Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 May

The Definitive Guide to Feeding Primal Babies

baby 1It’s commonly portrayed as the realm of infant formula, rice cereal, applesauce, teething biscuits, Zwieback toast and Cheerios. And in the following months a large pantry selection of strained this or that in tiny glass, commercial jars… Add to this picture more recent concoctions like toddler formula, Elmo crackers, mini juice packs, fruit gummies, and “Graduate” lines. All of this begs the question, exactly when and how did baby/early toddler nutrition become a string of processed convenience foods? The ingredient lists often smack more of Candyland than the “wholesome goodness” claimed on the labels. Was this really what nature intended? Can’t we do better by our baby Groks? What would Grandma Grok have to say about all of this? We’ve taken up the kid question before, but I thought it was time for a definitive focus on the youngest of the seedling set.

In a consumeristic society, conventional wisdom has an odd way of merging with marketing maneuver. These revisions to common sense seep in slowly, idea by idea, item by item, until we look around and suddenly don’t recognize the landscape or logic anymore. (That is, if we choose to think about it…) As we so often ask at MDA, how did our current customs come to stray so far from the way of our ancestors?

In Grok’s day, for one, babies had to nurse. Human milk was a long complex product of evolution. Milk with fatty acids for brain development, antibodies for immune system support and high nutrient and fat content resulted in healthy babies who would more likely survive the challenges of Grok’s day. If the milk could change as the child aged to better meet his/her needs over time, that child would have an even better chance of making it to adulthood. And, as we know, these characteristics in breastmilk were exactly what evolution favored and selected for over time. Because human babies had small stomachs, they needed to eat often. Breastmilk was the ultimate in portable food. Because it took two years for babies and young toddlers to develop teeth adequate to chew much of the food available in Grok’s day, they were dependent on their mothers’ milk. (There were, of course, no Cuisinart processors or food mills in Paleolithic times – and little time to bother with elaborate food preparation anyway.) Children transitioned to solids at a slow and gradual rate and took milk from their mothers throughout the toddler years.

So, if the Primal Blueprint vision blends the best of Grok’s day with the benefit of ours, what does this mean for the youngest among us today? Before you scratch the food processor from your baby registry, you should know that I don’t believe in eschewing the gadgets and gizmos that assist in providing good nutrition. I take issue with the modern redefinition of infant/toddler nutrition and the decided disadvantage it imposes on today’s seedlings.

Breastfeeding Benefits

breastfeeding

One thing is for certain. Nursing was good enough for baby Grok, and it remains the ideal, unmatched source of nutrients that support human development. Though I’m not going to make a point of comparing formula feeding to mechanical bull riding while pregnant (remember that ad campaign?) I will put it out there – breast is best. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (as well as other pediatric associations) recommends exclusively breastfeeding until six months, continuing through the first year with the introduction of solids, and after that as long as the mother desires. WHO and UNICEF promote breastfeeding until at least the age of two. As for the MDA stance, I consider breastmilk an absolutely crucial element in optimal infant and young toddler nutrition. Extended breastfeeding and/or the offering of pumped milk should continue through the age of two and ideally beyond.

Last month an Atlantic article The Case Against Breastfeeding caught the public’s (and my) attention and got a lot of tongues wagging. The author, Hanna Rosin, made the case that research didn’t support a significant health benefit of breastmilk over today’s infant formulas. Rosin set out to scrutinize the science behind the nursing-formula debate and to weigh the benefit of breastmilk against the efforts and frustrations of the mother who must provide it. Unfortunately, the article accomplished neither goal in any comprehensive or accurate way. As to the science, critics complain that Rosin conveniently scanned (and cited) selective medical literature. Her “search” into the debate was triggered by a 2001 JAMA article suggesting “inconsistent associations” between breastfeeding and subsequent obesity risk. She went on to point out the occasional incongruity to be found in breastfeeding research – whether it be related to allergies, IQ, diabetes, etc. (Someone should tell her this is always the case – no matter what the issue or condition studied.)

As for Rosin’s and other skeptics’ arguments, it’s true that subsequent diet and circumstance can undo the benefits of breastfeeding. Other advantages are so difficult to nail down in any absolute way that results can always be questioned from some angle (e.g. an individual child’s potential IQ versus his/her actual IQ). She also doesn’t mention (and perhaps didn’t bother to look at) how many of the “critical” studies were indirectly funded by the formula industry. Trust me, there are a lot out there, and the fine print is usually buried at the bottom.

Nonetheless, the overall picture of breastfeeding benefits looks like this. One of the most comprehensive review studies examined and screened over 9000 research abstracts. The final contents of the review included “43 primary studies on infant health outcomes, 43 primary studies on maternal health outcomes, and 29 systematic reviews or meta-analyses that covered approximately 400 individual studies.” The findings were these: a 36% reduction in SIDS, a 23-50% risk reduction (depending on breastfeeding duration) for middle ear infections, 42% risk reduction in eczema, 64% reduction in non-specific gastroenteritis, a 72% reduction in hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections (infants under 1 year of age), a 27% reduction in asthma (40% for those with a family history), 7-24% reduction in later obesity, a 19-27% reduction in type 1 diabetes, a 39% reduction in type 2 diabetes, a 15-19% reduction in childhood leukemia, as well as an association with lower blood pressure, and lower total and LDL cholesterol. Association with cognitive development, particularly for premature or low birth weight infants, has been shown, but environmental factors have not been completely ruled out as confounding factors in existing studies.

Finally, research is coming out now suggesting a significant health benefit for the mother. In addition to helping prevent postpartum depression, nursing (particularly for two years or more) can also reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, maternal type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Membership has its privileges.

All that said, I understand that modern life and individual circumstance can make nursing (particularly “extended” breastfeeding) difficult despite the incredible advantages to both mother and child. More mothers work outside the home and are away from their children for long stretches of time. Although the breast pump industry (along with the pumping culture) has skyrocketed in recent years, not every woman has the practical opportunity, legal entitlement or adequate location for pumping during the workday. These are legitimate questions our society needs to actively and concretely address.

Additionally, nursing requires a tremendous amount of patience, time, and (at certain stages) physical fortitude. No wonder nature designed positive motivators like hormonal release to encourage mother-child bonding and relaxation during breastfeeding. Mother Grok didn’t have much of an alternative to nursing, but she likely had more support and informal instruction within the tribal community than mothers do today.

In the rare case of milk supply issues or maternal absence, it’s probable that other lactating women in the group took on nursing responsibilities for an ailing or orphaned infant. Today we have the likes of La Leche League and professional lactation consultants to stand in for some of the traditional supports. Herbal remedies like fenugreek, alfalfa, nettle leaf, and goat’s rue can help stimulate milk production in mothers who need a boost because of illness, abnormally difficult labor and delivery, premature birth or poor nursing latch.

In the rare case of milk supply issues that couldn’t be fixed through herbal medicine, it’s probable that other lactating women in the group took on nursing responsibilities for an ailing or orphaned infant. Today, we don’t really live in tribes, villages, or closely-knit families with lactating females in our midst at all times, but we can still obtain donor breastmilk through programs like Milk Share, Human Milk 4 Human Babies (nice ring to it, eh?), and Eats on Feets. If milk-boosting isn’t working, I would strongly consider donor milk. Human breast absolutely is best, even if it’s not yours.

If breastfeeding isn’t an option because of maternal health, adoption or other irremediable circumstance, opinions differ on the best secondary options. Most experts suggest conventional formula preparations (particularly for newborns and young babies). Some have evaluated their composition to aid parents in their decision, but nearly all recommend avoiding soy formula all together.

There are also recipes for homemade formula, but it’s crucial in these circumstances to consult your pediatrician. For newborns and young babies, I would recommend conventional formula with DHA and ARA. (I’m not any fan of the formula companies, but infant nutrition involves a whole constellation of considerations. As much as I despise some of the industry marketing practices, the formula companies are closely regulated, and nutrient/hydration requirements have been precisely figured.)

For older babies, I would suggest caution and close medical collaboration when selecting and feeding homemade formula. Though many pediatricians suggest that cow’s milk is a sufficient substitute for formula after twelve months, I recommend continuing a DHA-containing formula (pediatrician-approved homemade or conventional if necessary) until at least eighteen months and preferably two years. Finally, although human breast milk can be purchased, it is generally far beyond the budget of most families. If your baby is premature or unhealthy at birth, talk to the hospital staff and your insurance company about the availability and coverage of donated breast milk.

Even in the best of circumstances, it’s important for nursing mothers to prioritize good nutrition for themselves. Breastmilk production requires extra protein, calcium, fatty acids and an overall addition of daily calories (usually between 350-500). Incorporating a wide variety of foods will help cultivate an infant’s taste for that same healthy fare once they transition to solids. It’s a wise idea to limit or eliminate foods associated with sensitivities and allergies like dairy, soy, gluten, peanuts, coffee and citrus.

Sampling Solids

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This brings us to early foods… It’s impossible to cover the first year or so without discussing the transition to “real food” (as if breastmilk is somehow a substandard stand-in…). Ask a roomful of parents what their children’s pediatricians suggest for first foods, and you’ll inevitably hear infant rice or oatmeal from the vast majority. How many of us received the same from our parents? Show of hands?

Conventional wisdom and practice promotes a timeline that goes something like this: rice cereal at six months (sometimes even earlier!), quickly followed by infant oatmeal, followed by barley, followed by processed and pureed fruits, processed and pureed “sweet” vegetables (e.g. squash, sweet potatoes), followed by infant desserts like pudding and cobbler (seriously, folks), followed by the gradual inclusion of maybe an additional 3-4 processed “vegetable” varieties (for the last time, corn is not a vegetable – and neither are peas for that matter). Mixed into this mash of baby mush are innumerable Cheerios, “puffs” (grains decorated with coloring and air), “yogurt melts” and other such nutritional nonsense. I need a timeout just thinking about this….

First off, let me say what should be the obvious. Forget the grains. Pitch the cute boxes with the baby face and baby bowl and other sentimental imagery. Rice, oatmeal, barley. These are unnecessary elements of infant (or adult) nutrition. Although they might be cheaper per ounce, they are less nutrient dense, have a high glycemic index, and in early infancy can trigger allergic conditions. There’s the argument that babies should be exposed to grains to actually prevent allergies or intolerance later. The research is spotty, inconsistent, and the evolutionary logic doesn’t add up. However, because grains are so ubiquitous in our society, it might not be a bad idea to “test” for allergies at some point. Nonetheless, this process can easily wait until the age of one or later when babies have the enzymes to better handle their composition.

That takes care of the boxes. What about the jars? I mean, of course, the customary jars (Gerber, Heinz, Beechnut, etc.) that have lined the cabinets of parents for the last few generations. My first reaction is save your money. These baby purees contain so much water that you’re paying through the nose for a truly minute amount of actual food.

My second response is to forgo them for the sake of better nutrition as well as a better bottom line. Commercial baby foods, whether they come in the traditional jars or those little plastic containers, contain unnecessary and questionable fillers. (Something has to hold it together after including all that water). Fillers like cornstarch or tapioca add to the processed carb content of the “meal” without adding any nutrition to it. The primary food ingredient itself is likely overcooked, a process which depletes the nutritional content. (Some analyses have found natural and organic brands such as Earth’s Best to be more nutrient dense than the bigger conventional companies.) By all means, skip the infant desserts, which have a lower nutritional profile than their regular puree counterparts. If you’re looking for convenience, I’d suggest the frozen baby foods that have become widely available in the last few years (Happy Baby, Plum, Sweet Cheeks, etc.).

Ultimately, however, I’d recommend making your own. The business of do-it-yourself baby food has come a long way since my children were young. In addition to the old fashioned food mills and the small size processors, you can now find special freezer trays, portable serving cubes, baby food sieves, innumerable cookbooks and even an all-in-one steamer and processor. With all the gadgets and gizmos, the time investment is minimal, the nutrition unmatched, and the financial outlay less than most other options.

The best first foods around six months of age are non-allergenic, fresh and flavorful foods that provide impressive amounts of the nutrients especially helpful for infants. Avocado is a great first option: easy to prepare and rich in healthy fats. Bananas, another old standby, aren’t bad either. Cooked (but liquid) egg yolks are a good choice and offer essential cholesterol. (Yes, cholesterol is good for something.) Meats run through a fine food mill provide the iron and protein critical for this stage. Pureed beets, carrots, spinach and other softer greens, sweet potatoes, turnips, apples, pears, berries are good additions. (Side note: some experts suggest delaying the feeding of fresh beets, spinach and carrots until at least six months if not a few months longer given the high nitrate content that young babies largely convert to nitrites.)

Most fruits and vegetables can be slightly cooked to create an easier consistency and promote better digestion. (Obviously, roots and tubers need to be fully softened.) That said, it’s unnecessary to cook these items to the point of unrecognizable mush. You want to balance nutrient retention with baby-friendly texture.  You can add unsweetened yogurt to fruits and pureed greens. Include a bit of cod liver oil, and you’ve got yourself a good smoothie Baby Grok would’ve loved.

For babies and young children, I’d definitely recommend organic whenever and wherever you can find it. (This goes for any food group.) The smaller the seedling, the more vulnerable they are to pesticide residues, hormones and antibiotics. Organic and wild variety produce also offers more nutritional bang for your buck. Dairy and meats should be pastured whenever possible.

The bottom line on baby seedlings is this: it’s clear what nature intended. Human milk for human babies. Whole foods in appropriate, easy to eat forms. Traditional practice trumps conventional wisdom here as it does in nearly every part of the Primal Blueprint. Nonetheless, Lady Grok would’ve killed for that Beaba….

Have your seedling suggestions, comments or questions? Send them on, and thanks for reading.

bookgrl Flickr Photo (CC)

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great article! I was only able to nurse my son for 4 months :(

    Couldn’t get a good latch, when I pumped I got nothing, probably due to stress and a sad diet. I was freaking out because I knew all the garbage in commercial formulas. Luckily I found the Weston A Price foundation and the website posted the infant formula recipes from Nourishing Traditions cookbook. I’ve been giving my son the raw milk formula since then and he is now 19 months, strong and healthy and has had a cold only once.

    As for solids, he gets chicken with yogurt cheese and a little dill for flavor. He also occasionally gets some fruit and veggies, although he doesn’t care for vegg very much yet. He doesn’t like eggs, so I make him a berry or a chicken clafoutis (eggs & cream whipped together and poured over the berries/chicken/whatever with optional maple syrup (formaldehyde free)/spices/whatever and baked for 30 minutes. Divine!!!

    isaboblue wrote on April 7th, 2010
  2. I have been following a Weston A. Price diet since my daughter was 3 months old. I exclusively breastfeed her – she is almost 8 months now, and I try to give her cod-liver oil. I recently eliminated all grains after reading Primal Blueprint. My doc found through blood tests that I am hypothyroid – very low T3 and put me on natural dessicated porcine thyroid about 3 months ago. Since my daughter was about 3-4 months old, I can’t seem to lose any more baby weight. I am about 10-15 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight and I can’t fit into any of my clothes! My doc says to accept my new mom body and be proud of it, but I just can’t do that. Any idea why I can’t lose weight no matter what I do? I tried lots of exercise and then minimal exercise and now Primal exercise and nothing works. My weight stays the same. Do some women not lose weight while breastfeeding and if so, why? I was 130-135 pre-pregnancy and now I am consistenly 145 NO MATTER WHAT I DO. Any advice? I thought about stopping my hypothyroid medication since it gives me heart palpitations and a bit of insomnia.
    I also don’t want to do extreme dieting because I am breastfeeding, but would it hurt to try significantly reducing my intake?

    Need help!

    Katie wrote on May 11th, 2010
    • Katie,
      I read that while breastfeeding helps lose most of the weight, if you were thin before you got pregnant then your body will hold onto about 10 extra pounds as long as you are breastfeeding to make sure there are always enough fat reserves to feed your baby. As a breastfeeding mother of a 6 month old, I too, have been grounded at 13 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight. I have decided to stop stressing as much about it until I’m done nursing (but still eat healthy and exercise).

      Leah wrote on August 7th, 2010
  3. Hi. I don’t have any thoughts on why you haven’t been able to lose weight – breastfeeding usually helps. Regarding the thyroid supplementation, it sounds like you’re taking too much, if you’re getting palpitations, and can’t sleep. You shouldn’t go off the medication, just have your physician lower the dose and keep checking every 4 weeks until you reach the right TSH level. If your physician isn’t an endocrinologist, I suggest you see one. I am also hypothyroid, so am familiar with the situation.

    Maxine wrote on May 11th, 2010
  4. Katie, I would not stop meds but you might need a dosage adjustment. I was also recently diagnosed as hypothyroid and the endocrinologist started me at a LOW dose and has slowly increased at, as she said that “too much, too soon” can indeed cause heart palpitations. If anything, getting your thyroid under control should help with your weight, so I encourage you to see about an adjustment, not stopping the med.

    As for your weight? Well I confess I gained about 55 pounds when I was pregnant with my son. I lost 35 in the first 6 weeks after delivery, but those other stubborn 20 just hung on and on. I didn’t want to cut food too much as I was breast-feeding also, but I was trying exercising and jogging. Nothing worked.

    Finally weaned my son between 10 and 11 months of age, in prep for having to go back to work when he was a year old. And after I weaned him those last 20 pounds just dropped right off in a matter of weeks! Phew, I was able to fit back into all my pre-pregnancy business clothes. :-)

    So breast-feeding didn’t help with weight-loss, but weaning sure did for me.

    Debbie wrote on May 12th, 2010
  5. I just want to give some food for thought:

    My sister and I were born 4 years apart, she was fully breastfed for a long time and was a plump baby.
    I was born premature, put in a breeding case in critical care in the hospital for 6 weeks and on baby formula. Fed through tubes and had no human contact (physically by touching skins)

    Now 40 years later:
    My sister is a wreck, her hair has steadily been falling out since a teenager, she had VERY bad teeth growing up and had to have braces, she is also allergic to anything and everything, has degenerative disc disease, bad spine all together, very bad skin, adult acne, weight problems, sagging skin in the face that makes her look 10 years older. Bad feet and an overall unhealthy appearance.

    Myself:
    Besides the sinus allergies and digestive distress I have had nothing my entire life. And even those 2 are eliminated following the PB now.

    Breastfeeding doesn’t always mean you’re raising a perfect human. It’s what this individual does for the rest of his/her life that determines their health.

    Suvetar wrote on June 5th, 2010
  6. Thanks for this post, Mark!! And thanks to everyon for the comments, too. It really bridged the gap for me – I’ve always known I want to breastfeed my babies (I can’t STAND women who feed their children formula because they feel “weird” breastfeeding – what do you think breasts are for?), and I know I’m TOTAlly getting a babycook, but I couldn’t figure out the solids. This has really helped me realized the way babies are supposed to eat!

    Who needs Cheerios anyway?

    Sara wrote on June 22nd, 2010
    • Just an update…we are skipping purees and going straight to full solids. So, no babycook – just what my kid can eat herself or with my help! Mama bird, anyone? My baby was exclusively breastfed for 7 months and we’ve slowly started to introduce solids as she becomes more interested.

      Sara wrote on December 7th, 2011
  7. For mothers who think they have to hide in a bathroom to nurse a baby, there are ways to nurse in public without anyone being aware of it. You can throw a baby blanket over your shoulder and the baby, or you can lift your shirt just enough to give baby access, and baby will block your breast. I have done this on an airplane and in shopping malls and restaurants. See La Leche League for more info and support on primal baby raising, although they don’t call it that. :-)

    Maxine wrote on June 22nd, 2010
  8. On the topic of nursing in public: I consider the need to hide my breasts while nursing my children similar to the need to wear a burqa so that men won’t be tempted away from thoughts of the divine by my sinful female body. I mean no disrespect, but…come on. While I’m grateful that I don’t have to walk around under a blanket so that I don’t get stoned to death, I’m still a little shocked that women feel shy about breastfeeding – and that our culture supports that!

    Anyone grossed out by the sight of a child nursing at the breast is a misogynist, pure and simple. If you are feeding a child, especially an older child, your boobs are occasionally going to be out and about. And, as weird as it seems in North America and many western cultures, they should be. I’m as shy as a teen about my boobs now, because I’m done with nursing and they’ve gone back to being happy playthings for my sweetheart. :)

    But, when I was nursing – >8years of it – the boobs were for the kids, end of story.

    I wish there was a way of convincing women to stop being idiots about their bodies. Teens can be silly and that’s expected, but once you have a baby, we really need to start behaving thoughtfully. Your breasts are for feeding your children, full stop. Sure, they also attract a mate, but once you’ve got the mate and had the kid, their function changes. It will change back when the kid stops nursing, trust me. Dad’s just going to have to learn to share. (It’s the least of what he’ll have to put up with in the coming years anyway.)

    As for “getting the hang of nursing” well, some babies struggle, so it’s not just about the mom. And, some boobs are more nursable than others. But, almost all boobs can become nursable… those first borns sometimes have a hard job! I wish someone had told me how difficult it can be. I had mastitis more times than I care to remember, blood in my milk one time from broken vessels in my breasts, scabbed nipples, blah blah blah. My advice is be patient, be kind to yourself, hang in.

    I kept thinking: “ok – I knew labour would be hard – it’s called labour. But, someone should pick a new name for breastfeeding, like: post partum torture or something.” I kept thinking there was something wrong, he wasn’t getting enough, it shouldn’t hurt so much…

    Just stick with it – it gets better and very few things you do in parenting your child will matter as much. He was getting enough, it did get better, it took an act of faith and having someone around who’d gone through it would have helped.

    Breastfeeding is critical. I’m not into guilting women out, but, why gild the lily? If you have to choose between a college fund and breastfeeding – especially in the coming market place – I strongly suggest you opt for breast feeding.

    By the time my first was a year old, we’d finally gotten through the worst (thrush, getting kicked out of restaurants, mastitis, you name it) and I thought – I’m supposed to quit now? Just when it’s getting useful and not torturous??? My toddlers were calm and we napped together, i got my oxytocin several times a day from occasional nursings (imagine mini orgasms 3 or 4 times a day, that’s the hormonal impact of nursing), and I thought, if people are going to judge me for nursing these toddlers, well, judge away man, I need my fix and so do they.

    If you are still uncertain about extended nursing and nursing anywhere, anytime, just look at the world around us. While you are doing that, look extra close at the pharmaceutical companies, in particular at the number of anti depressant prescriptions (26 M and climbing every single year in the US) and decide if you want ANYTHING than ANYONE aligned with the mainstream has to say to direct your thinking about your child, their health and your body. Mainstream thinking has failed us and it’s failing our children (but, advertising folks make a lot of money from it, and I know what I speak of because I’m in marketing.) You could pretty much do the opposite of mainstream childrearing as a rule, and come out on top. That’s how skewed we are in our thinking about what’s “normal” for babies and children.

    I decided not to listen to what my friends/family had to say and it’s been the key to my happiness. My 11 year old still cuddles my breasts to get to sleep at night (not because he needs to, because he loves to!), my sixteen year old is an artist and currently, most of his drawings feature rubanesque goddesses with BIG swords (or guns – sorry!) and massive pendulous breasts (lol); it’s awesome! We regularly have chin up contests and Friday mornings are monkey bar workouts… Primal living gets better as the kids grow. :) But, he sees women as strong providers, powerful nurturers, sexy warriors. I like to think that a lot of his fascination of powerful and empowered women comes from being nursed.

    Plus, I’m raising two boys to become men who’ll treat women with respect. I believe it began by giving my body fully to them when they were babies. They will be good lovers, friends to women and perhaps, fathers. They have a built in belief, established in the first years of their lives, that their world is life supporting. What more could you want your child to believe in life?

    Their first impression of womanhood was sweet, soft, and plentiful. As they got older, they had to learn to ask (which is a good reason for nursing toddlers – you need something they want to teach them respect) and to be patient. They had to learn that my body is mine, and their body is theirs – breasts are probably the worlds first teaching tools for socialization.

    As for blankets over boobs nursing in public, well if you have time to fuss, fine. But, it may just be simpler to change your thinking about boobs, if only for a while, as I did. Nowadays, you wouldn’t catch me flashing cleavage anywhere – it would kill my professional life for one (I work with engineers and they don’t necessarily want to see a healthy set of knockers when they are trying to talk about processes); and I like saving the middle age sexiness for my man. But it sure made my life simpler when the kids were babies to flip a giant bird to disapproving family, friends and society in general when it came to “shocking” people with my child-friendly boobs.

    I think that, as mothers, we must be good at knowing what’s our issue, and what’s someone else’s, and what’s harmful and stupid to teach our children. That’s the only way we are going to be able to raise strong individuals. That’s the only way we are going to become a more compassionate society, able to solve problems that grow more complex with every generation.

    How you handle your boobs – especially in terms of your children – is, I’m sorry, a political as well as personal matter.

    How you handle your boobs teaches your daughters to own, love and respect their bodies; to wonder at all the different iterations of our bodies as we grow, and all that is unique about us. Ladies, teach your girls to love their boobs. And let your boys love them too.

    How you handle your boobs tells the world how to treat you. Go natural, and love your body. You never know when you’ll get the call and one or both may have to be removed to save your life… Although, there is evidence to suggest that nursing may stave off breast cancer. If the day comes and you have to bid farewell to one or both of your boobs, well, those years of nursing a baby will be so much more precious in your heart; boobs well spent! And, bear your scars, stretchmarks, mastectomy, and otherwise, with a warrior’s pride.

    I long for the day that nursing tents – those weird things women wear around their necks to hide their beautiful little babies nursing sweetly – are a joke, not worthy of any real discussion. I long for a day that nursing rooms are optional, for moms who still need to focus on helping babies feed, rather than the mom who’s little one just needs a sip now and again.

    I long for the day that the only discussion worth having in regards to nursing is how to get the optimal nutrition into mothers – all the mothers of the world – so their breastmilk will be rich, plentiful, and free of toxins.

    I long for the day that Nestle, instead of handing out cases of formula to doctors to give to poor mothers, will instead give cases of veggies and fruits to keep mothers’ breastmilk rich for their newborns. (Nestle’s owes AT LEAST that much to the mother’s of developing countries after the havoc they have wreaked and the babies who have died as a result of Nestle’s “generosity”.)

    Please ladies, if you are “considering” nursing (and I mean extended, full time nursing) instead of committed to it, just grow a set (if you’ll pardon the macho euphemism); do it on behalf of your children. This is one of those things that will actually count. All the other crap that goes with childrearing: learning to read (they will, try and stop them), daycare (any place with kids and sane folks is fine), tv (whatever), video games (whatever), war toys (deny them, then try to explain the news when they are older), teen sex (you won’t have much say), drugs (good luck!) are all less in your control than you think.

    If parenting teaches us anything, it’s that our children belong to their time and their culture – not us. We are little more than spectators in their lives, along for the ride, the cheering section. If you don’t believe it, it’s because your kids are still too young to have disillusioned you. But – food, their first food, that’s one that we get to control. And among few—it’s the one that may count the most.

    Knockers out Moms – eat well, drink lots, work less and feed your babies with pride!

    janice wrote on June 22nd, 2010
  9. Janice – WOW!
    Love your comment. I am a midwife and a huge advocate of breastfeeding. You are so right that your children deserve ‘you’, not the fearful parent who wishes to please others. None of us want our children to grow up fearful and people-pleasers. If this is not a great place to start showing them how to be strong in what you believe, then what is?
    If the WHO recommends breastfeeding to 2 years of age, why do we have women in North America who only breastfeed for 6 weeks, or not at all? Even the APP recommends to 6 months. We are such a strange society…

    KC wrote on June 24th, 2010
    • Well, bless you and all other midwives!
      Personally, I owe anything that worked with birth and childrearing to my brave, wonderful midwives: Barbara Scriver and Noreen Walker of Edmonton Alberta and Gloria LeMay of Vancouver BC.

      When I met Barb in 1994, i was like: I can’t see nursing past 3-6 months. the thought disgusts me…

      She just laughed. When she held the doptone to my tummy and I heard those tiny horse hooves for the first time, I said: “Hey, it’s not a tumor!” She just laughed and hugged me. (what a different experience than going to the doctor and hearing “Well, first let’s make sure it’s not a tumor.”)

      Both my children were born at home, caught by midwives. Doctors and nurses treated me like a patient, the midwives treated me like a human. When I got scared or stuck in my first labour, instead of offering something for the pain or otherwise disempowering me, my midwife kicked my young ass into gear, got me to calm down and focus.

      I wanted to be a midwife once upon a time because it made all the difference to my children, and to me. But, what a tough row to hoe. I went to a few hospital births and one home birth (other than my own) and what a difference!! The hospital births seemed like rape. It was hard to hold down friends being sewn with very little topical anesthetic, especially when I knew that if they’d only been allowed to get off their butts and wait for contractions to push (instead of pushing in the gaps in between – can you imagine!?) they wouldn’t have needed the episiotomy in the first place.

      The thought of being trapped in a birthing bed with my butt crushed against that seat to give birth freaks me out. Watching it was bad enough, I can’t imagine doing it. My girlfriend held me up in a squatting position for the first one (Dad watched, speechless!) and I was kneeling for the second, which the midwife helped Dad catch. The midwives said – choose the position that feels right. How simple is that?

      Anyhow, in the end I lacked the courage to take on the political stuff (I’ve seen how many doctors and nurses treat midwives, doulas and birth attendants), and I lacked the strength to enter a career that entails teaching women that that giving birth is something mammals do (natural does not equal easy all the time). Instead, I went into a career in marketing (read: gutless whore for $) :)

      But, I would and will do anything to support the women – midwives and doulas – who do this important work.

      Midwifery takes more strength than I will ever had (and I like my weightlifting!). But, I’m more grateful for my midwives than I can ever properly express.

      Plus: I’m raising two advocates of midwifery. They’ve seen the videos of their births, so they have a non-medical template locked into their concept of birth.

      Weirdly, the youngest loves his birth video.

      However, I learned (twice) that video taping yourself giving birth is a probably a mistake. It was a great experience, but really, I could do without the footage. :) It’s sort of like seeing a video of yourself losing control of your bowels at an Ironman finish. A worthy effort, but, like most endurance events, finishing feels better than it looks.

      The older one still hasn’t forgiven me for showing his birth video to him when he was older. But, the younger one finds it fascinating and watches it on his birthdays. While he does that, the rest of us make ourselves scarce.

      Lesson learned!
      Midwives are wonderful!

      janice wrote on June 24th, 2010
  10. Wow!!!! Thank you so much for this article and for all the comments!!!! Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my diet and what sort of diet is best for my 6 month old. I arrived at the conclusion that a hunter/gatherer diet i.e. primal diet, makes the most sense for us. But I still wasn’t sure what to give my baby. My own instinct was that all babies needed was to nurse for the first year, or until they started to fuss and seemed to need more to fill their tummies. Well, I’m sorry to say I didn’t listen to my instinct but to my doctor instead, who recommended starting my baby on iron-fortified rice cereal at 4 MONTHS of age. At least I stuck to only letting other caregivers feed him this when I was at work and continuing to nurse him exclusively when I’m home with him.

    I am so grateful I found this article when I did because now that he is 6 months we have reached another milestone where our culture says your baby should be eating more baby foods. Still, I haven’t been feeling right about this. I mean I look at the nutritional content on a jar of baby food and I know it just can’t compare to breastmilk. The big argument for introducing foods at 6 months is that iron stores are starting to be depleted–so wouldn’t it make more sense to introduce my baby to naturally iron-rich foods, like meat, or maybe make sure I eat a diet high in iron? After reading this article and these comments, I’m going to follow what my instinct has been telling me to do all along–toss the rice cereal and jars of baby foods and just keep nursing with a little bit of freshly pureed foods thrown it.

    I would also like to say something on the topic of breastfeeding and working: I have been back at work full-time at a demanding job since my son was 2 months old, and besides a bit of rice cereal during the day, he continues to be exclusively breastfed. And I don’t pump throughout the day. I don’t say this so other working moms who haven’t been able to do this will feel bad, but to offer encouragement and let others know it is completely possible. Here’s how I do it: Last thing before going to work in the morning I feed my baby and then pump the rest, which he eats through the day. I also come home at lunch to nurse. He then nurses as much as he wants throughout the evening and in bed at night.

    I know three other full-time working moms who are also nursing their babies exclusively. It takes commitment and there’s not much extra time in my life but I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I think it helps a lot that breastfeeding is strongly supported in America right now, at least where I live. The truth is, once you’ve got things established, your breasts will adapt to any feeding schedule because that is what they are meant to do :) . For me, that means a lot of milk first thing in the morning and in the evening but that less is produced during the day.

    Leah wrote on August 7th, 2010
  11. Great conversation. My baby is almost 10 mos. She’s been breastfed and is also eating solids. I’ve not bought one single “baby food” product for her. I give her what we eat or what is laying around. She eats solids 2-3 times a day and I give her a protein and a fruit or veggie and sometimes some goat kefir or yogurt. The whole baby food industry is disgusting and when I see babies eating that junk I feel like it constitutes abuse knowing that those babies are developing a palate for foods that are destructive to them. They have no say in the matter.

    I will breastfeed my girl until she wants to stop and I hope she doesn’t know what a cheerio, cupcake, cookie, or cracker is until she gets to school. My view is that I only have about 4-5 years to really lay a solid food foundation and control her diet. After she goes to school she will be exposed to so much bad food. Hopefully if she has a palate for good stuff, (veggies, proteins, no grains/sugar, etc..) she’ll not be so interested in junk food.

    So moms and dads with babies, you don’t need to buy any special baby food or gadgets. If you are eating healthy just take your meals and cut up for baby. I’ve never given her purees, also. Babyled weaning is what we’ve followed. Just cut up soft or steamed finger foods starting at 6 mos and they feed themselves taking out the power struggle with eating and they get to have fun and control the experience.

    I was just at a family event this weekend and had fed my baby a lunch of liver and broccoli. My sister and father-in-law said I was a mean mom for feeding such yucky food. Go figure! If I had fed cheerios or cheesy crackers they’d probably think that was right on.

    Kristen wrote on September 13th, 2010
  12. I am a postpartum doula and promote breastfeeding in my work. I love most of what you’ve written and like others have mentioned I wish I would have known more when I had my first child! Thank you for promoting healthy children – through lifestyle choices.

    I wonder if you might take another look at DHA and ARA formula products. I’ve learned that although these substances are found in breastmilk – the formula equivalent is not good for babies.

    Jill wrote on October 6th, 2010
  13. My 2 kids were both nursed for 26 months. Both are very healthy (no ear infections, one one stomach bug for my oldest and it was after she stopped nursing- my son has never even thrown up).

    Neither had baby food. They had some fruit around 8 months old, and began eating other foods around 15 months. They did “lose their curve” on the growth charts around 9 months, but breastfed babies gain quick in the beginning and then slow down. Now their weights are between the 30-50 percentile.

    I regret that they have not continued eating as healthy. They are now 5 and 3, love fruits, but also love carbs and hate meat. And the only veggies they eat are spinach and avocado in their smoothies- and tomato sauce on pizza… lol. I’m really working on this area.

    It’s encouraging to read this site…

    nicole wrote on October 21st, 2010
  14. I am so lost.

    I love this site, and my husband and I are switching our own diets over somewhat quickly. However, there is a 14-month-old girl to think about here.

    She’s allergic to milk (has been tested). So, the allergist and pediatrician both insisted on soy milk. (Yes, I asked about almond or rice or anything but soy.) I want so badly for her to get fish oil (I took all through pregnancy and pumping/breastfeeding) but with the health issues (the allergies, heart defect, respiratory problems causing 4+ hospital visits and/or stays this year….I swear I am not a crackhead.) I am scared to give it to her straight. So, right now we do Silk with DHA and Calcium.

    Any suggestions? I mean not just “switch to rice milk” or whatever, but with how careful we are trying to be to solve her various problems (or see if the heart is causing all of them, etc), I don’t want to ignore the doctors. But I think DHA is important. But I am worried about soy.

    Ugh. It doesn’t help that I’m a worrier.

    Michelle wrote on November 7th, 2010
    • Oh, and I did breastfeed for a year. Actually I pumped for most of it since, due to her heart defect, despite her good latch she couldn’t pull enough milk out. It was a struggle to make it as far as I did, but it was very important to me to get her that milk one way or another.

      Any thoughts on the soy/DHA/etc issue? She eats only purees still (again, not sure why – gags and throws up with any bit of texture, let alone full on solids)….so I feel she still needs something to help get her calories and vitamins.

      Michelle wrote on November 13th, 2010
      • What about So Delicious Coconut milk it has more nutrients than soy milk and is more fattening?

        kami wrote on August 6th, 2011
      • I know may be too late for you Michelle, but for others who have similar problems…. My baby is also Cow milk allergic, and once she weaned off breastmilk it was hard to find the right “milk” for her. She now does really well with half goats milk/ half coconut milk. Added probiotics, and infant vitamin drops. Stay far away from the soy…see Dr. Mercola’s site for reasons why.

        Leslie wrote on August 8th, 2011
  15. We are doing baby-led weaning.

    I breast feed two children: a 2.5 year old (1-2 times per day), and a 1 year old (on demand).

    Both children eat what we eat, and have since they first began experimenting with solids.

    On their own, young children are able to first learn to grasp potential food, bring it to their mouths, then chew, then swallow (non-liquids).

    When purees are fed to children, they are taught to swallow before they chew…making it MORE possible for children to choke.

    Both my children followed their own “blueprint” for learning to eat. They have not had pureed food, ever.

    Vigilance was still required…because accidents do happen. But my 1 year old eats food that most parents could not even imagine their 1 year old eating. They get scared watching him!! It’s almost funny…

    Of course, some things are better than others. Someone mentioned using carrots and chard/kale/collard stalks for teething. Meat bones = baby’s first and favorite yummy toy. Slices of pepper, cucumber, apple, raisins, nuts, meat, eggs. They can handle it all!!!(Think stick or handle shaped foods/cuts of food, for beginners)

    If I’m trying to get some nutrition to my younger guy via food, I chew it for him. Though I prefer that he continue to breastfeed for most of his nutrients for a bit longer (18 mos. or so, when I will night wean).

    Otherwise, I just let him practice chewing on everything!

    I don’t expect him to wean completely anytime soon, though I will follow his lead.

    And that’s the point of all this rambling :0)

    Follow the kids lead. Instinctively they know how to survive…they just can’t do it without a little help.

    Grasp. Hand to mouth. Chew. Swallow.

    jamie wrote on January 28th, 2011
  16. Mark,

    Great article!

    I was unable to breastfeed due to medical reasons and I’ve been researching so much for 5 months as to what is best for my wee one. She was unable to tolerate dairy formula – I tried organic baby’s only nature’s one brand. I feel so badly for her as she is now on an elemental formula including mostly corn syrup solids and chemicals. I just don’t know what to do. I’m looking into goat’s milk or homemade bone broth based hypoallergenic formula but am a bit afraid as I’m not yet working w/ a naturopath.

    I just started a little bit of solids – organic pureed veg for the most part. I also purchased gluten free bob’s red mill oats and whirled them in my food processor for a good breakfast porridge. It sounds like you don’t recommend a grain? Interesting…

    Anyway, I’m curious about your thoughts about a baby that cannot tolerate dairy formula. Everything on the market that is labeled ‘hypoallergenic’ is just terrible nutrition wise! The homemade formulas I’ve looked at look so wholesome and wonderful – I’m just afraid to try them.

    Thank you for any advice!

    AJ wrote on March 5th, 2011
    • humanmilk4humanbabes.com may be able to help. You can get breast milk for free from local moms who care! Good luck!

      kami wrote on August 6th, 2011
  17. HI,

    I love all the concern for kids’ health on this page. It’s so hopeful. But – there’s one thing that concerns me… so many parents are introducing SO many foods, SO early. I know that if you can’t breastfeed then we do the next best and thank goodness humankind is super resilient, but when it comes to introducing solids, I have to wonder what’s the rush? I breastfed both mind for 5 years apiece, and they thrived pretty much solely breast for the first year. That wasn’t intentional, i certainly offered…but they didn’t seem much interested (although the 2nd one was a chunky monkey on breastmilk alone, the first was pretty lean.)

    I would offer them food, and because I knew that one of the most important elements of carb digestion is in the salivary amylase in our mouths, everything that went into their mouths, came out of mine.

    I know, I know – Gross! right? (They are 17 and 12 now and utterly disgusted knowing that their first solid foods were prechewed by me).

    Oh, and I never introduced fruit until …gosh I think past 2. Certainly NEVER juice – i think juice is awful and I certainly wouldn’t drink it – unless running an ultra, which while fun, necessitates desperate measures (like juice and pretzels!).

    I ate a pretty simple diet – same thing most days, and the kids could have as much as they wanted of what I was having and they turned out great. Healthy as heck. Better – they got over the random viruses a lot quicker, probably due to nursing.

    But – I still think keeping their diets as simple as possible and chewing their food is a recommendation I don’t hear enough. i hear of athletes who eat the same simple diet, year in year out and do quite well, but never the same recommendation for kids. Obviously once they start reaching for food, they are ready to start masticating on their own… but until then, I would wait to see their interest in what I’m eating and make sure I’ve “processed” it for them.

    In any event, life was pretty darn simple with never a baby jar or a blender/food processor to clean.

    Especially for meat… pre-chewing is essential for toddlers to ensure there are no bone chips or fish bones. Your tongue is more sensitive than a blender blade.

    Of course, all this pre-chewing and watching for their interest in food, rather than starting them on solids when you decide it’s necessary presupposes that what is on your plate is good food – ideal for sharing with someone you love.

    I thank my children for forcing me to shop, cook and eat clean and primal – long before it was popular and well understood – thanks to folks like Mark!
    :)

    janice wrote on March 14th, 2011
  18. My daughter’s first solid food was yogurt. I don’t mean a carton of sugar/fruit crap either, just plain, whole milk yogurt. Her second food was mashed bananas, and her third was yogurt & bananas together.

    They told me rice cereal, but that didn’t seem right to me. I never considered Rice Krispies solid nutrition for me, so didn’t see why the baby version would be good food. Any solid food I gave her was replacing my milk, so seemed like it should be good food, not just filler crap.

    Her baby food was plain food, peaches, pears, beans, peas, etc., lightly steamed, pureed and frozen in ice cube trays, then stored in ziplocks.

    The only baby food I bought was meats as the only ingredients were meat and water. Don’t know how it is today, but back then, you could get decent meat baby foods.

    She tasted sugar for the first time in her first birthday cake. Up until then, nada, not even “natural” sugars like molasses or such. The only sugar was what was in my breast milk and what was in whole fruits I cooked to make baby food.

    Today, I’d be cooking pastured meat in bone broth and introducing lightly cooked pastured egg yolks early on, and the yogurt would be my homemade raw stuff. I’ve learned a tad in the 27 years since then.

    She grew up with decent tastes. I visit her and her house is full of fresh fruits and veggies, and it was like that even before she had a family. It’s “normal” to her.

    jpatti wrote on April 7th, 2011
    • Hi Jpatti
      My baby is 4 months and showing signs of needing more already, he’s on formula and already almost at the max recommended. I’m considering starting him on solids and was thinking avo or you hurt. At what age did you introduce yoghurt?

      Natalie wrote on March 17th, 2014
  19. I wholeheartedly agree with your stance on breastfeeding. However, I’m a loving and very responsible mom of a 3.5 year old and a 4 month old who ended up having to stop breastfeeding at 4 months for both children due to a thyroid “crash.” My autoimmune thyroid disease prevented my supply from being consistent enough to meet the demand of my babies. That being said, after regretfully feeding my daughter with organic formula for 8 months, I have spent the following 2.5 years feeding her fish oils, all organic, whole foods, made my own baby food (never store-bought anything) and have never fed her processed, sugary “kid” foods. I am proud to say she is one of the smartest kids in her preschool class (already reading at 3.5) and hardly EVER gets sick. I’m writing this because I feel the onslaught of criticism every day for not breastfeeding my babies – and as a mom who would have LOVED to do it and couldn’t, my kids are living proof that what you feed them AFTER the nursing years matters just as much. I have SO many friends who nursed their babies for over a year and now feed them sugary, processed snacks constantly. These kids are almost always sick and lack the energy of my daughter. So – just a “shout out” for the moms who are doing their best without being able to breastfeed. Thanks for taking a moment to read this and maybe think twice before judging that mom you see with a bottle of formula – you have no idea how hard she may have tried before deciding to do what is best for her baby and her own body.

    Kristy wrote on April 18th, 2011
  20. I would love to see an article on the feeding of the food neophobic toddler. Mine subsists on fruit, milk, and peanutbutter sandwiches. He will refuse anything else to the point of getting sick.
    Ingvildr

    Ingvildr wrote on April 27th, 2011
  21. So this is a delayed post, but I just ran accross this article. It’s really interesting. I try to make most all my daughter’s foods. Gerber is very disappointing. Aside from being limited on nutrients, it smells bad…even the fruit!

    So Zoe has been on solids since 3 months because she is allergic to my breast milk. She has a mild lactose intolerance (ie. my milk and yogurt). She seems to be fine with solid cheese though. The Dr. Transitioned her to an expensive formula Nutramagin to combine with her morning breakfast 4 onces of oatmeal. She loves feeding herself, prefers fruits and grains (though I try to not give her too many grains), and it’s always a challenge to get her to reliably eat vegitables. She just will not take puree’s anymore because she likes that independence. I feel like I have to set up a buffet line of food for each meal to ensure she eats the nutrients she needs. Is there any way to make vegis more appealing? Is it wise to eliminate solid cheese altogether seeing as it does have some iron/protein benefits and is easily finger accessible?

    Additionally, (sorry for being so wordy), how on earth does a busy mom juggling school, training, raising a baby, and maintaining a household maintain her diet? I find it so challenging to even eat enough during the day, so by the end of the week, I’m wiped and my crossfit workouts stink.

    Thanks so much.

    Cyndi

    Cynthia Cook wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Cyndi, to address your question on juggling. I have trouble and I stay at home. My mother was a single mom who juggled school, work, baby and home. She didn’t do CF but she also had no car and lived on a third floor walk up so she got her workout in. When asked how she did it she says it sucked but she didn’t have choice so she just did it. Having support helps, whether people in your daily life or over the internet. Some days when the toddler is acting out and the newborn is unconsolably fussy getting words of support from other moms online as well as my daily sanity check with my mom and grandmother is the only thing that stands between me and losing it.

      As to your question on making veggies more appealing, are you eating them? Are you showing great enjoyment when you do? Have you tried cooking them in bacon grease? The last question is only because bacon is the only meat my toddler will reliably eat right now. We went through the same thing with my toddler, which is why I found PB. I found that he likes it best when he eats what I eat, often from my plate while sitting on my lap. We sit at a toddler sized table, he’s allowed to get up as he needs, he can sit on my lap or in his chair, he can eat from my plate, his plate or a combination. He can also choose not to eat. We don’t force it. We also don’t serve the same thing (except his beloved bacon) everyday. If we serve the same food two days in a row he won’t eat it. If we don’t have fun eating he won’t eat.

      Sarah wrote on June 20th, 2011
    • Cynthia, if you were eating and drinking cow dairy while you were breastfeeding, that could have passed to Zoe. My baby is allergic to cow dairy and was miserable while I was breastfeeding her, until I eliminated it from my diet. She was better instantly. So, this comes months after your post…but for anyone else this may help….if you child seems to be having colic or allergies, try eliminating things from your diet (mostly dairy and gluten) before giving up nursing all together. BTW the pediatrician’s response to her pain was, “well babies cry sometimes, I’ve never seen a baby die from crying”. And then when I told him it was completely gone after I eliminated dairy from my diet, he said, “hmmmmmmm, maybe that helped” He couldn’t even acknowledge the immediate impact it had on her health and wellness.

      As to your question about being busy…. hire a babysitter/nanny even if it is just a few hours a week. Have her come while you are home, so you can get your shopping/laundry/busy things done without interruption.

      Leslie wrote on August 8th, 2011
  22. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for saying that a nursling should be able to have the breast for two or MORE years. You don’t know how rare that is (or maybe you do), but I am completely and totally in love with your website now. If the rest of the information didn’t get me, just the common sense knowledge of knowing breastmilk IS best, I really do believe 100% in what you are saying! Thanks for getting the info out there!

    Heather wrote on July 21st, 2011
  23. Still nursing my 2 y/o very actively. We will wean when she chooses.

    Started solids at 10 m/o only meat and veggies. We don’t “do” processed food anyway. Although we did just start really being primal.

    We also practice attachment parenting as I believe it is what’s best for our family and undoubtedly what grok and his wife must have done (at least mostly).

    Great article I am glad someone had the guts to say the things you did! I just wish more people would wake up and start doing these things!

    kami wrote on August 6th, 2011
  24. I had gestational diabetes while pregnant, so I had to really watch my diet, and carbs during the pregnancy. Everything went great and I had a healthy normal weight baby. But I didn’t produce a lot of milk, and it probably was somewhat a result of being forced to give her formula in the hospital because of her jaundice. I tried all the supplements, in pill and tea form and still no increase in my milk supply. And I found out she was milk allergic, so I couldn’t give her formula (nor did I want to), so I had a tough time finding things that she could take to supplement calories for her.
    So I did make her a formula at home of goats milk/coconut milk and added infant concentrated vitamins, and pro-biotics. When I pumped I mixed this half and half with my breast milk, and then nursed her the rest of the time. It seemed to work great. But she was starting to refuse it around 4.5 months….so I wanted to introduce solids….but being that she was at a greater risk for Diabetes than the average child, there was no way I was going to stuff her full of carbs in a rice cereal. So I introduced her to simple foods like bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, zucchini, etc. And then eventually fish, chicken and red meat (which I pre-chewed….I didn’t know this was gross…I just did it because it got it finer than a knife could). Now that she is a super-healthy 13 month old, and now that I am converting to primal lifestyle, I feel validated by this article that I made all the right decisions based on my intuition. Had I listened to her doctors, she would have both been in a very bad place healthwise.

    I applaud all the women who have commented on here, who have breastfed for as much and as long as they can, and for all the women who also trust their instinct for their kids, or trust their kids cues as to what they need or don’t need. I am in the healthcare field, and am appalled at the lack of training in nutrition that doctors/nurses receive…and then to top it all off, most of that information is wrong, misleading, or sponsored by giant food/formula manufacturers.

    Thank you Mark for keeping it real!

    Leslie wrote on August 8th, 2011
  25. Love this article. I have 3 children, the youngest 11 months. I nursed the two older children until they were almost 18 months. I am still nursing my baby and plan to for a few more months. My question is, is it ok when weaning to transition babies to cows milk? Are there any other options other than formula?

    Courtney wrote on August 28th, 2011
    • Why wean at all? Have you heard of Child Led Weaning? Our species naturally needs mothers (human) milk until they are at least 2 y/o (even according to the World Health Organization) and they naturally wean between 2-7 y/o (biologically speaking without mothers influence)

      kami wrote on August 28th, 2011
  26. Wow. I stumbled across primal blueprint while listening to Mark on a radio program. I just finished the boom and my only concern was that I am nursing my 12 month old son and don’t want to risk his health or my milk supply by starting to go primal. All these comments and articles have been so helpful. I am so happy that I was listening to the radio the other day. I am going to start incorporating this lifestyle change tomorrow…and with my son too (I will work on my darljng husband too, of course). Thank you all for your comments and help.
    PS – I guess the primal blueprint concept must have been in my primal subconscious…my son’s first food was avocado…the thought of rice cereal just didn’t sit well with me. Now I realize why! Primal mother instincts! Haha!

    Tiffany wrote on September 3rd, 2011
  27. I am so happy that I stumbled upon this article. It validates everything that I have done with my 13 month old daughter. I am still breastfeeding (people give me crap about that all the time), she never had formula, and she eats what we eat. Her first food was a little egg yolk from our chickens. A friend of mine recently tried to sell me on the “Graduate” line letting me know how much simpler (and more expensive I might add) my life would be. She said they have everything her kid needs. I mentioned that her kid doesn’t need preservatives and all manner of chemicals. I told her that my little one loves a berry and spinach and yogurt smoothie in a pinch. Most people think because food is on the shelf, it is what is best for us. I prefer to live on the fringes, keep eating traditional food and never getting sick…

    Jennifer wrote on September 5th, 2011
  28. Of course if you wait until 6 months to introduce solids, you can go straight to finger foods, ditching the food mill entirely. I’ve gone this route with both my children. The first loved the solids right from the start (and continued to bf until nearly 3), the second was slower, not really showing much interest until 9 months, but she’s now a good eater (and still bf) at nearly 2.

    Emma wrote on December 14th, 2011
  29. Several others it seems have already weighed in here by mentioned Baby Led Weaning, but I have to add my two cents here.

    There is some conventional wisdom coming through in this guide, as well as some contradictions that I feel like I have to point out.

    You point out that solids are not a substitute for breast milk, but then suggest the use of food processors to provide “good nutrition.” You say the transition to solids for Baby Grok happened very slowly over several years, but suggest that we spoon feed them purees. You mention that it takes two years for children to develop adequate teeth to chew “real” food, but still suggest that we modify food much earlier than that so that they can consume it. You say you take issue with modern toddler/infant nutrition, but I don’t think you realize that you’re subscribing to it by promoting the use of baby food, homemade or not.

    If you have to modify a food for a baby to eat it, they are not ready for that food. If they can’t bring it to their mouth themselves, they are not ready for it. There is never a need for a baby to be fed solids on a spoon.

    Remember – “under one, food is for fun.” Until they are a year old, food is 100% about exploration. They are experiencing new tastes and textures, and it doesn’t matter one tiny bit how much actually ends up in their mouth. Mealtimes should be play time, time for the baby to mush, smash, squish, and maybe taste. Avocados and bananas are great. Anything naturally squishy, and also foods that can be gnawed on but not eaten – a whole carrot, a drumstick, foods in “stick” form like sweet potato spears. Nutrition doesn’t even come into it – all the nutrition they need comes from breast milk. ALL of it. No supplementation necessary.

    Yogurt, fruit, and greens make a delicious, nutritious smoothie – for an adult. Babies are not miniature adults. Yes, it’s packed with nutrients – but it is still inferior to breast milk. Using baby food only displaces the amount of breast milk they consume, and THAT is where their nutrition should be coming from. For a child under 3, everything is inferior to breast milk. After about age 1, babies will start to eat enough to displace some of their milk consumption (of course it varies from kid to kid), and this is where letting them explore with REAL, unmodified food pays off.

    Eating a sweet potato puree is not the same as eating a sweet potato spear. Why introduce babies to textures that they won’t encounter again? You basically have to start over with introducing foods, this time with a potentially picky toddler. If they’ve been eating the real thing all along, there’s no transition to make.

    When you let a baby completely self-feed, they are in control. When you spoon feed, they have far less control. A baby who self-feeds can self-regulate, decide what they like (handy tip – don’t react to what they’re trying, not even with “MMM isn’t that good?!” Do nothing – it will pay off), stop when they’re full. Put them in control from the start, and reap the reward of fewer mealtime struggles down the line, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that it can foster a more positive relationship with food as an adult.

    And a biggie – giving babies solid food in pureed form teaches them to swallow solids before chewing them. The development of chewing is delayed, and it can actually cause a choking hazard when you think you’re preventing one.

    Let’s not forget how much work making baby food is! Not only is it unnecessary, it’s incredibly time consuming, and mothers are overworked as it is. Not to mention the time saved at mealtime – no one has to feed the baby. You all sit down, offer some bits from your plate, and everyone eats at the same time.

    Mark, I really hope that you will take the time to research Baby Led Weaning (honestly, a ten minute browse through their website is all it takes) and maybe modify your definitive guide – it is very, very far from definitive.

    Susie wrote on December 31st, 2011
  30. I forgot to mention that the use of baby food is a direct result of the wave formula feeding. Before formula and bottles, “baby led weaning” was just how babies were fed. Baby food came about when nearly all babies started to be bottle-fed, and it was just easy to add food directly to their bottles. Once it was in the bottles, there was no limit to how soon you could start the solids, whereas before it was only natural to wait until the baby was sitting and could feed themselves. We’re fortunately starting to realize that solids before 6 months is too soon (although there are many, many mothers following their mother’s and even doctor’s advice to start sooner), but we have yet to let go of the purees. Puts it in a different light when you know where it came from, right?

    Susie wrote on December 31st, 2011
  31. Glad to see others feeding their babies ABC (already been chewed food). My daughter, now 2, spit out the pureed stuff and even used her bib to wipe it off her tongue (at 6 months)…good girl! She wouldn’t eat mashed or processed, but would take solids directly from mom or dad’s mouth. She was slow getting teeth (still doesn’t have some in at 2 and a half) so we did this for a long time. We grossed a lot of people out but she was getting great food (salad, meat (mostly elk because we hunt, etc.) as soon as she wanted it and is very healthy. My husband and I referred to teath as natural food processors when anyone started freaking out. We’ll do the same with our second (now 5 months old).

    Laura wrote on January 3rd, 2012
  32. I’m reading this long after it was posted. I’m new to the Primal World and was perusing your website. As a former nursing mom and La Leche League leader, I am still and probably will always read anything promoting breastfeeding. However, you fell into the mind set of “breastfeeding means less…(fill in the blanks-obesity, allergies, etc). Since breastfeeding is truly a primal food, analogies need to be worded such: xx% more obesity, XX% more allergies in artificially fed/ human milk substitute fed infants.

    Deniseregina wrote on February 13th, 2012
  33. I didn’t do the jar thing. I did wean my ‘mostly ready baby’ at 15mo but that was because I was literally dying and the medicine I needed was toxic to the baby. People ask about babies and meat. Here is what I did (thank you british baby-led weaning folks) I cut steaks into strips that WOULDN’T come apart and choke him and let him at them with those gums. He had two front teeth top and bottow (total 4) but he would push the beef back to his molar region and those hard gums would mash and he would extract every single bit of flavour from the meat and leave a husk. same for broccoli. broccolini stems, chicken. I didn’t know about a lot of things but My year old plus toddler could eat all sorts of things. He ate greek yoghurt from a spoon (he fed himself but I loaded it up) Here is what I noticed. My baby (now 2yo) never really choked. If I give him a chunk of apple he chews it up. If he gets a grape he knows to bite down on it. My daughters boys were puree babies on formula and they STILL have to be reminded to chew their food. Still too picky. I have SO many food allergies that I’m terrified of limiting my diet again but I’m going Paleo for Lent to see If i can heal.

    Alexis wrote on February 22nd, 2012
  34. I’m all for nursing and did so with my first until past a year, but it got difficult (anemia, nausea, nipple sensitivity) when I was 3 months pregnant with #2 and had to stop against her will which made me feel guilty. I really felt like I was doing all I could but had to think of the next baby and myself. Now that I’m nursing my second girl, I’ve been pumping some for my first and she loves it but I can’t imagine her actually nursing again. Anyway, my point is that it’s very hard to keep up nursing while pregnant.

    Natasha wrote on April 9th, 2012
  35. Mark thanks for posting this. I am so glad that you mention milksharing. It really is the more “traditional” or evolutionary way to feed a baby, in contrast with the much riskier practice of making one’s own formula (and of course the nasty “formula” which contains literally toxic ingredients). There are artifacts of primitive versions of “bottles” and a lot of babies died from being given animal milk. I’m so grateful to Emma Kwasnica for her work in creating an online replacement for the tribe- so women can find each other to share the amazing resource of human milk.
    I just want to mention there is an inconsistency in your post, later on in the paragraph starting with “For older babies” you wrote that breastmilk can be purchased but is expensive. Its true its expensive through a milk bank–and its pasteurized through milk banks! But human milk can and should be a free-flowing resource that is widely available. That is why these new networks are so important, as well as breaking the modern cultural fear/unfamiliarity with the practice of milksharing.

    Marija wrote on April 26th, 2012
  36. This was so wonderful to see! Another great thing for babies is Baby Led Weaning/Baby Led Solids. I’ve yet to “make” baby food for either of my children and they get to sit up and eat with the whole family. My daughter was gnawing chicken of a leg at 9 months. It helps them much more than spooning mush into their mouths.

    Randee wrote on April 26th, 2012
  37. BRAVO!! As an infant and child development professional, I wish every parent on my caseload would read this article. Beautifully written!

    Andrea wrote on May 13th, 2012
  38. Our son was crazy for guacamole from about six months age. He would eat it right off our fingertip. It was an occasional thing, because we did the whole extended nursing, attachment parenting thing. But my mom’s comment was priceless … one day I handed him over to her she said “why does this baby smell like garlic?”
    “um, gee mom, I dunno…”

    StoneCutter wrote on May 18th, 2012
  39. Regarding breastmilk substitutes, one of the most common traditional substitutes was goat’s milk. It is the most biologically similar to our own and was widely used when a mother died or couldn’t produce milk and there was not a wet nurse available.

    Rebecca wrote on July 2nd, 2012
  40. This was a very reassuring post! My daughter is five months old and I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding her. I plan to introduce her to solids in a few months, and plan on making my own baby food for her. I also plan to continue breastfeeding her till she is around two years old.

    Stephanie wrote on August 21st, 2012

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