Posted: May 16, 2013 7:00 AM
 
Leah’s daughter is 6 years old and has never had an immunization. She has done extensive research on the subject and is confident in her decision — and believes it’s essential for her child’s well-being.

When you think about raising a child, often immunizations are a given — just a standard part of well-baby visits and an essential part of their overall health care. Consent forms are signed, and the shots start right away — most babies in the U.S. are vaccinated at birth for hepatitis B, for example, and they keep on coming at each well check. Leah, a mom of one who lives in Massachusetts, has declined those immunizations for her daughter, who is now 6 years old. We were able to catch up to her to find out why she made this controversial decision.

The seeds were planted

I researched vaccinations for more time than most people spend at a full-time job in two months.

Leah didn't really think a lot about vaccinations before she became pregnant. She said that the idea and the discussion didn't seem to apply to her — as with most decisions and situations, it's not until you find yourself living it that it becomes more important. And when Leah was expecting her baby, an order for bedrest turned into research, which led her to the topic of immunizations. "I had nothing to do but read... and boy did I," she said. "I researched vaccinations for more time than most people spend at a full-time job in two months."

Original planMom not vaccinating- Olivia at Halloween

At first, Leah decided to delay her girl's vaccinations until she was around 2 years old. "There is research that says that waiting until the blood/brain barrier is formed (at around age 2) can help minimize adverse vaccine reactions," she told us. Once age 2 came and went, however, she began to wonder whether if she would ever make the decision to go ahead and vaccinate. "I knew that extended breastfeeding was giving her good immunity, and really, I got more comfortable with the decision with every passing year," she explained. "Now she's 6 and still has not been vaccinated. I'm 100 percent comfortable with my choice at this point."

Reactions

Many who don't vaccinate their children find that it's regarded as an unpopular choice, but Leah's friends and family knew that she researched every decision she made extensively and she didn't hear any negativity about her choice. She had support from her husband, too, who shares the same ideology. As expected, she received some questions from her pediatrician, but was able to answer them as she saw fit. For example:

Pediatrician: What if she gets a vaccine-preventable disease?

Me: She has a strong immune system and modern medicine has come a long way. I'd get her treated and move on.

Pediatrician: What if she dies from a disease?

Me: What if she dies from a shot you give her?

Why Leah doesn't vaccinate

I wasn't comfortable injecting diseases (however dead or attenuated) into my child based on personal experience and research.

Deciding to not vaccinate is usually not an easy, light decision to make. As Leah mentioned, she extensively researched it before her baby was born, and knew that you can give vaccines, but you cannot take them away, so it was something that she wanted to be sure of, if she went that route. "I have extensive allergies, some life threatening (shellfish and bees specifically), latex, seasonal, animal, you name it," she explained. "As a condition of employment, I had to have a chicken pox vaccine about 9 years ago, because I've never had pox. I had a very painful allergic reaction to the vaccine. I couldn't use my arm for two weeks. After my daughter was born I had my titers checked and I'm still not immune to chicken pox. I had that rotten reaction for nothing, because I didn't get immunity. My husband also has allergies and sensitivities. I wasn't comfortable injecting diseases (however dead or attenuated) into my child based on personal experience and research."

Leah's advice

Talk to other non-vaxing parents. Be prepared for backlash — from other parents, pediatricians and family that are unaware of the risks. You clearly have to live with your choice, so be sure that it's what you're comfortable with.

Leah wants to stress that she is not anti-vaccine. She made the decision as what is best for her family, but she does urge parents to research before letting their babies or children be immunized. "There is a ton of information out there," she shared. "Talk to other non-vaxing parents. Be prepared for backlash — from other parents, pediatricians and family that are unaware of the risks. You clearly have to live with your choice, so be sure that it's what you're comfortable with. I can tell you 100 percent that my child is hands down the most healthy child I know and I'm very happy with the decision I've made."

More on parenting choices

Warning, this is not your mother's baby
Making the decision to breastfeed
Feel confident as a different parent

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