Breast is best for our Children (so far...)

By: Sam Brookes

Today I read about a recent study into infant formula. The results implied quite strongly that formula fortified with essential fatty acids (in this case DHA) improved the cognitive brain development of the baby. This is yet another piece of evidence to support the far reaching benefits of essential fatty acids for the brain, from infant through to the elderly.

The experiment involved 229 infants. One group were given formula from birth and were split into two groups - one given a traditional formula and the other given a formula with added DHA. A second group split in the same way were given formula from 6 weeks (after breastfeeding) and a third group from 4-6 months. At 9 months the babies were given a problem solving test. In both the "from birth" and the "from 6 weeks" groups, the babies from the DHA supplemented groups performed better in the test.

This certainly suggests that if you do choose to formula feed over breastfeed for either health or logistical reasons (for example, many mums are unable to breastfeed) it is worth choosing a formula that does supplement with essential fatty acids (and probiotics too, based on the results of other studies). However, as a mum who breastfed both my children for 9 months, what about the mums who do choose to breastfeed? Is there anything they can learn from study and other studies like this?

Of course there is. Their diet is our diet, and we must make the right choices in what we eat to ensure our children get the optimal start in life nutritionally. Breastfeeding is currently known to be the best option for the pre-weaning stage, but as infant formulas improve every year in what they have to offer, is there a competition on?

Yes there is, and so there should be! Anything that means our children get an improving nutrition has to be a good thing. So if you choose to breastfeed, that is brilliant, but don't rest on your laurels. Make sure you have a well balanced and healthy diet that includes lots of essential fatty acids through oily fish, seeds and vegetable oils. Limit your saturated fat but ensure your diet is high in calcium. Unlikely high sources of calcium include broccoli, bok choy and oranges.

But my advice would be to also take a high quality supplement that is formulated specifically for breastfeeding women. Of course we want to eat healthily, but the truth is we're often tired, usually in a rush and regularly eating on the hoof between feeds, sleeps and so on. I can't emphasise enough how important it is to steer clear of high, refined sugar foods such as biscuits and chocolate, as much for the mother's energy levels as for the child's health, but I understand that sometimes a healthy, home-cooked meal is hard to come by.

When I was breastfeeding I took a Pregnancy & Lactation Formula but many friends had recommended that i did. Of course I will never know if it made a difference to my children's' development with nothing to measure it against. But at the time it was nice to know that I had a buffer, on those nights I fell into bed after just a bowl of cereal.

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Sam worked in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years and became more interested in the role diet and nutrition plays in people's health, so her studies took her in a more nutritional direction. She now works at a company who sell health products such as Pregnancy & Lactation supplements, as well as, breast feeding supplements. For more information please visit, Totally Nourish.

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