Into the mouths of babes – Part 1 in a series
July 6, 2010
In the first of a two part series, Holly Haner-Lo raises important questions about what goes into the mouths of our babes.
As a devout follower of chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I have had a growing passion and concern for the state of our babies and children’s food habits here in Canada.
We may proudly point our finger across the border at their childhood obesity and alarming rates of childhood diseases, or shake our heads in disbelief at our English counterparts eating habits. As the childhood taunt rings in my head “ there is one finger pointing at me but there are four more pointing back at you!” I have to take a hard look at what is going on right here on our home front.
A direct quote from www.childhoodobesityfoundation.ca states “Childhood overweight and obesity rates are rising in Canada. Obesity rates in children have almost tripled in the last 25 years. Approximately 26 per cent of Canadian children ages 2-17 years old are currently overweight or obese.”
Statistics Canada also shows that over the past decade, our young children are getting the majority of their calorie intake from grains first and “Alternative Foods” as the second highest. “Alternative Foods” is the snack category. Any wonder we have also seen a rise in learning and behavior disorders, ADHD, allergies, and obesity?
There has also been a steady increase in the purchasing of jarred and prepared baby foods, formula, and snacks marketed to babies and toddlers. Formula, called Bottled Baby Food by Statistics Canada, accounts for about 56 per cent of all baby foods purchased. Yet the statistic for mothers who genuinely are not able to breastfeed is less than half of that.
So how do we fix this?
I believe some of it starts at the bedside of every new mother who is routinely asked the question “Do you plan to bottle feed or breastfeed?” In those tender first moments of a baby’s life, parents are expected to make a life changing decision that will affect their baby’s health and moms health long term. It is proven that breastfed babies have less risk of obesity, allergies, asthma, visual and cognitive developmental issues, and eczema. (The huge health benefits for moms could be a whole other article.)
I have started my own quest to educate expectant parents on the benefits of breastfeeding by adding it to our prenatal education curriculum, as well as offering one-on-one support in the weeks following birth. In my own limited experience I can honestly say that mothers who have a healthy positive attitude towards breastfeeding, tend to make better, healthier choices when it comes to foods for their growing baby.
But what happens next? We know that Health Canada and the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months, and extended breastfeeding to a minimum of 2 years. It is that fuzzy grey area between 4-6 months that has many parents confused, concerned, or simply feeling pressured by the “advice” of every well meaning person in their life. Mothers who breastfeed have been told that at 6 months they no longer produce enough iron in their milk, and yet research shows that babies exclusively breastfed to 10 months have shown no iron deficiencies. Formula fed babies however, should start getting more wholesome calories around 6 months. Once good eating is established there is no reason they need to continue on formula and can transition onto whole goats’ milk instead.
There is also the old standby that you must start your baby on a commercial infant cereal, usually rice or barley. With all that we now know about wheat and gluten allergies, asthma, and eczema, and the high percentages of babies with these conditions, I feel it is no wonder that we are seeing links to introducing grains too early. I have learned, among
other things, that a baby doesn’t have a developed pancreatic amylase until 9 months, which is needed for starch digestion. With all the pricey marketing geared to new parents, it is very difficult to weed out a push for profit and good honest information.
As a mom myself, I have adopted the rule that I ask why of everything I am told I should do concerning my child. Might get annoying for my family doctor and others, but I sure sleep better at night, and I have a very healthy, happy child.
(coming next…Part 2 – Introducing Solids)
Holly Haner-Lo is an ECE, Doula, CBE, and the owner of A Better Birth. She currently teaches prenatal education and baby food workshops in the Dufferin, Caledon, & Peel regions.