Building Healthy Babies (from a Naturopath)Caroline Fenton
So you’re having a baby… congratulations!!
By now, you’ll probably have been inundated with advice (both solicited and…not so) on what you should and shouldn’t do by friends and family members. And maybe you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about where to even begin.
Here are some of my top tips – as a naturopath – for pregnancy and bringing a healthy baby into the world, and giving that little person of yours the best possible start in life…
G E T H E A L T H Y, M U M + D A D!
Take the 6-9 months before conceiving to both get your health, wellbeing and weight status as tip-top as you can. This amount of time helps to ensure the healthiest possible development of both egg and sperm – obviously essential to the development of a healthy baby – but also to ensure the health of mum’s vaginal microbiome (the microorganisms making up a female’s ecosystem) to help enhance fertility and improve birth outcomes.
There’s considerable research indicating that bub’s health will mirror yours. For instance, babies born to overweight or obese mothers are more likely to become overweight or obese themselves later in life than those born to mums of a healthy, normal weight. If you are overweight or obese, this can also negatively impact baby’s microbiome + gut health.
T H E P R E G N A N C Y D I E T
As with any life stage, an optimal diet is one that is as clean and full of wholefoods as possible: including plenty of fresh, colourful fruit and vegetables, fibre, and fermented foods.
Kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh are all fermented foods rich in probiotics to build up your microbiomes (in both the gut + vagina, but also baby’s).
You could also consider taking a probiotic, particularly if you’ve had to take any antibiotics during your pregnancy – there are plenty of reputable probiotic supplements containing varieties of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli particularly suited to both pregnancy and breastfeeding: look out for the LGG strain (which has been shown to reduce the development of allergy and eczema in bub when used in the final trimester of pregnancy), as well as a good variety of Bifidobacterium.
P A S S I T O N
What better gift to give your baby than a unique, healthy, thriving microbiome?
If you’re giving birth naturally, the first beneficial microorganisms your baby will come in contact with will be yours – bub’s skin, eyes and mouth will be coated with the microorganisms of your flourishing microbiome as it passes through the birth canal, setting up baby’s wellbeing far into the future.
Obviously not everyone is able to give birth naturally, and this is where the option of ‘vaginal seeding’ comes in. Before giving birth, a moist, sterile swab is inserted into the mother’s vagina and left in place for an hour, before being sealed and stored in a sterile bag. Immediately after birth, the swab is wiped over baby’s skin, eyes and mouth, mimicking the natural process of microbiome gifting.
You’ll want to double-check with your obstetrician, midwife or doctor (or whoever is delivering your baby) that you’re a good candidate for seeding before the big day.
S K I N T O S K I N
Holding your baby close, skin-to-skin, after its delivery is also important for baby’s health. Known as ‘Kangaroo Mother Care’ (inspired by the way kangaroos carry their young from birth), this establishment of skin-to-skin contact is especially beneficial for preterm and low weight babies, as it helps to keep them warm whilst supporting early breastfeeding.
F E E D
Breastfeeding is a brilliant way to provide nourishment, and essential hormones and antibodies, but also to feed your baby indigestible ‘sugars’ which feed and support the good bacteria in your baby’s gut, supporting a healthy microbiome – and, in turn, digestion and immune system – as your baby grows and grows.
If you’re having difficulties breastfeeding, don’t feel alone. Consider seeing a lactation consultant, osteopath, and/or paediatric dentist for some support. And don’t feel awful if it just doesn’t work for you – you’re supporting the health and wellbeing of your baby in so many other ways, gorgeous mama!
Emily is a qualified Naturopath, and founder of The Purist Collection. You can find more information and blogs by Emily over at www.thepuristcollection.com.
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