Daily Nutrient Program - Infant and Toddlers
We might as well begin with the beginning of life. The time preceding birth, when the baby is still inside its mother, is an important period of growth and development, and at that time as well as after birth, the baby’s health is very dependent on the mother’s nourishment. Even the several months before a woman becomes pregnant are important. She must eat good amounts of wholesome foods to have enough energy and nutrients for her child and herself, both before and after birth.
Nutrition is the key to growth and development. Baby’s first food is mother’s milk, which is uniquely formulated to meet his or her growth needs, provided mother eats an adequate diet. Initially, breast milk colostrum has the fluid and nutrient levels, such as zinc, that correlate with the baby’s needs. As initial milk comes in, it is higher in fat and fatty acids, important to early developmental needs of the brain and the immune and nervous systems. Later, its fat content decreases and the protein and carbohydrate levels increase to meet the nutritional needs for general growth and development. With a good diet, mother’s milk exclusively can support the baby for six months or more. Besides eating well, the mother should also avoid pharmaceutical drugs when possible and chemicals such as nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. Occupational and even home chemical use should be avoided as well. Pesticides, such as DDT and more recently used chemicals, may contaminate food and get into breast milk, so whenever possible, organic or homegrown produce is ideal.
There are many reasons why breastfeeding is the best thing for both mother and baby. Initially, breastfeeding stimulates uterine contractions, reducing bleeding and bringing the uterus back to its normal size. It provides the intimate bonding of the mother and baby, so connected for the previous nine months, and it is convenient because mother always has baby’s food with her; it is also less expensive, but above all breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for the child. Also, the output of calories to baby helps the mother to bring her weight back toward its pre-pregnancy level.
For baby, breast milk provides the right nourishment. It has more available iron, vitamins A and C, niacin, potassium, and the right amino acids for growth than any natural or formulated substitute. It not only has nutritional advantages but immunological ones as well, as the mother can pass her protective antibodies to her child. Recent studies show that breastfed babies are healthier than bottle-fed babies—they have fewer allergies, they are leaner, and they have lower cholesterol levels—and this remains true in later years as well.
More than 95 percent of mothers can breastfeed if they wish. Many of those who have trouble can find help and reassurance from a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche League or from a midwife friend, or a neighbor who has breastfed. Relaxation and increased fluid intake will also facilitate breastfeeding. Luckily, the number of mothers who breastfeed has been increasing over the last couple of decades, even among career-oriented women.
There are really not many good substitutes for mother’s milk. It has been shown that 100 percent whey formula is probably the best choice. Goat’s milk, slightly diluted, can also be used if the whey formula is not tolerated. A little soy milk can also be used after three or four months. Cow’s milk is best avoided; it has a different amino acid balance than other substitutes, has more fats, and is more allergenic. The whey formula is very low allergenically, even less than goat’s milk and soy milk. Formulas may be used in an emergency, but I generally do not recommend them because of their unnatural and synthetic makeup.