Vaccinating your baby is one of the most important decisions you’ll face as a new parent, whether you choose to do it or not. If you decide not to, then you might spend a lot of time worrying about your kiddo being around lots of people and what air borne diseases they might contract, and if you decide to go ahead with vaccines you have to decide whether you want to follow the CDC guidelines or go with an alternative schedule.
For first time parents this decision can be super overwhelming, and since it’s usually met with passionate arguments from all sides it’s a hard topic to talk to other parents about. For us, we’re the first of most of our close friends to have kiddos so there weren’t many other newbies to talk to about it anyways. So naturally, being the obsessive research junkie that I am or in other words – the journalist that I am, I did tons of internet research reading everything from the CDC to Dr. Sears, read a few books on other new parent experiences, and talked to our pediatricians. Yes, that’s plural on pediatrician – we’ve gone through a few already.
For me, the biggest concern was the increase in the number of vaccines that infants are getting today compared to how many they were getting 25 years ago, per the CDC guidelines. There’s a lot of concern about the amount of aluminum we’re pumping into our kiddos at such a young age by combining so many vaccines at a time. While some vaccines are much more controversial than others, like the MMR, they have all been put under speculation. Here’s the compilation of thimerosal tables for current vaccines with a breakdown on each. Please note that the actual thimerosal content of any vaccine still depends on the lot number, but these lists can still be very informative.
Then you have Dr. Sears and his whole movement on an alternate schedule, his specific alternate schedule to be exact. While there’s been plenty of speculation on his views and the authenticity of his research, it’s still a schedule that many parents go with based on his proposed findings.
Both of these routes have their concerning issues, and they can be very scary for parents when you first dive in. But the best way to combat fear is to educate yourself. I know it’s scary to read about the possible effects of vaccines, and no parent wants to do something that will ultimately harm their child, but the more you know the more comfortable you’ll be with your decision.
Now, given that this is a very controversial topic I want to be clear that I’m in no way trying to convince anyone one way or the other. This is just my experience based on the educated decision that we made for our kiddo.
So for starters let’s start with the birth. When babies are born in the hospital they’re usually given a few vaccines right after their birth. You’ll be consulted on the Hep B vaccine, but the others you already agree to when you sign the paperwork giving the doctors permission to do whatever they see fit in terms of saving the lives of both yourself and your child. I didn’t know this was the case since I put off researching vaccines until the very end, which if you’ve read Allie’s birth story you know didn’t exactly go as planned.
At birth Allie received the K shot and the eye ointment, both are pretty standard though some parents opt out of them. We declined the Hep B vaccine because honestly, I had not done enough research to make that call and just wasn’t comfortable with giving my tiny human a vaccine 24 hours after being born. Since I wasn’t sure what route we’d take in terms of vaccinating her, I also didn’t know what to ask when looking for our pediatrician. I did know that I wanted a practice that was just one or two doctors at the most so that my kiddo would have a steady doctor you knows her and her history.
Dr. Jacobson was just that, a private practice with just her and she had decades of experience and great reviews. We loved the office staff and felt pretty comfortable with both the nurse and doctor as we went through our first visit. The issue came when we inquired about vaccine schedules and just said that as new parents we wanted to have an open conversation as to our best options. The doctor’s response was basically that she strictly followed the CDC guidelines for vaccines, and while there were parents who decided to go against that advice she simply “did not deal with parents like that.” She continued by letting us know that if that was our choice (to consider an alternative schedule) she could not be our doctor and that we would have a hard time finding a doctor that would take us.
We were taken by surprise by her response and attitude regarding vaccines, and really just the fact that she wouldn’t even have a conversation with us as to why she so strictly follows this. Especially since she has already told us that the reason she had her own practice after spending so many years in groups and hospitals, was that she liked to do things her own way and wanted to freedom to do so. So as newbies, her response threw us a little and honestly made us feel like bad parents for even inquiring. This led to us agreeing to give Allie the Hep B in the office that day.
After we left, I just felt annoyed and disappointed because, before that, we liked her and wanted her to be Allie’s pediatrician. But I still felt that it was my responsibility to have the conversation about vaccines before going with anything else, and since she could be right about us having a hard time finding a doctor (she wasn’t), I went ahead and did all the research myself.
Our next pediatrician, well actually nurse practitioner since we never actually met with the pediatrician, was at Wholistic Pediatrics and Family. We opted to go with an office that took a more natural approach to medicine, while still maintaining a classic western medicine option. This was office was super nice, I really liked that they had an interactive and user-friendly patient portal where I could literally do anything that had to do with Allie’s medical care. We had a few appointments with them, which went well and had an open conversation about vaccines where we decided on our own alternative schedule. I was so relieved to find an office that was so helpful and understanding without judging us as new parents. I also liked that they recommended prepping a babies immune system with a few vitamins (C, A, Zinc, Echinacea) prior to the vaccine to make is easier on them. Our alternative (starter) schedule and vitamin prep are below:
Sadly, at the appointment where we would be starting our vaccines, the NP informed us that she wanted to wait because there was a red flag on Allie’s measurements. Specifically that her head had shown a rapid growth between her 2 and 4-month measurements. We worried, researched which made us worry more, and waited for 3 days as the office gathered all of Allie’s previous measurements from the hospital and her first pediatrician. After 3 days we were informed that the office had incorrectly measured her head at her 2-month appointment. Strike one. Then I realized that the natural teething ointment that I purchased from them, that I had already given her twice, had expired a few months prior. Strike two. We chose not to wait for a strike three, and while I liked the NP and staff I can’t take my kiddo to a doctor’s office where I have to second guess their every move.
After those incidents, I printed out Allie’s record from the portal along with her vaccine schedule and started looking for a new pediatrician. That’s when we found Tampa Bay Pediatrics, a practice with one main doctor and two nurse practitioners. At our first appointment we went over her medical history and why we were switching, I had already confirmed prior to the appointment that they would work with us on an alternative vaccine schedule. We met with the nurse practitioner, who we loved, and she gave Allie a thorough examination. I think the most thorough examination she’s had since birth, even checking her development in terms or rolling, crawling and teething. We went over our already thought out vaccine schedule and got started that same day.
Now I don’t know if the vitamin prepping would have made a difference, but I do wish we had prepped her system with a little Vitamin C at least, especially given how hard she took it. She had a fever for about two days, although it never went higher than 101, and was visibly uncomfortable for about 4 days. This totally threw off her sleep schedule, eating habits, and was just an overall hard for her. It was such a rough few days that I even questioned whether I was doing the right thing by vaccinating her at all. Which I think is a natural response, after all vaccinating your kiddos is essentially making them just a little sick in order to help them build antibodies so they can fight these illnesses if and when they do ever contract them. To ease my mind I did some more research on the illness that the vaccine was helping her fight, and to me, these illnesses and how quickly they can escalate was a lot scarier.
After everything, I am so glad that we didn’t settle for a pediatrician we weren’t totally comfortable with and waited until we found the right fit. Is it a bit of a hassle? Yes, but what’s the alternative? Having a doctor that you can’t trust or have a say in your child’s medical care? At the end we’re happy with the pediatric office we take our kiddo to, and comfortable with the vaccine schedule we decided on as well.