The Benefits of Eating Organic Foods During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding


By MARYAM BIGHASH     DEC. 11, 2014

Debates have persisted over whether or not pesticides and other chemicals in conventional food are dangerous to fetuses and newborns and, in turn, whether or not mothers should eat organic foods. During pregnancy, mothers should exclusively eat organic foods and continue to do so until they decide to stop breastfeeding.

“Conventional food is safe for pregnant mothers and mothers of newborns because eating produce that is not grown organically — and that might contain residual pesticides — has not been shown to be harmful to mothers or their babies,” said the epidemiologist Christina Chamber. The doctors supporting the consumption of conventional food say that simply washing produce well will help eliminate some of the external pesticide residue that could cause food poisoning in the mothers and their babies they carry or breastfeed.

What the status quo does not consider is food, such as bread and pasta, that is not ‘washable’. Additionally, more reliable and more recent studies published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives by Columbia University researchers, show that these doctors are misguided because eating organic foods considerably affects the baby`s health in a positive way.

Today, mothers all around the world consume kilograms of chemicals per year that strictly come from the food they eat. The preeminent risk to the baby is from the pesticides, herbicides in conventionally grown fruit, vegetables, and meat. Children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to effects of these chemicals; mothers are automatically contributing to their child`s future health problems, according to the study.

Pesticides also contribute to a wide range of health problems during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, including cancer, lung disease, reproductive problems, and potential disorders within the immune system: they can permanently change brain chemistry, leading to behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and even long-term damages to the brain and nervous system.

Expert studies from The Infant Development and Environment Study reveal that organic food contains more nutrients than chemically treated foods. In fact, nutrient recommendations for lactating women are frequently higher than for other women. Thus, mothers need to consume sufficient food to cover each dietary component secreted in their milk.

The research conducted by Rachelle Raquel (a doctor at the University of New York), reported by the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993, has also proven that organically grown fruit and vegetables have a higher nutritional content than conventional produce.

The study proved that organic apples, wheat, corn, potatoes, and peas examined over a two year period were 63% higher in calcium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in magnesium, 125% in potassium and 60% higher in zinc than conventionally grown produce. The organic produce was also 29% lower in mercury, a toxic risk, especially dangerous in pregnant women.

“During the first trimester of pregnancy, when the neural tube development is occurring and the nervous system is rapidly developing in the baby, mothers should avoid any type of contact with pesticides. All pesticides have some level of toxicity and pose some risk during pregnancy. The risks depend on the toxicity of the pesticide ingredients and how much of the pesticide the mother and future child are exposed to daily”, said Dr. Kevin Lanphear from rural areas in and around Cincinnati.

In three separate studies published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers document that a mother’s prenatal exposure to these chemicals on a daily basis can affect the cognitive development of her child, in some cases up to nine years later.

The effects are large enough to matter, and are lasting, persisting into adolescence. The study above argues for intensifying organic diet during breastfeeding, particularly among groups that suffer from high rates of academic failure and other problems that some researchers have correlated with a lower IQ.

One key ingredient is DHA that is a vital nutrient for growth, development, and maintenance of brain tissue. Mt. Sinai Medical Center, in New York City, concluded that children born to mothers with higher levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine scored lower on cognitive tests beginning at 12 months, with continued deficits in reasoning throughout childhood.

During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, it is exceedingly important to exclusively eat organically because it impacts the child’s present and future health. One should easily conclude that the majority advocate for an organic diet during these special times. A grand majority of the studies showed that because of the important amount of chemicals used in non-organic foods, the baby’s health is weaker. They are more susceptible to illness and their immune system is not reinforced enough (because of the decrease of nutrients) to fight diseases. If mothers were going to choose to not eat organic exclusively, they would have to replace the needs of these nutrients through other means, such as pills. This would lead them to spend extra money and gives a weaker guarantee of effectiveness than the actual natural nutrients contained within organic food.