Breastfeeding and early nutrition

Development does not end at birth, and the infant continues to remain dependent upon the mother for nutrition (i.e. breastfeeding, formula/solid food supplementation). After introducing solid foods, the child is then dependent upon its environment and what is available in terms of nutritional access and quality.  As a “trading-off,” a process that initially seems beneficial as the developing baby can restrict or allow development of its organs and brain based upon the its environment, with the end goal of survival are problematic

differences, the baby is developing in the womb versus post-birth environment are problematic as baby develops and their risk of chronic disease. Poor development when in the womb does not adequately prepare the infant for facing new or different exposures once born.

While the baby is developing it may be taught, because of a lack of nutrition, to survive birth and prepare for life in an environment with little access to food. This backfire when the infant is born in an environment where food is plenty, whether this food is nutrient rich (able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables) or lacking (high-calorie, low-nutrient food products). For example, if trade-offs have been made while the baby is developing in the womb it often results in insulin resistance as a result of poor nutrition, however, the infant is born into a nutrient dense environment, their risk of obesity and chronic disease increases.  If imbalances continue throughout infancy and childhood then this increases a child’s risk of obesity and future chronic disease.

A mother’s diet while breastfeeding can also have effects on the infant similar to the mother’s diet on a developing baby. Maternal diets high in fat and cholesterol while breastfeeding may result in childhood and/or adulthood metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, increased blood pressure, and obesity.  A balanced diet of healthy protein, fruits, and vegetables provides the best basis for lactation.

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Gluckman, P., Hanson, M., & Buklijas, T. (2010). A conceptual framework for the developmental origins of health and disease. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 1(1), 6-18.

McDade, T. W., Metzger, M. W., Chyu, L., Duncan, G. J., Garfield, C., & Adam, E. K. (2014). Long-term effects of birth weight and breastfeeding duration on inflammation in early adulthood. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,281(1784), 20133116-20133116.