5 Interesting Facts About the Human Microbiome

The human microbiome is fascinating! There has been a HUGE paradigm switch over the past couple of years, as we are beginning to realize just how important our diverse colonies of microbes are for our body. We went from fearing ALL bacteria, to realizing how much we need it to thrive and survive.



Here are 5 interesting facts you may not have known about our collective “bugs” or bacteria known as the microbiome!

Our body holds more than 100 trillion bacteria all over our skin, all over our body, in our mouths, ears, nose, armpits, and throughout our intestines. They live in diverse bacterial communities collectively known as (or the new trendy term) “The Human Microbiome.”

What exactly does the microbiome do for us? These tiny buggars communicate with each other, and can synthesize vitamins and minerals, act as a “soldier” or “gatekeeper” in our gut to help keep pathogens out, boost our immune system, help us to digest our food, helps with our mood (some important brain chemicals like serotonin are actually synthesized mainly in the gut), helps prevent GI disorders like IBS and Crohn’s Disease…and science is constantly finding more roles these beneficial bacteria play. The health of the microbiome has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease. Our bugs are pretty important, and we need to take care of them!

Here are 5 Facts you might not have known about the amazing microbiome:

1.  Our microbiome can weighs as much as an organ…approximately 3 pounds but can weigh up to as much as 5 pounds…5 pounds of microscopic bacteria that are working together in large communities to take care of YOU!


2.  Our microbes need to eat to survive too! This is where the concept of “prebiotics” comes into play. We take probiotics to replace beneficial bacteria, we take prebiotics to essentially feed that bacteria so it can survive, thrive, and colonize. Prebiotics are found in fiber rich foods-such as plantains and bananas, as well as asparagus, garlic, and onions. Prebiotic fiber is not digested, but rather works symbiotically with probiotics to increase the population of good bacteria. One form of prebiotics are resistant starches. Resistant starches are starches that we do not digest, but rather are utilized in the GI tract to feed bacteria, and have been shown to have many other health benefits. Resistant starch forms in foods after cooking and cooling. One example is using potatoes-cooking and cooling them forms resistant starch.


3.  The way your baby enters the world has a permanent affect on their microbiome! Scientists are finding that pregnant women pass significant microbes onto their infant while the infant passes through the birthing canal.  One study examined the changes in vaginal microbiome during pregnancy.  As early as the first trimester, the diversity of vaginal bacteria changes immensely. Species that were once quite abundant dissipate, and new species of bacteria arrive. One species that forms in the vagina, Lactobacillus johnsonii is usually found only in the gut, where it produces enzymes that digest milk. Changing conditions in the vagina during pregnancy encourage this strain of bacteria to grow.  During delivery, the baby will be covered by Lactobacillus johnsonii and even ingest some of it. This prepares the infant to be able to digest breastmilk. When passing through the birthing canal the baby swallows and is bathed in bacteria and even some feces. Babies are born down by the anus for a reason! There are colonies of beneficial bacteria down there. Babies born via cesarian are more likely to struggle with health problems like asthma, allergies, eczema, type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

Some cesarian sections are necessary. What can a parent do to ensure baby gets bathed with this beneficial bacteria? One way to pass beneficial bacteria on to a cesarian delivered baby is via vaginal seeding, a way to bath the baby with bacteria from the vagina upon delivery. Skin to skin contact with a parent vs being swaddled continues to pass bacteria to baby. Breastfeeding is also extremely important to continue to inoculate baby with beneficial bacteria.


4.  Let your kiddos get their hands dirty and even taste a little! We are obsessed with hand washing, sanitizing, and cleanliness in our culture. This is not necessarily always a good thing. There are beneficial bacteria in soil. Babies put everything in their mouth for a reason, more than just exploration. Many cultures actually eat dirt and they perceive eating dirt as a normal thing. It helps strengthen the immune system and build up our resistance to pathogenic bacteria.

In fact, our cultural fear of dirt is having a negative impact on our microbiome!  According to Chris Kresser, author of Your Personal Paleo Code:

“Our culture’s obsessive attention to cleanliness, sanitation, and hygiene may actually be having unintended consequences on our immune system. While a sanitary environment may be crucial in areas such as hospitals or food production, our general avoidance of dirt, bacteria, and other infectious agents may be causing our under-stimulated immune system to become over-reactive to benign antigens.”

“Eating dirt” is associated with protection from chemicals, parasites, bad bacteria and toxins. So don’t fear dirt so much! Go ahead and let your kids dig, play, and get dirty.


5. Obese individuals tend to have a makeup of bacteria in their intestine that is different from that of people who are of normal weight. Recent evidence suggests that there is a link between metabolic diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes and the bacterial populations in the gut. The proportion of two major groups of bacteria in the large intestine, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes may play a large role. In this study comparing the distal gut microbiota of obese mice and their lean couterparts the researchers found that the obese microbiome has an increased capacity to harvest energy from the diet. Obesity was associated with changes in the abundance of bacteroidetes and firmicutes. They also found that the trait was transmissible:

“colonization of germ-free mice with an ‘obese microbiota’ results in a significantly greater increase in total body fat than colonization with a ‘lean microbiota’. These results identify the gut microbiota as an additional contributing factor to the pathophysiology of obesity.”

The human gut microbiota is an extremely complex and important system that affects human health. Up until recent times we have disregarded it’s existence and treated all bacteria as pathogenic. This has had a profound affect on our health, and the health of our offspring. We need to “water the flowers” and take care of our microbiome, so these trillions of bugs can in turn take care of us!

*Up next week: Ways you can nurture your microbes!


Primal Feeding Guide for Babies and Toddlers

Baby and Toddler Primal Feeding Guide

I’ve had several people ask me about feeding babies and toddlers. I wanted to create a guide to help you make the best decisions for your children. This particular area is very challenging because we live in a culture where we put a great deal of trust in western medical Doctors. Western medicine can be great and there is a time and place for it. However, medical Doctors do not get real food nutrition training (well, minimal and probably based on the old high grain and low fat government recommendations). Many pediatricians are not even aware of the effect that real food (or lack thereof) has on a growing child. Proper nutrition is the core for a healthy body. It affects all other areas of our children’s lives and well-being. We want to start our children out with the best foundation possible. We want them to feel good inside and out, and establish the roots for them to have a lifetime of health.

What makes it challenging is that we as parents are undermined from day one. We are undermined by well-meaning family and friends, by hospital staff who are not properly trained to help breastfeeding mamas. We are undermined by the marketing of artificial baby milk and baby foods. Then as they get older we are undermined by pediatricians, schools, well-meaning family, friends, and marketing. We put a great deal of trust in all the wrong places, and we lose trust in ourselves and in our children. We do have the innate ability to feed our children. Our children have the innate ability to feed themselves. Somewhere along the line we were grossly misdirected. We need to start doing our own research, and making decisions that do not involve people who are not directly involved in your child’s life.

Have you heard the term “bio-individuality?” We are all different. That includes babies and children. We develop the ability to start solids at different points. We develop tastes for different things, and those tastes change. My 4 year old often says to me “mama, I don’t like it because I do not have the same taste buds as you!” He is correct, he does not. My point is that this is a guide to help you make the best decisions for your particular child, keeping in mind they are an individual. They will crave what their body needs. Trust in that.

I have a great deal of valuable information and recipes that will be included in my book about feeding babies and toddlers. However, this guide will cover some of the more common questions I hear, and hopefully give you some answers as to how to start. I incorporated some of my reader’s questions, and my answers to them. I hope this helps to answer some of your questions as well. I can’t explore everything I would like to, but I will do my best to cover some of the most common questions. If you have any that I have not answered here, feel free to drop me an e-mail anytime!


A little about breastfeeding:


I am not here to judge your decision to breastfeed or not breastfeed. I feel it is important to educate people on the benefits of breastfeeding. I understand that it doesn’t workout for everyone for a variety of reasons, and this post is not to create conflict, but to discuss some obstacles and how to overcome them.

When a baby is born, his/her stomach is the size of a small marble. It is big enough to hold that tiny bit of colostrum that coats and seals the infant gut, preventing pathogens from entering. Some refer to colostrum as baby’s first immunizations. It is rich in vitamin A giving it a dark yellow color. Many mother’s are led to believe (by misinformed people) that their child needs to be supplemented in the hospital. When a newborn baby is fed more than the size of a marble on that first day, the baby is being overstuffed, and the stomach stretches. Sometimes baby will spit it up as well. Keep in mind that if you are feeding baby early and often, you are giving your body the cues it needs to make enough milk for your baby. Removing baby from you to be cared for by nurses, getting tons of visitors, and supplementing with formula interferes with that bonding process, messes with your confidence, and sends you down a road you do not want to go down.

Breastfeeding is a learned behavior. Back when breasts were not culturally taboo, infants were fed freely everywhere. Children observed family members breastfeeding, and they were taught what to do. We had an innate ability and we had confidence. In this day and age it is important to surround yourself with supportive people, who respect your decision to breastfeed.

If you are having difficulties with breastfeeding or need help with re-lactating, you can find a Lactation Consultant here. My favorite resource for breastfeeding mamas is www.kellymom.com. You can find many answers to all your breastfeeding questions and concerns on this website. Here is a blog post I wrote about the amazing ingredients in human milk. If breastfeeding does not work out for you, the second best option is milk from either a milk bank or community milk sharing. Human milk is species specific, and easiest on the infant’s immature gut. Eats on feets is a great resource for obtaining donated breastmilk from a trusted community. There is a Chapter for most areas. The difference between milk bank milk and donated milk is that milk from a milk bank has been pasteurized, and you will have to pay for the milk. However, some people do not trust milk sharing (donated milk). This is where you have to talk with the milk donator, ask important medical questions, and go with your gut. The milk will not be pasteurized, and it will still have all the live enzymes and probiotics. If you go with milk from the milk bank which has been pasteurized, I recommend supplementing with a good human strain infant probiotic. The last option is artificial baby milk (aka formula). There are options to make your own formula with raw goat’s milk here. Goat’s milk proteins are smaller and more easily digested than cow’s milk proteins (casein). If you do decide to go with a cow’s milk pre-made formula, I highly suggest using a liquid one that has pre-digested proteins (a hypo-allergenic formula). The casein is predigested and poses less of a stress on the infant gut. I would also recommend supplementing this formula with a good human strain infant probiotic. I never recommend soy formula…ever. Soy is not a health food.

When do I start solids?

The burning question. Your mother or mother-in-law thinks your baby is hungry and bugs you about starting him or her on cereal. Your pediatrician says “at (6 week…4 months, 6 months), you should start rice cereal” Your baby is reaching for food at the table. You are excited to take pics of that first meal! So when do you start? Here is what I was taught from my training as a general guideline. You start solids sometime around the middle of the first year. I know that sounds very general, but every baby is different. There are however, telltale signs that baby is ready to start playing with food. Remember there is nothing more nutritious, high in calories and nutrient dense than breastmilk or quality formula.

Signs that indicate readiness:

*baby can sit up on his own

*baby no longer has the tongue thrust and gag reflex. When you put something in her mouth, does she try to push it out with her tongue? If yes, she is not ready for solid foods.

*baby is still hungry after breastfeeding for a period longer than a week (normal growth spurt period)

*baby can pinch with her finger and thumb (pincer grasp)

*BIGGEST SIGN: baby is picking up pieces of food and putting it in his mouth by himself

Signs that do not necessarily indicate readiness to consume solids:

*more frequent nursing-this may simply be a growth spurt (which are temporary and last a week or so), baby nurses more frequently during growth spurts to help increase your milk supply to their demand

*size of the baby-big or small babies do not necessarily need extra food. Humans come in all different shapes and sizes. Their size does not indicate their body is ready for solid foods.

*not going straight to sleep after nursing. We always assume baby is hungry, but sometimes their sleep cycles are different from what we would like. Sometimes they are just awake during the night.

*reaching for your food on your plate or watching you eat -She is most likely just curious about what is on your plate, and want to mimic what she sees you doing. Giving her a utensil to hold or play with may suffice.

What is baby led weaning?

In my personal opinion, baby led weaning means giving your baby control over what they will eat and how much. Obviously you supply the food choices. However, the past generation spoon fed babies, shoveling in every last bite in the baby food jar or bowl of rice cereal. It is very invasive to have a spoon shoved in your face repeatedly. Babies are not good or bad eaters. They are not “good” if they eat all of the baby food forced into their mouth. We need to let go of the “good baby” and “good eater” notions from past generations. Let go of the idea that how your baby is eating tells how good of a parent you are. These instilled misconceptions only hinder your ability to trust in yourself, and trust in your baby. Provide soft little pieces of food for them to pick up. Offer purees on a spoon that is near your baby’s mouth, and allow them to open their mouth and reach for it. Do not invade baby’s mouth with a spoon over and over.


How much do I give my baby?

The general guideline to follow is from 0-6 months 100% breastmilk or formula. 6-12 months 75% breastmilk or formula. Start introducing solid foods sometime around 6 months. At this time, food is mainly for exploration-they want to play with it…feel it…taste it. Most of their nutrition and calories should come from breastmilk or quality formula that first year. So just give small amounts and let baby have fun with it, no stress. My son literally lived on breastmilk for like 2 years. It was what he wanted. Sure I offered what we were having at every meal, but he was not ready to wean. Keep in mind that bio-individuality. Every child is different and will be ready at a different time. Also remember, your pediatrician will most likely push rice cereal early on. Pediatricians are not trained on breastfeeding or nutrition. Let me repeat this. Pediatricians are not trained on breastfeeding. They also don’t have all the answers. They just don’t. Have some trust in yourself, and stop placing your trust elsewhere! I cannot stress this enough.

According to “Counseling The Nursing Mother, A Lactation Consultant’s Guide” by Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher, The profession of pediatricians emerged when formula emerged. Mother’s needed a prescribed amount of formula to give their baby. The pediatric profession is still very much influenced by the infant formula and baby food industry. Many of the training pediatricians receive are funded by formula companies. I’m sure there are many great pediatricians out there. However, only you know your child. Don’t place your child’s health in someone else’s hands. No one knows your child like you do.

What are the best foods to start my baby on?

You want the most bang for your buck when it comes to feeding babies. Think nutrient-dense real foods. If you are eating these kinds of foods while breastfeeding, your baby is already exposed to the taste of them. Breastmilk taste changes based on what you are eating. I’m going to list the top 10 best foods I think are great for introducing to baby when baby is ready to start solid foods. Again, the first year is mostly experimenting and tasting different foods. Most calories and nutrients can be obtained from breastmilk or quality formula.

1. avocados-depending on baby’s ability to chew and swallow, you can puree, mash, or give soft chunks. Avocados are nutrient dense and loaded with good fats. Infants need a high fat diet for their developing brain, eyes, and neurological system. You can also make guacamole for baby!

2. egg yolk from pasture raised eggs-pediatricians might warn you about starting eggs early because of possible allergies. The egg white does contain many different proteins that pose a risk to an immature gut. However, the yolk is actually gentle on the gut and loaded with healthy saturated fat and nutrients for growing babies.

3. liver from grass-fed or pasture raised animals- you would want to give tiny pieces or puree depending on baby’s ability to chew and swallow. Liver from pasture raised animals is extremely rich sources of B vitamins, vitamin A, and iron. The iron in liver is bioavailable-meaning it will be digested and assimilated by baby’s body, unlike the iron fortified cereals and baby foods. Fish and liver can be made into pate’s for baby!

4. sweet potato- Loaded with vitamin A and good carbohydrates, palatable taste. Nice for mixing with a stronger meats like liver and fish.

5. grass-fed beef- niacin, iron, choline, high in good omega 3 fats, nutrient rich. You can make a baby bolognese sauce with ground grass-fed beef, veggies such as carrots, spices, and marinara sauce (preferably homemade or a brand with no sugar in it).

6. bone broth or bone marrow- Teething babies love to suck/chew on bones! As long as the bone does not have pieces sticking out that they can choke on, it can help them teeth and they can suck nutrients from it. I remember my younger son loved chewing on a chicken leg. Make sure the bone is from a grass-fed or pastured animal. You can scoop out the nutrient dense marrow from roasted marrow bones and serve it mixed with a little avocado or sweet potato. You can also mix some bone broth with a little meat, avocado, or sweet potato.

7. salmon (wild caught sustainable only)- Excellent source of good fatty acids for brain development, also rich in vitamin D.

8. sticks of cooked vegetables- like zucchini that they can hold and chomp on- again, make sure the tongue thrust reflex is gone (usually after 6 months). Steam until tender and give them the little sticks to hold. **You never want to leave a baby unattended while feeding themselves, and use common sense. You will be able to tell if they can handle it or not, based on the readiness signs listed above

9. mashed roasted squash or pumpkin- again, high in vitamin A-great for mixing with grass-fed beef or liver

10. seasoning and spices- Get that baby use to different flavors! Play around with cinnamon, cumin, garlic, ginger, curry, dill, oregano, sage, thyme, basil, mint, lemongrass, pepper. You want them to enjoy flavorful food just as you do. Don’t assume baby food must be bland. Babies of different ethnicities can enjoy the flavor of ethnic foods just as adults do. My children love spicy foods and garlic, and have since they were infants.

Bonus! add fat and lots of it. Babies brains need fat, especially healthy, stable saturated fats. Fat insulates the brain, helps develop good eyesight, and satiates baby. Raw full fat grass-fed milk (after 1 year), full fat yogurt or kefir (after 1 year), a spoonful of ghee (the milk proteins have been removed, so it is just the fat-high in CLA, and fat soluable vitamins, great for a growing brain), and coconut oil. You can also cook baby’s veggies and meats in pastured lard and tallow. Do not give your baby, toddler, or child anything labeled low-fat or fat free.

Why would I not want to give my baby rice cereal?

The myth of rice cereal is so irritating to me. Rice cereal is digested by the body and broken down as sugar. The iron in it is not all bio-available, therefore baby might not be assimilating all the iron. The form of iron is very constipating. It is a stripped, processed food that contributes to the epidemic we now have of people not handling or processing the large amounts of grains and sugar we consume. There is not much in it in the way of nutrients. There is a longstanding misconception that baby will sleep better with rice cereal. Sure it fills their tummy, but it is filling them with a nutrient-void food like product. It is not real food. Breastmilk is far superior as are the other nutrient dense foods listed above. Don’t buy into the rice cereal nonsense. It’s just not necessary…at all.

Once baby turns one and you are no longer breastfeeding, what do you give them instead of cows milk?

Another long-standing myth in our culture is that you need to drink milk past infancy-namely conventional cows milk. Here is a blog post I wrote about conventional cows milk. I don’t think it is necessary to include in a child’s diet. In my opinion, raw goat or grass-fed cow’s milk can be a good nutrient dense alternative for toddlers. The casein is partially digested by the live enzymes, and therefore is easier on the gut. Raw dairy is completely different from processed grain-fed cow’s milk. However, some still have difficulties with the proteins even in raw milk. I don’t think it is necessary. I discuss that in the blog post as well. Did you know that from 1 to 2 years of age human milk becomes less copious and is more thick and nutrient dense? Every feeding your milk changes to accommodate your growing toddler. However, if your child has weaned, pasteurized cow’s milk is not an appropriate replacement. Stick with raw dairy or nutrient dense foods (listed above).

Should I wean my baby to cow’s milk at 1 year?

What do we believe magically happens at the first birthday that means the child has to suddenly wean? Child-led weaning happens on it’s own. Your child will not go off to college breastfeeding, I promise you that. Sure there is a stigma associated with breastfeeding past one. However, up until about 50 years ago, it was completely normal for toddlers to still breastfeed for 3 years and beyond. It is sad we have this cultural expectation, because the nutrients and benefits for your child go up as the baby becomes a toddler. Here is an informative piece on breastfeeding past infancy. If you are no longer breastfeeding at 1 year, I recommend researching raw goat or cow’s milk, kefir or yogurt or increase the nutrient dense foods you are offering. Also include a good infant human strain probiotic supplement to help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Pasteurized cows milk is not necessary in my educated opinion.

If my child is sick with a stomach bug, what should I feed them besides the typical “brat” diet (bananas, rice, apples, and toast)?

If you are breastfeeding and your infant has the stomach bug, breastmilk can help re-colonize the infant gut with beneficial bacteria, and the closeness soothes baby. However, limit to a small amount as they will most likely vomit it up again. If your child has the stomach bug and is fully weaned from breastfeeding, I do not recommend the “brat” diet, or sports drinks. I recommend slowly sipping bone broth and introducing a good probiotic once the stomach has settled enough to hold down the bone broth. Then once child is feeling better, add soup with fully cooked veggies or well-cooked tender meat, as well as a good probiotic until the stomach is recolonized with good bacteria and can handle other foods.

Which veggies can be given raw, how often do they need veggies?

Don’t over-think it…offer a variety of healthy meats and veggies plus occasional fruits. Stick with real food, not food that comes in a package. I do recommend cooking veggies until tender, especially when just starting solids. See how they handle it. Remember the first year is just for experimenting with different flavors. Always breastfeed or formula feed first during the first year of life. If they are not satiated after that, then offer small pieces of food to experiment with. There is no magic number to the amount of veggies. Just offer small pieces of what you are eating with each meal.

Does introducing meat too early put a strain on their kidneys?

I don’t believe the small amounts of meats they are eating as babies will put any sort of strain on the kidney. They are not devouring an entire beef liver on a daily basis. Their tummy is the size of their little fist. Your baby is utilizing his different senses.  He is tasting small amounts of food, and learning about eating. I do not recommend meats that are not from grass-fed or pastured animals. This piece from Mark’s Daily Apple discusses the protein and kidney myth. This piece also puts to rest some of these protein/kidney myths.

What are some healthy finger foods for toddlers?

You have to plan ahead when you go places and plan to pack real food snacks with an icepack. It’s not as easy as a boxed or packaged snack, but you will adjust!  Some ideas I have are: sliced up hard boiled eggs, steamed veggie sticks (until tender), oven roasted sweet potato fries or jicama fries, small cut up pieces of chicken or other tender slow cooked meats, avocado slices with pink salt, applegate farms deli meats rolled up, roasted cauliflower, kale chips, sea snax (roasted seaweed), and berries. Here is a post I did a while back with some “kiddo” snack ideas. As they get older and can chew more, we get grass-fed beef sticks as well.

How do you deal with the stigma of not giving pasteurized grain-fed cow’s milk to your children? What other options are there?

Be strong. Stick to your guns.  Again, here is my article on cows milk. I don’t believe a child needs to drink their nutrition. The most important drink for a child is filtered water. If the child has no issues with milk proteins, raw grass-fed dairy can be explored. No other species of animals continue to drink milk from another species after weaning. It is purely cultural (and some pushing from the dairy board and the influence they have on the government). If you feel you must give some milk yet your child cannot handle the proteins in raw milk, almond milk and coconut milk are options, but filtered water is the best form of hydration.

Is it safe to breastfeed while eating paleo/primal?

Absolutely. Paleo is a nutritious lifestyle. It is how our early ancestors ate for thousands upon thousands of years. As with any breastfeeding mama, you want to make sure you are consuming enough food for both you and your baby. Remember, your baby gets the nutrients you consume first…it all goes to the milk. Whatever is left goes to you. So baby will not be the one who suffers. You want to take care of yourself though so you have energy and feel good. Breastfeeding burns a lot of energy. Eat to hunger and drink water to thirst. Include starchy veggies as a good source of carbohydrates.

What are some good fats to give my child if he won’t eat avocados, nuts or nut butters?

If your child can handle dairy proteins raw cheeses are an option, as is goat cheese. My kids love broccoli slightly steamed and sauteed with duck fat and pink salt. Also roasted cauliflower with coconut oil is a favorite of my kids. If your child is allergic to almond butter, sunbutter is a good option. Grain free baked snacks with coconut oil are an option too. However…do keep trying avocados! It took almost a year of offering everyday with many refusals, but my 4 year old loves them now. Cook with stable saturated fats as well.

I hope this guide was helpful to you! Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me any other questions you have!


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About me:

My name is Kathryn. I am a mama of 2 boys ages 7 and 4.  I am a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor (CLEC) through the University of San Diego. I have an Undergraduate Degree in Health, and an M.Ed. in Rehabilitation Counselor. I am currently studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through The Nutritional Therapy Association.


1. Baby-led Weaning; Helping your baby to love good foods, Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, Copyright 2008

2. Counseling the Nursing Mother, A Lactation Consultant’s Guide,  Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher, Copyright 2022 by Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC

3.  www.kellymom.com

* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.

What? You don’t give your kids cow’s milk?!


cows milk or breastfeeding

It cracks me up the, the horror on people’s faces when they hear I don’t give my kids cows milk. It has become the socially acceptable thing to do– without knowing exactly why. The Dairy Board issues “health claims” which really don’t have a strong basis. Once again it’s all marketing. Literally. I remember when I would not start weaning my 1 year old from my milk (read here the ingredients in human milk) to pasteurized cow’s milk I had a well-meaning friend warn me several times that he may be at high risk for rickets.

I’ll start by saying that I understand dairy is a complex topic. Am I opposed to all dairy? Not necessarily…not raw, from pasture raised cows (the enzymes break down the casein and it is more easily digested and handled by the gut), the milk fat is not removed, it is nutrient dense, and it is not homogenized…but good luck finding real milk. I am still learning about raw dairy, and haven’t tried it yet. If you can find it and have access to it, you can learn more about raw dairy here: This is an awesome resource.

My focus on this post is pasteurized dairy from confined grain, corn and soy fed cows, and why I do not buy into the hype or give it to my kids.

I remember when I was a child (in the 1980’s) we had several dairy farms right around the corner from our house. The cows were out grazing all day long– you could smell the cow manure but it was almost a pleasant smell of summertime in the country. One of the Farmers had an ice-cream shop and general store. We would walk there and get some fresh local grass-fed ice-cream. One of the Farms was on a hill…I remember playing in the field with my friends and getting chased by a cow down that hill and running all the way home. We use to walk around the corner of our street to a dead end street to “pet the cows” and feed them “cow flowers” out in the big pasture. It’s sad that all those farms in my hometown are gone now and that pasture is now filled with houses.

It’s funny how on many milk cartons you see pictures of cows out grazing in pastures. Last year my son’s preschool class went to visit the local dairy “farm” that supplies much of the milk to the local convenience stores here in Upstate NY. The cows were all standing in stalls in their feces. They were all 100% grain-fed (along with corn and soy) and the stench was awful. Nothing like the sweet grassy manure smell growing up. I won’t get into to many more details. I don’t want to start getting too idealistic and lose readers that way. However, my point is that the model of farming has changed drastically over the years, and this affects the final product. I’m sure much of it has to do with politics and government subsidies. Even the milk sold in glass jars locally here at the farmer’s market is from grain-fed cows, pasteurized, and homogenized. It’s just sold in fancy glasses…and they charge more for it.

Most of the milk we consume and believe is making us strong comes from confined grain-fed cows. These cows are not eating their natural diet of grass, at all…and therefore missing out on the high levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid– a potent cancer fighter) and there is an omega 6 to omega 3 imbalance. High omega 6 consumption and low omega-3  is a leading cause of inflammation in the body.

According to Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple,

Cows raised on pasture produce milk fat with an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 1. Yes, equal amounts. A balance. Grain-fed cows, on the other hand, produce a ratio tilted heavily toward omega 6.”
If you are regularly consuming cows milk each day…that is a very high omega 6 consumption!

Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/grass-fed-butter/#ixzz2NdymmxKv

When cows milk is pasteurized all the beneficial gut bacteria, probiotics and live enzymes are killed off. The good saturated fats are usually removed (because of the “low fat” and “fat free” craze so it is stripped of its nutrients). Then we add “vitamins” to it and tell the public we must consume it for strong bones! However, does the public know that the calcium in cow milk is not all bioavailable? What that means is that the body does not easily absorb and assimilate it like it does the calcium from other sources. There are certain minerals (co-factors) needed for calcium to be absorbed. Therefore the “however many” milligrams of calcium it says you are ingesting, you really are not.

The casein in cows milk is a foreign protein and can be very hard on the gut. The body then tries to reject it. This can lead to many different inflammatory and immune responses including skin conditions like eczema, asthma, allergies, and autoimmune issues. The body wants to reject these proteins and this creates an immune system response.

So what about CALCIUM? 

THIS ARTICLE from Whole 9 explains calcium thoroughly (way better than I could try to take on):

“Our first mistake is thinking that bone health is all about calcium, the second is believing our intake of calcium is all that matters. If this was true, then how do you reconcile this?

The United States has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world,
despite having one of the highest calcium intakes.

It makes no sense… unless there’s more to the story than how much calcium we’re taking in. It’s also about how much we’re able to absorb, and retain. And factors like our dietary habits, our lifestyle, and the aging process all contribute to calcium absorption and retention.

  • The phytates in foods like whole grains and legumes form complexes with the calcium and other minerals in the plant. This renders the calcium virtually impossible to absorb, and limits its bioavailability (the amount that can be effectively absorbed and used by the body).
  • Whole grains may also promote a loss of vitamin D, a critical element of bone health. Low vitamin D3 levels (from diet and a lack of daily exposure to sunshine) inhibits calcium absorption.
  • Stress affects HCL production in the stomach (and impacts normal digestion), which can have a negative effect on calcium absorption.
  • Age also negatively impacts calcium absorption – on average, adults absorb about 20% less calcium than children.
  • On the other hand, adequate protein in the diet increases calcium absorption and stimulates the production of hormones that promote new bone formation. This effect is more than sufficient to counter the increased urinary excretion of calcium observed upon increased protein consumption.

Finally, one additional note: vitamin D3 and K are both fat soluble – meaning they require some fat to be absorbed in the bloodstream. So a low fat diet (like the kind we’ve all been advised to eat for the last 20 years) may impair your body’s ability to absorb these two vitamins, which can also diminish bone health.”

Read more:  http://whole9life.com/2012/02/what-about-calcium/


In THIS ARTICLE by Diane Sanfilippo (nutritionist, author, and blogger at Balanced Bites) Diane explains:

“We can see in a day’s worth if USDA meals that the RDA is slightly exceeded at 123%, while the Paleo diet (PD) comes a lot closer than parents might assume at 90%. Now, I wasn’t specifically searching for calcium-rich foods when I calculated this day, but you can see how a child can easily come close to the RDA for calcium without a DROP of dairy in his or her daily diet. That said, even at 90% of the RDA, the amount of calcium that’ll be absorbed by the child’s body is likely going to be much higher since the cofactors for calcium absorption are higher across the board in the PD day. Vitamin and mineral cofactors required for calcium absorption include Vitamin D (56% in Paleo vs 12% in USDA) and Magnesium (103% in Paleo vs 87% in USDA). So, by allowing a child to eat a diet that is not only fairly high in calcium from non-dairy sources but also providing balanced nutrition to allow for the absorption of calcium, it’s clear that the need for dairy in the diet as a calcium source is overstated and inaccurate. [4] Furthermore, studies show that the phytic acid in grains (specifically whole wheat products in one study) reduces the absorption of dietary calcium from milk products, which would likely then leave the USDA diet at a much lower level of bio-available calcium than the PD. [5]”

Do I think conventional dairy affects everyone? Probably not everyone.  Do I think we should consume it? Most definitely not.

So what do my kids drink? They happily drink water, occasionally homemade juice (I’ll get into conventional orange juice and fruit juices in subsequent posts), and almond milk. You know what? I am really not concerned about their mineral intake. They eat tons of fresh produce and they run and play! My kids occasionally have dairy at school functions, when we visit family, and we do occasionally get local soft serve ice-cream in the summer (and then pay the price afterward). I also buy Kerrygold 100% grass-fed cheddar and butter. So we are not completely dairy-free. However, I do my best to limit their consumption as I truly believe conventional dairy can do more harm than good, and I believe is not necessary for them to have in their diet as we have been led to believe.

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Primal Babywearing!


Most of my post focus on primal nutrition-eating like our early ancestors. I also like to shift the focus every now and then to other “primal” topics that I am passionate about. I am a Mom of 2 beautiful boys ages 6 and 3. I am also a certified breastfeeding counselor/educator. I had to overcome many breastfeeding obstacles, and love to help new mamas out. One of the things I found that made breastfeeding easier for me was “babywearing.” I was introduced to the world of babywearing (outside of the bjorn) with my second son. I wish I had discovered it sooner with my first! Babywearing literally means wearing your baby in a wrap or a sling. There is something very primal about holding your baby close to you. My hope is that you will have an open mind and possibly learn about something that may not be culturally normal, yet has been practiced for many thousands of years.

In Western culture we are taught that if we hold our babies too much we may “spoil” them. Children do not spoil. Nurturing them does not make babies turn “rotten.”Meeting their needs for proximity and touch does not make them become more “needy” children. These are all myths!  Follow your instincts. Ignore unsolicited advice. You will hear it ALL many many times. Don’t doubt yourself. Pick that baby up and love him. Another saying I hear frequently that drives me crazy is the “is she a good baby?” Because in our culture “good” babies do not cry or fuss. Think about it, does expressing your needs make you bad? Seriously? Babies should not be labeled good or bad based on their temperament. When they cry it is because they have a need-that is the only way they know how to express themselves.

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What are the benefits of wearing your baby?

*Newborn human babies are the most neurologically underdeveloped mammal. According to this: “Human babies enter the world utterly dependent on caregivers to tend to their every need. Although newborns of other primate species rely on caregivers, too, human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn.”

*Babywearing makes a nice transition from the warm cozy womb into the loud, bright, and overstimulating world. It gives them a safe and warm place right up against your skin. Being skin to skin helps to regulate baby’s breathing and heart rate. Mom and baby can be in tune with each other, and mom can read baby’s early breastfeeding cues before he starts crying.

*Wearing your baby promotes attachment between mom and baby. Babies have needs to survive and physical touch and proximity are among these needs.  Wearing baby helps regulate her neurologically. Babies can smell mama, hear her heartbeat, hear her voice, feel her warmth. Mama can smell baby and feel baby which helps with bonding. Baby feels safe, calm, and secure. You can even nurse baby while in the sling or wraps.

According to Dr. Sears: “It’s easier to understand babywearing when you think of a baby’s gestation as lasting eighteen months – nine months inside the womb and at least nine more months outside. The womb environment automatically regulates baby’s systems. Birth temporarily disrupts this organization. The more quickly, however, baby gets outside help with organizing these systems, the more easily he adapts to the puzzle of life outside the womb. By extending the womb experience, the babywearing mother (and father) provides an external regulating system that balances the irregular and disorganized tendencies of the baby. Picture how these regulating systems work. Mother’s rhythmic walk, for example, (which baby has been feeling for nine months) reminds baby of the womb experience. This familiar rhythm, imprinted on baby’s mind in the womb, now reappears in the “outside womb” and calms baby. As baby places her ear against her mother’s chest, mother’s heartbeat, beautifully regular and familiar, reminds baby of the sounds of the womb. As another biological regulator, baby senses mother’s rhythmic breathing while worn tummy- to-tummy, chest-to-chest. Simply stated, regular parental rhythms have a balancing effect on the infant’s irregular rhythms. Babywearing “reminds” the baby of and continues the motion and balance he enjoyed in the womb.”


*Babywearing makes life easier for you. Your hands are free so you can go about your day! I literally did everything with my son in the wrap or sling. I washed dishes, cooked, played with my 2 year old, went hiking and even grocery shopping. I didn’t have to carry that big car seat around like I did with my first son (before discovering the world of babywearing). I would scoop him right into the wrap and go about our day. He was safe, secure, content, happy. He nursed when he needed to, and slept when he needed to, all on mommy. He literally lived in there for months and months. I could spend my time playing with my 2 year old!  and you know what? My “baby” is now a very happy, content, and independent 3 year old. He is confident, loving, and has a wicked sense of humor. I am by no means saying that babies “must” be worn by mama, and must be worn all the time. I’m saying have an open mind and try it out! Families obviously have many different dynamics. If mom is working, having a caregiver or family member wear baby can help make the transition easier for baby, and baby can still reap the benefits of being held close. Dads can help soothe baby by babywearing as well!

Here I am snowshoeing and pulling my 2 year old in a sled while baby is sleeping on me in a carrier:



*When baby is sick he can be close to mommy or daddy. I found this helped make him feel better and he rarely cried even though he felt lousy. In the pictures below my baby was sick-in the second one it was summertime and he had the coxsackie virus. He didn’t eat or drink much of anything for over a week. He just nursed a tiny bit, and hung out on mama. Some babies have GERD and need to be upright or they are in pain. I was able to nurse my baby in the moby wrap while in an upright position. This made him more comfortable and made nursing in those early days much easier for both of us.

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*Babies worn in slings are happy! They cry less!  In cultures where babywearing is the norm, babies rarely cry. Crying is exhausting for parents and babies, and floods baby with the stress hormone cortisol. Babywearing is helpful for colicky babies (both of mine were) Babywearing literally saved my sanity! I think that many of the parents who discover “babywearing” are the ones who have high need babies and are looking for ways to soothe them. 

*You can “wear” baby down at bedtime! Ever hear the term “witching hour” …those evening hours where baby cries for no apparent reason? Put baby in the sling or wrap and and they can ease into sleep for bedtime…I did this often and then would slowly slide him out of the sling and into his little basket! Here is a picture of him after being in the sling and falling asleep at night…I transferred him into his little basket. You can see the little red lines on him from being all wrapped up on me.



*Babywearing is fun! Not only is it easy, but it can also be enjoyable-especially for taking walks, hiking, and going places.  Toddlers enjoy being “worn” as well-it helps calm them down when they are overstimulated or tired. You can carry them on your back, hip or front depending on your preference and the type of carrier you have.

My favorite carrier by far is the moby wrap. It takes a few tries to get it down good, but that wrap was a lifesaver for me!

*regarding babywearing safety: there are some unsafe baby carriers out there. Deep pouches or bag-like slings (some even come with elastic edges) are not safe. You would never want to put a baby deep inside a deep pouch where they cannot get air. Here are some resources on safety:




Here are some other great babywearing resources:




Links to evidence based articles:


A guide to help choose the best carrier for your needs: 


A great book for children about babywearing around the world:




* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor or a Dietician. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.


What Are The “Ingredients” in Human Milk?

I recently saw on a blog here the food label for infant formula, and a “guess what this is”. People were pretty shocked at the ingredients on the label. Have you ever wondered exactly what is in human milk?

As a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor, I feel it is important to get the word on what human milk is made up of…because this is some pretty amazing stuff that our body can produce! Human milk is constantly changing in composition from feeding to feeding. As the baby gets older, the composition of human milk changes as well. Human milk contains more than 200 known components, and some that have yet to be discovered! Human milk is a living substance, full of some amazing properties. The benefits of human milk for both baby and mama are well known.

Recently I perused through some my education tools/links to put together a resource describing some of the many amazing nutrients in human milk. There is no way I can include everything, so I am focusing on just a few components. I think you will find that human milk is pretty incredible stuff!

There is nothing more primal than breastfeeding!


Here is a link to a chart that breaks down many of the components of human milk. I found this chart be a very helpful educational tool.

For the first approximately zero to seven days colostrum is a thicker form of human milk that helps the baby learn to suck and swallow. There may be only ½-1 tsp produced at first, but babies tummy is approximately the size of a marble on that first day! Colostrum is high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies and low in fat. It is often referred to as “babies first immunizations” Colostrum is very easy to digest, and very high in nutrients. It helps baby pass their first stool, and helps prevent jaundice. Colostrum is yellow in color because of it’s high levels of beta carotene. Colostrum helps to coat and seal the infant gut to protect it from harmful pathogens. It “seals” the loose junctions in the newborn gut. According to “Counseling the Nursing Mother, 5th edition”, Judith Lauwers, BA, IBCLC, FILCA and Anna Seisher, MBA, IBCLA (pages 188-189) Colostrum is composed of approximately 70% leukocytes. Leukocytes defend the body against infectious diseases and foreign materials. The mother produces antibodies to all the diseases which she has already acquired. Colostrum contains many antibodies produced by her body. She passes these antibodies through her colostrum and her milk.

After approximately day 3-7 mature milk starts to come in. Here are some of the awesome components in mature human milk:

The first ingredient in human milk is water. Babies need no other form of hydration. At the beginning of the feeding the milk is more diluted. This quenches the babies thirst. As the feeding goes on, the milk becomes more concentrated and nutrient rich. Many people refer to it has “foremilk” and “hindmilk”, so there is a misconception that there are two different kinds of milk. It’s all the same milk, and there are not two separate compartments. It just gets more concentrated toward the end of the feeding.

Human milk is very sweet. As one of my nurslings once said “It tastes like strawberries!” The infant brain grows very fast that first year and requires a ton of energy. The carbohydrates are lactose and these amazing things called Oligosaccharides-these are complex sugar molecules specifically designed for human consumption. They actually have a protective mechanism against infections. This study demonstrated “HMO (human milk oligosaccharides) reach the colon intact where their prebiotic effects promote healthy gut colonization. HMO can also function as soluble decoy receptors and block adhesion of microbial pathogens to epithelial surfaces.”

There are several different proteins in human milk. However, proteins comprise only about .8% of human milk. Human milk contains human specific casein and whey. Human milk whey contains lactoferrin-which has a protective mechanism against GI infections.

One pretty amazing protein/fatty acid in human milk is known as HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells). What is amazing about HAMLET is that it kills cancer cells but not healthy cells! “ According this THIS Science Daily article: HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. Further studies showed that HAMLET comprises a protein and a fatty acid that are both found naturally in breast milk. So far, however, it has not been proven that the HAMLET complex is spontaneously formed in the milk. It is speculated, however, that HAMLET can form in the acidic environment of the babies´ stomachs. Laboratory experiments have shown that HAMLET kills 40 different types of cancer, and the researchers are now going on to study its effect on skin cancer, tumours in the mucous membranes and brain tumours. Importantly, HAMLET kills only cancer cells and does not affect healthy cells.”

There are also several non protein amino-acids, peptides, nucleotides. Here are a few of the 20 essential amino acids:
“Taurine is the second most common amino acid found in breast milk. It is nonexistent in cow’s milk. It functions as a neurotransmitter or a neuromodulator in the brain and retina. In addition, it supports conjugation of bile acids. Many companies are adding this amino acid to formula now.
Nucleotides are significant in protein synthesis and they promote growth and differentiation of organs and tissues. They also improve the metabolism of lipids. There are 10 times more nucleotides in breast milk than in cow’s milk. Carnitine is vital for catabolism of long chain fatty acids.”

There are several different kinds of fatty acids in human milk. According to “Counseling the Nursing Mother, 5th edition”, Judith Lauwers, BA, IBCLC, FILCA and Anna Seisher, MBA, IBCLA (pg 190), Fat in human milk provides 50% of the infants energy needs. There are more than 200 fatty acids found in human milk. There are both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (primarily medium and long chained in form), as well as DHA from linoleic acid, which is essential for the development of visual acuity.
Medium Chain Fatty acids are among the unique components of human milk. According to the Coconut Research Center, medium chain fatty acids are in human milk because they are easy for an infant’s immature digestive system to absorb and utilize. They help give the baby the nutrients and energy it needs to grow and develop properly. Because they also have antimicrobial properties they give the infant some degree of protection against viruses such as HIV and herpes, bacteria such a chlamydia and H. pylorus, fungi such as Candida and protozoa such as giardia.

Vitamins and Minerals:
According to “Counseling the Nursing Mother, 5th edition”, Judith Lauwers, BA, IBCLC, FILCA and Anna Seisher, MBA, IBCLA (page 192), generally all vitamins are available in sufficient quantities in human milk. One major concern people have is about adequate vitamin D levels, and whether or not it needs to be supplemented. Kellymom.com (my FAVORITE go to evidence-based breastfeeding resource) has a great vitamin D resource page here. Kellymom.com also has a great resource page here for parents on vitamin supplementation for mom and baby-when and if it is necessary.

Growth Factors and Hormones:
Hormones in human milk help with satiety, comfort, growth, appetite regulation, and digestion. There are growth hormones, such as epidermal growth factor, that aids with growth and healing of the infant gut. Oxytocin is a “relaxing” hormone released during milk let-down. This hormone relaxes both mom and baby during nursing. According to this publication “Data accumulated over recent years have significantly advanced our understanding of growth factors, cytokines, and hormones in breast milk. Here we deal with leptin, adiponectin, IGF-I, ghrelin, and the more recently discovered hormones, obestatin, and resistin, which are present in breast milk and involved in food intake regulation and energy balance.” There are digestive hormones that are triggered when baby sucks-these digestive hormones may help the baby feel satiety.

Live Enzymes and Probiotics:
My favorite part of human milk is that it is a living substance loaded with protective prebiotics, probiotics, and enzymes! I always felt like a superhero providing these unique nutrients. There are several antibacterial, antiviral, anti parasitic factors found in human milk (such as Secretory IgA and IgG) that actually kill off harmful bacteria such as e-coli, viruses, the flu as well as many other toxins and bad bacterias. According to “Counseling the Nursing Mother, 5th edition”, Judith Lauwers, BA, IBCLC, FILCA and Anna Seisher, MBA, IBCLA (page 196) Immunoglobulins present in both colostrum and mature milk protect the infant’s GI tract against penetration by organisms and antigens. Immunoglobulin A (aka IgA) has a very high anti-viral factor. “It binds to bacteria and prevents pathogens from binding to receptor sites and invading the gut.” Lymphocytes and macrophages digest bacteria and make IgA and other protective substances.

Human milk protects the infant against a host of disease and confers lifelong immunities!

There is so much more to human milk (and probably several important components that I left out). Human milk is very complex and different in composition from mother to mother. The nutrition content changes as the baby gets older. Toddler human milk is less copious (as toddlers eat more solids) yet more nutrient dense and high in fat.

My hope is that this leaves you with a greater appreciation for and understanding of the components that make up human milk!


* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor or a Dietician. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.