Today I would like to share with you a few tips on how to confidently give your baby the best start in life by increasing your chances of a complication-free pregnancy, getting your body ready for labour, and having the highest quality milk after baby is born. Every new mum wants the best for her child, and can easily make a big difference now with a few small changes to her nutrition.
It was only last summer that I was going through the exciting journey into the unknown that was my first pregnancy, and I remember how I valued the support of those who had already been through the experience themselves. Being supported before and particularly during and after giving birth is fundamental, so save all the numbers you need to call when the time comes.
Being in any of the trimesters, you may feel it’s been enough, sleeping is becoming uncomfortable, you always need the loo and anticipation of the big day gets stronger all the time.
During the last stage, some of us can suffer from something called pre-eclampsia, which mainly occurs after the 20th week of the pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure, swelling and protein found in the urine; fortunately, these can be overcome or avoided with a few adjustments to your diet. I don’t agree when people say, just eat what you want when you are pregnant, as too much of the wrong foods can cause serious complications in a pregnancy. So you may need to listen to your body when it craves this or that, but cravings typically indicate mineral deficiencies and if you experience any unusual cravings I would suggest speaking with a nutritional therapist, let it be myself or any other professional therapist.
When we are caring for a baby inside, it is especially important to avoid sugary or processed foods, refined wheat and dehydration. Drinking enough is crucial as the water surrounding the baby needs to be replaced every day, and that can only be done when the mother sticks to two litres of water a day, minimum.
Keeping up your multivitamin supplements throughout your pregnancy and into the first few months of baby's life is also highly recommended. It’s difficult to stay healthy and well nourished when tiredness, interrupted sleep and providing a 24-hour service become your everyday routine at the same time as having to deal with hormones and emotions. Some supplements are tailored to each single trimester of the pregnancy and I usually recommend these to my clients.
Take the opportunity to sleep as much as possible during pregnancy, and make time for yourself to relax. The more relaxed you are, the healthier it is for your baby and the easier your birth will be.
When a mother goes into labour, eating is the last thing she wants to do when the contractions start to speed up. This is when the birthing partner needs to take the lead, and in the nicest possible way convince the mother to eat well so that she’ll be strong when it comes to this stage. For my clients I usually suggest high protein and natural sugar based foods, eaten in small quantities but often, whilst drinking smoothies and plenty of filtered water.
Foods like these are also good for immediately after you have given birth. During labour you’ll have burnt as many calories as during several circuit training classes. That’s a lot of work, and you will need to replenish your body afterwards to help yourself recover and be ready to start feeding and caring for your newborn baby.
The benefits of breast feeding are undisputed and this was something I was determined to do, but it really didn’t come easily to me or my daughter. It was painful and frustrating at first because baby was not latching on correctly. If you have found this, I can highly recommend seeing a breast feeding support nurse, as once you have both got the technique right it’s very comfortable (and so much more convenient than bottles!) If you do opt for the bottle, it might be wise to check that your baby’s tummy is tolerant to dairy infant milk formulations, as many babies suffer from colic for this reason.
To keep baby satisfied and developing healthily, good nutrition can also increase the quality of your milk. Your milk is made up mostly from water, so it’s important to drink at least two litres, ideally three, of water each day. Protein in your milk provides the building blocks for baby’s development so it’s essential you take in the right amount with every meal, as your body has adapted to steal the protein from your own muscles if you don’t. Choose foods with a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Yes, fat: the “good fats” are also essential for baby, both as a source of slow-release energy and to facilitate brain development, so don’t be tempted to cut all fats right out when trying to shed those pregnancy pounds, especially as breast feeding will help you get back into shape.
Fortunately there are many foods and recipe ideas for you to choose from which have a good balance of the nutrients you need. There is also a wide range of supplements to compensate for any foods which you may be allergic or intolerant to, cannot fully absorb, or simply prefer not to eat. Don't forget food is always best though.
The impact that your diet has on your baby’s early life is not to be underestimated. Even a few easy adjustments can result in a significant benefit for your child’s development and your own wellbeing, while a full nutritional therapy programme tailored to you will ensure your baby gets the very best start in life. I would urge anyone who is pregnant or breast feeding to see a good nutritional therapist, whether myself or another practitioner, as correct nutrition is more critical now than at any other time in your life.