Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Daikon and seaweed

I was thinking about what all we eat in Japan yesterday, especially as it related to diets, not necessarily diets for losing weight. It reminded me of a diet I was on right after Takumi was born. We are talking about the dark ages here but it was an unusual time in my life that's for sure.

When I was a young mother I was adamant that I was going to breast feed my babies. While I was pregnant I read up on it and thought that if I just didn't take the easy formula way out I would have no problems. This is what generations of mothers had done since time began!

But, it wasn't that easy. The hospital Takumi was born at automatically gave babies formula. When we went home a week later there I was with a screaming baby latched onto me 24/7 and I ended up giving him more and more formula which I hated. By "chance" I met a mother in the park and mentioned that I really had wanted to breast feed but it wasn't working out and she gave me the number of a mid-wife nearby that specialized in helping mothers breast feed. She also claimed that her methods would cure eczema in babies.

For the next year I went daily to this mid wife's clinic and met with many babies and their mothers. The daily visit was for breast massage to stimulate breast milk but besides that the midwife put all the mothers on strict diets. STRICT!

"If you aren't willing to follow my advice then you don't need to come back!"

The diet was thus: For the first month the new mothers ate only white rice, daikon and seaweed. Yep. That's it. Supposedly this was supposed to improve breast milk flavor (so that the babies went at it with more gusto) and remove impurities. This is where the eczema treatments came in. It also was necessary to improve milk flow. Each time Takumi and I went the breast milk was tested and he was observed and gradually new foods were introduced into the diet. Mothers were required to keep a diary of all foods consumed, the amounts and the eating times and the midwife would advise daily.

Tetsu let me do what I wanted to do. Even back then he wasn't around much so he ate separately. I ate rice, daikon and seaweed. My American friends especially told me I was crazy, that I was in danger of ruining my health and that the midwife was running a scam. Everyone was telling me to accept the available formula and stop such foolishness.

"Tanya, that's ridiculous! Think of all the cultures in the world that don't even eat daikon and seaweed!"

The interesting thing was that though my weight plummeted, healthwise I was very fine, the breast milk began to flow and even in the other babies that had come with such terrible eczema I could see a miraculous improvement daily! The midwife might be running a controversial clinic but she did seem to be getting results!

I can remember the great day when the midwife added raw scallops to my diet, the first addition after a month of seaweed and radishes. I fairly skipped to the supermarket to buy this delicacy and thereafter foods were added gradually, other vegetables, soy products, fish, meat and finally noodles. I don't think I was allowed to eat eggs or dairy products for the whole year that I commuted to and from the clinic.

Takumi successfully breastfed until he took his first step, the "time best suited to wean a baby since his world has suddenly broadened". After all my problems getting started breast feeding I couldn't believe that now we were going to try to wean this baby so suddenly. Impossible! That child couldn't live without me pulling up my shirt every few hours! But the day came, I went to the clinic. The midwife painted two funny faces on my breasts in felt pen. The next time Takumi came toddling up and I peeled back my shirt, he took a look at the funny faces, gave a laugh and never again showed an interest in breast feeding. That midwife knew her stuff!

I went through a similar routine with Leiya too but all in all was successful the second time around too. Tetsu has held my breast feeding sacrifices and diet over my kids' heads all their lives and he fully believes that my efforts resulted in two very healthy children.

"You thank your mother for all she went through to give you kids a good start in life!"

I still love raw scallops and whenever I eat them I remember Takumi's first year of life.

I also wonder why I can't stick to a diet now when I could that long ago year... (pictures from the Internet)


BrendaLou said...

I can't imagine eating raw scallops, I do love them grilled with a touch of lemon & garlic. I suppose I should try.
Tanya, was it hard to get used to Japanese cuisine or did you grow up eating that way too?

Callie said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I too breast feed my children for over a year until they just wanted solid food and sippy cups because nursing took too long and they wanted to eat now! I love the happy face part. I wish I could have had that marvelous experience with the daily visits with the mid wife and even the diet sounds great. I didn't really gain weight until after I had my children. So, I was probably eating all the wrong stuff. I bet if we could have daily visits with someone when we want to lose weight we would have results.

Rae Ann said...

I don't think I could eat scallops raw for a whole month, as a matter of face, I don't think I could get through the first meal. More power to you Tanya.
Rae Ann

Amanda said...

I don't think I could have borne with the daily visits to the midwife, though I could probably have managed the diet - except for the raw scallops. My first baby hated breastfeeding though - he always pushed himself away from me as far as he could! When I started bottle feeding him he started to relax at last. I was more successful with number 2, but couldn't wait to stop when he was 3 months old. We watched a programme on television last night about Japan, about wabi sabi. And it's good to know that there are still some places in the world where life is just so different.

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Now that's just amazing! Thanks for sharing this story. We'd do anything for our children, wouldn't we?

The Calico Cat said...

Thanks for sharing your story. BF is only going o.k. for us. Since Jacob goes to day care, he gets 3 bottles a day, most of which contain my pumped breast milk, but we are supplementing with formula & baby cereal... Hopefully, we can stop the formula soon, we see the pediatrician at the end of the month for his 4 month check up.
In the mean time, I am drinking water like it is going out of style & doing other non-Japanese things that are supposed to help with milk production...

The Calico Quilter said...

Quite simply, I would have starved. I hate radishes of any stripe and the seaweed.... well, no.

The initial bland diet with careful selection and introduction of foods into the nursing mother's menu makes perfect sense, though, because the baby's eczema is probably a from food allergy or reaction. This way you can monitor and pinpoint what's the problem. But I don't know how you could live on rice, daikon and seaweed without some protein too, and produce nutritious milk. Unless the seaweed and rice have complementary proteins, like rice and beans do. Got to ask my clinical dietitian sister-in-law about it!

dianne said...

i think that you stuck to the diet because it wasn't for you, it was for your babies ... i breastfed the last three of my four children - none of them liked to nurse when i ate garlic ... that was MY biggest sacrifice - i put garlic in just about everything ... except dessert!

AnnieO said...

Just this morning in a "Dear Dr. Gott" newspaper column I read about a woman who "cured" her baby's eczema by another's advice to feed the baby fresh goat's milk only. She claimed this cured the eczema and her son has continued his goat's milk usage to adulthood. The doc advised not to drink the unpasteurized version due to bacteria in the milk. I breastfed all three of mine, the middle one for a year and the other 10 months and 7 months. Chocolate bothered them the most, and yep, garlic!

Quilter Kathy said...

What an interesting story to hear!
I breastfed my babies too and believe it is the best start for healthy children. There is so much more support around here now to help new moms have a successful experience. Good fo ryou for sticking with it, even though you didn't get much encouragement!