The human infant is actually born twice! The first time is the physical birth when the baby is separated from the mother and many physiological functions begin to work. The infant’s consciousness is still “heavenly”. The second birth occurs about three months later when the infant overcomes the automatic reflexes of the nervous system.
The first birth into the earth atmosphere is very sudden and even dangerous. The process of adjusting the metabolism to the needs of this new environment takes about three months! This is well- documented by pediatric research. Seeing and hearing, the two most important senses for communicating with the environment, also need about three months to attain “full” or adult-like function. After this, the eyes become more object oriented, more direct . Mothers often have mentioned to me that around the age of three months babies become more interested in their surroundings.
Looking at the first trimenon (three months after birth ) as an extended preparation for life is not new. The vulnerability of the baby in the first three months comes from old pediatric wisdom. Here are some practical considerations: In the first trimenon the infant does not like to be carried away from its home (especially not to supermarkets); it prefers to rest in a horizontal position (no carriers, baby seats etc.); it prefers a “sound space” with human sounds (no TV, taped music), it should be surrounded by appropriate colors and shapes (no fluorescent or hot colors, no comics); and it really likes to stay close to its nursing mother.
In pediatric practice today, we avoid grains (except rice) in the first three-month period in order to prevent early sensitizing to grain proteins (gluten often leads to allergies). In the second three months the digestive system has become stronger and learns to be more selective in what can be absorbed in the organism. Most infants have matured to digest gluten, if necessary, and we do not hesitate to feed grains.
The nutritional needs of the young infant are fully covered by mother’s milk. In the first half year nothing needs to be added as long as the infant keeps growing and remains happy. The feeding schedule should not be imposed, though it is, admittedly, difficult to find a correct feeding rhythm. Times between meals vary around three hours (plus/minus one hour). About two hours after a breast milk feeding the stomach is empty (cow’s milk needs about twice as long to pass the stomach!) It is very important that the nursing mother really concentrates on the feeding. What foods need to be avoided by the mother must be found out through trial and error. Onions, legumes, and cabbage are often blamed, but all of them are rarely trouble makers at once. Garlic sometimes increases a baby’s appetite. The mother’s diet should be of a kind that she really likes and enjoys, while at the same time beneficial to her child. Don’t forget to eat garden herbs.
The human infant is privileged to grow slowly: As a doctor I often see that babies fed with formula (with cow’s milk or another protein) grow considerably faster than nursed infants. A fast weight gain neither reflects better health, nor does it predict a stronger body in later life! It is a well-established fact that nursed infants have significantly fewer infections and they recover much faster. There are other advantages as well:
- Mother’s milk is readily available, fresh, uncontaminated, of correct temperature.
- In the fully nursed infant allergies are extremely rare.
- Mother’s milk strengthens the child’s immune system.
- The infant receives all necessary vitamins. Even vitamin C suffices if the mother has a balanced diet with fruit and greens. (Prematurely born babies need supplements according to the pediatrician’s advice. Concerning vitamin D in sun-deprived regions consult a physician.)
- Trace elements and iron are sufficient in the milk of healthy mothers.
- The psychological component of nursing should never be underestimated. Breast-fed babies are often more content, some call it better “bonded”.
The spiritual aspect of bonding deals with a different level of life. Although at birth mother and infant are separated physically, they still are “one soul”. Mothers have said to me that they had a great urge to discover the physical body of their child, the soul however, was already well-known to them. Rudolf Steiner also talks about the life, or “etheric”, body of the mother that still envelops her newborn child. Breast-feeding strengthens and deepens these bonds, with each mother creating for her own baby the optimal food!
Uwe Stave, M.D. studied medicine in Hamburg, Germany and graduated in l950. After moving to the United States he worked at the Fels Research Institute of Antioch University. In l979 Dr. Stave was called to a new anthroposophical hospital in Germany as Director of Pediatrics, later moving back to the United States. He authored many publications on the kidneys, the metabolism, and on child development..
NOTE: Breast feeding is usually recommended for at least the first six months of a child’s life. If, for any reason, breast feeding is not possible, you can still follow most of the above guidelines, using good natural formulas. Breast feeding is only one factor in the many bonds between a mother and her child.