We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” but scientific research now shows that what a mother eats in the period from preconception through to postnatal—those first 1000 days of the baby's life—has such a great impact on the health of the baby that the baby is really what the mother eats!
In basic terms, a mother's health during this period where the baby is directly dependent on her for nutrition greatly impacts the long-term development and health of her child.
For most well-meaning parents, this knowledge opens a new dimension in their attempts to give their children the best possible start in life.
Those first 1,000 days offer a unique window of opportunity to positively impact the long-term health of a child.
What is Early Life Nutrition?
The term “early life nutrition” is used to refer that critical window of opportunity in which you can positively influence a baby’s health through proper nutrition. The right nutrition—from preconception, pregnancy, infancy and through to toddlerhood—can have a profound impact on a child’s development and long-term health.
The early stages of life are about rapid growth and development. From the first day of pregnancy until about 2 years of age, all organs and tissues are being formed and educated. Therefore, what the mother does and eats in these first 1,000 days will make a difference for the rest of the child's life.
Nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition at this stage can cause irreversible damage to children’s brain development and can even put them at increased risk of developing illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers later in life.
A person’s genetic makeup is said to influence at most 20 percent of lifelong health, that means that at least 80 percent of your risk of any disease is influenced by environmental factors, with nutrition and lifestyle being critical players in this complex dynamic.
As a mother, you can ensure that your baby gets the best start in life by ensuring that you are at optimal health at each stage of pregnancy.
This is the ideal time to focus on your journey to optimal health. To prepare yourself for pregnancy, you should:
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Stop smoking and reduce your consumption of alcohol.
- Ensure that any existing health conditions are being treated or under control.
- Get to a weight that is healthy and ideal for your body type.
- Focus on adding foods rich in folate to your diet.
Baby will be depending on you, the only source of nutrition, for all the nutrients needed for optimal growth. It is therefore important that you:
- Eat for two. This doesn’t mean eat twice as much, however. It means to focus on getting nutrients that are essential for a growing baby and that help you meet the demands of pregnancy.
- Find out what your ideal weight gain should be based on your pre-pregnancy weight and try to gain weight slowly and steadily during the duration of pregnancy. Research shows that mothers are twice as likely to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy if they know how much weight to aim for.
- Continue to monitor any preexisting medical conditions you have.
- Focus on proper nutrition, physical activity and stress management.
New mothers need to replenish their bodies with nutrients that they have lost for the benefit of their new little one. Lactation requires an even higher number of nutrients than pregnancy so as a nursing mother you should ensure that you:
- Consume nutrient-dense foods.
- Breastfeed for as long as possible. Not all moms are able to breastfeed, but breastfeeding for as long as possible, even if it's only partially breastfeeding, is protective against a significant number of immune-related diseases such as asthma, diarrhea and respiratory infections.
You’ve got this, mama! ?
This story was originally published on Bump2Beyond.