Mountains and hills in infant nutrition
How do you imagine the Alps? Let’s have a look in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France or Germany. Here you will find a wonderful panorama view: the mountains, lush green meadows, the flora and fauna, the rocks and stones, but also cultural elements like alpine farms, the goats and cows.
Breastfeeding is, in a way, the “Alps” in infant nutrition — and not only in nutrition. Just as the Alps are not only about the mountain tops, but the whole landscape, so is breastfeeding is more than nutrition. The german word “stillen”, which means “soothing” actually expresses this much more clearly than the word breastfeeding. It is interplay between mother and child with many contributing factors: nutrition, immunisation and most of all an intensive bonding between a mother and her child. It is the seamless transition from the intra-uterine environment with constant contact and constant nourishment to extra-uterine world, with lots of skin-to skin contact and a very frequent feeding. It is the normal adaptation process of a newborn, a baby, and at the same time the normal adaptation process of the mother.
I am from the Netherlands. And we, in the Netherlands, are longing for the Alps. We already have the beginning. The Vaalserberg, at the borders of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, would be suitable. But it is not quite what it should be. So this mountain should be heightened-up a little bit. We could make it a 100% higher. That would do, wouldn’t it?
Now this Vaalserberg is 326 meter above sea-level (360 meters with the tower on it), and even if we would heighten it up 100% it still doesn’t have the height of the Alps. Try to further heighten it up? You have to be honest: It is not just the height: essential elements of the Alps are failing in the Netherlands. Flora and Fauna will never be that of the Alps landscape. And you cannot solve this problem with heightening up. Of course it is a good alternative, when you cannot have the Alps. It is a good recreation area, it has its own value for the people in the region and for holidays, but you cannot honestly say it is the Alps (even when some hotel owners want us to believe this – they call their hotel: Alpenblik – Alpview).
And so we have the parallel: formula is infant nutrition of acceptable quality, and in principle this quality can be improved. But as much as you can (and should) enhance this quality, it never will reach the standard of the original. It brings risks with it and disadvantages, for mother, child and society. When we do have the quality of the Alps, we should not be content with the Vaalserberg.
Elien Rouw is a physician in Bühl, Germany, and a member of ABM
Opinions expressed on the ABM blog are those of individual members, not the organization as a whole.