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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 26 2009

The Definitive Guide to Feeding Primal Babies

By Mark Sisson
131 Comments

It’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

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

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.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

bookgrl Flickr Photo (CC)

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131 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Feeding Primal Babies”

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  1. Great post! As a mother of an 18-month old little girl (still breastfeeding!) I do believe that fresh, organic food is the best. It’s hard not to go convenient when life gets hectic though.

    We’re out of the house a lot and aren’t always in a place we can sit and have a full-out meal.

    I’d love some more ideas for on-the-go snacks for kids…we’ve got cut up fruit down to a science, but sometimes beyond that it can be hard.

    thanks!

    1. My daughter loved plums at that age, there can also be jerkey type foods, my kids love dried mango, nuts, stuff like that?

    2. great tips! I agree wholeheartedly with everything. I rarely give my 10 month old daughter grain, and she’s sensitive to dairy, and I have on occasion bought those little fruit and veggie pouches and freeze dried fruit for convenience. I tried making homemade teething biscuits but they failed. I need some ideas for portable foods on the go! We aren’t always at a place where I can get a quick primal/grain/dairy free snack for my daughter. This is my biggest hindrance right now. Ideally I’d just stay home and not go anywhere but that’s not very realistic!

    3. Quick convenient food ideas for little ones on the go:

      – frozen peas, tossed int a to-go container or baggie
      -frozen slices or chunks of steamed/sauteed veggies (they keep well for hours if they are packed frozen for travel after you cook them)
      – yogurts made of goat milk or almond milk (if dairy sensitive)
      – dried fruit

      Not so portable:
      -mixing flavorful broth with steamed or sauteed veggies, and pureeing them to make a textured “spread” consistency makes a great meal. Don’t be afraid to add a high-quality mineralized salt (Himalayan pink, fleur de sel, etc). Tastes great to the little ones.

      ~amron (Mom of a super-healthy 16 month-old raised on a HOMEMADE formula)

  2. Mark,

    Love the site, actually bought some of your vitamins today. I am proud to say that my two sons, Michael and Patrick, were/are being breastfed, and our third boy, due in July, will be the same. My wife, thankfully, is VERY healthy around the solids. chicken, and a lot of vegetables and fruit, so bananas, carrots, etc. We are pretty strict about it. meats, vegetables, fruit, that’s all that we feed our boys!

    Thanks for the great site!

    Jim

  3. Before I was eating semi-primal myself (I do still eat rice and corn), I thought the diet my little nephews transitioned to was just not right. My sister and brother-in-law are conscientious parents who’ve followed the guidelines available to them to a T…but it just didn’t seem right to me that babies in particular might be imagined to need so many empty calories. It does concern me that this approach may be part of why we Americans are falling behind in height.

  4. Excellent article. As a LLL leader and a mom of a preschooler (who weaned just after his fourth birthday on his own), it is refreshing to see such a well researched and thoughtful article about infant nutrition outside the breastfeeding support/promotion circles. An important note about rice cereals . . . not only is there little nutritional value but the iron it is fortified with has been shown to interfere with absorption of the iron in breastmilk.

    A note on solids . . . it is quite possible and easy to skip the purees altogether. Put soft chunks in front of a baby at mealtimes and let them experiment themselves . . .when they are ready, they will eat. Avocado, banana, steamed soft veggies or even small pieces of meat all work as first foods. For information on how to tell if your baby is truly ready for solids check http://www.kellymom.com

    1. YES! I was going to say something about baby led weaning 🙂 you should look it up Mark! my son was eating steak – actually biting it off with his gums and chewing it up – at 7 months. Now at 10.5 months he LOVES meat, and more meat, and will eat some vegies too 🙂

  5. I’ve been sneaking fermented high-vitamin cod-liver oil into my 8-month old’s solid foods. We pure meat and vegetables for her on a regular basis. Mix banana in with whole yogurt. We give her egg yolk from free-range chickens. And since I make my own beef and chicken stock, we add that to her home-prepared meals as well. Real bone broth is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins AND minerals, and makes digestion easier.

    Unfortunately, I only discovered that grains are bad news in the last half-year. My 3.5 year old has become addicted to crackers, pasta, cereal, etc. I was buying whole grain in the false Conventional Wisdom belief that I was doing the right thing. But Whole Grain is probably worse! I’ve been trying to cut back her grain consumption and increase the amount and breadth of fruits, vegetables, and meat, eggs, dairy, but it’s been difficult. She’s starting to like more nutritious foods like carrots dipped in almond butter, drum sticks cooked in coconut oil or ghee, cheese (real, raw cheese that is! no more of that kraft crap), and soup made from bone broth.

  6. Great article! Starting 15 years ago, I breastfed all 4 of my kids for over a year each, including a set of twins and a micro-preemie (3 mos. early). At 6-7 mos., they started homemade baby food – steamed and blendered. I always brought food from home for them when we went out, or made sure I had my portable food grinder and they had what we had. It’s so important for these little ones to have the best start possible. Unfortunately, most new parents follow the “conventional wisdom” they hear from their doctors and the media, including how formula is “just as good” as breastmilk.

  7. My daughters first food was pureed avocado. She LOVED it. I can highly recommend it as a mom who gave it to her baby.

  8. Thanks so much for this article. I’m nursing a 5 month old and have already had to fight off advice from all corners (pediatrician in-laws, and the pediatrician himself, my nanny) to feed Finn iron-fortified rice cereal.

    My pediatrician did make the reasonable comment: “Cod liver oil? Have you tasted cod liver oil? If you introduce that as a first food your son probably won’t like eating very much.”

    Fortunately, I’ve found an orange-flavored cod liver oil that I’m gonna try in one month. ..

    And when I told my mom-in-law that I was avoiding grains she said “what about iron?” to which I replied, “grated liver.” That shut her up.

    1. I give my son cinnamon flavored cod liver oil almost daily and he’s 7. He’s rarely sick (allergies mostly) and hasn’t had to be to the doctor for illness since 2005. He prefers the cod liver oil with apple cider or water. He actually hasn’t ever said anything about it tasting bad. And he’s complained once when he couldn’t taste it…

      maybe he’s weird because he HATED macaroni and cheese as a baby (before I knew better) but loved sauerkraut. BTW – I ate that a lot when I was pregnant and breastfeeding him; my family is Polish. He thinks my food is great and loves cod liver oil.

  9. My youngest son couldn’t eat any grains at all. He went into what we affectionately called “projectile vomit.” Very hard time for everyone…

  10. Great article Mark, I wonder how I could advise my in-laws of this without offending them, as it saddens me to say they feed their two beautiful babies soy & corn based formula, proceeded meat, nutra-grain cereal and white rice and wonder why they both have digestive problems.

    1. I saw a pretty good video rant on Mercola’s website about feeding babies soy formula. Pop over to his site and find it. Would be easy thing to email your in-laws.

      You could play dumb and say “wow, look what I found.”

  11. Mark,
    Any advice for children 11,9,2. I am new to PB. I feel like I am not meeting all the nutritional values for my children if they don’t get all the “food groups”. I know , you see this as brain washing but I just need some direction. How much protein/fat/carbs do you recommend for children?

    1. I would check out some of Weston A. Price’s stuff for kids. My son has done the best with a high fat diet. And the dentist told me today that with the way his face/teeth is/are developing he probably won’t need braces!! His father and I both had them so that’s a huge relief for my wallet!

  12. Thanks so much, Mark! Matty is 6 months old, and his sum total of solid food so far consists of a bit of avocado, a bit of banana, and sucking on a cucumber slice every now and then. I’m ditching the rice cereal someone gave us (probably the manufacturer). I love the idea of giving him T-bones!!!

  13. The zero carbers can attest that babies thrive on an all meat diet 🙂

  14. Does anyone know of a handy replacement for cherrios/puff for toddler on the go snack food?

    1. I have had this issue with my 9 month old. I have actually found some organic gluten free puffs that we use on a limited basis.

  15. Sorry, but I can’t imagine nursing into the second year. Most of my kids stopped on their own around 13-14 months. I sat down to nurse my fifth child, as I had done everyday of her life, and pretty much on her 1st year birthday she looked at me and her eyes said “There’s not another person in this house that does this–why am I?” And she stopped cold turkey–which any nursing mother knows is quite painful. But she could drink from a cup like every one else, and that’s just the way things go.

    As far as snack foods to replace cherrios, my kids have always liked frozen berries and veggies (peas and the dreaded corn–sorry)–straight from the freezer. Very convenient–around the house, at least.

    1. It is nearly impossible for a child under 18 m/o to self wean. I would say your children are quite rare. The normal range for self weaning is 2y/o-6 y/o biologically speaking of course in humans.

      I found it kind of rude to say “you couldn’t imagine nursing into the second year” I think it is important to respect all mothers decisions. Also I completely respect that you weaned your children when you were ready.

  16. My daughters first food was pureed avocado. She LOVED it. I can highly recommend it as a mom who gave it to her baby.

  17. “There were, of course, no Cuisinart processors or food mills in Paleolithic times …”

    There were doubtless devices for pounding and grinding food that needed processing. You can find them today among primitive peoples. I don’t know of any archaeological examples from tens of thousands of years ago, but then a wooden mortar, for example, would be unlikely to survive in the record.

    What mothers would certainly have done is chew food for their infants. Since modern mothers are unlikely to be up for that …

    1. Chewing food for your baby -> That is exactly what my grandmother’s mom did. I don’t know if being native american has anything to do with it…

      I think I remember my grandmother telling me thats how she fed all four of her kids as well.

      My grandmother is 91 years old and still plants some of her own veggies. Her mother lived to be 102.

    2. oh and I chew my food for my baby all the time! especially meat, and I bite things into smaller peices for her. I hide it a bit in public, but at home, that’s all I do lol

      1. I chew stuff for my baby all the time. I am also blessed to have a good oral health, and I suppose this might be in part because I avoid eating crap. Assisted chewing is standard practice in TRADITIONAL native american culture, from what I have heard. I first did it because we were all eating apples or something and my baby was grabbing at the fruit and glaring at me with an indignant look on his face that made me feel like a selfish clod for not sharing.

    3. To expound on this a bit, pre-chewing your kids’ food not only “processes” the food mechanically to address the surface area to volume ratio component of digestion. It also loads and mixes the food with salivary enzymes and probiotics. A lightly cooked but heavily-chewed sweet potato mash or hunk of meat has a radically-different food value and nutritional content for infants in the transition out of breast feeding compared to heavily-cooked and/or mechanically-processed variants. We are only just beginning to understand those differences and their implications. One of the best pre-digestion forms of advice I have ever received is, “Chew everything that everything that goes down the hatch into the consistency of cooked oatmeal.” It’s a nice piece of advice for anyone of the transitional generations, who know what “cooked oatmeal” means.

      As kids begin to transition out of breast-feeding, we not only help them achieve this consistency, but we also help supplement (and would surprise me if it also stimulated their own production of) enzymes and probiotics. It would not surprise me one bit to learn that kids start sufficiently producing their own digestive enzymes and stable oral probiotic colonies at around the same time that they gain the physical capacity to chew their own food (i.e., teeth and jaw muscles) with minimal external cooking and processing. Also, kids with teeth start to bite the teat that feeds them. Ouch! Talk about an elegant, comprehensive weaning system.

      Children have fairly high metabolisms and generally require a higher portion of their calories from carbohydrates, due to all their growth (cell division) and other physical activity. Carbs fuel cell division, which is probably also why refined carbs are so deeply implicated in cancer. All the fuel for cell division, but subbing mutation-causing oxidative stress and other forms of inflammation for nutritional context.

  18. You were reading my mind. The last week I have been thinking about how to introduce a primal lifestyle to children. Thanks for the great article!

  19. Thank you, Mark. Perfect timing for me as well. Our son is five months now and still breastfeeding. My wife would like to introduce solids next month. All of you have provided great comments. How can you show more love to your child than by giving him breastmilk and quality foods in time? You are giving him the best start in life. I will do anything in this world to ensure his health. If it means waking up early to mash avocado over buying a jar of Gerbers I think I can do that.

    1. I recommend a book called “Baby Led Weaning”. It is all about introducing whole solid foods. No baby food. We loved and used the techniques on my youngest.

      1. we did baby led weaning with our now 1 year old. It took the stress out of sitting him down and forcing spoonfulls of mush down his throat. he ate with his hands and quickly became a pro. Its an amazing technique and suggest it for everyone!

  20. “If breastfeeding isn’t an option because of… adoption or other circumstance….opinions differ on the best secondary options.”

    One thing adoptive mother’s should consider is artificially inducing lactation. Using a breast pump or having the adopted baby suckle continually and most women will eventually begin to lactate. All of the herbs mentioned (fenugreek, alfalfa, nettle leaf, etc) can aid in milk production even when artificially induced. The nutritional quality of artificially induced lactation is identical to that of postpartum lactation, except that artificial induction will skip the production of “first milk” or colostrum.

  21. This topic (how to raise/feed) kids is a hot button. I keep my mouth shut in public because most people don’t want to hear about the “research” –real, flawed, incomplete or definitive (wink, wink). But, this site is sort of preaching to the choir – so here goes. My two are 10 and 15.

    Until they were 3, neither had processed food – except for food I chewed myself and gave them.

    I know – ugh. But, I knew enough about digestion to know that it starts in the mouth – and saliva is not just what you leave by the side of the trail when you’re having a hike. I knew that I could give them tougher food once it was processed in my mouth, with saliva. That’s how you get raw food into your kids.

    My kids had only breast milk until they were over a year. I gave them stuff to nosh (red chard, lightly steamed, works great for teething) but the majority of their calories came from me. Doable? You bet. But, I had to make some major life choices. One of those was to not continue full time in my career.

    I am the main breadwinner now, as my partner stays home with the boys, but for 7 years I stayed home. I never planned to breastfeed them both so long, but they loved it (for 5 years each). Also, when you kids are older, you will relish those times… I know I do.

    What are the benefits? I’m very, very close to those boys. Thank Goodness because I now work away from home about 12 to 14 hours a day. I’m grateful for those early years and I have to say both my children are brilliant.

    But – all children seem brilliant to their moms! (My 15 year old is taking college level courses and completing high school at home so he can do it at his own speed.)

    More importantly, they had zero health problems until I split with their father – when my oldest was 7. It took about 2 years of eating the normal north american diet at Dad’s (on weekends) for both my boys to put on extra weight and start having health problems. I know a study of 1 doesn’t mean much to most people, but I’ve seen with my own eyes, with my own kids… Believe that what you feed your children is the single most important factor in their health.

    Before the split, the boys ate what I fed them. All that time breastfeeding was beneficial to me because I had a baby in one arm and a book in the other and I got to read a heck of a lot – mostly about diet and nutrition. So, I knew what to feed them.

    After the split, my ex decided they were going to join him in eating what “everyone else eats.”

    Before the split, my oldest child was an early talker, early walker, off the charts physically – by age 5 he could unicycle for blocks – and did so daily. He drew audiences at the skate park and he was the youngest kid on the swim team. (they’d never seen a kid who could swim endless laps at 4, but he could.)

    After, as they incorporated more crap in their diets, they lost that Grok edge. They’re great kids, but, as I said, both have asthma and struggle with weight now.

    These days, both are old enough to spend their allowance where they want. I’ve told them why I eat unprocessed (mostly) and why I try to offset my desk work with cycle commuting. But – culture is a hard thing to fight. And when you have a Grok mom, a “normal” dad and culture and advertising, etc etc. Well, I’ve had to accept a lot of stuff…

    I hope they will go back to the Grok lifestyle that they started life with.

    The choice I made to stay with my children has meant that a) my retirement will come very very late, if at all and b) we have to go without a lot of stuff that other people regard as necessary (owning a house, car, vacations etc etc).

    I’m grateful for my children and grateful for the choices I made. You can take from my story what you’d like – I know that most people think spitting raw food into a spoon for a toddler or breast feeding a four year old is disgusting…but, research can’t beat evolution.

    Truthfully: When I tell them how I feed them (breast and pre-chewed food), both cross their eyes with horror! 🙂

    When the best we had to give our babies going onto solid food was today’s catch – chewing it for them was how we did it.

    When daycare wasn’t an option, kids moving all day, when not nursing or napping, got extraordinarily fit and strong.

    But – I’ll be honest – as a Grok mother doing it naturally, it was very, very lonely out there…

    1. I’m struggling with a spouse that isn’t on board. I am so glad you posted this. Do you have a blog I can follow? Or would you be interested in a pen pal?

    2. My son didn’t have solids until after a year either. We never did cereal or jar food. He has remained in the 99th percentile for height and 95th for weight 🙂

      He is now 20 months with a full set of teeth, still nursing often, sleeps with us, and loves steak, avocado, greens, etc! I didnt intentionally buck the system. When I was pregnant, I read all of the books on pregnancy and was very mainstream. Once he was born, my instinct took over. Let him cry? Hell no! Feed him On a schedule? You’re kidding. Put him in his own bed? Unnatural.

      Everyone is so brain washed with what doctors have told women for less than 100 years! I didn’t need a doctor or any other expert to tell me what to do. I relied on moms who nursed for at least a year (although now that seems like a short time to me) and my instinct. I hate that new moms are made to feel like they will be lost with their new baby. Babies don’t need much- just mommy. I tell me friends to save the money they would have spent on cribs, changing tables, millions of clothes/shoes, infant toys, etc. I had a swing and a bouncy chair but never used them. I wore my son when I prepared food or did house chores (including mowin the lawn!). When my husband and i take a shower, he is with us!

      Most people would find our lifestyle weird, but they don’t realize that it is simply a natural one. I don’t talk about it to most of our friends/family and they always assume he is in his own bed in his own room or that he has weaned.

      Primal parenting reduces stress in my opinion. I don’t hold myself or my child to expectations set by a general public base on… Well usually based on nothing!

    3. Hello Janice. I know it’s been a while but I love your comment. It reminds me of me so much. My daughters are only 3 years and 4 months and I can totally agree that it is very lonely! You’re like “one in a million” to me. I wish there were more people like you around me. Is there an email I can reach you?

  22. Great article and great comments! I only wish I’d known all this earlier. My son’s now almost 5. I breastfed him for about six months but found it very difficult to keep up with the pumping once I returned to work. The frequent breaks were not looked at kindly by coworkers or supervisor! Even though no outright comments were made (well maybe once or twice now that I think of it) you know the looks you get…the same one the smokers get! I also was relegated to pumping in a storage closet (at least more sanitary than a bathroom). And I worked very long shifts frequently. It was very hard and I regretted having to stop. I also went with conventional wisdom and did all the rice cereal and jarred food. I now struggle with my son try to get him to try new things. I don’t know if it’s just a food jag stage or that he’s just that adverse to trying things. His diet mainly consists of pbj (his usual lunch), frozen chicken nuggets (his usual dinner), eggs, occasional hotdogs, apples with peanut butter, bananas, noodles, sometimes mandarin oranges, he doesn’t like rice or potatoes but loves french fries and chips (I strictly regulate those 2 items and never buy them but my husband does and he doesn’t think it’s a big deal). And of course he gets the daily sweet treat after dinner. I’m new to this site and way of thinking. I knew that the things he was eating weren’t that great but now I feel like a horrible mom. My husband and mother in law believe he’ll just grow out of it. Yet my husband himself is still averse to trying new foods even now after eating that way as a kid. Myself I was bottle/formula fed and ate not only the standard North American diet but the Deep Southern Fried version of it and heave a sweet tooth to boot. I’m just now working my way into the diet/lifestyle little by little and it’s a struggle for me right now. But it’s a pain trying to prepare 3 different versions of dinner! Any suggestions on getting my son to try new things and an alternative to lunch besides pbj? I’ve even made my own homemade versions of chicken nuggets most recently with an almond coating (which were delicious) but he looks at me like I’m a space alien when I try to give him these things. It’s like he only believes real chicken comes from a red Tyson’s bag! Please help! I’ve even thought just today of telling him that Tyson’s went out of business and they don’t make nuggets any more, he’ll have to eat mine. Don’t know if I can get his dad on board with that though. I don’t think he’d believe they stopped making bread for pbj. Any suggestions? Feel free to email them! cckdaphne@yahoo.com

    1. Have your child help you cook, kids are more likely to eat what they help make. Keep serving the healthy foods. Kids get used to whatever you feed them. Pecans also make a tasty coating for ‘nuggets’, fish or chicken. You can always prepare meats and veggies and just add whatever starch your hubbie wants to his plate only, not to the table, or for your son. Almond butter is easy to make, and served with carrots, celery or root veggie ‘chips’ is a dipping snack or meal. Lettuce subs well for breads or wraps(with a bit of meat and roated veggies). There are lots of great recipes here…try something totally different, instead of changing the nuggets. Then, after you haven’t made them for a while, serve the nut covered ones. And good grief, no more hotdogs…the chemicals in them are the worst! If you are gonna do a ‘dog’ get organic/natural and nitrite/nitrate free ones, saute in tiny chunks, in gee or coconut oil and add to veggie stirfry.

    2. Do it gradually but at a fast clip if that makes sense. The first thing i would do is go cold turky on any grains. Trust me, he will lose his cravings for this stuff in short order. It may take a week or 2 and it gets easier with time. My son just wanted snadwiches all the time also. Now we dont eat any grains and he is happy eating what i give him which is lots of eggs,meats, nuts, fruits,veggies. Again, give up all grains, he willl eat when he gets hungry enough. Make sure there is healthy fats for him to eat..

    1. Full paper is subscription only but appears to be a modern duplication of some of Weston Price’s work. Which is good.

  23. Great article. I’ll have to forward to my son and daughter-in-law who are expecting my first grandchild in August. They are pretty on-board with primal philosophies anyway, and follow a more or less Weston Price-based diet. But it never hurts to get more information.

    I just wish I’d had the resources available to me 30 years ago when my son was born. I tried to do the best I could with the knowledge I had at at the time. I breastfed for almost a year, but had to give it up when I had to return to work full-time. I scrupulously avoided any added sugar in my son’s infant diet. But I did rely a lot on the jars of baby foods – picking only those with no listed additives.

    But I was also in the “grains are good” mindset, and tried to use mostly only whole grains which I felt were better.

    I mean I *tried*. My son whined and begged for the soft spread margarines because they were easier to spread on his (whole grain) bread, but even then I knew instinctively that they had to be crap. I mean how come something that tasted so dreadful really be any good. So I made my own “soft spread” by mixing softened butter with an equal amount of olive oil in the blender. It stayed soft and spreadable in a tub in the fridge, and my son was happy.

    But now, 30 years later on, I know I could have done much better if I’d only known then what I know now.

  24. I have a couple of questions regarding feeding my 8 month old. He is extremely active (has been crawling since 5 months and is now standing and walking along the furniture) and loves to eat. I am still breast feeding at least 5 times a day, but also feeding him pureed food about 3 times a day. So far, we have introduced a number of vegetables and fruit (all organic) and are avoiding grains.

    My first question is about the vegetable choices. Currently my son is eating squash, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, green beans, carrots and spinach. The fruits he’s been eating are apples, mango, pears, peaches, and blueberries. I’m pureeing everything and he loves them all. He doesn’t like avocado and banana makes him constipated. I understand that the Grok diet discourages starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and legumes. Looking at my list, that doesn’t leave much. What veggies should I be prioritizing? Should I not be feeding him so many sweet potatoes (they are currently his favorite and he gets them for both lunch and dinner).

    My second question is with regards to meat. I have not yet introduced him to meat but your article recommends putting meat through a mill. Would babies of our ancestors be eating meat at such a young age? Chewed up by mom? I can’t imagine being able to chew up chicken soft enough for him at this point. And does the fact that he only has two teeth and not able to masticate the meat on his own not indicate that it’s too early for meat? And what are your thoughts on iron for babies as I’ve chosen not to feed him iron fortified cereals.

    Thanks!

  25. Thanks very much – I’ll be introducing my younger daughter to solids soon so this post is very timely! I just read the book “Real Food for Mother and Baby” which had some similar advice.

  26. Great article, thanks. We’re thinking of slowly transitioning to a more paleo way of eating, inspired by friends. We have an 18mth old daughter (who is still breastfed, but only just – she is giving up slowly) and I am slightly nervous about cutting out carbs completely for her, but we’ll do it gradually and see how she does. She has been weaned the “Baby-led Weaning” way, which means skipping the puree stage and just offering real food in manageable pieces – her first meal was steamed broccoli and steamed carrot sticks. Best parenting decision of our lives as we have never had a “difficult” mealtime or any stress over food. You can find more info and a very friendly forum at http://www.babyledweaning.com/forum

  27. I really wish I’d know all of this when mine were babies….but now I get to educate my daughter!

    When mine were infants I was unable to nurse as there weren’t enough calories in my milk to keep them alive (I know now that this was likely due to the low fat diet I was following!) so they did go on formula, but I’m a big advocate of nursing at least 6 months and preferable up to a year.

    For baby foods, I did make a lot of my own, but mainly because of finances, not because I thought it was healthier.

    Curious….when did they stop making baby meats? or I should say pureed baby meat? I was looking at the baby food section in the store the other day and was surprised to see that they were no longer on the shelves! (Note…a look at the Gerber site does have meat, but all contain corn starch!)

  28. Thanks Mark for a great article. I breastfed my three children back in the sixties/seventies when it definitely wasn’t “in”. Thanks to La Leche League, I learned a lot of truths and got a lot of support. They taught me how to nurse inconspicuously (I nursed my 3 month old on a plane, and the man sitting next to me didn’t know – he said “what a good baby” when she didn’t cry! I didn’t give my kids baby foods – just breast milk until they started to grab food off the table 🙂 I was fortunate in not having to work when they were small. I’m glad some companies are providing time/space for nursing mothers to pump.

  29. Hey Mark, you might want to check out “Baby Led Weaning” and then revisit this topic. It’s amazing what babies can eat themselves without any prep work.

  30. Hello, this is my first ever comment on a blog.
    I am a nursing mother and am trying to follow the primal blueprint. Does anyone know what effects ketosis in the mother has on the baby?
    My daughter will be a year old next week and I plan on nursing until she weans herself (her sister weaned herself around 15 mo.)
    I am also having trouble balancing enough carbs while keeping my protein to the recommended amount. I will be trying the “Big Ass Salad” for lunch to see if that helps.
    I know I’m supposed to get more calories while nursing. Where should they fall? (Protein, fat or carbs or all three?)
    Thanks!

  31. In answer to the question about effect of mom’s ketosis on baby, since Inuit traditionally ate whale/seal/other animals with lots of fat, and few carbs, it would appear that babies would thrive if moms ate that way. Just be sure to get enough fat to provide needed calories.

  32. Thank you for this article, Mark! There are also many great comments from your readers. I wanted to confess that I too have pre-chewed many meals of healthy first foods for my babies, mostly because it was easier than preparing many separate meals for our large family. My 3rd and 4th children were also lucky recipients of extended and tandem breastfeeding.

    In response to indiadawn, the exclusively-breastfed babies I nursed never responded adversely when I was losing the baby fat/i.e., ketosis. I feed myself nutrient-dense foods, plenty of healthy fluids, and didn’t try to do too much too quickly. My current nurser is doing fine with my no-grain diet, and I feel great too.

  33. This is good for my soul to read. I have food allergies and found my way to the GAPS diet almost by accident, which is pretty close to what you describe as Primal.

    My daughter is still nursing at 3.5. Like her mother, she has an aversion to high-carb foods unless they’re bathed in a good, nutritious fat. As an infant, she always spit out the rice cereal and couldn’t seem to digest vegetables until recently. She prefered prechewed rare grass-fed meat. Her favorite breakfast is a meat patty made of beef or lamb mixed with a chopped, steamed vegetable and sauerkraut, and a few spoonfuls of rice soaked in ghee or olive oil. When I bake treats for her, they’re either bean flour-based or fruit-sweetened puddings from coconut milk or avocado hardened with beef gelatin. She takes cod liver oil and vitamin D daily. Her health is fantastic and her teeth unlike any kid’s I know – wide spaced, strong and white. She’s got a mouth like a muppet, very wide in the palate. We also keep her in soft shoes or barefoot as much as possible.

    I can vouch for the health benefits of this way of eating. This same kid had allergic colitis as a 4-month old. We were told that she didn’t have much chance of thriving. So there, mainstream allopaths!

  34. Interesting! Ground meat is often offered as a first baby food in Africa (according to a comment in a WHO study on transitional combined breastfeeding/solid diets), which makes sense–babies’ bodies run out of zinc and iron as they grow.

    One thing that struck me often as a new mom was how separate babies are supposed to be from the adult sphere. If we could bring them along wherever we went, like Mama Grok, we’d have an easier time breastfeeding . . . and rearing our kids to live in the real world. I bet adults would behave more decently to one another too.

  35. excellent article! what a departure from the way i was raised—my mother bottlefed me (the 1960’s nurses claimed she would never get the “hang” of nursing)(LOL!), and gave me Gerber Rice cereal when i was only one month old…..I’m happy to say that with my own kids, we breastfed for 2.5 years …I have allergies/asthma, but only one of my kids has allergies and no asthma.

  36. 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!!!

  37. 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!

    1. 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).

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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?

    1. 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.

  42. 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. 🙂

  43. 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!

  44. 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…

    1. 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!

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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…

  49. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. What about So Delicious Coconut milk it has more nutrients than soy milk and is more fattening?

      2. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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!

    1. humanmilk4humanbabes.com may be able to help. You can get breast milk for free from local moms who care! Good luck!

  52. 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!
    🙂

  53. 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.

    1. 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?

  54. 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.

  55. 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

  56. 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

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  57. 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!

  58. 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!

  59. 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!

  60. 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?

    1. 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)

  61. 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!

  62. 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…

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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?

  66. 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).

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

  72. BRAVO!! As an infant and child development professional, I wish every parent on my caseload would read this article. Beautifully written!

  73. 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…”

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. The first solid food we fed our daughter around 6-7 mo was an avocado straight out of the skin not pureed at all. Didn’t need to with the avocado, it’s the perfect fist food as it is. The face she made was priceless when she had the first bite, but after that she was totally into it.

  77. Great post! I would never even consider asking a standard pediatrician what to feed my kid! And didn’t.

  78. We did Baby-led weaning with our daughter, starting at 6 months. No purees, no jars, no making food ahead of time. She pretty much just ate what we ate. Veggies, fruit and meat-one of her first foods was a rib bone with some meat on it to suck on for iron! It was amazing, she loved it and still loves food at 15 months! Don’t follow convential advice if it doesn’t make sense to you. Trust your Instincts and trust your baby!

  79. I need advice on protein consumption for an infant. We had to start solids at seven months as baby boy was so small, in the 1% on chart, but otherwise healthy. Exclusive B/F until then.
    We are giving three to four egg yolks (organic free range we go to the farm) every day. He also gets full fat greek yogurt cut with homemade applesauce daily (his favorite!). Other foods in small quantity from our plate.
    Pediatritian recently said he might be getting too much protein qnd it could cause liver damage. Help/ advice requsted.

  80. I have a 6 month old and all the books and health visitors say no nuts or seeds for the first 5 years but I eat them every day. Can I feed my baby nuts like cashews and nut butters blended in foods in the second stage of weaning 7 months onwards?

  81. Does anybody have any suggestions on what to give my toddler twins besides cheerios… I have been feeding them primarily primal tee hee for about a month now but the cheerios are so convenient because they can feed themselves and being a full time working and part time schooling mom, at the end of the day when I’m trying to get homework done and they’re buggin me to play or because they’re hungry i just give them cheerios and voila… I have some peace time. But I don’t want to be the one contributing to their downfall in nutrition so I need a primal friendly snack that they can handle on their own. Any ideas??

  82. This is a good beginning point for good information. I highly recommend http://www.kellymom.com for lots more! I have to admit, I’m disappointed that there was no mention of why it is best to wait until atleast 6 months to introduce solids.

    I did BLS (baby led solids) with both of my children (now 3 1/2 and 15 m) and they are thriving mini Groks who love food and are open to trying new things.

  83. Thanks for the article. I’m currently reading about baby-led weaning which advocates not feeding babies purée but letting them pretty much eat what the rest of the family eat, and letting them feed themselves. This to me sounds like it would link well with a paleo lifestyle. Any thoughts on this?

  84. My daughter loved peas when she was a baby, and my son teethed on beef jerky and steak strips so I think we had a decent start. But I’m new to this paleo thing, and struggling with what to make for school lunches besides the typical sandwiches and leftover pizza… I’ll have to do some searching and hope to find suggestions.

  85. I have a 6 yr old and a 12 mnth old. The first was raised on whole grain, soya milk, vegetarian type diet and he has problems with addiction to sweets, plus his adult teeth are coming through with incomplete enamel covering. Whole grains stop absorption of minerals. Soya milk is not any better. Thank good I found primal before my second was born. He was breastfeed as long as possible. First food was lamb broth, egg yolk, puréed sweet potatoes and I added cod liver oil and probiotics. He use to love the cod liver oil off the spoon. My eldest can take herbal tinctures off the spoon too. So don’t worry about that affecting their eating. Just don’t mix it into their food. Caution with high dosages of cod liver oil. I’m not saying its a deffinate connection, but my youngest has a type of forehead ridging that showed up about 6 months. Excess vitamin A can cause problems with excess bone growth. I wonder whether anyone else had this occur? The pediatrian said it’s not a problem but I do wonder why he has got it. I’ve stopped the cod liver. Also avocados and bananas are the best on the go snaxs, they already gave their own natural wrapping and I just spoon them out to my 12 mnth straight from the whole fruit. It’s the only way my 12 mnth old will eat avo, and he would wolf down the whole one. He also love lamb soup.. Also steamed broccoli florets is the best finger food. It has a great handle and he can suck the butter off the top.

    1. In regards to baby led weaning, do what you can. I tried with my 8 mnth old at the time, but he would just gag and I was paranoid about him choking. The banana was the worst. He had a few of mums finger sweeping at the back of his mouth to unclog it. In the end I had to sit on my hands. BUT he did love broccoli florets and sweet potatoe fingers steamed then baked. So he is now 12 months and I still worry about it but he us getting good at chewing and swallowing so we give him a mix of fork mashed veggies and soft chunks. He loves scrambled eggs straight off the plate. Brave mother who give their 6 mnth olds whole soft chunks of meat or raw apple halves.

  86. I’ve actually taken a look at “baby-led weaning” aka “baby self-feeding” which looks at the idea of teaching an infant to chew before it teaches them to swallow. I give my daughter whatever we are having, (minus any salt) And whatever she can chew off, she gets. Whole, steamed broccoli, berries, meats; my six month old toothless princess will maw them to bits, grinning and giggling the whole time! So, I say: to heck with the purees.

  87. i live in roseburg oregon, and i’m heart broke because i estimate half the mothers i talk to don’t breast feed for more then a few weeks. the usual response when asked why is “i was no producing enough milk.” whether their doctors tell them this, or they just want an excuse to avoid a chore, i will never know. but it make me nervous.
    how are doctors “proving” inadequate milk supply, before shoving a formula sample in their hand? aren’t the mothers being told that a drop in weight followed by gaining in a new born is normal? or that the amount of milk pumped will never be equal to the amount suckled? that newborn being latched on near constantly in the beginning is normal?

    before i get criticism for judging mothers, keep in mind the culture of the women and men in my city is very lazy. (total population 25,000). i kid you not when i say it is possible that the women of my city may use a lie to get out of responsibility. happens all the time and for the most outrageous things. (((((I was seriously tempted to squirm out of it myself because breastfeeding took so much free time from me when my son was born.)))))

    if the lie is being perpetrated. then there appears to be many mothers who want to breast feed but are seeing how many mothers are having trouble (or not) and are frightened for their newborns. they may stop breast feeding out of fear at the first sign of trouble.
    i have many mothers lament they didn’t have enough, followed by a statement like, all their friends had the “same problem”, or all the women in my family had no milk.
    now among all the lies and peer pressure we have an epidemic (in my not too humble opinion) of early weaning. seriously how many woman with problem nursing could one person know before it becomes suspicious? (23 women in my circle ages (19 – 27), 16 babies in the last year, 2 homebirths, 14 hospital births/9 cicerians, 14 began nursing, only three nursed longer then 30 days, me, jenna, who had a homebirth and cassy, who mothered triplets no less!.) doesn’t that seem a little suspicious to you? and i have three friends who are pregnant right now! and they are already swapping nursing/birth horror stories!

    also for all those out there who simply DON”T WANT to breast feed, that’s OK with me. we all have our reasons. just be honest about it. it’s your body, your choice.

    oh i should get a blog…

  88. My 2 year old daughter’s diet is one thing that kind of turned me towards Paleo. She breast fed for 9 months, and I tried to introduce cereals, veggies, fruits, etc. Over time I’ve noticed she has a definite affinity for meat, dairy, fruits and veggies and not so much on the cereals and grains. Strangely, she doesn’t seem to like cow’s milk that much, or eggs at all, even though I love them, but she definitely tends towards a more Paleo diet naturally. Toddlers are the best indicators of how we’re supposed to eat because they eat so intuitively! They eat when they’re hungry, no matter if that’s 3 times a day or 7, they crave foods that their body needs (she’s definitely on a calcium kick right now), and you can instantly see the results when they eat something nutritious vs filler (processed foods make her act cranky). I feel like she’s taught me more about food than I’ve learned on my own in 30 years…

  89. I am a foster mom…I feed my foster children extremely well (which can be a challenge as most did not get the most ideal start in life). However, I cannot breast feed, nor do I have the money or even knowledge to go find and buy breast milk…which in regard to foster children is probably not even allowed. Remember not to judge those mothers who use formula. We are doing the best we can.

  90. I wonder if folks are still reading this and might share their thoughts on my situation. I’ll be transitioning from breast milk to baby food/solids in a third-world African country. Produce is only safe if washed in a bleach solution and rinsed with distilled water. I’d also be inclined to peel where possible and cook where possible. Does the chlorine exposure represent a greater risk to my baby’s nutrition than shelf-stable baby foods?

  91. Both of my kid’s first foods was egg yolk, chicken liver, butter, and sea salt. (pastured egg and chicken, grass fed raw butter, and high quality salt.) They DEVOURED that stuff! Salmon roe is another good one to add! Homemade sour cream and avocado mix was always good for my second babe. Both have never been to a doctor, going on 4 years old and 1 1/2 years old. Super healthy kiddos. Mostly paleo fed, but also a bit of WAPF with grains.

  92. Hi! My daughter who is still breastfeeding on demand is 15 months old with several allergies such as peanut, egg (yolk and white), walnut, wheat, soy, sesame, milk (basically all dairy). What should her meals look like? Ps: i am reading keto reset and i love it. Is it ok to feed her beans and chickpeas? Red meat or just chicken and fish? I am following/preparing for my 21 day reset and just want to know what to feed my daughter simultaneously with ancestral eating in mind at all times. Thanks so muchc Mark, I am a HUGE fan of your work, your book, and you are helping me tremendously! I have nearly the whole book underlined!