How Newborns Teach Us About Food

Unraveling obesity in modern society, together. Helping parents to make simple changes early in hopes to gain a better life for their children.

Weight. Why has this word become so cringe worthy in modern society? Why does it feel as if the weight discussion has been completely exhausted? Oh, because it has. Here we are in 2018, and obesity is still one of the biggest health concerns we face as medical professionals. My goal is to begin to help modern society understand why we are failing in caring for our obese patients. As a medical professional, I took an oath to take all the steps necessary to provide excellent medical care to my patients. I sit here today wondering if I am truly providing the best care if half of my patients are facing shortened lifespans, multiple medical co-morbidities and depression due to their obesity.

When I see children in the office with chronic ear infections that are not healed by several courses of antibiotics, I refer them for ear tube placement. My patients with chronic migraines are followed closely by some of the best neurologists who carefully discover the most perfect, individualized cocktail of medicine for the child. As for my plan when I consult with one of my overweight children….”increase exercise and decrease portions, recheck your weight in two months.” I could kick myself as I type this because I know I am providing absolutely no service to my patients or their parents with my short phrase of “medical advice.” In fact, I just asked the nice gentleman sitting next to me at Starbucks what he thinks it takes for children to lose weight and his answer went something like this “Um, lets see…play outside more and stop eating so much food.” This gentleman who happens to have a Masters of Art degree did not attend any type of medical class during his several years of school and came up with the same medical advice I give my patients.

Food is a good thing.  Always remember that line.  Food is a GOOD thing.   As a parent, your number one job is to feed your child. So how did we go from giving our children nutrients essential for survival to potentially shortening their lives by creating a nation of childhood obesity? I have always been a fan of the line: “eat to live, rather than live to eat.” Newborns may be the most simplified version of this quote; they awake every 2-3 hours, cry, eat their food and fall back asleep until they awake hungry again. If they overfeed, they are usually overcome with large amounts of spit up and indigestion, at which point their caregivers cut back half an ounce for the next feeding. These helpless babies rely on their bodies to tell them when they are hungry or if they overate. Parents should have the same method of feeding, as their child grows through infancy and childhood, until the child can make his or her own food choices as an adolescent. Always remember, children do not rule the parents.  The parents are always in control. Never allow your child to have control over you, especially when it comes to nutrition in early childhood.

Newborns, we have covered, feed when they are hungry…..OK so of course it is not that simple. Remember though, every cry is not a hungry cry. If a child has recently eaten with no vomiting after the feed, stimulate the child in other ways such as singing, rocking, swaddling and holding the baby. We do not need to feed at the first sign of unhappiness or discomfort.  The baby will have to learn other tactics to soothe themselves.  Incorporating the five senses in your newborn’s everyday life can help your newborn’s nutritional transition from infancy to toddler to child. Hear me out on the “five senses theory.” Smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing are important to everyday life and should be balanced. A parent’s touch, the smell of something new, a mother’s voice and seeing a toy full of lights should be able to give a baby the same “comfort” as a bottle. The idea that we have five different senses to help sooth us as human beings may help set your child up for a healthy relationship with food. When your child is eight years old and he/she has an encounter with bullying for the first time, he/she may be able to cope with their emotional stress using music or having a discussion,  rather than turning solely to food. Do you see where I am getting at with this discussion?  Music and discussions can comfort us in the same way  a piece of chocolate cake can,  but we must put all of our senses to use and start young.  Very young.

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