Dr. Gabriel was excited to see his next patient of the day. Jessica Hampton had been a young child when he first opened his practice. As she grew, he saw her often, and now she was married with four children. He was always excited to see her and her family over the years, and today was no exception. It had been about six months since she had been in his office, and if he remembered correctly, a lot had changed in her life.
There was a strange smell of decay or sickness as Dr. Gabriel opened the door, and he was worried that he was about to find someone with a serious infection or illness. Jessica sat on the exam table, and she appeared miserable. She seemed to be sick, pale, and uncomfortable. She had a box of Kleenex and was actively trying to prevent a sneeze.
“Mrs. Hampton, it is good to see you, but it seems that you aren’t feeling well.”
“Oh, Dr. Gabriel, I think I might be coming down with something. I just can’t seem to stay healthy. Every few weeks, I get something else.”
“What kind of sickness?”
“Stomach cramping, difficulty sleeping, hives. A few times, I was sick to my stomach and had lots of diarrhea.”
“That sounds terrible.”
A small smile crossed her face. “Things have been so much harder with our last child. I keep thinking that it will get easier, but it doesn’t.”
“How is …?”
“…Jack,” Jessica finished. “He’s good, but he has been much more challenging than my other kids. I don’t feel great, but I’m really here to bounce a few things off of you about him.”
“What’s going on?”
“He is fussy and won’t eat. In fact, I think he has developed some food allergies, and so have the rest of my kids. They all have become pickier with food, and meals just don’t sit well with any of us. I have my own stresses and trouble sleeping. My husband recommended that I come to see you.”
“I’m glad that you did,” said Dr. Gabriel. “When did this all start?”
“Months ago. Even before we came home from the hospital with Jack.”
“How old is Jack now?”
“About eight months.”
“And you think he has some food allergies, or could it be something else?”
“All I can think of is an allergy. We have no new pets, haven’t moved, or anything else out of the ordinary. We tried to introduce foods like vegetables, apples, and pears slowly. He doesn’t handle these types of foods very well.”
“Does he get rashes, become flushed, stomach aches, or something else?”
“He started coughing a lot and spit up everything we gave him. It just seemed like he wouldn’t keep the food down.”
“What does your pediatrician think?”
“We haven’t told him yet. He doesn’t really get our family. He’s a nice guy and all, but he is pretty strange. He wants us to come back every few months and get shots and check-ups. He is really a by-the-books type of person.”
“I see.” Dr. Gabriel pulled up a chair and sat down. “When did you start with the baby foods?”
“We don’t use baby foods. We’ve heard that those foods aren’t organic enough, and much of the nutritional value has been lost. We puree most everything ourselves or our neighbor does. Jack really loves milk.”
“When did this start?”
“When Jack was about four months.”
Dr. Gabriel nodded. “I’m assuming that Jack still is willing to breastfeed?”
“Sometimes. I just don’t think he should get fixated on the milk coming from me. It won’t be around forever. We have started supplementing with regular milk.”
Dr. Gabriel was slightly surprised by her last few statements. He knew Jessica pretty well, and he remembered some of her previous children and had even seen them in his clinic. He didn’t think that she had made these same choices before. He said, “There are some basic guidelines on when new foods should be introduced and when to use cows’ milk. Have you looked up this data?”
“My best friend, who is also my neighbor, thinks that the guidelines are just suggestions. She has shown me a lot of literature that says that for a smarter and more independent child, you need to push them a little and give them new stimulation, like unusual foods, situations, and types of learning. She told me that she gave her children regular milk, and they all turned out fine.”
“I’m all for helping children find avenues to advance, but what you are suggesting with regard to food isn’t the case. New foods need to be added slowly and at the right time. Allergies are something that can be concerning for any child. I don’t think you should worry too much about overdoing breast milk or formula. That should be the foundation of their nutrition. The added food should be to introduce them to new things and see what they like.”
“If you think so,” Jessica said, and there was a clear change in her countenance like she didn’t agree with his thought process.
“Is Jack here?”
“No. He’s with my neighbor.”
“Do you know how his weight has been?”
“I don’t think he has gained any weight the last few months. But he’s been super active.”
“I see.” Dr. Gabriel paused for a moment. After some thought, he said, “Jessica. I have seen you for years. I’m just trying to help. We see a lot of children come in through these doors. I would love for you to make some changes and see what happens.”
“That’s why I am here.”
“Why don’t we start with some simple food changes? What does your husband think?”
“He and I have different opinions. We’ve argued about it constantly. He let me try my way for a few months, and I promised him that I would talk with you. I might not agree with you completely, but I’m willing to try.”
“Terrific. Let’s have you go back to breastfeeding as much as possible, along with formula, if it becomes a problem. The introduction of foods needs to be slow. So, let’s do nothing for one week. Then we can pick some puree foods, baby foods, like peas or squash, and one fruit. Give this to him for another week or so and see how he does. I want to see both of you back in the clinic in two weeks.”
“If you think this will work,” Jessica said, clearly resigned. She added, “Kathy, my best friend, is not going to be happy. She is the one that gives us some of the puree foods and lots of milk. Our family can’t seem to get enough milk. We drink it all the time. Kathy insists that the government is trying to suppress the community by having the parents raise unprepared children.”
“I totally understand. And to a certain point, I agree with her. But if you are sick and Jack is sick. We need to get to the bottom of things.”
“I can try.”
“How long has Kathy lived in the neighborhood?”
“A year. She is so sweet. She really likes us and brings us goodies all the time. She is into raising her own chickens, cows, and other animals. She produced much of her own foods, and she loves growing her own vegetables. She is self-sufficient. When the kids are old enough, we are going to send them over to learn to take care of the animals.”
“It sounds like it. Does she happen to give you milk?”
“She has her own cows. She gives us a few bottles every week.”
“Does she pasteurize her milk?”
“Does she what?”
“Raw milk can be harmful to humans if not done correctly. I drink raw milk from time to time, but it must come from a reputable location. Babies and children should avoid raw milk at all costs, especially Jack.”
A confused look crossed Jessica’s face. She mumbled, “Kathy insists that raw milk is good for babies.”
“It’s not. You pasteurize milk to get all the bacteria from it. This makes it safe. Though, if you get a good farm, they can keep raw milk safe, but not for babies. I have a feeling this might be your problem. Let’s do some blood tests and see if we can find out why you are sick.”
Jessica had several tests performed, and once she was finished, she left with a promise to make changes in their diet for two weeks and come back. She returned with Jack two weeks later, along with her husband and her other children. She was remarkably better. Turns out, Kathy was not keeping her milk or her cows very clean. The health department was called, and they came out to her house and did an investigation. Several kids and adults in the neighborhood were also sick. They called it an outbreak, and it turned out to be a pretty big deal.
Jack”s health improved after just a few weeks of proper nutrition. His body reacted well to the balanced nutrition, and he immediately started to gain weight. His stomach issues, rashes, and most everything else cleared up to normal. He gained energy, weight, and cried far less. These were good things.
Jessica’s health improved dramatically as well. Her lab work showed that she had a urinary tract infection and stomach issues, and her blood work was abnormal. Luckily it was easily treated and significantly improved when they stopped drinking unpasteurized milk.
***Raw milk is often considered quite healthy, and the choice of thousands, and when the process allows for proper collection and storage, raw milk can provide some health benefits. This story was not to discourage unpasteurized milk in the slightest but to bring awareness to the proper process.