Ever since publishing my eBook, Baby’s First Foods, and actively posting on Instagram #whathanleyseating, I’ve received many messages from moms with concern regarding their baby or toddler’s belly issues. I found myself asking all of them the same series of questions and giving almost the exact advice/protocol for each child’s issue. While I welcome talking this out with other moms, I thought that I would create a blog post where I mention all of the important things that we as parents can be doing to promote a healthy gut and immune system for our little ones.
The issues that I’ve heard from these mommies were any or all of the following:
- Acid reflux
- Eczema (or other skin issues)
- Gas/bloating (causing irritability/crying)
- Recurring ear infections
- Constant congestion and/or colds
- Allergies to foods/pets
The commonality between ALL of these symptoms is that they are directly related to the gut; and, when these symptoms are present, it’s a sign that the gut may need some TLC. For each one of those mommies, I walked them through a series of tips to help repair their little one’s gut lining by mentioning some foods they might want to avoid feeding to their children, and adding in foods/supplements to help soothe their bellies and increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
First, here are a few questions that I asked all of these moms and why I asked them:
- Was your baby a vaginal or C-section birth? When a baby glides down the vaginal canal, it is exposed to its first dose of probiotics from its mommy’s wise body. For some moms, an unexpected (or planned) C-section takes place, and their baby may not have been exposed to that beneficial bacteria at the very first few moments of life. Also, depending on how the baby was positioned inside a mommy’s body can affect the positioning of their tiny developing organs. Sometimes, during a C-section delivery, even the way that a doctor handled and removed the baby could have caused a slight misalignment such as a hiatal hernia and/or acid reflux. This may be something to consider.
- Was your baby breastfed? If so, for how long? If formula fed, when was it introduced and what brand was given? You’ve probably heard the phrase “breast is best” and for good reason. Breast milk is the perfect food for nourishing a newborn baby. I want to be clear to every reader that there is no judgement here about whether or not you choose, or chose, to breastfeed your baby, or for how long. ANY amount of breastmilk given to a child is a blessing. As the World Health Organization states,
“Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.
Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
When discussing these issues with moms, having an idea of how much breastmilk baby was exposed to is a helpful insight for me. If the baby was formula fed, I then research the brand and specific formula. Sadly, the vast majority of the infant formulas on the market are made up of genetically modified (GMO) sugar and/or soy, non-organic cow’s milk, refined and/or artificial sugars, thickening agents, and a host of other additives – all ingredients that we as humans should not be exposed to, most especially a newborn baby. Luckily, there are a few companies that are hard at work doing their best to perfect a “clean” baby’s formula…maybe I can write a future blog post on some of those brands.
- When were solid foods introduced to your baby, and what were their first foods? As I explain in my eBook, many pediatricians tend to start encouraging parents to offer food to their babies around 4 months of age. This is way too early. A baby’s tummy is still forming during this time. Their intestinal walls really aren’t walls at all just yet, and they need a bit more time to develop. The gut walls are permeable, which will allow solid foods to seep through them and into their bloodstream, alarming the body that there is a “foreign invader.” I explain in my book how important it is to wait for your baby’s (clear) cues that they will give you when they are ready for food. For example, when they can effortlessly sit up on their own, this action demonstrates that their belly/digestive muscles have formed. Or, another sign is when they show interest in the food that you’re eating by reaching out for it and/or making a chewing motion with their mouth. This is an indication that their system is developed and may be ready for food. Introducing foods too early can be an injustice to their little bodies, especially when it’s certain foods. For instance, the most commonly recommended first food for babies is rice cereal. Just because it’s commonly recommended doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right food for their body. A baby’s new digestive system can only handle foods that are similar to breast milk composition, which is essentially fat, sugar and protein. Babies will actually thrive on (pureed) meats, as they’re actually easiest to digest for them at this point. Starch and carbs will be the last foods that you introduce to your child, because months after eating solids they will finally start creating the enzyme, amylase, to be able to digest them. Hanley did not start eating grains until one year of age, and then he was introduced to legumes and beans around 18 months. Easy to digest, nutrient dense foods are the most important thing a baby can eat. For example (and obviously this is what my whole eBook is about): mashed avocado, soft boiled egg yolk (not the albumen, or white part of the egg, at this point) or mashed banana are all gentle first foods for a baby’s belly.
- Has your child been on antibiotics for an illness? If so, for what ailment and how many times? While antibiotics are helpful in treating specific maladies and have the potential to save lives, they tend to be totally over-prescribed in the world of modern medicine. An illness doesn’t always require a round of antibiotics. For the sake of this conversation, let’s use the example of an ear infection. This is one of the few informative articles that Chris Kresser writes about when it comes to ear infections in children. Sometimes it’s a matter of just waiting, as he suggests, using simple home remedies to soothe their symptoms. I know in my own experience with my son, he’s been teething ever since 4 months old (I’m writing this while he’s 21 months and he is still teething). He expresses many “teething symptoms” regularly, such as constantly yanking or rubbing his ears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had relatives mention how I should make an appointment to see if he has an ear infection. As a concerned mom, I do occasionally bring him to the pediatrician, especially when other alarming symptoms are present. Fortunately, so far, for every appointment his ears have been fine. In his case, when his teeth are really bad that’s just how he reacts to the pain. Being attuned to his behavior and symptoms (as we all are as attentive mothers), I was able to trust my instincts to “wait it out” regarding many pediatric visits. While I am confident in my pediatrician’s judgment , I suspect that if every time he pulled on his ears and I had rushed him to the doctor, he might have been on over 10 rounds of antibiotics at this point in his life. Beyond that example, it’s important to know that anytime a course of antibiotics is prescribed, they wipe out ALL of the bacteria in our bodies, both good and bad. And when we are not educated on how to replenish the good bacteria, we may experience uncomfortable symptoms because of it since our gut flora was never properly tended to.
- Do you give your child any vitamins or supplements? This gives me an idea of what a baby or child is getting beyond breastmilk, formula or solid foods for nutrients. It’s something I like to ask because it’s important that all bases are covered. However, I do believe it’s best to obtain all vitamins/nutrients/minerals from foods FIRST and then supplement as a back-up plan.
Getting the answers to these questions and understanding the above mentioned symptoms will help you discover the best way to help your baby and resolve any digestive issues.
Please read the following posts which cover some of these issues in greater depth:
This information is here to help support your along your child’s health journey and not to replace any medical advice or diagnosis. Be sure to keep in constant contact with your child’s pediatrician and most importantly trust your instincts as a parent. Know that I’m always here for further assistance. Wishing you and your child a happy and healthy gut!
I hope that you found it helpful. If you haven’t already purchased my e-Book, please use the code babyfood5 for $5 off. Thank you for your support.