When it comes to introducing solid foods to your baby, the questions seem endless. When should you start? What should you introduce first? How should you prepare it? What do you need to know about allergens like peanut butter and egg whites? Lucky for you, Michelle created The Nutrition Project because she loves to answer these kinds of questions. We spoke to Michelle to learn more about how she got started.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Initially, The Nutrition Project began as a service targeted at lifestyle athletes who were trying to improve performance and change their body composition – but everything changed for me when my beautiful daughter, Mia Clemencia, was born.
Infant nutrition became an obsession when I was given a huge list of foods from my paediatrician and told to start on rice cereal. I’ve never been so confused in my life! I knew in my gut that rice cereal was not nutrient dense and was not going to be Mia’s first food. I researched everything I could and through trial and error, developed a solid, evidence-based approach to feeding Mia. We chose a traditional path following the guidance of the Weston A. Price Foundation and other functional medicine doctors aligned to that school of thought. We focused on whole, unprocessed foods, giving Mia maximum exposure to as many tastes, textures and combinations that we could. We started with soft boiled egg yolks and liver, we maximized protein from clean, natural sources, we loaded up veggies with rich fat sources to unlock the fat-soluble vitamins and focused on giving maximum growth potential during the huge growth spurt from 6-12 months.
I knew in my gut that rice cereal was not nutrient dense and was not going to be Mia’s first food. I researched everything I could and through trial and error, developed a solid, evidence-based approach to feeding Mia.
My husband and I believe this approach to Mia’s early nutrition did have an impact on her temperament and behaviour. She has never had more than a mild fever, never been on antibiotics, has no allergies or intolerances, her emotional intelligence is sharp. People would stop me in the checkout line as Mia was eating raw spinach straight from the bag – they would ask how did I get my daughter to do that and could I help with their children? I became passionate about the topic and energized watching other families thrive when they were armed with this knowledge.
The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I began my infant nutrition program by going to new mum’s houses each month, helping them with food prep, explaining why we were introducing those foods that month and how the nutrients were going to be directly related to their baby’s growth and also what was happening in their intestinal development at that time. It really does take a village to raise a child and I enjoyed being so close to each mother and her baby as they progressed through months 6 to 12.
When I became pregnant with my second baby, my husband and I agreed that I needed to automate the process because I wouldn’t be able to do the number of home visits that would be needed once I had a newborn again. Plus, I knew that technology could really help to make this process easier for mums – you just don’t have time to sift through cookbooks with a young baby! So, I began drafting up emails to be sent out weekly to parents to tell them only what they needed to know for the stage of their baby’s development, when they needed to know it. My goals were to make it simple to follow, easy to prepare and educational.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Moving the business to an online platform was a game changer for me. Now it doesn’t matter if you are in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or Germany – anyone can follow it, from anywhere in the world. We currently have parents in 14 different countries following the program.
The business model of the online Infant Nutrition Program allows me to have a greater reach and to impact the lives of so many families. I send a personal welcome to each mother who joins my program because I genuinely want to know about their little one and to understand how I can help them. I frequently answer emails to reassure parents and to share in their successes. I have an online forum as well, called the NP Village, where parents can rely on each other for support. I chime in often on there as well to contribute.
It can be followed by the puree-loving mums or the messy loving baby led weaners – I don’t mind how you get the food into your child, I’m just passionate that we feed our children with the right foods.