Bringing a child into the world can be a scary endeavor, and getting the health facts straight about what to consume (or avoid) during pregnancy and after the baby is born can be daunting. Contradicting health headlines and commentary-filled social media feeds bombard expectant mothers with fears and concerns they may have never considered.
It can be difficult for new moms to navigate through the old wives tales and unsaid rules of pregnancy. However, as more information and studies are published, old theories are being discredited and giving way to new practices. To avoid confusing facts with fiction, it’s important for expectant mothers to pay attention and to seek the advice of their health providers.
In the age of minute-to-minute digital information, I caution mothers on fables and facts when it comes to these critical issues surrounding babies, bottles and booze.Fable: Breast is Best Fact: Formula is Fine (and carrageenan is vital)
We’ve all heard the familiar “breast is best” mantra, however it’s not the only nutritious option for baby, and new moms should not worry that they are providing insufficient nutrition for their baby if they have to supplement with formula or use it exclusively.
A scare tactic used against mothers regarding formula is that formula contains an ingredient called carrageenan
that food fear-mongers claim is not safe – but this could not be further from the truth. Carrageenan is a naturally occurring ingredient extracted from edible red seaweed and used in infant formula to ensure those vital nutrients remain mixed throughout the fluid and prevent settling on the bottom, which is particularly important for babies who are fussy and may not drink an entire bottle in one feeding.
Current human clinical trials
have noted that it has other beneficial properties besides keeping ingredients mixed together — it reduces inflammation, cholesterol
, and exhibits antiviral properties —particularly for those viruses which plague us during cold and flu season
. The FDA, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all confirmed carrageenan’s safety in human consumption.
Not only is it healthy and safe, carrageenan seaweeds are sustainably harvested and responsible for employing 75,000 farmers in economies globally, which is another reason to feel good about feeding your baby infant formula. Fable: A Little Wine is FineFact: Have a Mocktail Instead
I advise any woman who becomes pregnant, or is pregnant, to avoid alcohol completely. Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in the United States and several negative effects of alcohol regarding babies are grouped together under the term fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). There is no type or amount of alcohol that is safe to consume when it comes FASDs, which can result in children with small head size, short stature, clumsiness, hyperactivity, poor attention span, delayed speech and language, learning disabilities, low IQ, visual defects or hearing defects, as well as heart, kidney or bone defects.
With breastfeeding, the alcohol does not transfer straight into the breast milk; however erring on the side of caution is best when considering alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. A baby’s brain is developing rapidly in the first year of life so it’s advisable to provide the best opportunity possible for high-functioning development and stay as pure as feasible while breastfeeding.Fable: Mom’s Milk OnlyFact: Share with Care
While all mothers aren’t necessarily able to either produce or feed their child their own milk, there is a way to provide access to pasteurized donor human milk, if they choose. The World Health Organization lists “wet-nursing” and milk banks as being equal alternatives when mothers own milk is not available.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America accredits nonprofit milk banks in the United States and Canada and sets guidelines for pasteurized donor milk. The milk is screened, pooled, and tested so it can be dispensed to hospitals and families in need. All donor mothers are screened before approval, and pasteurization eliminates harmful bacteria or other potential infecting organisms. A number of nutritional elements are lost in the process, but mothers can supplement with high-grade formula.
In addition to getting the health facts straight on these misleading mommy mantras, it’s important that babies and children are routinely seen by a health provider to monitor growth and developmental milestones. I encourage expectant mothers to pay attention and ask questions to avoid confusing facts with fiction!