Top 3 Baby Myths, Busted.

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FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz. 

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A Peek into the Past – Baby Food and Feeding

Who knew a blender could be so profitable?

Baby food is a thriving $1.25 billion industry in the U.S. The average American infant “consumes” 600 jars of baby food by their first birthday. We use the word loosely, as there’s often as much puree on the baby as in the baby. And yet babies in Western Europe go through about 240 jars, and their Eastern European neighbors only taste an average of 12 jars in that first year! (Miriam and Megan’s babies tasted no jars, by the way.)

We can thank Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, for introducing prepared infant foods to the market. He invented what he dubbed the perfect infant food in 1867. His “formula” was a mixture of wheat flour, cow’s milk and malt flour cooked with bicarbonate of potash, a salt containing potassium. Yum.

Babies weren’t always opening wide for an airplaned spoonful of pureed bananas, though. Before von Liebig’s discovery, and even today in some non-industrialized countries, babies were given a homemade mixture of grains and water, animal milk, or broth as the start of the weaning process. In some cultures parents chew or slice fruits, vegetables or other foods and feed them to infants.

The industrialization of food around the turn of the 20th century launched an American love affair with processed food. We increasingly replaced backyard gardens and trips to the local farmer with canned goods, which afforded the luxury of eating fruits and vegetables all year round. This new convenience, along with doctors recommending earlier introductions of solids, paved the way for the birth of a new industry: baby food.

In the U.S., manufactured baby food reached more and more little mouths between the 1920s and the postwar baby boom of the 1950s. Gerber came on the market with strained vegetables in 1928, and Beech-Nut, Heinz, and Libby’s soon followed.

But what baby-food buying moms often didn’t know, because no laws mandated ingredient disclosure, was that commercial baby food included a lot of “others” – salt, sugar, fillers, artificial preservatives, and occasionally, lead and glass shards. In the 1980s and 90s, several major baby food products were recalled, but the industry suffered little. Even as recently as 2010, lead was found in baby food.

The Players
Currently, Gerber, Beech-Nut and Heinz control over 95% of the baby food market (of which Gerber enjoys a whopping 70%). Earth’s Best joined the game in the late 1980s, offering organic jarred baby food and juices, but only reaches 2.5% of the market.

Gerber works hard to stay on top of the baby food industry. In the 1950s, they ran a feel-good campaign touting their rice cereal: “You can’t feed children as well as we can!” Talk about truth in advertising – if nutrition- and taste-deficient rice cereal could match the benefits of breastmilk or garden-raised produce we’d be a much healthier society today.

The Science behind Baby Food
According to Dr. David Bergman, a Stanford University pediatrics professor, “There’s a bunch of mythology out there about [introducing solids]. There’s not much evidence to support any particular way of doing things.”

Parents feel we’re doing our baby best by offering pureed fruits and vegetables one. at. a. time. We interpret guidelines for food introduction as law, especially when coming from a pediatrician. Let’s not forget, however, that general pediatricians are not nutritionists, and their recommendations are often based on outdated and culturally-biased information. And that information was crafted and paid for by baby food manufacturers.

It’s clear to many in the scientific community – not to mention common-sense parents – that the standard early fare may not be best for baby, after all. Rice cereal is among the top suspects. It’s often given in bottle form and is baby’s first taste, aside from milk. But, according to Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, a specialist in pediatric nutrition, “These foods are in a certain sense no different from adding sugar to formula. They digest very rapidly in the body into sugar, raising blood sugar and insulin levels.”

There’s a growing movement to get back to basics when introducing solid foods. It’s been named Baby-led Weaning, by British pioneer, researcher and author Gill (pronounced Jill) Rapley. Keep in mind that in the U.K., “weaning” typically refers to the introduction of solids, whereas Americans typically think of it as the end of breastfeeding. So we’ll refer to it as baby-led solids to reduce confusion. Really though, it’s been an unnamed way to feed your baby for millennia.

Let’s circle back to our purpose in writing The Other Baby Book: reviving baby-care practices that are simple, natural, and intuitive. Give your baby what you’re eating. Let him feed himself. Yes, it’s that easy.

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This content was trimmed from the vast archive of environmental and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz.

Ch-Ch-Ch Chia Pudding

I spent a good many of my childhood holidays pining after the Chia Pets shown in those catchy commercials. Would I find the Chia Sheep, Chia Cat, or coveted Chia Dinosaur under the tree this year? Nope. I sadly never got one.

Now that I am grown and had completely forgot about my chia pet hopes as a child (until writing this post…note-to-self for next holiday), the chia seed has come back into my life in a completely different light. The chia seed is great eats!

The record of chia seeds as a cultural superfood date to Mayan and Aztec times in Mexico. Hailing from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, they are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, and manganese.

When exposed to moisture, chia seeds make an emollient gel similar to flax seeds and expand to approximately 4x their original size. The gel is a great beauty treatment for the skin, but also is perfect as an all natural pudding! We make almost weekly batches of chia pudding at our house and our two year-old loves to dump in the ingredients and stir it to perfection. It is a fabulous, healthy treat you can feel great about giving to…well…anyone!

Chia Pudding

2 1/2 cups milk of your choice (cow, almond, hemp, coconut, etc)

2-3 Tablespoons of sweetener (agave, brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1/2 cup Chia Seeds

zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk (I like to use a combo of almond and coconut milks), sweetener, and vanilla. Add chia seeds and lemon zest (if using) and stir to combine. Refrigerate approximatey 4 hours or until the mixture has reached a pudding-like consistency, stirring occasionally.

Eat it up! It is even great for a nice, summer breakfast.

Since discovering the benefits and deliciousness of including raw vegan foods into her diet in 2008, Stephanie has been experimenting with “new to her” nuts and seeds with great success. Luckily, her husband and daughter are willing lab rats.

We Came, We Latched, We Conquered

It was looking a bit gloomy for the St. Louis gathering for The Big Latch On last Saturday morning. We woke up to thunder, lightning, and buckets of rain. Were it not for the recent unrelenting, blistering triple-digit heat wave, I would have been outright grumpy for the inclement weather.  I had so been looking forward to this public celebration of breastfeeding! As I checked the Facebook feeds for both the La Leche League of Greater St. Louis and The Big Latch On-St. Louis, participants were slowly bowing out with regret. We happen to live just a handful of blocks from the park where the event was being held, so we were thankfully able to wait the weather out and still arrive for our NIP-fest on time.

The rain had relievedly slowed to a soft drizzle. While we waited for our 10:30am latch-on time, my toddler decided to capitalize on some serious puddle-splashing opportunities.

Like many of you, this wasn’t the first time, nor will it likely be the last time, I’ve nursed my spectacularly sodden child. Around 10:20am, I headed over to our designated latch-on rendezvous point in the park, soggy toddler in tow.  We chatted with friends, waited for the clock to strike 10:30am, and then…

We joined the rest of the world in celebrating babies and boobies! (And raised our hands to signal that we were latched on and could be counted.)

In spite of the damp and dreary weather, 25 St. Louis-area little ones came out to be counted amongst the 8,862 other nursing tykes across 23 countries in 626 different locations to honor of World Breastfeeding Week, to raise awareness of breastfeeding and promote its positive presence in public places, and to advocate for access to adequate breastfeeding support services. It was an impressive Big Latch On indeed, and it was not a bad way to pass a drizzly Saturday morning, y’all–muddy toddler and all.

Over the last week we’ve been working on night-weaning in our house (forthcoming post on that), and though it’s been going well, it has also churned up some serious sentiment for me. I can’t even begin to write about what breastfeeding means to me, about how it restored a sense of empowerment about my body; about how much I relish those upward gazes from my son; about how the weight of his body in my arms has changed so much from then to now; about how much I treasure the cheeky upturn of his mouth when he smiles as he nurses; about this new respect for and relationship with my breasts as a nursing adult woman.

Our breastfeeding relationship is far from over, but it is changing. From 10:30am-10:31am on Saturday morning, during our internationally shared moment of nursing, I meditated on my boundless gratitude for being a mother; for the ability to nourish my son both nutritionally and emotionally through the act of nursing; and for the women in my life who supported me and inspired me during our breastfeeding journey. We may not have broken the world record on Saturday, but my breastfeeding relationship with my son has far surpassed my every expectation in innumerable, heart-stoking ways.

Did you attend a Big Latch On gathering? How did it go? What are/were your breastfeeding goals? Did you break your own personal world record?

Rhianna’s 19 month old son is known to give her a spontaneous fist bump when he nurses. Nothing in her mind quite says “Breastfeeding kicks ass!” like the nursing toddler fist bump.

Paleo Series Part III: Recipes and Resources

This is the third installment of a four-part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. You can find Part I here and Part II here. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

A typical dinner for my family: veggie-infused meatloaf, a large salad, and roasted beets

“Good to Know” Paleo Tips for Success

  • At every meal, try to fill your plate with at least 1/2-3/4 of it with vegetables and the remainder of the plate fats and meat. If you’re trying to lose weight, watch your fruit and nut intake.
  • Eat fresh and local: shop your farmer’s market for the freshest produce and plan your meal around it. This will ensure that you’re getting the most nutritious bang for your buck.
  • Encourage your kids to help you shop for food, plant a garden, and cook meals. Sure, it might be a pain to have them “helping” in the kitchen, but you’ll foster their love of nutritious food.
  • Keep an “emergency kit” in your car or purse: fill a bag with raw nuts (think almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.), unsweetened coconut flakes, and nitrate free beef jerky (or make your own, it’s easy!)
  • Act like a caveman! Shoot for small spurts of high-energy activity. In other words, play like a kid: run some quick sprints, tackle stairs two at a time, squat, rough-house with your kiddos. Turn off the TV, get off the computer, and move, move, move!
Kale-Coconut Smoothie: Getting Our Greens with Breakfast, Toddler Approved

Kale-Coconut Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 leaves of kale, washed with spine/stem removed
  • 1 small banana
  • 1/2 can  of full-fat coconut milk (I like Native Forest brand)
  • 1/4 C frozen pineapple
  • 2-3 frozen berries (optional)
  • ice (optional)
  • water to preferred consistency

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients in blender and blend for 2-5 minutes or until all of the kale is completely blended. Add water until you reach your desired consistency.
  • *Note: If you don’t normally eat kale, err toward a smaller amount in smoothie until your tastes adjust. However, the pineapple is what cancels out the slight bitterness of the kale, so make sure to include it! Spinach can also be substituted for the kale. If doing that, added 1-2 cups of spinach in place of kale.
  • Serves 1-2 people
Paleo Pancakes and Spinach Frittata

Our Family’s Favorite Recipe Links

Best Paleo “Spaghetti”: one of my favorite recipes to serve for my family AND for company. It’s that good, my friends! Play with the ingredients, experiment, and enjoy. You won’t miss regular pasta after having this. Vegetarians/vegans: leave out the meat, and you’re good to go!

Pancakes: We make this recipe EVERY.SINGLE. WEEKEND.  No joke, it tastes just like regular pancakes, minus the carb crash afterward. Need more convincing? Reference photo above. If you’re worried about sugar though, you can omit the added honey. Sometimes when we’re being really bad, we’ll melt (by way of a double boiler) a 1/2 bar of extra dark chocolate and mix it in with the batter.

Butternut Squash Soup: We make this soup every fall and it’s pretty much a tradition at this point to have it at least once a week. It’s savory, satisfying, and a bit on the spicy side.

Birthday Cake: We made this for our daughter’s first birthday, and let me tell you, the guests preferred it to the “regular” cupcakes I also made. Since I made it for my little one, I cut the honey in half and left out the chocolate.

Paleo Recipe Websites to check out: Nom Nom Paleo, Primal-Palate, and Everyday Paleo

On Pinterest: Check out Robb Wolf‘s two boards for further inspiration!

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Coming Up Next Week: I will be answering your questions about eating Paleo, so hit me up with your tough ones! OK, well maybe not too tough, but you get the picture. Leave a question in the comments below or feel free to leave it on our facebook page.

Kate loves eating delicious meals, but BIG SECRET, hates cooking. Who would’ve guessed? The last time she and her husband got together with friends, her Paleo cupcakes were an epic fail and she (guiltily) bought a gluten-free cherry pie to take instead. Sometimes her 16 month old spits out her meal, and Kate wonders if even the toddler gets that mama is not the cook in the house. 

Paleo Series Part II: Paleo for the Whole Family

This is the second installment of a four-part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. You can find Part I here. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

Kale/Spinach Smoothie: A regular in our household

WARNING: Reading the following might result in improved health, more energy, and a desire to swing from a tree branch. Oh, and your kids will benefit as well! 

This morning my husband, my mother-in-law, daughter, and I shared a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, sautéed fresh squash from the farmer’s market, and cups of coffee for the adults (no cream/sugar.) Vivi wasn’t crazy about the squash, but tasted it several times, examined the texture, and eventually decided to enjoy her eggs without. She still seemed hungry, so I quickly blended up some raw kale, frozen fruit, coconut milk, and water. She gulped down three small cups.

This meal, while simple enough, met the complex and diverse needs of all of us. The low-glycemic index of the squash and eggs satisfied my diabetic mother-in-law. My husband, who seems to be always trying to slim down and get a six-pack (I support ya, sweetie!), appreciated the low-carb aspect of the meal, but felt satiated by the coconut oil used to cook the squash. And my daughter? Well at 16 months, a meal like this is normal, tasty, and unbeknownst to her, nutritious. When we eat Paleo as a family, every meal is a home run: nutritious, tasty, and satisfying.

Paleo is a total change of lifestyle and can be tough enough for adults. So often, there might be one person in a family eating Paleo, while the rest stick to what’s familiar. I want to assure you that it doesn’t have to be this way! But inevitably, there are usually two questions floating around when you mix Paleo and kiddos:

  • What does Paleo eating look like for babies, toddlers, and older children?

Paleo eating for kids is pretty simple: if you’re eating Paleo, they can eat all the same things as you. No more cooking two meals and loading the shopping cart up with “kid-friendly” options!

Babies and toddlers will naturally gravitate toward a more veggies/fruit/fat based version and less meat. My daughter will often refuse meat for a week at a time, while devouring everything else. Paleo and baby-led weaning naturally go hand in hand: think soft pieces of fruit and vegetables, egg yolks, homemade broths, and slow-cooked meats that are easy to chew for the baby who is at least 6 months old. Don’t forget the breastmilk…your cavewoman ancestors would be proud!

Independent toddlers will relish the opportunity to eat what their parents do, rather than something else that looks and tastes totally different. Having options to choose from will allow these headstrong babes to feel in control.

Older children might be a bit more difficult to get on board if they haven’t eaten this way previously. The best thing you can do is to only keep nutritious options in your home, make Paleo meals, and don’t worry about the rest. Kids are so resilient and adaptable: give them the chance to make healthy choices, and I think you will be surprised.

  • And is Paleo eating even healthy for kids? 

Immediate answer: YES! Do you know anyone who has ever become obese/sick/diseased while eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and high-quality meats, eggs, fats, and fish? Children thrive on this type of diet, and you may have seen something similar prescribed for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the GAPS diet.  The Paleo way of eating provides such a varied, nutrient-rich diet that allows a parent to relax about food choices. No need to worry if your little one is getting enough of one nutrient or another because, most likely, they are getting them all and in ample quantities.

However, there are two big issues that concern many parents: no grains and no dairy. Aren’t kids supposed to have both for the fiber and nutrients (grains) and the calcium and vitamin D (dairy)?

The short answer is this: kids will get all of the above nutrients from a Paleo diet. Vegetables and fruit provide ample fiber (yay poop!), leafy greens and nuts take care of calcium, and vitamin D can be sourced naturally from a short play session outside (step away from the Wii, my friends.) Instead of cow’s milk, my daughter drinks plenty of water, kale/spinach shakes, and an occasional cup of straight coconut milk. I’m pretty positive (at least 99% sure) that she is not only meeting the government’s snazzy RDA (recommended daily amount) of nutrients, but blowing those old-school recommendations out of the water. But if you want scientific charts, medical studies, etc., and not the word of some random mama on the internet, you can’t do wrong with reading a little Robb Wolf.

Kids on a Paleo diet are healthy, happy, don’t experience sugar-induced mood swings, and will typically sleep pretty soundly. If the warm and fuzzy image of your kids growing lean and strong on whole, nutrient-dense foods and plenty of play outside has you clamoring for more info, take a gander at these oh-so-helpful resources:

Books

  • Family-friendly recipes, “games” (OK, exercises) for the whole family, and great information: Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
  • Looking for the science behind all this? (I’m with ya, sister…or brother.) Then look no further than biochemist, research nerd Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution

Blogroll

Who doesn’t love a good blog? (Ahem, TOBB.) Feast your eyes on these great internet writers:

And please, by all means, shoot your questions my way, and I’ll do my best to either answer them or point you in the right direction. Now go whip up a spinach smoothie, and get with it!

When Kate is not sharing a coconut-kale smoothie with her little one or planning/throwing together a Paleo meal, she enjoys writing about women’s issues, endlessly (virtually) redesigning her place a la Pinterest, and chatting with friends over coffee. 

Summer Fresh: Basil and Bulgar Salad

This recipe is always a total crowd pleaser (and won’t heat up your kitchen). As the tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers are flourishing in ours gardens and at the farmer’s markets, let’s keep it fresh! Bulgar wheat is easily found in the bulk food sections of more natural-type grocery stores. If you are cutting gluten from your diet, try quinoa instead. It is just as delicious!

Basil and Bulgur Salad

Base

1 cup fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts
1 cup basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon
salt, to taste

A drizzle of olive oil

Topping

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. olive oil

1tbsp. red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the bulgur. Remove from the heat and cover. Let it stand about 20 minutes until wheat is tender and water is absorbed.

Place the walnuts into the food processor and puree. And the basil, garlic, and half of the lemon juice, and process until a coarse paste is formed. Add salt and olive oil  and additional lemon juice to taste. Process one more time. Combine the bulgur with the pesto and toss well. Set aside. (The bulgar/pesto combo can either be served warm or at room temperature…both equally delicious).

For the topping, combine all ingredients and toss to coat.

Divide the bulgar between bowls and top with the cucumber/tomato topping. Eat it all up! (A little secret? It’s vegan too!)

Happy Eating!

 

Stephanie is currently trying to tackle apartment gardening. So far, the leafy greens are rocking the house!