Informing Yourself about Childhood Vaccinations

I’ve been a childbirth educator for the last thirteen years. When I teach HypnoBirthing childbirth classes, I always emphasize the idea that parents become “consumers of childbirth.” By that, I mean that they need to do their due diligence and research and make informed decisions about the medical care they receive during their pregnancies and births. They need to carefully select a caregiver to work with and inform themselves about medical procedures that might or might not be used on them. When my own pregnancy came around this year, I felt like I was extremely prepared for my birth. I was calm and confident, and the birth was a beautiful experience.

Fast forward to two months later, at my daughter’s two-month well baby check-up. Imagine my shock when my pediatrician said it was time to vaccinate her for whooping cough, diptheria, tetanus, pneumococcal disease (PCV), rotavirus, and Hib meningitis. Huh? What? I was completely unprepared. I had never even heard of rotavirus, pneumococcal disease or HiB, so I said yes to the whooping cough vaccination combination (DTaP), and refused the other three so that I could go home and do a little reading up on the subject.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. The first eight weeks postpartum were my babymoon. I was deeply in love and getting to know this new little amazing being in my life. The sudden onslaught of recommended vaccinations completely took me by surprise. If you’re going to be an informed consumer of childbirth, you need to extend your information to the world of vaccinations. In the United States, a child will receive 36 vaccinations by the time they’re five. That’s a whole lot of injections. Inside each injection is a certain quantity of aluminum and formaldehyde as well as the virus or bacteria you’re vaccinating against. California passed a law to prevent drug manufacturers using thimerosol (mercury) as a preservative in vaccines for children under the age of five because of fears of nervous system damage, but there are still some vaccines that have it.

So, what can you do? Educate yourself early, before that two-month well baby check-up comes around. This article is not written to advise you to vaccinate or not vaccinate your child. That is a personal decision that only you can make. Instead, be prepared and do your background research into the vaccines that are used in your area. In California, we have the Hepatitis B vaccine that a baby is injected with at birth, and then there are recommended vaccines for two months, four months, six months, twelve months, fifteen months, eighteen months, and another batch before the child starts kindergarten.

Here’s what I did. First of all, I went online to see what the recommended vaccine schedule was for children in California. Then I compared that with the recommended vaccine schedule from 1974 to get a sense for what the bare bones vaccinations were forty years ago. Then I looked at vaccine schedules that other countries use. And then I started reading books. There are two books that I recommend. One is “The Vaccine Guide,” by Randall Neustaedter, O.M.D., and the other one is “The Vaccine Book,” by Robert W. Sears. And finally, I visited a naturopathic physician and asked him about alternatives to vaccinations. He didn’t recommend or not recommend vaccinating my child, but he did emphasize to me that I can always delay vaccinations. It’s ok to wait. I don’t need to follow the recommended schedule, and there are catch-up schedules that I can follow instead of the regular schedule. If my child catches one of those childhood illnesses that we vaccinate against, we also discussed ways to boost my child’s immune system to minimize the impact of illness on her. He uses homeopathy, which is incredibly effective against childhood illnesses, both in prevention and minimization. Also, I spoke with my pediatrician about spacing out vaccinations so that my baby would only have one injection per visit. It would require more visits, but there is less chance of overwhelming my child’s immune system with too many vaccinations at once.

Be ready for childhood vaccinations before they overwhelm you. Whether you decide to follow the recommended schedule or the catch-up schedule or choose alternatives to vaccination, it’s up to you to research the benefits and the risks of vaccination and to be confident in the decisions you make for your child’s health. There’s a lot of hype in the media from both the pro- and the anti- vaccine groups. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your child.