It doesn't seem like so long ago that I was the one having babies. But looking around at all these young and glowing pregnant moms-to-be lately forces me to accept that stage is just a faded memory in my rear view mirror now. It's a bittersweet reality. But perhaps I'm in a place today where I have some amount of wisdom to share, especially as it relates to the health and wellness of children.
Overall, I'm at peace with how my husband and I raised and cared for our children during those early years. To be honest, I was grateful just to survive parts of it! Although I loved having babies and still cherish being a mom, I look back on that early experience now and recognize that I was not in the best of health before, during, or after their arrival. Neither was I educated enough at the time to make the most informed decisions on their behalf. But I did the very best I could with what I did know.
So there is no guilt or shame here, just reflection from a different place, and a wiser perspective having some lived experience and relevant education under my belt. With that, here are three decisions I would have handled differently with my babies, if I ever had the chance for a do-over. Maybe some of them will speak to you, and other moms you know. If so, I invite you to share.
Moms and Dads, take care of your mind and body through every stage. Before, during, and after pregnancy, how you nourish your whole selves has profound effects on the longterm resilience of that child. Yes, even the dads! Take honest stock of where you both are from a health standpoint, and do the work to be well as individuals long before that precious new life is conceived. You cannot pass along robust genetics if you have not nurtured and protected them first in your own bodies. Overweight? On medications? Digestive struggles? Addictive tendencies? Poor eating habits? Weighed down with anxiety or depression? Unresolved trauma? If you don't address these issues now, be prepared to deal with the negative down-stream effects in your children as they grow. It's how nature works. We reap what we sow. Patterns repeat. Behaviors transfer from one generation to the next. Truly the apple does not fall far from the tree, and it's a painful thing to see your children struggling with the same or similar issues as you did, and maybe still do, as a grown adult - especially when there's a good chance it could have been avoided.
Avoid all the nutrient-void convenience baby food items that everyone tells you are natural, normal, and necessary. They are anything but! This list includes, but is not limited to - rice cereal, infant oatmeal, Puffs, Cheerios, wafers, crackers, Pedialyte, juices, and as much of the pouched baby food and snacks as you can possibly sidestep. Make your own purees when you can, and buy organic with no sugar added when homemade isn't possible. Mash up or blend what the family is eating for meals, and allow baby to feed himself diced-up real, whole foods when he reaches the appropriate age. Worry less about getting her to eat her vegetables, and more about serving up amazing proteins and fats. Think soups and stews and slow cooked meats. Incorporate homemade bone broth and organs into their diet to the extent that you can, and offer fresh seasonal produce to round out their meals. Of course, breast feed as long as you can, moms; and if for some reason that isn't possible, research homemade formula options and avoid the highly processed conventional options that are filled with cheap calories and irritating additives. A great resource to learn more about formula options and children's health in general is the Weston A. Price Foundation. Another great book that is my standard baby shower gift is Real Food for Pregnancy, by Lily Nichols. Dads, your support and encouragement here is so critical! Don't outsource these important decisions to professionals trained in our pharmaceutical-minded sick care system. God gave these children to YOU to nurture and protect, not to a broken institution. Take that responsibility seriously, and educate yourselves on issues that matter to their long term health. Nutrition is paramount!
Think long and hard about vaccinations and medications. Do your research far in advance and seek out unconventional sources - you might be surprised to find there is very little evidence to show that the childhood vaccination schedule is safe or effective, and a growing amount of evidence, in fact, to suggest just the opposite. Find a pediatrician who will have an open and honest conversation with you about the risks and benefits. When I attempted to ask questions more than a decade ago, I was bullied, embarrassed, and told my children would not be cared for at that clinic if I didn't abide by the standard vaccination protocol. Had I known then what I know now, I would never have set foot in such a clinic to begin with. There are other options if you know where to look, but it can be more expensive and also takes strong conviction to stand your ground against physicians and even well-meaning friends and family. If you want a comprehensive review on this issue, check out a book titled, Turtles All the Way Down. It will blow you mind. While you're at it, buy a copy for your pediatrician! They might learn a thing or two. On a similar note, use gut-disrupting antibiotics and other medications as a last resort and only when necessary. If your child experiences chronic illness like ear infections, diarrhea, constipation, or even back-to-back sicknesses, I would assume first that there is a major dietary component to their compromised state - not a medication deficiency.
If you want more information, or have questions about anything I've listed here, please reach out and let me know. A reminder that I am not a licensed medical professional, and nothing shared here should be construed as medical advice. However, I will speak openly with you as one imperfect parent to another, trying to do what's best for our children. I will also point you to resources where you can learn more, and from there make your own informed decisions. Much love, hope, and grace to all as these new lives are brought into the world! May God bless and protect each one of them, and direct their steps into all the good things He has planned!