By Dr. Rebecca Asmar
When you work in preventative health care, a newborn infant is somewhat of a “holy grail.” A completely clean slate at birth, the newborn offers physicians the opportunity to work purely with health optimization. No chronic symptoms to unravel, no life history to contend with, the only job is to maintain and promote proper function on all levels. Here are the seven things Dr. Asmar recommends to all new parents to maximize their baby’s health going forward.
Routine: Establishing a daily routine and sticking with it can transform not only your experience as a parent, but your child’s health. This routine should include a regular wake and sleep cycle, standard meal times and even set times to be at home or to be out of the house. As your baby learns that everything you do is to be expected and routine, he/she will be establishing a strong circadian rhythm, which will assist with proper hormone balance. Maintaining a balanced daily hormonal rhythm will improve sleep schedules, focus and attention, mood and learning.
Sunshine: Getting out in the sun is important for every human being. Exposure to the sun stimulates the production of Vitamin D beneath the surface of the skin. I mention this to all parents because recent medical advice has been to keep your baby’s delicate skin out of the sun or to cover it in sunscreen if you do go out. Never let your baby develop a sunburn, but thirty minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day is safe and healthy. And don’t forget the benefits of fresh air.
Water: Every human being needs to drink adequate amounts of water per day, but conventional wisdom has said not to dilute your baby’s nutrient intake in the form of breast milk by giving water as a drink early on. Dr. Asmar recommends that new parents start giving water right away. Start with a dropper full or two and, as your baby grows, increase this gradually until your baby is drinking the recommended ½ its body weight in ounces.
Sleep: So much happens during sleep, especially when it comes to neurological development. Memory research has shown that during the somnolent hours new learning is consolidated or stabilized in neural networks. Sleep also restores our homeostasis by providing an opportunity for micro-healing to occur. One of the most crucial parts of a baby’s routine, regular sleep patterns should be emphasized from day one. A completely dark sleep environment for your child is one of the most important factors to create.
Castor Oil: Castor oil applied externally to a baby’s abdomen will promote health and homeostasis. This therapy, in use for over 2000 years, may be the single most effective tool you will have to influence the future health of your child. Ricinoleic acid (the active ingredient in castor oil) causes contraction of vessels. For this reason, many people remember being fed it during their childhood to promote evacuation of stool. But, internal use of castor oil is no longer recommended. Instead, we recommend you use it externally to cause contraction of lymphatic vessels (just underneath the surface of the skin). The movement of lymph will enhance detoxification of your tissues, increase vigilance of the immune system and aid in healthy digestive processes by decongesting the abdominal area. In addition, the ricinoleic acid triggers autonomic nervous system activity and promotes balanced parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous function.
Probiotics: Too many to name, numerous studies have shown the impact of probiotics on digestive and immune health in adults. Weighing over three pounds, the bacteria in our gut outnumber our own native cells. And, about 30% of every stool that passes consists of dead bacteria. Since we evacuate these cultures every day and they are so crucial to our health, we MUST replace them with the proper strains. A recent large, longitudinal study has demonstrated not only that probiotics are 100% safe in children, but that the simple use of probiotics reduces allergies and atopic eczema in infants and toddlers. The results of this study will be published in the fall of 2011.
EFAs: Crucial to the developing nervous system, DHA acts as the primary structural component of your baby’s growing brain. Without adequate intake by mom during pregnancy, her stores will get depleted as the fetus begins to steal the DHA from mom’s brain in order to build its own nervous system. The high required levels continue through at least 3 years of age. In fact, high maternal consumption of fatty fish during pregnancy has been correlated with improved infant cognition. So, due the concerns about mercury in fish, Dr. Asmar highly recommends pregnant women supplements their diets with fish oil containing at least 3 grams of combined DHA and EPA.
About the Author
Dr. Rebecca Asmar, ND maintains an open, general family practice focused on optimizing health and overcoming chronic illness. She specializes in the treatment of children, autism, diabetes, hormonal problems, autoimmune disease and cancer.
The Run: Moving Natural Medicine Forward is an extraordinary 3,250-Mile run across America! Naturopathic Physician Dr. Dennis Godby and a fantastic team are setting out to increase awareness, educate and empower people about natural health care options, preventing disease, finding and treating the cause of illness, and revitalizing the nation’s health. The RUN is the primary project of the Institute for Natural Medicine, a public advocacy non-profit organization. Learn more at http://www.therun.org.* Image: Dynamite Imagery / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*