parenting

4 Unique Adoption Stories From Real Women

These stories were contributed by real women, their stories are their own words and experiences.

 

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and approximately 135,000 children in the US are adopted every year. Adoption can be a controversial subject; it can be a difficult, heart-wrenching decision, it can give new life to the innocent, and it can present major obstacles and conflicting emotions for some as well. Each adoption story is unique; each adoption story has a different perspective, but regardless, it is still real to the people who live through the process of adoption. In honor of Adoption Awareness Month, we at Primal Kidz Mag decided to do a piece highlighting several diverse stories of real women who have either adopted children or were adopted themselves. 

On Adopting:

“As a parent of two adopted children I wanted to write about this subject purely because when I was going through the process I needed someone to tell me that the feelings I had were normal. I needed someone to turn to, and I needed advice from someone who had adopted a child themselves, but I didn’t know anyone. My life was full of well meaning family and friends all willing to give me the advice they thought I needed but it didn’t really skim the surface of how I was feeling throughout this long and arduous process. 
My background story is similar to thousands of other adoptive parents; I was straight out of years of failed fertility treatments. We were sitting on a beach in Egypt after just finding out that our final attempt at treatment had failed, and while we were discussing our future we decided the next natural step for us was adoption. Excited, we decided to make the call when we got back home. We spent the rest of the holiday talking non stop about our plans. On our return I called Social Services and was told someone would be in touch to pay us a visit.
I cleaned the house like someone possessed on the day the social worker arrived, and I tried my best to look like I had it all together. The social worker took down some details, and asked us some very personal questions regarding miscarriages, fertility treatments, and our relationship. She then told us the next step would be that we would need to go to a meeting for prospective adopters which would give us all the information we needed to know about the types of children needing loving homes and parents. Sadly for us she informed us that we were not able to attend this first meeting until we had “grieved” for the children we might have had through fertility treatment. Looking back they were right to give us that six months to recover but at the time the delay was torture for us.

Six months dragged by and we eventually walked like terrified kittens into the meeting, about twelve other nervous couples just like us were in the room too. We sat and listened as they spoke to us about the horrific lives these little children have had to endure in their ever so short lives; how many of these kids had been in foster care all of their lives and some of them would continue to be untill adulthood. I felt utterly utterly sad, I wanted to help them all and felt useless that I was unable to do so.
Next a really lovely adoptive couple came to tell us all about their experience as adoptive parents. They told us they had adopted a little girl then later a little boy, and I was mesmerized by their increadibly happy and heartwarming story and excited that this could be us in a few years time. We left the meeting knowing that we’d been put on this path for a reason and we understood for the first time why the fertility treatment hadn’t worked. I got in the car and cried, bucketfuls of tears. I’d never been more sure of anything in my life.”

– By Claire Louise Davison


On Being Adopted:

“Adoption! Most people think of adoption as a beautiful thing; moms and dads adding new babies and toddlers to their families, but most don’t envision older children being adopted. Well that is my story, how a nine year old learned that adoption is not always positive.

Parents may not always be prepared for the trauma, abuse, and mental barriers that a child may have experienced and may still be coping with. In my case I was taken from my birth family and placed into state care, where I grew a very strong bond with my foster family. I did not move around foster homes as much as some children do, as I was lucky to have an amazing foster family that was a perfect fit for me; a family that made me feel safe and taught me the love of Jesus Christ. My life was perfect! And then I was adopted.

This should have been great, because it was what I had always wanted. My adoption seemed to go smooth. I was able to meet the family several times and even spend the night on weekends. They were a great family with a daughter who became like a best friend to me. They were a family of Christian faith with a mom and a dad who loved and cared for each other, but above all else loved their daughter. This seemed like a perfect family for a child who had become accustomed to hearing the word of God everyday and praying every night; a child who fell in love with having a real family and even a sister!

Something didn’t seem right though. Many people felt uneasy about this adoption and said that we should wait a little longer before making it final, but the state gets what the state wants, so my adoption was finalized. My new family banned my foster family from coming around me.
Soon after, the truth started to come out and things began to change. It all started with their faith. They had lied saying they were Christians when in reality they were atheists. Now, I can see where you would say that they lied in fear that they would not be able to adopt, so I blame this part on the state. The system is broken. I can say that not everything was bad. For a few years my life was okay, as I got to cheerlead like I loved, and I did great in school, but I had to continue to battle for my faith.
Over the next few years the fighting in the family began and got worse and worse. I won’t get into that to much, but it was just a bad environment with a lot of fighting. I can remember a staircase railing being torn off the wall and thrown, and us children crying in our rooms listening to the fighting; parents in separate rooms and divorce papers on the table. Finally, they divorced and separated, settling with other people; but that didn’t stop the fighting.

I never had that “unbreakable bond” with my parents so they did not understand when I began to question my birth and who my birth family was. I lived with my dad for a while until the fighting was too much and I moved in with my mom. It was good for a while but of course it did not last and the fighting continued until one day the fighting was so bad I went and stayed with a friend to clear the air. I never thought that when trying to go back home the locks would be changed and the police would have to help get my stuff. I will not tell you I was a perfect child. I was your typical teenager who does not like to clean their room and always has to have the last word in an argument, but I do not believe I should have lost my family over it.
So for me, adoption was not a good experience and I will live the rest of my life learning to cope with my childhood and then my adoption. Although it wasn’t a good experience for me it has given me a passion for children and the hope to someday adopt a child; to give them the love that I wanted as a child.”

By Lela Jean Hopkins


“I have known for as long as I can remember that I was adopted. I actually don’t remember ever not knowing. My parents did such a great job at making me feel normal that they got a call from my kindergarten teacher asking if I was adopted. Apparently I went to school asking where everyone was adopted from. I refer to my parents who adopted me ad Mom and Dad. I have never seen them as any less than that and they have never treated me as less. I call my biological mother by her name, Dee.

My mother had undergone several IVF treatments and was fighting the heart wrenching battle of infertility. After several miscarriages, she was told she would never be able to bare children. My mom adopted my two older brothers as toddlers. Dee was great friends with my mother and she confided in her that she was pregnant but did not believe she would carry the baby to term. She was unstable financially, didn’t have a job, and having the baby would end her relationship. She was dependent on drugs and alcohol and knew the baby would likely suffer because of those things as well. My mother promised her that if she would continue her pregnancy to term, she would help her find a home for the baby. Dee’s only condition to the agreement was that my mother never told her family she had given a baby up for adoption. My mom made and kept this promise to her.

Eventually my mother and father agreed that it was God’s will foe them to take the baby. At the time they believed they would be adding a third boy to their family and they were prepared for accommodating special needs. They were preparing their hearts for a long stay in the NICU and for a long road ahead of them.

Two weeks past her due date, Dee gave birth to a perfectly healthy 9-pound baby girl. Everyone was shocked, but filled with joy! My parents took me home and gave me the best life imaginable. I was always curious about my biological family, mostly my sister. Just before my 18th birthday, my mother and I talked and agreed that it was time for me to meet them. My mom found my sister on social media. My sister had known about me for several years and was thrilled to hear that I wanted to meet her. She had lived in the same city as me for several years. We had lunch and learned about one another’s lives. We instantly became best friends. My sister took me to meet Dee. She was ecstatic to meet me and see that she had made the best decision. I went to a family reunion and met more relatives.

Later I found siblings from my biological father’s side of the family. My biological father had already passed away. None of the family on his side of the family knew I existed, but they were excited to learn about me. They were mostly shocked that he kept such a big secret.

I have become close to a few of my biological siblings and have talked to all of them at least once. Biologically there are eight, that I know of.

Since then my mother has adopted two of my second cousins. They each have their own unique stories.

My father passed away when I was 17. Since then my mother adopted 2 more children. Out of the four children she has adopted, she was not actively seeking adoption at the time. We were each placed into her life and in need. She opened her heart and her arms every time. It is difficult to think about how any of our lives may have turned out if she had not been so self-less. I see her in myself, daily. She has taught me so many things, but mostly she has taught me the beauty that can come from opening your heart to others in need.”

– This person wishes to remain anonymous.


On Giving Up A Child For Adoption:

“My life has always been surrounded by children. I started caring for kids in my parents basement, running summer camps and activities for the neighborhood kids. As I got older, I got into child care, and a little later I became a parent. I had two little girls of my own, and then I decided that the gift of a child was so wonderful and life changing that I wanted to help another family experience that gift. I applied, and became a surrogate for a couple in 2011. They seemed to be a religious couple who wanted their last child to complete their family. When I met them they were loving and compassionate and I thought we had a great match. In October 2011, I had a double embryo transfer, and one of them survived. I was pregnant!!

At 18 weeks, a routine ultrasound showed potential complications. We had a repeat scan a couple of weeks later, but the potential problems compounded with each ultrasound, and it wasn’t long before I found myself being prepped for an amniocentesis at the maternal fetal medicine office at my local hospital. At the last second, the intended parents changed their mind. They didn’t want more testing; they wanted to terminate the pregnancy and be done with it. They came to me with their request, and I was heartbroken. They wanted to give up. Always the optimist, I had thought during the process that eventually things would be ok, but it wasn’t going the way I’d hoped at all.

What they never counted on was the wild card, and that was me. Being a pro-life person, I could not bring myself to honor their request. The little life inside my belly was a constant reminder that I had been given a very special job to protect this child. Her biology wasn’t important to me, what was important was that she be given a chance, even if that chance meant that I would suffer through a potential fetal death later on. I was willing to risk that chance to follow my gut, which told me that she was strong and capable of overcoming whatever she was facing. After all, she’d only had a 20% chance of successfully implanting as a zygote, and she’d overcome that even amidst power failures and Snowstorm Alfred which had left me without the medications I was supposed to be taking to maintain the pregnancy for over a week. This child was a fighter, and I was convinced that I was supposed to protect her until she could make her entrance into the world.

Little did I know I would be fighting for so much more for her. With no biological tie to the child that I carried, it was a legal gamble if I would be able to have a say in what happened after she was born. I no longer trusted the intended parents, as their wishes had been disguised through communication with their lawyer and neither myself or my own lawyers could figure out what they were trying to do. It took a lot of courage, and a lot of faith in other people for me to continue on that pregnancy journey on my own. I had very little outside help, and so many voices in my head telling me I was wrong for fighting for this baby and her life. But the decision had been made, and now I had to figure out how to get through, and what would happen to her after she was born. I didn’t feel like anyone else was fighting FOR her, so that became my job. I took on the responsibility by naming the child in my uterus… I called her Stormie.

I knew that once Stormie was born there would be a lot of things to work through. My lawyer and I were determined to get her into the best possible situation, but it was proving to be difficult to figure out how to do that in my homestate. Eventually, I moved out of state to a location that would have a good hospital for Stormie’s care as well as laws that would protect me and her from the intended parents. There were still some legal uncertainties, but we were much more confident about being able to find the best possible outcome in a place where I was considered the child’s legal mother, and where I would be able to have a say in medical and other decisions after she was born. At the same time I started really thinking about the reality of having a special needs child.

My life has never been one of glamour or affluence. My reasons for doing surrogacy were not for the money, but I didn’t have much. When the intended parents had asked for termination of the pregnancy and I refused, they stopped paying my monthly expense payment. This meant that I was on the verge of being broke constantly. I had stopped working shortly after becoming pregnant, and when I moved I was living off of the charity of various friends and family who believed that I was making the right choice. But I knew that after the child was born, I would not have the financial resources to be able to keep her with me and make sure she was taken care of well. I was already a single mother with two children, but my kids’ father and I were patching things up and I knew he was not mentally or physically prepared to care for a special needs child. At the same time, we also struggled with the biological tie that the intended father had to Stormie. They had the potential to make things VERY difficult for me as I tried to get proper care for her, and in the court’s eyes the intended family would look much more financially stable than I was. I wrestled with the choice to keep her or not for months.

I did find someone though. In the very beginning of my troubles with this pregnancy, I had reached out to a local woman who had two adopted special needs babies. Rachel* (changed name) had been an amazing resource for me, and was truly one of the few people that I believed to be on my side. When I started thinking about adoption, she was the first person I talked to. She was gentle and firm; we have very similar outlooks on life and how to raise children, and I was in awe of her support and resources. Although I was still unsure, and very much wanted to keep Stormie for myself, I asked her if she would be interested in adopting if I went that route. She told me yes in a heartbeat, but also emphasized that even if I wasn’t giving Stormie up for adoption, she would be there to support me in this journey anyways.

The last month of my pregnancy was incredibly stressful and uncertain. The intended parents started playing legal games, acting interested in the child, but maintaining that they did not wish to take custody or have anything to do with the child I was carrying. Their actions left me worried about what could happen after the birth. The hospital social worker was very involved, and kept me apprised of several legal developments. In the best interests of everyone we decided to cut contact with the intended parents and enter the hospital system anonymously so that we could focus on getting Stormie earthside with as little stress and outside influence as possible. She was born on June 25, 2012. Rachel was there within hours of her birth.

I spent the next days terrified. Stormie was in the NICU, as we had expected, and we were all on edge about what would happen next with the intended family. I had panic attacks when the phone would ring. Rachel and I decided that she could never be left alone, as the intended family tried to exploit any avenue they could to find out information. I was so stressed out merely by their influence that I could only imagine what they would try to do if I attempted to maintain custody. It was the most difficult decision of my life, but 11 days after Stormie’s birth I appeared in the family court to sign away my rights and allow Rachel to take over as primary custodian.

I was numb, and I didn’t want to, but I knew that giving her up for adoption was the only way that she would be safe. I didn’t want to spend the next 18 years fighting with the intended parents to be sure that she got proper care, and potentially lose her to them because of my own financial situation. At least with Rachel I knew she would be well taken care of, and loved for as long as she is on this earth for.

Stormie is 4 now. She’s amazing and beautiful and nothing that any doctor ever expected. Her fighting spirit reminds me of what I’m capable of.. and how precious and unpredictable life is. I still miss her terribly, but I also know that she is in the most capable hands I could have provided and that gives me peace.”

-By Crystal Kelley

 

5 Creative and Fun Activities For Cold Winter Days

This article was contributed courtesy of Leah McDermott, a natural child learning specialist.

It may be starting to get cold outside, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck inside! Children can benefit just as much from daily outdoor time in the winter as they can any other time of the year, so it’s just as important to find ways to get out there and enjoy all of the fantastic changes that take place in nature during the colder months.

Here are five of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors, even when it’s snowy, rainy, or super chilly:

Animal Track Hunt: 

animal tracks

This activity is best done the morning after a fresh snowfall, but anytime there is snow on the ground will do! Head outside (bonus if you’re near a wooded area) with a camera or blank notebook/pencil and search for animal tracks in the snow! When you find some, take pictures and/or have your child draw what they see in their notebook. Keep in mind that not all animals make paw prints! What might a snake or bug look like making its way through the snow? Ask your child which animal they think the tracks belong to, and jot ideas down. Once you’re back inside warming up, search through animal track books – Tracks, Scats and Signs by Leslie Dendy is a favorite of ours – or utilize the internet to help you accurately identify the tracks you found!

 

Frozen Bubbles frozen bubbles

Save this one for when the temps are super de-duper cold, as you need it to be well below freezing outside for the bubbles to freeze rapidly. This is about as easy as it gets – simply grab that container of bubble juice from the summer (or whip up your own), head outside, and start blowing! The bubbles should freeze before they hit the ground. This gives your child a rare opportunity to get a good look at a bubble, watch the crystals form on it, and to see what it looks like when it pops/breaks. Talk with your child about the differences between bubbles in the summer and bubbles in the winter.

Snowball Lanterns 

snowball lanterns

To prep for this activity, all you need is some glowsticks and fresh snow! Have your child make a bunch of snowballs. Place glowsticks standing up in the snow and carefully stack snowballs loosely around the glowstick to form a snowball lantern! This is an especially fun activity in the late afternoon (you know… when the kiddos are in that pre-bedtime meltdown mode), because the lanterns can be really enjoyed when the sun has gone down! You can really ramp up the excitement for this activity if you put the glowsticks outside on the ground when the snow begins to fall. This way, the snow will cover the sticks, creating a super fun and colorful “Northern Lights” effect in the yard!

 

Frozen Scavenger Hunt scavenger hunt

This activity will work whether you have snow on the ground or not. It takes a little prep, but will provide tons of fun! Gather an assortment of small toys and objects from around the house and freeze them in ice cubes. When ready, hide the frozen objects outdoors and have your child go on a hunt to find all of them. Extend this to a literacy activity by making a checklist for your child to read and check off as they search. Once you’ve gathered all of the objects (and maybe hid them again once or twice,) bring them inside and place all of the frozen cubes in the warm bath water with your child. Your child can watch the toys thaw out as they warm up too!

Indoor Winter 

indoor winter

Let’s face it – sometimes, it’s just too cold to be outside. But that doesn’t mean that you and your child can’t still enjoy the beautiful winter scene that nature provides! So, on one of those super cold days, bring the outdoors inside! Set up a tarp or plastic sheet on the floor and bring in some containers of snow and an assortment of outdoor winter nature objects – like icicles, pinecones, frozen sticks or rocks, etc. Give your child a variety of instruments to sort, scoop, create, and examine the nature with. Mix some food coloring in spray bottles of water and let them “paint” the snow. Watercolors work great on ice blocks. Experiment with ways to melt icicles fastest – use things like pickle juice, warm water, and salt. Have fun digging into wintery goodness while still staying warm inside!

BONUS: Tips for Dressing Appropriately for Outdoor Winter Fun

Though there are some areas where temps dip far too low to safely play outside regardless of winter gear, in general, the issues with being too cold to venture outdoors usually lie in the clothing choices and not the thermometer. Here are some of our best tips for ensuring you stay protected to best enjoy nature in the winter:

  • Cover Up! Your body will lose heat through any uninsulated area of your body. Put on a hat and a scarf; make sure as little skin is exposed as possible!
  • Cold Hands = Cold Essentials! If your hands are cold, that doesn’t just mean that you need gloves – it also means that your essential organs/core aren’t insulated well enough! Focus on covering the mid-section to help the warm blood flow to your extremities.
  • Layer Up! For best protection on your feet and hands, start with a silk liner, cover with wool, and then a waterproof shell or layer.
  • Check out some more tips HERE.

So, get bundled up and get out there and enjoy all of the beauty and wonder that Winter has to share with us! There’s so much to explore and learn during this time of the year!


leah mcdermottLeah McDermott, M.Ed. is an adventuresome mama of two rambunctious boys, living happily with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She spends her days reading, cooking, exploring outdoors, and learning alongside her littles. She is a former Master Educator and Reading Specialist turned homeschooling mom and natural education consultant and speaker. Leah helps families and educators transform the way their children learn, through child-led experiences exploring the beauty and wonder of nature. She believes passionately that when children spend time freely exploring the world around them, they grow up to be compassionate, caring individuals with incredible problem solving skills, and that through nature-inspired learning, we can change the world, one kid at a time.

You can learn more about Leah, and follow along with her at the following sites:
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Media Attacks On Breastfeeding – Are They Warranted?

This abridged article was written by Tracy Cassels, PhD, and originally appeared on her blog, Evolutionary Parenting

As seems to always be the case, when a new article comes out suggesting breastfeeding “isn’t all that”, the media pounces on it. Tons of articles crop up reminding us that the “benefits” of breastfeeding either aren’t all that great or that we’re ignoring real risks about breastfeeding.  Well, another new article has done just that and grabbed headlines in most news outlets, proclaiming real risks associated with breastfeeding[1]. 

 

The Study That Spurred Media Driven Sentiments Urging Breastfeeding Should Be Limited:

The research looks at serum levels of perfluoritnated alkylates substances (PFASs) in children and compares rates of these chemicals based on breastfeeding exclusivity and duration.  The study, conducted almost 15 years ago, jointly by researchers at Harvard University’s Chen School of Public Health, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Southern Denmark, and the Faroese Hospital System, examined levels of these chemicals (which we don’t want in our system, discussion below) in a cohort of Faroese children at ages 11 months, 18 months, and 5 years and looked at how these levels were influenced by breastfeeding practices.  There were data for a total of 81 children. (Notably, the researchers included birth “serum levels”, but this was based solely on maternal values that were extrapolated to the infant. 

There is research on how these chemicals cross the placental barrier which was used to make the calculation herein, but this birth number remains controversial because it was not obtained directly from the infant and thus is not actually a serum level, but an estimate.)  The researchers found that the duration of exclusive breastfeeding increased the concentrations of several PFASs by 16-31% per month of exclusive breastfeeding.  Partial and no breastfeeding had very little effect on the serum levels of various PFASs.  The models controlled for previous serum levels, ingestion of whale meat (a prominent source of PFAS exposure exposure in the Faroe Islands), child sex, and the interaction between child sex and breastfeeding. This was done to try and ensure that the values found are related to breastfeeding per se and not another possible variable.

After weaning, children generally showed steady decreases in their levels of PFAS in accordance with half-life measurements found in previous research. Furthermore, the levels reached in these infants at 11 months (when most peaks were found, though it may have been higher during breastfeeding) were often higher than that of their mother. The transmission of these chemicals via breast milk suggested to at least one of the authors – Dr. Grandjean – that we should think twice about promoting breastfeeding for any duration after 3-4 months, and especially about promoting exclusive breastfeeding.  For the authors taken as a whole (i.e., what was written in the article), the concern is about the degree to which we are finding these chemicals in our environment and how these chemicals build-up in the human body over development. However, the media focus has been exclusively on the “risk” associated with breastfeeding.

 

What PFAS Are And Why We Should Care:

PFAS are chemicals used to make all sorts of industrial products and they enter our bloodstream due to our use of these chemicals and through our diet and drinking water.  Notably, the ingestion of these chemicals has been found in a wide array of foods, including meats, fish, and even microwave popcorn[2]. However, a review of the quantities in food products and the range of consumption (high versus low) suggest it is rare for people to exceed health-based guidance values[3], but there are exceptions to this. For example, a diet high in contaminated fish can result in higher toxicity levels or occupations where there is consistent exposure to these chemicals can result in toxicity[4]. Thus, women should be aware of their exposure levels both with respect to foods eaten and work performed.

When levels are high, it can have negative effects. One study found that vaccine uptake (specifically tetanus and diphtheria) was linked to PFAS exposure in that the vaccine antibody concentrations were found to be lower in those children with higher levels of serum-PFC (two specific long-chain perfluorinated alkylates which have been limited in use in recent years)[2].  Animal models have led to concerns about the health effects of these chemicals on humans, though epidemiological research is still scarce.  Many regions have put and are putting restrictions on the use of PFASs in manufacturing in order to limit their use and thus overall human exposure, especially in terms of the amount allowed in drinking water.  

 

But Wait – The Study Was Conducted 15 Years Ago:

For starters, more limits on the use of some of these PFASs have been enacted in the last 15 years, such as regulations on acceptable drinking water levels.  This regulation means that likely we are exposed to lower levels these chemicals than before.  Second, because the longer-chain PFASs were found to possibly be harmful thanks to animal research, replacements have been found by many of the major users of these chemicals[12][13].  For example, in 2005 the US Environmental Protection Agency declared that PFOA, one specific PFAS, was “likely to be carcinogenic in humans”[14] and we have since seen a drastic decline in the use of this specific PFAS in manufacturing.  These changes have meant that overall levels of some PFASs have actually decreased in the population of the years[12-13] and with this decrease, it is possible that the levels our infants are reaching are not of concern from a developmental or health perspective.

 

Despite The Study’s Claims, Breastfeeding Should Not Be Avoided Or Limited

There are a couple reasons for this.  First and foremost, the hypothesized concern in terms of PFAS exposure is based on research with respect to immune function and the uptake of certain vaccines[2].  However, as we know from myriad other studies, immune function is improved with extended breastfeeding.  In fact, as I’ve covered here  and here, the more research looks at breastfeeding in an evolutionary or biological manner, which includes exclusive breastfeeding for approximately six months to age 2 or longer, the greater risks to various health outcomes we see associated with formula use.

Second, the research makes a good case for breast milk being one of the most prominent ways in which infants obtain levels of PFASs in their system and the levels found were high, though we have no research proving any associated health problems in humans with the levels we are seeing (though there are studies that have found health problems in animal models[7], but as mentioned, epidemiological research has not found this to be the case in humans[6]). 

 

Why Choosing Formula Over Breastmilk Is Not The Answer:

Although formula does not contain high levels of PFASs, in most Western nations one of the primary sources of exposure to PFASs is through our drinking water (as opposed to the Faroe Islands)[6].  Well, guess what is used to mix with formula?  Thus, the question remains about how beneficial it would be to use formula mixed with PFA-contaminated water which the infant ingests directly instead of breast milk which at least also contains all sorts of immune-enhancing elements (see here), even for just these particular chemicals.  And of course, all of this ignores the myriad other ingredients found in formula that may be hazardous for infants or that may be influencing their immune reactions to various diseases (and why we see the effects of breastfeeding that we do). 

Thus, when we take a look at the totality of the evidence, there is no way that it even comes close to saying that the risks of breastfeeding with respect to these particular chemicals outweighs the risks of formula across myriad health outcomes and the presence of other chemicals.

Notably, in the research paper itself, none of the researchers actually suggest that breastfeeding should be limited; however, as mentioned, Dr. Grandjean has made comments to the press about this fact. As he was quoted stating in one article, “Breast feeding provides a net benefit during the first three or perhaps four months of exclusive breastfeeding. The benefits appear rather small after that.”  Yet the benefits in a Western context appear greatest with greater exposure to breast milk (in developing nations, the effects are so very great with any breast milk).  Oddly, when he discusses the safety of drinking water, he ignores research on how not all Western families have access to safe drinking water, but also that drinking water seems to be one of the primary sources of these PFASs for individuals in Western nations, even though this is mentioned in the introduction to this paper and by as covered by other research[6].

Most importantly, the researchers did not measure any level of immune functioning or health outcomes in the children of interest.  This means that the red flags raised about the increases in these PFAS levels are purely speculative and based on equally questionable research looking at antibody responses to two specific vaccines[2].  It is a case in which the findings seem to be oversold, especially when there are public declarations against breastfeeding, which also happens to counter tons of other scientifically backed research on the immune-benefits of breastfeeding.  Finally, this lack of evidence counters other research on how the immune-protective components of breast milk actually help counter any effect of a chemical or contaminant that may enter the infant’s system via breast milk.

 

The Takeaway:

All in all, the focus here really ought to be on the effects of these chemicals on our health and development with an emphasis on lowering our exposure to them full stop.  This means making companies more responsible for what is leaked into our environment and send into our homes, making mothers aware of how they are exposed to these chemicals so they can attempt to limit their own exposure and thus that of their infants, and more generally the effects of these chemicals on our ecosystem and environment which has great impact on our health.

Although we should not listen to someone suggest we ought not breastfeed because breast milk can transmit certain chemicals to our infants, we also shouldn’t ignore the very real effects that our environment has on our health and that of our families.  Being aware of what chemicals are found in your drinking water or the foods you eat are essential ways to knowing what both what you are ingesting and to what you may be passing on to your child.

 


About The Author: 

tracy cassels, evolutionary parentingTracy Cassels is the founder and primary writer for Evolutionary Parenting. She obtained her B.A. in Cognitive Science from the University of California, Berkeleym an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia, and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, also at the University of British Columbia. Her academic works have been published in many peer-reviewed journals including Psychological Assessment, PLoS One, Personality and Individual Differences, Midwifery, and more. Tracy writes on the side with a group of researchers and gentle parenting advocates (including Dr. Darcia Narvaez, Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Dr. Wendy Middlemiss, Sarah Ockwell-Smith, and Helen Stevens) who hope to expand awareness of the science and importance of attachment and evolutionary parenting. Most importantly to her, though, she is a mother to daughter Madeleine (Maddy, age 5), son Theodore (Theo, age baby), stepson Desmond, and wife to husband Brian. 

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References:

[1] Mogensen UB, Grandjean P, Nielsen F, Weihe P, Budtz-Jørgensen E.  Breastfeeding as an exposure pathway for perfluorinated alkylates.  Environ Sci Technol 2015; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b02237.

[2] Grandjean P, Andersen EW, Budtz-Jorgensen E, Nielsen F, Molbak K, Weihe P, Heilmann C. Serum vaccine antibody concentrations in children exposed to perfluorinated compounds. JAMA 2012; 307:391–397.

[3] Post GB, Louis JB, Cooper KR, Boros-Russo BJ, Lippincott RL. Occurrence and potential significance of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) detected in New Jersey public drinking water systems. Environ Sci Technol 2009; 43:4547–4554.

[4] Minnesota Department of Health. Health Risk Limits for Perfluorochemicals. In Report to the Minnesota Legislature. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Health; 2008.

[6] Steenland K, Fletcher T, Savitz DA.  Epidemiological evidence on the Arehealth effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).  Environ Health Perspect 2010; 118: 1100-8.

[7] Seacat AM, Thomford PJ, Hansen KJ, Olsen GW, Case MT, Butenhoff JL. Subchronic toxicity studies on perfluorooctanesulfonate potassium salt in cynomolgus monkeys. Toxicol Sci 2002; 68:249–264.

[12] Calafat AM, Wong LY, Kuklenyik Z, Reidy JA, Needham LL. Polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in the U.S. population: data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2004 and comparisons with NHANES 1999–2000. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:1596–1602.

[13] Olsen GW, Mair DC, Reagen WK. Preliminary evidence of a decline in perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) concentrations in American Red Cross blood donors. Chemosphere 2007; 68: 105–111

[14] U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Draft Risk Assessment of the Potential Human Health Effects Associated with Exposure to Perflouroctanoic Acids and Its Salts. 2005

Toxic Carseats – Are They Making Your Child Sick? What To Do About It.

This article was originally written by Aida Garcia-Toledo, and appeared on her blog, NonToxic Munchkin.

Buying a car seat is one of the first things all parents have to do, and the market is filled with different options. It can be confusing, and time consuming, to figure out which car seat works best for your family, as you compare safety, price and practicality. However, when you add the fact that new parents today should also be taking into consideration the level of toxic chemicals found in their children’s car seats, well, the decision making process can become ridiculously time consuming and unclear.

As parents, many of us are clearly frustrated that a product that so obviously needs to be used every single day and that keeps our children safe inside a car is also, at the same time, exposing them to some pretty bad toxic chemicals. However, since everyone needs a car seat knowledge is key to making the best decision for your family.

 

The Bad News

Due to US federal fire test standards for vehicle accessories, every single car seat on the market right now in the US contains at least one chemical flame retardant. Unless you have access to a state of the art lab, there is no reliable way of telling which chemicals are found in which car seats, or how many chemicals are present. Even companies who claim to be using “safe flame retardants,”  have been found to actually be using some of the worse, potentially toxic, chemicals in their car seats. Adding to the misinformation, company websites and even customer service representatives often give out incorrect information to concerned consumers.

 

What is a concerned parent to do?

We all have to use car seats. Period. They save lives. So, the question parents are left with is: how do you choose the least toxic option? Education is key!

Remind me-why is this important? How exactly can flame retardants chemicals in the car seat affect my child?

Flame retardant chemicals do not stick/ bind very well to the product they are used on…. thus, they are released over time. Mostly into dust particles and air.

Then….

Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the release of these chemicals from products into the vehicle environment

And then….

While infants, toddlers and children are sitting in their car seats everyday, they are exposed to these chemicals through inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) absorption.

Finally,

The longer your child sits in his/ her car seat the more exposed they are to these chemicals. In fact, tests have shown the very same car seats found in car seats inside the bodies of little kids.

 

So, how bad are these flame retardants? Is there such a thing as a safer fire retardant?

The short answer: flame retardants are pretty bad (can be carcinogenic, some have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioral changes) and we don’t really know if there is such a thing as a safe one. Here is a little history on flame retardants (courtesy of Michigan’s the Ecology Center):

In the 1970’s, a chemical known as chlorinated tris, or TDCPP, was used to treat children’s pajamas to make the fabric slower to catch fire. Chlorinated tris was a replacement for a chemical that was found to be carcinogenic. Years later, Chlorinated tris was revealed to be a carcinogen too (and was removed from pajamas.)

Chlorinated tris= proven to be carcinogenic = should never again be used in children’s products right?

Well, not exactly.

Fast forward to 2004… In 2004 (after another flame retardant was phased out due to health concerns) Chlorinated tris once again became the go-to chemical for a number of products: in furniture, car interiors, tents, and children’s products, such as nap mats and crib pads (but not pajamas). Where else? Yes, you guessed it, this proven carcinogenic chemical was also found in two 2014 model car seats in a study published last year.

This is a good example of how replacement chemicals are sometimes no safer than the banned chemicals they are replacing. Sometimes (as is the case with chlorinated tris) “proven” bad chemicals make a comeback. Other times, new chemicals with little to no safety studies are used. This is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 44-year old Federal Motor Vehicle Flammability Standard, FMVSS No. 302, needed to be updated as fire retardants have no use whatsoever in car seats— but that is a whole other issue (if you are interested in doing your part to try to change the law on flame retardants in car seats you might want to consider signing this Change.org petition.

 

As of right now, all foam in every single car seat must have fire retardants. There are 3 classes of flame retardant:

  •  Brominated, (also called halogenated) are considered quite toxic and extremely persistence in the environment.
  •  Chlorinated (also called halogenated) are considered quite toxic and extremely persistence in the environment.
  • Phosphate-based. These are the replacement chemicals du jour being used to replace the toxic halogenated flame retardants. According to limited research studies, some of these replacements may be safer for human health… but no one really knows and no one has tested their safety on long term exposure in infants nor children (nor adults for that matter) Let’s cross our fingers, because while laws continue to require flame retardants in car seats these seem to be our safest bet.

 

But, if these chemicals can save my child in a car fire- then isn’t that more important?

If the answer were yes, this debate would be quite different. The reality is that car fires move so fast that these fire retardants are no longer considered to be of any help retarding flames in real life scenarios.

 

So The REAL Question Remain – How Do You Choose the Safest Car Seat?

Two organizations, Michigan’s The Ecology Center, and Duke University’s Superfund Research Center have taken it up on themselves to test the foam in car seats to find out if they have flame retardants and which ones. Duke University, who does not publish the brands tested, has found that 80% of car seats tested have worrisome flame retardant chemicals. MIchigan’s The Ecology Center, 2014/2015 Study looked at a smaller sampling: fifteen (15) of the best selling 2014-model car seats were included and tested for various different flame retardants that have been linked to thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes and cancer. They found: that “no car seats were free of chemical hazards.”

Nearly ¾ of the seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and over half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants. Four seats contained one or both of the “chlorinated tris” chemicals we mentioned earlier with the pajamas, TDCPP (a known carcinogen) and TCPP. Graco was the poorest performing company. Some models of Britax and Clek show the safest flame retardant usage (phosphate based) For more details on the study and which specific car seat models I recommend as the ‘least toxic’ stemming from these published reports read the post at NonToxic Munchkin.

 

Regardless of what car seat you purchase – Here Are Some  GENERAL TIPS

  • Limit the time your children spend in their car seats. Only use the car seat during travel, not as a place for your child to nap or sit outside of the car (especially common for infants)
  • Limit direct sunlight on the car seat and high temperatures in your car. Window coverings in a car also substantially lower the interior temperature on a warm day.
  • Vacuum the car interior and the nooks and crannies of car seats. Chemicals that migrate out, including flame retardants, can cling to dust particles. Open the car windows when possible.
  • Wash car seat covers as doing so can remove contaminated dust and other particles.
  • Wash your hands (and your child’s hands) frequently with plain soap (not with antibacterial soaps or gels since these can expose them to endocrine disrupting chemicals). Studies by Duke University have found that people are more likely to have higher exposure and body burdens if they wash their hands less frequently. Washing hands is always a good idea!

 

To purchase the two car seats found in the Michigan Ecology Center’s Study that contain the lowest and undetectable levels of flame retardants, you can find the Clek Foonf 2016 Convertible CarSeat and Britax Parkway Booster in the Primal Kidz Mag Shop section. Read  about  our Affiliate Disclosure here. 

 

About the Author:

Nontoxic Munchkin Blog, Non Toxic Living and ConsultingAida Garcia-Toledo is the Founder of NonToxic Munchkin, Non Toxic Living Blog and Consulting. After years as an investigative journalist and documentary producer, she began to read and research the effects of long term exposure to environmental toxins on our health. Her mother’s fight with breast cancer and becoming a mother herself left her fully committed to making sure that her children, and children everywhere, were protected from constant exposure to toxic chemicals so they can live a long healthy life. And so, Non-Toxic Munchkin was born as an outlet to educate parents and help them transition to a non-toxic healthier life, without any added stress. Non-Toxic Munchkin’s philosophy is that the healthiest homes belong to families that find a balance between making healthy educated choices and living a modern day life.“ It is not a diet. It is not a detox. It is a new way of life”. Let Non-Toxic Munchkin help you! Visit our website, follow us on Instagram and Facebook for constant tips and news, and contact us for a personalized in home consultation if you live in Southern California.

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