America: The land where What to Expect When You're Expecting has sold more than 34 million copies as the self-proclaimed "pregnancy Bible" since its publication in the mid-eighties. Nevermind that it inflates hypochondriac concerns in a patronizing tone. Nevermind that until 2008, its diet recommendations emphasized carbs and listed bran muffins as an indulgence. Enter Alicia Silverstone, whose book The Kind Mama was just released April 15th. In her "Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and A Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning," Silverstone advocates for purposeful pregnancy and parenting choices such as a plant-rich diet, natural birth, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding. But in response, online book critics has been anything but kind.
Celebrities (like Silverstone) are "promoting parenting techniques that are inaccessible for most working parents," sneers a Slate.com reviewer. "A clueless guide," quips the Sydney Morning Herald. And after Silverstone's early book tour stop in Santa Monica, a Daily Mail headline read, "Silverstone shows Fit Figure in All-Black Ensemble," largely ignoring much of the book's focus. Why is it that critics are so quick to lambaste alternative parenting approaches despite a growing body of supportive research? Is our culture willing to listen to an actress dedicated enough to compile an accessible and informative guide to truly healthy pregnancy practices, or will we continue to criticize the independent voices who speak against the status quo?
Silverstone's guide is neither unwanted nor unneeded; on the contrary, it currently ranks within the top ten parenting books in Amazon sales, and the Kindle edition is Amazon's top seller among fertility-related books. Indeed, The Kind Mama helps fill a significant gap in today's literature elaborating on the link between diet and fertility. Lest readers write off Silverstone's messages as simply a tribute to her personal affinity for veganism, The Kind Mama includes numerous supportive quotes from respected medical professionals including pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon and respected gynecologist Dr. Katherine Thurer. The index lists over five hundred supporting references.
The Kind Mama also includes nutritionally-rich recipes and an index of natural remedies for common ailments (because how many parents know that a few drops of breastmilk in the ear can soothe earaches?). Silverstone even gets personal by incorporating the story of her son's birth and responds to the media hubbub she received in 2012 for letting her son eat a few bites of food she had pre-chewed.
Americans recognize that our health care system is flawed. Some of us also understand that pharmaceutical corporations, formula companies, and disposable diaper manufacturers have enormous financial stakes in convincing us that their products are essential purchases. We see no commercials for plant-based nutrition, breast milk, or early potty training because no mega corporations stand to benefit from such choices--yet babies and mothers do, and Silverstone wants us to consider the evidence.
It's time Americans open our minds to the possibility that alternative parenting practices have life-giving benefits about which more and more voices are testifying. Maybe then we'll also open our hearts to those who advocate a kinder route for babies and mamas, from conception to the early months of parenting. After all, in the marketplace of ideas, the mainstream opinions of the sickly masses can only hold out so long in contrast to independent research and personal testimonies of increased health.
Silverstone visited Portland on her book tour this last week, and though I missed her talk (but made it in time for the book signing), two bookstore employees shared with me how down-to-earth she was in telling her journey towards about healthy practices. Rather than dogmatically advocating for her views, she simply asks that you consider a different path to healthy motherhood. Though snarky online reviews get higher views and ad revenue than supportive ones, the best testimonies for The Kind Mama will come from readers willing to consider the truth of her suggestions. You can find more information about her experiences at her blog, The Kind Life.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links to Silverstone's latest book.