Vaccines and Children

Please, please, please, on behalf of everyone at the pediatrician’s office, consider how you talk to your children about vaccines.
Today I overheard a mom and her 4 year old. All I could hear from my office is “Please do it. It will be ok. If you do it I will buy you anything you want.” When I walked by the Mom looked at me with pleading eyes and said “She needs to get her flu vaccine.” To which I replied “Oh, it’s so quick and easy. Just blow on your finger and you won’t feel it. It will help your body stay healthy.”

What I did not get to say was-Mama, you may be feeding into your daughter’s fear of vaccines.

We need to be strong and convicted so our children believe in what we are doing. Kids, by nature, fear shots. But they need grownups to guide them and not add fuel to their fears. The tricky part is when a parents shares the fear of vaccines.

If you are having trouble helping your children when they get vaccines here are some suggestions.  (These suggestions can be translated to other parenting topics as well.)
-Never let the little’s see you stress. If they know you are afraid they may add this to their own natural anxiety. So fake it till you make it!
-Talk about the reason we get vaccines. Vaccines help our bodies fight and stay strong. We all need to get them at some point in our lives.
-Don’t make promises about treats following the vaccines.  Just celebrate how strong they were.  Distract them discussing what stickers they received.

This is real life.  They will have to conquer these fears.  And you can help them!



Say No To Snack Bags!

Think about the snacks you keep in your bag for your children…do they really need it?

Here’s the deal-when I carried a diaper bag for the first few years of my children’s lives, it made sense to have snacks. Their rapidly growing bodies and short attention spans necessitated the food items, mostly for my benefit. It was for me-not for my own consumption, but because if they snacked while I was busy doing an errand, etc. the task was more likely to be completed.  
The truth is that we all like to eat. Eating releases some of the feel good hormones, it keeps our mouthes busy, and if we are really hungry, helps reduce “Hanger.” Infants, toddlers, and maybe preschoolers need snacks while you are out and about living life, but then those kids grow up. And caregivers do not need to have an endless supply of snacks available.  
At the pool this summer I heard “Mom do you have any snacks?” This was approximately 5 minutes after we arrived and 30 minutes after we ate lunch. So my response, OF COURSE, was “None at the moment. Go play.” The reality is that I typically do not pack a lot of food options if I know we are going to be gone for a few hours. And this is when the kids will be swimming, burning calories, and getting tired. Can you believe it?  
This mean Mom recognizes that children should not have access to food at all hours of the day. The children of today, who are used to instant gratification, should learn their body’s hunger sensations and recognize that good eating habits are crucial for overall health.  They should be taught (yes, one more job for busy parents) to develop good eating habits at an early age.
The average child requires 3 meals and 2 snacks to get through the day. But the same children may be better eaters if they snack less. Especially because if you look at most of the snacks we pack for our children have less than ideal nutritional value. Goldfish crackers are not a good snack in case you were not aware, but they are easy to pack, so we bring them. Let them wait for dinner when the veggies will be more easily consumed because they are hungry. They will be more likely to eat well because they did not fill up on other stuff.
Do I win the award for most nutritious foods offered to my family every day of the week? NO! But do I strive to teach my children about healthy eating habits? Absolutely! And this starts with saying “No” to the endless snacks that my kids will ask for.
So I challenge you to say “No” to the snacks that are in your bag. You are not a walking vending machine!!! Do you agree?

Fishing For Life Lessons

It was a simple fishing expedition that taught us so much more.

My family of four set out with fishing poles, a bag of bait, and low expectations in Falmouth. We were going to spend some quality outdoor time together with the beauty of Cape Cod as our backdrop. But the truth was we didn’t know what we were doing and it showed. The hook got stuck, the line tangled, and the bait stunk!

It was then I spotted a happy gentleman humming to himself while he set his line. I thought he looked pretty confident and maybe he had some tips he would share. It turned out he was a local musician who was on vacation. Dave Macklin was his name and he had his own band. I told him we were failing in the fishing department and wondered if he might have some insights to share. He laughed and said he had been watching us flounder (no pun intended.)

Dave told me about the fish he had caught, the gigs he had played, and about raising his sons with his wife/ manager. He shared his hooks and his bait-sea worms were the way to go he said. Yuck-gross worms that can bite. But they worked for him. He had caught a 34 inch sea bass, King fish, and flukes. Dave said he ate most of the fish he caught after saying a little prayer.

As I introduced my children and asked them to thank him for his fishing wisdom, he gave me more than I could have asked for. Dave said it was his pleasure because sharing knowledge was the best thing he could offer. He looked them in the eyes and told them to remember to share what they learn with others. “Knowledge is meant to be shared. If you are really good at something, show someone else how. By sharing, you help others grow and your heart will get a little bigger.” He asked them to give away information freely, the way he had.

I couldn’t help but smile because meeting him was a bit magical. He was kind and had this wise face that made you want to listen. So thank you Dave, you made my vacation a bit more special. You taught my kids a simple,yet important life lesson. And I promise to do the same for someone else.

We caught a fish the very next day. And we hope to see the Dave Macklin Band sometime soon!

Book Groups Rock!

As I sat with a group of moms who I think are pretty fantastic, we spoke of the struggles of parenting. No matter how prepared you think you are there are major difficulties. And they pop up every day! It’s sort of a grind. Don’t get me wrong the sweet, tender moments and small victories are sprinkled in too. But sometimes it is hard.
This is why book groups rock! If you are not part of a book group let me explain. The concept is you have a group of people who read the same book and get together to discuss it. They evolve into meetings that include adult beverages, snacks, and good conversations. Sometimes you really talk about a book-but not always.
Book groups provide a shared time and space to connect with people. Talking about why children fail to flush, don’t eat their lunch, and trying to get to work on time is therapeutic. Sharing resources-the best new restaurants and exercise classes in town- has a lot of value. There is venting while laughing about how your issues don’t seem as bad when you hear about someone else’s. It has a magical quality to it really.
If you are lucky (I put myself in this category) you will meet a group of people who don’t judge. They are able to use their own personal lenses to help you weather storms from job changes to moving to eating that giant cookie with ice cream on top. And you learn about people who come from different circles which helps expand your own understanding of how to parent in the best way possible.
The second benefit of a book group is modeling reading for your children. When sons and daughters hear about how their parents make time to read and talk about a book it validates some of their school experiences. It makes them want to read. They may ask questions about the types of books you read as a grown up. Children see the importance of connecting with others (isn’t this becoming a lost art as kids get locked into screens.)
My life is rich as I am part of two book groups. Both have wonderful women as members who I consider an important part of my parenting network. So my advice to any new Mama is to find your village, start a book group (even if you are really tired), and see how many ways it can enrich your life!

Food Allergies-what’s a parent to do?

Food Allergies are everywhere. In the past few years the number of children diagnosed with food allergies and sensitivities has sky rocketed. Research is ongoing, but one of the theories is that we helped create this problem by avoiding foods in infancy. When I think back to the advice given around introducing solids, we were very cautious. We instructed families to avoid peanuts and nut products for 1-2 years. We skipped the seasoning, the healthier fats, and were generally afraid to give foods that were not overly basic-at least in the beginning. 

Interestingly, other countries did not take this approach to food allergies. In many other cultures, a wide variety of foods is offered as early as 3 months. These foods are mixed together. The foods have spices. And as a result, food allergies are not as prevalent and children are better eaters. Interesting, right?  

So the pendulum has swung back and we are now sending a different message. Pregnant mamas are encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods, including peanut butter. Breastfeeding mothers are also told to eat everything in the hopes that the ever-changing milk taste and scent will improve our countries picky eaters. See this article which I thought was interesting as well:


Additionally, we hope that there will be fewer food allergies and sensitivities. What a wonderful concept-eat well and your children will benefit when you start at conception and continue throughout their lifetime. Is this a brilliant new idea? I think it is common sense, but what do I know.


But the truth is that some of us have food allergies. And this is tricky. Finding foods to eat that will not upset a baby’s tummy, let alone cause and anaphylactic response, is hard. It may seem quite daunting at first. This is because we are creatures of habit and we eat what is familiar to us. So change then becomes hard. 


Here is an approach to consider. Pretend you are in another country and you are not familiar with the local foods and produce. Imagine that everything is new and different. You need to look at it, read the label, and do a little homework to figure out how to prepare. It can be a game if you will. There will be success and failure of new recipes. But eventually you get steady on your feet and figure out this new style of eating. See that is not so hard is it?


I recently was introduced to a website that I found extremely helpful.

It has so much information that I was immediately impressed. There are recipes, research, links to online support, etc. If you have a child with a sensitivity or food allergy I would highly recommend it.

Do you have any tips?

Ahhhhh-the picky eater syndrome

As Sally Sampson from ChopChop magazine says: “The way not to have a picky eater is to expose them to everything, not make a big deal when they don’t want it, but offer it again. Don’t stop serving it. What we see over and over is that you get the crap out of the house, you involve them in mealtimes, you’re consistent but you don’t force, and it works. You may go through a period of time when they’re whiny, but, generally speaking, people get through it.”    

If you don’t buy it, they cannot have it! 

 Each week we go to the grocery store. Some of us have a list in hand with a plan of what’s for dinner. The list has snacks, breakfast, and lunch items on there too. But the reality is that we are all creatures of habit and we normally buy the same things each week. It is a rote activity that no one really likes so it is easy to succumb to buying things that are familiar. Then you add picky eaters at home to the mix and it really gets tough.

 There are some days that I love to cook. It lets me be creative. It feeds my senses-the look, the smell, the taste, and the feeling of completion when it is ready. But then add the other members of my household to this equation and things can get ugly. I hate listening to the complaints from my family about what they have to eat. I wait with baited breath at dinner time to see how things are going to go. Will they be excited about my food choices? Will they give me a bad score (yes, they rate the food sometimes to make things interesting like the cooking shows on t.v.)? Will they tell me “NEVER make that again”? It like trying to win the lottery. And it is truly exhausting!

But I do believe that parents need to assume some of the responsibility for picky eaters.  In many cases, moms and dads cave into a child’s craving.  Instead of offering a food the child may not like we decide to avoid conflict and give them a favorite instead.  I’ve done it.  Because of the insane pressure we feel about feeding our families healthy foods, avoiding junk food, etc. we have to make choices.  The saying “pick your battles” definitely applies to meal times.

So start small-eliminate a few of the junky snacks, juice, or other processed foods n your shopping cart this week.  Because if it does not exist in your home, they won’t eat it.  Introduce one new healthier food each week.  Tell your family it’s an experiment and make a chart to document your good adventure.  Blame your pediatrician- tell the kids Dr. Soandso said I can’t buy that any more (the doc won’t mind).  Create a food challenge that might get the kids excited about eating or cooking.

But do something!  Do not accept your fate as “Parent of a picky eater.”  Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

This piece was inspired by this article in the Boston Globe:

Calling Breastfeeding Natural Can’t Possibly Decrease Vaccination Rates

Recently there are claims in the medical world that calling breastfeeding “natural” may deter parents from getting their children vaccinated.  This really irritated me. If you read my posts you know that I am pro-breastfeeding and pro-vaccines. But do we really need to blame the language of the breastfeeding movement for anti-vaxxers? Don’t they get slammed enough?
I think breastfeeding is hard. Getting in sync with your baby, figuring all the nuisances, and living through the sleep deprivation is challenging. It can be painful. It is natural for some, but not for others.

Vaccines are simply a man-made way to help humans survive deadly illnesses and diseases. The formulation is studied over and over again to make sure they help protect. The truth of it is that they may or may not be natural.
Vaccinating our children is a choice. Most of us are lucky enough to live in a place that we have excellent medical care. We are given vaccines to keep us healthy. The herd helps those who cannot receive them for medical reasons.
Choosing NOT to vaccinate (for most people) is a choice. In my opinion, an uninformed, selfish choice. Do I risk upsetting others with my statement-absolutely. But sometimes difficult statements need to be made.
My take home message-be informed. Trust medical professionals who undergo years of training and continued re-certification to help care for us all. They give vaccines to their loved ones. They know more than random articles you might find while surfing the net. Have respect for those in your community who cannot be vaccinated.
More importantly-can we please stop blaming the breastfeeding community?!?  Why on earth would using the word “natural” as part of promoting breastfeeding cause others to choose not to vaccinate.  Is there really a connection?
Read the article “Does it hurt to call breastfeeding “natural”?” On to see what got me all riled up: