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Breastfeeding: Is it Right for Everyone?

Yesterday, a friend shared her breastfeeding troubles with me. Each feeding took close to an hour and by the end she felt physically and emotionally drained. Her housekeeping was slipping, because she didn’t have enough time or energy to get going. And worst of all, she resented seeing the baby’s needs overshadowing those of other family members.

The conversation took me back to my first brush with bottle-feeding mothers just a day after the birth of my first child. A woman in her thirties was bottle-feeding her child in the maternity ward, so with all the insolence that only a greenhorn twenty-year old can muster, I asked her how come she wasn’t breastfeeding. “I have three kids at home,” she answered. “There is no way they will let me nurse.” That argument made absolutely no sense in my mind, but then again what did I know about having a large family.


h grey Breastfeeding: Is it Right for Everyone?

School Lunches – What in the World do You Pack in that Box?

Hadassah over at In the Pink has raised a poignant question that haunts many a parent – what can I pack in the lunch box that will keep the kids happy, satiated, and healthy, without getting bored.

Here are a few ideas I have used to feed my kids at school:

  1. Make several dozen shnitzels and/or Salisbury stakes and freeze them. You can then defrost one or two the night before and send them either in a sandwich (with catchup, mayo, hummus, mustard and vegetables) or in a container with some salad, left-over pasta, and so on. Be sure to pack the food into an insulated lunch box with an ice pack, so that it doesn’t spoil.

  2. This idea works especially well if your kids have a microwave in their school. Two years ago, all parents in our daughter’s class chipped in 10 shekels and the girls got a microwave for their classroom. Obviously, this is something you have to run by the school’s officials.

  3. Invest in a small thermos that will keep the food hot until lunchtime. You can then heat any leftovers from yesterday’s dinner and send them right along for lunch.

  4. Try alternative sandwich spreads: date spread, humus, tahini, halva, or date “chocolate”. You can find these and other recipes here.

  5. Make a deal with the kids – a couple of years ago when we decided to switch to whole-wheat bread only, we made a deal. The kids eat their whole wheat sandwiches and get white rolls and chocolate milk on Rosh Chodesh. It works most of the time. You’d have to find a formula that works for your kids, but the idea is the same.

  6. If your kids are old enough, put them in charge of lunches. I have found kids as young as 3rd grade to be quite capable of packing food for themselves and their siblings. You would need to set some ground rules, such a what can go in and what stays out, and provide some on-the-job training the first couple of weeks. Afterward, you can stay out of it and prevent any power struggles that frequently surround food issues in the family.

So, how do you keep your kids fed in school?


Nutrition with Your Eyes Open

If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you must have notice that nutrition is a big item on my list. Today, I came across a video lecture that will change the way I feed my family. No, we don’t drink Coke and we do eat whole grain everything. Still, this talk has transformed the way I view food and the nutritional choices I will be making starting today.

For years, we’ve been “spoon-fed” about the benefits of a low-fat, high-carb diet. Guess what, it’s a hoax. In this video Robert H. Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California San Fransisco  debunks everything we take for granted about nutrition:

  • natural does NOT mean good-for-you
  • animal fat and LDL are NOT (always) bad
  • exercise is NOT there to burn calories
  • all calories are NOT created equal
  • carbohydrates are NOT all the same
  • USDA recommendations were NOT created to benefit us
  • fruit juice and (some) baby formulas ARE toxic

If you want to raise healthy kids and be there to enjoy their adulthood, you owe it to yourself to watch this video.

Beyond the realization that the seemingly harmless fructose is so horrible for our health, I loved the simplicity of the solution.

  1. No sweetened beverages (soft drinks, fruit juice). Only milk and water.
  2. Eat plenty of fiber.
  3. Wait 20 minutes for the second portion.
  4. Buy screen time with exercise (it’s not what you think).

What was your most shocking revelation in this video?


Purple Pancakes

Like all great ideas, this one was born by accident. With Passover just around the corner, Jewish families everywhere are on the lookout for creative quick and easy ways to get rid of whatever has made its way into their pantries and freezers and failed to find its way out.

The other night, I decided to treat my kids to pancakes for dinner (you can read all about my lunch-dinner switch philosophy here). As I was going through the freezer in search of ingredients, I came across a pack of frozen blueberries that yearned to free some shelf room in time for Passover.   After defrosting the blueberries, I decided to use the melted ice (that had turned purple in the microwave) and that’s how this recipe came into existence.

The recipe can be made either with milk or with my favourite milk substitute, ground flax seed, perfect for anyone with milk allergies.

By the way, the same idea may be used with other frozen fruit and in a variety of baked goods (muffins, cakes, etc).


Purple Pancakes

The Mystery Factor in Mother’s Milk

Have you ever considered why is it that mother’s milk cannot be measured? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to feed the baby and know exactly how much she has eaten?

The idea hit me while responding to comment on my posting about my baby’s feeding troubles. All of a sudden I realized that common advice to stop nursing, given by doctors whenever a baby doesn’t seem to follow textbook development patterns, is not rooted in opposition to Mother Nature. It is simple: formula can be measured in grams (or pints), making it possible to know just how much the baby has eaten. Armed with this knowledge, a doctor can analyze the data in terms of calorie, vitamin, and mineral intake and develop a treatment plan.

All of that is impossible with breast milk. How many grams are in a 5-minute feed? And how many calories? Unless you resort to weighing the baby before and after every feeding, as my mother had been instructed to do when I was a baby, the exact amounts remain a mystery. And what is in that breast milk anyway? It has not undergone chemical lab analysis, so who can vouch for its quality?!

There used to be a time when doctors could make diagnose an illness using just their five senses. Today, with the advent of futuristic technologies, this ability is gradually becoming extinct. So too with breast milk; if you can’t see it, measure it, take it apart in a lab, it is as if it doesn’t exist. Is it any wonder then, that when faced with a possibility of a problem, doctors prefer to play it safe and rely on quantifiable formula, rather than something as amorphic as breast milk. At least this way, there is a measure of control.

To me, surrounding breast milk with a bit of mystery makes perfect sense. From the Talmud we learn that, “[divine] blessing is not found not in that which has been weighed, not in that which has been measured, not in that which has been counted, but in that which is hidden from the eye.”  In His infinite wisdom, g-d has taken care of every detail of nursing, including leaving weights and measures out of it. This way, mothers can rely on their babies to eat as much as they want, without worrying about “filling the quota” and comparing their babies’ feeding needs with those of others. By keeping parental neurosis over food out of the equation, babies are given a chance to develop healthy eating habits from the start.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of undermining doctors’ expertise or opposing the use of formula when things do not work out. That said, there is more to the decision than control over variables. After all, mother’s milk is not only immeasurable, it is also irreplaceable.

On Breastfeeding and Growth Charts

Last week, I posted an item about my baby’s seeming diagnosis of Failure to Thrive (FTT). The dietitian was adamant that I should stop nursing, give her 3 bottles of formula a day, etc, etc.

After talking this over with my husband (the most vociferous male supporter of nursing I’ve ever come across), I decided to check the facts once again. Here is what I found.

The Israeli Ministry of Health uses growth charts developed by the US Center for Disease Control  (CDC) in 2000. These charts were developed following observations of both breastfed and formula-fed babies. Based on these charts, my baby, who was born in the 25th percentile, dropped to the 3rd percentile by the age of one (this means that she weighs less than 97% of babies of her age).

However, in 2006 the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced new charts, reflecting the suggested development of breastfed babies. More recently, UK health authorities used WHO data to develop their own charts for nursing babies. The revised charts show that breastfed babies tend to gain weight fast in the early months, then taper off in their growth.

On WHO’s charts, my baby is in the 15th percentile, gaining significantly after her dip at the age of 6 months. Combine that with her steady growth in height and normal development and the picture becomes all that less worrisome.

What I’d like to know is how is it possible for a pediatric dietitian not to be aware of this information released over three years ago and widely available in both English and Hebrew. Furthermore, even if the Ministry of Health doesn’t deem it necessary to update the charts the way the Brits have done, why doesn’t it, at the very least, inform practitioners (including Mother and Child  Care – Tipat Chalav nurses) of these new standards?

As for us, we’ll continue to monitor our daughter’s growth. I have another appointment with the dietitian next month with printed charts ready and waiting for her perusal.

Etrog jam may be poisonous – UPDATE

Several readers have expressed interest in pesticide-free etrogs for cooking.

Today, I spoke with a friend of ours, who grows etrogs up in the Galilee. He told me that they stop applying pesticides after picking the fruit for Sukkot, so etrogs that will ripen in the winter (around November – December) will grow without being sprayed.

If you are interested, drop me a line (my email appears in the About section) and I’ll give you his phone number.

More on pesticides

Recently, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat (Safed), revealed that many growers of insect-free greens (the so-called Gush Katif vegetables) use extreme amounts of pesticides instead of employing the more intricate greenhouse methods originally developed in Gush Katif. the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Shlomo Amar confirmed that there is evidence to support these allegations and disclosed that an investigation is underway.

Ironically, while excessive amounts of pesticides are detrimental to human health, they have only a limited effect on bugs.

As much as I would love to switch to organic vegetables, when it comes to greens it’s just not an option. Whenever we visit my parents in the US, I find myself squinting over cilantro and lettuce trying to discern whether there is a bug stuck somewhere on the leaves. However, I have decided to switch over to the Hasalat brand by Alei Katif (the original Gush Katif company). Though slightly more expensive, Hasalat greens are laboratory inspected for pesticide use (as evidenced by the lab label on their packaging).

The laboratory’s site lists the date of the latest inspection at the premises of each one of the growers. While it’s impossible to ascertain what really goes on in the field, for me this represents an effort at transparency.

Etrog jam may be poisonous

Today’s Maayanei Hayeshua magazine published an article about a lady that distributes etrog peels as a segula for various problems.

Last year, I was thinking of making etrog jam and giving it out to women as a segula for easy delivery. However, someone pointed out to me that etrog growers use a huge amount of pesticides to keep the bugs away and preserve the etrogs’ appearances. Apparently, since etrogs are not usually eaten, the authorities do not regulate the amount of pesticides used on them.

We set out to check the facts. After contacting one of the leading etrog growers in Israel we were told that they do use large amounts of very strong pesticides to keep the etrog trees free of infestation. The grower thought that if using an etrog that had been picked months ago and had since turned very yellow, it was possible to wash the insecticide on the superficial surface of the etrog skin, since it would probably wear off by then. However, he said that he could not vouch for how deep the insecticide sinks into the fruit.

I would suggest that before consuming etrogs or etrog jam, you may want to weigh the segula against the possible dangerous effects of the insecticide (especially if you are expecting).

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