Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nursing While Vaccinating

Vaccinating your child is a big decision that every parent should seriously consider before their child is born. There are risks involved when you vaccinate or medicate your child, therefore it is dire that as a parent you are well informed of the risks and side-effects before making your choice to go ahead with either. Not only is it important to understand the risks, but to also take into account your lifestyle and intended future for your child. One of the main reasons we were inclined toward vaccinating our daughter was due to our interest in enrolling her in a private school. There are some schools that will accept an unvaccinated child, but there are many that will not. There is also the risk of disease that comes with placing your child in an environment with a large number of relative strangers. The only way we could rationalize NOT vaccinating our daughter was if we could provide her with home schooling, but as we cannot it did not seem like the right choice for our family.

After deciding that vaccinating would be appropriate, it was time to research the individual vaccines and decide which ones were needed and which were not. Just because you decide to vaccinate does not mean you have to take every vaccine the doctor recommends. This is where you must research specific vaccines and look into what they are for and why they are still being used, how effective they are, the prevalence of the disease that they prevent, etc. Educate yourself and you will be much more confident in your decision. Confidence is very important, especially in this case, because you will have to walk into your pediatrician's office and tell him or her what you have decided and if it is to not vaccinate you are likely to be met with some resistance. If you are confident in your decision and have done enough research to back up your choice, your doctor's reaction should not intimidate you.

Let's skip to the well-check appointment. After the pediatrician has "examined" your child and given you the usual run-down of what to expect at this stage of development and what to look forward to, he or she will leave and a nurse will return with up to four different shots for your child. The first time this happened my parental instinct kicked in and all I could think was "I need to nurse my daughter to ease her pain from the shots." I had read about women doing so, but I didn't think twice about it until put in the situation. So, I asked the nurse if I could breastfeed my daughter while she administered the vaccines. She gave me a dirty look and said "no, she would choke when she starts to cry." Aside from the fact that I wanted to punch the woman for her rude tone and expression, I was really annoyed with how uneducated she was with breastfeeding. While it is very possible for an infant to choke on formula coming out of a bottle, it is very unlikely that your infant will ever have any kind of choking problem at the breast. The difference between the two is that when your infant is not suckling, the breast will not give them milk, but if they have a bottle in their mouth it will continue to leak (even if only a tiny amount) until you remove the bottle. Not only that, but your child has a natural instinct to breathe when it needs to, just like any adult. If she starts to cry because she is in pain over something, my daughter would naturally unlatch from the nipple and breathe. I wanted to attack the nurse with all of this information, like a lioness protecting her cubs, but instead I sat mute and angry while my daughter squirmed and screamed after receiving her first batch of vaccines.

I learned something very valuable that day. I gave the nurse's assumption more credence than my own well-educated knowledge of my child and I was very wrong to do so. As soon as the nurse finished with the shots I attached Madilyn to the nipple and let our closeness soothe her. The nurse became visibly uncomfortable with the situation (even though I was well covered) and hurried away. It became terribly apparent that not only was the woman uneducated about breastfeeding, but she was also uncomfortable with the idea of it occurring in front of her. I don't care if she was "just a nurse" and not the doctor, any professional who works with infants and young children should be educated on breastfeeding. Why is it that the most natural and beneficial way to supply nutrition to an infant (breastfeeding) is something so foreign to a pediatric nurse?

After that I insisted that I nurse my daughter while she received her vaccinations, especially when her father could not accompany us to the well-check visit. It wasn't necessary after about 6 months old, at which point she was more soothed when her father held her and we both tried distracting her. But the point is that every parent needs to trust their intuition and do what they believe (or know) is best for their child. Don't be intimidated by doctors or nurses. They have a degree or degrees in medicine and health, but their education is to serve masses of people, not to specialize in your individual child. A parent knows their child best, so trust yourself.

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