Healthy Eating for Babies!
Breastfeeding is the perfect way to set your child on a lifetime of healthy eating. When you have a new baby, you should start as you mean to go on, in order to set down an early pattern of good food habits. If you want your child to grow up liking good, healthy food, the best thing you can do is to start by breastfeeding him. "An ounce of breastmilk is even more potent than the finest tequila!" said singer, Tori Amos, after she breastfed her baby.
Everything that applies to food for children and adults, also applies to babyfood. Pure, unprocessed, natural food is what is best to feed a baby. Before a baby is ready to eat solid food, this means breastmilk, which is such a perfect, complete meal for a baby that it should really be called 'breastfood', or 'motherfood'.
Human breastmilk is the only pure, unprocessed, natural food for a human baby. There are so many commercial interests, who wish to convince us that bottle-feeding is the norm, we have forgotten what a new phenomenon it is. Baby-formula was invented a mere one hundred years ago, and it was then considered such an abnormal thing to give a baby that you had to get a doctor’s prescription for it!
Breastmilk is the perfect food for a baby, designed by nature to have the exact balance of fats for the baby’s brain development and lots of mother’s antibodies. (A study completed in 2007 proved this point, showing that the fatty acids produced in breastmilk are absolutely crucial to a baby's brain development and can result in increasing its intelligence by as much as seven points!) Also, during this time, a baby will lay down the fat cells it will have for the rest of its life. The food a baby is fed during this period, affects the baby’s relationship with food and its metabolism, for the rest of its life.
There are also other physiological benefits to breastmilk, such as the pheromones it contains. Anyone who has brought their dog to a vet for treatment for anxiety caused by Halloween fireworks, might have come away with 'dog-appeasing-pheromone'. This is a synthetic version of a hormone released by lactating mother dogs, which the puppies are exposed to, both in the womb and after birth.
Dogs of all ages associate it with warmth, safeness and security and it helps bring about a lack of anxiety in them. All lactating mammals, including humans, contain similar pheromones in their breastmilk, which have similar reassuring affects on their babies.
The longer you can feed your baby breastmilk, the better (up to about three years), but anything is better than nothing and if you can only manage a few days, or weeks, it is still worth doing. Your baby will bond with you during this time. He also obtains crucial antibodies against disease from your collostrum, the first breastmilk your body produces. This is a sort of super power-tonic for your baby.
The quality of your breastmilk is determined by the quality of your own diet. Avoid caffeine, green tea, soft cheeses, unpasteurised dairy produce and alcohol (including tequila!). I also think it is good for a breastfeeding mother to avoid eating all the foods that babies can be allergic to.
You will find them listed at the end of this page.
How you breastfeed your child is as important as the fact that you are breastfeeding him. Feeding a baby on demand is essential if you want to give your child a healthy attitude to food. A child will instinctively cry for food when it is hungry. If this demand is met, then nature’s perfect balance is respected. A baby will eat when it is hungry, and not eat when it is not hungry.
Interfering with this beautiful equilibrium, on the nonsense advice of those who would tell you to feed by the clock, or advise you to train a child to sleep through the night, will set your child up for a troublesome relationship with food.
We are not technological beings, made to suit the industrial/business world. Babies’ hunger is not sympatico with the working day, or with a mother’s wish to get eight hours’ undisturbed sleep. This is an inconvenient truth, but babies in the first year of life, may need to feed every two, to four hours and should be fed whenever they ask for food.
Breastfeeding, however, makes it much easier for you to feed through the night, as you don’t have to bother with heating bottles or checking temperatures etc. If your baby is co-sleeping with you, you can feed him without even getting out of bed, or waking up fully, as nature intended.
I have often thought, that in all the worthy talk about breastfeeding being best for baby, mothers are never told just how easy it is for them. You can go anywhere with your baby and not have to bother with all the baby paraphenalia. You can stay in bed all night, with your eyes closed and just half-wake when your baby cries for food! Breastfeeding is nature’s way of making life a little easier for tired mothers.
There are also other advantages for mothers. There is now some evidence to suggest that breastfeeding helps protect against breast and ovarian cancer and it certainly helps you regain your pre-baby figure.
But most of all, breastfeeding fulfills your need to breastfeed, which you are programmed by evolution to do, as much as it fulfills your baby’s need to be breastfed by you. They are perfectly symbiotic needs. "When you do it right", as Jean Liedloff points out, "you don’t have to choose---the child’s needs and your needs are the same."
This most beautiful, natural process of nourishing babies, has been unnecessarily complicated in people’s minds, making them think there is more difficulty to it than there really is. The anxiety a woman may feel around ‘being able to breastfeed’ could itself be the cause of her not being able to. Successful feeding depends on the release of oxytocin, the happy hormone, so feeling relaxed and confident is important. Sometimes, because of the medicalisation of childbirth in hospitals and the many practices which prevent natural labour, a mother’s natural hormones are suppressed, which can affect her ability to produce breastmilk.
The more natural, drug-free a labour you have, the easier and more confident you will be that your body can provide everything your baby needs. But even if you cannot have a drug-free, natural birth, there is rarely a reason why, with patience, you shouldn’t be able to breastfeed. The production of breastmilk is stimulated by the baby when it feeds and even women who have not given birth can produce milk for a baby. That’s how easy it is! I think knowing this takes away some of the anxiety that women sometimes have.
Unfortunately, hospital midwives are often too busy to help new mothers and may be too inculcated in the medicalisation of childbirth, to give the right advice. I believe it is essential to get advice beforehand, long before you go into hospital, from an independent breastfeeding expert, or from the wonderful La Leche League volunteers. Make sure you can call on this person, if you have any problems when the time comes for you to breastfeed. Ideally, you should have consultations, or attend classes before the birth and the person should be available to visit you soon after the birth, if you have any difficulty, or need further help at that stage.
The La Leche League, in particular, offer wonderful support to new mothers---as well as giving advice about the mechanics of breastfeeding, they also give moral and emotional support, and when you leave hospital, you can, if you wish, connect up with a ready-made community of other mothers, who understand what you are experiencing and are of like mind. Both the La Leche League and the London-based National Childbirth Trust, have some excellent and interesting books on the topics of birth, breastfeeding and babyfood, that you may not come across in mainstream bookshops and I would recommend browsing their lists. Being well-informed beforehand, will give you a different perspective on breastfeeding and divest you of a lot of the misinformation that abounds on this subject. It will help you have the confidence to trust your own instincts and be true to what you believe is right.
*Warning: If you cannot breastfeed, the only other option is, of course, baby formula. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to make up your own version of baby milk, like the tragically misguided couple, whose baby died after being fed a diet of soya milk mixed with apple juice. Babies' digestive systems are not properly developed and cannot digest food the way we do. Many seemingly innocuous, or natural, foods are dangerous when given to babies, and, as in the case of the soya-juice combination, can act as diuretics, whereby the food is passed through the baby's system before it has a chance to be absorbed and has the effect of starving the baby. Commercially-produced baby-formula has been processed in such a way that makes it compatible with the baby's digestive system and is the only safe alternative to breastfeeding.
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Remember, healthy eating is enjoyable!
Blessings on your table!
The Good Food Angel.