Today’s Generation P guest post comes from Andrea (Drea) Nanini, co-owner of CrossFit South Arlington and mother of 18-month old Nehla (featured in our header photo). While many assume the challenge of growing kids Paleo starts when your child is born, Drea quickly realized the process starts far earlier, with choosing the right family pediatrician. Drea lays out her best advice, in her own words below, to help you choose the family doctor who is right for your Gen-P child.
Drea Nanini, Paging Dr. Right
I didn’t really consider how difficult it would be to find a pediatrician for my daughter – but it turned out to be one of the hardest pre-baby details. I ended up doing nine (yes, 9!) interviews until I found the right pediatrician. (I was amazed that it was so difficult to find someone who didn’t piss me off. I have high standards, but I am a very laid back person!) It was important to me to find someone who was supportive of what I believed. I was entering into a relationship with a person who was going to be a part of my family for a very long time.
I was about to embark on motherhood for the first time, and I knew nothing about it. However, I am also far from uninformed. I am a great believer in biology and I had faith that my natural instincts would kick in, and although I was raised very differently, I fall somewhere in between the beliefs of Eastern and Western medicine. One thing that I have grown to realize is that the relationship that you have with your doctors should be personal, and the one that I was going to have with my daughter’s pediatrician was important to me. You visit your doctor’s office a lot when you have kids, especially when you have a newborn. The idea of not having someone who served as a support system for me and my new family wasn’t going to cut it. Additionally, I had made some very conscious decisions on how I was going to raise my daughter: eating a 100% whole foods diet, breastfeeding as long as possible, using as many natural products as possible (cloth diapers, homeopathic remedies), implementing an amended vaccination schedule, and respecting her as a little person through a modified version of attached parenting.
The Interview Process
There are a number of ways you can find pediatricians, but I found talking to friends or people who are like-minded to be the best. (That is obvious now, but at the time I was asking other doctors – that quickly proved to be a bad plan.) Call the offices of the doctors you are interested in and ask for an interview, as most offices have hours set aside for new mothers. When you make your appointment, pay attention to the people who answer the phone as well, they are often a good indicator of the “pulse” of the office. If you aren’t feeling comfortable, cancel your appointment. Remember, this is about what is best for your family, and if you don’t feel comfortable, trust that instinct.
When you go in for your appointment, take in your list of questions (see below) and be very candid about the way that you feel about things. Doctors can be very intimating, and I found a number of them to have God-like complexes, so do not let them push you around. I was told time and time again, “You know nothing as a new mother, so I will tell you how to raise your child.” My personal favorite was, “Your labor will be very difficult, but don’t worry, you can start taking quiet strolls after six months.” Each time, I was careful to explain that childbirth was not victimizing – and then excused myself from the interview so that I didn’t reach over the desk and kick some ass.
After you’ve found your doctor and your amazing bundle of cuddly joy is born, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. Hopefully you found a wonderful doctor that supports you. Remember, they see a number of patients every day and they aren’t always going to remember every detail. It is our duty as parents to be active participants in our child’s life, including their medical care. I do research before going to any appointment, but be careful – there are a number of great resources out there, but there are also a ton of bad resources, too. Educate yourself carefully, relying on those you trust (whether it’s friends, family members, books or on-line resources) and make decisions based on what you believe is best for your child. I tell my doctor if there is something that I don’t feel is necessary for my daughter. I also take notes in-between visits so that I can go in with questions that I may have along the way or developmental milestones that are happening. It is important to stay open-minded for the things that they may not agree with you on. As one example, they will usually make a case for vaccinations – they are doctors after all, and there are certain things that they either trust in or that they are required to say and do. Ultimately, the decision is up to you – stick to your guns if it’s something that you feel very strongly about, or settle with a compromise. If you ever feel that you aren’t supported, get a second opinion or change doctors all together. One final test – see how your newborn reacts to their doctor, as they have an amazing sense of character!
Part of the Family
Enjoying the company of your pediatrician is of the utmost importance. Not only are they forming a bond with your child – they are forming a bond with your family. There is a lot of scary stuff out there, especially when it comes to taking care of children. We need to be able to count on our medical professionals to support our wishes every step of the way. Be an empowered parent and be an educated and active part of your kid’s life. Most of all, don’t take any crap. You know what is best for your family, and that trumps all!
Download Drea’s “28 Questions To Ask Your Pediatrician”
Along with her guest post, Drea sent along a list of 28 questions she used when evaluating all nine of her prospective pediatricians. We’ve attached a ready-to-print PDF document so you can bring Drea’s questions to your pediatrician interviews. Use these conversation-starters to gauge how well each doctor fits your idea of a family physician. Add questions that are important to you, and skip over anything that doesn’t apply or isn’t of concern to you and your family. Have your own interview strategies, or wish to share your experience choosing a pediatrician with other Gen-P parents? Post your thoughts to comments
Andrea (Drea) Nanini lives in Arlington, VA and is the co-owner of CrossFit South Arlington. She is the proud mother of 18 month old Nehla, who has been on a 100% Paleo diet since birth.
Drea writes, “Becoming pregnant and having a baby changes a person. For me, it also made me re-evaluate the way that I live my life and the world around me. I have made a very conscious decision to raise my daughter Paleo, and intend to breastfeed as long as possible. My family takes a more holistic approach in our daily lives, especially as they relate to our health and well being. The reality is that my family is healthier because of my daughter, and I think that is pretty awesome.
I now have the chance to give my daughter all the tools she needs to live a long and healthy life. I am dedicated to continuing down this path, as it continues to show itself valuable and enjoyable. My daughter has fueled a passion on a range of topics that I never expected to even get a chance to experience. I know that I am a little biased, but she is an awesome little person. I look forward to sharing my experiences and journey with you!”
You can contact Drea directly at andrea.nanini(at)gmail(dot)com, or via her Facebook page.
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Any chance of getting tips and/or specific foods she feeds her babe? My granddaughter is a year old now and her Mom (my daughter) is curious about getting her on a Paleo diet but struggles with food selection. Thanks!
Morten G says
Excuse my ignorance but what is “an amended vaccination schedule”?
Aimee Lyons says
I would also be very interested in some tips or specific Paleo foods for baby vs. the rice cereal that is prescribed.
Drea Nanini says
Chad – The easy answer is that your daughter should feed your granddaughter the same foods that she eats! Our children are just little humans, they require the same nutrients that we do, just more of them because they are so active and are growing. My daughter is still nursing, she eats veggies, meat/fish, fruit…all whole foods. I could write forever on this topic. I am hoping to do a follow-up post for the Whole9 that will touch on food (hint, hint)! :-) I hope that helps!
Morten – Again, this is a huge topic with a lot of different viewpoints. Some people choose to follow what the CDC recommends but more and more parents want more options from their pediatricians. Some people choose not to vaccinate at all! Basically, an amended schedule means that the vaccinations are spread out over a longer period of time so your little one’s system isn’t rocked. However, it also means a larger commitment from parents because it requires more trips to the doctor, more co-pays, etc. Further, some vaccinations cover multiple illnesses and contain binding agents. Sometimes, these can be broken up to treat the individual illnesses. Ultimately, one needs to do what is best for their child. Personally, I believe that the parent should be the one who makes that decision. I AM NOT A DOCTOR, do your homework so that you are properly educated before making any decisions. Just know that you have options. If you go in and say, “I want to do this just because I said so” don’t expect a very positive response from your pediatrician. That should answer your question…and then some! Here is a link to some additional information on the topic if you are interested…you can also search the web and get a million hits.
Drea Nanini says
I just got your FB message – I will jump on later to “friend” you so we can chat some more. Thanks!
In regards to your question about rice cereal…just politely say NO! Plus, have you ever tasted rice cereal? It’s disgusting.
One of the main reasons that rice cereal is recommended as a first food (at 6 months) is because it has high iron content. Incidentally, 6-months is also the time that an infant’s natural store of iron, and the iron content in breast milk, begins to decrease. Do you know what whole food contains iron?? Wait for it…um, MEAT! My daughter’s first solid food was puréed chicken soup (my pediatrician gave me his recipe, ha!) – homemade chicken stock, loads of meat and veggies. I made this one evening for the adults in the house, and then froze a bunch for her. According to Google, bone marrow and liver are two foods with a huge iron content. Try making a stock from marrow bones and find a good liverwurst without fillers or make a liver pate (the only reason it sounds fancy is because it is French). Then get prepared because you are raising a child with a very refined pallet for taste!
Drea Nanini says
One VIP thing that I forgot to mention (in general as things relate to food) is allergies. Introduce one food at a time and see if any reactions pop up. In the case of the chicken soup; if you get an adverse reaction, deconstruct things and start introducing things one at a time to figure out where the problem arises. Typically, vegetables aren’t in the “high risk” column.
And the cows milk recommendation? Does your daughter eat enough to cover vitamins and minerals?
I am a medical student and Paleo-eater. I think the list of questions posted are all great ones–my medical school strives to train its students to truly put the patient first and be on top of new advances in medicine. Many doctors are wary of Paleo because it a different idea. Sometimes it is hard for old dogs to learn new tricks but I think that eventually the medical community will come around. I am in the process of educating my classmates about Paleo & am getting great responses!
But please VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN. Skipping vaccinations is just plain irresponsible parenting. The UK doctor who came up with the idea that vaccinations cause autism (Dr. Wakefield) was a fraud — he research results were doctored. He has recently lost his license to practice medicine. Just because we live in America does NOT mean we are protected from catching serious diseases. Vaccines are necessary to prevent mass outbreaks that could infect and potentially KILL thousands of children and adults.
Yes, check out your doctor. There are a lot of bad doctors out there & we medical students are learning from their mistakes. Breast feed as long as possible, etc, etc. But remember that a lot of people didn’t have the luxury to be raised this way. My physician mother went back to work 2 weeks after delivering me, I was fed formula, I had all my shots, I ate enormous amounts of wheat for the last 23 years……and I think I turned out ok.
My message is to not be afraid of doctors and medicine. Also, remember that your doctor can’t control everything that happens either. Medicine is an art and the body is a complicated machine…just have a little faith & vaccinate. PLEASE.
Everyday Paleo has a bunch of good info for feeding kids paleo.
Great post – thanks for the info…
My husband are trying for a baby right now – sooo excited. Can any of you recommend any good baby books as the pre-pregnancy and pregnancy food recommendations in most books that I have looked at are far from paleo.
Drea Nanini says
Amanda – In regards to the dairy, she doesn’t get milk and we aren’t planning on introducing dairy to her. She gets breast milk or water, that’s it – it is all that she needs. She gets plenty of nutrients from the foods that she eats. I will say that we get our food directly from farm CSA programs so I can be sure that she is getting high quality, nutrient rich food.
Jody – You don’t need to stray from Paleo – just keep on doing your thing. You won’t find a lot of Paleo, if any, mentioned in the mainstream books. Nina Planck has a couple of books that are in the right spirit – http://www.ninaplanck.com/books.html. Honestly, you will get all that you need from following the Whole 9 program. Good luck on your adventure – please feel free to email me anytime!
Jennifer H. says
Hi Drea, thanks for the info. We are raising our Paleo kids (ages 2 and 7-months) as well and it’s so nice to hear your list of pediatrician questions. I thought I was crazy! And so did the 3 pediatricians I interviewed.
While Paleo is obviously more nutritionally dense than dehydrated rice flakes, I’m still having a bit of a nutrition issue. My 2-year-old is open to eating vegetables, but I’m finding that most of them are challenging to eat. He can’t adequately chew the leafy greens. Chard, celery, brussels sprouts are pretty fibrous as well and he spends more time gagging. Does your Nehla have the same problem? My son also had sensory issues in his mouth for a long time and had a low birth weight, so I don’t know if those are contributing factors.
Right now we are mainly sticking with the starchier veggies (squash, sweet potatoes, corn…just kidding) and a few green veggies ( broccoli, asparagus–though sometimes that’s hard too). What do you do?
And the baby is eating like a champ, hallelujah! Straight from the plate (though I wasn’t brave enough to start with a meal–we’re going the one ingredient route).
Thanks for your insight! It’s helpful to find other Paleo moms raising small children.
Hey according to the WHO and the AAP, breastmilk should be baby’s main nutrition source til age 1. Food is just for snacking and practice. What’s best is really babyled weaning too.
My daughter’s baby is 9.5 months and solely breastfed. He has never touched table food yet at all and he is just fine. And she works part-time and in is nursing school full time in addition to being a wife and Mommy to 2 children (the older being 2.5yrs old). She feeds and pumps around the clock basically. Coincidentally, they live in Israel and over there the docs recommend starting babies on veggies. Cereal is an American thing.
Oh and I started my oldest on food at a year. He was SOLELY breastfed for 1 year and is now nearly 28 and the Daddy to 2 boys. He turned out fine.
AH and to add, he is cloth diapered and hasnt been vaccinated yet either. Even better than those cloth diapers, CDs, you can try EC or elimination communication.
A plus to the CDing, my older grandchild was potty trained long before age 2!
Great post Drea! Nehla is the most adorable little one on the planet (I may be biased). Any 18 month old who regularly steals your avocado or broccoli on your plate is A-OK by me!
Drea Nanini says
Jennifer – I am sorry that it took me so long to get back to you! I am not sure if the sensory difficulties or low birth weight are contributing factors (sorry) but ask your doc. (or even a lactation consultant) on that one. Nehla isn’t a huge fan of leafy stuff right now but her taste buds are in this cool new state of change and she is trying new things again! Try coarsely pureeing greens with some breast milk (or even make him a little “kale smoothie” that can be sipped through a straw)? I even cut blanched greens into tiny pieces and mix it in with avocado so the texture is a little easier to eat. Make sure you taste it first as well, maybe it’s just too bland!
I roast a lot of veg. for her (in olive oil and fresh herbs) and her new favorite is cooked carrots. Another interesting thing is that she doesn’t like the carrots if they are too soft so try playing around with the different textures as well. It’s a guessing game, have fun with it and know that you are doing right by your kiddo.
Thanks Drea! I will definitely have to try the green smoothies. And yes, the child loves him some flavor, so maybe I just need a heavier hand with the seasonings. Thanks for your suggestions.
My husband and I are trying to get pregnant with our first child and while this process is not turning out to be a very Paleo one (we’re going through IVF) I’d like to stay paleo or close throughout pregnancy and after. I found a great midwife mostly by accident who is open to paleo but now that IVF is in the picture I may be considered too “high risk” for her practice. Do you have any suggestions on how to find a paleo and crossfit friendly OB?
Drea Nanini says
I don’t know how anyone can be “against” Paleo unless maybe they just don’t understand it. Who can argue with eating whole foods? Most likely, the doctors you run into haven’t even heard of CrossFit or Paleo – mine sure as heck haven’t. I would skip trying to explain CrossFit to them because the second you use the word “intensity” they are going to put up a brick wall. If you are being considered “high risk” they are going to ask you to tone the workouts down anyway…which may not be a bad thing. Even when you are CrossFitting while you are pregnant the goal isn’t to go all out, it’s just to stay active. You have to be very conscious of your workouts and listen to your body. To answer your question, I would honestly take some of the questions that I used for the Pediatricians and change them to fit into a conversation that you would have with an OB. You probably aren’t going to find someone who knows all about CrossFit and Paleo but if they are supportive of what you want and your lifestyle then you should be ok. If you found a midwife that you like, stick with them – if they feel that you are too “high-risk” then ask for a recommendation or do some midwifery searches online and set up some meetings. If I could do it again I would definitely go the midwifery route.
There is a book on the market by Nina Planck called Real Food for Mother and Baby – it has some good information and resources in the back. It may be worth a look. She isn’t 100% Paleo but it is another resource that has similar principals.
I hope that helps, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to discuss offline. Good luck with everything!
I know I’m a little late to the party but…
THANK YOU KP for saying exactly what I was thinking as I was reading this post. I’m a vet student so we get much of the same education regarding vaccinations, herd health, etc. and I agree that it is totally irresponsible parenting to not vaccinate your children. By not vaccinating your child, you put them, other children, other adults, and even yourself at risk. It’s a community effort.
I totally support finding a doctor you are comfortable with though, that’s a great message to get across to people. Just find a doctor you like and let them vaccinate your child so we don’t all wind up with polio and diphtheria again :)