You Have the Power to Prevent Cancer in Your Child. Will You Use It?

If you could inoculate your child against a virus that causes nearly 30,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year, would you?

Well, the good news is—you can! The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes the vast majority of cervical and anal cancers, and the HPV vaccine prevents nearly all of them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for all boys and girls. The vaccine is given in three shots over the course of six months, ideally starting when a child is 11 or 12. Doctors recommend vaccinating children at this age so their immunity has time to develop before they become sexually active.

Even though my child isn’t old enough to receive the shots yet, the HPV vaccine sounds like a no-brainer to me. But many parents aren’t convinced. The CDC recently reported that a whopping forty percent of teenage girls and sixty percent of teenage boys haven’t started receiving the series of vaccines.

Related: Parents Question Mandatory HPV Vaccines for Middle-Schoolers

Researchers are struggling to figure out why so many parents are reluctant. The vast majority of pre-teens are receiving their Tdap and meninigitis vaccines, so it’s not an over-arching anti-vaccine movement that’s causing the lag. Chances are it isn’t money either, since private insurers are required to cover it without a copay and the government provides it for free to low-income families.

My bet is that one of the main reasons parents aren’t vaccinating their children against HPV is because the disease is sexually transmitted. Parents may feel that the vaccine isn’t necessary since their children are so far away from being sexually active (the average American now loses his or her virginity at about age 17). But, let’s face it moms and dads, our kids are going to be sexually active at some point, and they deserve to be protected. Why wait?

Well, some parents believe that by getting the shots their children are more likely to become sexually active sooner. The thinking goes like this: If my child knows she won’t get cancer from having sex, then she’s more likely to have sex!

Really? There are so many factors that go into a teenager’s decision to have sex. Intuitively, it just doesn’t make sense to me that kids will be more likely to go all the way if they’re not worried about cancer. And, thankfully, we have more than just my gut to go on. Research backs this up. A study in the medical journal Pediatrics reports that receiving the HPV vaccine during childhood does not promote promiscuity.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, suggests another culprit. Vaccination rates may be low because doctors aren’t recommending the vaccine strongly enough to their patients. “A provider recommendation is really important, and parents are waiting for that on those doctor visits,” she says.

Whatever the reason, we parents need to step up and make sure our kids are fully vaccinated. My daughter is 9 years-old, so only two years away from beginning the HPV vaccination series. As you’ve probably guessed, I won’t hesitate to have her inoculated. While I very much hope that she won’t become sexually active until she’s at least 25 (ha, kidding!), I would do anything in my power to protect her from cancer or any other disease.

Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents, and the author of Real Baby Food and Smoothie-licious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, where she usually posts about food, not STDs.

Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

Image: Girl being vaccinated via Shutterstock

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It’s World Breastfeeding Week: “Let’s Make It Work”

Did you know that it’s World Breastfeeding Week? Twenty three years ago, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) started the event, and since then the week of August 1–7 has been designated to promote breastfeeding globally.

Beyond that important goal, each year’s WBW also focuses on a special theme, and this year it’s one that’s especially relevant to me: “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!” In keeping with the theme, WABA is calling for “concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.”

As a working mama who breastfed two children, I couldn’t agree more. Breastfeeding requires time, education, dedication, and lots of support. If any one of those is missing, it can derail the whole process. And too many moms go back to work in an environment that doesn’t support nursing. (We got a reminder of that just last week, when news broke that back in 2011 Donald Trump called a lawyer and breastfeeding mom “disgusting” during a legal deposition for pulling out her breast pump. This is a business leader and a presidential candidate, people!)

Related: Balancing Work and Breastfeeding

I’m lucky that I never experienced any workplace negativity while I was nursing. With baby number one, there was never even an issue—I was a freelancer who worked from home and nursed (or pumped) as I pleased. With baby number two, back at work in an office full-time, I found myself with access to a comfortable lactation room, an understanding boss who let me pump two to three times a day, and coworkers who never batted an eyelash when I washed breast pump parts at the shared kitchen sink.

Related: Real Lactation Rooms (Oh, the Places You’ve Pumped!)

Even then, pumping was a challenge. There were times I mixed up the parts to my pumps and had to run out to purchase new ones (expensive!), and times I was so tired when I got home from work that I forgot to put the results of my hard work in the fridge. (I could cry over the wasted effort and, more importantly, the wasted milk.) Even so, I was dedicated to breastfeeding, and my supportive workplace helped make it possible.

I wish every nursing mama could say that—but I’m glad there’s at least one week out of the year where we can focus our attention on helping to make that wish a reality.

Erika Janes is Parents.com’s Digital Director, the mom of two boys, and a believer in the benefits extended breastfeeding.

Image: Shutterstock.com

Balancing Work & Breastfeeding
Balancing Work & Breastfeeding
Balancing Work & Breastfeeding

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Climbing Trees Can Improve Working Memory

Is your child begging to climb that tall tree in the backyard? Maybe it’s time to let her! An interesting report from the University of North Florida says that activities like tree climbing and balancing on a beam can dramatically improve cognitive skills.

This study is the first to show that these types of activities completed over a short period of time can benefit working memory. A lot of this has to do with improving awareness of body positioning and orientation, according to the study.

Researchers tested the working memory of adults ages 18 to 59 before they climbed trees, walked on a beam three inches wide, moved while paying attention to posture, ran barefoot, navigated around obstacles, or carried awkwardly weighted objects. After two hours, these adults had their memory tested again and researchers found that their working memory capacity increased by 50 percent.

While no children under 18 were included in this particular study, experts have said that outdoor activities such as learning how to cartwheel, planting a garden, or going on a bike ride, can help kids’ prevent summer brain drain. I bet climbing trees or playing in an obstacle course could boost their memory too (and add lots of fun to a summer afternoon at the park).

Melissa Bykofsky is the associate articles editor at Parents who covers millennial trends, entertainment, and pop-culture. Follow her on Twitter @mbykofsky.

Image: Shutterstock.com

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A Movie for Anyone Whose Child Looks… Different

A birthmark.

A facial abnormality.

A physical disability.

A genetic disorder.

It doesn’t matter what the cause–if your child is somehow different, you may feel that the world just doesn’t see him the way you do. People may miss the joy in her expressions. They may overlook that he has feelings like any other kid. Or maybe they don’t want to look at your child at all, out of discomfort and fear.

A photographer named Rick Guidotti has been on a mission to change this. After a career shooting for clients like Revlon (where he photographed Cindy Crawford), Elle, and GQ, he had a revelation: The work wasn’t challenging enough. His subjects were gorgeous, no doubt, but he wasn’t able to–or even supposed to–capture who they really were as people. He was tasked simply with making sure a beautiful person looked beautiful. And as a result, he’d peer into the camera and think, “I don’t even have to be here,” he explains in the new documentary short, “On Beauty.” Shortly thereafter, he spotted a teenage girl with albinism waiting for a bus, and, stunned by her striking appearance, asked if he could photograph her. She declined, but it compelled him to learn more about albinism. He pored through medical textbooks and saw one depressing image after another. “They were images without humanity. Of sadness. Of illness. Of despair,” he says. And then he realized what he truly wanted to do with his career: change how people see difference.

Starting with the National Organization of Albinism, he began photographing affected children; he soon landed a photo essay in Life magazine. Suddenly, he was hearing from people all over the world, mostly parents asking him to meet and photograph their child. And this is what led him to found the nonprofit Positive Exposure, which goes far beyond photographs and has evolved into a variety of programs to promote inclusion and compassion. He’s also working with the medical community to create educational videos for doctors about various genetic conditions that show children looking like children, not like unhappy specimens. (He candidly explains the need for this kind of program: “What do I do if my daughter or my son is diagnosed with this condition? I would run to medical textbooks–and your only option here would be suicide, because you start to mourn when you see that these are the images.”)

“On Beauty,” which premiered in Los Angeles last week and debuts in New York City this Friday, is a 30-minute film filled with beautiful moments. You meet a young woman whose birthmark led her to be shunned and teased as a child; she ended up leaving elementary school to be homeschooled. When did she finally feel beautiful? “I started to really accept myself when I met Rick.” And you get to know Jayne, from Eastern Africa, where her albinism made her such an outcast her own mother didn’t want her. She’s now at UC Berkeley, part of a leadership program that will bring her to the White House next month. In other words, “On Beauty” has a serious message, but it’s presented in the most uplifting way possible.

Kara Corridan is Parents‘ health director, and a mom of two daughters.

Photo of Tyler, who has a congenital melanocytic nevus, by Rick Guidotti.

Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome

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Is This the Booster Seat of the Future?

Car seats are often a confusing hassle for parents. They’re bulky and difficult to install, and let’s not even get started on coordinating them when you’re carpooling with other families. (If you’re stuck, our installation guide can help!)

Thankfully, new innovations are making car seats simpler and more convenient every year. Last week, we covered a new car seat that can protect babies from being left in hot cars. In addition, we recently got to check out the Mifold, a cool booster seat that’s currently in development and will hopefully be released by the end of the year (assuming it passes all its final US safety tests). Instead of lifting your kid up, the Mifold brings the seatbelt down to keep him safely secured. It’s about ten times smaller than a regular booster, so you can actually fold it up and tuck it into your purse or your child’s backpack (solving those pesky carpool dilemmas after school!) Plus, it’s barely visible when a child sits on it, so older kids don’t have to feel embarrassed about being in a booster seat in front of their friends. For a more in-depth look, check out this video:

Intrigued by this revolutionary new idea? Mifold is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for those who want to preorder at a discounted price. As I’m writing this, they’ve already raised over $293,000–that’s 734% of their goal. There’s the proof that parents want better, easier car seats and booster seats. Let’s hope that the manufacturers continue to come up with inventive ways to keep kids safe.

Chrisanne Grise is an assistant editor covering kids’ health at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.

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