All my life, I had anticipated becoming a mother. I learned very early that womens’ bodies are incredible machines, made to grow humans and sustain them. My mom practiced midwifery, and taught childbirth classes, and was an outspoken advocate for breastfeeding. I heard all of the exasperated remarks she made about women who did not breastfeed, and all of the wonderful reasons to do it– there is nothing more natural, more practical, more perfect than the human breast for feeding babies. I knew what I would do when I had babies– of course I would breastfeed! I never doubted it for a moment. And, I am ashamed to say, I judged the women around me who opted out of breastfeeding and used commercially-made formula instead. I simply couldnt’ understand that choice.
|Photo Credit: Nate Warner|
And then, I had a baby.
We did not have an easy pregnancy, and we especially did not have an easy birth experience. Everything was infinitely more difficult than I had ever imagined it could be. Including breastfeeding. I nursed my baby every hour, all day, and sometimes all night. She cried all the time, and was always ravenous. I had been reading up for years on health and birth, and how to do everything. I had interpreted for the nursing consultations run by the OTs at the hospital I worked at. I knew what to do, and I tried everything. My baby was not thriving. At two months, Amelia was not gaining weight like she should, and my pediatrician was concerned about her brain development… Because she was malnourished. I couldn’t believe it! How could this be happening?
My doctor wanted me to give Amelia formula, “just to supplement.” I knew that I had to do something, but I did not want to use that formula. I looked at the can he handed me, and the first ingredient listed was 42% corn syrup solids. I am sure many women have been in my situation, and felt that they had no choice, and if a baby is not thriving, they have to find something to feed the child, and formula is there. But I was fortunate, in that I had another option. My mom had given me a copy of Nourishing Traditions a couple of years before– it was one of the most unconventional cookbooks I’d ever seen. In addition to weird recipes for raw meat dishes and various preparations of offal, there were recipes for baby formula in the back! There was a whole section on feeding babies, which I pretty much memorized during Amelia’s first year. The author, Sally Fallon, described how she had been unable to breastfeed her children, despite excellent nutrition and trying everything just as I had. Not only was there another option there for me, but there was a critical piece of information that I needed– that it wasn’t my fault, and that this was a problem for other women who cared as much as I did about breastfeeding, too.
I prepared the recipe for baby formula, which called for about 15 different ingredients, and gave it to Amelia in a bottle. She sucked it down ravenously, right away. Even though it was a hassle, I started preparing the formula for her every day, and she quickly weaned herself, taking that exclusively after two weeks. She started gaining weight again, and was able to go much longer between feedings, and her development picked up. I was so thankful to have found that recipe! I have followed many of the Nourishing Traditions principles in feeding my daughter since then, and I have to say– she has never had an ear infection, she has never thrown up since her baby days, she rarely gets sick (and almost never did as a baby) and she has a great appetite for all kinds of food. There is no way for me to know for sure if things would be different if I had just given her the regular commercial formula at two months, but I sincerely believe so. (As a side note, Sally Fallon Morell has written a second book, dedicated to the care of babies and children– check it out here.)
I often wonder what I would have done if I didn’t have that unconventional wisdom available to me. What if I didn’t know that I had other options? I have spent a lot of time researching and learning about health and nutrition in as many ways as I can. I don’t believe that everything I am told by doctors and other mainstream sources is true, and I know that I am ultimately responsible for my own health and that of my family. So I believe it’s really important for me to investigate, to listen, to search for the information. I think a lot of what I consider unconventional wisdom is actually just traditional knowledge that we have lost over the years, in favor of trends and technology. Many of the “discoveries” we are making today are actually just a matter of re-learning what our great, great grandparents already knew.
Collectively, our health is in crisis right now. It is so sad to see how many people are dealing with illness, and how early these problems are starting in our children. I think the answers are out there, but not always in the easiest places to find them. I hope that by sharing my story, I can encourage you to do some research, look outside the box, and find ways to keep your family healthy that work for you.
Has there been a time in your life when you really needed outside-the-box answers? Where did you find them?