If you have ever spent any significant amount of time around a newborn, I am sure you will agree that you can almost see them growing right in front of your eyes. Growth spurts will be the trend throughout childhood, the teens and early twenties, but from birth to about the age of three is an unparalelled period of growth for the human child. In order to sustain this rapid growth period as well as the growth spurts that follow, proper nutrition is essential. Through the mid 20th century, as bottle feeding became more and more popular, the decline in breastfeeding was dramatic.
A mere 25 percent of mothers were breastfeeding their newborns (Papalia, Olds & Feldman, 2008). Unfortunately, little was understood in regards to the ramifications of women’s decision to bottle feed instead of breast feed. It is quickly becoming common knowledge that breastfeeding is the ideal feeding solution for almost every newborn. What is not common knowledge, is exactly what benefits come from feeding newborns a mother’s milk. While there have been wonderful advances in the development of infant formulas, there is still no replacement for breast milk. Both for the benefit of the mother and the child.
There is a wonderfully long list of preventable illnesses as well as health benefits that come from breast feeding. A few of the illnesses prevented are respiratory infections, staphylococcal, bacterial, and urinary tract infections (AAP Section on Breastfeeding, 2005; Black, Morris, & Bryce, 2003). There is also hard data that suggests that the number of infant mortalities drops significantly when breastfeeding is the primary means of nutrition for an infant (Habicht, Davanzo & Butz, 1986) Beyond the infant years, nutrition becomes less of an emotionally bonding act, but is no less important.
Malnutrition is a leading cause of death in children throughout the world (Murray & Lopez, 1997). Proper nutrition supports all areas of development for a child and allows a child to reach full growth potential as well as prepares him or her for a healthy life beyond adolescense. A healthy diet also helps to maintain healthy weight. It is important that a childs diet consists of healthy food. Being on the opposite end of malnutrition can be just as harmful in the long run as being malnourished. According to Ogden, Flegal, Carroll & Johnson (2000), the prevalence of overweight in a sample of 4722 children was 15. % among 12- through 19-year-olds, 15. 3% among 6- through 11-year-olds, and 10. 4% among 2- through 5-year-olds, compared with 10. 5%, 11. 3%, and 7. 2%, respectively, in 1988-1994. This number of overweight children has become an alarming trend here in the United States. Both ends of the nutrition spectrum can mean major problems for children throughout there entire lives. That is why it is imperative that nutrtition become a main and lasting concern with children from birth, through adolescence and into adulthood.