Did you know digestion is one of the most important mechanisms/ processes in the ENTIRE body! That is pretty crazy to think, especially since the body is such an intricate being. However, when it comes to digestion, it is 100% more crucial when it comes to infants. They are constantly growing and developing and their need for nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are in high demand. An infant’s digestive system is extremely immature. This means their digestive systems are not developed and unable to properly digest and break down nutrients one their own. Remember an infant was in their mother’s womb for 9 months; Mom did all the work when it comes to digesting and sent the essential nutrients via the umbilical cord while the baby's digestive system developed.. Therefore, the baby basically hung out and got free meals. Can I get some free meals? I mean no cooking, washes dishes, hello send me back please. I want to put it out there that if you had a baby who was born preterm their digestive systems are even MORE immature compared to infants who were born full term. This means, as a parent, you MUST support the digestive system even further.
Breast milk is much more superior than formula and it has been proven in thousands of studies and research articles. Breast milk is also ideal and favoured when it comes to digestion. That is for several reasons.
1. Breast milk is pretty much 100% absorbable. This means an infant’s body has to do minimal work to get access to those nutrients that are found in Mom’s milk. Which is why breast milk is so ideal, babies need access and the ability to absorb nutrients to support their growth and development without having to do much work to get them.
2. It is also ideal for digestion because Mom’s milk provides digestive enzymes to properly digest the sugars (carbohydrates), fats and proteins (amino acids). Geee, thanks Mom! These digestive enzymes work alongside the infant’s minimal production of digestive enzymes to efficiently breakdown Mom’s milk.
3. Lastly, Mom’s milk supports digestion at an even further level. While breastfeeding, an infant comes into contact with a ton of bacteria that is found on Mom’s skin, breast and areola. This bacteria travels down the infant’s digestive tract, through the stomach, passes the small intestines and lands right in the large intestine AKA the colon. Here is where the bacteria resides. This is known as the microbiome. There are a few other microbiomes found in and on the body but we won’t get into the ATM! Anywho, this bacteria has 2 important jobs. It aids in digestion and supports the immune system. But this bacteria starts to get hungry and needs to eat to flourish. So what the heck is it supposed to eat? Well, here comes Mom’s beautiful milk, full of sugars, called oligosaccharides, that feeds these friendly bacteria. OMG Mom, thanks girl!
Formula Fed Babies
Sometimes breastfeeding isn’t an option and sometimes it is too difficult for some Mothers, some Mamas don’t know of any other resources to help increase their low milk supply or some Moms just simply can’t breastfeed because their milk supply is dry. If you fall under one of these categories, Girl, I feel you and I know that struggle. But when it comes to formula it is probably one of the WORST things for the digestive system because the digestive system seriously can’t even deal.
What’s wrong with formula?
Here's what's up:
1. Commercial brands include large molecules like dairy and soy. The immature digestive system has no clue what to do with these large molecules because it is not equipped with enough digestive enzymes to break it down efficiently. Therefore, the digestive system becomes overwhelmed. This is where some parents can see reactions to the formula like: colic, constipation, gas, bloating, reactions on the skin like rashes.
2. These large molecules end up passing through the small intestine’s junctions and end up in the bloodstream. When this happens the immune system flags it as invaders and builds antibodies to attack those dairy and soy molecules. Now everytime that same formula is consumed, the immune system will basically attack the formula, more specifically the dairy and soy molecules. This triggers an allergic response such as: baby acne, rash and eczema. This whole process of consuming, undigested foods/formula passing into the bloodstream, the immune system flagging it as invaders and creating antibodies to attack those undigested food particles is known as a Leaky Gut Syndrome (which is totally fixable) and even occurs in breastfed babies.
3. Formula does not contain digestive enzymes like breast milk does. This means the digestive system becomes overwhelmed, even burdened and struggles with breaking it down to get essential nutrients for the baby.
4. Formula fed babies are not exposed to the good bacteria on Mom’s breast. Now this isn’t to say formula fed babies won’t get these good bacteria. They had the opportunity to be exposed to these good bugs if they were born via the vaginal canal. These formula fed babes can also get exposed to good bacteria if Mom and/ or Dad do a lot of skin to skin contact because the skin is full of good bacteria. Parents can also give an oral probiotic supplement to their infants.
5. Formula fed babies are more susceptible to digestive disturbances, leaky gut (reread point #2 to understand what leaky gut is) and food sensitivities that are caused by a leaky gut. Breastfed babies can also experience a leaky gut, especially if Mom is consuming something which passes through her breast milk and leads to irritating their babies digestive tract.
This is the time where parents MUST pay attention to their infant’s digestive system to better support their health. Adults who experienced digestive disturbances as an infant and never had it addressed, often grow up with a compromised digestive system. These adults can be dealing with ailments like: autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, colitis, multiple food sensitivities, multiple chemical sensitivities, seasonal allergies, bloating, poor brain function, constipation and/or diarrhea, malnourishment and skin issues like eczema or acne. Knowing all of this, parents should make digestive support a priority to reduce and eliminate these chances and help raise mindful eaters.
Food for Mindful Thoughts:
Why is it that we are not taught the importance of digestion as we get old, especially those of use who become parents? Is it because we have a flawed medical and educational system? Do they want to empower us with knowledge? Are pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma) wanting people to grow up with compromised digestive systems so they can profit off of these people? Are we being denied essential information so companies can bank in on this?
Let me know your thoughts below!