Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


If men got pregnant…


Today I just want to rant a little bit about the patriarchy and research, particularly in relation to mothers and pregnant women. You’ve likely all heard about the difference between men and women when it comes to heart attacks, leading to missed diagnoses in many women, and how most drug trials are done using men so that we have very little evidence regarding the efficacy and side effects of many medications on women across their lifespan.

Then you see results of studies like this one which, despite the cognitive effects of alcohol consumed during breastfeeding no longer being evident when children are 10 years of age, provides the message that breastfeeding women should not consume alcohol. This despite the fact that alcohol is removed from breastmilk at the same rate as it is from the bloodstream. This means that while pumping and dumping is an ineffective measure to prevent infants from consuming alcohol via breastmilk that mothers can still safely consume alcohol and breastfeed provided they allow for adequate time for alcohol to clear from the milk. If you’re a breastfeeding mum, you can use this table to determine how long you’ll need to wait after drinking before you can breastfeed your baby (unfortunately, it might be longer than you would think).

Women who are of childbearing age are often told not to consume alcohol at all. Just on the off chance that they might get knocked up and damage the fetus before they realize that they’re pregnant. Women who are pregnant should definitely never consume any alcohol at all because their baby might end up suffering the effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). And yet, many perfectly healthy babies are born to women who consume alcohol during pregnancy, indicating that there is likely a window (or windows) during which a certain amount of alcohol may be consumed without affecting the development of the fetus.

Pregnant women are shamed for drinking coffee, and some have even been refused coffee by baristas (and they say dietitians are the food police!). This despite the fact that pregnant women can safely consume up to 300 mg of caffeine a day (about the amount you’d get from a grande coffee). And the fact that the research on caffeine consumption during pregnancy is mixed.

Pregnant women are not allowed to eat: soft cheese, deli meat, sushi (unless it’s veggie), raw eggs, tuna (and other large fish), organ meat, raw sprouts, paté, unpasteurized juice or cider, store-made salads, and packaged salads, many herbal teas.

Naturally we want to exhibit an abundance of caution when the health of the woman and the fetus/infant are potentially at risk. However, I bet that if men were the ones giving birth that we would know exactly how much of all these things could be safely consumed during pregnancy and breastfeeding and the precise windows during which they needed to be avoided. But because (cis) men don’t give birth or breastfeed but they generally conduct most of the scientific research we are told to err on the side of caution. I mean what do they care if we can’t have a beer for 30 or so years because we might get pregnant at some point during that time, or enjoy some lovely brie because there is a teensy risk that we might get listeriosis and miscarry. As long as we are protecting their offspring that’s all that matters. And if a woman dares to defy all of the dietary restrictions placed on her during pregnancy societal shaming will cause her to toe the line. After all, questioning these restrictions shows that you are an unfit mother and selfishly putting your enjoyment of bruschetta ahead of your own child for whom you should be enthusiastically giving up everything for while your husband is out drinking with his buddies.

Please note: I am not suggesting that women who are pregnant reject all of this dietary advice. There are very real risks to consuming these foods and beverages during pregnancy. I am however suggesting that we reject the unquestioning acceptance of these restrictions because you know that if men were the ones getting pregnant there would already be a body of research into precisely what could be consumed when.


Big gay baby formula?




Google alerted me to this article: Got milk? Indonesian mayor says infant formula leads to homosexualityI hardly know where to begin with this. It’s one of those things where you kind of just sit and stare in shock.

I’m not going to get into the breastfeeding debate. We know that breastfeeding is optimal for babies for many reasons. However, we also know that there are many reasons why mothers can’t or choose not to breastfeed their babies. That choice should be informed and should be the mum’s alone.

Okay, let’s say the mum decides not to breastfeed. That has no bearing on what the child’s sexuality will be. That’s decided before birth. Sorry mums, you can’t do anything to change the fact that your child is going to prefer partners of the same or opposite sex, or both. You can certainly make them feel ashamed of their innate preference, you can maybe even drive them to hide it or deny it from themselves. That’s not going to change their sexual identity nor is whether or not you breastfeed them.

It’s crazy to think that this is even an issue. Sometimes I see things like this and realise that even though we live in such a globalized society somethings are very very different in other parts of the world. It makes me feel so fortunate that I live in a country where the big debates are whether craisins should be considered fruit or candy or if paleo/vegan/low-carb is the best or worst ever diet. Where there’s still a long way to go regarding discrimination but no one (please oh please don’t prove me wrong) would tell mums that choosing not to breastfeed their babies will “turn them homosexual”.

Seeing the article, I feel this strange combination of great fortune and deep sadness. Great fortune to have been lucky enough to have been born to educated parents in Canada. Deep sadness knowing that most people are not so fortunate.

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At what age is breast no longer best?

By now you’ve probably seen the controversial Time magazine cover featuring a beautiful young mum breastfeeding her nearly four-year-old child. The cover was obviously intended to shock people. It’s very sexualized; mum wearing a skimpy tank-top and doing a model pose with her hand on her hip. The three-year-old son looks considerably older than his age. But, this is what sells and this is what gets people talking about “attachment parenting” and this is not what I want to focus on today. This cover made me question the appropriateness of breastfeeding such an old child. It’s difficult for me to really say as I don’t have any children myself. I did a little bit of research and according to La Leche League (the breastfeeding gurus) “A mother and her baby should breastfeed for as long as they wish to breastfeed”. In nutrition we are taught that infants should be exclusively breastfed for up to six months of age and breastfeeding should continue for one year and beyond. Basically, it’s whatever works best for the mother and child. Just because it’s the norm to stop breastfeeding by about one year, and just because people are often uncomfortable about seeing an older child breastfeeding, doesn’t mean that it’s inappropriate or detrimental to the child. I would love to see some long-term psychological and physiological studies about this subject. Although it would be extremely difficult to avoid confounding variables as I’m sure there would be many more differences between women who breastfeed their toddlers and women who don’t.