 By Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers When my firstborn was an infant and the days opened like huge blank canvasses, pristine, challenging and monotonous, I sometimes shared advice I knew would become more difficult to deliver far enough in the future to be unfathomable. My infant son’s hands and arms […]

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By Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

When my firstborn was an infant and the days opened like huge blank canvasses, pristine, challenging and monotonous, I sometimes shared advice I knew would become more difficult to deliver far enough in the future to be unfathomable. My infant son’s hands and arms danced in midair, like some exotic meditative exercise and I knew about every bit of saliva that dribbled from his mouth. Not only was independence unfathomable, I couldn’t really envision his ability to roll over or crawl, climb stairs or toddle. “Don’t drink and drive,” I’d tell him. Rather than respond, the unblinking baby boy stared at me. “Use condoms,” I’d counsel, “regardless of whether anyone asks you to do so.” He wriggled in my arms. “No means no,” I’d declare. “These are things you need to understand.”

If I glimpse a photograph of that wee babe, he seems simultaneously completely familiar and almost a stranger. So is the mother who held that tiny boy. Time is strange that way.

My third son is twelve now. His voice has lowered but not yet dropped. He’s moody (actually he’s always been moody; he’s moodier). On the brink of adolescence, I feel his attentions shift, and so I love when we connect and shrug it off when he’s grumpy and try extra hard to blend into the background when he and his pals get silly together so that I can drink in their exuberant, giddy energies. Last night, snuggled under a blanket, we watched Boyhood together. He reserved the right to leave and watch something that interested him more (The Walking Dead). And then, he got sucked right in. We both did.

Beyond the simple but mesmerizing idea that time passes, the film illustrates how our stories happen not just because of time’s march or personality’s existence; so much of who we become occurs in response to what happens to and around us.

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Thimerosal, Vaccines and Autism: Let the Science Speak http://www.mothering.com/articles/thimerosal-vaccines-autism-let-science-speak/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/thimerosal-vaccines-autism-let-science-speak/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 20:22:42 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=67706 Thank you to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for this guest post. You can read more about this issue in his new book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak. I am, now and have always been fiercely pro vaccine. I had all six of my children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines have saved the lives of hundreds […]

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vaccinesThank you to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for this guest post. You can read more about this issue in his new book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak.

I am, now and have always been fiercely pro vaccine. I had all six of my children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines have saved the lives of hundreds of millions of humans over the past century and that broad vaccine coverage is critical to public health. That’s why I want our vaccines to be as safe as possible. The new revelations in the following article support what I have been saying for eight years: Thimerosal is brain poison. When you vaccinate, always ask for Thimerosal-free vaccine, which are now available for virtually all vaccinations on the CDC schedule.

The debate over Thimerosal has precipitated a journalistic, as well as a public health crisis.  For many years, I’ve been puzzled by the bland and apparently baseless insistence by members of the press that it is safe to inject mercury, one of the world’s most neurotoxic elements, more deadly by orders of magnitude than lead — into young children and pregnant women.  The most troubling aspect of this debate has been a widespread reluctance of journalists to actually read the peer reviewed science, but instead to adopt the talking points of often badly compromised public health regulators and vaccine industry spokesmen.  Journalists simply repeat, again and again, the mantra that no study has ever shown Thimerosal to be dangerous.  In fact, the opposite is true: there is not a single credible study that purports to show that Thimerosal is safe.

A senior CDC vaccine safety scientist, Dr. William Thompson, has invoked the protection of the Federal Whistleblower Statute following the release of his taped conversations disclosing pervasive corruption within CDC’s Vaccine Safety Division. Dr. Thompson, a sixteen year veteran and a senior scientist at CDC’s Immunology Safety Office, is currently employed at CDC’s National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Thompson is an author of two of the three epidemiological studies on American population touted by CDC to “prove” the safety of Thimerosal against developmental disabilities. Thimerosal is a controversial mercury based vaccine preservative that research scientists and vaccine safety advocates have connected to the epidemic of brain disorders in children. The vaccine industry’s foremost spokesman and the world’s premier champion for Thimerosal in vaccines, Dr. Paul Offit, stated in 2008 that Dr. Thompson’s “wonderful” 2007 study was the “definitive” study on Thimerosal safety.

But Thompson now says that his bosses at CDC pressured him to alter the results of that study to conceal Thimerosal’s risks. Dr. Thompson says that his superiors at the CDC Developmental Disabilities Branch pressured him to manipulate the study’s findings and to bury the links between Thimerosal and brain damage. In response to this pressure, the published version downplayed data showing that Thimerosal causes “Tics”, a family of grave neurological injuries – including Tourette’s Syndrome – that are associated with Autism. Thompson now says that the data showed a definitive statistically significant association between Thimerosal and tics. “Thimerosal from vaccines cause tics….I can say tics are four times more prevalent in kids with autism. There is biologic plausibility right now to say that Thimerosal causes autism-like features.” After burying these findings, CDC touted Thompson’s study to exculpate Thimerosal for use in current flu vaccine which is administered to pregnant women and young children. Thompson stated recently, in a taped interview with Simpson University biochemist Dr. Brian Hooker, “Do you think a pregnant mother would want to take a vaccine that they know caused tics? Absolutely not!! I would never give my wife a vaccine that I thought caused tics.”

Thompson was also the co-author of a 2004 study in Pediatrics in which he now admits that, under pressure from CDC bosses, his team fraudulently withheld data demonstrating a significant link between the MMR vaccine and autism in African American boys. In a taped conversation, Thompson confessed, “I have great shame now when I meet families with kids with autism because I’ve – I’ve been part of the problem.”

In a written statement issued by Thompson’s attorney, Rick Morgan of Morgan Verkamp of Cincinnati, Ohio – a firm that specializes in Federal whistleblower cases – Thompson said: “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the Journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”

Thompson described a pervasive culture of corruption at CDC’s Immunization Safety Office directed toward concealing statistical links between vaccines and brain injuries, particularly autism. “I have a boss who is asking me to lie. The higher ups wanted to do certain things and I went along with it. I was, in terms of chain in command, I was number four out of the five. Colleen [Boyle] was the Division Chief. Marshalyn [Yeargin-Allsopp] was a Branch Chief. Frank [DeStefano] was a Branch Chief at the time.”

Immediately after release of Thompson’s audio taped revelations, Dr. Frank DeStefano, now Chief of the Immunization Safety office, admitted in a September interview to CBS reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, that vaccines may indeed trigger autism in some vulnerable children.

Thompson’s attorneys have handed over thousands of damning CDC documents to Congressman Bill Posey of Florida. Last week, Posey’s staff said that the Congressman is working with Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith, to schedule a hearing this spring on Thompson’s revelations before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Posey hopes to subpoena Dr. Thompson, who is still employed by CDC; Thompson has promised that he intends to come clean about CDC.   “If forced to testify, I’m not going to lie. I basically have stopped lying.”

Dr. Thompson told Dr. Hooker that “[CDC researchers] are not doing what they should be doing because they’re afraid to look for things that might be associated [with autism].” Thompson says that corruption is so rooted within the Immunization Safety Office that the only way to get to the truth now is for Congress to take the vaccine safety research away from CDC and give it to independent contractors who can create a transparent process. According to Thompson, the autism controversy has brought vaccine safety research to a halt. “CDC is….they’re paralyzed. The whole system is paralyzed right now and the whole branch is paralyzed and it’s becoming more paralyzed. So there is less and less being done, as the place just comes to a grinding halt.”

Thompson also stated that he feels angry at himself for having participated in CDC’s decade of deception to conceal the links Thimerosal and brain damage including autism. “Here’s what I shoulder. I shoulder that the CDC has put the research ten years behind. Because the CDC has not been transparent, we’ve missed ten years of research, because the CDC is so paralyzed right now by anything related to autism. They’re not doing what they should be doing. They are afraid to look for things that might be associated. There’s still a lot of shame with that….”

Thompson said that he is prepared for the personal consequences of coming clean; “So I have to deal with a few months of hell if this becomes public. No big deal. I’m not having to deal with a child who is suffering day in and day out. So that’s the way I view all of this. I’m completely ashamed of what I did.”

Thompson described in chilling detail to Dr. Hooker, the intense pressure from his CDC bosses after he first broke ranks on vaccine safety. In 2004, he sent a letter to CDC Director, Julie Gerberding alerting her that CDC scientists were breaking research protocols to conceal the links between Thimerosal and brain damage in children. Gerberding never responded to Thompson’s allegations, but her deputy, Robert Chen, then head of CDC’s Immunization Safety Office and Thompson’s direct boss, confronted Thompson in an agency parking lot threatening him and screaming, “I would fire you if I could.” In 2009, Gerberding matriculated to Merck as Chief of the company’s Vaccine Division. Two years prior to the move, she approved Merck’s HPV vaccine for pre-adolescent girls – an estimated billion dollar value to the company. Following Thompson’s revelations, Merck transferred Gerberding from its Vaccine Division to Executive Vice President for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health.

CDC’s Immunization Safety Office is a troubled agency. In recent years a series of studies by Federal Investigators and Congressional committees, have issued scathing reports highlighting the dire conflicts of interest at CDC’s vaccine and research divisions.  A 2000 report by the Government Reform Committee entitled “Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Policy Making” identified a long inventory of corrupt financial ties between regulators and vaccine makers in FDA and CDC’s vaccine programs that are diverting the agency from its task of safeguarding public health. A 2007 US Senate investigation by Senator Tom Coburn, “CDC Off Center” found widespread corruption and mismanagement at CDC’s vaccine programs (Coburn, CDC Off Center, 2007). In 2008 an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (IG) of HHS found that 97% of Special Government Advisors on committees in the CDC vaccine program failed to disclose necessary information about conflicts of interest (Levinson, 2008). Those findings prompted a series of criminal investigations. In March 2014 the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI), Director, David Wright, quit his job issuing a searing letter claiming pervasive scientific misconduct in biomedical research at CDC, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Public Health Service (PHS) all part of HHS which he characterized as “a remarkably dysfunctional bureaucracy.” (Wright, 2014) There is no evidence that CDC has moved to adopt the recommendations of these reports or to cure its problems in the vaccine division.

Despite the evidence, mainstream journalists refuse to report the myriad problems at CDC’s vaccine program. Instead media outlets and journalists, almost without exception, dutifully parrot CDC’s assurances that all is well and censure vaccine safety advocates who urge the removal of Thimerosal from vaccines. The pharmaceutical industry spent $3.8 billion in direct marketing to TV, radio, newspapers and other direct marketing outlets in 2013 and an astonishing $5.4 billion in 2005. Some vaccine safety advocates have questioned whether that cash pipeline accounts, in part, for the mainstream media’s blackout affecting discussions of Thimerosal safety.

Thompson is not the first scientist to complain about pressure from his bosses at CDC’s Immunization Safety Office. In 2001, CDC researcher, Thomas Verstraeten, made similar allegations. Verstraeten was the co-author of the first of three studies offered by CDC to exculpate Thimerosal from developmental disorders. (Verstraeten et al. 2003 Pediatrics 112:1039) Verstraeten’s initial analysis showed correlations between Thimerosal and autism – and a host of other neurological disorders – comparable to the causal relationship between cigarettes and lung cancer. Over the next three years, a team of CDC researchers produced five consecutive versions of the report; each one eliminating more people and watering down the Thimerosal/brain damage relationship. Finally Verstraeten complained on July 14, 2000 in an email to toxicologist, Phillipe Grandjean, a CDC consultant, “I do not wish to be the advocate of the anti-vaccine lobby…..but at least I feel we should use sound scientific argumentation and not let our standards be dictated by our desire to disprove an unpleasant theory.” When CDC tried to present the watered down version of the study as proof of Thimerosal’s safety, Verstraeten wrote a strong rebuke to CDC scolding the agency for misrepresenting the study as an exculpation of the Thimerosal autism link.

The CDC came under similar fire for its controversial study of Thimerosal’s links with autism ambiguous in Denmark. The authors have acknowledged that the so called “Madsen Study” employed deceptive data to make it wrongly appear that autism rates increased after the Danes removed Thimerosal from vaccines in 1993.  Poul Thorsen, the study’s principle investigator and CDC’s primary contact, was fired from his post at Andhaus University and is now on the run from Interpol, having stolen at least a million dollars in research monies from CDC.  A subsequent study by CDC published in JAMA in 2013 has shown that autism rates dropped in Denmark every year for ten consecutive years after Thimerosal’s removal from vaccines (Grenborg et al. JAMA Pediatrics 2013).

ThimerosalRobert F. Kennedy, Jr., JD, LLM, is senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, and president of Waterkeeper Alliance. He was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success in helping restore the Hudson River, and he continues to fight for environmental issues across the Americas. He is the bestselling author of Crimes Against Nature.

Editor’s Note: Mothering is sharing this article as part of our ongoing effort to present a variety of viewpoints and information on the topic of vaccination. The information presented is based on research by the author as part of his book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak. We realize that this is a heated issue and we welcome open discussion. However, comments that are intolerant of medical diversity or personal choice, or that express hate toward any group, will be removed.

Image: U.S. Army Core of Engineers, Creative Commons License

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Injecting Compassion into the Vaccine Debate http://www.mothering.com/articles/injecting-compassion-vaccine-debate/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/injecting-compassion-vaccine-debate/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 21:13:04 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=67354 There is no more divisive issue in parenting than whether or not to vaccinate. Since measles was reported in California, my social media feeds have been overtaken by inflammatory posts about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. The articles accompanying these posts urge that parents who opt out of vaccinating should be sued […]

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injecting_compassion

There is no more divisive issue in parenting than whether or not to vaccinate. Since measles was reported in California, my social media feeds have been overtaken by inflammatory posts about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children.

The articles accompanying these posts urge that parents who opt out of vaccinating should be sued or jailed, and that vaccination should be absolutely mandatory, taking away the right of parents to make informed medical decisions for their families. So-called “anti-vaccine parents” are made to look like fools with no valid basis for questioning vaccine safety and efficacy. A recent article suggested that parents who choose not to vaccinate their children do so only to “defy authority” and “feel empowered.”

This so-called debate—“so-called” because there’s very little reasoned discussion actually happening—takes place almost entirely on social media. We need not look our “friends” in the eyes as we demonize them for making different decisions than our own. We feel entitled to judge without bothering to understand why others might have a different point of view. We’re so staunchly entrenched in our own beliefs that we’re unwilling to even consider a different opinion.

Parents now seem to be divided into two camps—the “pro-vaccine” and the “anti-vaccine.” But these are false categories that fail to acknowledge the range of difficult decisions that parents make regarding vaccination. The choice isn’t simply to vaccinate or not. Many parents, concerned with how aggressive the recommended vaccination schedule has become, decide to delay vaccines, determine an alternate schedule with their doctors, or partially vaccinate their children.  They’re not “against” vaccines.

But acknowledging that parents make a wide range of decisions regarding vaccination—and that “anti-vaccine parents” might thoughtfully consider whether and when to vaccinate their children—makes it more much difficult to summarily dismiss those who “don’t vaccinate” as uneducated fools. Admitting that “pro-vaccine” and “anti-vaccine” is a false dichotomy means we can no longer assume that parents who make complicated decisions about vaccinations have no real basis for their concerns, that they’re simply “against” vaccination.

Also missing from this discussion is the fact that, despite our disagreements, we’re all trying to make the best decisions for our children. And that we’re all terrified of making the “wrong” decision. Measles is real. Some children are more vulnerable to communicable illnesses, and their parents understandably fear that their children could become ill. But vaccine injuries are also real. And research shows that some children are more susceptible to severe, even life-threatening, injuries from vaccination. Their fears are also valid.

Vaccinations can play an important role in protecting public health, and there are clearly valid reasons to vaccinate. But parents who choose not to vaccinate, or to delay vaccinations, or to partially vaccinate also have legitimate concerns. The judgment and shaming of so-called “anti-vaccine parents” does nothing to protect our children. (Even if this judgment is an attempt to increase vaccination rates, it’s unlikely that someone’s mind will be changed by being called an idiot.) Nor does it help parents make what, for many, is one of our most difficult parenting decisions.

It’s time that we have compassion for one another, seeking to understand choices different from our own rather than simply dismissing them as foolish or selfish. The inflammatory rhetoric of vaccination is serving none of us.

Image credit: European Commission DG ECHO, Creative Commons License

Editor’s Note: Open discussion is welcome on Mothering.com, hate is not. Please respond thoughtfully and respectfully or your comment may be removed.

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IUDs: Benefits and Risks of Using Mirena or ParaGard for Birth Control http://www.mothering.com/articles/iuds-benefits-and-risks-of-using-mirena-or-paragard-for-birth-control/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/iuds-benefits-and-risks-of-using-mirena-or-paragard-for-birth-control/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 14:27:12 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/iuds-benefits-and-risks-of-using-mirena-or-paragard-for-birth-control/ What is an Intrauterine Device (IUD)? IUDs are small T-shaped plastic devices that are are either wrapped in copper or contain small amounts of synthetic hormones. Once inserted into the uterus, they are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. There are several types of intrauterine devices. This article looks briefly at the two most popular brands, ParaGard and […]

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IUDs: Benefits and Risks

What is an Intrauterine Device (IUD)?

IUDs are small T-shaped plastic devices that are are either wrapped in copper or contain small amounts of synthetic hormones. Once inserted into the uterus, they are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. There are several types of intrauterine devices. This article looks briefly at the two most popular brands, ParaGard and Mirena, as well as some of the known benefits and side effects of these devices.

The Good and the Bad: the benefits and negatives of IUDs at a glance

Benefits

  • up to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
  • generally considered safe for most women, including women who have already had children and those who are breastfeeding
  • one IUD lasts 5-10 years depending on the type
  • low or no hormones
  • requires no maintenance once inserted
  • cost effective considering length of effectiveness
  • can begin trying to conceive shortly after removal

Negatives

  • despite long term cost effectiveness, upfront cost is high
  • needs to be inserted and removed by your doctor
  • does not prevent all pregnancies
  • 10% or more of women will experience expulsion of the device
  • does not protect against STDs
  • some women experience serious health issues from the use of an IUD, can be life threatening
  • some women feel uncomfortable with the device in their bodies, become ill from the hormones or copper and/or have emotional and mental side effects

Are IUDs Safe and Effective?

As with any birth control method, the safety and effectiveness of an intrauterine device should be researched carefully before choosing one for yourself. While many women swear by them as an easy to live with and low hormone approach to birth control, others have endured many physical and mental side effects from their IUDs.

Lawsuits have been filed against both Mirena and ParaGard after women experienced “spontaneous migration” of the IUD from the correct area of the uterus causing a variety of medical issues, some severe. And while IUDs have proven to be very effective in preventing pregnancy (up to 99%) women do become pregnant even with a properly placed device. Studies have shown that as many as 10% of women may also experience complete or partial expulsion of an IUD. The dangers and rates of malposition of the device, those of uterine perforation (known to happen in 1 out of 1000 women) and other side effects are explored in a recent study. Read it here.

Physical side effects are not the only concern, some women experience symptoms similar to pregnancy or PMS when using an IUD as well as unnerving emotional or mental reactions.

Still, IUDs may be a safer option than other birth control methods, such as a daily hormonal pill, and are generally safe for breastfeeding moms and those who were recently pregnant. Both ParaGard and Mirena claim to be 99% effective and their effectiveness is more predictable than some other birth control methods. And, for busy moms looking for something that is highly effective and easy to forget about, this may be the simplest and least limiting birth control option available.

How Much Do They Cost?

The upfront cost for an IUD is between $500 and $1000, depending on a variety of factors. This is a one-time cost for the life of the device (assuming you do not have associated medical issues), but you will need to pay for removal of the IUD when its effectiveness ceases or you are ready to begin trying for another child. Some women have removed IUDs on their own at home but this is not recommended by doctors. Both services are covered by most insurance policies, however, getting an appointment for insertion or removal can take months in some areas.

Although the initial cost may be prohibitive it is relatively low when the years of effectiveness (5-10) are factored in, especially considering that they require no maintenance or additional doctor visits for most women.

Below is a simplified breakdown of the two most well-known and used IUDs on the market. Before deciding to use an IUD, or choosing which one best meets your needs, considering asking the women in your life about their experiences and recommendations, doing additional research online, or reviewing the many discussions in the Mothering community on this topic.

Cross Comparison: ParaGard VS Mirena

ParaGard and Mirena are both intrauterine devices that are popular with Mothering moms for their ease of use and general effectiveness. And while both systems work similarly, there are major differences to consider. 

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Mirena

  • claims to be more than 99% effective for up to 5 years
  • releases a synthetic form of progesterone (levonorgestrel) into your uterus to prevent pregnancy: partially prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucas to prevent the entrance of sperm into the uterus and thins the uterine lining to prevent a fertizlized egg from attaching
  • uses a very low dose of hormones compared to oral contraceptives
  • will affect your normal menstrual cycle hormonally, sometimes dramatically
  • once removed, may continue to prevent pregnancy for weeks or months
  • can cause pelvic infections and uterine perforation, as well as reactions to the hormones
  • is considered safe for breastfeeding in most cases

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

 

ParaGard

  • claims to be more than 99% effective for up to 10 years
  • is wrapped in copper and contains no hormones: disrupts sperm and the uterine lining to prevent pregnancy
  • may increase bleeding during your normal cycle but does not disrupt the cycle on a hormonal level
  • conception is possible almost immediately after removal
  • can cause pelvic infections and uterine perforation
  • is safe for breastfeeding

If you are trying to avoid hormones and plan to conceive another child quickly after removal, ParaGard may be a better solution than Mirena. Overall, if you are interested in an IUD, the best option will come down to your personal needs. You can find more details, including specific safety information, on the Mirena or ParaGard websites or from your doctor.

Interested in other types of birth control for moms? Check out this article on the most common and recommended methods.

This article is not intended to take the place of medical advice from a professional. Talking to a trusted doctor or midwife is the best way to gain accurate information about the use of IUDs. Mothering has no relationship with the companies that produce either Mirena or Paragard.

Have you used an IUD? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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Listen to the Whispers of Your Heart http://www.mothering.com/articles/listen-whispers-heart/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/listen-whispers-heart/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:10:25 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=67122 Dear New Mama, I once was you. Scared and new. Looking for direction where no direction seemed to be. Everyone said different things, and the things that they said didn’t seem to match what my instincts called out for me to do. I was confused. I was worried. I was wondering if everything that seemed […]

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KangarooMom

Dear New Mama,

I once was you. Scared and new. Looking for direction where no direction seemed to be. Everyone said different things, and the things that they said didn’t seem to match what my instincts called out for me to do. I was confused. I was worried. I was wondering if everything that seemed so right was breaking some kind of rule. Loud and boisterous voices told me “put the baby down” “it’s okay if they cry”, “get them used to the bottle now”, “you can’t hold them forever”.

Mama. Listen to your heart. What does your heart say? What happens when you forget about all the things that you’ve read, all the things that you have been told? What happens when you push those voices to the back of your mind? When you sit in silence and in peace and hold your baby in your arms in front of you? What happens when you look into those deep blue, brown, green or gray eyes that stare right into the depths of your heart and soul?

Listen to the whisperings of your heart. The tug that you feel. That tug is what guides you. It need not be loud. It need not be forceful. It is not trying to convince you to do something that you do not feel is right.

That is why the books are loud. That is why the advice is loud. That is why people may scoff and try to make you feel odd about following your heart.

It has to be loud. Because how else will it drown out what you feel inside?

Let it wash over you. Loud like thunder, loud like crashing waves in a storm. Let it blend together into a wall of white noise.

Listen to the coos. The cries. The unspoken things that your baby’s body and face communicate to you when he roots and when he rolls and reaches. Listen to his babbles. Listen to the silence and the intensity when the two of you lock eyes.

Trust yourself. The whisperings of your heart contain much wisdom.

<3 A Mama Who Has Been There

[Originally shared on Nurshable.com "The Whispers of Your Heart"]

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10 Things You Don’t Need For a New Baby http://www.mothering.com/articles/10-things-you-dont-need-for-a-new-baby/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/10-things-you-dont-need-for-a-new-baby/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 14:47:48 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/10-things-you-dont-need-for-a-new-baby/ Find more from Sarah on the Mama Birth Blog. I remember registering for my first baby before he was born. I went to a giant baby warehouse store with a HUGE corporate list of things that I “needed” for this new little one and obediently registered. And then he came. The crib sat in the […]

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Find more from Sarah on the Mama Birth Blog.

I remember registering for my first baby before he was born. I went to a giant baby warehouse store with a HUGE corporate list of things that I “needed” for this new little one and obediently registered.

And then he came.

The crib sat in the corner, the swing hung empty, and the tub wouldn’t fit in my shower.

Sometimes I think groups of childless men sit around shining wood tables and literally make stuff up that new babies “need” for survival just so that they can make money. Seems like a good idea, but for the first time mom, I think it just tends to stress us out when we should be enjoying a pretty awesome time in life.

So ladies, here are a few things that you don’t need for your new baby.

1) The wipe warmer- Possibly the silliest baby ‘necessity’ ever invented. I am pretty sure that cave man babies survived without the warmer. Oh wait … cave men are EXTINCT! Maybe we do need this! They can be nice for some people (some cloth diaper mamas keep their cloth wipes moist inside), but certainly not a need.

2) The layette - I have had kids for seven years and I still don’t know what this is. So … I am pretty sure it isn’t a necessity.

3) The crib - (This isn’t an anti-crib rant, so don’t get riled up.) It kind of makes me sad when a young new family with limited resources stresses unnecessarily over the need for a crib. I actually do think it is NICE to have a space for the baby to sleep, especially during nap-times, and at ANY time if you don’t co-sleep. But this doesn’t have to be an expensive crib. Some people use a Pack n Play (many are safe for sleeping in) which is smaller, cheaper, and easier to move if money and space are an issue. Some people just have the baby in their bed (free of all sheets and pillows, of course) with an attachable guard rail, a bassinet, a cradle or whatever is safe and fits.

4) That diaper Genie - Seriously? The diapers still smell, even in that thing. I am being for real. If I am doing disposables then I just throw them in the regular trash, but little baby poop doesn’t really stink. If I am doing cloth, then you DO need a diaper bin, but I just use a big plastic pail. You can get them for a few bucks or use an old one from Costco laundry soap.

5) Swings, bouncers, chairs, and what not - I can’t hold my baby all day long, so it is really helpful to have SOMETHING to put your baby in when you need to put them down. The thing is, you probably don’t need all of them. Plus, in my experience, all babies don’t like all of them. I had a baby that loved the swing and another that screamed bloody murder every time he came near it. These are not universally loved by all babies. Often, somebody whose baby is a little older is willing (dare I say desperate?) to give away theirs so that they can free up some space in their home. If you get something free, you just don’t feel as bad when you never use it.

6) Expensive breast pumps - A necessity for sure if you are going back to work and are planning on pumping when the baby is young. These are not, however, needed for every mom out there, even though they are promoted like every mom needs one. Often a hand pump will be plenty for a stay at home mom who doesn’t need to pump four times a day to keep up her supply. But even if you are going back to work — but not for a year or so — then you don’t necessarily need one.

7) The baby bath tub - We were in a tiny apartment when I had my first and the big tub wouldn’t even fit in my shower. Instead we showered with the baby. (Showering with a baby does work better if you have two people.) My newest baby gets bathed in the kitchen sink. YES, I clean it well before and after. It is just the right size for a little one. Baby tub = not necessary.

8) Baby shoes - Babies actually don’t walk. This does come later, but until then, they don’t need a large array of shoes. I have a secret about this one too. Baby shoes don’t even stay on baby feet. They can’t walk but they can remove shoes by about three weeks. Don’t tell anybody that I was the one who let that one out of the bag.

9) A themed nursery - I feel like I am having an out of body experience when I walk into a big box baby store and see the walls lined with perfectly matched cribs, gliders (not rockers, those are capitol “L” lame), wallpaper, sheets, lamps, rugs, and what not. Babies CAN see at birth, but only for about 12 inches. They will not care if the wallpaper matches the pillow sham. I have never even had a bedroom that nice. So, maybe I am just jealous…

10) Rounding off the 10 with a few I have never had or used – baby monitors (never had that big of a house), socks (they disappear with the shoes), pacifiers (shouldn’t even be introduced until 6 weeks), and Baby Einstein videos (don’t even get me started on baby TV!)

(Lest you get offended, I know that some women might need some of these items or even just WANT some of them, in which case, GO NUTS and enjoy your baby shopping! I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. And I actually do know what a layette is. I was kidding.)

This post originally appeared on the natural birth blog, Mama Birth in February of 2012.

Image credit: Flickr creative commons – Peasap

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One of My Children is Extra Precious To Me: It’s Time to Let Go http://www.mothering.com/articles/one-children-extra-precious-time-let-go/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/one-children-extra-precious-time-let-go/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 22:12:47 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=66986 Recently, my two-year-old son was separated from my mother-in-law whilst at the shopping mall. It took thirty minutes for him to be found: he was happily wandering around, quite a large distance away from where they first became separated. Apparently he very happily took the hand of the security guard who located him and guided […]

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Recently, my two-year-old son was separated from my mother-in-law whilst at the shopping mall. It took thirty minutes for him to be found: he was happily wandering around, quite a large distance away from where they first became separated. Apparently he very happily took the hand of the security guard who located him and guided him back to my mother-in-law, but of course she was distressed.

Later that day, when she told me what happened, I was shocked at my own internal reaction – first that adrenaline surge of shock, following by a vehement wish that this had happened to any other of my children but this one.

Robin2

I am hesitant to name it, but my youngest child is extra precious to me. I have never experienced this before: though each birth is different, and each early postpartum experience is different, I have come to love all of my five children with a deeply felt, primal, sometimes painful love. For my first and third and fifth child it hit me like a truck the second I laid eyes on their newborn faces. For the other two it was a slow burn kind of love as we found our way to each other in the hazy days after birth.

Ever since that day when my youngest got lost, I have wondered why my protective feelings are so wild, why he is so precious. Is it simply because he is the youngest and the baby of the family? He does have a small elfin featured face, finely drawn and often vulnerable looking. He is small for his age, and although nearly three, not talking much, so he often seems younger than he is. And there is another reason for this: this child was seriously ill as a baby, spending 6 weeks on and off in hospital, and needing extensive care at home for many months afterwards.

As a result of his illness, his milestones were delayed and he literally was a ‘baby’ in need and skill level for months longer than usual. But what happened to me during his illness was a semi-permanent state of hyper awareness and vigilance – needed at that time – the warrior mother was called forth and the protective muscle was well exercised.

It is well known that whatever endeavour in which we invest the most effort is one that means the most to us. I sometimes think of my son this way- the child that I literally invested the most effort into- round the clock holding, caring, nurturing, and supporting on a long road back to health. No other child of mine enjoyed such extensive and focused one-on-one time, so long breastfeeding, so long sleeping in our bed.

Robin in car

My youngest is now a perfectly healthy three year old. There is really no need to overprotect him anymore. After weeks of pondering my reactions and actions around him, I can give thanks for that time he was lost. It has prompted me to realise that it is time to let go of my little one. The time for danger has passed and my inner warrior can now retreat. He may be my last baby, and that makes it all the more bittersweet. But I often think of motherhood as mostly an exercise in letting go, and the past few weeks have reminded me to take that little leap of faith again.

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