Would You Risk a Friendship to Improve a Child’s Health?

by Sarah Healthy Pregnancy, Baby & ChildComments: 155

helping handTwo of the most important decisions my husband and I ever made concerning the health of our children were based on conversations I originally had with friends of mine neither of whom are doctors or nutritionists.  In fact, they don’t hold a health related degree at all.

The first conversation occurred with my friend Jill back in 1998 a few months before the birth of my first baby.  She mentioned that she had recently read the book A Shot in the Dark by Barbara Loe Fisher and Harris Coulter and that I might be interested in reading it too. Incidentally, Barbara Loe Fisher is now the President of the well respected nonprofit the National Vaccine Information Center which helps thousands of parents every year wade through the massive amount of information about vaccination.

Based on my friend’s recommendation, I went ahead and read that book which completely transformed my understanding and view of vaccination. Based on the extremely compelling, scientific information in this book, I made the decision not to vaccinate my children. Now, almost 15 years later, my husband and I are still extremely happy with that decision and would do the very same thing again if given the choice.

The second major health decision I made was based on a conversation I had with my friend Cheri.  She was visiting my home one afternoon back in the year 2001 and saw that my first child who was now a toddler sipping soy milk from a sippie cup.  I had recently weaned him after two years of breastfeeding and knowing that commercial milk was not a healthy choice, I had opted for the most popular “health” beverage of the day – soy milk.

Cheri mentioned that she had read some research recently that soy was not a healthy choice for babies and that this food which is loaded with plant estrogens had the potential to damage the developing hormonal system of a child.  She had also read that soy could make children hyperactive, and my son was definitely off the wall at the time.

Completely shocked, I began to do some research about the subject on my own and to my dismay, discovered that Cheri was exactly right – soy is a very damaging beverage for children to consume.  I immediately stopped the soy and switched to rice milk until I was able to find a source for clean, grassfed milk some months later at the suggestion of our holistic doctor at that time.   Taking my son off soy milk had an amazing effect.  His behavior normalized within weeks and he became a much calmer, more focused child to my great relief.

I will be forever grateful to Jill and Cheri for speaking up when they did.  If it wasn’t for their friend to friend advice, I shudder to think where my children’s health would be today.

They both took a great risk in pointing out something that I was doing or intended to do that would possibly have a lifelong negative impact on the health of my child.  It easily could have backfired had I reacted in a defensive, “you’re not a doctor, what do you know” type of manner.

Would You Speak Up or Stay Silent?

I have always had a policy of speaking up if I noticed a close friend was operating on less than complete information when it came to their child’s health.  It was my way of “paying it forward” given the vital help I had received from my friends over the years.

Let’s face it, the FDA and the USDA are obviously not helping our children be healthy.  If anything, they are hindering the process with decisions I write about frequently on this blog that confuse consumers into behaviors that ultimately harm them.

It is up to parents, especially Moms, to help each other one at a time in this very confusing and contradictory environment.  It is impossible to know everything and having a few trusted friends on your side is a major value add in your quest for health I can assure you!

I realize not all Moms are of the same mentality as me.  Getting shot down once or twice or losing a friendship because of a conversation that was not received as intended is a real blow to one’s confidence.

Here are a few of the comments posted on The Healthy Home Economist Facebook page the other day in response to the article Why Soy Formula (even organic) is So Dangerous to Babies:

“Lost good friends because I tried to give them info on soy formula. That was of course me accusing them of being bad parents because i could nurse and they couldn’t. People know to come to me for info but I’ve stopped giving it out unless requested.”

” She might lose friends because some people don’t appreciate the Sanctimommy schtick.”

“I do not like soy for a number of reasons, and I tell people those reasons if it comes up. But lets face it, this is just another way that we think we’re better parents than other parents.
I know, I know “I don’t think that at all, I’m just trying to save lives!”  Well, so is that person who forwards you an article about the benefits of full vaccination. Think about that.”

Tips for Broaching a Sensitive Subject without a Backfire

When I read these comments, I must admit that I was incredulous.  What is more important after all, a friendship or the health of a child?

I personally have never lost a good friendship over a health related conversation I’ve had, so from that standpoint, I don’t relate to these comments.   To me, if someone is a true friend, you should be able to say just about anything to them – nicely of course!  They should respect your views and you should respect theirs.  It doesn’t mean you agree on everything, far from it.  But, you should be comfortable talking about your opposing views if you are truly the bosom buds you think you are.

I think what it comes down to is the approach that is taken.  Certainly, a Sanctimommy attitude as suggested above is not going to go over well.   Anytime judgment of the person is involved, conflict will be the result.

But, waiting until you’re asked to speak up doesn’t work either.  In the case of my friend Jill and Cheri, I never would have asked them even though I needed the information they had to share.  I simply didn’t know they had important information on these topics that I needed to make a good decision for my children.

I think we can all take a lesson from my friends Jill and Cheri who in a nonjudgmental, soft spoken, “I will love you no matter what you decide” type of way, broached a clearly sensitive topic with me which pointed out an area for improvement on my part.

Saying what needs to be said to someone who is a true friend is very important.  I, for one, know that I could never live with myself if I could have helped a child by speaking up and I chose to stay silent. In my view, no friendship is worth that.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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