Saturday, May 16, 2015

How to remove toxins and properly bond for a natural, connected waterbirth

By now, you've probably seen Healthy Home Economist's sensationalist article on how waterbirths destroy children's guts and should be avoided. It's fascinating to me, really, because she spends a lot of time focusing on the concern of chlorine/chloramine treated tap water. Which, unless you avoided bathing in this and drinking this from 3 months pre-conception to the time of birth, means you have already altered your baby's microbiome. Why talk about the issue of chlorinated drinking and bathing water, but then blame the water birth after 9+ months of chlorine exposure in food, tap water, bathing, swimming, disposable paper products, etc?

Don't get me wrong. I feel I'm actually one of the few people who has piped up about the severe concern of halogen compound exposure in our environment. I even wrote a little brochure about it, and I have made the tough assertion that several chronic illnesses such as lyme and EDS are caused or worsened by dioxins. I think awareness is lacking, and that halogen compounds are the big kahuna being ignored.

Anyways, that aside, her article prompted me to put together some basics that I've shared about waterbirth before, as a proactive way of preparing for a natural birth that is low in toxins and that promotes physiologically normal bonding.

Here are some of the things I've done to prepare for my births that address halogen compound exposure, contaminant exposure, and bonding concerns:

1. Look for a PVC-free pool. Women are creative when it comes to birth pools. Choose what suits your needs, but take a quick look to make sure it's low in toxins. Same goes for pool liners if you're going to use one. Do not use cheap materials, such as remodeling/paint liners found in hardware stores, industrial containers, or low end animal troughs.

You can also prepare the birth pool if it is new by opening it up and placing it outside in the sunlight (think indirect if you get strong sun, don't damage it!) Spray distilled white vinegar evenly on the surface to help the offgassing. Those new plastic smells should slowly dissipate. Rinse the pool thoroughly before bringing it inside to use.

If you're using a permanent pool such as your jacuzzi or hot tub, research your options for pre-cleaning. You might be able to chemically clean it, then rinse it and fill it with filtered water just for the birth.

2. Purchase a lead-free hose and connectors. Surprisingly, a lot of people don't know about this one. Make sure the hose you buy specifies lead-free. Don't use any cheaper, older or soldered/previously soldered connectors that might also contain questionable ingredients. Another one that might not occur to parents while rushing around during a birth: rinse the hose out first before putting it into the birth pool to remove any manufacturing contaminants.

3. Water treatment. Research the various options on how to treat your water and decide which one will work for you. Boiling water and letting it stand in the birth pool will remove the majority of chlorine/chloramines....into the air. So as the birth pool is being filled and then while it stands for 5-10 minutes, you can labor in another room. Briefly ventilating the birth room after the pool is filled will clear out any concerning air. You can also use portable dechlorinating tabs and filters. And/or a filter that connects to the hose.

Reverse osmosis or steam distillation will remove the most contaminants from your water. You don't have to purchase an expensive whole-house system. Smaller systems can cost $200. But, a smaller undermount or counter top machine will take much longer to fill the pool. A combination of boiling water and filling from the reverse osmosis system can be the most reasonable method.

It's important to note that this issue is one you can certainly address, but it is not a huge, scary issue. The studies discussing chlorine exposure are talking about extended exposure in chlorinated pools. Not bathing or drinking tap water. Although I also easily address this topic in our own home with a reverse osmosis filter and dechlorinating filters for the bath faucets, this is not a deal breaking topic.

Stop and think about the way you are being manipulated to feel when it comes to worrying about waterbirth. How do you think the surfaces in a hospital are cleaned? What products and what water source do you use to clean your bedsheets, your towels, and your home for a land-homebirth? If you're feeling really scared or upset by the HHE article, take a deep breath and do an actual risk assessment, along with reviewing your many options.

Preparing the pvc-free pool with boiled water.
It's also being filled with a lead-free hose and reverse osmosis system.
Placed next to the patio door, the room was quickly and conveniently ventilated.

4. Use additives with caution. If someone is concerned about bacterial growth, standing water, if the pool becomes contaminated in some way, then empty it, clean it and refill it. Do not try to create your own shock treatment with bleach, ammonia, or other chemicals. And that includes essential oils.

I have heard a few accounts now of birth pools being shocked with heavy duty essential oils. Essential oils are wonderful, but also powerful. At high levels, they can also harm healthy gut bacteria. Some of the powerful antibacterial ones are also potentially unsafe for birth and definitely unsafe for newborns.

Also be sure to ventilate the room briefly again if diffusing essential oils for the mama, to ensure that once the baby arrives, he is not exposed. Sniffing direct from the bottle might be the most contained method to use for birth.

5. Avoid interrupting bonding. Although interruption can occur with other birth methods, due to the wet environment and concerns about temperature regulation, these interruptions might be more prominent with waterbirths. And this might also explain why some mothers, such as HHE, feel that waterbirth somehow harmed their children. Ensure that your birth team is educated on how to protect the bonding process after birth in a water environment. This means things such as:

  • Warm unscented towels in the dryer and place them over both the parent and the baby, not between the parent and the baby. 
  • Avoid submerging the baby's body or attempting to wash the baby in the pool.
  • Avoid "hatting" or placing a hat on the baby's head, which might interrupt sensory bonding.
  • Remember to rub in the vernix, and do not roughly scrub the baby dry with a towel.
  • Don't encourage the mom to separate and take a shower with scented products soon after birth. 
  • Don't encourage the baby to get bathed in a separate bath soon after birth, and certainly not with scented products.
  • Avoid scented products on the birth team, and avoid using fragrances and air fresheners during/after the birth. Birth can come with strong smells, like being in the woods. If this is uncomfortable for the birthing mother, opening a window for fresh air is helpful. Don't start misting stuff everywhere! Including essential oils!
Notice the towel is over BOTH mama and baby.
Baby is not submerged.
Mama's chest is not submerged.
6. Remember to stay together. Another reason some moms might attribute waterbirth to problems with breastfeeding is the interruption that occurs soon after birth. Once the baby is born, usually the mom cradles her baby on or near her chest in the birth pool for a few minutes. But, inevitably, they need to get out of the pool. This is when her birth team might unknowingly cause problems. As the mom and baby leave the pool, they must be moved to a safe, calm area where they can remain together and continue the physiological bonding process. The baby should stay in her (or her partner's) arms. No one should remove the baby, wash the baby, dress the baby, or leave the room with the baby. Now is not the time for the mom to spend a long time showering and dressing. If the mom is hungry, food should be brought to her.

There is something about this critical stage that is easily altered without anyone noticing. This golden hour is interrupted in key ways with waterbirths. A good birth supporter must have a trained eye for this moment and take steps to keep the mom and baby together, naked, undisturbed, and prepared for breast exploration and the breast crawl. 

Interruption occurs with other kinds of births. But, the problem here is that the brief time spent in the birth pool is often logged as the bonding time. When it is not. So once the mom leaves the pool, it accidentally represents a transition or milestone, when in reality, it is not and the mom and baby must still continue bonding.

Mama moved right out of the pool and onto
a designated bonding space. No hat, no clothing, no showering.

7. Vernix. Contrary to the fear in HHE's article, vernix is not water-soluble. That would be laughable, seeing as how the baby is submerged in fluids for months. Vernix has immune properties that are very important and I've always shared about that aspect. To claim that waterbirth destroys vernix and makes the neonate susceptible to halogen compound exposure or contaminant exposure is simply not supported by the scientific evidence. This idea shows a lack of understanding when it comes to birthing in water, along with a lack of understanding about vernix.

Vernix has many overlapping functions. It directly assists the baby in countless ways during the pregnancy and during transition from the womb to earthside. (You can read all about vernix here.)

The baby swallows it during pregnancy, which helps to develop the gut microbiome.
It has innate immune properties to help protect the baby.
It is a thermal (temperature) regulating substance.
It encourages proper skin growth.

Most importantly, and the part that seems to be missing in the waterbirth fearmongering:
As a layer on the skin, it provides a hydrophobic barrier. Translation: it is water resistant.
The brief time it takes to gently bring your baby up to your chest after passing through about 18 inches of already offgassed water is not destroying guts and ruining lives. I'm not sure how to put it in a nice way, but that idea is ignorance and total bullshit.

Bottom line: if you are freaking out because you think birthing in water will somehow destroy your child's immune system and breakdown a substance that humans have used successfully for thousands of years, don't. Take a deep breath, go through your preventative checklist with your birth team, and then relax. Waterbirth has some specifics that need to be addressed, but they aren't insurmountable or inherent issues. They are concerns that can be easily rectified ahead of time.

With all the potential benefits of waterbirth such as reduced pain, increased movement, relieving pressure and weight on the mom's joints and ligaments, bonding with her partner and children during birth, etc, it would be a shame if a mom discarded this option out of unwarranted concerns about halogen compounds and a misunderstanding of vernix.

Here comes the baby right out of the water...covered in vernix.
Photo submitted by Hethir Songstad.

It appears that the highly toxic tapwater did
not impede any vernix here!
Photo submitted by Sarah Durso.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Religion of Anti-Science Fanaticism

I've said it before and will say it again. We all need to work together to call people out when they toss around the term "anti-science" or when they claim they "believe in the science." For too long, we have accepted the misapplication of this anti-science term instead of rightly questioning those throwing it around.

  1. "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

Employees in the health field (licensed doctors, nurses, researchers, etc) are not "science." They are people, yes, mere humans! And they have gone through standardized education and training to perform basic duties. Duties you can perform, too. They are not the only people who can learn about the world around us. And they are not the ultimate authority on a world we are still learning more about daily.

Science is a particular method of study. Not a group of people. Not a majority rule. Not a community that all agrees on one idea. Not an ultimate truth.

This science is also continually challenged, improved, and altered as people gain more knowledge and continue to explore our world. Remember the infamous Dr. Semmelweis who attempted to convince doctors to wash their hands and instruments to save women from childbed fever?

"What Semmelweis had discovered is something that still holds true today: Hand-washing is one of the most important tools in public health. It can keep kids from getting the flu, prevent the spread of disease and keep infections at bay. You'd think everyone would be thrilled. Semmelweis had solved the problem! But they weren't thrilled. For one thing, doctors were upset because Semmelweis' hypothesis made it look like they were the ones giving childbed fever to the women."

If you believe "science" is already determined, and is merely about majority consensus, you are actually referring to religion.

If you believe a potential finding in scientific studies, or hypotheses presented by scientists are unquestionably true, you are actually talking beliefs.

If you believe in this concept of science above all else, and cannot consider criticism or permit this science to be challenged or questioned, then you are following dogma.

If you believe all people must follow this science without doubting or searching for more answers, you are demanding an act of faith.

If you believe that the amount of science you have at your hands right now is the ultimate knowledge, and that all people must be compelled through peer pressure or laws to follow this science, you are attempting to make our country a theocracy.

"Theocracy is a form of government in which clergy (doctors) have sovereignty over a territory (medicine) and official policy is either governed by officials regarded as divinely guided, (from dogmatic science) or is pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religion or religious group (pharmaceutical company and lobbying groups)."

What is real science? What does it mean to be pro-science? Who is supporting scientific exploration?

People who QUESTION current beliefs are pro-science.

People who want to EXPAND knowledge about our world are scientists.

People who FIGHT for ethical, empirical experiments are fighting for science.

People who DOUBT hypotheses and OFFER alternative ideas are encouraging scientific progress.

Those who question, those who want more investigation, those who want all aspects acknowledged, those who show caution about human rights violations or show concern for how our world might be hurt... Those people are the farthest from anti-science. So, who is actually anti-science?

Does anyone these days even remember these issues? Xrays during pregnancy? Thalidomide?
Cytotec after c-sections? Have we forgotten the numerous experiments on impoverished
cultures, on inmates, on children? Are we just ignoring serotype replacement, antibiotic
resistance, epigenetic mutations? Faith cannot save us from human error and greed.

"Nevertheless, in many U.S. hospitals today, the management of labor and delivery doesn’t look very evidence-based. Many well-intentioned obstetricians still employ technological interventions that are scientifically unsupported or that run counter to the evidence of what is safest for mother and child... These problematic motivators are not unique to obstetrics, but obstetrics seems to be particularly resistant to the evidence..."

People who want to SILENCE opposing voices are anti-science.

People who HARASS, BULLY, or THREATEN those who question are anti-science.

People who CONFUSE fanaticism with science, who confuse profit with ethics, who confuse advances with empirical development, are anti-science.

People who SUPPORT a government operating as a theocracy based on dogma are anti-science.

People who try to FORCE others to follow an outdated, unproven, unethical medical program are religious fanatics.

are anti-science.

When you use the anti-science label, apply it where it belongs. And if you see someone using it inaccurately, correct them. People can and do change when presented with information.

"More recent health care provider graduates had 15% decreased odds of believing vaccines are efficacious compared to graduates from a previous 5 year period; had lower odds of believing that many commonly used childhood vaccines were safe; and 3.7% of recent graduates believed that immunizations do more harm than good. Recent health care provider graduates have a perception of the risk-benefit balance of immunization, which differs from that of their older counterparts."

Related reading...

STOP! Are you debating with a narcissist?

Custom medicine for your child.
Here and here.

Do you have blind faith?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What everyone missed about stranger abductions: natural boundaries

I've been reading both sides since the "stranger abduction experiment" video went viral. I was sad to see more pleas for anxiety and helicopter parenting. But, I was also disappointed with much of the response from the free range community, too.

One article on the free range website attempted to claim the children were taken easily since the man talked to the parents and the children thought it was a safe situation. Well, of course! That's called grooming and it's not a defense for free range parenting, it's a very serious and commonly used technique to break down natural boundaries in children and gain control of them. I wonder if the person who wrote that free range article even knew this?

Here's a thought no one wants to discuss. It's not politically correct, and most people would rather choose to feel offended by this thought instead of delving deeper. It doesn't apply to EVERY SINGLE child out there, but in general, it holds true.

Those young children walked off with the man and his puppy because they aren't attached to primary caregivers and their natural boundaries have been broken down repeatedly from infancy onwards. They are used to random adults invading their private space and telling them what to do, including taking their hands and walking somewhere.

They have been trained from a young age that any adult who is kind to them and who pays attention to them is an adult who deserves their compliance and who is automatically supposed to care for them. They have been taught by their parents and surrounding adult community that adults require unquestioning obedience and that feelings of doubt, unhappiness, fear, or sadness are invalid, and should be ignored.

This is why, for example, when I'm engaged with my children at the playground or pool, random young children approach me and ask me to take them to the bathroom, or expect me to play with them. One smiling adult is the same as the next in their world.

The abductions on that video didn't have anything to do with the man talking to the mom first. Which a "predator" (acquaintance or stranger) could easily do anyways. This didn't have anything to do with poor parenting method. Whether teaching stranger danger or tricky people awareness, whichever method you prefer, the innate issue here is a lack of boundaries in the children. (I prefer the tricky people one, and encourage you to learn more about it, by the way.)

When you look at children who are attached to a primary caregiver, who do not go to daycare, nor preschool, and who do not experience frequent babysitting/multiple babysitters, etc, those children tend to turn away from a random adult. Children who have their sense of identity, their emotions, and their needs affirmed on a daily basis have very little tolerance for random stranger attention. As babies and toddlers, they refuse to be held by other adults, even relatives. They'll often refuse to wave hello, or lean their bodies away if the adult gets too close and crosses a naturally ingrained boundary.

And when these children are a bit older, they show more caution and hesitation to adults who approach them. They aren't quick to share their life stories, and they often question why an adult is interested in them and why the adult wants them to do things or go places.

These children have retained natural boundaries. Sadly, it often causes other adults to ridicule them or to feel offended and demand intervention from the parents. If the baby leans away from a relative at a party, others might attack the mom, or claim the baby is a wuss and needs more alone time with other adults. "You pick him up too much." "She needs to start respecting her elders." "I think it's the homeschooling!" Many people in our culture have very little tolerance when it comes to the natural boundaries and feelings of children.

But, this natural caution is exactly what might prevent the scenario in the viral video. It's also what might encourage the parent to continue staying by the child's side throughout early childhood, preventing abuse of all kinds and being the child's advocate.

Interestingly, this favored attachment tends to dissipate around age 7/8, at the end of the early childhood stage and at a time when the child is better able to verbalize issues along with making more complex critical thinking decisions.

So, while the fights rage on, with each side trying to dismiss the other as wrong...I'd like to give some food for thought. Children ages 6 and under who remain attached to responsive primary caregivers are children who develop a natural sense of self, of belonging, of basic boundaries.

Ways to sustain natural boundaries in children

1. Validate feelings. When a child expresses feelings, especially negative emotions such as fear and anger, acknowledge them. For references, check out this post and this post.

2. Respect your child's no. Although you must still be the firm and guiding parent, take care to repect your child's heartfelt no as often as possible, especially in areas such as personal expression and bodily autonomy. See more here.

3. Model healthy boundaries. If you are struggling to overcome empath difficulties, or have childhood abuse scripts, work on them to provide healthier role modeling for your children. Allow your children to see healthy relationships and to see how you set down boundaries with other people.

4. Develop healthy social skills. Instead of breaking down natural boundaries, spend time every day developing healthy social skills that emphasize personal property, bodily autonomy, emotional respect, and other healthy behaviors. Just the other day, to use an example, I watched a 3-4 year old boy happily sucking on his lollipop at the playground. Another tot about the same size ran up to him and wrestled the lollipop away, then ran off to eat it. The mom of the original boy, instead of working through the altercation, told her little boy to stop crying, and that it was ok, and she was too meek to do anything! That little boy learned a rough lesson, one that would probably continue to shape him for the rest of his life. This ties into #3: work through your boundary difficulties so that you can help your children!

5. When your child cannot protect her boundaries, step in to protect them for her. This is what parenting is all about right here. When someone is invading her personal space and she is scared speechless, say something. When someone is making your son uncomfortable and he is unsure what to do, step in and offer options. With your voice, your posture, and your parenting rules, you set the tone for others and you affirm your child.

6. And FFS! Please stop forcing children to be held by someone, touched by someone, or to even stand by someone when they are uncomfortable and even scared. Steamrolling over a child's natural boundaries for a photo or to please another person sends a clear message to the child: his needs don't matter. To then try to teach him to pay attention to his instincts and to stay away from a stranger is a fruitless endeavor.

One person is missing here, because she doesn't like
characters. Is it really worth the pain and behavior modeling
just to get a photo of your child next to a scary looking character?

Learn more about grooming here:

For those who are moving away from the anxiety/fear path of stranger danger, I highly recommend Gavin DeBecker's book. He blows up a lot of myths and encourages parents to return to their original instincts and boundaries:

View the original video behind the controversy here: