By natural feeding is meant breast-feeding and exclusive breast-feeding for the first few weeks or months of life, with continuing, supplementary breastfeeding during the transition to solid foods.
Babies are born at different stages of development. Those born nearer to 10 months gestation are probably developed to a stage where their gut is almost sufficiently mature to deal with non-maternal food sources. Those born at around 9 months will likely have a still-maturing gut that is reliant on maternal milk and colostrum. Those born prematurely may have the additional problem of not yet being able to suckle and their gut may be very limited in what it can assimilate or digest. They may, however, possess the ability to treat their early feed antigens as self and, through this approach, avoid treating non-human food sources as immune challenges.
Atopy can make it harder to carry a baby to full term and atopic mothers may find breastfeeding their offspring to be much more difficult.
In the recent past, breast-feeding was often accompanied by the use of cereal foods at an age too early for feeding of solids and especially solids as allergenic as cereal rusks. Rusks were offered to help with chewing for tooth emergence, originally, but quickly became offered as food related toys, replacing the previously traditional, bone teething rings. Cereal poses a big risk to a child in terms of atopy development, if introduced to its diet in the first few weeks.
Bottle-feeding formula milk to an infant results in hypernutrition and unnaturally rapid weight gain. Tables of ‘normal’ infant growth rate, published by the World Health Organisation were based, until recently (2006), on the growth of bottle-fed babies. These tables caused pressure to be put on breastfeeding mothers to ‘enhance’ the nutrition of their babies by feeding formula milk. This has increased the occurrence of atopic illnesses in affected populations and one of the visible outcomes of this has been the steady rise of obesity in recent generations. The W.H.O. apologised for its mistake after the damage had been done for so many children. Most of today’s obesity results from atopic illness, which itself produces the compulsive need to eat the foods that most provoke the body, such as dairy and cereal products – and meat of bovine origin.
After a few generations of bottle-feeding, we are now at a stage where a mother’s milk is becoming loaded with bovine, and other, antigen-antibody complexes – and these complexes are perhaps bringing a new hazard to newborn babies. Even during development, the foetus may be affected by these complexes. The implications are that, in an attempt to unravel the cause of newer atopic disorders, we may have to start with immunological assessment of the mother – and, possibly, the mother’s mother or mother’s grandmother… This poses the question: is ‘natural feeding’ still natural feeding? The answer must be, “Yes, but for a diminishing number of mothers”.
It must be pointed out that even in the case of atopic mothers it is always better to breastfeed and a mother then has a duty to explore her own food intolerances and to stop eating those food groups that cause atopic disease symptoms in her body – during gestation and breastfeeding, preferably before gestation begins and maybe for the rest of her life, to enjoy a healthy old age. If the newborn child is kept from those foods that cause symptoms in the mother for as long a period as possible, even years, then there is a chance that they will, in time, be more comfortable with the full range of adult foodstuffs. More probably, we will need to shift food production to other crops and food animals so that all generations can escape the most damaging aspects of food intolerance and the atopic diseases that ensue.