I have been kind of putting off writing this post, because Jeff and I didn't do the best job in completing our homework on vaccinations before Vicki Jo was born. I was traditionally vaccinated as a child, as was Jeff. There are no "obvious" side effects of these immunizations for us . . . whatever you may think those side effects may be. People seem to think that vaccinations cause everything from hyperactivity to autism to sadness while watching those ASPCA commercials with abandoned kittens. However, Jeff does have a wicked case of Crohn's Disease, and we both suffer from seasonal allergies and some probable food sensitivities that we aren't rigorous or committed enough to be able to pick out of our diets.
What link do all of these things have? Immunizations, Crohn's Disease (which is an autoimmune disorder - very similar to rheumatoid arthritis except limited to inflammation in the gut), seasonal allergies, food sensitization? Nothing, I thought. Allergies are just part of life, right? Sometimes people develop terrible life-altering illnesses that cause them acute pain . . . it just happens, right? Then, after creeping around on some blogs that advocate natural parenting, I discovered this book:
I bought it soon thereafter and have been devouring it
This author is highly trained, has tons of experience operating a clinic for children with disorders like autism and hyperactivity, and the book cites research out the wazoo. So, I'm inclined to be a little more open to her views than some other kooks out there.
The essential hypothesis is that the center of immunity and health is the gut. That is where we have our first line of defense against everything the world throws at us: bacteria, stress, toxicity (like car fumes and stuff), etc. If our gut is healthy and the lining is well-sealed, we are able to eliminate things in the way we need to, and nothing bads get into our bloodstream. If it's not, then we get into trouble and all kinds of things can start to go haywire. What causes the gut lining to become leaky? Eating a diet high in processed foods, which throws off the delicate balance of good bacteria that keeps us healthy. Bad bacteria and yeast start to take over and colonize us more because the good bacteria aren't there to keep them in check. One of the symptoms of this kind of colonization is a crazy sweet/starch tooth, because that's what yeast needs to survive and multiply. I see this in Jeff big time. He is nuts for breakfast cereal, candy, rolls, breads, pastries, you name it.
Anyway, what does this book have to do with vaccinations? Well, our traditional vaccination schedule is probably fine for a healthy immune system. Breastfed babies tend to be a lot healthier gut-wise than formula fed (tons of vital health-promoting bacteria in breastmilk). If things are operating the way they should in the digestive tract, the insult that immunizations throw at an immune system can be dealt with. But if your baby is sick with a cold, has eczema, is fed formula without added probiotics . . . then the viruses in immunizations can get out into the system. I don't claim to know what kind of harm (if any) this can cause, but I figure why risk it? Also, multiple vaccinations at once (like the MMR) can be really hard to deal with, because our bodies weren't meant to get measles, mumps, and rubella all at the same time.
Up until now, we have followed a somewhat traditional immunization schedule with the baby. We declined everything at the hospital, and luckily I was negative for Group B strep, so didn't have to worry about all that. At two weeks, one month, two months, and four months, the baby had a number of shots. Sometimes she had as many as five immunizations at one time. I realize in retrospect that that was probably too much. She is primarily breastfed, but she gets a bit of formula. After the four month shots, she slept all day. This to me is a sign that her immune system was working very hard to deal with whatever was going on.
We go this Friday for her six month well-baby appointment, and we are once again scheduled for a number of shots. I have decided to change our plan. Our family doctor (an osteopath) has been supportive of any kind of vaccinating (or not) that we want to do, but I just didn't feel I had good information, so we went with the status quo. Now, I certainly don't know everything, but I feel like I have enough of a handle on it to make some changes. We will delay the schedule that we're on and finish only those series that have to be done within a certain amount of time to retain their effectiveness. Then, we will probably wait several more months for any of the vaccines that can be put off. We will still have everything standard done, just not on the standard schedule. This way, we can be sure that our baby's immune system is functioning at its top level when she goes in for these shots, and that we aren't overloading it with too many things to process at once.
The blogger over at sortacrunchy has really done her homework on this, and I'm following the vaccination schedule she did with her girls: http://sortacrunchy.typepad.com/sortacrunchy/2007/11/our-delayed-vac.html.
I do want to say that I don't know if I believe wholesale in everything the GAPS book promotes. I haven't tried the diet myself, but I'm anxious to once I stop nursing (she recommends not going through the introductory phase of the diet while nursing because the toxic off-loading of the body into the breastmilk can be harmful for baby). I know I'm venturing down the road into crazy pseudo-medicine, so I want to keep my wits about me. And I also know I'm not an expert. I only know my family and my baby, so those are the decisions I will make for us. Everyone has their own circumstances and stories, so just consider my opinion as information for the public domain.