I’m aware that what I’m posting here might not be viewed favorably by everyone, and that’s OK. I just ask that if you have negative comments, please keep them to yourself or write them on your own blog (I won’t approve negative comments for this post, so don’t bother writing them). This is a very sensitive topic for me, but I chose to write about it both for future personal reference, and to provide an alternative to mothers out there who might find themselves in my shoes. Thank you!
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.” -Bertrand Russell
I nursed Zach exclusively from the day he was born, but because he gained a lot of weight and grew well, I soon realized that breast milk wouldn’t be enough for him (he was 10 lbs. at birth and has been in the 98 percentile for size, weight, and head circumference since his first check-up). At 2.5 months of age he weighed and measured more than most 6-month olds; he was constantly crying, nursing non-stop during the day, and waking up to nurse desperately several times a night. Imagine a growth spurt that never stops… He and I were both exhausted!
My mother, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, had become familiar with a doctor in Colombia who had developed a special soup for newborns that had wiped out malnutrition in several rural areas of his country, and which has been used by millions of families around the world for almost 50 years. She had recommended the soup to several of her patients, and their babies were thriving!
I began making this soup for Zach the day he turned 3 months, giving him a few ounces and following up with my milk. The first day, with much hesitation, I gave him two ounces in the morning, two at lunchtime, and two in the evening. That night he slept from 8pm to 4am. Not only did his body readily assimilate this food, but his entire personality changed. He immediately stopped crying, became more engaged and focused, napped more consistently, and started regularly sleeping 6-8 hours in a row at night (when before he would sleep 3 hours if I was lucky!).
I was both sad and happy; sad because my baby had been HUNGRY for weeks and I had done nothing to help him, and happy because I had finally found the solution to what was ailing him. Every few weeks, he demanded an increase in the amount of soup I was feeding him and was angry when he emptied the bottle… It was like he was telling me that this is what he needed to thrive!
Just like we tailor education to fit the needs of each child, we must tailor nutrition to satisfy each child’s requirements as well. Expecting all 3-month olds to have the same nutritional needs is as crazy as expecting all 6-year olds to have the same cognitive abilities and interests.
I weaned him from breast milk by the time he turned 5 months because he is lactose-intolerant, but thankfully the soup provides the nutrients, vitamins and minerals he needs to continue to grow strong. I am approaching the weaning process considering the soup to be “breast milk” and all other foods to be “solids”; as he becomes more adept at eating with a spoon at the table I will slowly reduce the amount and frequency of the soup until he’s obtaining all his nutrition from solids, ideally sometime between 9 and 12 months of age as recommended by Dr. Montanaro.
A Mission of Nutrition
The soup was developed by a Colombian doctor, Hernan Jaramillo, who worked with malnourished children in a rural area of the country. Before he initiated his nutrition program, malnutrition was rampant at the hospital where he worked and babies were dropping like flies. Mothers who didn’t have enough breast milk were told by doctors to put their babies on formula, causing the parents to go into debt and making already weak children sick (because formula is full of chemicals, processed cow or soy milk, and sugars).
Dr. Jaramillo understood that although breast milk is essential, it does not measure up to the complete nutrition that the child was receiving in utero. As any true scientist would do, Dr. Jaramillo studied the composition of breast milk and conducted HIS OWN tests on the digestive systems of newborn corpses. His experiments led him to conclude that babies are perfectly capable of digesting and using the nutrients from whole foods when prepared in certain ways (in stark contrast to the campaigns of “only milk for the first 6 months” promoted by medical associations, who are financed by the pharmaceutical companies that make infant formula).
A few years after Dr. Jaramillo introduced the soup in the pediatrics ward of his hospital, the level of infant malnutrition in his town plummeted to – and stayed at – 0.05%, while in other comparable regions it’s anywhere between 50-100%!!! He implemented the policy of feeding all the children in the hospital this soup as a complement to breast milk (or in the place of formula) from the day they were born, and soon the hospital pediatrics ward emptied out because the children weren’t getting sick anymore!! He also noticed that their cognitive development had increased dramatically; even children with mental retardation were benefitting, in many cases improving enough to go to normal schools!
The beauty of this soup is that it is made with the foods that families already have in their homes. Even the poorest family in the countryside has the ability to make it, saving THOUSANDS of dollars (a study calculated that the Jaramillo diet is 10 times more affordable than purchasing formula) and providing their child with appropriate nutrition and a dietary education that lasts a lifetime.
My mother’s Mexican housekeeper, whose 6-month old granddaughter has benefited tremendously from the Jaramillo soup, recalls that when she and her siblings were babies, their mom would breast feed them but would also give them atole (a porridge made from corn) and mashed fruits and vegetables from their small plot of land. “We ate what we had, from the time we were babies, and we all grew up strong and healthy, with none of these allergies that kids have now,” she told me.
I decided to go back to the basics and chose to listen to my maternal instincts, the wisdom of my cultural heritage, and especially to my son. As Montessorians, we dedicate our lives to supporting each child’s right to develop to his full potential. This support must include the area of nutrition, for what is our body and brain but the product of what we consume? Without appropriate nutrition, the brain and body cannot function correctly. An incomplete nutrition is as much an obstacle to development as a crib or a walker. Isn’t it time we did something about it?
Here is Dr. Jaramillo’s website (in English): http://dietajaramillo.org/jaramillo_en/index.htm (Note: some of the links show up in Spanish but when you click on the link, the ensuing text is in English)
Here are the instructions for the soup: http://dietajaramillo.org/jaramillo_en/complementaria.htm
There are two Facebook groups where parents share their experiences and provide advice to others interested in making the soup. They are both in Spanish but worth visiting if you can understand the language. The soup gets nothing but rave reviews from parents; many admit to being hesitant at first, but all are thrilled by how happy, strong, and healthy their children have become:
On my next post I will explain how I make the soup, in case anybody finds it useful.