Kristin Cavallari on Finding Strength in Daughter Saylor After Her Brother’s Death: ‘I Couldn’t Fall Apart – I Had a Little Baby’

03/14/2016 at 09:30 PM ET

Kristin Cavallari experienced the miracle of childbirth and the tragedy of a life cut short all at once when her missing brother Michael was found dead three weeks after she welcomed daughter Saylor James.

As she grieved, the former reality star found solace — and a sense of purpose — in her family.

“I’m okay. I’m going to have good days and bad days, but I’ve really found a lot of strength in my kids, especially Saylor. I couldn’t just fall apart — I had a little baby to look after,” she told PEOPLE at the BELLA magazine March/April 2016 cover launch party in New York City on Monday. “When you lose someone, it really makes you realize how precious life is, and so I’m just thankful that I have my babies and I’m thankful for everything in my life.”

Everything includes her husband, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler; their three kids Saylor, 3½ months, Jaxon Wyatt, 22 months, and Camden Jack, 3; her booming fashion business and her new book Balancing in Heels: My Journey to Health, Happiness and Making It All Work.

Kristin Cavallari
Teresa Pyskaty

And the Chinese Laundry shoe designer is deftly finding her balance (yes, in strappy heels) thanks to her little girl.

“Saylor is such a mellow, easy baby, and I have heard that girls are easier in the earlier stages, in the teen years they’re a little bit more work,” said Cavallari, 29, smiling.

The boys are also loving being big brothers, though it took middle child Jax a minute to adjust.

Kristin Cavallari and Saylor James Cutler
Courtesy Kristin Cavallari

“They’re really cute, they lay on the floor with her and they talk to her and she smiles and laughs, and she just thinks that they’re great,” Cavallari said. “The first week was tough with Jaxon. He would get upset every time I was nursing her, he’d grab my Boppy pillow and he’d throw himself on the ground, but once we got through that little phase, it’s been smooth sailing since.”

In Balancing in Heels (which hits shelves Tuesday), Cavallari writes about body image issues she suffered from as a teen when she rocketed to stardom on Laguna Beach, when she obsessively counted calories for five days and binged on junk on the weekend. After becoming a mom, she developed an eating plan that’s full of organic food and free of GMOs.

She hopes that by being completely honest about her dangerous eating habits, she can help other young women (including her daughter) lead healthier lives.

Kristin Cavallari on BELLA
BELLA Magazine

“It’s harder for girls now to grow up than it was even 10 years ago when I was in high school — wow, it’s been over 10 years,” she said with a laugh. “But I want to raise a confident daughter. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin, and I think it’s important for girls to know that if you live a healthy lifestyle, you can eat a lot of food, you just have to eat the right stuff and you work out and you just stay active and stay healthy. ”

She added, “It’s such a better way of being rather than counting every calorie and watching every little thing you eat and just feeling caged in by food.”

— Michele Corriston

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Chris Meyers on


Eli on

Who gave her a book deal? She seems like she could barely read herself.

Zodia on

Um she has 3 kids so close together in ages.

John on

She uses the death of her brother for publicity. She doesn’t vaccinate her children. Kristin Cavallari is either stupid or has a heart of stone or both.

Melanie on

She was being interviewed, and no doubt was asked a question regarding how she had dealt with her brother’s tragic death. She answered in a straightforward manner, and guess what?! Of course, those of you who can’t wait to hate everyone for everything are jumping on her for everything from having a brother whose death hit the headlines, to not vaccinating her children. The only legitimate thing to be undone about is not vaccinating her children, and if you vaccinate yours, your kids are safe. How many children she and her husband have and how close they are in age, is no one’s business but theirs.