Baby Steps Blog

Breastfed babies are the original localvores!

This past weekend we celebrated  Strolling of the Heifers, where we celebrated the wonders of slow living, local eating, and a fresh approach to life.

As you celebrate, remember that our babies, fed at the breast, are getting the very best of local foods! Infant formula is, unfortunately, full of genetically modified ingredients and manufactured ingredients – even organic formula is pretty far-from-mom.

A recent New York Times article by well-known writer Michael Pollan was startling in its conclusions and based on recent research at the University of Idaho.

The study of babies and their specialized diet has yielded key insights into how the colonization of the gut unfolds and why it matters so much to our health. One of the earliest clues to the complexity of the microbiome came from an unexpected corner: the effort to solve a mystery about milk. For years, nutrition scientists were confounded by the presence in human breast milk of certain complex carbohydrates, called oligosaccharides, which the human infant lacks the enzymes necessary to digest. Evolutionary theory argues that every component of mother’s milk should have some value to the developing baby or natural selection would have long ago discarded it as a waste of the mother’s precious resources.

It turns out the oligosaccharides are there to nourish not the baby but one particular gut bacterium called Bifidobacterium infantis, which is uniquely well-suited to break down and make use of the specific oligosaccharides present in mother’s milk. When all goes well, the bifidobacteria proliferate and dominate, helping to keep the infant healthy by crowding out less savory microbial characters before they can become established and, perhaps most important, by nurturing the integrity of the epithelium — the lining of the intestines, which plays a critical role in protecting us from infection and inflammation.

Your milk is prepared just for your baby – and its goodness reflects the goodness of your own diet. Eating good, fresh local foods will make lots of goodness available to your baby too!

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