Cindy Kaplan, Co-Founder and Executive Director of SPOON Foundation stopped by the Buzz to share insights on the importance of early nutrition – for adopted children and all of our growing little ones.
When I adopted my son Jadyn at six months of age, he was the size of a two month old. I needed to put weight on him desperately, but he refused his formula and most foods. YoBaby literally helped me to save his life. And the experience of nourishing him back to health prompted me to start a nonprofit organization called the SPOON Foundation, to help other orphaned and adopted children get the critical nutrition they so desperately need.
I had no idea before I started SPOON how much difference nutrition makes in the way young little bodies grow and brains develop. It is heart-breaking, really, for adoptive parents to learn about this because very rarely do we get a chance to impact our children’s diet in their earliest months/years. Fortunately, what we feed them when they come home can make an impact, and yogurt – especially the really good organic stuff – is the perfect food. Not only because it has good fats, protein and calcium, and vitamin d (so important for repairing compromised immune systems!), but also because it has loads of probiotics (especially important for post-institutionalized kids who typically have issues with lots of early antibiotic use and parisites that hurt their tummies.) Yogurt is also the perfect “vehicle” for sneaking in other nutrient-rich foods and supplements. I can’t tell you how many avocados, tablespoons of sunflower seeds, mashed veggies, and drops of iron I hid inside those little cups of yogurt. Of course, YoBaby Meals make it even more convenient for parents to get good nutrition into the mouths of their babes now. Even though Jadyn is already five-years-old, yogurt is still my “go to” food when he goes on an eating strike! It is the best way I know to maximize nutrition per bite.
It is only now becoming apparent that adopted kids (especially those coming out of orphanages) have extraordinary nutrition demands that actually increase once they are placed with their new families and begin to grow. In other words, they may become more nutritionally deficient in the first six months they are home, so we not only have to help them “catch up” but also “store up” for this really demanding period of growth. It is important that parents know what to expect and what to do to nourish their little ones during this transition, as well as into their toddler years.
Through the support of companies like Stonyfield and individuals, SPOON is not only able to help adopted kids in the US, but also children across the globe who are living without families. We’re halfway through a pilot program in Kazakhstan that is developing – for the first time – proven nutrition programs for young, orphaned children. Our long-term goal is to expand this model to other countries and establish international standards for nutrition for orphaned children living in institutions. The task is HUGE – more than 16 million children are living around the world without families to call their own – and at least one half are malnourished. But I’ve learned through my own parenting experience in the past few years that the world is not so big after all, and that the best way to make a dent is to just dig-in. Orphaned kids don’t have parents, so they belong to all of us.
If you are an adoptive parent or prospective one, or just know someone who has been touched by adoption (and who hasn’t?), check out our new site www.adoptionnutrition.org for a head’s up on the unique nutritional needs of this group of kiddos and what we can do to help them not just grow, but thrive!
If you’d like to join us in bringing critical nutrition to kids without moms and dads of their own, visit our SPOON Foundation site here. And to give a special holiday nutrition gift in honor of your child, friends or family, go to http://spoonfoundation.org/donate/spoonful_of_hope.html