Nutrition for Your Baby
During my first pregnancy, I learned that breast milk was the best, most nutritious food for babies, but I didn’t realize what an intensely profound effect breastfeeding would have on my life. It is so much more than simply feeding your baby. It is truly a gift from God. He certainly created a wonderful, nurturing way to care for children. I would not have chosen to miss this experience for anything in the world. Since babies need to suck for both nutrition and comfort, breastfeeding is the perfect way to nurture a child. We pray that you will choose to breastfeed your baby.
“Give, and it will be given to you.” Luke 6:37 NIV
A fellow breastfeeding mother says it well, “Breastfeeding teaches a mother to love when she is too tired to love, to care when she is too sick to care… From this, I have learned to love my older children whose behaviour is often quite unlovable. I have learned to trust my feminine instincts with my babies. I have learned to listen to my babies who tell me what they need, and not to let outside ‘authorities’ tell me how to care for them. I have instinctively known when they are very ill, needed to nurse, or just needed a clean diaper.”(1)
Breastfeeding provides perfect nutrition for babies and strengthens their immune systems.(2) Bonding is enhanced through the breastfeeding relationship. Breast milk is free, very convenient, and always at the right temperature.(3)
Research has shown that formula-fed children have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.(4) They are sick more often and more seriously. It is also true that formula-fed children have lower IQs.(5) There is a 33 1/3% increase in breast cancer rates among women who were artificially fed as babies. Mothers who formula feed their babies have a far greater risk of developing breast cancer. Another interesting fact is that artificial feeding results in an abnormal and unpleasant odour that reflects problems in an infant’s gut. Formula-fed babies do not smell as good!(6) I always wondered if artificial feeding could contribute to post-partum depression in some mothers because their bodies are expecting to nurse a child, but when that fails to happen, they go into a type of mourning and depression.
For 101 reasons to breastfeed your baby, view this website:
Positioning of both mother and child, a proper latch-on, and feeding-on-cue are very important for successful breastfeeding. Please educate yourself with more detailed information so you will be sure to establish a good milk supply.
One of the most complete books on this topic is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (6th edition) from La Leche League International. This organization has leaders and support groups all around the world.
United States 1-800-LA LECHE
Watching a video presentation, like Breastfeeding Your Baby or A Healthier Baby by Breastfeeding, may give you an excellent start to a successful breastfeeding relationship. These websites also answer questions about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and if you are not aware, certain things may sabotage your efforts. In addition to being dangerous, pacifiers negatively affect breastfeeding. They can cause nipple confusion, reduce the mother’s milk supply, change baby’s sleeping and feeding patterns, encourage premature weaning, and hasten the return of the mother’s fertility.(7) Researchers found that nursing mothers who gave their babies pacifiers were four times more likely to say that their infants refused the breast and almost twice as likely to report that they didn’t have enough milk.(8) According to a study, getting rid of pacifiers may help prevent some middle ear infections, or acute otitis media (AOM).(9) It is important to meet baby’s sucking needs through the nursing relationship. If your child is already dependant on a soother, I am not a fan of taking it from him without a replacement for his sucking needs.
Infant feeding schedules are not only detrimental to ensuring proper nutrition, but they also damage other aspects of the breastfeeding relationship that are crucial to the emotional development of a healthy child. Parent-directed schedules can lead to malnutrition in babies.(10)
Breastfeeding can be successful, even under the following challenging circumstances: breastfeeding after a caesarean birth, breastfeeding a baby with Down Syndrome, breastfeeding a chronically ill child, breastfeeding twins, breastfeeding an infant with a cleft lip/palate, breastfeeding with breast implants, breastfeeding with Maternal Diabetes, and many more. If you regret choosing to bottle feed your baby, it may be possible to relactate with help and determination.(11)
Please do not give up if those first few days or weeks are a bit rocky. Get help right away. Tips and suggestions from an experienced breastfeeding mother, a lactation consultant, books, videos, and even the internet may help you get back on track. Commit to the long term.
My Favorite Things About Breastfeeding
One of my favorite things about breastfeeding has happened dozens of times during outings when people would take note of how much each of my babies had grown. I would be holding one of roly-poly babies (with dimply knees and elbows) at around six or seven months old, and in reference to the baby’s size, somebody would say to me, “WHAT are ya feedin’ that child??!” I knew full-well that the ONLY thing my babies had EVER eaten was mother’s milk from me.
I love how excited my babies were in anticipation of latching on. I love the way my babies’ eyes rolled back in their heads with satisfaction. I love their endearing grins even when they were quite busy concentrating on filling their tummies and their hearts. I love the sweet giggles while still latched on, and seeing the milky dripping down their chins. I love their gentle love pats for Mommy. I love the smell of my breastfed babies. Even their dirty diapers didn’t stink (before solids).
I love the fact that my babies EXPECTED to be nursed. They knew I was their Mommy. They knew I was there to nourish and comfort. They knew that their rightful place was in Mommy’s arms.
I love the way that even the anticipation of breastfeeding can stop babies’ cries in a split-second. I love how breastfeeding can transform a cranky toddler into a delightful angel. One of the most satisfying parts of mothering is breastfeeding until baby contentedly drifts off to a peaceful sleep. Nursing a baby to sleep feels just like a pat on the back. Don’t miss out on this little glimpse of Heaven.
It is best to let your child wean himself as discussed in the book Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., also emphasize a long-term breastfeeding relationship. “Extended nursing, rather than encouraging a child to stay dependent, creates conditions that encourage independence.”(12) We have found this to be true in our own personal experience.
Mothers often decide to wean too early due to pressure from others. It is difficult to face those who lack education on this subject, and try to make them understand. If you find yourself in that situation, remember to listen to your child, and do what is in his best interests. Have the courage to be different for the sake of your child.
In Old Testament times, children were nursed for years, not months. As commented by Judy Pickens, “In order for Moses to know of his history and culture, he had to have stayed in his mother’s house for years and not just for months. The same is true of Samuel. He would have been several years old when he was weaned and turned over to the priests to raise.”(13)
Extended nursing was the normal cultural practice during Biblical times and has always been commonly practiced throughout history. Even today, the majority of mothers throughout the world continue to breastfeed through toddler hood.
Before our first baby was born, we expected to completely wean him at the socially acceptable age of twelve months old. After his birth, we soon changed our minds, realizing it would take longer if his needs were to be met. The needs of children vary greatly. With older nurslings, we have practiced “mutual” breastfeeding, meaning that both mother and child have a say in when, where, and how often to breastfeed. At the same time, we value the importance of following the child’s cues in deciding his actual readiness for weaning.
To the nursing toddler, breastfeeding equals COMFORT. Child-led weaning may prove to be one of the most treasured parts of your mothering experience.
Can Breastfeeding REALLY Space Babies?
It is possible to naturally postpone the return of fertility by practicing “ecological” breastfeeding. An excellent summary about how this can be achieved is included in The Art of Natural Family Planning, chapters 23-25. “Ecological” breastfeeding is in contrast to Westernized cultural breastfeeding. We think Sheila Kippley originally coined the term, and the following points (in italics) are from her book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing (7). Our comments follow each point.
* Do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; don’t use other liquids or solids.
This does NOT mean that you SHOULD begin solids at six months – just not before. Be aware of the factors that determine your child’s readiness for solids. For example, sitting alone and being capable of grasping food and bringing it to his or her mouth. Even then, the liquid of preference should continue to be breastmilk, rather than water or juice. We think it is important to not get in the habit of stuffing food in your baby’s mouth, rather, allow him to feed himself when he is ready.
* Pacify your baby at your breast.
This means you don’t just use breastfeeding for food. It is intended for comfort as well. Also, don’t be in a hurry to unlatch your baby before his needs are met.
* Don’t use bottles and pacifiers.
The baby needs to have all his sucking needs met at the breast. Not one of my four babies has ever used a bottle or pacifier.
* Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
It is not normal or healthy for a young baby to regularly sleep through the night. My notes on sleep sharing are here:
* Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
After the first few months, I found that nursing and resting was sufficient. For my fourth baby, I rarely napped, and I went without cycles for just over 25 months.
* Nurse frequently day and night, and avoid schedules.
This is extremely important. Parent-directed feeding and schedules result in a quick return of fertility. In my opinion, night nursing is key with a toddler. It doesn’t have to be “often” but around the clock.
* Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.
Some women have their cycles return earlier than they want even when following the above practices. My cycles returned when my first child turned 14 1/2 months. This is the average time when following the above rules. My second child was 15 1/2 months when my cycles returned. Then I started taking some natural supplements that seemed to help balance my endocrine system. My cycles returned when my third child was 24 months, and when my fourth child was past 25 months. I suspect some natural health treatments intended to balance my hormones brought on the return of fertility when my fifth child was almost 18 months old.
Science tells us that breastmilk is the perfect food for babies. But how can we be sure that our children continue to receive proper nutrition as they grow?
In our search to help our children have healthy minds and healthy bodies, we learned that children’s individuality determines what food supplements would be beneficial to them. Health practitioners trained in Kinesiology often help parents determine what supplements will help and what allergies need to be eliminated. Our health journey led us to German New Medicine and NAET allergy treatments. See my right sidebar for links under “Health”.
Take caution when introducing solid foods to your baby. It is commonly accepted that a breastfeeding child should not be introduced to any solids before six months of age. From our research, we have discovered that postponing solids until baby is eight or nine months, or even older can be beneficial. Do not rush into supplementing a healthy breastfed baby’s diet, and of course, continue to breastfeed on demand.
“Breastfed babies do not require solid foods during the first year of life and should not be given any during at least the first six months of life.”(14)
We have also learned of the hazards of using processed, store-bought baby food and have chosen not to give these products to our children.(15) You can make your own baby food from the nutritious food you eat, or do what I do which is exclusively breastfeed your child until he is capable of properly digesting the nutritious foods in your diet.
When our first child was a toddler, we thought it was our duty to make him eat nutritious foods, like vegetables. We believe we caused him many conflicts which resulted in allergies. Thankfully, we finally learned respect for children during mealtimes. Our second child was never forced to eat anything, and he has been known to choose lima beans for breakfast! Although since he has been getting older, he has narrowed his food selection to certain favorites. Our younger three children eat almost anything.
Children are different and change as they grow. We have discovered that the most loving way to feed children is to stock the refrigerator and cupboards with nutritious foods. That way, when the children are hungry, they can choose what they like to eat, and we know it will be good for them. We usually make sure there is at least one thing each person likes to eat at each meal, otherwise, he can get something himself.
We do not want our mealtimes to be stressful. It is hard enough to make sure that the foods they DO eat are healthy (and preferably sugar-free) without forcing children to eat something against their will. When you get frustrated that your children don’t like something, try to imagine yourself eating the food YOU hate most! It seems that most children have quite sensitive taste buds. We believe that to avoid allergies, it is very important to eliminate conflict during and regarding meals, and that should be the goal instead of forcing children to eat perfectly.
© 2001-2012 This website and its contents are copyright and intended for educational purposes only. The information, research, experiences, and links contained herein have not been compiled by a physician and should not be considered as medical advice. Opinions expressed in the reference books and links may not in all cases reflect the beliefs of Carol@parentingfreedom.com.
1. Groh, Karen. “In Giving of Ourselves, We Receive,” CCL Family Foundations, (Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League).
2. Lars A. Hanson, “Breastfeeding Stimulates the Infant Immune System,” Science & Medicine, Vol. 4, No.6, (November/December 1997).
4. William Sears, M.D., SIDS A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), p. 92.
5. Sheila Matgen Kippley, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing – How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies, (Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League International, Inc., 1999), p. 12.
7. Sheila Matgen Kippley, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing – How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies, (Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League International, Inc., 1999), p. 25.
8. Child, (March 1996).
9. The Nurturing Parent, Vol. 4, No.2, (Spring 1996).
11. La Leche League International, The Breastfeeding Answer Book, revised edition, (Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche League International Inc.), 1996.
12. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., The Discipline Book, Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child – From Birth to Age Ten, (United States: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), p. 22.
13. Mary Pride, All the Way Home – Power for Your Family to Be its Best, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1989), p.96.
14. Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D., How to Raise A Healthy Child…In Spite of Your Doctor, (New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1984), p.56.
15. Dr. Wade Watson, pediatric allergist and associate professor, (University of Manitoba, Winnipeg).
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Berke, Gail A. Nursing Two, Is it forYou? Franklin Park, Illinois: La Leche League International Inc., 1989.
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Bumgarner, Norma Jane. Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, revised edition, Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche League International, 2000.
Gotsch, Gwen. Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby. Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche League International Inc., 1990.
Groh, Karen. “In Giving of Ourselves, We Receive,” CCL Family Foundations. Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League.
Hanson, Lars A. “Breastfeeding Stimulates the Infant Immune System.” Science & Medicine, Vol. 4, No.6, November/December, 1997.
Kippley, Sheila Matgen. Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing – How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies. Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League International, Inc., 1999.
Kitzinger, Sheila. The Experience of Breastfeeding. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1987.
La Leche League International. The Breastfeeding Answer Book, revised edition, Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche League International Inc., 1996.
La Leche League International. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 6th revised edition, New York, NY: Plume Penguin Groups, 1997.
Medela, Inc. and La Leche League International. Breastfeeding Your Baby – A Mother’s Guide. McHenry, IL: Mendela Inc., 1987.
Mendelsohn, Robert S. M.D. How to Raise A Healthy Child…In Spite of Your Doctor. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1984.
Peterson, Debra Stewart. Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby. San Antonio , Texas: Corona Publishing Company, 1994.
Pride, Mary. All the Way Home – Power for Your Family to Be its Best. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1989.
Ratner, Herbert. “The Nursing Couplet,” Child and Family. Oak Park, IL: Child and Family, 1988.
Sears, William, M.D. SIDS A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
Sears, William, M.D. and Martha Sears R.N. The Baby Book – Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby – From Birth to Age Two. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Sears, William, M.D. and Martha Sears R.N. The Discipline Book – Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child – From Birth to Age Ten. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.
Smith, Linda J., ACCE, IBCLC. A Healthier Baby by Breastfeeding. Charlotte, NC: Television Innovation Company, 1991.