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Focus on food — a foundation for a disease free health

By Velonda Thompson, Ph.D.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “foundation” as the basis on which a thing stands, is founded or is supported. The growth and development of human life is dependent on the soundness and quality of that which makes up its foundation. Let’s be clear, when it comes to human health, first foods feed the foundation for future health.  This raises the question: What foundation is being laid for future generations?

The Journal of Pediatrics reported nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars could be saved each year if more new moms would breast feed their babies.  The race to old age begins with baby’s first taste. The World Health Organization says, “Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. Healthy infants become healthy adults. Along the way they have better growth and development as well as healthier weights; i.e. reduced childhood obesity.

Breast milk is the natural first food for babies; it provides all the energy and nutrients the infant needs for the first months of life. It also continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year. Additionally, breast milk can provide up to one-third of a child’s energy and nutrient needs during the second year of life. Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness. Mothers who breast feed benefit just as much as their breastfed babies. According to WHO, breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers by reducing their risk for ovarian and breast cancer.

There are endless benefits to breastfeeding, but the risk of not breastfeeding is significant. Consider the ABCs of the consequences of not breastfeeding:

A – Asthma

B – Bronchitis

C – Celiac Disease

E – Eating Disorders

F – Food Allergies

G – Gastro-intestinal issues

H – Hodgkin’s Disease

I – Immune-regulatory diseases

J – Jaw development problems

K – Kidney transplant failure

L – Leukemia

M – Meningitis

N – Neurological disorders

O – Otitis Media (middle ear infection)

P – Pneumonia

Q – Quantifiable IQ deficit

R – Respiratory problems

S – SIDS

T – Tongue thrusts

U– Ulcerative Colitis

V– Viral infections

W – Water intoxication

X – eXcessive weight gain

Y – Yucky diapers

Z – Zinc deficiency

The experience of breastfeeding is special for so many reasons — the joyful bonding with your baby, the cost savings, and the health benefits for both mother and baby.  The list of breastfeeding advantages spans from A to Z :

A – Antibodies are immediately available to the baby

B – Brain development is optimal

C – Constipation is avoided

D – Fewer dental problems

E – Enhances mother baby bond

F – Food for baby is always fresh

G – Great way to meet emotional needs

H – Human milk

I – Inexpensive

J – Joyful experience

K – less time in the Kitchen

L – Less spitting up

M – delays postpartum Menstruation

N – Night feedings are easier

O – prevents Overfeeding

P – Provides mothers with prolactin

Q – Quiet time together

R – less Rash

S – Satisfies all the senses

T – always the right Temperature

U – Uniquely suited to each baby

V – Valuable for premature babies

W – supports mother’s Weight loss

X – eXtra cuddling time

Y – Yummy

Z – Zillions more advantages

While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behavior, just like our food choices. Additionally, home, work, community and our health systems must support the process. Thankfully, the new Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant and nursing women. These services may be provided before and after you have your baby.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture manages the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — known as the WIC Program. Since a major goal of the WIC Program is to improve the nutritional status of infants, WIC mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their infants. WIC has historically promoted breastfeeding to all pregnant women as the optimal infant feeding choice, unless medically contraindicated. Highlights of the WIC program include:

- WIC mothers choosing to breastfeed are provided information through counseling and breastfeeding educational materials.

- Breastfeeding mothers receive follow-up support through peer counselors.

- Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to participate in WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers.

- Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their infants receive an enhanced food package.

First food fuels a healthy nation and breast milk is the best milk!

Dr. Velonda Thompson serves as the Manager of the Women’s, Infant and Children program and the Breastfeeding Coordinator at The Institute for Population Health. She is a member of the Detroit Food Policy Council, a nutritionist, professor and cookbook author (Beyond Candied Yams & Sweet Potato Pie) who appears regularly on the FOX2 Meatless Monday’s segment with Deanna Centafontti. She can be reached at drvelonda@gmail.com

 

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