Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of matured coconuts.
In tropical climates, coconut oil has served as the main source of fat in the diets of millions of people, for generations.
Coconut Oil Ritual
During the two years that I spent living on the Island of Dominica, The Nature Island of The Caribbean I learned a great deal about life and healthy living practices from the Carib Indians, Dominica’s indigenous people.
One of the most interesting rituals, that I was fortunate enough to partake in, was the one following the arrival of a new infant and involved coconut oil, the most widely available oil on this tropical island.
It is customary for the Carib Indians to “welcome” a new infant with a ceremony that takes place approximately three weeks after the birth of the infant. During this ceremony women gather at the home of the new parents and after a brief naming ceremony begin to pamper the new baby with daily, ritualistic massages, that go on for about a week.
Coconut oil is the key component of these ritualistic massages which are administered to the newborn infant three times a day.
The women begin by first rubbing coconut oil into the soft spot on top of the baby’s head and then working their way down. This process is repeated three times a day: at sunrise, midday, and sunset.
Often, small amounts of coconut oil are also spoon fed to the pampered baby.
As I watched this ceremony unfold, I could not help but wonder, “Is coconut oil beneficial to babies?”
The following is a short list of ways coconut oil can help improve the health and overall well-being of your baby:
Coconut Oil Is Rich In Lauric Acid
Just like breast milk, coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid. A study published in the 1998 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that lactating women who consumed coconut oil and other coconut products on a regular basis had significantly higher levels of lauric acid in their breast milk.
Pregnant women who wish to increase the levels of lauric acid in their breast milk should consume coconut oil and other coconut products, such as coconut water, on a daily basis. This will ensure that as their bodies begin to store fat in anticipation of lactation, this excess lauric acid stored withing their fat supply will be incorporated in their breast milk as they begin the process of lactation.
Studies have shown that if a pregnant woman’s diet does not contain sufficient levels of lauric acid than her breast milk will contain only around 3% lauric acid. But, when a pregnant or lactating woman adds foods rich in lauric acid to her diet the levels of lauric acid in her breast milk increase by as much as three times.
Coconut Oil Will Boost Your Baby’s Immune System
Lauric acid, a fatty acid present in human milk, has potent antimicrobial properties. Since a newborn baby’s immune system does not fully develop until he/she is six months old, his/her only protection against everyday viruses comes via the lauric acid present in the mother’s breast milk.
Since the 1950’s scientists and doctors have been studying the role of lauric acid in infant immunology. Therefore, this topic is one of the most studied and best understood aspects of pediatric medicine. So, it is not surprising to note that today lauric acid rich coconut oil is a main ingredient in most infant formulas.
Coconut Oil Will Improve Your Baby’s Digestion
Coconut oil is unique in the sense that it is primarily made up of medium chain triglycerides. These medium chain triglycerides or MCT’s are more easily metabolized by the human body, which is another reason why coconut oil is often used as an ingredient in infant formula.
The ease by which coconut oil is digested by the body can also help ease an array of stomach and digestive tract problems that often plague infants. This is because the antimicrobial properties of coconut oil combat many of the bacteria, fungi and parasites that often contribute to infant indigestion.
Recent studies are also starting to suggest that consuming coconut oil, on a regular basis, can help improve the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Coconut Oil Will Soothe Cradle Cap And Other Skin Disorders
Infants, especially newborn infants, often suffer from a mild skin condition commonly referred to as Cradle Cap. Cradle Cap is characterized by flaking or scaling of the skin. Though the name implies that this skin condition only presents on the baby’s scalp, the reality is that this condition can affect the delicate skin on the baby’s head as well as the baby’s nose, ears, eyebrows and torso. Cradle Cap is mainly caused by overactive glands in the baby’s skin that lead to inflammation.
Coconut oil is a great moisturizer for all skin types, including very dry skin and highly sensitive skin, such as that of a newborn infant. Furthermore, because of the fact that coconut products closely resemble human plasma the chances of your baby experiencing an allergic reaction to the coconut oil are extremely low. Therefore, coconut oil is the perfect infant massage oil. This is especially true for babies suffering from Cradle Cap as the antimicrobial properties of this oil are highly effective at soothing this skin inflammation.
Coconut Oil Massages Will Help Your Baby Sleep Better
Including a 15-20 minute massage into your newborn baby’s daily routine has been shown to have tremendous physical and mental health benefits both for the mother and the child.
Hospital data suggests that teaching new mothers infant massage techniques helps ease symptoms of postpartum depression mainly due to the fact that this improves the new mother’s confidence and helps her bond with the new infant.
Furthermore, an overwhelming number of studies have concluded that massaging newborn infants can help speed up their physical and mental development, strengthen their bones, as well as alleviate their stress and help them sleep better at night.
A University of Miami Medical Center Study found that infant massage is especially beneficial to babies born prematurely. During the course of this study, twenty premature babies were massaged for fifteen minutes, three times a day. The babies who underwent this massage therapy showed a 47% greater weight gain per day than their peers and had increased activity levels, alertness and neurological development.
Best of all, their hospital stays averaged six days less than their peers.
Photo courtesy of: Robert wetzlmayr