Category Archives: Nourishing The Whole Child

The Dionne Quintuplets: How the Miracle Babies Survived


Guest Author: Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD 

When the Dionne quintuplets were born on May 28, 1934, they set off a media frenzy that continued through the 1930s and 1940s. Today, nearly 80 years later, fertility treatments have made multiple births common and modern medicine helps many tiny, premature babies survive. Back then, the Dionne quints made history as the first quintuplets to have lived past infancy.

At the time of their birth, no one expected them to survive. The identical girls were born at home with the help of a rural doctor and two midwives in Callander, Ontario, Canada.  Their mom had had six prior full-term pregnancies and had thought it “might be twins.” They weighed a total of 13 pounds, 5 ounces, and were born two months premature.

The quints spent the first two days of their lives in a wicket basket covered with heated blankets. They were massaged occasionally with olive oil, and bottle fed, first with warm water sweetened with corn syrup, and by the second day with 720 Formula, a concoction of cow’s milk, boiled water, corn syrup and a few drops of rum, added to help keep open the passageways to their lungs.

Miraculously, they survived long enough to get needed help from Herman Bundeson, M.D., a premature birth specialist based in Chicago. When Dr. Bundeson heard the news of the birth, he telephoned Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the quints’ doctor, and quickly sent an incubator and donated breast milk. Soon members of the Toronto Junior League were collecting breast milk and shipping it each night by train to northern Ontario. As the quints’ needs increased, breast milk was shipped in from Montreal and other cities as well.  Five months later, they were weaned on a dairy formula.

A patented soy acidophilus product from Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of the Battlecreek Sanitarium in Michigan, may also have helped, though not from the soy but from the good bacteria. Earlier that year, Dr. Kellogg had discovered that soy milk was a good medium in which to grow the healing acidophilus strain that he liked to plant into the intestinal tracts of his patients. When Dr. Kellogg heard that Marie, the smallest of the Dionne quintuplets, was suffering from bowel trouble, he wired Dr. Dafoe, sent him a supply of this soy acidophilis milk and learned that it had helped her problem. Ever the publicity hound, Dr. Kellogg soon told all who would listen that he’d “cured the quintuplets of serious trouble,” that they used the soy acidophilus supplement regularly, and how it was keeping them alive and in good health. “Dr. Dafoe writes me that he cannot get along without it. When he stops the use of it, the bowels get bad and he has to resume its use at once.”

Over the next couple years, Dr. Kellogg tried in vain to obtain permission to use a photo of the quints to help sell his probiotic product. Perhaps he was exaggerating its importance or just didn’t want to pay for the privilege.  Certainly, images of the five girls were used to shill just about everything else  –  Quaker Oats, Bee Hive corn syrup, Alexander dolls, and many other products.  Carnation evaporated milk ads even boasted that the quintuplets had “consumed 2,500 tins” and “practically bathed in the milk.” In truth, the quints refused to drink it!

The parents meanwhile did a booming business selling “magic fertility stones” found on their farm to childless couples who wished to become pregnant.  How exactly those stones were used to ensure fertility is not known, but the couple certainly was fertile; six other babies (one of whom died in infancy of pneumonia) were born to the Dionnes prior to the quints, and three more afterwards.

All was not well with the Dionnes, however.  A few days after their birth, the father signed a contract allowing the babies to be put on display in the Century of Progress exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair.  Although he may probably signed it out of fear of being otherwise unable to support his huge family,  the province of Ontario stepped in to declare the Dionnes “unfit parents.”  The government took custody, allegedly  to protect the babies from exploitation, but soon turned “Quintland” into one of the biggest tourist attractions of the time — right up there with Niagara Falls, Gettysburg and Rockefeller Center. Between 1936 and 1943, the girls lived with three nurses and three policemen in a nine-room nursery with a playground that doubled as a public observation area. More than three million tourists traveled to the remote location in northern Ontario to gawk at them behind one-way mirrors, boosting Ontario’s economy by as much as $500 million.


With Life magazine covers, cameo movie appearances, and regular holiday updates on newsreels, the Dionne quints served as a popular symbol of survival and joy during the Great Depression.

Sadly, the reality of their lives was far from joyous. Émilie died in a convent at age 20 from an epileptic seizure, Marie at age 35 from a blood clot, and Yvonne at age 67 from cancer.  Although returned to their parents in 1943, they never developed a close relationship with either parent or most of their other siblings, and later accused their father of sexual abuse.  After leaving home at age 18, three of the sisters married and had children, one giving birth to twins.  But Annette and Cécile divorced, and Marie was living alone, separated from her husband at the time of her death.

In 1997, Annette, Cécile and Yvonne wrote a wise, compassionate and eloquent letter to the parents of the McGaughey septuplets.  It was published in the December 1, 1997 issue of Time magazine and is included here in full to serve as warning to parents of children born today in multiple births.

Dear Bobbi and Kenny,

If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives, it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family. We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.

Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.

We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.

Sincerely, Annette, Cécile and Yvonne Dionne

May 28, 2013 is Annette and Cécile’s 79th birthday, an event that we expect will be celebrated quietly and out of the public eye, and that we hope will be a happy one.

 *  *  *  *  *

About Our Guest Author

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, is The Naughty NutritionistTM because of her ability to outrageously and humorously debunk nutritional myths.

She is author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food, endorsed by Drs. Joseph Mercola, Larry Dossey, Jonathan Wright, Doris Rapp, and other leading health experts. She is Vice President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and winner of its 2005 Integrity in Science Award.

To follow Kaayla on Facebook:

To subscribe to her edu-taining blog:


Would you have your children in the public eye?


Filed under Babies, Nourishing Our Children, Nourishing The Whole Child

Nourish the whole child with finger painting!

Finger Painting


As a former art therapist and learning specialist, I often utilized finger painting in my practice. Finger painting is an age-old activity that fosters children’s creativity as it captivates their interest.

Kerry Greasley explains, “Finger painting has existed for centuries, but was established in its modern form in the 1930s by Ruth Faison Shaw. She was one of the first to recognise its therapeutic potential and was hailed as “a pioneer in progressive education”. At a time when many thought children should be seen and not heard, she saw finger painting as an important way for children to communicate their unexpressed words and feelings. The instinctive nature of finger painting, she said, “aids the imagination and gives a delight in creating things subconsciously – things that one may not even have seen or dreamed of before”.


Dr Elsie Calitz, a mother of five adult children and a grandmother of six, offers this list of 15 reasons to finger paint:

  1. Kids can learn informally about mixing and exploring colours.
  2. Sensory integration is promoted.
  3. All the senses are involved: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and (if you use edible paint) tasting!
  4. Finger painting strengthens the finger and hand muscles, thereby improving fine motor development .
  5. The development of hand-eye coordination is supported.
  6. If you place the paper on the floor, large muscle control and balance could be improved.
  7. Finger painting is easier for little fingers that are not yet ready to manipulate a brush with skill.
  8. This is a non-prescriptive way of promoting children’s self-expression.
  9. There is a focus on the process, not on the end result or the finished product.
  10. Finger painting is therapeutic – children can express their feelings visually without using words.
  11. It stimulates creativity and imagination.
  12. Finger painting is an excellent way of creating shared art work with a group of kids working together.
  13. The finished art work and the process are stimulation points for discussion on the creative process, the colours, the themes, the design etc., thus language development is promoted.
  14. Kids learn that they can manipulate and be in control of their surroundings.
  15. It is messy, which also means it is fun!

Red finger paint strokes


Store bought finger paints can be filled with toxins and synthetic colorants. Make your own finger paint using non-toxic, safe, organic ingredients!

Jeannie Lyon has published a non-toxic finger paint recipe:


3 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic corn starch
2 cups water
organic food colorants such as Maggie’s Naturals, NaturalFlavors , IndiaTree or make your own instructions below


Add a couple of drops of natural food colorants to a muffin tin or other container. Add all of the other ingredients to a small saucepan and continually stir over low heat until the mixture thickens to a paint consistency. Pour equal amounts of the paint mixture into each muffin section. Mix each of the paints up until the color is evenly distributed. Get painting!

Make your own food coloring

Bring 2-cups of water to a boil.
Let the water cool for 1 minute.
Add a small amount of turmeric to the water.
Continue adding little bits of turmeric until you reach the desired color.
Store in a glass container after cooling.

Add several medium-size, unpeeled beets to a pan and cover them with water.
SImmer the beets for 35 minutes or until they can be pierced with a fork.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.
Peel the beets.
Chop the beets and put them back into the pan with the water.
Leave the pan for several hours, watching as the color of the water changes.
Strain the liquid through a piece of cheesecloth into a glass jar.
Mix 2 teaspoons of organic white vinegar into the water.
Shake well and store.

Place 2-cups of fresh spinach leaves in a pot.
Cover the leaves with water.
Boil the leaves for 1-minute.
Let the pot simmer for 10 minutes.
Allow the water to cool.
Strain the colored water through a cheesecloth into a galss jar.
Store with a tight fitting lid.


Additional ideas to make your own natural food coloring.

Let them be

Once you set your children up to finger paint, consider this advice: “Don’t teach them, don’t praise them, don’t correct them, let them experiment, play, imagine and create the world they want to live in.”  Written by Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Thomas Cowan, MD in their new book in regard to the serious business of play. “For children, play is a serious business in which adults have no right to interfere. That’s right; notwithstanding the advice of countless childrearing experts who advocate “play time” with their children, parents should not share in a child’s play activities. Children’s play is an activity so foreign to an adult consciousness that no parents can really play with their children. … Note that playing baseball or soccer doesn’t count as play.”

What do you think about these statements about play?!

What is your experience of finger painting?  Did you do it as a child?  Do you have your children finger paint? Have you made your own?

Read some public comments about this article made on Facebook.


Filed under Activities, Nourishing The Whole Child

Disposables, Cloth or … Elimination Communication?!

Diaper on Doll

Photo captured by Mark Baylor and reproduced with permission.

Diaper Choices:

1. Disposables.  Here is a bit of history as outlined by Emily Bazelon in her article Diaper Genie: “Until the 19th century, American mothers wrapped their babies in swaddling. Then they began putting infants in some version of cloth diapers or pads, giving their wearers a greater range of movement and ensuring they didn’t have to be held all the time. Pampers began marketing the first disposable diaper in 1961. The early versions were leaky, bulky, and generally inferior to cloth diapers. (In the 1970s, my mother scorned them.) But when the technology improved, thanks to those polymer pellets—which allow today’s diapers to absorb up to 500 milliliters of water—the disposable diaper achieved “something like perfection,” in the words of Malcolm Gladwell in a 2001 New Yorker article.”

2. Cloth. Most Americans use disposables, however there are those who would rather wash stinky cloth diapers for two or more years than be personally responsible for a portion of the 22 billion disposable diapers that clog American landfills each year!

Diaper Free.

3. Elimination Communication. There’s a third option some might not have heard about — a growing movement of parents is singing the praises of not using diapers at all. Yes!  No diapers. Advocates of elimination communication, which is also known as infant potty training, natural infant hygiene and “potty whispering”, say that you can start training your baby to use the toilet almost from birth.  I read this in an article while researching this topic “Erinn Klatt began toilet training her son at birth and said he has not wet his bed at night since he was six months old.”  I was first introduced to this concept in 2005 when a family came in with their diaper free baby for a photo shoot related to Nourishing Our Children. They assured me there would be no “accidents” on my new couch and that they would know when to put their baby over the toilet. I was skeptical however, by golly, it played out exactly as they promised!

The terms elimination communication and natural infant hygiene were coined by Ingrid Bauer and are used interchangeably in her book, Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene , published in 2001. When Bauer had traveled to India and Africa, she noticed that most mothers would carry their diaperless babies constantly, yet she saw no elimination “accidents”. Can you imagine her surprise? She came from an industrialized society whereby babies wear diapers almost continuously from birth. Subsequently, she raised her own children with minimal use of diapers, and eventually began to share her approach with other mothers and caregivers — initially through Internet-based parenting support groups and eventually through her book and website.

Radical concept with ancient roots

Meredith F. Small explains in her article Dare to Bare published in the New York Times, “child-rearing traditions are culturally entrenched. The use of diapers in particular is so engrained in Western culture that it’s almost impossible to imagine life without them.” Yet, while we take diapers for granted now, throughout human existence, parents have cared for their babies hygienically without diapers. In many cultures around the world, mothers still know how to tune in, understand, and respond to their infants’ elimination needs in order to keep them clean and content. This practice  is common in Asia, Africa, and parts of South America, and was traditionally practiced among the Inuit and some Native North American peoples. I wonder if Dr. Weston A. Price observed this during his travels!? It is reported that for mothers following this traditional practice, knowing when their baby “needs to go,” and holding them over an appropriate place, is (or was) second nature.

Naked Baby

Photo captured by Sage Ross and reproduced with permission.


The following reasons are sited for the small but steadily growing resurgence of interest in this practice among North American and European parents today:

  • “It’s natural”
  • Baby’s physical comfort – namely to avoid diaper rash and digestive problems
  • Supports the baby’s body awareness
  • Environmental reasons
  • Prevents diapering and toilet training struggles
  • Reduces diaper use
  • Unlike some methods of toilet training, there are no rewards or punishment associated with it

Bauer asserts however that “The greatest reason and benefit, however, is that parents feel they are responding to their baby’s needs in the present moment, enhancing their bond, and developing a deep and close communication and trust.”  Read more about why some resonate with this practice from Hobo Mama.

How does it work?

In an article posted on The Natural Child Project’s website, Bauer explains:

When the mother knows or feels that her baby needs to go, she can remove the diaper or clothing and hold the baby in a secure, close position over an appropriate receptacle. There are several facets to communicating with a pre-verbal baby about elimination. They are:

Timing and elimination patterns

Watching closely, the mother learns when the baby usually goes and how this relates to other bodily functions, such as sleeping or nursing. For example, many babies pee as soon as they awaken, and at regular intervals after nursing.

Baby’s signals and body language

Once they begin watching for it, many parents are amazed to notice that their babies are actually signaling when they need to go, just as a nursing mother learns to recognize her baby’s need to nurse before s/he cries. Though every baby is different, some common signals include: fussing, squirming, grunting or vocalizing, pausing and becoming still, waking from sleep, a certain frown, etc.


Many mothers who have a close nurturing relationship with their babies find they simply “know” when their babies need to relieve themselves, especially once they’ve been using this approach for a while. For example, I could “feel” this need even when I had my back turned to my child.

Cueing the baby

Natural infant hygiene is a two-way communication. Around the world, parents may use a specific sound (such as “shhh” or “sss”) and a specific position to hold their baby when they eliminate. This serves as a kind of preliminary language that the baby comes to associate with the act, and a way for the parents to offer an opportunity to go. However, it is always the baby who decides whether they need to go or not. Sometimes the baby also begins to use this sound as a signal to the parent.

When parents first hear about this practice, they may wonder if this means forcing or rushing a child to grow up before they are ready. This is a valid concern, but one that is easily allayed when you’ve seen this gentle approach in action. Unlike conventional toilet training, the focus in natural infant hygiene is not on the baby contracting and retaining or “holding in” body functions. Rather, the baby communicates a need and relaxes and releases at will with the parent’s support. The ability to retain develops at the baby’s pace, as a natural consequence of his or her awareness. Millions of mothers worldwide can attest to the fact that babies can voluntarily regulate their elimination without any coercion or negative effects whatsoever. In fact, parents often feel an increased closeness and respect for their baby.

Tuning in to your baby in this way does require commitment and effort, as does being a responsive parent in general. Most parents prefer to use diapers, at least part-time, during the early learning process, on outings, and sometimes at night if they don’t waken in time to respond to their baby’s need to go. Most children become reliably toilet-independent with this practice between about 10 to 20 months of age. Yet many of the parents I’ve interviewed say they would choose this approach again, even if it were to take just as long as conventional training, because they value the closeness and communication.

I think the real work of natural infant hygiene is that of being in the present moment. There are days when it can seem like the most difficult thing in the world to do. And there are days when you have glimpses of enlightenment: the feeling of being in the present moment, being in the flow, having that peaceful experience of synchronicity and symbiotic relationship that can develop between mother and child when they are in tune.

Melinda Rothstein, an MIT business school graduate who co-founded Diaper Free Babies says “finding a supportive daycare center is the biggest challenge for parents who choose not to use diapers. Other problems include finding tiny underwear for diaper-free infants.”  I envision one of the biggest challenges would be the learning curve involved!

What is your experience of Communication Elimination? Had you heard about it? Have you done it?

Quite a few answered in a public discussion on Facebook.


Filed under Babies, Nourishing The Whole Child

Let’s Make Music Together

Music Together

Written by Riki Juster*

Nourishing The Whole Child

I think that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is music. I’m not talking about passively listening to a CD or an iPod. I’m referring to actively participating in the music. I’m talking about singing or dancing or playing an instrument for your child. For it’s the parent who is the child’s role model and hero, not the famous artist. Until a few years ago, it never occurred to me that not all families create music in their homes in a given form. For my family singing at home or in the car was second nature! At one time, this was one of the popular activities among families and tribes, before the records, the CD players,  the computers, the video games, etc.

This is why I am grateful for a program called Music Together. This is a weekly parent/caregiver participation class for children 0-5 years old. I was introduced to this program when I was a nanny and took the children I cared for to Music Together classes. It was the highlight of my week! After a few classes, I thought to myself:  “I can do this!” I attended the weekend long teacher training course and now teach Music Together classes.  This program not only exposes children to melodies and rhythm, it demonstrates and encourages parents to do this at home, in the car, etc. This class provides adults with a “safe” place to sing and dance and even get silly and I cannot stress enough on what a positive impact this has on the observing child.  While it’s true that a child who is able to learn melodies and rhythm is more likely to excel in other aspects of their life, I’d like to think that one of the objectives in learning music is for the music itself, for it enriches our lives so.

More about Music Together –
Find a class near you using this class locator.

Here is a musical listening game you can play with your children.

See a video:

* Riki Juster currently serves as Nourishing Our Children’s Director of Operations, managing the distribution of our educational materials, as well as our email and voicemail communication.  She has also served our cause as a presenter, co-author of our study guide and has represented us at Weston A. Price Foundation’s annual conferences … and when we were set up with a Board of Directors, she served as our volunteer Secretary and Vice President.

We’d love to read about how music plays a part in your family’s life?


Filed under Nourishing The Whole Child