, April 24, 2013
(view all comments by Holly Scudero)
Here is the “too long, didn't read” version of this review: "The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care" is a great resource for new and expecting parents interested in following a traditional foods diet, but not the best place to look for advice on childrearing.
Never heard of a traditional foods diet? Here's a quick back story. Weston Price was a dentist who was bothered by the amount of problems he was seeing in the mouths of his patients. Were humans really meant to be so imperfect? His studies took him all around the world, and he wondered why “primitive” peoples living isolated from modern civilization seemed to be so much healthier than the rest of us. His conclusion was that it was due to their diets. Far from the junk-filled diets we consume, these people ate lots of animal products��"meat, butter, eggs, full-fat raw milk, rich bone broths��"and lacto-fermented foods (the most well-known example of these would be sauerkraut). And such a diet is exactly what the Weston A. Price Foundation advocates today.
In all honesty, it's kind of a wonder that modern Americans, meat-lovers that they are, have not more fully embraced such a diet. Would doing so really make us healthier? Would it make pregnancy go smoother, labor shorter? Would it produce more alert, robust children? The many people who embrace a traditional foods diet certainly think so. "The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care" applies this dietary model, as well as other related ideas, to the pregnant women and children of all ages.
Prepare to have your ideas of a healthy diet turned on their heads! The principles in this book emphasize milk, eggs, meat, and animal fats, all of which are rich in nutrients important for human health. Unlike most guides for eating while pregnant, fruits and vegetables are last on the list here, and grains generally require a different style of preparation than you're likely used to in order to render them more digestible. Babies generally need to start solid foods by 4-6 months, and some dietary supplements should be started even earlier.
A good portion of this book is also focused on other aspects of health. The authors are firmly against routine vaccination, a debate which this reviewer is not going to delve into. There is much information about natural remedies, advice for when to treat a fever and when to let it run its course, how to handle formerly common childhood illnesses like pertussis and still-common illnesses like the flu, how to deal with asthma and allergies, and even ideas regarding neurological disorders like epilepsy. Some of the more philosophical aspects of the book may seem a bit quirky to some readers.
Where this book falls short, in my opinion, is in its attempt to cover so many topics. Morell and Cowan tried to cram too much information into their "Book of Baby & Child Care," resulting in many topics being only touched on. There are many, many books in publication on topics like pregnancy & labor, discipline, and baby gear; some of these segments probably could have been left out of this book with no ill effects, as readers interested in these topics would be better served picking up a book devoted to the subject anyway.
Perhaps more disturbing are some of the straight-up inaccuracies herein. Much of what the authors have written about infant sleep habits serves only to perpetuate mainstream ideas that have been proven inaccurate by valid science, which is disappointing for a book that seems to pride itself on giving readers the truth, despite it being against the wisdom of most “experts.” Some of their thoughts on when and how to introduce solids to babies are very debatable, and their outright recommendation of baby carriers that can cause hip dysplasia (while telling readers to avoid carriers that have baby “facing you with his legs spread open,” which is in reality a more ergonomically correct position) is troubling. The palpable hostility towards vegetarians and vegans is perhaps not surprising, while the authors' attacks on attachment parenting seem to be based on an inaccurate and extreme definition.
Despite this though, the fact remains that "The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care" is a great resource. The appendices, in particular are filled with wonderful recipes, information about the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, a temporary diet that allows a damaged intestinal tract to heal), and a wealth of other sources to consult for more information. There is a lot of good information to be found here! So come for the alternative science, stay for the recipes, but don't rely on it for principles of child rearing.