Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition

Breastfeeding is a very important part of both the baby’s and mother’s life. Nutrition and breastfeeding are a very crucial aspect for your baby since it is the basis of which a child’s health will be for the rest of their lives!

To further discuss the importance of breastfeeding and child nutrition, I had an interview with Rym Saidi, where we explained many important titles.

For my full interview with Rym Saidi, click on this Link

Mirna Elsabbagh, Adult & Child Nutritionist - Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition

Question Number One: First of all, Can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m a nutritionist, a Mom of Kareem, and a breastfeeding specialist. 

Although I’m a nutritionist for all ages, I’m most passionate about child nutrition. I believe that child nutrition is a very crucial one as it is the foundation of a child’s health for the rest of their lives. Today we have billions of children with obesity problems, diabetes, low immunity, and many other problems. However, we can avoid all these if a mother focused on a healthy pregnancy, breastfeeding, and her child’s nutrition. Studies show that the first 1000 days of a child’s life starting from pregnancy, build up for your child’s future health. Also, you have the ability to avoid and turn off your child’s hereditary genes (like diabetes) by following healthy and accurate nutrition!

You can even set up for the right digestive system functioning through nutrition. 80% of a person’s immunity is present in their stomach and intestines! Therefore, food quality and style are VERY important for your child’s health and immunity. This is most important for babies in their first 3 months as they have no independent immune system. Instead they perceive their mother’s immunity through breastfeeding! Therefore, if you are highly immune against viruses (Corona Virus for example) your baby will share the same immunity with you. Whereas if you are giving your baby formula, he/she will be more prone to viruses. That is why babies who take their mother’s milk are less subjected to the stomach and ear inflammations, constipation and diarrhea, and even Sids. 

Question Number Two: Breastfeeding results in less constipation levels compared to formula. Can you explain why?

Logically, a formula is made of cow’s milk, which is totally strange for humans’ bodies in general, and babies’ bodies in specific. Baby’s bodies find a hard time digesting the formula, as it’s a foreign substance for them. Unlike it’s falsely spread by propaganda and society, the formula is NOT better for a baby. Breastfeeding is the best nutritional source for your baby, and it has all of the minerals and nutrients they need for healthy growth. Besides, don’t panic if your milk is light, as long as your child’s weight and body is healthy, it’s all fine! 

Remember that no rule applies to everyone, and each person has got their own case. However, in all cases, breastfeeding is the most recommended option.

Question Number Three: How accurate are the claims that say a mother’s body creates immunity against the Coronavirus and transmits it to their baby?

Should a mother keep on breastfeeding if she has the Coronavirus?

The answer is: Of course! Studies by WHO showed that a mother should keep on breastfeeding even if she has the Coronavirus since she can’t transmit this virus through her milk. Instead, she could transmit her immunity against this virus to her baby. However, a mother should make sure to wear a mask and preserve high hygiene to avoid infecting her child. 

A mother’s milk has antimicrobial properties that naturally help a baby’s immune system. Moreover, a mother’s body can sense if the baby has certain viruses or bacteria through the baby’s saliva, and therefore creates antibodies for the baby’s immunity. Let’s say a mother is breastfeeding her baby at the nursery, her body would grasp all the present bacteria and viruses present in that space, create their specific antibodies, and transmit these antibodies for her baby through her milk.

Question Number Four: What is the ideal amount of time for breastfeeding, and at what age is it recommended to stop breastfeeding?

The official recommendation by WHO is that breastfeeding should exclusively be in the first 6 months. However, new claims say that exclusive breastfeeding should be in the first months, then you’re allowed to add some soft solid food after that time. So, the range is between 4-6 months. But that doesn’t mean breastfeeding should stop after that time. American Academic Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding up to one year of age, and WHO recommends it up to 2 years. I personally recommend it for up to 2 years as long as mothers can breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a nutritious, free, and natural medicine for your child with no side effects!

Question Number Five: Should a woman restrict or stop breastfeeding if she’s pregnant?

Hormones change during pregnancy, and a woman might not be able to breastfeed anymore, so what’s recommended?

The answer is: In Theory, a mother can keep on breastfeeding while being pregnant as long as she has no medical problems.  If a woman has a high-risk pregnancy, which means having delicate conditions like age factors and miscarriage history, it might be recommended to stop breastfeeding. Also, due to hormonal change, the milk’s taste changes and the baby himself might not want to breastfeed anymore, or the mother might sense something is unconformable while breastfeeding. So basically, it differs between one mother and another. Remember that as moms we can’t do everything at once, so just try to give the best of your present capacity. Ten months is more than enough for your baby’s health if you can’t breastfeed him/her anymore. Frankly, in the Middle East, less than 15% of mothers are able to breastfeed until 6 months of age.

Question Number Six: Do hospitals in the Middle East and Arabian countries support breastfeeding like it is in Europe and America?

Sadly, No.

In western countries breastfeeding culture is more widely spread, where it is recommended to maintain a child’s health, high IQ, and productivity. Lancet-one of the biggest medical journals in the world- says that if 80% of mothers rely on breastfeeding, the world would save up to 13 billion dollars per year. 

In the Arab world, very few hospitals encourage breastfeeding and tend to give formula instead. However, if you give your baby formula, you are restricting your milk supply and production.

Also, claims that say that your body form will change or you’ll gain weight during breastfeeding are all wrong! You only gain weight during pregnancy. In fact, thanks to breastfeeding you’ll have less flabbiness in the breast area.

Question Number Seven: What about pumping? Does it help in increasing milk supply?

Usually, a mother’s body produces milk based on her baby’s need. So whether you feed your child 2 or 10 times a day, your body will produce milk accordingly. The same applies to pumping, as it stimulates more milk production and I totally recommend it. However, a pump still is not as efficient as natural breastfeeding in terms of quantity (1000 ml naturally Vs. 800 ml with pumping). 

You might ask: What if a mother is breastfeeding and pumping simultaneously to store the extra milk? What will the amount of milk supply be?

The answer is: Let’s say you produced 1000 ml today naturally and you need to pump an extra 200 ml for storage. The first time you’ll pump won’t work. However, if you pump every day at the same time, your body will produce up to 200 ml after a week.

Extra Tips:

  • Don’t panic if the pumped amount is not as much as you expected. The pump might not be placed correctly, or your body hasn’t yet adapted to it. 
  • A pump works better while connected to an electrical switch rather than batteries. 
  • Pumping in the morning helps produce more milk than at night. Hormones lead to less amounts of milk as the day goes by.

Question Number Eight: Many moms have a hard time while switching from breastfeeding to bottles, so can giving them both together be a good solution?

Yes. We have an irrational fear in the Middle East that breastfeeding would make a baby refuse to have milk from the bottle later on. That’s totally untrue. In fact, a baby gets used to any method given. Therefore, even if your baby rejects bottles at first, he/she will accept it with time. 

However, make sure to not give your baby milk from a bottle before 2 months of age, as it may cause nipple confusion.

Question Number Nine: What is the recommended diet for mothers to have a good milk supply?

Your body will keep on naturally producing milk, so all you have to do is to eat healthy meals that include all your needed nutrients and minerals. 

However, some moms avoid breastfeeding because they want to lose the extra weight and that’s wrong. A mother’s body loses around 7-8 Kg in the first month after delivery. Afterward a mother can lose around 2-3 Kg per month by following a diet without affecting her milk quality. But that does not mean you should follow a Low-carb or a Keto diet, instead, a calorie-restricted diet that includes all types of food is the right one for you. 

Fun fact: By breastfeeding, you burn around 500 calories per day. That is a greater calorie burn than a leg day at the gym (around 400 calories).

Question Number Ten: What is the right type of food to give a baby when they start eating?

Marketing plays a huge role in affecting your baby’s food choice and it is not always right. Many products like rice cereal include many types of sugars and ingredients that are not beneficial. Products that are present in the babies’ aisle or pharmacies does not mean they are good for your baby. Always read the ingredients. 

A baby after 6 months needs homemade food like vegetables, meat, fruits, eggs, fish, and any other healthy meals. Giving your baby all types of food at this age will avoid having picky eaters later. Also maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your baby can help them maintain that same style as they grow up. 

However, avoid salt, sugar, honey, and fresh dairy products.

Note: Claims that say eggs, fish, and other food are not good for the baby at 6 months of age are untrue.

Question Number Eleven: Can a mother breastfeed while fasting?

The first 2 months of breastfeeding is a sensitive time for breastfeeding and milk formation.

Therefore, fasting could be done under certain conditions: 

  • Don’t lose more than 3 kg of weight for one month. Losing a lot of weight may affect your milk supply.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Watch out for your baby. Usually, a baby should gain 600- 900 grams per month in their first 3 months, 400-500 grams in the second 3 months. Therefore, if your baby is crying, waking up at night, and taking milk more than usual while you’re fasting, then there might be a problem and you should stop.

Question Number Twelve: Can a baby take yogurt after 6 months of age?

True. A baby’s digestive system can take yogurt at the age of 6 months. If your baby had constipation after taking yogurt you should wait until 9 months to give him/her again. Also, don’t give your baby too much yogurt before 1 year of age since it is high in calcium and might affect your baby’s iron absorption.

Question Number Thirteen: What about broccoli? Do you recommend it?

ALL types of vegetables are highly recommended. If you are worried about them causing gases to your baby, let me tell you that all healthy food causes gases since they’re rich in fibers. Fibers are very important for your baby for strengthening the immune system and fighting diseases.

Question Number Fourteen: What about your recommendations for colic? Is there a certain food that increases colic during breastfeeding?

It’s worth noting here that gases aren’t transmitted through breastfeeding since they’re not substances in the bloodstream. However, caffeine or one of the dairy products can be transmitted and your baby might have stomach ache, colic, vomiting or even losing weight. If your baby suffers from these symptoms, try restricting your most recent dairy product intake, or any type of food that you think might be the reason. You should see the changes afterwards. 

Tips: 

  • Studies show that dates are very good for breastfeeding. It helps in increasing your milk quantity. 
  • Fennel tea is not so necessary unless suggested by an expert.

Question Number Fifteen: Do Parsley, Mint, and Chicory affect the milk quantity negatively?

Well, some studies show that they might decrease the milk quantity. However, don’t stress over this matter! Over-stressing and mental pressure will affect your milk quantity more than these foods can. Studies show that if you watch babies’ videos while breastfeeding you’ll produce more milk, while if you watch stressful scenes it will affect your milk flow.

Question Number Sixteen: Some babies vomit after having a formula or during breastfeeding, what could the reason be?

Some vomiting is natural and inevitable for babies. However, in some other cases the reasons could be:

During Breastfeeding:

  • The mother has a very fast flow for the baby
  • Some babies can’t control the milk flow 
  • Reflux 

With Formula:

  • The baby is in taking a lot of milk at once
  • Medical conditions like Reflux
  • The baby is intolerant to cow’s milk. You can switch to hydrolyzed formulas in this case and try it for 7 days to be sure it best suited your baby. 

Note: In extreme cases, some babies are Lactose intolerant and they can have neither their mother’s milk nor a normal formula. In this case, there’s a special type of milk for your baby.

Question Number Seventeen: At what age should the formula be stopped?

Formulas are basically used as the main alternative to the mother’s milk, to supply your baby with the needed vitamins and minerals they need as they grow before the age of one. After that age, a formula is not needed. Normal cows or coconut milk can be given for calcium and vitamin intake.

Question Number Eighteen: Do you recommend Coconut milk or Almond milk instead of cow’s milk?

This is a very controversial topic that has no specific answer! Cows’ milk now has changed due to the hormones and antibiotics the cows take. 

However, in my personal opinion, everything should be given inefficient and in small amounts. It’s not black or white! Therefore, giving your baby all types of milk in small quantities should be great. 

Tips:

  • The only reason to not give your baby cow’s milk or coconut milk is in case he/she has mineral deficiencies or allergies to dairy products. 
  • If your child is a picky eater, you might want to give them supplements or a formula.
  • Your child should take milk and calcium in his/her first 3 years to increase their growth potential that includes their height, IQ, immunity, and others.

Question Number Nineteen: At what age can a baby start eating seafood and does it cause allergies after the age of one?

Generally, there are eight allergens for humans that include milk, nuts, seafood, eggs, and others. Seafood can usually be given at the age of 6 months like any other type of food. However, start with small quantities to make sure your baby doesn’t have a bad reaction to them. 

 If your child has a seafood allergy, it will appear later on as they grow. In this case, you have to stop seafood for about 2 months to relax your child’s gut, then give it to your child again to make sure an allergy exists.

Question Number Twenty: What tips can you give to prevent babies’ choking or aspiration?

Mothers, especially in the Middle East, tend to give their babies solid food at the age of 1. This affects the baby’s ability to chew correctly. A mother should start giving his/her baby-soft solid food at the age of 8-9 months (fork mashed food, thin striped food, or fruits like mango…). Besides, don’t panic if your baby is gagging! That’s a very normal reaction for new sensations. 

Your only worry should be if your baby is choking. I advise all parents to take choking classes. However, don’t be afraid to give your child solid food, it’s actually better for them.

Tips

  • Do not put your finger in your baby’s throat if you fear they’ll choke. This won’t help your baby and might cause him/her a shock or trauma. Babies usually spit while choking by themselves, or you can hold and twist your baby downwards to help them. 
  • Allow your baby to have a positive relationship with food. Don’t push food on your baby because they’ll end up vomiting or refusing food.

Question Number Twenty-One: Some babies require less amounts of food after the age of one, what is the reason?

This happens for a lot of reasons:

  • The baby normally requires less food after 1 year of age since their growth rate decreases. 
  • Some babies become picky eaters. This is more frequent with babies eating sugar, chocolate, or biscuits so they tend to refuse less sugary foods. The solution is to limit your baby’s sugar intake.
  • The baby is building his/her character by testing your reactions. Your role here is to clarify to your baby that you are not going to force food, but rather supply him/her with their needs and they can choose what they like in terms of type and quantity. 

Tip: It is recommended to not give your baby many alternatives to meals. This leads to higher chances of having a picky eater.

Question Number Twenty-Two: What is the reason for constipation for babies? 

Constipation may be caused by: 

  • Food allergies to dairy products or gluten.
  • Your baby is not taking enough fibers, or not taking enough water with fibers.
  • If a baby is formula-fed, he/she may need probiotics.
Mirna Elsabbagh, Adult & Child Nutritionist - Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition

 

We hope this information was helpful!

 

To view my full interview with Rym Saidi about Breastfeeding and Child nutrition, click on this link

 

Mirna Sabbagh, an adult and child dietitian, nutritionist, and lactation consultant sees patients physically in Dubai, and also does online consultations for weight loss for adults and children, pick eating and  other services. In addition, she also has several digital courses: breastfeeding course,  starting solids 6-12 months course, child nutrition for all children including picky eaters, and also a weight loss course for adults that you can sign up for from the comfort of your home. You can also e-mail Mirna for questions on info@mirnaelsabbagh.com