Nourish Mama by Sherry Rothwell
Nourish Mama, a nutritional program by Sherry Rothwell

An Unconventional, Yet Ancient Approach to Starting Babies on Solid Food

Looking for an alternative approach to introducing solid foods to babies that is based on nutrition from REAL food, digestive physiology and intuitive wisdom of the ancients?

Given that our grandmothers lived much closer to the natural course of the rhythms of life, they were likely more in tune with nature`s plan for feeding babies than we are. It seems reasonable and responsible not to stray too far from the path they have paved.

Additionally, we would do well to call into question the modern prevailing dogma that babies first introduction to solid foods should be iron fortified and processed rice cereal- which seems just a little ridiculous from the perspective of the “nature of things“.

We must reconsider the way we commonly introduce food to our babies to optimize their digestion, encourage a strong constitution (basis of health) and to prevent the likelihood of allergies and food sensitivities.

It is best to introduce 1 new food (traditionally prepared) every 5 days to ensure that baby is digesting that particular food well. Begin as early as 4-6 months if baby is formula fed or as late as 9-12 months or so, if baby is exclusively breastfed.

Getting started…
I came up with the following acronym to help share traditional food wisdom for feeding babies. I especially think it is relevant because people LOVE sharing food with babies. The mood with which we feed our babes is as important as the quality of food, so let’s have a FUN TIME feeding them!

F-Feed them Fat
U-“Unrestrict“ the Unrefined Salt
N-Nutrient Dense
T-Traditionally Prepared
I-Intuitive Wisdom of Our Ancestors
M-Meat  and Bone Broths
E-Easily Digestible Foods

1) FEED THEM FAT: Saturated fats such as grassfed butter and coconut oil for the optimal growth of your child, to optimize immunity, build a strong nervous system, seal the gut lining and to enable optimal mineral absorption.

2) “UNRESTRICT“ THE UNREFINED SALT: Include a TINY pinch of unrefined salt (with all minerals provided in their natural ratios, to increase the secretion of digestive juices and nutrient assimilation). DO NOT FEED BABY`S TABLE SALT or other foods containing refined salts or the white salts that health food stores mistakenly sell as sea salt- these are even according to conventional advice considered to be dangerous for babies.

3) NUTRIENT DENSE Real Foods-such as stewed whole fruits, baked vegetables, soaked nuts and seeds, butter, ghee, homemade stock, organ meats and egg yolk.

4) TRADITIONALLY PREPARED Food Prep Methods (soaking, sprouting, sourdough leavening, cooking, blend or puree) to reduce strain on the baby’s immature digestive system by deactivating anti nutrients like phytic acid.

5) INTUITIVE FOOD WISDOM OF OUR ANCESTORS- Fermented vegetables and the juice of fermented vegetables, liver and organ meats, pastured fed meat and raw or fermented dairy such as yogurt and milk kefir, chicken stock and fermented Cod Liver Oil should all be on the menu to ensure that the small amounts of food that our babies do eat, are nutrient dense foods including the fat soluble vitamins, Vit.A and Vit.D (especially in northern climates and since babies and young children cannot convert beta carotene into Vitamin A).

6) MEAT BROTHS and Meat -Feed babies food that is in line with the natural maturation of their digestive enzyme system (babies have the enzymes to digest protein and fat long before they produce the pytalin needed to digest starches). Meat, meat broths and bone broths are a highly digestible form of nutrition.

7) EASY TO DIGEST- Emphasize the most easily digested plant foods first such as fruit and less starchy vegetables (cooked and pureed with plenty of butter or coconut oil and a pinch of salt). Next add properly prepared legumes and then non glutenous grains all soaked overnight and preferably, later cooked in meat stock. In addition, crispy nuts and seeds soaked to eliminate phytic acid and then dehydrated later, are a nutritious and delicious finger food! Last to be introduced (around the age of 2 or later when the molars are fully developed and pancreatic amylase is produced in appreciable amounts) are the glutenous grains (paying special attention to soaking and sprouting and sourdough leavening preparation for digestibility).

So how do you know that your baby is happily and healthily nourished by the food that he or she is consuming?

We know that our babies are thriving on the nourishment that we provide them when they are happy, growing optimally, sleeping well and FREE of the following symptoms: bloating, gas, rashes, eczema, hives, runny nose, stuffiness, red itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, dark circles under the eyes, constant tearing, diarrhea, mucous stools, intestinal upset, tummy aches, a red rash around the anus, fussiness, irritability, colic, vomiting or increased spitting up or chronic spitting up, ear infections, asthma, undigested food in the stool and poor weight gain.

What about dairy? Introduce fermented or pastured raw dairy when making a significant shift from breastfeeding towards more solid food- ideally somewhere in the range of being as early as 9 months or as late as 18 months. Pasteurized and homogenized milk should be seen for what they are- a processed food that is not well tolerated by most people. However, the quality of pasteurized milk can be improved by culturing it with beneficial bacteria such as yogurt or kefir starter since the casein and lactose are close to completely pre-digested by the beneficial bacteria. This makes the milk more digestible, and the nutrients it contains within it more easily assimilated.

Avoid feeding your baby or child low fat dairy products because fat is essential for your baby to absorb and assimilate minerals, and of course because plenty of saturated fat is essential for your child’s optimal growth, immunity, to build a strong nervous system and to seal the gut lining.

Remember that breast milk is very high in saturated animal fat (human mothers are mammals after all!) and that we must compensate for this high percentage of calories from fat when transitioning our little ones onto solid foods. It is essential that our children are not transitioned onto a low fat standard north American (SAD) diet or a vegan diet, especially if mother chooses to wean baby or her toddler altogether. Ideally for the purposes of optimal nutrition and immunological purposes, we would continue to breastfeed until the age of 4 or 5 years of age (or less if the child self weans).

For whatever reason, if this is not practical or desirable, then special attention must be paid to dietary practices that compensate for the nutritional quality of human milk and reinforce excellent immunity for the child. An excellent way to acknowledge and account for this is to adopt a traditional whole foods diet. By emphasizing nutrient dense vegetal and animal foods (ones that are non irritating and easy to digest), raw or fermented dairy from pastured cows, along with the proper food preparation that eliminates anti nutrients (such as phytic and oxalic acid which bind to minerals and make them unavailable to our babies).

Once we have established the FUNTIME habits, we can rest assured that we are essentially doing everything that is in our power to nourish our young children in a way that promotes optimal digestion, resiliency and vitality!

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natacha Campbell Mc Bride
Digestion: Inner Pathway to Health David W. Rowland
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig


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Trust birth: reclaiming our daughter’s birth freedom

The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world. “Charles Malik

If I had one wish for humanity, I would want our generation of women to leave a new legacy in childbirth.

And I would want all of us; mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, cousins and neighbors to be part of the conversation -because the way that women give birth today affects the future for all of us.

What I mean by that is -the way that we give birth to our children sets the tone for how they will relate to life -fostering a blueprint for the kind of world they will go on to create- not only for the coming generations, but in terms of how they will go on to care for our own generation as we embark upon our elder years.

Are we becoming hardwired for pain?

We are literally being wired at birth for pain and it’s making life harder than it need to be, for all of us.

According to research coming out of the field of pre and perinatal psychology, as adults we continue to relive many of the same patterns of pain, suffering and abandonment that we experienced at birth and during childhood (later projecting these hardships into each and every new life experience until the unconscious beliefs patterns are finally resolved or healed).

Have you ever wondered what impact it has on the soul’s essence, when our very first experience of what it means to be human – our first impression of what life on earth holds for us-  is met with pain and suffering?

Today many if not most of our children are born in some type of fear, pain or trauma (think drugs, forceps, c-section, hands pulling on their neck and head, vacuum extractor, fetal scalp electrode, resuscitation, being handled poorly, being taken away from mother, weighing on cold scale, loud jarring noises, circumcision etc.).

According to Bruce Lipton, cellular biologist and author of the Biology of Belief, this unresolved pain and trauma closes down our babies ability to live fully open and in growth mode. Instead  we become wired for constriction and living in protection mode- a state that keeps us from being able to fully grow into our brilliance and from expressing our gifts in the world without the difficulty of unconscious negative and self limiting childhood patterning getting in the way.

How we are born is shaping the way that we live and die: institutionalized…

Today most of us were born in institutions (hospitals), raised in them (think schools), live in them (old age) and die in them (full circle), but what about taking our lives and communities back into our own hands, starting with birth?

What if instead we embraced birth as a community and supported women to rise up and reclaim their immense feminine power to vision, nurture and to protect the coming generations, so that they could feel empowered to explore pregnancy, birth and motherhood without  feeling fearful, alienated and self-consciousness about their capability to birth naturally, breastfeed and nurture their babies?

As a community we need to come together to take a stand for gentle birth practices so that our babies do not suffer- because if we don’t, who will? Mothers can’t do this alone. They need the support of their families and communities if they are to take a different path.

But, can we really trust and reclaim birth at this point- or is it just a pipe dream that birth even has the potential to be so much more than just something we ‘have to do’ to have a baby?

If we want to find out, we are going to have to not only rediscover birth, but also reclaim responsibility and our trust in life as a community of people.

Reclaiming birth from the ‘experts’

It’s time to take birth back from the territory of experts and back into the heart and hands of our families and communities.

But are we qualified? Isn’t birth dangerous without medical intervention?

The truth is, I believe that we can trust birth if we don’t interfere with it.

According to some leading thinkers in birth physiology, most of the pain and suffering in modern childbirth is created by fear, irreverent use of technology and it’s accompanying cascade of interventions -but trauma is not itself intrinsic to childbirth.

The more I witnessed the difference between unattended births, homebirths with Midwives and hospital births (as a Doula) and continued to study birth physiology – the interplay of hormones, body structures (tissues, ligaments and bones), instincts, consciousness (internal environment) and the birth space (external environment) for their effect on labour and birth- the more I have come to understand that to be true.

While exploring childbirth history I also came to discover that the beliefs we carry about birth are based on misunderstandings with many crucial pieces of the puzzle missing.

Sure it is true that many women died in childbirth due to infection before the advent of antibiotics, but what you might not know is that doctors used to place their fingers into the birthing woman’s vagina after coming directly from the morgue where they had been performing autopsies on victims of puerperal fever (without washing their hands in between). 

Clearly, birth isn’t uniquely prone to infection, but it is what we do to birth (and where we give birth) that makes us susceptible to certain scenarios and health concerns.

When we look at birth from a systems perspective it becomes apparent that it is the structures of the system itself that perpetuates the need for surgery and technology. As just one example, doctors who attend most of the births that take place in North America are obstetricians- doctors who specialize in surgery – and so it is natural that they should have a conscious or unconscious drive to use their skills in surgical birth -it is what they went to school to learn and were trained for. 

Increasing Cesarean rates reflect just how distant we have become from trusting the inherent wisdom of our own bodies. In 1965 the cesarean rate was 4.5 % and now it ranges up to 60% (and beyond) in some hospitals.

With 60% c-section rates becoming ‘normal’ we have to wonder- have women become incapable of giving birth?

Research from the physiological birth sciences, much of which is outlined beautifully in Dr. Sarah Buckley’s article ‘the hormonal blueprint of labour‘, shows that we women are in fact very well equipped to give birth.

So what on earth is going on then?

According to obstetrician Michel Odent who coined the words ‘undisturbed birth’- interference in childbirth with unnecessary protocol and inhibitory birth environments keeps the consciousness of the labouring woman from being able to descend into an instinctive and primal awareness of how to open to the birth experience.

He insists that safe birth practices must be centered around facilitating birth physiology (not the other way around with labour boxed into birth practices and parameters that are convenient or comfortable for the care provider).

From the physiological birth paradigm, what we don’t do and how we approach and prepare the birthing environment is what prevents birth complications- not one simplified squeaky clean hospital or home birth protocol applied to all labours.

Thanks to the research of Dr. Sarah Buckley and Dr. Michel Odent we now have a new lens with which to view childbirth- the physiological paradigm where labours and birth are not interfered with as a matter of course.

Unfortunately women seeking care under the physiological paradigm are often hard-pressed to get it where even midwifery care is regulated and medicalized.

Birth freedom: How to make the shift

It seems that we are losing our basic womanly right to birth where we want, with whom we want and without intervention- but are we taking notice and who is responsible?

What we need now is to create a whole new paradigm of childbirth if we want to preserve our daughter’s birth freedom.

The more we make a study of birth physiology, the more apparent it will become that undisturbed birth is safe when women are healthy.

As pregnant and experienced birthing mothers and grandmothers we need to become responsible for reclaiming birth wisdom for our daughters and grand daughters– so that they are not misled by the paradigm of fear in birth.

How are they to know any different if we don’t show them? How will they remember birth wisdom if we don’t reclaim it for ourselves?

What kind of future will we create for our grandchildren if we continue to allow mother’s and babies to be drugged up, under nurtured and harmed by dangerous birth practices?

If our daughters and grand babies have to face the same conditions or worse in 20 years, then not only did we their mother’s and grandmothers suffer in vain -but the truth is we are the ones responsible.

In the words of wise women, Jeannine Parvati Baker, “When we take our journey in life, inevitability we’re gonna trip on a rock, here or there. We must as a people, stop, pick up that rock, and remove it from the path, so that those who come behind us won’t trip also. If we neglect to stop and pick up that rock in the road, anyone who follows after us and hurts themselves…. it becomes our responsibility to care for them… picking the road clean of obstacles, our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters who come behind us will have a clear road to birth”.

Today we have made birth the territory of ‘experts’ and ‘authority’. The information that is being passed down to us from the experts, namely that birth is dangerous and that it requires medical intervention is actually the truth -when we interfere with it.

We need to start asking: How much safer could birth be, if we simply created the right conditions for birth and then left it alone?

We need to return to a study of the basic needs of the labouring woman if we want childbirth practices to be centered on the well being of mother’s and babies- that is self evident.

We must also think critically about modern birthing practices. Who or what are they intended to serve (hospital systems and structures, big pharma, big egos, the clocks, convenience etc.)? Do modern birthing practices create the very conditions they profess to solve?

Mother as expert…

So who can we turn to when we want to know the truth about unhindered childbirth, and about how to create the kind of conditions that are needed in the birth environment to prevent interference with the natural and normal physiology of a healthy labouring woman?

If we want to know how to create an undisturbed birth, the only logical way to do that is to learn from the people who have done it themselves and who are still doing it – not from ‘experts’ who have never themselves experienced or facilitated an undisturbed birth.

A quick google search of the words ‘undisturbed birth‘, ‘waterbirth‘, ‘lotus birth’, ‘unassisted birth‘, ‘ecstatic birth‘, ‘Sacred Birthing’ or ‘orgasmic birth‘ will surely lead you toward the wisdom of the kind of people who really trust birth.

In contrast, there is a huge volume of fear based information about birth coming at us from every angle (caregivers, TV shows, media, internet).

If we want to create a different kind of birth experience than what is commonly experienced today, we have to switch stations altogether (away from experts) and turn up the volume on the real experts -the experienced mothers who are sharing with us how they actually have facilitated safe, gentle, ecstatic and even orgasmic births!

It will only be possible for each one of us, if we turn our awareness toward voices that speak trust and then open our mind and hearts to that potential.

The truth is that nothing that we do from a place of resistance, fear or dread turns out well, so why would birth be any different? We have to start giving birth from a place of inspiration if we want to create a new birth ‘herstory’ for our daughters.

It is equally important to surround ourselves locally with people who live and breathe trust in birth- having access to a community of people who really walk their talk- women friends, Doulas and Midwives who believe in your inherent capacity as a woman to give birth and trust you to know what kind of care will best serve you.

When we make different choices in this world -ones that are apart from the mainstream, it is so essential to spend time in the presence of people who support us so that we are not swayed by the fear-based consciousness that permeates childbirth.

Personally, I want a world where my daughter is considered capable and intelligent enough to make her own decisions about her body and her baby – a world where she is free to choose who she wants council and birth support from– if she wants it at all.

Given the fact that less than 1% of women in the US give birth at home and that it still remains next to impossible to get a Midwife here in Manitoba (never mind one who is free to practice without vaginal exams and a doppler in labour), I for one refuse to stand idly and watch the last of my daughter’s birth freedoms slip away.

What about you? Are you ready to start picking up ‘the rocks in the road’ for our daughters and grandbabies?

If you want to be part of continuing the conversation about expanding birth choices for our daughters and creating solutions where challenges stand in the way, join me at the Trust Birth Conference so that we can all reclaim birthing wisdom together!

This conversation isn’t just for mothers to be, Midwives and Doulas, it is a conversation for all women. Losing our birth freedom is just one of the many freedoms that we stand to lose if we don’t take a stand for it now.

Join me at the Birth Freedom Seminar at the Trust Birth Conference. Check out this description from the website on the Birth Freedom Seminar by Carla Hartley founder of the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute!

“The Birth Freedom Seminar is about restoring Constitutional Liberty.  It’s not just about birth.  If they can strip away this most basic of freedoms, what else is next?  If you are ready to stand up against the ever increasing theft of Constitutional Liberty, then join us for an exciting and empowering day of motivational and informative speakers.  Our speakers for the day include ….long-time midwives who have served mothers even when it wasn’t politically correct, an attorney who fights on the front lines for women to have VBACS, a midwife educator who refuses to sacrifice parental freedom for expediency, and me (Carla Hartley), someone who is just bold enough to think that it is not too late to fight for freedom.”  Click here to learn more.


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Trusting Our Children

I distinctly remember thinking when I was a child, that “if my parents would treat me with the same kindness and respect that that they treated the people outside of our family, there would be little to no conflict between us”. This I suspected would have spared me from the pain and shame they unconsciously used, to get me to comply with their preferences and expectations……I also remember vowing to myself that I would remember what it was like to be a child, and therefore would be able to communicate to my own children, in a way that was respectful to their feelings.

Yet, like all parents, I too on more occasions than I care to admit, succumb to the old ways of parenting through power struggles with my children.

The problem is not that we need to learn new parenting skills to raise our children, but rather, that we need to unlearn the “parenting program” that our parents passed down to us.

The secret of parenting is simple, and it applies as much to parenting, as it does all relationships. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. That is simply it.

If you wouldn’t say what you say to your children, in the way that you say it, to a friend, then you shouldn’t be saying it, or at the very least be saying it in the way you said it to your child!!

This is common sense! Yet we try to get around it, in our impatience, hidden agendas and fear of losing control.

Consensus Between Parent and Child

Realize that it is possible to meet both your own needs and your child’s needs without compromise. Consensus is not compromise. Consensus is looking at the big picture and coming up with a higher way or solution to meet the needs of everyone involved. Our children need us to uphold what is best for them.

Can you imagine what it must be like to live around adults?

How would you like to be “ordered around”, have your decisions made for you and physically forced against your will to eat, go to bed and stop what you are doing, at a moments notice due to the conveniences of someone else’s agenda?
This is not even to speak of the physical and emotional abuse that many children must tragically endure.

Embracing Our Children’s Innocence

Let us recognize and embrace our children’s innocence…..I am so disheartened when I hear such statements such as “children are manipulative”, “bad”, “defiant” or “destructive”.

NO! THAT IS NOT WHO THE CHILD IS!!! Those behaviors come out of unmet needs! Needs that are our responsibility as the parents.

We must embrace our children’s innocence, and recognize that the problem is not with the child, never was and never will be!

If we can assume our child is innocent, we can stop and ask what is the right response in this moment? As we interact with our children, do we react to them with our unconscious “parenting programs” or are we responding to a sentient, innocent and vulnerable human being worthy of our love, respect and care?

How can we expect respect from our children if we do not treat them with respect?

Connection fosters respect. Your children want to please you from a place of desiring to feel your joy, rather than out of fear of your disapproval or your withholding of love. This also applies to the other side of the coin.

Children act defiant, because we humans have evolved to have what Gordon Neufeld refers to as “counter will”, it is a protective instinct! So called defiant children are not bad!!! This instinct and impulse to do the opposite of what we are told, arises out of a place of protection. Protection that is, from those who would have us do something that is not in our best interests! It only arises within us when the person telling us what to do, has hidden agendas or when that person has not established a connection with us.

When parenting becomes a struggle, we must ask ourselves what is wrong with our approach to the child, not what is wrong with the child?

We must trust the innocence of our children, and trust our selves to know how to parent in the way that we would want to be parented ourselves.

Let us come back to relating to our children as a path of conscious parenting. This is our greatest practice as conscious parents, and it is the only way to transcend painful so-called misbehavior. If we focus on the behavior instead of the child, we will continue to see more of the behavior, that is a fact. While if we focus on the relationship, we will see the true essence of our child as the behavior slips away.

Relationship is everything.

It seems appropriate to leave you with the profound insights of Kahil De Brahn.
“Your children are not your children, they are sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you, and though they are with you, they belong not to you. You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may strive to be like them, but do not seek to make them like you. For life goes not backwards nor terry’s with yesterday.”

Let us bestow not only instinctual love upon our children, but also respect for who they are. Let us also stand with reverence for who they are to become, for we are very likely giving birth to souls who are much more evolved than we are! Children are our teachers. Let us embrace not only their innocence, but also their inherent wisdom. We can trust our child’s natural unfolding, as deeply as we can trust ourselves to know the difference between whether or not our actions, words and deeds as parents demonstrate love, respect and kindness. We do not have to question that. We can always feel it, within our soul’s wisdom.

Resources for Conscious Parenting:

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