It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and a new report out from The Global Breastfeeding Collective finds that as a planet, we’re not doing so well when it comes to exclusive breastfeeding goals.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (meaning nothing other than breastmilk given to baby) for the first 6 months of life.
Breastfeeding, which helps lower infant mortality rates and increases optimal development in infants, also brings huge economic benefits to families and the countries they reside in.
But currently none of the countries evaluated – rich or poor – are doing enough to help encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.
A few sobering statistics from the report:
- Only 40% of infants are exclusively breastfed for 6 months per the WHO recommendations
- Increasing that to 50% by 2025 would save the lives of more than 500,000 young children
- Highest exclusive BF rates at 6 months are in Rwanda and Burundi at 87 and 83%, respectively
- Lowest exclusive BF rates at 6 months are in Chad and Djibouti at 0 and 1%, respectively
Here in the US, only 25% of babies are exclusively breastfed.
Authors of the report recommend a number of ways to increase global breastfeeding rates. These include cracking down on advertising of infant formula which supplants breastfeeding and advocating for paid maternity leave for parents.
To learn more about the positive impact that breastfeeding can have on individual children, their larger families and communities and countries, check out the UNICEF page that promotes exclusive breastfeeding here.
There are a lot of ways to feed a baby…and one of the more popular approaches is modeled on the philosophy called baby-led weaning. With baby-led weaning, you bypass spoon-feeding of pureed food and encourage babies to self-feed age appropriate foods.
Although the practice of allowing a baby to self-feed has been around for generations, the term was only recently coined by British feeding expert and author of the Baby-Led Weaning Book, Gill Rapley, PhD. Proponents of this approach say it encourages independence, helps babies respond to their hunger and fullness cues and decreases picky eating later in life.
But as with any claim you want to make in the health and wellbeing space…you better have some data to back it up!
A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding resulted in children who had less food fussiness (i.e., picky eating) – a finding also replicated in previous studies. This new study also found that these self-fed babies also did not exhibit any signs of growth faltering – meaning that a baby-led approach to feeding can likely meet a healthy baby’s nutrition needs.
Some proponents of the baby-led approach to feeding maintain that it leads to healthier weight and can help prevent overweight and obesity down the line (compared to spoon-feeding). This particular study indicated that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding does not appear to reduce risk for overweight compared with traditional feeding practices (although it didn’t increase risk of underweight either!)
The study was part of the 2-year Baby-Led Introduction to Solids (BLISS) randomized clinical trial and it included 206 women followed from pregnancy in New Zealand. Although this particular study was small, it is an important contribution to the growing body of literature that supports a baby-led approach to feeding as a viable and safe alternative to spoon-feeding.
There’s not always a ton of good news on the kids nutrition front. But here’s a little bright spot: according to the USDA, more kids are eating fruits and vegetables.
While the majority of kids still don’t meet the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables consumed per day, at least intake levels are on the rise.
Not surprisingly, on a daily basis, kids do eat more servings of fruit than they do vegetables. Based on a recent analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2010), here’s what’s happening:
- 77% of kids aged 2–19 years ate fruit on a given day
- Almost 92% of those aged 2–19 years ate vegetables on a given day.
- Nine out of 10 kids aged 2–5 years consumed fruit, while only 6 out of 10 adolescents ate fruit on a given day.
- More children aged 2–5 years than adolescents consumed vegetables on a given day.
So if you have kids at home, be sure to include at least one fruit or vegetable at each meal…and more if possible!
Babies, toddlers and young children who are exposed to a greater variety of foods are more likely to continue those patterns into adolescence and adulthood.
Cruise the dairy aisle of your nearest grocery store and the “milk” aisle will blow you away.
Most likely because there’s a decreasing amount of conventional cow’s milk available for sale but a LOT of milk alternatives.
So what exactly is a milk alternative – and who might benefit from drinking one?
Milk alternatives are non-cow’s milk beverages that provide some (or in some cases, all) of the nutrient benefits of milk.
These includes foods like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk and rice milk.
But you have to be careful when it comes to milk substitutes because not all of them are created the same.
Cow’s milk is hands down the best source of dietary calcium. It is very well absorbed and found in higher quantities in dairy foods than in any other food category.
But some people can’t handle cow’s milk, either because of allergy, intolerance, or personal preference.
Most milk substitutes today do contain calcium – but always check your labels. There’s no point in drinking a milk substitute if it is not fortified with calcium.
Cow’s milk is a great source of protein, with about 8 grams per cup of cow’s milk. Many milk substitutes do contain protein, but some don’t have as much as you would think.
A good example of this is almond milk. Almond milk (even though it comes from high protein almonds) retains very little protein after processing.
You’re likely getting enough protein elsewhere in your diet, but especially for children you want to make sure that almond milk is a good fit (by checking with your primary care practitioner or dietitian) if you’re withholding cow’s milk for whatever reason.
Cow’s milk contains 12 grams of sugar per cup – but it’s naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose.
Many milk substitutes have added sugar in the form of vanilla or other flavoring. Nobody needs to be getting added sugars from their milk substitutes, so look instead for plain or unsweetened versions if you’re looking at a substitutes.
The bottom line is: milk alternatives can be a good way for a person who doesn’t drink cow’s milk to get some important nutrients. You do have to be an educated consumer though, and read those labels, to make sure you’re really getting the best bet when it comes to an alternative.
An interesting article in today’s New York Times questioned whether or not the food industry should sneak fruits and vegetable into kids foods.
Oh Yes Foods, a California company recently debuted a pizza that contains 12 different types of dehydrated fruits and vegetables: kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, green peppers, onion, butternut squash, artichoke, papaya and guava. One serving of this pizza boasts over 5 servings of fruits and vegetables – certainly more than most kids eat in a day…but in pizza?
What kind of message is this sending to kids? To be fair – most packaged and processed kids foods are laden with sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats. But to take a traditionally unhealthy food like pizza and then pack it full of fruits and vegetables, is that the right approach?
The Oh Yes Foods founders are both physicians and claimed they were inspired by an overly picky child who wouldn’t touch traditional forms of fruits or vegetables. But were they aware that it can take more than 15 times of introducing a new food to a kid before he or she accepts it?
Child nutrition experts caution against hiding or sneaking healthy foods into unhealthy packages like pizza and brownies. Oftentimes the added ingredients needed to “mask” the flavor of foods that don’t naturally belong there can do more harm than good.
If your kid doesn’t like fruits and veggies – don’t despair. Here are a few simple tips for boosting nutrition in a more natural way before resorting to powered up pizza!
- Get down with dips – kids LOVE to dip. Try yogurt-based dressings for dipping fruit and veggie slices
- Fortify your favorite foods – got a kid who loves pasta? Why not add cooked zucchini and carrots to the sauce?
- Relentlessly return to less-than-favorite foods – don’t forget some kids may need to see and try a certain food over and over and over before they accept it. Mix up your mode of delivery, add additional flavors and sauces, try fixing it a different way – but don’t give up after one shot!
For years the medical community maintained that delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods might help prevent food allergy. But a new body of literature indicates that the opposite might actually be true: early introduction (at less than one year of life) might actually be protective against later food allergy.
A meta-analysis published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 146 previously conducted studies that analyzed over 200,000 children. The researchers found that compared to later introduction of the respective foods:
- Introduction of peanuts between 4-11 months resulted in a 30% reduced risk of peanut allergy
- Introduction of eggs between 4-6 months resulted in a 70% reduced risk of egg allergy
Of course some precautions still need to be taken:
- Parents and caregivers of a baby who already has a food allergy or food-related eczema should take additional precautions
- Parents and caregivers of a baby who is at high risk for developing food allergy (usually because of established food allergy in other family members) should seek additional advice from their primary caregiver
For more information on food allergy visit the Food Allergy Resource and Education (FARE) website.