Feeding Our Babes Real Food

When I was pregnant, I became well aware of the advice given to my new, albeit temporary demographic in terms of what we should be eating to support our baby’s development.

Directives ranging from ‘just get in 500 more calories per day’ to ‘be sure to consume three low-fat servings of milk per day for calcium’ to ‘always have Saltines on hand to combat nausea’ were amongst my favorites.

And while I disagreed with much of what was suggested to me by the OB I was visiting prior to finding our midwife, I hadn’t even begun to see the tip of the iceberg I’d come across once my baby was born and the breastfeeding conversation began.

Fortunately, I am able to nurse my son without issue, but I’m well aware that there are many mamas who cannot, for one reason or another.

What the mom’s diet looks like, proper positioning of the baby’s latch and overall health of both people play a role in whether or not the breastfeeding happens immediately… or if at all and sadly, many woman are not provided the basic information and education they need to get off to their best potential start from day one.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn about latching on in particular; being in completely new territory, I could see how easy it would be to decide too soon that it just wasn’t going to work.

Sadly, not only do many women find breastfeeding problematic in the very early days, starting with the time right after birth in the hospital; often, it’s made to look as though giving an all formula diet to their babies can be just as health boosting for both mom and baby alike.

Benefits of breastfeeding are many, some of which include (1):

Cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk help protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby’s growing needs and serves to help create the healthiest of baby gut biomes.

Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of many illnesses

  • Breastfeeding leads to a lower risk Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and Ovarian cancer in moms
  • Breastfeeding keeps mother and baby close. Physical contact is important to newborns. It helps them feel more secure, warm, and comforted. Mothers also benefit from this closeness. The skin-to-skin contact boosts your oxytocin (a hormone that helps breastmilk flow and can calm the mother)
  • Your breastmilk changes to meet your baby’s needs. As your baby gets older, your breastmilk adjusts to meet your baby’s changing needs. Researchers think that a baby’s saliva transfers chemicals to a mother’s body through breastfeeding. These chemicals help a mother’s body create breastmilk that meets the baby’s changing needs.
  • Women who breastfed their babies said it helped them get back to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly

The reality is that trying for only a very short period of time, or not even trying at all, isn’t without consequence, if putting our little humans on a course of formula is presented as the only other viable option.

So what’s going on? Why aren’t women given the support and education they need from the very beginning to try to support their efforts in these crucial, early stages of their baby’s lives? Less than half of mothers are breastfeeding for the first six months (2) !

Given the state of our ‘health care’ model, a hugely lucrative business model, it’s not too difficult to make assumptions: not breastfeeding costs money.

Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year. As your baby gets older he or she will eat more formula, so costs increase.

Compare that to a prescription drug that one might not actually need to be taking.

A typical doctor’s visit for someone with knee pain might consists of a quick 10 – 15 minute chat, a pain medication being suggested and the patient being sent on her way to the pharmacy to pick up the pills.

The pain is decreased short term, but the patient never found out why her knee hurt in the first place, so she needs more pills.

Which cost money.

And while breastfeeding can hardly be compared to an injury, the parallel is that in an ideal world, it simply should not be the case that our doctors are not giving us all the information, not looking at us holistic beings with a holistic approach and giving us bandaids without ever addressing a gaping wound.

But in many cases, this is reality.

And to add insult to injury, sourcing a nutrient dense formula in the US is far from being as easy as just stopping by the local grocery shop to pick some up.

The most widely sold baby formula in the US, Enfamil, whose tag line is to ‘nourish the brain first’ boasts the following ingredient panel for their Enfamil A.R. (2)

Nonfat milk, vegetable oil (palm olein, soy, coconut, and high oleic sunflower oils), rice starch, lactose, maltodextrin, and less than 2%: Mortierella alpina oil,# Crypthecodinium cohnii oil,** vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3, vitamin E acetate, vitamin K1, thiamin hydrochloride, riboflavin, vitamin B6 hydrochloride, vitamin B12, niacinamide, folic acid, calcium pantothenate, biotin, ascorbic acid, choline chloride, inositol, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, manganese sulfate, cupric sulfate, sodium selenite, sodium citrate, potassium hydroxide, taurine, L–carnitine.

Despite all the research claims and studies listed on the company’s site, how can this particular formula compare to breastmilk from a mom who’s been eating real, whole food?

It can’t.

There are absolutely healthier, cleaner and more pure versions of formula, but how many women on a tight budget can consider these an option?

And why is it that in our country, where less than half of moms are breastfeeding, 100% of moms in other societies breastfeed 100% of the time?

In the desert of northern Namibia, there’s an ethnic group that lives largely isolated from modern cities. They’re called Himba, and they live in mud huts and survive off the land.

Moms still give birth in the home. And all moms breast-feed (4).

How do we find a happy medium between the fast paced life of living in the US, with all its associated stressors of ‘modern’ living and a tribal societal model?

Through education.

We don’t see the same thread in family lineages that is evident in tribal societies, where we naturally turn toward our moms or grandmothers for help, guidance and support.

But just as with nearly every other expectations that we are told about, as though it were fact, when it comes to what we as pregnant women are going to experience, we can change our course of action.

A little bit of self teaching and reaching out to experts in our communities, mixed with a little bit of faith and remembering that our bodies really do know what to do, we can preempt what might otherwise have been a disaster and create an optimal breastfeeding scenario.

I’m writing this from a place of compassion for other moms out there who might not have had as easy a time with breastfeeding to encourage them to learn, like I did, and possibly even to try again.

Not to judge anyone who chose formula after not being given some necessary information prior to making this decision.

As moms, we simply have to support each other and those around us who are moms to be in order to get these important messages out.

If we stand behind the ideas that food is medicine and that health (as well as dis ease) starts in the gut, we can’t rationalize that giving our babies a formula of powdered soy and hydrogenated oil is even a conversation.

The answer isn’t about making better formula; it’s about teaching our moms and learning from one another how best to eat to support our own health, significantly improving our chances of being able to nourish our young ones in the most natural, intrinsic way.

Real food for us, real food for our babies.