Where Well-intended Childhood Feeding Recommendations Go Wrong

This week in the mail we received a packet for my son's next big milestone, 15 months! In this packet includes ways to support his development, including what to feed him. Caring deeply about the health of our next generation, to tell you I was angry is an understatement. All families with young children are receiving these recommendations and of course are going to try to adhere to them because it’s what the experts recommend.

feedingyourchild

As stated in a study in the World Journal of Diabetes,"The financial and societal consequences of the emerging epidemic of type 2 diabetes mellitus are substantial and demand an urgent public health response. Emphasis must be placed upon preventive behaviors and early detection." The authors of the study go on to recommend optimizing diet and lifestyle for pregnant mothers, strongly encouraging breastfeeding, addressing diet choices in childhood, etc.

Side note: Did you know that in utero blood sugar environment has a significantly strong impact on childhood health risk? One study showed that pregnant mothers consuming a diet of almost 52% of calories from carbohydrate (the conventionally-recommended amount 🤦🏽‍♀️) had babies born at higher birth weights and were more likely to be overweight in childhood. Babies born to mothers with high blood sugar during pregnancy are also more likely to be born with high insulin levels at birth and to get type 2 diabetes in childhood. This is why I’m always emphasizing blood sugar regulation especially during pregnancy and why the 21-Day Sugar Detox is such a great starting point for families.

I digress. This feeding guide is one effort to mitigate risk, but unfortunately, the current USDA Dietary Guidelines do not have our country's children at the forefront of their priorities. Since the wheat, corn, and soy lobbyists are very closely intertwined with influencing USDA policy, our country's children suffer. See what I’m talking about below.

“AT LEAST FOUR RECENT FOOD INDUSTRY LOBBYISTS—FROM THE GROCERS, WHEAT, CORN AND CORN SYRUP INDUSTRIES—JOINED THE USDA IN 2017 AND RECEIVED ETHICS WAIVERS TO WORK ON THE VERY ISSUES THEY HAD LOBBIED ON.”

“AT LEAST FOUR RECENT FOOD INDUSTRY LOBBYISTS—FROM THE GROCERS, WHEAT, CORN AND CORN SYRUP INDUSTRIES—JOINED THE USDA IN 2017 AND RECEIVED ETHICS WAIVERS TO WORK ON THE VERY ISSUES THEY HAD LOBBIED ON.”

I want to explain WHY the recommendations actually PROMOTE health risk for our children and why I could not ethically recommend following them.

I’ve underlined the parts that I’m commenting on below

I’ve underlined the parts that I’m commenting on below

Let’s do some math.

5-6 servings X 1/2 slice bread/tortilla= 2.5-3 slices of bread/tortilla.

If there is roughly 30g of carbs in a slice of bread/tortilla and we’re asking children to eat 2.5-3 slices, then that means we’re expecting them to have 75-90g carbs per day! On top of that, they’re recommending having only lean meats and low-fat foods. FYI: Protein and fat slow down the rise in blood sugar. (Read: protein and fat decrease risk for type 2 diabetes.) And we’re wondering why the rates of type 2 diabetes are at an all-time high?! Hmm… I have a guess.

Side note: If you’re curious to learn more about how foods affect our metabolism, please join my upcoming 21-Day Sugar Detox coaching group where I teach you ALL about it.

To give you an idea, 75-90 g is a normal carbohydrate intake I would recommend for a moderately active, metabolically healthy adult. Obviously, children ages 18 months to 3 years are much smaller and thus their intake should correlate with their size.

Portions aside, I should inform you that not only do these foods have a high glycemic effect, but their actual nutritional value of vitamins and minerals is minimal compared to real food, nutrient-dense options such as meats, seafood, eggs, and vegetables. One of the problems is that these nutrient-lacking foods displace more nutrient-dense options. I wish there was a picture of children on this sign below, “ [Bread] makes us think we are full and then we don’t eat the food we need.”

duckdiet

“But the protein options aren’t bad, are they?”

There’s a reason why pregnant women are advised to supplement with iron and infants are encouraged to have iron-fortified cereals * cue eyeroll * as a first food: iron deficiency anemia is a major nutrient of concern in infants and toddlers. In fact, various studies report the rates of iron-deficiency anemia in the US occurring in between 15.2% and 62.5% of children. The two most bioavailable, nutrient-dense sources of iron (red meat and liver!) are not included in the recommended feeding guide. I don’t have a problem with chicken, fish and eggs; those are great foods! It’s more concerning that they’re leaving out the most bioavailable, iron-dense foods. It’s no wonder children are still iron deficient in this country!

“But of course they should be avoiding fat, right?”

Wrong. Do you know what nutrients are of highest importance during this age? Fat soluble vitamins (A, D3, E and K1 and K2), Iron, Zinc, Cholesterol, B vitamins, choline, glycine, essential fats (omega-3s such as EPA and DHA), among others. Do you want to know which foods these are found in? That’s right, animal products: meat (lean and fatty), seafood, whole eggs and full-fat dairy (highest in those animals fed their natural diet of grass and sunshine), many of them found specifically in the fat.

Remove the fat, remove the nutrients.

Re-read the dairy section of the photo I shared above. No worries, I’ll re-write it for you: “Until your child is two he or she needs the fat in whole milk for growth and energy. After that, offer low-fat or fat-free milk.” STOP. Use your common sense. Why would children arbitrarily all of a sudden stop needing the fat in milk?! Why would nature create a food that promotes life and health then once someone has their second birthday now becomes a health risk?? Children’s needs for fat-soluble vitamins and the other vitamins/minerals found in fat-laden animal foods don’t just go away after age two. They continue to require those nutrients as they grow and develop!

“You can’t possibly have any criticisms about eating vegetables though, can you?”

You bet I can! When was the last time an “ear of corn” was considered a vegetable (referring again to the photo above)? Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. And is vegetable juice really even on there? Most commercially-produced “vegetable” juices are just fronts for giving kids more sugar. For example, see the nutrient facts from NAKED juice Green Machine below. Can you guess who owns them? PepsiCo.

They even have the guts to say “no added sugar” on the front label.

They even have the guts to say “no added sugar” on the front label.

Green machine nutrients.png

I would be thrilled to see a vegetable like * gasp * carrots or broccoli in the example serving size. How hard could that have been? At least they included leafy greens!

So what DO I feed my kid?

To put it short: whole, real foods. Foods that were placed on our earth that have been nourishing our ancestors for generations. I love working with families and children in my nutrition practice so please schedule with me for specific guidance on “what” and “how much” to serve you and/or your family. As you can see, I approach nutrition guidelines with a critical eye, not because I’m a rebel, but because I have always questioned the status quo. Is what we’re doing working for us? Clearly it’s not as our rates of chronic disease are at an all-time high despite removing the fat from our foods and omitting foods that have nourished our ancestors for centuries. If what we’re doing is not working, I want to help you figure out what will help you and your family feel and live better in the short term AND the long term. Let me help you today.


An alternative approach to plugged ducts and mastitis

Anytime I’ve told somebody that I have an oversupply of breastmilk, I always get responses like, “you can’t have too much of a good thing” or “that’s a good problem to have”.

Those are half truths. But they also don’t make anyone feel any better. Yes, it’s true I have sufficient milk to feed my child, I am SO thankful for that. I can be thankful for what I have and still be frustrated with the consequences of what I’m experiencing. Even though I attended breastfeeding classes while pregnant, met with an IBCLC and read books on breastfeeding, I still didn’t fully understand the consequences of allowing my breasts to be fully engorged until it was too late.

Milk supply is a dynamic process so I hesitate to claim the “oversupply” title so directly. My child breastfeeds a lot. Then on some days, he breastfeeds less. It may take a couple days for my supply to catch up or to change my pumping schedule on the days I’m working. In the first 3 months postpartum, a new mom’s milk supply fluctuates drastically as the body adjusts to baby’s needs. I’m doing my best to be flexible while also meeting the needs of my child (and that means breastfeeding for more than just hunger. After all, 'I gave birth to a baby, not just a digestive system.’). As I’ve learned through The University of Motherhood (don’t you wish that was a thing?!), I gradually figured out how to adjust my feeding routines to reduce or increase my supply as needed.

Long story short, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get plugged ducts and mastitis. Working so hard throughout preconception, pregnancy and postpartum to build and maintain a healthy microbiome for myself and my baby, I wanted to do my best to avoid using prescription antibiotics at all costs. I’m not against them if they are necessary, medicines always have their place, but if I can clear the infection before they’re needed then it’s a win-win: I’m out of misery and we both get to retain our healthy microbiomes.

Disclaimer: I recognize that I am not the top expert but many of these recommendations were learned from the experts: Naturopathic Doctors (ND), midwives, IBCLCs, herbalists, etc. I share these only to share what worked for me and the other mamas who I’ve shared these tips with. Please consult consistently with an educated holistic healthcare provider/IBCLC before taking any medicines (natural or not) or drastically changing your milk supply. Please follow your doctor’s orders should conventional medicine be necessary. The following are strategies I have followed to clear plugged ducts and mastitis.

My most recent bout of mastitis, caused because my 11 month old (at the time) came to the realization that solid food makes him more satiated than breastmilk :)

My most recent bout of mastitis, caused because my 11 month old (at the time) came to the realization that solid food makes him more satiated than breastmilk :)

Plugged milk ducts


A plugged duct (also called blocked duct) occurs when milk flow is cut off, like creating a dam in a river. The breast tissue where the block exists typically feels tender, warm, and lumpy. Clearing the duct is essential to preventing mastitis. This may sound like a lot of work but with

Rest! but balance with micro movements like range of motion, gentle massage and others listed below

Minimize pressure on the breast

  • Wear loose fitting bras/avoid tight bras

  • Avoid sleeping on the belly

  • Avoid wrapping baby too tightly to the chest 

  • Use the correct size flange for your breast pump if pumping.

  • Avoid pumping “too hard”. This is what caused most of my bouts of mastitis: I was in a rush at work and turned up the pressure on the pump. Trust me, whatever is rushing you can wait. It’s not worth the risk.

Stay hydrated

  • Cut down on caffeine (coffee and tea are the biggies)

  • Drink enough water or herbal teas (obviously ones that are safe during breastfeeding)

  • You may need electrolytes especially if you are following a lower carbohydrate diet. You can order some here.

Your baby is your best helper

  • The closer the lower jaw is to the plugged duct, the more likely it will get unplugged.

  • Vary nursing positions. See a how-to video here.

Use Contrast Hydrotherapy

Only heat it while you’re nursing or pumping because heat can increase flow (and thus production). Use cold to slow the flow once you’re done nursing or expressing milk.

  • Warm compress, bath or shower 10 min, frequently throughout the day

  • Contrasting compresses: freeze grated potato then put that on the plugged duct(s) immediately after a bath/shower/hot compress. Allow your body to heat up the frozen potato then remove and apply heat. Alternate for at least 24 hrs or until the duct clears. (The grated potato helps draw out the inflammation and loosen the rigidity of the duct. Potato also holds on to cold temperature well like cabbage leaves but doesn’t directly decrease production like they do.)

Adjust milk supply, if necessary

  • Block nursing to decrease supply: Nurse from one side for 3 hours then switch to the other side. It’s all about feedback inhibition: if your breast is full, it will signal the body to decrease production. On that note, if you keep pumping, you will continue producing excess. So there’s a fine balance between allowing your breasts to stay full enough to signal slower production but not too full that it promotes plugged ducts.

  • Cold Cabbage leaves can be used to decrease supply but they can work quickly so be mindful to only use them as necessary. I once used them while alternating heat for 24 hours and saw a significant reduction in my supply, which was desired but also shows how powerful they are.

Herbal Remedies /Supplements

To support lymphatics, milk flow, milk thickness, and immune response.

  • Herbal tincture: “Happy Ducts” by Wish Garden, promotes lymph flow. 2-3 droppersfull in hot water 3-4x/d

  •  Galium (Cleavers) tincture 1 tsp 3-4x/d. I recommend the Wise Woman Herbals brand, offered in my online dispensary.

  • Essential oils (see below)

  • Vitamin C- 500 mg 3x/d or to bowel tolerance. I use liposomal Vitamin C for better absorption and less impact on bowels (offered in my online dispensary).

  • Colostrum- 2 capsules/d (offered in my online dispensary)

  • Sunflower lecithin may impact the viscosity of the milk, possibly reducing recurrent plugged ducts though it may not do much in terms of treating an already plugged duct. For prevention: 3600-4800 mg lecithin per day or 1 capsule (1200 mg) 3-4x/day. You can purchase one through my online dispensary here, categorized under the “women’s health” favorites.

Manual Therapy

  • Massage gently from the sore area toward the nipple 

  • Massage lavender, tea tree and/or Dottera OnGuard essential oils into the lymph nodes near your armpit and the plugged ducts, 3 drops each when you apply heat. I like to this immediately after a shower/bath.

  • Use a dry skin brush to promote lymph flow. Watch a tutorial here.

  • Cupping may prove beneficial for helping to clear the plugged duct. Work with a trained provider (acupuncturist or massage therapist). I recommend Thrive Integrative Health locally.

Mastitis

Milk stasis can occur if flow does not resume promptly after the duct has become plugged. Just like a body of water that remains still with no inflow or outflow of water, bacteria from your skin can enter the duct and stimulate flu-like symptoms. You may feel like your life is ending, I know I did. The headaches, joint-pain, fever and weakness were so debilitating, I could hardly get out of bed. This is the body’s way of making you rest, so listen!

This is the protocol I used:

  • Work diligently to clear the plugged duct

  • 20-40 drops echinacea tincture 6x/d. For prevention: 10-15 drops 2x/d for at least 5 days. You can purchase one through my online dispensary here, categorized under the “women’s health” favorites.

  • Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and/or curcumin at therapeutic doses (I used these only if I was having trouble sleeping due to massive headaches) please consult your doctor, especially if you choose to take these .

  • Pulse Electro Magnetic Field (PEMF) Flex Pulse on continuous mode at 10 Hz, applied to the site of the plugged duct

Closing Thoughts

I don’t wish mastitis upon any woman. Though, I imagine if you’ve made it this far, you’ve needed these suggestions and you’re not just reading it for pleasure. I’m sorry.

Every day I’m working with mamas-to-be and new mamas to optimize health and minimize illness. Nutrition can be a major piece in the wellness puzzle. If you think our philosophies might be congruent and you’d like to work with me, consider scheduling an appointment. If you found this article helpful, please share in the comments below what tips helped most and share this post with a mama in need.

Fermented Ketchup recipe

When I started making fermented foods, I dove right into making all the things. I loved the idea that for thousands of years, this was how people preserved their harvest.

I’m often encouraging my patients to increase probiotic foods in their diet but am sometimes faced with comments of “but I hate sauerkraut!” Or “but I can’t eat dairy”. I get excited when I can share with people the fact that there are LOTS of options. You don’t have to like sauerkraut to enjoy the plethora of fermented foods.

Most people like ketchup and my guess is you’re probably looking for a way to “sneak” some probiotic foods into your kids diet too, am I right?

The way I’ve made my fermented ketchup over the years has evolved but this is the way I enjoy it best. I use either sauerkraut brine (sometimes kimchi brine) or whey (liquid runoff from yogurt) as the probiotic culture. You can use some from store-bought fermented veggies or you can purchase the brine separately from your natural foods market, make sure they are labeled “raw” or “probiotic” and are from the refrigerated section.

fermented ketchup

Fermented Ketchup

Ingredients

  • 2 6-oz cans tomato paste

  • 2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed

  • 4 tbsp sauerkraut brine or whey

  • 1/4 cup raw honey

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 tsp onion powder

  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice

  • 1/4 tsp ground clove

Preparation

  1. Stir all ingredients into a pint-sized jar and blend fully with a hand blender/immersion blender.

  2. Cover loosely and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

  3. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

Note: If you are following the 21-Day Sugar Detox, see this recipe for a 21DSD friendly ketchup recipe that uses slow cooked green apples as the sweetener.