Healthy babies begin with healthy pregnancies. If you are trying to conceive or are newly pregnant, it is more important than ever to be mindful of your health. In fact, there are several steps you should take to protect your child before he or she is even born.
Once Your Baby Arrives…
It is recommended that all women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent birth defects if present in adequate concentrations, preferably even before the baby is conceived. Once a woman is pregnant the dose of folic acid should be increased to 600-800 mcg/day. Folic acid is also found in fortified breads and cereals, orange juice, beans and leafy greens, but it’s hard to get enough from foods alone, so supplementation is essential.
Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Smoking during pregnancy can harm the baby’s growth and lead to preterm labor and low birth weight. Alcohol crosses the placenta and can lead to both mental and physical birth defects, including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It’s imperative that you do not smoke or drink if you are pregnant.
Eat a healthy diet, but don’t “eat for two”. Did you know that for the first three months of pregnancy you don’t actually need any extra calories? And, in month four and beyond, you need only about 300 extra calories per day. Two small snacks that provide a little extra calcium and lean protein should do it! Trade in junk food, sweets and sodas for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and calcium-rich food.
Avoid foods that are potentially unhealthy for you, and especially your baby, such as fish with high levels of mercury (tuna, swordfish, mackerel, tilefish and shark), raw eggs, unpasteurized cheese and juice, lunchmeat and raw or undercooked fish, meat or poultry. Recent research findings suggest it’s also important to eliminate caffeine or at least limit your intake to less than 200 milligrams per day while pregnant (that’s about one cup of homebrewed coffee).
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your current medications. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can be harmful to your baby.
There is nothing quite as joyful as the arrival of a new baby. You will experience many emotions, including concern for their health and development. The yourwellness team hopes to ease your mind by providing a few simple suggestions for keeping your baby healthy.
When it comes to your baby’s nutritional needs breast milk is the best option. Studies have shown that breast fed babies have fewer ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections than formula fed babies, and breastfeeding appears to decrease the mother’s risk for breast cancer, too. It’s generally recommended that babies are breastfed for the first year of life, but if that’s not possible, even short-term breastfeeding provides health benefits. Some women are unable or simply prefer not to breastfeed, in which case reasonably nutritious formulas are available. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations based on your baby’s unique needs.
Make sure cribs, bassinets, and cradles are in good repair and up to current safety standards (borrowed cribs and those handed down through families are often not safe). Never put loose pillows, blankets or stuffed animals, no matter how cute or soft, in the crib with your baby as they are a choking risk and put your baby to sleep on their back, not on their tummy, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Babies, even healthy ones, require a lot of care. Frequent “well visits” to the pediatrician will become part of your routine, so it’s important you choose a doctor you feel comfortable with. Your pediatrician should be able to guide you on proper eating and sleeping practices, important immunization information and developmental milestones. Don’t be afraid to visit a few different doctors before the birth of your baby to find someone you trust.
Be sure to have a plan in place if your child needs urgent medical care. A list a phone numbers (doctors, poison control, etc) and knowledge of the closest medical facility is must for every household with a new baby or small children.
A final note of consideration - we all care deeply about the health and welfare of children, not just our own but all children. Please support the work of The March of Dimes to ensure that every child has the chance to reach her or his true potential. To learn more about this fabulous organization visit their website at www.marchofdimes.com.
Information contained in this e-letter is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information in this e-letter for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.