Eating well-balanced meals is important to stay healthy and energetic during pregnancy. Healthy diet helps the mother be active during and after pregnancy. It can be hard to know what is good for your body and what is not. Especially during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Expecting mothers might feel nausea or hunger – all the time. Or weird cravings they can’t explain.
And how should you know what to feed your baby for the first time? Recommendations vary from country to country and might not even be the same with the second child, as they were with the first.
Here are our general tips for a balanced diet for each step, that are usually not debated based on where you live.
Nutrition during pregnancy
During the pregnancy, it’s especially important to eat well and have all nutritions to maintain a healthy lifestyle for both mother and child. If you already have a balanced diet, don’t change it. However, the immune system is weaker during pregnancy. Some foods should be avoided or only consumed in little doses, like caffein and raw food. Take time to read up and get informed.
One of the most important nutritions during pregnancy is iron. When low on iron, the mother can feel tired and dizzy. Meat, fish and eggs are all foods that are rich of iron. The same goes for lentils, white beans, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables. The iron contained in the food should be sufficient to ensure the necessary daily dose. If not, iron supplements are available at all pharmacies and many grocery stores.
Folic acid is very important for the development of a healthy fetus. It can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects. It can help prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.
Folic acid is found in foods like leafy green vegetables, brown rice and granary bread for example. Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant, should eat plenty of these foods, but it’s almost impossible to get enough folic acid just from food – the only way to be sure you’re getting the right amount is by taking a supplement. This is especially important during the first few months of the pregnancy.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and fibers, so making sure the diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables every day is highly recommended. Cereal in the morning, can be accompanied with a banana, that is very rich in vitamin C and B6. Oranges are also a great choice during pregnancy. They’re refreshing, full of vitamin C, folate and fiber. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, so eating vitamin C rich fruits is important.
Dairy foods are very important during pregnancy. They contain a lot of calcium and other nutrients that a pregnant mother and her baby needs. If dairy is not a part of the diet, make an effort in getting the calcium and other relevant nutritions from other foods or supplements.
Pregnant women should drink at least one and a half liter of water every day. Drinking enough water will help avoiding urinary infection. It’s especially important to stay hydrated in the last trimester, as dehydration can cause contractions that can trigger preterm labor.
To keep an healthy lifestyle and good energy level during pregnancy, it’s good to continue exercising. Pregnant women, who exercised before becoming pregnant can usually continue their workout plan, without any big changes. When exercise is not a part of everyday life, going out for a walk every day will do you good and even reduce nausea that is common during the first few months.
Nutrition when breastfeeding
When breastfeeding, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet, eating a variety of foods. A healthy, mixed diet will help restore the body after giving birth, resulting in higher energy levels and faster recovery. When breastfeeding, women often have more appetite. Most breastfeeding women need to eat 200-500 more calories a day, as the body needs more energy to produce enough milk for the baby.
Breastmilk and the baby
During the first six months of the baby’s life, breast milk is usually all the baby needs. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for babies. It has everything the baby needs to grow – a perfect combination of vitamins, protein and fat. Breastmilk even contains antibiotics that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
The mother contributes to the taste awareness of the baby through breastfeeding. Sometimes babies seem unwilling to breastfeed, or feel bad when the mother eats a special kind of food (spicy food or dairy for example). Giving up that suspected food for couple of days and closely observing the baby’s reaction, will help parents understand what is good for the baby and what is not. Sometimes the symptoms disappear after 48 hours, and the breastfeeding works smoother. Than the mother can try to avoid that food until she has stopped breastfeeding.
When choosing a vegetarian diet, it’s recommended to take a vitamin B12 in supplement so that the milk contains enough vitamins for the baby.
In addition to three daily meals, eating healthy, nutritious snacks such as fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread, cheese and yogurt will help you keep good energy level and a happier mood. Be sure to drink enough water to help the milk production and avoid urinary infection.
Nutrition for parents and the baby
Parents can start introducing food other than breastmilk when the child is between four and six months old. That is the recommendation in most countries, while still encouraging parents to keep the breastmilk as the main food source. Introducing the baby to different food at that age, will help to develop the baby’s mouth and taste. In the beginning, you can compose the baby meals with breastmilk. Start with steamed and mashed vegetables like carrots or green beans. Step by step, add other vegetables and food.
When having their first child, many parents improve their diet. With a baby added to the family, parents start cooking every day, going to the market and planning the week menu ahead. However, to many parents frustration, children often have different taste and preferences than adults. Starting to introduce different tastes early on will help develop the baby’s taste and preferences. Research shows that it takes up to ten times of tasting a new food for the baby to decide if they like it a lot. So don’t give up right away.
Always console with doctor or pediatrician to guide you step by step if you have any questions.