Today, I’d like to finish up my series on daycare. (I know, it’s been a few weeks…I get distracted!) If you’ve forgotten where (or why) we started, here’s the beginning post in the series.
I remember taking my oldest son to the doctor’s office for his first ear infection where he was almost a year old. I was bummed, and worried (new mom!), but the nurses were amazed that we hadn’t been in before that. When I asked why, they said that it is not uncommon for a baby to have 4-5 ear infections in his first year of life.
What my doctor’s nurses didn’t tell me that trip is that whether a child is cared for in their own home or cared for in a day-care setting is one of the main factors contributing to the number of colds, and consequently secondary ear infections, in babies.
Daycare centers are breeding grounds for disease. You see all the things you would expect to see, like colds and coughs and the flu, but they also breed other nasty diseases, like hepatitis A. In fact, when you look at who’s at risk for hepatits A, it’s daycare workers and children, especially those under 1. For the under-1 crowd, who are constantly creating messy diapers and are constantly putting their hands in their mouths, it’s very easy to see how a nasty disease like this would spread in a daycare setting.
A nationwide survey showed that the spread of hepatitis within communities is often linked with daycare centers that provide care for children under two years. Large centers for infants and toddlers have the highest risk of outbreaks. (Dreskin, 71.)
Children in daycare, especially infants and toddlers, are at increased risk for acquiring and spreading infectious diseases, compared to children not in daycare. They have more respiratory, gastro-intestinal, skin and epidemic childhood infections, and are at a higher risk for serious secondary infections, e.g., meningitis, than are children in home care. Infectious diseases are more common and more severe, and more complications occur in the younger ages. (Bell, 116.)
Ask any pediatrician, and he will tell you: babies kept home are healthier than babies in daycare.
A common reaction to this fact is the idea that while babies will be sicker in their first few years of life, encountering all those germs early in life will lead to better immunity later. But can we just step back for a minute and examine what we’re claiming? How could it ever be a good thing to expose an infant or a baby to disease? Their little immune systems are not as developed as ours, and their bodies as less able to handle sickness. They can’t express to us how they’re feeling, and sometimes it takes something truly drastic happening to us to realize how sick our children truly are. And given the number of cold viruses out there, how could we ever guarantee that a cold our child had as a baby would truly provide him immunization? While there is a place in responsible parenting for a parent to teach his child to ‘take their knocks,’ it does not seem like subjecting a baby to illness is the right place to start.
Instead of looking to expose our children to nasty and potentially permanently damaging diseases, let’s view ourselves as protectors. This starts in their earliest days, where the number of people that they’re exposed has a direct influence on their health. Let’s not keep telling ourselves that they’re resilient, in this area and in many others, and instead admit that they are tiny little people who need us to keep them safe.
Schlafly, Phyllis, Ed. Who Will Rock the Cradle. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990.
Bell, Reed. “Health Risks from Daycare Diseases.” Schlafly 115-122.
Dreskin, William and Wendy. The Day Care Decision. New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1983.