Beautiful Babies Class: An Interview with Kristen at Food Renegade

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Oct 18

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!

Question: Did you have any problems with your pregnancies that motivated you to seek solutions?
Answer: No. I had three amazing pregnancies and births. But I will say that having done my first pregnancy while eating the standard American diet of so-called “healthy” foods, there is a world of difference between it all. My first pregnancy came with swelling in my ankles, a few varicose veins, massive amounts of stretch marks, and a lot of general discomfort.

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?

Answer: There is no one traditional diet that all cultures adopted, but there are a few things all these diets had in common. First, they started eating for fertility anywhere from 6 months to a year before they actually hoped to get pregnant. Second, they ate the most prized nutrient-dense foods of the culture (both the women and the men who they hoped to conceive with).

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?

Answer: There are a host of possible problems. Moms and babies often don’t get off to the best possible start because of illness, c-sections, or hospital policies. One such problem comes when a bottle is introduced early, and babies will show a clear preference for nursing from bottles rather than the breast. Their latch on the mom’s nipples may get confused with the kind of latch they need to nurse from a bottle. Or, they may simply prefer the easier pull from a bottle when compared to a mother’s nipples.

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?

Answer: Babies don’t have the enzymes they need to properly digest grains until they are at least a year old (sometimes older). While the rice cereal may keep them full, it displaces the more nutrient-dense foods babies really need.

Question: Can you talk a little about the appropriate first foods for baby?

Answer: We need to go back to our roots. It used to be commonly known that baby’s first foods should include liver, egg yolks, and plenty of fats from butter and the like. These foods are all rich in the essential fats and vitamins babies need to properly develop.

Thanks Kristen!

Grab the Kristen’s Beautiful Babies here!

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