Hello Dr. Cordain and Team,
My wife and I are Paleo adherents ever since we learned of the Paleo diet about 5 years ago. We have a 9 month old little daughter who we are trying to raise according to Paleo principles as best we can with regards to diet and lifestyle. Initially, our daughter would not take to latching and very quickly decided that she just wanted to drink her mother’s milk straight from a bottle. So, from roughly 2-3 months, she has been eating pumped breast milk (Paleo) received from her own mother or another trusted Paleo milk donor. Now, both mother and the donor have stopped their supply of milk and our daughter is, as I said, only 9 months old.
She has been eating solid foods, squash, zucchini, chicken, lamb, turkey, spinach, etc. (basically an awesome Paleo diet like mommy and daddy) for the last 3 months. Along with such awesome whole foods (which we blend up nicely and she eats most of the time without concern) we were still supplementing her food diet with Paleo breast milk. Now, as a stop-gap because the donor suddenly informed us of her inability to meet our needs, we have been supplementing our daughter’s diet with almond milk (pure organic almond milk made by a small batch farmer which includes just almonds and water). We chose almond milk for the positive fat it would provide but understand that the nutritional makeup does not even come close to resembling mother’s milk or even dairy milk with lactose etc.
We take our daughter to a holistic, organically inclined, and progressive pediatrician, but when we asked the doctor her advice, she suggests our best option is to give our daughter the ‘best’ formula that we can find. She suggested an organic dairy based formula that also contains soy products (soy-like products frankly) in it as well. On the face of it, this doesn’t sit well with us as we believe in adhering to Paleo principles as best we can and the idea of soy and various hormone/thyroid issues that can arise from ingesting soy concern us. Soy’s high phytic acid levels also concern us for nutrient absorption reasons as well.
So, we find ourselves in a unique situation and we are leaning towards finding some sort of 100% grass-fed (potentially raw) dairy solution, such as supplementing with a Whole Fat – Bulgarian yogurt that my wife uses sparingly on her ‘off days.’ The main reason we are considering dairy is because we have read that babies need lactose (which is in mother’s breast milk as well as cow’s milk) to help with their developing brains.
Now, for concerned yet incredibly lay parents when it comes to the world of nutrition, we feel overwhelmed and at a loss for what might be the right or best balance we can find with the variables that we have at hand. Of course, we understand that sometimes choices need to be made that are less than optimal, but provide the best chances of success, but we’d also like to make sure we feel confident that whether we go ahead with our Dr.’s recommendation or we find another alternative (supplementing the almond milk with lactose?) we are making the best choice available to us.
So, if you have any personal advice or can point me in the right direction towards some answers regarding our situation, my gratitude would know no bounds.
Thanks in advance!
A Grateful Paleo Poppa
Dr. Cordain’s Response:
First and foremost, I don’t have all of the definitive answers on how to raise infants into healthy toddlers, into healthy children, into healthy adolescents and finally into healthy young adults.
Nevertheless, Lorrie and I somehow managed to overcome the obstacles of contemporary, western world living and diets, as we raised our three sons (now 18, 22, and 24) who all grew up with parents who not only followed the Paleo diet, but probably were the very first parents in the western world who raised their children with this concept in mind. By the way, all three boys ended up being tall, strong, athletic, good students, free of acne, myopia, and dental carries. Moreover, they all became calm, happy children, adolescents, and young men.
Like your wife, we did not have the option of nursing for an extended period, as there was no mother’s milk available for each of our three sons. Hence, we were stuck with the commercial formulas available at the time (early to mid 90s). At this juncture, the USDA did not allow infant formula to be supplemented with long chain fatty acids (DHA and AA) that are normally found in mothers milk. Fortunately, I had scientist friends at the National Institute’s of Health (NIH) who had access to formulas containing DHA and AA which we gave to our first son. Our other two boys simply received commercial formula without these long chain fatty acids. Today, many baby formulas contain DHA and AA which have been shown in clinical trials to improve cognitive performance.
For all three infant boys, after formula and the little mother’s milk we could provide for (~3-6 months), we included freshly puréed fresh fruits and veggies (via our home blender) into their diets and also started them on commercially puréed baby meats, as we didn’t have the machinery to puree fresh meats ourselves. We did not give our children cow’s milk or dairy products during their first 3-5 years of life and rarely or never wheat or cereal containing products. Instead of iron fortified cereals (as suggested by most pediatricians), we gave them commercially available, pureed baby meats which provided their little bodies with the iron that was gradually being depleted after birth, but did not cause constipation or colic.
Once their teeth came in, we pretty much fed them any and all foods Lorrie and I ate. However, we were not “Paleo Police” and allowed them non-Paleo foods at parties, school functions, and elsewhere while encouraging them to eat fresh fruits, veggies, meats, fish, seafood, nuts, eggs, etc. We never stocked bread, cereals, candy, ice cream, soda or processed foods in our house. However, we also had an incredible cornucopia of fresh food available at all times which they could eat ad libitum.
After nearly 25 years of promoting Paleo, but not requiring or enforcing it, our children (now men) are adherents to Paleo, not because of their parents’ earlier admonitions and suggestions, but rather their own choice.