Book Review: “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan,” by Paul Thomas, M.D., and Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D.

Have you ever felt confused by the vast amount of information about vaccines that’s floating around on the internet? On the one hand, in California at least, a child isn’t allowed to go to preschool or kindergarten without vaccinations or a medical exemption. On the other hand, we really don’t want to cause inadvertent harm to our children by overwhelming their immune systems with too much aluminum, formaldehyde, thimerosal, and other vaccine ingredients. We have populations of anti-vaxxers who say “No way am I injecting anything like that into my child.” And then we have the pro-vaxxers, who say, “Follow the recommended schedule because herd immunity is very important to our society.” What if you’re somewhere in the middle of those two groups, wanting your child to be protected from childhood illnesses but also being wary about possible longterm side effects of vaccines?

This is where I highly recommend “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan,” by Paul Thomas, M.D. It was just published in 2016, so it has very current, relevant information in it. He writes from the unique perspective of growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in a missionary family with a mother who was a nurse. He saw the immediate benefits that vaccines had on the lives of the poverty-stricken and malnourished people there. When he returned to the United States and became a doctor, he saw the miraculous effects of vaccines like the Hib (Haemophilus influenza B) vaccine that essentially saved thousands of children’s lives from meningitis. But he also saw a new rise of chronic health conditions, including “food allergies, attention deficit disorders, childhood anxiety, childhood asthma, childhood depression, eczema, gastroesophageal reflux, headaches, ear infections, neurological disorders, sinus infections, lung infections like pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and virulent strep throat.” He speculates that the toxins in our world, including but not limited to childhood vaccines, can be contributing to these chronic conditions. “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan” is a “comprehensive guide to childhood health and well-being, offering parents not only balanced information about vaccines but also everything else you need to know to keep your child safe and healthy.”

I love the way this book is organized. Dr. Thomas writes thoughtfully and concisely. Chapter 1 is about the toxins that are ever-present in our world, including acetaminophen, aluminum, aspartame, endocrine disruptors, flurried, methanol, and mercury, and how to mitigate them in our children’s lives. And then the following chapters are organized by the age of your child: from your pregnancy to the first hours of life outside the womb, the first two weeks of life, the two-month well-baby checkup, the first nine months, the one-year mark, the toddler and preschool years, elementary school, and the teenage years. He writes about vaccines and his recommended vaccine schedule that he uses with his patients, but there is so much more information that you didn’t even know you were looking for. He includes a summary of recommendations at the end of each chapter with answers to frequently asked questions that come up in his practice. Whatever the age of your child, you can go immediately to the relevant chapter and begin reading. Chapter 11 is a cheat sheet about the best ways to support your child’s immune system, and then the Appendixes have things like recommended reading lists, a comparison of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) vaccine schedules in 1983 and 2016, “ten questions to ask when looking for a pediatrician,” lists of vaccine ingredients, and clinical data from his practice.

The major selling point of this book, in my opinion, is the study from Appendix E. Dr. Thomas has followed 2,230 children over the ago of two and under the age of seven in his clinic. He compares children who followed his recommended vaccine plan with a group of unvaccinated children and a third group who were vaccinated according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) vaccination guidelines. The rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 50 children, so, theoretically, the children from all three study groups “should” have had the same autism rate. No children who followed his recommended vaccination plan developed autism. There “should” have been 22 cases of autism in the first group. No children who were unvaccinated developed autism (there “should” have been 4 cases), and 15 children who followed the CDC vaccination schedule developed autism (a rate of 1/60), which follows the national average. This data blows my mind. Mindful vaccination can dramatically reduce autism in our children. Think about that!

Anyway, if you get a chance, pick up this book, read it, recommend it to others, and keep it in your reference library.

The Consciousness of Your Baby Before Birth

This video shows the importance of slowing down your life and being mindful of the physical and mental state you are experiencing as you are carrying your baby. Stress during pregnancy has a profound effect on your developing baby’s brain as well as the development of its internal organs and systems.

“A mother’s emotional state enters into as one of the participating causes of the shape, size, function and characteristics of the brain in her infant in her womb and that if she’s given a safe, nurturing environment herself, her infant will be born with a totally different brain than it will otherwise. This is huge news.”

~Joseph Chilton Pierce, author of “Magical Child”

 

Common Newborn Procedures

Procedures commonly done to your newbornI know that HypnoBirthing® primarily focuses on the birth of your baby. However, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the common procedures that a hospital will perform on your baby right after birth. Here are some common ones to expect:

  1. APGAR testing at 1 and 5 minutes after birth
    • This one is pretty non-interventionist, and you won’t even notice it’s going on. Your caregiver is measuring the responsiveness of your baby. APGAR stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.
  2. Measuring & weighing
  3. Vitamin K injection
  4. Eye treatment – erythromycin drops to prevent conjunctivitis caused by chlamydia & gonorrhea
  5. Hepatitis B vaccine injection – if you are Hepatitis B positive, you will pass this virus on to your baby through your breastmilk. Populations that are more susceptible to being Hepatitis B positive include prostitutes and IV drug users. If you don’t fall into this category, and have been tested and know for certain that you are Hepatitis B negative, you can delay this vaccination. The state of California requires that your child receive three doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine before attending a public school kindergarten.
  6. Heel prick blood test (testing for PKU and several congenital issues)
  7. Jaundice evaluation and treatment
    • Jaundice is common in babies born before 38 weeks of gestation, as well as with babies that are having difficulty with nursing. In the full-term baby, jaundice will commonly show up in the first 3-7 after birth as the bilirubin levels are peaking. Also, jaundice can show up in babies with underlying health issues that need to be treated.
    • How can you tell if your baby is suffering from jaundice?
      • The skin and whites of the eyes will be a yellowish tint
      • The baby will be lethargic and drowsy
      • The stool will be a pale yellow color
      • Their urine will be dark
    •  Nursing on demand every 2-3 hours or so after birth and making sure you have a good latch and excellent breastfeeding support will help immeasurably. For yourself, remember to hydrate well. Drink at least 12 glasses of water a day to support your milk supply. Also, sunlight can help clear away newborn jaundice. You can place a naked newborn inside next to a well-lit window for 10 minutes twice a day. Never place your newborn in direct sunlight. Babies that are extremely jaundiced will need to come to the hospital for treatment for phototherapy and additional support.
  8. Bathing
    • Since those first hours after birth are precious and so important for bonding with your baby, it’s ok to delay your baby’s first bath. The vernix on a newborn has antibacterial properties and doesn’t need to be washed off. You can spot clean your baby with a soft washcloth if you’d like — otherwise, keep the newborn attached to you at all times.
  9. Hearing test
  10. Circumcision

So, now that you know the common newborn procedures, do some research on them. Google them. Talk to your caregiver about them. Examine the benefits and risks of each procedure and decide if you think each one is appropriate and medically necessary for your child. Some of them have more risks than others. But it’s ultimately up to you to decide what is best for your child.

Here’s an article from verywellfamily.com about the most common newborn procedures.

Information about Vitamin K and your Newborn

As informed consumers of birth, it’s very important to educate yourselves on all of the treatments that your newborn baby will receive once it’s born. What are the benefits of each treatment? What are the risks? The vitamin K injection is required by the state of California for all newborns, and I’ve found some articles that will educate you on this treatment.

Here’s an article on “Evidence on: The Vitamin K Shot in Newborns” by evidencebasedbirth.com.

Here’s a “Vitamin K at Birth” article from Pregnancy Birth & Baby, an Australian resource website.

But here’s something else to think about, is vitamin K by injection really the best way to ensure that your baby’s blood will clot properly after birth? An alternative to the injection is to give your newborn oral doses of vitamin K. The availability of oral vitamin K depends on the ability of your care provider to obtain it, and unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to obtain pharmaceutical-grade oral vitamin K. Here is a video from Evidence Based Birth about oral Vitamin K as a possible treatment choice for your newborn:

This blog entry is not intended to be medical advice. It’s designed to inform you so that you can make better, safer choices for you and your family based on medical research.

Planning in Advance for Your Birth

Consider doing each of these things ahead of time to make your transition from pregnancy to birth easy.

  1. Pack your birth bag at week 34 (you can get everything out and stage it, but the birth companion should pack it so they know where everything is). Keep it in your car. Here is a blog entry I wrote about what to pack in your birth bag.
  2. Keep the baby car seat in the car, along with a shower curtain or garbage bags and extra towels to sit on. Learn how to install the car seat as well as how to adjust the straps. Here’s the DMV website on installing child car seats.
  3. Arrange for baby-sitting & household help, if needed.
  4. Choose a pediatrician or family practice physician for your child. Interview several.
  5. Research the vaccinations your baby will receive. Vaccinations begin at birth with the Hepatitis B vaccine, but they really get underway at the 2-month well-baby checkup, so do your research ahead of time and be informed parents. Three great books to prepare you are: “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan,” by Paul Thomas, M.D., “The Vaccine Book,” by Robert Sears, and “The Vaccine Guide,” by Randall Neustaedter (you only need to read one). You have options other than getting all of the recommended vaccinations all at once. You can space out vaccinations so your baby receives each one at a time. You can delay vaccinations, and you can also say no. A baby who will be attending a day care and is drinking formula needs vaccinations much more than a baby who will be staying at home and who will be exclusively breastfed. Children in California must have the minimum doses of certain vaccines in order to attend school. Here is the link for the required vaccines.
  6. You will get a Group B Strep test at week 35-37. As a prevention measure, consider taking a daily, high dose, enteric-coated probiotic. Also keep in mind that semen kills Group B Strep. Group B Strep is an opportunistic bacteria that comes from the rectum, so remember to wipe from front to back, and cut out the foods that would feed it (white sugar, white flour, white rice, processed foods) and eat the foods that discourage its growth (plenty of vegetables and whole foods).
  7. Take a breastfeeding class and a care of the newborn class. The Santa Rosa Birth Center offers both.
  8. Arrange for diaper service or stock up on diapers. Tidee Didee and Diaper Wagon are the two diaper services we have in Sonoma County. YouTube videos are great for learning how to diaper.
  9. Prepare food in advance and freeze it in individual serving containers(chicken soup is great!). You can also request frozen meals at your baby shower, and a phone tree of friends who bring meals to you is great. It doesn’t have to be dinner: they can bring you food any time of day in exchange for seeing you and the baby.
  10. Read about the Fourth Trimester. Two great books that I recommend are, “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” by Harvey Karp, and “The Attachment Parenting Book,” by William and Martha Sears.
  11.  GET A LOT OF SLEEP. DO NOT burn the candle at both ends right before birth. Your birth will go much better if you are well-rested ahead of time. If you don’t sleep well at night, take naps during the day. Be a sleep magnet.

Book Review: “The Happiest Baby on the Block”

One of my clients recommended this book to me, and I filed its title away in my mind for future reference. And then when I was six months pregnant, I suddenly became very interested in what the heck I was going to do with this baby once she was born. I loved this book. I not only read it, I read it TWICE. It was THAT GOOD.

This book should be required reading for every single new parent out there in the universe. It focuses entirely on the “fourth trimester” — those first three months of the baby’s life outside the womb. The author of the book, Harvey Karp, is a pediatrician in Hollywood, and his premise is that because babies’ brains and skulls are so big, they are born at a time when their heads still fit through their mothers’ birth paths but before they’re actually ready to be outside in the world. In essence, they’re still fetuses for three more months. And they miss life inside the womb. A lot. He says that “colic” doesn’t actually exist — the symptoms of “colic” in a baby are simply the baby wanting to be soothed exactly like it was when it was warmly and comfortably tucked inside mom. The whole book is about recreating that womb experience for new babies so that they can be calm and well-adapted to life in the outside world.

Harvey Karp describes five techniques that recreate the womb experience, what he calls the “5 S’s”: swaddling, side-lying or stomach-lying, shhhhhh-ing (or white noise), swinging and sucking. Swaddling creates a nice pressure all around the baby where the baby is inhibited in its limb movements. My husband thought that this looked like our baby was in a straight jacket. But when you think about it, babies are extremely limited in their movements for 40ish weeks. It’s not a “straight jacket” for them — we’re just anthropomorphising their experience. For the first four to six months, babies have a “startle reflex,” where, if they are lying on their backs (either in bed or in your arms), they feel as though they are falling backwards. To catch themselves, they throw their arms back, and instantly wake themselves up. Swaddling inhibits the startle reflex, and I can’t overemphasize how wonderfully well it works. It doesn’t calm the baby, but it sets up the baby to be soothed by the other four techniques. And by firsthand experience, I can tell you that a baby that wakes herself up every five minutes because of the startle reflex is a very unhappy baby (and her parents probably aren’t getting much sleep).

Ok, now that your baby is swaddled, the other four techniques will finish the job of soothing her. Side-lying or stomach-lying(when you’re holding her) prevents her from experiencing the startle reflex. Only babies who are on their backs will startle. Good to know. So, you’re holding your baby either on her side or facing the floor. Next, you start making a loud “shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” sound. This is a white noise that replicates the loud noise of the blood flowing through your blood vessels when she was inside (kind of like when you are lying in the bathtub and you dunk your head under the water. The water amplifies all of the sounds of your house’s plumbing.). Harvey Karp explains that babies love white noise. It’s the peace and quiet that disturb them. So, air conditioners, fans, white noise machines, and “shhhhhhhhhhhh” sounds calm them down. Adjust the volume of the “shhhhhhh” to match your baby’s volume if she’s crying.

Next, start swinging your baby from side to side. This mimics the lovely hammock-like swinging and swaying they experienced when mom was walking around every day. During my pregnancy, I never really noticed my baby moving around when I was in motion, but she really moved around at night. Maybe she was thinking, “Hey, mom! How about a little movement out there! It’s a little too still and peaceful for me to get to sleep!” You can do little jiggly movements or turn your body back and forth like a top-loading washing machine agitator.

Sucking is last, and Harvey Karp calls it “the icing on the cake.” Babies can either suck their thumbs, your fingers, or a pacifier. This satisfies their hunger, calms them, and soothes them in a fantastic way. Harvey Karp says that if you use a pacifier, the best time is between two to three weeks of age (so that breastfeeding goes well to prevent nipple confusion) and four to five months. Around four months, babies learns to stick their own thumbs in their mouths (sometimes both at once) to soothe themselves, and the pacifier is no longer needed. With some creative swaddling, you can also swaddle your baby so that her thumb is directly next to her mouth, and she can soothe herself at an early age. And now that your baby is soothed, you can put them down to sleep (on their back).

The last few chapters of the book continue with the theme of creating happy babies. One chapter goes into more details about some other tried and true “colic” remedies like infant massage, walking outside with baby, keeping them warm to soothe them, preventing food allergies, treating constipation, troubleshooting feeding problems, dealing with actual acid reflux (which is rare amongst babies), and using alternative medicine like chiropractic, homeopathy, herbal teas, and osteopathy. The last chapter is about baby sleep patterns, weaning your baby off the 5 S’s, techniques for helping babies sleep better, room sharing, co-sleeping, techniques to help prevent SIDS and suffocation, and answers to frequently asked questions.

In conclusion, the contents of this book saved my life, it probably saved my marriage and definitely saved my sanity in my first three months of parenting.

For even more information (and for all of those visual learners out there), Harvey Karp’s techniques are featured on YouTube videos, like this appearance on Dr. Phil: