The first few years of a child’s life are extremely critical and telling of what their nutritional health in the future will hold. All body systems develop during the first eight weeks after conception. The 3 different times that we pass on a healthy microbiome to our children are during pregnancy, vaginal birth, and while breastfeeding. While you are pregnant, probiotic use is also recommended and at 8 weeks is when the embryo’s digestive system starts to form. During vaginal birth the most important exposure to bacteria occurs as the baby travels down the birth canal and during breastfeeding, the mother’s body will produce milk that provides sufficient nutrients for your baby’s immune system.
Acupuncturists, as well as Functional medicine doctors say that the gut is the basis for all well being and that is especially true for children’s digestive health. A functional medicine approach looks at the whole child. A care plan is made that allows your child to thrive. Which means more than to just be free from illness. Thriving is when development can explode, learning may flourish, and your child can begin functioning in ways you never thought possible. Once the brain is freed from inflammation and toxicity, and nutrients flush cells that have lacked them for months or years, big shifts happen. This is Alternative medicine – it allows you to function optimally.
Another approach that I strongly recommend is called Baby Led Weaning. This method quite simply, means letting children feed themselves from the very start of weaning, by eating solid foods. The term was originally coined by Gill Rapley, a former midwife and child nutrition expert. According to the most recent research, most babies reach for food at around six months to nine months, which is also the time that mothers are being encouraged to wean their children, in accordance with the WHO guidelines.
As children grow older, their nutrition still plays a vital role in their overall health. Naturopathic Doctor Daemon Jones says, “The best way to combat obesity is to get your children excited around eating a whole foods diet that has a great balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes. These foods are high in vitamins, nutrients, including phytonutrients, fiber, proteins and healthy fats. Lean meats, chicken, and fish are good choices for proteins.
The key to changing children’s diets is to change the options of food they can choose from on a daily basis. One method is to start by changing the snacks that they are accustomed to eating. Remove the junk foods from their lunches and in between meals and replace them with healthier options. If you stop bringing snacks and junk food in the house, they will create the habit of eating better when the food is in the house. Fruits and vegetables are great snacks for children especially in the wake of the obesity epidemic that our country is facing.”
Having a healthy child means more than just being well physically. Your child’s health includes mind, body and spirit. Nutrition is very important for everyone, but it is especially important for children because it is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development; factors which will have direct ties to their level of health as adults. The core principles of Chinese medicine and nutrition are actually about creating and maintaining wellness through all life stages, however it is most important during growing and transitional years of childhood. By ensuring your children maintain healthy diets early on, you are not only helping them avoid illness but grow and thrive throughout the rest of their life.