WHY DIRT IS IMPORTANT FOR BABIES
You will be shocked after reading this.
The natural organisms in dirt serve an important purpose for people of all ages, but babies have a specific and additional need for interaction with dirt.
Breast milk lacks Iron and with important reason. Pathogens like E.Coli (which can cause severe digestive problems in newborns) needs Iron to thrive, as do other pathogens. These low iron levels can help protect newborns from these bacteria.
Around 6 months, a baby’s need for Iron and other nutrients increases, but breast milk doesn’t increase its levels of these nutrients and with good reason. At this stage in life, babies spend more time on the ground. In the past, this meant they spent more time interacting with dirt, which is a good source of Iron and minerals like Zinc, magnesium, etc.
As Science of Mom explains:
“Most babies are born with enough iron stores to meet their needs for about the first 6 months of life.
Breast milk contains very little iron (~0.35 mg/liter). The Institute of Medicine recommends that infants 6-12 months old get 11 mg of iron per day. By this age, most babies’ iron stores have been depleted, so this iron needs to come from complementary foods, in addition to breast milk or formula.
If you try to meet your infant’s iron requirement on breast milk alone, she would have to consume between 4 and 13 liters of breast milk per day, depending on your baby’s efficiency of iron absorption from breast milk (estimates range from 15-50% absorption). Most exclusively breastfed babies don’t consume much more than 1 liter of milk per day.
Iron deficiency during infancy increases the risk of cognitive, motor, and behavioral deficits that may last into the teens, even with iron treatment. Specific deficits that have been identified include impaired motor development at 18 months, mental retardation at 10 years old, increased need to repeat a grade, and increased behavioral and attention problems.
When I hear parents say that they declined the test for anemia at their baby’s 9 or 12-month check-up, I have to assume that they don’t know how serious iron deficiency can be for their child’s future.”
Study shows that babies are capable of absorbing Iron from soil (which they are naturally in contact with at this age if playing on the ground). Other mammals have breast milk that is naturally low in Iron at the same developmental times and these mammals are also capable of absorbing Iron and other nutrients from the soil, indicating that there is a biological reason for this.
In the past, the umbilical cord also wasn’t clamped immediately after birth (and there is good reason to delay clamping it these days too) which allowed more of the umbilical cord blood (the baby’s blood) to flow in to the baby. This resulted in higher blood levels and higher Iron levels, which would also help baby maintain Iron levels for a longer time.
How to Make Sure We Get Enough Dirt
We don’t actually need to make an effort to consume dirt to get the benefits of soil based organisms and nutrients in soil, we just need to make an effort to come in contact with it and to have our babies and children come in contact with it.
I take the following steps to make sure we get the health benefits of dirt:
Encourage my kids (including crawling babies) to play outside barefoot in the dirt as long as I know it is an area that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals or contaminated in some other way. I garden and walk outside barefoot (which has other benefits too).
At the recommendation of this post, I also let my babies have an outside play area with organic dirt once they are 3-4 months or old enough to sit up or crawl.
I let my older kids help my in the garden. let them play in the dirt.