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Kevin Spacey w/Lennon Parham!

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Totally Mommy Podcast

Episode 23

The co-creator and co-star of Elizabeth’s new favorite show, “Playing House” on USA is here! Mommy extraordinaire, the wonderful Lennon Parham co-hosts and discusses the Good/Bad/Funny (Nice playing/Waking up smiling! Hair loss/ Pediatrician undermining! Tiny headphones/ Kevin Spacey!) before answering a listener question about HOT TOPIC: vaccines, dun dun dun… Enjoy!


Ann in Mass. says:

I feel like there’s another consideration to think of on the topic of spacing out your baby’s vaccinations, which is that if you do space them out, you prolong the amount of time that your baby would be susceptible to those diseases. What if there’s a measles outbreak in your city and you baby hasn’t been vaccinated yet? You will be worried!

There are people who, for valid health reasons, cannot get vaccinated. If a significant number of non-vulnerable people opt out of vaccinations, those people with weakened immunity are made vulnerable if there is an outbreak. By getting vaccinated and having your kids get vaccinations, you are helping increase the so-called “herd immunity” and help to protect those who can’t get vaccinations. For example, if you get vaccinated for the flu, you help to keep it from spreading to vulnerable people (like someone else’s child or your elderly parent).

People these days don’t remember what it was like before we had vaccinations. I’m old enough to have had the mumps, because there was no vaccination for it when I was little. It is still one of my first memories (I think I was 3 years old) because of how painful and traumatic it was for me. I also remember a kid in my town who was born deaf because his mother contracted measles while she was pregnant with him. The measles can be very dangerous and is highly contagious.

Emily says:

Thank you for voicing this. As a microbiologist/immunologist, I always wince when I hear people starting to talk about vaccines. As you pointed out, in addition to protecting ourselves from crippling but preventable diseases, herd-immunity is incredibly important. Elizabeth and Lennon talked about what affect Yo-yo Ma’s children not being vaccinated has on them. If your child is healthy and vaccinated, you should be pretty A-okay! But…if for whatever reason your child cannot be vaccinated (immune problems, too young for that given vaccine, etc), then your child might be at risk for a preventable disease, because healthy individuals who don’t vaccinate (Yo-yo Ma’s child for example), can now be hosts for that virus/bacteria, allowing it to spread throughout the population.

I just encourage anyone questioning vaccines, or trying to develop his/her stance, to research the topic and instead of listening to celebrities/ex-playboy models, listen to scientists and doctors. Vaccines aren’t a ploy by ‘Big Pharma’ or the government to make money. It is way more expensive to treat preventable diseases, than it is to vaccinate.

Lennon also mentioned that her baby is receiving many ‘live virus’ vaccines (viruses aren’t even considering living since they need a host cell to replicate, so even calling a viral vaccine living is a bit off). If this a concern to parents (or the number of ‘live virus’ vaccines given at an appointment), I would encourage individuals to really look into what type of vaccine they are in fact receiving. There are big differences between live attenuated, inactivated (which can be done many different ways), subunit, etc vaccines. Not all vaccines are the same (obviously).

If anyone wants to read all about the history of the anti-vaccine/autism connection, I highly recommend ‘The Panic Virus’ by Seth Mnookin ( – use your TL amazon link of course!).

Great episode! Loved Lennon as a guest co-host!

Elisa says:

These ladies articulated the points I was going to make very well so I’ll be brief. As a person with a biological science education who works in a children’s hospital vaccine debates makes me a little crazy too. The only thing I’d add is that with regards to spacing, the timing of the vaccines was developed for a reason. The schedule times out the booster shots in such a way that immunity is built over time. So if you try and space them out too much the immunity that is being built could lapse and leave your baby susceptible to these diseases again.

Good episode though! I love listening even though I don’t have kids (yet 🙂

Beth says:

Another microbiologist here! Emily covered the topic quite well, but there was one thing I wanted to add.

There is some additional science to why people might be concerned about unvaccinated children in the community, especially when you consider viral diseases. Viruses tend to be very error-prone when replicating, meaning that they mutate more frequently than other organisms. So, if there is a measles outbreak among unvaccinated children, the virus is being allowed to replicate far more often than it would in a community of vaccinated individuals, thus the virus MIGHT mutate and change just enough so that it “looks” different to the immune system, and vaccinated people would no longer be immune.

This doesn’t mean there is a need for panic or quarantine. There doesn’t seem to be enough information out there yet to suggest just how much of a risk unvaccinated children are to the vaccinated community, and on what timeline. I’d prefer we don’t ever find out, however, so I’m glad to hear that Elizabeth and Lennon chose to vaccinate!

Great episode!

chelsie says:

Just want to thank everyone here giving info on the imortance of vaccinations. Unfortunately, I am one of those vulnerable people in my community that benefits from herd immunity. I have a serious auto-immune disease. I also volunteer at my children’s school several times a week. The last few years, we’ve had pertussis outbreaks every winter among non vaccinated children and last year there were 3 german measles cases at my kids’ small elementary school. I had to stop volunteering for a time because contracting something like that could be leathal for me. Vaccination is a very, very important topic and I appreciate everyone working to get the scientific facts out.

Alyssa says:

Just a note on the vaccination debate. I say this as someone who works as a scientist, and has studied immunology in college.

One of the main things having large groups of people vaccinated is that it creates a “sheild” of immunity. Some vaccines are more effective than others, and there’s lost of reasons for this. Mainly, that when vaccines are designed they are trying to balance the most amount of protection with the least amount of harm. So, if a vaccine (I think it’s meningitis that is like this, but I may be wrong) has a 85% effectiveness rate, having almost the whole population helps prevent that 15% from ever contracting the disease and working like a sheild. This is one of the reasons that we’ve been hearing about these measles and pertussis outbreaks in the last few years, because even if your child is vaccinated, it’s not 100% effective and can thus your vaccinated child can get sick.

Obviously, some people can’t get vaccinations for health reasons, and having this shield of immunity can greatly reduce the risk of them getting sick as well.

Anyway, obviously I’m pro vaccine and it sounds like you are too. Just wanted to spell out how even when your kids are vaccinated they can be vulnerable, but that’s just a result of the design of them.

Lulu says:

I suspect you are going to get a lot of feedback on the highly charged vaccination subject…and I truly hope that it can stay supportive not turn into an angry debate. I have done pretty excessive research but do not by any means consider myself an expert on this highly complex issue and am constantly learning more. I wanted to speak to the threat from exposure to unvaccinated children as I understand it: So the actual vaccine efficacy rate for your FULLY vaccinated child is still only 70-90%. Most children produce antibodies from the vaccine but there is no routine test to confirm this nor how long immunity truly lasts from one child to the next. Statistics are notoriously flawed and often maddening so I purposefully will not quote them. But there is a pretty good chunk of vaccinated kids who still contract Pertussis, Influenza B and Measles, etc. The “herd immunity” argument is to protect the most vulnerable (those who have not developed antibodies or have weakened ones, such as the elderly and tiny babies too young to be vaccinated or to have developed immune responses) from unvaccinated carriers. If you flip t around, it seems to me that the greater risk is to the unvaccinated child who is exposed to fully vaccinated kids who could be carriers without exhibiting symptoms. This is a tough parenting decision (for me its been the toughest so far). As with so many other things about motherhood, we trust our instincts. Moms out there doing what you feel is best for your kids whatever that looks like: I SUPPORT YOU!

Melissa says:

To dispute this statement.. “Most children produce antibodies from the vaccine but there is no routine test to confirm this” there actually are simple tests to confirm whether or not antibodies have developed and in fact there is one that will produce results within 10 minutes of testing. It’s important to understand that “Dr. Google” is often grossly misinformed and serves to spread more confusion than it does to answer questions.

I respectfully advise you to take medical advice from the hardworking people who have dedicated their lives to researching and understanding it. Many of the studies people quote to argue against vaccines are poorly conducted and can be very misleading to people with little to no understanding of medicine. Unless they have earned an advanced GRADUATE degree in the medical field I would disregard their advice.

-MD and Masters in Public Health

Lulu says:

my information is not from Dr. Google. It is from my Doctor. There are no tests done routinely in Dr. office’s during well-baby check ups that test your child for immunity and when he/she should receive a booster.
I appreciate your efforts to combat misinformation. My point is that this is not a black and white issue (and there are proponents on both sides of this argument who hold graduate degrees.)

Meghan says:

I wanted to offer an alternate viewpoint to Lennon’s comment that you need to teach babies to eat. Have you heard anything about baby-led weaning? Basically the idea is that you skip purees/traditional baby food and go straight to offering your baby chunks of regular food. Baby learns how to move food around in her mouth, chew, swallow, etc all on her own. There is definitely gagging involved, but babies’ gag reflex is much more towards the front of the mouth than adults, so gagging does not equal choking–it’s just part of the learning to eat process. (And based on what I’ve read plus my own experiences, babies are entirely unfazed by the gagging.) We’ve been doing baby-led weaning with my 10 month old and we absolutely love it. It’s less work for the parents because you don’t have to prepare separate food for baby, plus you get to eat your own meal while baby eats instead of having to spoon-feed her. And there are no power struggles over eating, since you basically just offer the food and then it’s up to baby whether she eats it or not.

Anyway, If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a book (Baby-led Weaning), but you can also find a lot of info/experiences online.

I also wanted to respond to your question about post-birth highs for women who had interventions. I really wanted a completely unmedicated birth, but I got pre-eclampsia so had to be induced at 38 weeks. I had pitocin (SO much pitocin) but didn’t have an epidural or any other pain medications. (Thank you Hypnobabies! :)) I remember feeling awesome right after she was born, but I definitely didn’t have a 3 day high like you. Although I think a lot of that was probably due to the fact that I started to have awful pain while breastfeeding. To the point that I exclusively pumped and bottle-fed for a few days because nursing was just so painful–and given that I’d just been through a pitocin-induced labor without any pain meds, I definitely didn’t feel like I was being a wimp. Things eventually improved, but none of the several lactation consultants we saw could ever tell me what caused that breastfeeding pain. I have no evidence to back this up, but I’ve always wondered whether the pain was partly due to the fact that my labor was driven by pitocin rather than oxytocin.

I really don’t want to get into the vaccine debate, but just so that your comments are not all pro-vaccine, I will say that I’m personally a vaccine skeptic. I don’t believe that all vaccines are necessary, and I don’t support the current vaccine schedule. But as one of your commentators said above, I think it’s every parent’s right to make the decision that’s best for their family!

Roni says:

Hey everyone, wanted to ask a quick question about sound canceling headphones for babies, which Elizabeth brought up in this episode. I’m a graduate student of hearing and communication science, and we’re always harping on about hearing protection and whatnot.

I was under the impression that sound canceling headphones worked primarily as a sensory reducing tool for kiddos (and everyone, really!) , but don’t offer any actual protection from damaging intense sound waves.

If the headphones are indeed only canceling, I might make a friendly suggestion for Baby Oprah to wear earplugs to Lollapalooza in addition to the headphones for her widdle ears. Also, many people don’t know that sound is conducted through the air (through your ear canal past the eardrum into the inner ear) as well as vibrating your skull, which directly stimulates the inner ear. This is why earplugs are often not enough protection for musicians (hey Andy!), industrial workers, etc. Frequent breaks from intense sound to rest your ears are the best way to prevent irreversible hearing damage.

Hope this was, er, interesting! Well, at least helpful. Cheers!

Penny says:

You have received a lot of feedback on the topic of vaccination, my post is in regards to the writer inner who talked about the unicornuate uterus and trying to have a baby. I’ve struggled this week if I should write in or not. I’m nervous but I feel your writer inner should hear my story.

I have a unicorunate uterus AND PCOS. So all my life I haven’t had a regular period but because I did not show signs of PCOS no doctor tested me for it. when my husband and I started trying we got pg the first time but miscarried. I was very shaken up and decided to go to the biggest hospital and researched the specialist (reproductive endocrinologist). I knew there was something wrong with my body I just didn’t know what. They did all the tests and found out PCOS AND unicornute uterus. Now usually a lot of doctors will not even ask u to try to get pg because there are a lot of risks invonlved but my doctors just shrugged it off and said we will deal with it. Here is what they planned for me – they did IVF because they wanted to make sure I have only one embryo implanted in me. I was not put on bed rest but almost. Allowed to go to the bathroom and get my food from the fridge, they did ultra sounds every two weeks to check the baby and kept praying I make it to 32 weeks.

Well………….. I had 2 normal pregnancies, I carried both my sons to 39 and 40 weeks. My second son did not want to get out so we finally had to induce. I had 2 normal births, no C-sections So far they are healthy and happy. I am going crazy BUT they are fine 🙂

The thing about unicornuate uterus is we don’t know how many women have it. if you get pg and have a normal pg no one is doing tests to check the shape and size of your uterus. They only found out for me because I miscarried and went to brigham and womens in boston where they will just do all the tests before they come up with a plan for u.

I don’t know where the writerinner lives or what their insurance is but I would recommend to go to a specialist, one that is connected to a big hospital (the bug guns so to speak) and get a consultation and then make a decision. I feel so blessed because with all my problems I was able to have 2 happy healthy babies and my doctors never made me feel like there was anything wrong with me. lots of good luck and love!

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