Baby Health And Nutrition
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the food children eat in their very early years has the potential to affect baby development, and may even influence children's health into adulthood. Poor baby nutrition leaves an infant less able to fight off relatively mild childhood illnesses such as coughs and colds, and may even leave children vulnerable to chronic diseases and reduced intellectual and social development.
Thankfully, in the Western World, there is an abundance of good food available both for mothers and infants, so there's no need for a baby in this part of the world to be malnourished. But that doesn't mean that Western parents are exempt from following the WHO's baby food advice, especially when it comes to breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding For Baby Wellbeing
While we recognize that for a variety of reasons, breastfeeding is not always possible, it's nevertheless important to remember that it is breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies in the first six months of their lives.
This is because breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for growth and development in the first half year of life, as well as antibodies that help to strengthen a baby's immune system.
The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding during your child's first six months as a fundamental element of baby health care. After six months, your baby may start eating other, healthful solid foods in addition to breast milk, but ideally, breastfeeding should continue, at least until the child is one year old, and perhaps even until 18 months.
Breastfeeding For A Whole Year?
Many Western mothers would hesitate at the idea of breastfeeding for a whole year or perhaps even longer. It simply doesn't fit in with our lifestyle or the fact that most families now need two salaries to survive - therefore many women have to return to work.
Thankfully, employers are becoming increasingly open minded about issues like maternity leave and breastfeeding. Some even have baby daycare centers on their own premises, for the use of employees. In this case, it may be possible for you to arrange a working schedule that allows you to continue to breastfeed.
Of course, we realize that this is something of an "ideal" scenario. For many mothers who are determined to continue breastfeeding, using a breast pump to extract and store breast milk for your baby to consume throughout the day is a more realistic option.
Remember, if you're not able to continue breastfeeding for a year, or even if you never start breastfeeding in the first place, this doesn't necessarily mean that your baby's health will be negatively affected. Indeed, the fact that so many formula fed babies grow up to be perfectly healthy and intelligent adults, makes the whole "breast is best" campaign a little controversial.
If you decide to feed formula to your baby, there are a number of infant care and baby safety issues you'll encounter. Having said that, the fact that all baby formula sold in the United States is FDA approved and therefore safe for your baby to eat is very reassuring.
Baby formulas are produced in such a way as to mimic as closely as possible the nutritional value of mother's milk, although they don't contain the infection-fighting antibodies that are contained in breast milk. (Hence the argument that breast milk is better.)
Now you just have to decide which is the most appropriate formula to use. If your baby is allergic to cow's milk and dairy, you'll need to feed him a special soy-based formula (because regular formula is based on cow's milk). But you may find that your baby is allergic to soy too. If this happens, you'll need to use a special hypoallergenic formula developed for babies with multiple and severe allergies (nutramigen is popular hypoallergenic formula brand). If you think your baby has health issues with food allergies, speak to your pediatrician.
Most babies can begin eating some solid foods at around the age of six months. The types of foods you should use should be healthy and not full of sugar.
Begin with vegetables, and then move on to pureed meat and fruits. In the beginning, you should try only one type of food at a time and feed it to your baby, so if he or she has an allergic reaction, you'll know what caused the problem.