Once you’ve seen one flat-headed baby you’d rather prevent the problem

I may have been in need of a magnesium bath when I wrote the last post or I may have seen too many babies with flat heads or with little plastic helmets during my career. Their poor little heads weren’t flat on top, they were slightly flattened at the back where normally you have a curve.

I helped approximately 10,000 children and 3000 babies and their parents during a fifteen year career in prenatal health education, so Back to Sleep was an educational public health campaign that I had to talk about regularly at work. And then as helmeted babies became a regular sight talking about Tummy Time during the day and support pillows for necks and heads was added to the job.

To find out later that more than 2000 infants a year might be saved from SIDS by simply using an inexpensive mattress cover or switching to a mattress made with organic material is either exciting or devastating news. Or both.

Disclosure: One of my work-my-way-through-college jobs was sewing covers for all natural organic cotton futon mattresses — they smell great and feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud — while still new, then they get kind of matted down but they still smell good — but they can mold if you have them on the floor and they can’t air out. So I may have some predisposed bias against synthetic crib mattresses that are treated with fire retardant or mattresses that are ruined with mold — Disclosure: mold gives me very severe migraines.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Antimony, SIDS, autism and mattress covers

SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the primary cause of death among infants and children under age one — in the United States. In New Zealand, however, SIDS rates have dramatically declined since 1994 when a specially designed mattress cover was developed to help protect infants in their cribs from toxic fumes released from the mattress due to chemical additives or molds. Antimony is one of the chemicals that may be a common risk to infants. Chemicals added to reduce risk of the mattress catching fire may be gradually released and absorbed through the infant’s skin or be breathed by the baby.

In the United States a “Back to Sleep” educational campaign was developed to try to reduce the rate of SIDS deaths because the problem was associated with infants sleeping on their stomachs. That position would place their nose and mouth more directly into the mattress where the toxic chemicals tend to be most prevalent. The “Back to Sleep” campaign and the tendency to leave infants sitting in their infant seats for long periods of time may also have led to more flat-headed babies. Specially shaped neck and head support pillows were developed and sold to worried parents to then prevent the flat-headed problem.

Antimony is a heavy metal which may also be associated with autism risk. Wrapping a mattress in a protective cover is a non-toxic, completely safe and low cost investment that might help protect against SIDS risk and possibly reduce the long term build up of toxins that might increase autism risk. However the United States health guidelines have not endorsed/accepted/supported the simple solution that has been saving the lives of infants in New Zealand since 1994. Research there has proven statistical significance of the method.

The U.S. may be dragging it’s collective heals because of fear of liability or fear of agreeing that fire retardant chemicals that were supposed to save lives may be costing lives — speculation doesn’t save many lives but wrapping an infant mattress in a specially designed cover might. Replacing infant mattresses between infants might also help. The mold risk may be an increased problem for second or third children — who tend to have an increased risk to die from unknown causes while asleep (SIDS) compared to the firstborn infant.

Tweets on the topic from my social media Twitter account; #1, 2 and 3 are to the same link, “Has the Cause of Crib Death, SIDS, been Found?; and #5 and 7 are to a link that sells the specially designed BabeSafe brand mattress covers; the link to which I found on #4, prevent-SIDS.org website’s article “BabeSafe Mattress Wrapping Success”; and #6 is to an Autism website that mentions antimony and fire retardants as a possible risk but which does not mention the New Zealand SIDS research or specially designed mattress covers; #7 is a Tweet where I combined a different autism prevention article with the BabeSafe mattress cover link (#5):

  1. Wrapping crib mattresses to reduce toxic off-gassing has reduced SIDS rate in New Zealand. .
  2. “no babies have died sleeping on a properly wrapped mattress.” 2,100 babies die/yr in U.S. via .
  3. Has The Cause of Crib Death (SIDS) Been Found? /statistics~1 billion x level generally required/ via
  4. BabeSafe Mattress Wrapping Success
  5. “Babe-safe mattress covers,” made to the New Zealand design to safely reduce off-gassing toxins,
  6. Aluminum, Antimony, Autism and Answers
  7. Minimizing Risks | Autism Research Institute /babesafe covers decrse antimony   .

Infants, at least some of them, some of the time, like to sleep on their stomachs. Do they have to move to New Zealand in order to have that freedom? Or in a free country couldn’t parents have the right to buy their infant a specially designed mattress cover that might help protect them from volatile chemicals and molds that might be off-gassing from the mattress and increasing risk of SIDS and autism?

Freedom was a core principle for our nation’s Founding Fathers. They might have voted for the right to wrap mattresses rather than enforcing an educational message designed to reduce health risks but may have led to increased risks of flat-headed-ness. Flat-headed babies sometimes have their skull shape round out again without intervention beyond encouraging the parent to hold their baby more and to use the specially designed neck and head supports and to make sure baby has ‘tummy time’ while awake, but sometimes the infants have to wear specially designed football like helmets for weeks or months in order to encourage the skull to grow into a more typical shape.

Encouraging baby in “Tummy time” can then sometimes become a challenge if the infant gets so used to the back position that they lose muscle strength and interest in spending time on their tummies. The position is important for increasing neck, back and arm strength necessary for learning how to roll over and press up to a hands and knee position for learning how to crawl. And learning how to crawl has been associated with improved skills in coordination between the right and left halves of the body and with more advanced skills later in life such as reading and writing. The “Back to Sleep” education campaign was started in the U.S. in 1994. [http://www.medcentral.org/main/Whatssoimportantaboutcrawling.aspx ] The mattress cover campaign that started around the same time in New Zealand had a much more significant reduction in infants dieing from SIDS and probably didn’t lead to as many babies developing flattened heads.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we learn it the hard way or listen to other people who have also experienced the problem and developed sensible solutions.

Guessing, but an educated guess — if the infant has any asthma or other respiratory issues the BabeSafe Mattress Covers might also help their health. Mold and volatile chemicals can add to asthma and breathing difficulties.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Self injurious behavior in autism patients with low calcium levels

Coping Ideas for Self Injury Urges, adapted from the book “Treating Self Injury, A Practical Guide,” by Barent W. Walsh, P.D., (2006).

Trigger warning for people with a history of trauma, self injury or other PTSD type issues: this post is about difficult topics and was difficult for me to write and to recover from writing. It may trigger uncomfortable feelings in readers but denial of issues doesn’t help anyone learn how to modify and control the issues for an improved quality of life and/or improved level of self control and safety from self injury. Sexual assault is also a difficult topic but self injury or the urge to self-injure can happen everyday.

Interestingly, Coleman (1994) studied a group of autistic children who had low levels of calcium (i.e., hypocalcinuria). These individuals often exhibited eye-poking behavior. When given calcium supplements, the eye-poking decreased substantially. In addition, language functioning improved.” [http://www.autism.com/symptoms_self-injury]

— secondary hyperparathyroidism perhaps?

For me secondary hyperparathyroidism can cause significant mental illness symptoms including a feeling of jittery thoughts and a jittery body, with a pent up feeling of needing to pop the bubble – ‘stabby’ feelings with a desire to self injure by stabbing myself. It is extremely unpleasant feeling and at times included a feeling of wanting to pop the eyes – gouge them out. Very unpleasant is an understatement, very dangerous to self is more accurate.

See below for a list of ideas for activities to try to take your mind off the self harm urges, and book reference written for health professionals rather than for a patient or parent – but help is help which can be life saving when needed.

Secondary hyperparathyroidism can be caused by low vitamin D or low calcium. My endocrinologist was extremely insistent that I take both vitamin D and calcium but over the years I had learned, with lab test proof, that my hormone D tends to be in the elevated end of the normal range. Irritability to an excessive level can occur at the elevated end of the range of hormone D. Lab test ranges are just based on the averages that are seen by the lab — and lab tests are usually ordered for sick people not for healthy people, so those lab test ranges are really the range of values seen in sick people not a range based on the average values seen in only healthy people.

I didn’t comply with the endocrinologist’s recommendation and found that just increasing calcium intake stabilized my level of parathyroid hormone and took away the ‘stabby’ feelings.

It is common for corticosteroid balance to be different from normal in patients with autism. [see link below] Vitamin D and hormone D are actually seco-steroids and the active hormone D acts somewhat like steroids in the body. Autism patients may be like people with obesity and many other chronic illnesses, that have been associated with low vitamin D but supplements weren’t found to be helpful for the various conditions. The problem may be more like mine where I have too much hormone D which is converted from vitamin D, and which leads to low levels of vitamin D. [http://www.preventmiscarriage.com/documents/Immunological-Considerations.pdf]

Vitamin D is carried on a transport protein that acts to keep it inactive. When free within the body the vitamin form is quickly activated to the hormone form. There are many more Vitamin D receptors throughout the body than there is usually  enough hormone D to activate them all during states of normal health.

Autism and other chronic diseases that seem to associated with low lab test levels of vitamin D may actually be reflecting a problem or deficiency in the vitamin D carrier protein rather than representing an inadequate amount of vitamin D being supplied from the diet or an inadequate amount of time spent in direct sunshine. Vitamin D is based on cholesterol and is not actually an essential vitamin in the way that other vitamins are essential because our bodies can make vitamin D from cholesterol when we get about 15 to 30 minutes of sunshine per day on our face, throat, and bare arms.

Magnesium baths help circumvent the problem elevated hormone D causes within the gastrointestinal tract — calcium is absorbed preferentially and magnesium deficiency can result which also can be a cause of significant irritability.

Providing nutrition education and individualized nutrition care in the public health sector is where I have training and experience. — ie giving away free information. Making money is not where I’ve had experience. And traveling has proven to be difficult for me with my various autoimmune and food sensitivities, but I care a lot about pain and suffering and mental anguish, in myself and others.

It is unpleasant to have to feel an urge to hurt oneself, and it is hard to control an internal explosive feeling that has nothing to do with how your childhood went — talk therapy is not much help if the problem is actually hyperparathyroidism. Multiply that internal jitteriness and explosive feeling by days, months, or years, and it is really much better to take calcium supplements and magnesium baths then to talk to a therapist about your childhood — while trying to control the urge to poke yourself in the eyes. (They don’t understand, and the endocrinologist didn’t either. Lab tests are just lab tests and mood symptoms are referred to a psychiatrist for mood stabilizing medications – in my (bad) experience.)

  • Autistic kids wash up happier in an Epsom salt bath, .
  • I describe my current Epsom salt bath routine towards the end of this post: Substance P, neuropathic pain, migraines, and the cannabinoid system,

The way “fair use for educational purposes” works is that the information is provided not for profit. I share information, which may contain excerpts from copy-righted works, in the hopes that some individuals or clinicians will find some of the information helpful, and to keep within the guidelines for fair use I don’t ask for donations or charge money for the information.

(Brief excerpts fit the guidelines better, the Autistic kids wash up happier post was a post from years ago, before I had learned more about fair use guideline. It contains an extensive excerpt from a much longer article, but it is very helpful information regarding some special dietary needs that are common among children with autism and which I also found helpful for improving my own diet. I have recently found that I have several genetic defects that are also commonly found in children with autism. One of them affects two important amino acids so that might be a problem that could affect my ability to make the vitamin D carrier protein – but I haven’t looked into that metabolic pathway yet.)

Ideas for activities to substitute if feeling an urge to self harm; from the book “Treating Self Injury, A Practical Guide,” by Barent W. Walsh, Ph..D. (2006):

https://www.guilford.com/books/Treating-Self-Injury/Barent-Walsh/9781462518876

  1. Negative Replacement Behaviors – a preliminary step, a substitution behavior that represents the typical method used – if actual self injury is already a problem. For example drawing a red mark instead of cutting, pounding a pillow or something else instead of hitting oneself.
  2. Mindful Breathing Skills – we tend to hold our breath in stressful situations and lack of oxygen makes rational thinking and self control more difficult.
  3. Visualization Techniques- visual a happy place or memory or some other practiced calming scenario.
  4. Physical Exercise – use up the pent up energy in real exercise instead of mental or physical pain.
  5. Writing – journaling about things you are grateful for can help sometimes to see that life is worth it even though difficult too. Journaling about worries sometimes can help work through to solutions.
  6. Artistic Expression.
  7. Playing or Listening to Music.
  8. Communicating with Others.
  9. Diversion Techniques – escapist type behaviors to fend off or delay self injurious behaviors rather than try to feel that they must be confronted or solved immediately – just don’t want to deal with a bandaid right now so will draw a picture or go for a walk or call a friend – sometimes pausing is enough to let the urge fade.
  10. * The capitalized techniques are from the book, the longer explanation is my interpretation or paraphrase of the book’s discussion of the topic. These notes are from notes I copied down years ago when I was having symptoms and hadn’t yet learned of the hyperparathyroidism condition.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./