I contacted Kristen Michaelis, the woman behind the celebrated blog, Food Renegade. She talked about the issues around fertility, childbirth, breastfeeding and infant foods with a great deal of knowledge and passion.
Question: How did you come to your real food way of life?
Answer: Just after the birth of my first child, a friend showed me the documentary The Future of Food. It was my first exposure to the idea of GMOs, to the idea that our daily food choices did so much more than just sate our hunger. I made changes in increments — first going to all organic dairy, then signing up with a local CSA to get a share of veggies each week, then switching to entirely grass-fed or pasture raised meats, then switching to more nutrient-dense, healthy fats. You get the idea.
Eventually I switched to local, grass-fed raw milk, started preparing my grains differently or eliminating them, switched to natural sweeteners while trying to cut back on sweets. The process took years, and my diet is still far from my ideal. Like everyone, we have to make compromises based on cost, availability, and taste. But it’s a journey, and I’m on it!
My subsequent pregnancies on a more traditional, real diet had none of those symptoms. While I haven’t personally experienced issues with infertility, I have had many close friends who had. One such friend was 5’8″ tall and a size 2 who religiously ate low-fat foods. Women need good saturated fats to make the hormones necessary to achieve conception! They need fat stores, too. She was rail thin and in her thirties. After more than a year of struggling to get pregnant, she finally accepted that she had to eat more (and more fat). She put on 20 pounds (but still looked great!) and got pregnant. She now has a beautiful, toddling boy.
Question: Why is the mother’s (and father’s) diet so important?
Answer: Most people don’t realize just how much nutrition affects things. I think it’s because we treat pregnancy and birth like a medical event, and our doctors are NOT trained adequately in nutrition (less than 6 weeks in most U.S. med schools).
But anthropological research from the likes of Weston A Price and others has shown that nutrition affects everything about the birth experience. With it, you can increase fertility, have a smoother pregnancy and birth, and even change your child’s facial structure so that they have room for straight teeth (no braces!) and well set eyes (no glasses!).
Question: Can you talk a little about the fertility diets of traditional cultures?
Depending on location, that could have been the organ meats of free-roaming land animals, mollusks from the sea, etc. The point is that they ate the foods richest in certain vitamins and fats that have since been proven essential for maternal fertility and health. And third, they didn’t eat any of the foods of modern, industrial civilization (like yellow cooking oils, processed soy, or refined grains and sugars).
Question: What kinds of problems can derail a mother’s plan to breastfeed?
Moms obviously want to keep their babies fed, so they start supplementing with commercial formula because that’s what the baby seems to want. There are tried and true methods for gently urging the baby back to the breast, despite their obvious preference for a bottle.
Another common problem is that women are told they can’t produce enough milk. While that may be true in extreme circumstances (if, say, the mom had breast surgery either for reduction or augmentation), in most cases there are things a mother can do to build her supply.
Question: Why isn’t rice cereal good?
Question: Can you talk a little about the appropriate first foods for baby?