How to Set Your Newborn Up For Lifelong Health (Part Two)

August 11th, 2014

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How to Set Your Newborn Up For Lifelong Health (Part Two)

This is the second article in a four part series. Click to read parts One, Three and Four!

Last week, I wrote an article about how diet, antibiotics, and method of delivery (vaginal or C-section) play a vital role in establishing your baby’s gut microbiome. This is one of the most important steps towards setting your newborn up for lifelong health. In Part Two, we’ll look at what comes next: feeding your newborn!

In utero, your baby received her nutrients from whatever you ate. Likely, you did the very best you could to take care of yourself during pregnancy and to prepare your body for a healthy delivery. Now that your newborn is here (and hungry!), you may feel overwhelmed by the choices (breastmilk or formula? Homemade or store-bought?). Below are my recommendations on where to start to set your newborn on the path toward a strong, healthy immune system.

 

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breast milk is the absolute perfect food for your newborn. Thousands of proteins, enzymes, and other components naturally contained in breast milk help to strengthen her immune system, build up an array of good gut bacteria, and support healthy organ development. Babies are born with a more permeable gut lining (aka leaky gut). Breast milk helps to ‘paint’ a layer over the gut lining to ‘seal’ this leaky gut.

What you eat and drink goes into your breast milk and into your baby’s body. Ideally if you are eating a nutrient-dense diet filled with real whole foods, your breast milk should have everything your baby needs to develop properly and stay hydrated.

However, many of us are not eating nutrient-dense diets, and even if you are, it’s very easy to become nutrient deficient when much of the nutrient content of your food is going to your nursing newborn. It’s important to make sure that on top of a healthy diet you’re supplementing with a high quality multivitamin (most breastfeeding women will need one with iron), a probiotic with at least 25 billion mixed beneficial bacteria for gut and immune health, and Omega 3 fish oils for optimal brain development. Some women may need added B vitamins as well.

Ideally, you should breastfeed exclusively for the first year. If you are not producing enough breast milk, you may try these tips to help to increase your milk production:

 

Tips for increasing breast milk production:

1. Have close contact with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby, especially within the first hour of delivery, can stimulate breast milk production. Hold and touch your baby as much as possible. Sometimes it can be harder to breastfeed when you have had a C-section, so in that case it is especially important to get lots of physical contact with your newborn.

2. Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.

3. Hydrate. Breast milk contains a high percentage of water and lots of water-soluble vitamins. Your water requirements will increase while breastfeeding.

4. Eat non gluten-containing grains (if you can tolerate them). In many women, grains can stimulate milk flow. Only eat them if you don’t have a sensitivity to grains, as many people and especially those with autoimmune diseases do. I do not recommend that anyone eats grains that contain gluten.

5. Eat a clean, nutrient-dense diet full of organic fruits, veggies, and pasture-raised and grass fed animal protein. Everything your baby eats in the first year of life comes from what you put into your own body. You need to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you both need! Non-organic produce and animal products contain a higher concentration of pesticides and heavy metals than organic foods, are frequently GMO, and are less nutrient-dense. Conventionally-raised livestock are given hormones and antibiotics, which can affect your baby’s development and kill off the beneficial bacteria that she needs in her body.

 

Breast milk is by far the best food you can give your baby, and partial breast milk is better than none at all. If you are completely unable to breastfeed, the next best option is breast milk from a donor. A friend or family member whom you trust, if they are breastfeeding, can be one great option. Try to find someone who has a baby close in age to your own–the composition of breast milk actually changes depending on how long a woman has been lactating.

You can also try milk banks, which screen their donated milk for diseases and pasteurize it. Unfortunately, heating breast milk likely destroys some of the naturally present enzymes and beneficial bacteria.

 

What About Formula?

There simply is no substitute for breast milk. Man-made formulas can lead to food allergies, and they don’t contain the same nutrients naturally present in breast milk. Relying on them as a sole source of nutrition for your newborn should be your last option.

If you must use formula, I would recommend that you try making a homemade formula over store-bought formula.

 

Homemade formulas

Making your own formula requires more time and energy than store-bought formula, and given the problems with store-bought formula, it’s worth the extra effort. Homemade formula is made with ingredients that mimic the essential components of breast milk. Gelatin for example is often added to strengthen the gut lining.

If you decide that this is an option you’d like to try, you can find instructions on how to make a homemade formula here.

 

Store-bought formulas

Milk based formulas

There are a lot of different pre-made formulas out there, and a wide spectrum when it comes to quality. Most of the pre-made formulas are dairy milk-based. Human babies were not designed to drink cow’s milk. It’s one of the most common food allergens in children and has been shown to be associated with chronic gastrointestinal distress and ear, nose, and throat infections in babies . Long term, consuming milk regularly can cause chronic inflammation in many people, which can lead to chronic disease.

Soy-based formulas

Not only is nearly 90% of all soy GMO, but the phytoestrogens in soy can disrupt the fragile hormones of your growing newborn. Therefore I do not recommend soy-based formula.

 

Which formula works for you will depend on your baby’s individual needs. Experiment with different types under the guidance of a physician. If your baby has allergies to milk or soy, an elemental formula could be another option. Elemental formulas contain broken down amino acids, are hypoallergenic, and are easily digested and absorbed.

 

Opt for glass bottles instead of plastic.

Whether you are able to breastfeed or not, most mothers will need to feed their baby out of a bottle at some point. I never recommend using plastic baby bottles to feed your newborn formula or pumped breast milk.  Plastic bottles (even those that don’t contain BPA or say “BPA-free”) contain chemicals that mimic estrogen and disrupt your developing baby’s hormones. These fat soluble chemicals are easily absorbed into formulas and breast milk, which contain a lot of fat, especially if the bottle is warmed. Opt for glass baby bottles instead.

 

There’s No Substitute For Breast Milk

When choosing a food for your newborn, remember that there is no substitute for breast milk. Mother Nature designed breast milk to contain all of the nutrients, beneficial bacteria, and immune cells (immunoglobulins) that your baby needs to thrive.

Stay tuned for next week’s Part Three, where I explain the next step: ensuring a nontoxic home for your new baby.

 

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  • Virginia

    While this all sounds great and I had dreams of breastfeeding for a year I ended up being forced into a csection for a breech baby girl. We had thrush in her gut and my nipples. I had an infection on my incision and needed more antibiotics and then my baby wouldn’t breastfeed after 1 month. I took her for a tongue tie, got craniosacral therapy and did all skin to skin from the first 20 minutes. I forced her to breastfeed for 2 months even though we both cried every time. Now I exclusively pump breastmilk at 6 months but need to supplement with formula. All it has done has added more stress to my life. So yeah Dr Myers its because of a dr that I got into this position so thanks for making people like me feel worse about it. Part 2 was worse than Part 1. Stick to other articles that don’t give pregnant women and new moms more unneeded stress.

    • Virginia, I’m truly sorry that you had to go through all of that. This article series is not meant to add any stress to anyone’s life, but to outline what I believe is the ideal situation for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Every day I treat patients who don’t have an ideal situation. Sometimes it’s unavoidable–no one should feel bad about needing a C-section or needing to use formula. I’m only pointing out that these events affect us, and should be taken into consideration if health problems are encountered later in life. Many people elect to have C-sections performed and choose not to breastfeed. As long as we’re aware, there’s no reason why our newborns can’t grow up to have healthy, long lives.

      • Virginia

        Well thanks for the reply and I’m sure your intent was not to make anyone feel bad, but breast feeding is not easy for me or anyone I know. I saw 3 lactation consultants, my own Dr, and asked 2 pediatricians for help. No one knew what to say about why we were having such issues. I’m sure the majority of people reading your site don’t chose elective c-sections since they are into being healthy. The reality is 30% of moms are getting c-sections which require antibiotics so your articles are leaving out a large chunk of moms that need the help and encouragement way more than a mom who had a natural birth. If someone had told me I could just exclusively pump with a good quality hospital grade pump, it would have been much easier on me and the baby in the beginning when I needed it most. But I figured that out on my own. That is an option for new moms that are dedicated to giving their babies breast milk but no one really talks about it not even on the breast feeding websites. Sometimes breast feeding just doesn’t work out but you can still give your baby YOUR OWN breast milk and not from a donor which is not easy to find, unsafe and expensive. Why is that not in the article? I usually find your articles very helpful and informative. Please consider revising or making Part 3 more realistic instead of idealistic.

        • It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to give your newborn your own milk because you’re right–that’s the BEST option. That’s really what this article is all about. You’ve provided some great information here, so thank you for your insight and experience! I know it will be helpful to others, and I will certainly keep your suggestions in mind for Part 3!

  • Taylor

    What would you recommend if someone is already pregnant and diagnosed with saccharomyces cerevisiae? Is it better to treat before delivery with nystatin? Or wait until after delivery, but then breastfeeding is out?

  • Vicky Greenberg

    I was wondering since using plastic bottles are not safe for using with breast milk…Are the plastic Playtex bottle liners safe? Thanks for you help and good info..

    • I wouldn’t use anything plastic to hold milk. Milk is very fatty, and chemicals in plastic are fat soluble, meaning they will get absorbed into the milk. Even BPA-free plastics still contain other chemicals so I would be wary.

  • Ashley Noelle Scott

    My husband and I, as well as our four boys 8yrs-7months are about to to start your elimination diet as outlined in your book in hopes of clearing up some food sensitivities, add, candida etc. & I was just wondering if there is anything I should modify for the younger boys? or myself as I’m still breastfeeding? Also do you allow fermented foods on the elimination diet? or is it best to add them in afterwards? Thanks!

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