Reducing Your Child’s Risk of Autism and Related Disorders Prior to and During/After Labor and Birth, and the Newborn Infant, Part II

In Part I of this series, how to reduce your child’s risk of autism and related disorders during pre-conception, pregnancy, and pre-labor was addressed. We covered some important steps to take and factors of which to be aware in protecting our unborn children from toxins and other factors that could lead to the development of these health concerns.

Compared to just 5 decades or so ago, we have a much higher concentration of toxins and chemicals in our water, soil, air, food system, and in many of the things we do and come into contact with on a daily basis. In The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health, author Randall Fitzgerald cites the science journal Public Health: “the incidence of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and major neuron disorders, was found to have tripled in nine Western countries, including the United States, during the period of 1974 to 1997.

The most likely causes researchers identified were exposure to pesticides sprayed on crops, synthetic chemicals from the processed foods we consume, and industrial chemicals used in almost every aspect of our modern lives.”

As with autism, Alzheimer’s disease as well as other disorders have been found to be connected to high levels of mercury in the body, which includes exposure to pharmaceutical products including vaccines. That’s why everything you can do to reduce your child’s toxic load from environmental sources will move toward prevention or reduction of autism and related health issues from occurring – from his or her environment in the womb to after birth.

Prior to and during labor, consider the following:

  • Minimize or decline intrusive procedures during and after labor such as ultrasound, induction with drugs such as Pitocin, pain medication, epidurals, forceps, c-section, not delaying cord clamping, using Vitamin K in baby’s eyes, removing baby from mother and placing in alternate environment for any length of time. Research these procedures and discuss them with your practitioner. Pathways to Family WellnessIssue #21 has an article that relates many of often unnecessary procedures to an increased risk of autism.
  • There are benefits to home birth or birth at a birthing center as opposed to a medical center or hospital. According to Jennifer Margulis, author of Your Baby, Your Way, despite state-of-the-art medical technology, the U.S. has among the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the industrialized world. Why would a system that is considered the most technologically advance and safe have these statistics?
  • There is a higher risk of autism in cesarean-delivered babies. Although it’s tempting to skip labor, labor is actually mother nature’s way of preparing the child for life outside the womb. The baby’s neurological function is enhanced by naturally passing through the birth canal and through cranial molding.
  • The baby receives tremendous benefit of exposure to beneficial microflora and bacteria in the birth canal during natural birth that provides an important foundation for health and immunity not just immediately following birth but throughout the baby’s lifetime. An association has been established between c-section and health issues including celiac disease and gastroenteritis, allergies, Type 1 Diabetes, asthma and obesity.
  • Walk during labor, and stay in an upright position or on all fours as much as possible for pushing and delivery. This greatly maximizes the ability of your pelvis to easily open and birth. It minimizes the need for doctor intervention and pulling with the use of forceps and vacuum extraction. Any form of pulling or rotation to the baby’s delicate spine in labor may have a lasting affect on his or her future nerve system function.
  • Interview several pediatricians, naturopaths, or other knowledgeable child health care providers during your pregnancy to find one who accepts your views on health and is open to discussing and giving careful consideration to alternatives to care using invasive procedures, drugs and vaccines. Many parents are now seeking providers outside the typical allopathic model, choosing instead holistic practices which offer safer, more natural options to support optimal health and well-being.
  • Do the research about safe, non-invasive practices to approach pregnancy, labor and birth. From Midwives Alliance, North America, according to the peer-reviewed Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health (JMWH), “a landmark study** confirms that among low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.This study, which examines nearly 17,000 courses of midwife-led care, is the largest analysis of planned home birth in the U.S. ever published.The results of this study, and those of its  companion article about the development of the MANA Stats registry, confirm the safety and overwhelmingly positive health benefits for low-risk mothers and babies who choose to birth at home with a midwife. At every step of the way, midwives are providing excellent care. This study enables families, providers and policymakers to have a transparent look at the risks and benefits of planned home birth as well as the health benefits of normal physiologic birth.”

When you consider options available for preparing your body for pregnancy, childbirth, and after care of a newborn infant, it can be extremely overwhelming to sift through all the information that is available. Remember that anything advising you to do something that goes against your intuition has the potential to adversely affect your child’s health. If something doesn’t feel or sound right, trust your gut instinct and do research before participating in something you think might not be safe.  

Modern medicine has many things to say about procedures, medications, and chemicals being “safe options” for your pregnancy, childbirth, and aftercare choices, but please carefully consider what the pharmaceutical companies and medical industry have to gain before you choose to use artificial means and prescription medication or drugs as a part of your overall program in your pre and post-childcare regimen.

Ways to protect your child’s health during early newborn infant stages following birth:

(some items from Pathways To Family Wellness by Maureen McDonnell, RN)

  • Bond with your baby as much as possible. You will need your sleep, so rest when you can. But be sure to hold and talk to your infant as much as possible. Co-sleeping is an option many parents are adopting to ensure continued contact with their babies. Some parents need the separation time from their children, but know that if you do decide to take the co-sleep option, your child will not be sleeping with you forever, and separation will occur when the time is right.
  • Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to not only provide optimal nutrition, but to ensure bonding between you and baby. While breastfeeding, pay attention to dietary habits by consuming an abundance of traditional fats and proteins (olive oil, coconut oil, butter, lard, tallow, fermented cod liver oil, grass-fed meats and poultry, pasture-raised eggs, and raw dairy from a known, clean source), fresh organic fruits and vegetables, naturally fermented foods like home-made yogurt, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented vegetables, and sprouted/soaked/fermented grains. Ensure you are drinking plenty of filtered water with minerals – either use real sea salt or add unsweetened cranberry juice not from concentrate to your water intake.
  • Wear your baby as often as possible. Close contact provides emotional support and frequent motion. These factors strengthen and support neurological development in baby. Find a good baby-wearing device that is comfortable for you and your baby to use. Here is a good resource for information on babywearing – Babywearing International.
  • Because birth is strenuous on both the mother and baby, consider having care by a qualified chiropractor shortly after birth. Spinal alignment is essential for healthy recovery and continued stamina. Your baby’s cranial and spinal development will affect his or her nerve system function for the rest of life. Early care supports strong nerve and immune system function.
  • Minimize toxins and pollutants in your baby’s environment. If you haven’t already, consider natural, non-toxic, organic, and sustainable products and living with your baby.  A great resource for how to do this and stay within your budget is the book The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet written by two mothers who went green for less than a thousand dollars (I can’t verify this, but apparently the average parents spend an average of $7000 on each newborn child). There are ways to do it even cheaper through hand-me downs, DIY, yard and garage sales, and trading.
  • Although it is an added expense, if possible, consider purchase an organic crib and/or bed mattress. Be aware of bedding and clothing treated with flame retardants and heavy metals in the dye used for these items. They contain high levels of antimony and other toxic substances that can be harmful to your infant (and you).
  • Consider non-toxic and/or organic clothing and other supplies/toys for your baby. Remember that clothing and other items come into direct contact with skin, and anything in those substances can potentially be absorbed into the bloodstream even faster than foods that are digested.
  • Avoid using plastic-ware and bottles for your baby. These substances are not bio-degradable and many contain toxic chemicals such as BPA and PCBs leach into food and drinks. Alternatives include bamboo, stainless steel, glass (for some uses), wood, and ceramic. Here are some useful links: The Soft Landing for a list of non-toxic and safe baby dishes and utensils, and Passionate Homemaking’s review of safe cookware for your family.
  • Use non-toxic substances on your baby’s skin for personal care and bathing. Castille soap diluted in filtered water, coconut oil, olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, aloe vera, and natural herbals without foreign ingredients are good choices. Avoid personal care products containing ingredients you are unfamiliar with – shampoos, skin creams, baby bath soap or gel products, and others. Become a label reader and if you don’t make your own mixtures at home, learn which brands are safe to use. Consult with the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database for individual product information and ingredients review.
  • Consider diapers carefully. Cloth diapers are good for your baby, but they do require more effort and water for washing than disposable diapers. Organic diapers can be expensive, but commercial diapers may contain ingredients that are undesirable for contact with your baby’s skin.  Here is a review of two eco-friendly brand diapers. And here is a good resource for everything you want to know about cloth diapering.
  • Consider dishwashing and clothing detergent options. Eco-Nuts and Soap Nuts are great for laundry and economical. They can be used multiple times for clothes washing. See The Family Homestead for recipes to make your own detergent. DIY Natural has a good home-made dish detergent recipe as well. Good brands for dish detergent include Biokleen and Nature Clean.
  • Avoid keeping electronic devices near where your baby sleeps. Clock radios, televisions, cell phones, tablets, computers, and other equipment that emits electro-magnetic and/or wireless radiation.
  • Avoid all medications and vaccinations until the child is older and you can research and make an informed decision about  the potential affects to your child’s immune, digestive, and neurological systems. Remember that a good health foundation with a healthy environment and nutrient-dense foods are going to take your child a long way in building up a healthy immune system.

In Part III of this series, we will discuss breastfeeding and how to make nourishing, homemade baby formula if you are not in a position to breastfeed as well as traditional approaches to optimally nourish a growing and developing child with nutrient-dense foods beyond infanthood.

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