If most Filipinos were asked to describe what a healthy five-month old baby looks like, chances are they would depict an infant that was chubby, rosy-cheeked, glowing, and slightly bigger or taller than other infants. Simply put, it’s a pleasantly plump baby that looks like a character in a Fernando Botero painting.
Although slightly plump babies may look cuter or more robust than “slimmer” infants, the truth is they are over-nourished or overfed than they should be. They are also more prone to diseases and ailments later in life.
In a talk given by London-based pediatric nutritionist and pediatrician Dr. Atul Singhal at the Panay Ballroom of the Hotel Sofitel in Manila, he explained that the amount and quality of sustenance given to babies from zero to six months “programs” their overall health. “How you feed baby prior to weaning has a permanent and long-term effect on health. In the past, bigger was considered better. Our problem is, we are forcing babies to grow faster than the norm,” said Singhal.
By feeding babies too much or too often, infants tend to gain weight faster and grow faster than what is considered normal by the World Health Organization. Babies need a slower or more natural pattern of growth to ensure optimal brain development.
Aside from these, overfeeding also leads to infant obesity. In the National Nutrition Survey cited by Dr. Fil Gatcheco, president of the Philippine Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, he noted that obesity cases in children from zero to five years old jumped from 0.6% to 2%. Although this growth was smaller than Western and Asian counterparts, it was still alarming.
To ensure that babies have a normal growth pattern, Dr. Singhal said that infants had to be fed the right kind and amount of protein particularly, alpha protein or alpha-lactalbumin. Alpha-protein is an important nutritional protein that decreases gastro-intestinal problems like vomiting, spitting up, regurgitation, or food intolerance. It helps improve the absorption of essential minerals like zinc and offers less stress to the kidneys.
He further stated that randomized trials conducted overseas on 128 infants showed that babies who were given alpha-lactalbumin had lesser gastro-intestinal problems.
Aside from decreasing the incidence of gastro-intestinal problems in babies, alpha protein also enhances the disposition of babies. Since it contains helpful amino acids with tryptophan, babies have better sleep patterns, appetites and in effect, have better moods. Children who are fed alpha protein are healthier and stand to have more enduring health benefits.
What and how often you feed your baby will dictate how healthy and strong he or she will be decades from now. If parents (and grand parents) learn to accept the fact that roly-poly doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, then this generation of babies may stand a better chance against cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetesand insulin resistance in the future.
To find out more about alpha protein and what it can do for your baby, ask your trusted pediatrician.