We’ve been told, often, that a mother’s nutrition (especially when breastfeeding) doesn’t affect a baby’s development. After all, the mother’s body gives the baby everything first, so it shouldn’t matter if what she eats isn’t the greatest, right?
Science says that isn’t true.
While it’s true that, yes, a mother will give her baby what it needs first, if she is deficient, her baby will be deficient too. Also, just because a baby is technically getting what he needs doesn’t mean he’s getting optimal levels of nutrients. And there is no more critical time of development than during pregnancy and the baby’s first two years of life. The baby’s mother having optimal nutrition before, during, and after her pregnancy is critical to help her baby develop as well as possible.
Following is a summary of key nutrients and they affect baby’s development, along with optimal dietary sources (supplements are not recommended; food sources are preferred):
B vitamins — These are perhaps the MOST critical vitamins during pregnancy. B6, pyroxidine, can help morning sickness. Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects (like spina bifida). B12 can help prevent some forms of anemia. All B vitamins help neurological development and provide the mother with energy. Good food sources include beans, leafy greens, and properly prepared grains. The best ” supplement” source (which is really a food) is Brewer’s yeast. Kombucha is also an excellent source (I’ll be posting on this soon.)
Calcium — It helps baby’s bones develop strongly, and it also prevents mom’s bones from losing minerals during her pregnancy. If mom isn’t getting enough calcium, it will leech from her bones to provide her developing baby with the minerals it needs. Leafy greens, bone broth, and raw dairy are good sources of calcium (pasteurized dairy is NOT, as the calcium is not in an absorbable form).
Magnesium — It needs to be balanced with calcium. Too much calcium without magnesium can block the absorption of other nutrients. Magnesium also helps to build strong bones. Nuts, beans are good sources.
Vitamin D — This helps the baby develop bones, but it also functions in a number of ways that we don’t even know yet. Scientists are just starting to realize what a huge role vit D plays in immunity and even more. It’s not totally understood, but vit D is absolutely crucial. The best source of it is the sun. Get out in the sun for a hour or so a day (scientists disagree on how much time is needed; some say only 10 minutes, while others say a couple hours, and it does depend on your location, the time of year, and the color of your skin too) to soak up the rays. Make sure you wear NO sunscreen at all, because it blocks your body’s absorption!
Vitamin C — It can help boost immunity, and help the absorption of iron. Citrus fruits are a good source.
Iron — Mother’s blood volume expands so rapidly during pregnancy (especially early in the second trimester) and she’s also creating blood for her baby. For a lot of moms, this causes anemia. Eating a lot of iron-rich foods can help (calcium blocks iron absorption so don’t eat those together). Iron-rich foods include red meats (grass-fed and organic, please!), organ meats (especially liver), and spirulina and any blue-green algae.
Fat — Fat is absolutely CRUCIAL for development, especially saturated fat! Fats build baby’s brain and neurological connections. Even if you usually subscribe to a low-fat diet (which I don’t recommend; see my posts on Why We Eat Fat and Eating Fat: How and Why), pregnancy and breastfeeding aren’t the times to do that. Your baby needs fat each and everyday. Butter, cream, cheese, red meat, coconut oil, lard, beef tallow…these are all good sources of fat!
Cholesterol — This is also crucial for baby’s brain development. The brain is largely made of cholesterol. Be sure to consume healthy sources of it, like grass-fed beef, butter, raw milk, etc.!
Protein — Adequate protein intake will give you the amino acids necessary to build baby’s body. (Proteins are comprised of various amino acids; there are 8). Intake should be between 80 and 100 grams of protein per day. Meats, nuts, peanuts, and whole grains are good sources.
On Wednesday, we will be talking in more detail about an appropriate diet for pregnant and nursing women. Look forward to that if all this sounds like too much!
Now, for some fun! A GIVEAWAY! I’m giving away a copy of Nina Planck’s “Real Food for Moms and Babies.” If you’re interested in this, here are several ways to enter:
1) Tell me why you want to win this book (required)
2) Visit Nina’s website, http://realbabyfood.info/ and tell me something new you learned.
3) Subscribe to this blog
4) Follow me on Twitter
5) Follow Nina on Twitter
6) Tweet this giveaway (mention @ModernAMama when you do)
7) Post this giveaway on Facebook
8) Tell me your favorite pregnancy food
You can do any or all of these — the first is required, but the rest are optional! There are 8 possible entries. Please leave each entry in a SEPARATE comment. The giveaway ends on Thursday, April 8th at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced Friday morning, and will be chosen by www.random.org.
Thursday we’ll be having Amy @ Raising Arrows talking about eating well with morning sickness, and we’ll be having a carnival where you can link up your posts about eating well during morning sickness, or recipes you enjoyed during pregnancy too! Don’t miss it!