- Pregnancy & Childbirth
- Attachment Parenting
- Family Nutrition
- Family Wellness
The earlier you start growing a lean child, the greater the chance you'll be the parent of a lean adult. You've heard that the first three years are "formative years" for intellectual and psychological development. Well, these are also important years for forming healthy eating habits. The nutritional habits acquired by the toddler become her norms. This is when she learns what eating is all about and recognizes "This is how my body is supposed to feel." If the toddler grows up lean, with a lean set point, the child is more likely to stay lean. Try these seven ways to start your baby off lean.
Breastfeeding leaves the infant in control of the feedings, how much he takes, and with a responsive mother, how often he eats. The bottle-feeding mother can take control of the feeding away from the baby. She counts ounces and watches the clock. A breastfeeding mother is more likely to watch the baby for cues. As she reinforces the baby's cues, he learns to trust his body's signals. An interesting study showed that formula-fed infants, if allowed to determine for themselves how much formula to drink, can self-regulate the total daily calories quite well. Six- week-old infants can adjust their formula intake according to their calorie needs. If the experimenter substituted a more dilute, lower calorie formula, the infants drank more, making adjustments for the lower energy levels. With bottlefeeding, maternal control can override the infant's automatic regulatory ability as mother urges the baby to take "just a little bit more." Baby comes to expect that "stuffed" feeling after a meal and eventually seeks it out for herself.
A breastfed baby gets custom-calorie milk. The fat content of breastmilk changes during each feeding and also at different periods of the day. At the beginning of a nursing, when a baby is most hungry, she gets a large volume of foremilk, rich in protein and carbohydrates, but low in calories. If the baby is very hungry, he continues sucking and the fat levels in the milk rise (the "hindmilk"), telling the infant that it's time to slow down because his tummy is getting full. When you watch breastfeeding babies at the end of a feeding, you will notice how they radiate contentment, sucking needs and appetite both completely satisfied. When a breastfeeding baby is thirsty rather than hungry, or just wants to soothe himself, baby sucks in a way that makes the breast deliver only the lower calorie foremilk for a quick pick-me-up or some "calm me down" comfort. A formula-fed baby receives the same kind of formula, regardless of whether he is hungry, thirsty, or just needs to suck for comfort. Responding to the baby or toddler's different needs for food and comfort is more complicated with bottle-feedings. Allowing a toddler to walk around with a bottle just to "keep him quiet" or offering formula at every peep from an infant could condition the child to connect eating with comforting. Breastfeeding conditions the child to connect comfort with a person. Developmentally these are known as patterns of association, whereby an infant stores in the file library of their developing brain these associations to be replayed later on.
The fat content of mother's milk changes as baby's growth decelerates. Breastmilk changes from "whole milk" to "reduced fat" sometime during the second half of the first year, another biological sign that Mother Nature favors leanness. In fact, recent research has shown that breastfed babies, after the first four to six months, are leaner than their formula-fed peers, as they gain proportionally more height than weight. Formula-fed babies tend to get solid foods earlier and gain proportionally more weight than height, suggesting an early tendency away from leanness.