The following is an excerpt from my book SolFood: A Recipe for Living Simply & Living Well.
“That the natural food of a baby is its own mother’s milk is so obvious that it hardly needs emphasis”
Dr Herbert Shelton, The Hygienic Care of Children.
The process of birth as nature intended THROUGH the birth canal also sets the foundation of the child’s optimum health. By passing through the canal, the baby picks up the beneficial flora living there that in turn populate the baby’s gut and lays an important foundation in healthy digestive and immune integrity. Children born by a caesarean surgical procedure definitely benefit from breastfeeding in the newborn period. (I have also known women who ask for a vaginal swab to be wiped onto her nipples after the surgery so the babe still acquires the beneficial flora when he/she first latches on) When the child is born, this physiological exchange between mother and child continues in a beautiful picture of symbiosis, with breastfeeding being the all-important but often missing link.
The child’s newborn digestion is still somewhat immature. After all it hasn’t had to rely on these processes in the womb. The newborn stomach has a near neutral pH, and pepsin (the enzyme that breaks down protein) is typically low for the first several months. This means that proteins tend to escape breakdown in the newborn stomach and are absorbed directly into the intestinal lumen (lining). This lack of digestive ability means to ensure the increased survival of antibodies in the mother’s milk, including those in colostrum (the first substance produced immediately after birth. This continues for around 3 days until the milk proper comes in). Breast-fed infants are therefore more resistant to intestinal infection than the unfortunate formula-fed baby. Which, given the principles of disease development we now know why. Babies receive antibodies both before and after birth. Coupled with this inability to break down proteins, it has also been found that the baby is born with an intentional ‘leaky gut’ enabling these proteins to pass through the intestinal lining.
While food allergies may be passed on during the pregnancy, allergies, intolerance and underlying toxaemia may also develop due to either one or a combination of factors such as vaccination, antibiotic use, formula feeding and/or introducing solids too early. While it is beyond the scope of this book to fully argue the case against vaccination, it can be surmated that the neonatal immune system up till two years is immature and largely incapable of dealing with such a massive onslaught of foreign matter plus the usual cocktail of neurotoxic additives such as mercury. As a whole, it must be remembered that vaccination really replaces the best ‘immunisation’ a child will ever get, and that is through extended breast-feeding. Not to mention the essential colostrum a child receives to begin this wonderful gift. In regards to vaccination, however, what defense does a child have against foreign proteins (such as with introducing solids too early) when their fledgling immune system (or delicate vitality) has already been grossly compromised?
In 1974, Dr John W Gerrard wrote, ‘we presumed that the function of breast milk was little more than the provision of nourishment. We now know that breast milk also provides effective protection, more effective than antibiotics, against certain common enteric pathogens, and that it can also be expected to provide relative freedom in infancy from allergic disease, a growing problem of modern feeding habits.’
The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that children be breastfed until at least two years of age. In many ‘primitive’ cultures it is not uncommon for mothers to breastfeed their babies for the first 4 years of life. As we know that this exchange doesn’t just stop at the immune enhancing qualities of colostrum, but adapts to the daily needs of the growing child.
The use of antibiotics in infancy (often to counteract side effects of vaccines) can also lead to the development of health problems by stripping the baby’s gut of the fragile colonization of beneficial gut flora as well as damaging the gut environment. Although the mechanism of how it occurs is poorly understood beneficial gut bacteria has also been shown to be transferred in breast milk as well as during the birth process as mentioned above.
While vaccination and antibiotics certainly increase the chances of toxic build-up and subsequent health concerns such as allergies, ear, nose, and throat infections etc, the early introduction of solids, in particular cereals and animal products can bear significant contribution to poor health and on-going health problems. As discussed above, a baby’s digestive ability is unable to breakdown proteins in order to process the mothers’ donated antibodies. If foreign proteins are fed to the infant the proteins can escape digestion and due to their ‘foreign’ status can generate an immune response or in Natural Hygiene speak – contribute to toxaemia and illicit a ‘detox’ reaction.
It is said that when a baby has his/her first couple of teeth, it is a sign that the gut has ‘sealed’ and the digestive ability has somewhat normalized. I erred on the side of caution and waited until my son was nine months before introducing solids, albeit a banana. (He had about four teeth by then and was asking for the banana) Breast milk was the main staple for the first 18 months with all 3 of my children. They have been breastfed for 3.2 years, 2.5 years, and the youngest ongoing, respectively. They all enjoy robust health & vitality.
It saddens me to see product labels advocating food (cereal or dairy-based, or even worse -meat) suitable for 3-4 months old. The importance of breastfeeding cannot be stressed enough. If for any reason there are concerns over this, please do your child a favour and consult a qualified natural health care professional or La Leche League or the Australian Breast Feeding Association.
If you have a genuine inability to breastfeed your child, or produce enough breastmilk the next best thing is a wetnurse or human milk donation. A brilliant organization called Eats on Feets at www.eatsonfeets.org has been established to meet the needs of these mothers and babes. It uses Facebook as it’s platform and is organized into local groups where mothers can get to know each other personally. Fed via a supplementary tube along with the usual act of breastfeeding, the babe and mother continue to experience all the benefits of the breastfeeding relationship.
So, when is the best time to introduce solids? In a La Leche League newsletter, Margaret Kenda offered some sound advice;
‘Your baby can tell you just when supplemental food is a very good idea and when the time has not yet come. Here are some signs that your baby is ready, physically and emotionally:· Your baby can sit up, with support. Your baby has control of his head and neck.· Your baby has plenty of saliva to begin digestion of food.· Your baby has the ability to transfer food from the front to the back of the mouth. Your baby’s throat muscles have developed a stronger, more mature swallowing ability. Babies are born with a tongue-thrust reflex, so that their instinct is to push food outward and forward. That’s survival instinct, so that the baby will not choke on food or other substances. This instinct disappears after about four months, when the baby has developed other options, such as chewing and swallowing.· Your baby has a tooth or two. This should be at five to seven months old.· Your baby is capable of refusing food. The ability of turning away and indicating a negative decision does not develop until the baby is about five months old.· Your baby likes to imitate other people. Your baby is showing distinct interest in other people’s food. Your baby reacts with interest to the sights, sounds, and odours of cooking.· Your baby can reach and handle and perhaps try to taste or eat-food, toys, and other objects.· Your baby is not ill and has no rashes, including actual teething.’
Contrary to popular belief and unwanted advice, introducing solids or formula won’t make your baby sleep better at night, make them grow faster, or provide superior nutrition. The best advice for introducing solids however, is to follow your child's lead. There is no rush. Allow your child to enjoy the gift of this mothers love for as long as she wants. She will let you know when other fruits are desired as well. I have found that the best foods to begin introducing solids are soft fruits such as avocado, mashed banana, and young blended coconut flesh. Karen Ranzi and Anne Osborne both list suitable options in their books (listed under resources).
At the time of writing, I have now been breastfeeding for a total of 8 years. While I firmly believe that for those of us who weren’t breastfed, a low fat raw vegan diet (with lots of coconut water!) and lifestyle is by far the most optimal way to live in terms of healing and ‘compensation’ if you will, I also firmly believe that this way of living is also highly beneficial to breastfeeding mothers.
While pregnancy and birth require extra calorie/fuel requirements, breastfeeding mothers require almost double.
Mums, it is REALLY important to meet your calorie needs. This will benefit your energy levels, how much milk you produce and your ability to cope physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I have actually found that when I consume around 4000 cals/day (40 bananas worth, for example) I THRIVE. Why is this so? When I calculate my calorie needs with online calculators based on my weight, age, height, activity levels I tend to come in around at 2500-3000 cals. 3000 for when I’m cycling, doing P90X, yoga, zumba, etc. This also factors in breastfeeding which is given the standard calorie output of 300 cals/day. Going by this standard is a health hazard!
Why??? Breastfeeding is a supply and demand issue. The more your baby/child feeds = the more milk you will make = the more calories you will burn. As the composition of the breast milk changes on a feed by feed basis depending on the needs of the growing child, output will also change.
I believe that these equate to dramatic changes in calorie need in the mother if one chooses to feed to term (IE: until the child self-weans) because you are also meeting the needs of growth spurts and other developmental milestones like teething. Oftentimes a mother that feeds on cue will find that during these times of growth she will be feeding almost twice as much, even if the child is eating other foods. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. Mothering IS formal exercise.
Adopt a low fat raw vegan diet and follow a natural hygiene based lifestyle. This is the most optimal lifestyle for anyone but ESPECIALLY for women during the childbearing year. This will give your body and your baby the most optimal nutrient intake and set you both on the path for wellness for the rest of your parenting life and your child’s life. This way of living will reduce the toxaemic load that accumulates from ingesting chemicals, damaging grains, and toxic animal products to name but a few. Again, I must reiterate that you eat as much as you care for on this diet. A frugivore lifestyle isn’t about restriction, it’s about abundance. Getting most of your calories from sweet juicy fruit will allow you to feel a fruitfulness of your spirit that can only be conducive to conscious parenting and child-rearing.