Breastfed babies are the best fed babies. Breastfeeding gives them a far better start in life than any other method. Maternal milk contains special antibodies and protective factors which guard against many of the illnesses that may strike during the first months of life.
But recently a strange facet has crept into the baby feeding business which can take away all the benefits the primary nutrition has given the baby. The repercussions of changing lifestyles and attitudes to food are just beginning to be reported, but the effects of food fads can be expected to draw more and more attention in the future.
It is largely wrapped around the mother’s attitude to food, and her personal food habits. Over the past few years, there has been a heavy swing to different eating habits in certain sections of the community. Vegetarianism is becoming more and more popular. In most cases this is fine, and many are finding new delights in this eating style.
But some people are going overboard. Instead of having a sane and sensible approach, they are almost living a life of nutritional deprivation.
Is it safe to raise a baby vegetarian?
Many people who follow a vegetarian diet replace animal protein with protein derived from other sources. This is usually from legumes, such as soya beans, various other kinds of beans, lentils, and animal products which are not meat, including milk, cheese, eggs.
However, strict vegetarians (sometimes called vegans) refuse to eat anything relating to living animals or birds. So their daily food intake does not include anything containing milk, cheese, butter, eggs.
Many of these people, far from being robust and healthy, tend to suffer inferior health. Their systems are deprived of the essential ingredients needed to keep them in good working order. If these ideas are inflicted on their children, especially babies, the results may be serious.
In view of the potentially serious consequences of restricted diets being given to children, families at risk should be identified and acceptable nutritional advice given.
When children are found to be suffering from undernutrition due to parental food faddism, a court order will normally be a necessary step in providing adequate treatment and supervision. That may seem a forceful statement.
Vegetarian mothers usually breastfeed their infants, often for prolonged periods, but on weaning, a vegetarian diet may be given. Children reared in this way have depressed growth rates up to the age of two years, suggesting suboptimal nutrition.
Why a vegetarian diet is bad for your babies?
Severe nutritional problems have been reported from the US in children given strict vegetarian (vegan) diets or the even more restricted extreme Zen macrobiotic diets, which largely consist of cereals.
In their early stages, infants require a high level of nutrition to allow them to grow normally. It is a time of very rapid growth, and their needs are considerable. Breastfeeding is suitable in the first months of life. Indeed, it is highly desirable. But as they become older, they need more items to provide total energy, suitable protein and vitamins.
Food fads hold no place in the raising of children, but many food faddists stick to their ideas come what may, and no amount of coaxing will mend their ways. Unfortunately, many are critical of orthodox medicine, and simply refuse to use methods which we know are in the baby’s best interests.
Already some diseases due to lack of nutriment, such as kwashiorkor, marasmus, rickets have been observed. Rickets is mainly a deficiency of Vitamin D, which upsets the body’s calcium and phosphorus distribution, both vital elements in normal bone structure and growth.
These diseases have been rare in the West in modern times, thanks to adequate food and its sensible use by most parents. They are common in the underdeveloped nations of the world. But, it seems, we may be on the brink of a recurrence of them with babies who are dependent on parents.
Mothers are urged to stick to sensible principles in infant nutrition. Even if you believe in fad diets, do not press them on your children. Results may be disastrous. If you have any doubts about your child’s food needs, discuss them with somebody well versed in child care – the baby health clinic sister or your own doctor. Be guided by their advice.