Cleft Lip and Palate: How I Came to Embrace Real Food

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We found out about my son E’s cleft lip and palate at my 20-week ultrasound in 2008. Then I went to an ultrasound clinic and they found other abnormalities.  After having an amniocentesis, I had to wait 10-14 days to hear whether or not E was going to be born with a disease or syndrome.  Those were probably the worst days of my life.  I spent a lot of time meditating, breathing, doing yoga, crying, and reading very distracting and escapist books (Twilight, anyone?)We dodged most of the genetic bullets we feared during those days of waiting.  But there were still the issues at hand.  Tests.  Breastfeeding complications.  Surgeries.  Waiting.  But first there was the cleft.  Was there a nutritional deficiency that caused it?  Was there something I could do to fill in the deficits?

E’s cleft was a bilateral cleft lip and palate, complete on the right side and incomplete on the left.  You can see it pretty well in the picture above. It was this smiling little face that solidified by commitment to real food.  It was this, coupled with his other health concerns that drove me to start Our Nourishing Roots, and to write my REAL FOOD 101 ebook.

E had surgery when he was two months old to repair the lip, and again when he was 6 months old to repair the palate.  He played with his stitches after his second surgery, so he had a third minor surgery when he was 11 months old to repair the fistula that formed.

During this first year of life, E was also in physical therapy once a week.  He was born with severe torticollis, most likely from his sunny-side up and very low position in utero coupled with being suctioned (twice!) during delivery.  We met every week with a physical therapist that I loved, and from there also started seeing a pediatric chiropractor.

In spite of the therapies, he still ended up with plagiocephaly and got a reshaping band or helmet to guide his head shape into better symmetry.  I can’t resist showing you another picture of him in his cute little helmet.  We had some stickers made so it was a little more decorative than plain white.

Oh, and did I mention that during this tumultuous first year of his life, I was pumping breast milk and feeding it to him in a special needs feeder?  I felt like that was all I did: pumping, feeding, dishes, sleeping, therapies, doctors, surgeries.

Prior to all of this, I was already familiar with Nourishing Traditions and implementing several of it’s ideas.  But I hadn’t found raw milk or gotten cod liver oil yet.  When I found out E had so many health issues, I knew what I needed to do.  I got good local eggs, found raw milk, and started taking fermented cod liver oil & butter oil blend every day.

I felt a lot better.  And here’s the funniest part: E couldn’t get enough cod liver oil!  He would say “yummy!” and ask for more and try to steal bites of his brother’s spoonful.  Bodies are so intelligent to crave what we need most.

That was the true turning point.  I saw how much better I felt.  I saw how E’s little body was soaking up the vitamin A and D and K2 and various nutrients in the dark yellow egg yolks and cod liver oil and grass-fed butter.  It all fell into place for me.  This was why it was worth the effort of making real food.

Sure it’s a bit odd at first to get used to soaking oatmeal for breakfast, or picking up raw milk from a drop point.  But you get used to it!  And really, isn’t it worth it?  I feel so much better, and I know my family does, too.

Today, E doesn’t have any issues with his neck, very few with his cleft, and the others have cleared up completely.  I know it’s just one case, but I really believe that a combination of real food, holistic therapy, and delayed vaccinating is what has made the difference for E.  I will continue to be his advocate and do whatever I need to to make sure he is well-nourished in every way.

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