Nutrition Expert Dishes on Breast Milk, Formula and Healthy Eating
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Editor’s Note: We’d like to thank BabyNes for partnering with us to arrange this interview to discuss childhood nutrition with Dr. Tanya Altmann, a UCLA-trained pediatrician practicing in southern California. Altmann is also the associate medical editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ best-selling parenting book Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 and author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents’ Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers.
NYC Dads Group: One of the first questions many parents ask regarding feeding their newborn baby is whether to breastfeed or use formula. For a while now, breast milk has been considered the “best.” Why?
Dr. Tanya Altmann: Breast milk has always been considered the best for baby because it is. Breast milk provides a baby with immunity against bacteria and viruses. It is easy to digest. And, it is uncommon for baby to be allergic to. From day one, the nutrition in breast milk (protein, carbohydrates, healthy fat and other nutrients) is exactly what a baby needs. It continually changes over time as a baby’s nutritional needs change for proper growth and development.
NYCDG: For some families, breastfeeding is not possible for physical or health reasons or because their baby is adopted. Some of these families buy breast milk from a willing and able mother. How does breast milk from a non-biological mother compare? Are there any concerns people should consider?
Altmann: Donor breast milk is an option for families who do not have their own breast milk. All breast milk contains important antibodies to help protect a baby from infections as well as the nutritional benefits that breast milk contains. The risk of donor breast milk, if it is not purchased from a certified breast milk bank that thoroughly tests and treats the breast milk, is the risk of infection or contamination. There have been cases of “breast milk” being sold over the Internet where it wasn’t even breast milk, or the breast milk was diluted — both dangerous situations. This can be avoided by using a reputable milk bank. (For more information, visit the Human Milk Banking of North America at www.hmbana.org.)
In addition, for those who are unable to produce breast milk, formula feeding is a very viable option. The BabyNes Advanced Nutrition System, for example, was created to closely emulate the varying nutrients, proteins and carbohydrates found in breast milk.
NYCDG: How do today’s baby formulas compare? Are some formulas better than others?
Altmann: All major baby formula manufacturers are using technology and science to try to make their formula closer to breast milk, which is good for infant nutrition. Some formula companies are adding important nutrients, such as DHA and ARA and probiotics. More recently, formula companies are making “staged formula.” This more closely mimics the evolution of breast milk over time as a baby grows and matures. The BabyNes Advanced Nutrition System most precisely stages their formula so that the protein, carbohydrate, fat and nutrient composition changes over time, similar to the way breast milk evolves as a baby grows.
NYCDG: We have both had the opportunity to work with the team behind the new Gerber® BabyNes® system. Why do you as a pediatrician recommend this system?
Altmann: This is the first time that a formula company has staged a formula as precisely so the fat, protein and calorie content changes throughout six stages as your baby grows to more closely mimic the evolution of breast milk. Each stage comes in capsules that are inserted into the BabyNes machine, mix with water and out comes precisely measured nutrition for your baby at the temperature you desire all under one minute. There are no messy powders to deal with. It’s also Wi-Fi enabled. This helps parents who desire to keep track of the number of ounces their baby drinks or know when it’s time to reorder more formula pods.
NYCDG: If parents are using formula, at what age do you recommend a switch to cow’s milk (or some other type of milk)?
Altmann: After age 1, there are options! Parents can continue formula designed specifically for toddlers over age 1. They can start whole milk or 2 percent milk. Or use any combination those. Toddlers don’t need more than 24 ounces a day of formula or milk combined. Some parents may offer formula at home, but order milk when out or vice versa. Talk to your pediatrician. Depending on your toddler’s diet and growth, he or she may have a preference as to the beverages your toddler drinks. Either way, make sure you also offer plenty of plain water and avoid juice and other sweet tasting beverages.
NYCDG: You have a new book coming out this month. Tell us about it.
Altmann: My book is called What to Feed Your Baby: A Pediatrician’s Guide to the 11 Essential Foods to Guarantee Veggie-Loving, No-Fuss, Healthy-Eating Kids. It is my formula for feeding babies from birth and beyond.
As a pediatrician and mother of three boys, I know firsthand that good nutrition is essential for healthy kids. However, parents today are bombarded with confusing and sometimes harmful information.
In What to Feed Your Baby, I cut through the noise with a simple program that follows the safest, best practices for feeding babies and young children. I begin with my foundation foods critical to brain development. These are: eggs, prunes, avocado, fish, yogurt/cheese/ milk, nut butters/nuts, chicken/beans, fruit, green veggies, whole grains, and water. Those should be the basis of every child’s diet in their early life. I also offer guidance for introducing them into a daily diet with delicious, dietician-developed recipes that will help train young taste buds to enjoy non-processed foods.
NYCDG: You are a practicing pediatrician in Calabasas, California. Have you seen a shift in the engagement of dads in raising their kids?
Altmann: Definitely! It takes a village and many dads in my practice are just as involved as moms when it comes to caring for and raising their children. I also have families with single dads, two dads, and very involved grandpas. They all seem to enjoy spending time with their kids and it’s important for young children to have a variety of loving adults to care for them.
My husband and I both try our best to integrate family and work into our day. Some days are more hectic than others, but I couldn’t do everything that I do without his help and dedication to our family.