There is a direct link between maternal (mothers) health and the long term health of her baby. Both mothers who are obese and mothers who are severely underweight increase the risk of complications both during pregnancy as well as post birth. A mother that enters a pregnancy with chronic obesity is at a high risk of developing diabetes as well as having a baby that is extra big for his gestational age.
As the study from Pittsburg university points out, the link between infant death and the mother’s weight is correlated to some degree. Other similar studies have called this the 1000 day metabolic set up. This means that in the first 1000 days of a child's life - conception to the end of the toddler years will establish a child's metabolism as well as predisposition for developing lifestyle diseases later on in life like type two diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
So here are four golden rules to ensure you give your child the best start in life:
1. Prior to conception aim to reach a healthy body mass index (relationship of weight to height)! Do this by:
Choosing real, unprocessed foods, lots of fresh vegetables, raw fresh seasonal fruit and nuts, and seeds.
Choose high quality organic protein foods, eggs, chicken, fish and lean red meats are all good options
Incorporate healthy fats like avocado, coconut fats and olive oils.
Drink fresh water and herbal teas
Limit sugar intake and treats to once a week.
2. Relaxation and time out. Life is so busy and fast. Take some planned time out from the rush of life. Switch off cell phones and social media.
3. Get enough sleep - aim at 7-10 hours per night. Everyone is different and has different sleep requirements, whatever yours are you will know you have had enough when you wake up feeling rested.
4. Spend time in nature and being creative. This goes a long way to a healthy and happy mind and soul.
Points 3-5 are not directly nutrition related but research shows that people that have these in place tend to choose healthier, more natural foods. When we manage our stress, the body decreases the secretion of adrenalin and thus less insulin is produced which helps lower risk of metabolic syndrome (a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and infertility)
To conclude, pregnancy is no longer a license to eat for two but rather an awakening of and desiring to nurture and love one’s body by choosing healthy, natural and unprocessed foods. '
Kath Megaw - paediatric dietician and co-author of Feeding Sense