This is a 4-topic series focused on nutrition for babies and toddlers with eczema. I’m passionate about nutrition and believe that it’s of utmost importance to our health – after all, it’s one of the daily survival activities of breathe, drink, eat and sleep! I’m honored to have Judy Converse, founder of Nutrition Care for Children LLC, to help out in this series. Judy is a licensed nutritionist, a registered dietitian for more than 20 years and authored the first web-interface accredited learning module for health care providers on nutrition and autism.
More on Judy Converse, MPH RD LD – Judy has a master’s degree in public health nutrition and a bachelor’s degree in food science and human nutrition. She authored 3 books including Special Needs Kids Go Pharm-Free and Special Needs Kids Eat Right: Strategies to Help Kids on the Autism Spectrum Focus, Learn and Thrive. She has also testified for safer vaccines and consulted with industry partners on specialized formulas for infants and children with inflammatory conditions. Judy is available for nutrition consultation at http://www.NutritionCare.net
Newborn – Just Milk but Complicated
Last week, we’ve learnt lots from Judy on hydrolyzed milk formula and she has provided a systematic analysis of alternatives.
MarcieMom: Let’s talk about the scenario where the child has no cow’s milk allergy and parents can decide among the many brands of formula cow milk. I’ve read about the toxins in formula milk – the antibiotics given to the cows and the cows eating a diet of genetically modified corn. I’ve also seen babies who drank lots of formula milk growing very big, exceeding far more than 100% on the growth chart. Is there (i) any conclusive study done on formula milk and its impact on the child’s health, (ii) does formula milk contain toxins and is it inflammatory? (if yes, which ingredient makes it so?) and (iii) how soon should parents attempt to replace formula milk with solid food that are rich in protein, calcium, vitamins and other minerals?
Judy: Breast milk is best, hands down. We’ve all heard that, and it is still true. There are so many immune modulating components in human milk that formula will never be able to emulate. It is so powerful in this regard, that it may outperform vaccinations in protecting the baby (see my blog post on this topic). Its impact on gut biome and long term immune function is just emerging in the literature. Unfortunately there are toxins in breast milk too, simply because we now live in a toxin filled world. These concentrate in breast milk. Rather than not breast feed, I would like to see women become conscious prior to pregnancy about eliminating toxins from their diets. Begin early to eat very healthfully, avoid pesticides, poor air quality, heavy metals, and other toxins. Consider working with providers who can help you detoxify prior to conception.
Meanwhile, yes, it is often easier for babies to gain and grow on commercial formula, as long as they are not allergic/sensitive to it. Bottle-feeding can offer faster delivery, so more is taken per feeding. But “more and faster” is not necessarily better. The carbohydrate source is often corn syrup, which is troubling for weight gain in older children. And yes all these ingredients – unless you have an organic formula – may come from genetically modified sources. I think there are enough data implying that GMO foods may be more allergenic to consider avoiding these entirely for a newborn, or during pregnancy. This is a big debate. For more info, parents can visit ResponsibleTechnology.org. Click on the link for health professionals, then on the “state of the science” link.
Solids can be introduced once your baby is able to sit well unassisted, can hold his head up, and is able to move soft foods to back of tongue and swallow them safely with a little practice. This can be around six months, but later is okay too. This might also depend on your baby’s growth pattern. Some will want solids sooner than others.
MarcieMom: Let’s talk about the scenario where the child has cow’s milk allergy. What would be the cow’s milk alternative? Fully hydrolyzed formula or goat’s milk (which I understand to be similar to cow’s protein, so may not help cow milk allergy?) or soy milk or rice milk?
Judy: We covered that in the previous section, except for rice milk. Rice milk should not be used for infant formula, period. It is devoid of protein and healthy fats that are essential for brain development. Please do not use rice milk! Same goes for oat milk, hemp milk, or almond milk. None of these are safe or appropriate for babies as a substitute for breast milk or formula.
Goat milk has casein, as does cow or human milk. But it is in a gentler configuration, slightly different than the cow casein, and is often quite tolerable for babies who can’t take cow’s milk. Again think in terms of two parts to this puzzle – the protein source, and the baby’s gut biome. Both may need changing to successfully arrest inflammation.
MarcieMom: I remembered the first six months when my baby was too young to take allergy test, we were advised to switch to partially hydrolyzed milk (our girl turned out not to have any allergy). When her rashes didn’t go away with the partially hydrolyzed milk, we switched to goat’s milk then soy milk (her rashes were still there all the time). It was a stressful experience copying all the ingredients across formula brands and different types of milk, and comparing which brand had higher carbohydrates, protein, calcium, DHA and more than 20 nutrition elements listed. What would be your advice when choosing formula milk – I assume first decide on the type of milk and once that’s decided, how to see which brand is better formulated?
Judy: This is too much stress for a new mom! I went through that and then some myself. This is how I became so interested in this niche of practice. I could not fathom that my pediatricians didn’t have good answers for me, or why it was so hard. I would have added an elemental option to those you were told to try, plus probiotics. As I mentioned earlier, this is commonly overlooked. I would also want to know what set your daughter’s gut up to be inflamed. Did she need antibiotics, C-section delivery (another early antibiotic exposure), time in NICU? All these things disrupt optimal colonization of the newborn gut with healthy bacteria. If this is found to have been the case, sometimes babies need herbs or medications to treat fungal species dominating the gut biome. I give this topic a lot of ink in both my books.
Your daughter may have had a milk protein sensitivity and a soy protein sensitivity, without allergic to either. These are mediated by different classes of immunoglobulins, one is IgE (allergy) and the other is IgG (sensitivity). Both can cause skin changes, feeding problems, and eczema.
A negative IgE test does not mean that a food protein is safe. Most allergists do not test for IgG reactions, because they think the testing is unreliable. This is not my experience in practice. The tests are not perfect, but they are useful, when interpreted in the context of food intake, signs, and symptoms.
MarcieMom: Thanks so much Judy, honestly, I feel like bursting into tears now, just thinking how difficult the first 9 months are, sorting through the milk formula, breast feeding, solid feeding – if only I’ve known you earlier! I’m sure many parents reading this will feel the same, and start to ask their docs of other alternatives.