There are two extremes to every issue. If the far extreme in one direction is that medical intervention, prescription drugs, and government-backed recommendations are always best, The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care is the other extreme. This book passes on the perspectives of Weston Price, Rudolf Steiner, and others concerning pregnancy health, birth practices, and child rearing. On a personal level, even though I had not seen this book before reviewing it, I had already adopted a lot of the practices it recommends and believe that there are a lot of great ideas in it. That being said, through my work with women and families, I’ve seen extreme acceptance of these ideas cause harm. It was extremely hard to rate this book for “healthier” or “empowered” because I know it can go either way. It can be a huge help when it’s advice is taken in deliberately and personally and a detriment when it’s read like a guiding North Star.
Growth and development and child discipline are minor subjects in The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. Human nutrition and natural treatments, or prevention, for childhood illnesses are the major subjects. A basic premise for Price’s beliefs is the health of traditional societies which were not affected by modern environmental attributes, and who ate an unprocessed diet high in animal fats. The book is big on the benefits of natural foods and natural healthcare remedies, and provides recipes and tips to help you put the information to use.
The use of scientific evidence in The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care is very inconsistent. It shares a good number of fascinating studies that either raise significant questions about conventional practices or, in some cases, illustrate their potential for harm. It also makes many blanket claims without sharing evidence of any kind, or even discussion, to support them.
I found The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care to be full of both exaggeration and ideological statements. It was also full of food for thought. Reading it as opinion will introduce you to another way of thinking and will raise questions you might not even think to ask. I believe there are a lot of good ideas to be gleaned. Reading it like authority sets you up for the dangers of cult-like discipleship that could result in real harm.
A word of advice to those who are drawn to a natural lifestyle and find The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care an oasis. There is wisdom in this book that comes from beyond the conventional scientific method. I’m all for that and believe that there are many other sources of knowing (historical use, intuition, etc) that are under-utilized today. That being said, don’t lose your linear, observation-based thinking ability.
I’ve seen people who adopt practices contrary to modern recommendations become religious in their ways, primarily as a defense to the criticism they receive from others. Sometimes they keep going down a non-traditional route when it’s clear to anyone watching that it is not working and symptoms of illness are getting worse instead of better. Be cautious about becoming dogmatic and fearful of interventions that are ideologically different. I encourage you to turn the same caution with which you approach western medicine and technology back on the natural recommendations as well, and consider benefit/risk ratios for all things equally, whether traditional or otherwise.
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care’s Authors, Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan
Sally Fallon Morell co-founded the Weston A. Price Foundation (a special interest group that promotes a nutrient-dense diet including whole foods, animal fats and raw milk) along with Mary G. Enig who holds a Ph.D. in nutrition and studied fats. She raised her own family according to Dr. Price’s principles and is currently president of the foundation and lives in Washington D.C.
Thomas S. Cowan is an M.D. who promotes the work of Rudolf Steiner and Weston Price. He is also a founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation. He currently practices medicine in San Francisco where he resides with his wife. He has three grown children.