Nutrition during pregnancy and postpartum is crucial not just for the health of the baby, but also for the health of future generations. Research has shown that when women optimize their nutrition during pregnancy and postpartum, they optimize the health of not only the child they’re carrying, but also the health of their future grandchildren.
The first 1000 days of a baby’s life, from conception until the child is born, is a crucial window for obtaining the right nutrition. Children who receive proper nutrition during this window are more likely to be born at a healthier weight, be better learners with fewer behavioral problems, and have lower rates of obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, and allergies.
As a part of Singapore Parenting Festivals 2023, panel in webinar “Baby’s Out, What’s Next” presents insights on nutrition for wound healing and recovery, breastfeeding, and introducing foods to your baby to reduce the risk of allergies. The panel also discussed valuable insights into sleep training for newborns, including how to establish healthy sleep habits and create a daily routine that promotes better sleep.
This discussion featured Eunice Tan, an Accredited Dietitian of Singapore (ADS) also a Certified Prenatal & Fertility Dietitian, and Leann Low, a Certified Baby Sleep Consultant.
Nutrition after Childbirth
Postpartum nutrition is equally important as pregnancy nutrition, with a focus on promoting wound healing and recovery and supporting breastfeeding mothers. Nutrients such as protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, copper, and zinc are essential for promoting wound healing and repairing muscles.
A diet high in protein and adequate vegetables is necessary, as studies have shown that those who consume more vegetables heal faster and better than those who consume fewer vegetables. A practical tip is to use one and a half palm sizes of chicken, fish, or meat at every meal to ensure adequate protein intake.
Nutrients such as vitamin D, omega three DHA, folate, magnesium, and hydration are essential for reducing the risk of postpartum depression. Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but mothers in confinement may not have enough sunlight exposure. It is important to consume vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, mushrooms, fortified soy, and fortified milk.
Omega three DHA is found in fish and it is recommended for mothers to have 200-300 milligrams of DHA per day, which translates to 2-3 servings of fish per week. Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and cod are great options for high omega three, low mercury fish.
”And what kind of fish? Fishes that are high in Omega three, but low in mercury. So fishes that are good options like salmon, tuna, particularly skipjack tuna, not any tuna, just skipjack tuna that has lower mercury, mackerel, cod fish, these are great options for fish that you should have,” said Eunice Tan, who has five years of experience as a practicing dietitian.
In the next part of her presentation at the webinar, Eunice discussed the importance of nutrition for mothers who are breastfeeding. It also discusses a number of foods that contain important nutrients for nursing mothers and their babies.
Key Nutritions for Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a topic that concerns many new mothers, as they often wonder how to increase their milk supply. While more research is needed to determine the specific impact of certain foods on milk supply, there is evidence suggesting that there are ingredients that may support lactation.
“So ingredients like garlic, fennel, ginger, green papaya, and fenugreek can be something that Mommies can easily use and incorporate into their meals. Right. So this, as you can see, these are definitely ingredients that are commonly found in our kitchen,” said Eunice, adding that these ingredients are packed with antioxidants, and polyphenols, that are really beneficial for mothers and their babies.
In addition to supporting milk supply, it’s important for breastfeeding mothers to focus on nutrient replenishment. Even after the confinement period, maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for replenishing the nutrients being passed to the baby through breast milk. There are specific micronutrients that depend on a mother’s intake, and inadequate consumption of these nutrients can lead to lower levels in breast milk. For example, iodine, omega-3 DHA, choline, vitamin A, vitamin B, and others play essential roles in brain development, eye health, skin health, collagen production, bone development, and immune system function.
Another important aspect of nutrition for breastfeeding mothers is the consideration of allergenic foods. There is often misinformation circulating online, causing unnecessary fear and avoidance of allergenic foods. Clinically, it is recommended that mothers who are not allergic to these foods should not avoid them during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In fact, early exposure to allergenic foods can help babies develop tolerance and reduce the risk of food allergies later in life. It is advisable to continue consuming these foods while breastfeeding until the baby begins weaning.
By understanding the potential benefits of certain ingredients, focusing on nutrient replenishment, and not unnecessarily avoiding allergenic foods, breastfeeding mothers can optimize their nutrition for themselves and their babies. It’s important to consult with healthcare professionals and registered dietitians for personalized advice and guidance throughout the breastfeeding journey. Prioritizing a balanced diet, including a variety of nutrient-rich foods, is key to supporting lactation, maternal health, and the healthy development of the baby.
Determining balanced food intake
When it comes to food recommendations during pregnancy, there can be a lot of confusion. Certain foods like eggs, especially when not cooked well, and certain types of cheese, are often advised to be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether. However, it’s important to clarify these recommendations. The key is to cook eggs thoroughly to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses like Listeria. Raw or undercooked eggs can pose a higher risk of food poisoning for pregnant women.
To summarize the key points for a balanced plate, half of your plate should consist of vegetables, while one and a half palm-sized portions of chicken, fish, or meat should make up the protein portion. The remaining quarter of your plate should be filled with a choice of staple food, preferably whole grains, to provide fiber and essential B vitamins.
“So this way, you’re gonna get all the different nutrients that your body needs to support, wound healing, recovery, as well as breastfeeding, nutrients for breastfeeding. Right. So if you are already practicing this, that’s really good,” said Eunice.
To optimize your nutrition further, Eunice suggests pregnant women to consider the following five tips. First, aim for a variety of colorful vegetables on your plate. Different colors indicate the presence of diverse antioxidants and vitamins beneficial for both you and your baby.
Second, include fish in your diet at least twice a week to obtain essential nutrients such as iodine and omega-3 DHA. Be mindful of the frequency of fish consumption throughout the week.
Next, eggs are a versatile food that can be enjoyed in various ways. Whether you prefer them as omelets, mixed with vegetables, or alongside your meat, aim to consume at least two eggs per day. This will provide over 50% of your choline requirements, which is crucial for brain development while breastfeeding.
Additionally, make sure to include vitamin D-rich foods regularly in your diet. Eggs, salmon, fortified soy, and fortified dairy products are readily available in supermarkets and are excellent sources of vitamin D.
Last but not least, prioritize your calcium intake, aiming for 1000 milligrams per day while breastfeeding to maintain bone health. You can easily achieve this by consuming two servings of high-calcium fortified dairy, fortified soy, or other calcium-rich foods.
It’s worth noting that supplements are not always necessary, as a well-rounded diet can provide an array of essential nutrients. While supplements have their place, it’s essential to recognize that food offers numerous benefits beyond the individual nutrients they contain. Food provides energy and a combination of nutrients that work together synergistically.
Importance of a Good Sleep Habit for Babies
Also in this webinar, Leann Low, a sleep consultant who is also the founder of Sleepy Buba, shared important knowledge about the importance of enforcing sleeping habits for babies. Because, this will improve the quality of sleep of parents as well
Good sleep is crucial for both babies and parents, and as a certified sleep consultant, Leann Low shares her knowledge and experience on this topic. Sleep training has helped over 109,000 families worldwide, and as a mother of two boys, she understands the challenges of parenting and the importance of quality sleep.
Firstly, let’s discuss what to expect in the early weeks and months of parenthood. Newborns sleep for about 16 to 17 hours a day and require regular feeding every two to three hours due to their small stomachs. They often sleep in short bursts, ranging from 15 minutes to a few hours. It’s normal for them to move and make sounds during sleep, assuring parents of their well-being.
“They also sleep in short bursts. They might be sleeping for half an hour to two hours at a stretch, but sometimes, right? Even 15 minutes. They were like a nap. That’s 15 minutes is not enough, not enough for you to finish your meal. Maybe it’s only enough time for you to go to the toilet,” said Leann.
Communication for newborns is primarily through crying, which can be for various reasons. It’s essential for parents to understand their baby’s cues and respond accordingly. Around six to eight weeks old, a peak in crying may occur, coinciding with the time when the father returns to work after paternity leave.
This period can be challenging for mothers, especially if they don’t have additional support. During this time, babies may also be confused about day and night, requiring parents to actively teach them the difference.
To establish healthy sleep habits, consider implementing blackout curtains to create a conducive sleep environment. Additionally, it’s beneficial to expose newborns to natural light during the day to help regulate their circadian rhythm. While confinement may limit outdoor activities, finding alternative ways to expose babies to daylight can still be beneficial.
It’s important to acknowledge that having a baby will bring significant changes to your life. However, with proper sleep practices, you can navigate parenthood more smoothly. Teaching your baby the difference between day and night, providing a sleep-friendly environment, and understanding their needs are essential steps.
Practicing Sleep Training
Good sleep habits are crucial for babies, and it’s important to understand their sleep needs and how to foster healthy sleep patterns. Newborns require 12 to 15 hours of sleep per day to support their rapid physical growth and brain development. However, good sleep doesn’t always come naturally for babies, and that’s where sleep training comes into play.
Sleep training is the process of teaching babies to fall asleep on their own without parental assistance. Contrary to popular misconceptions, sleep training is not about letting babies cry endlessly or neglecting their needs. It’s about instilling positive sleep habits and promoting self-soothing techniques. Sleep training allows parents to take care of themselves, ensuring they can provide the best care for their children.
Establishing good sleep habits can start from the newborn days. Some helpful practices include keeping babies awake during feeding sessions, avoiding putting them in the car when they’re already asleep, and setting regular sleep schedules to regulate their circadian rhythm.
The significance of practicing good sleep habits lies in preventing babies from becoming dependent on external sleep props. When babies develop healthy sleep patterns, they experience better sleep quality and longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep. Quality nighttime sleep is vital for their well-rested brains, enabling them to learn and make connections during the day.
“Their brains will be much more well rested. Yeah, then they will be ready to learn new things and make a lot of new connections during the day. Yeah, yeah. And when a baby gets enough sleep, they will also become much happier and more cheerful babies,” said Leann.
In addition to benefiting babies, good sleep habits also have positive effects on parents. Well-rested parents experience reduced stress levels, increased energy, and improved overall well-being. Adequate sleep plays a significant role in preventing postpartum depression, along with a healthy diet and exercise.
To illustrate the importance of good sleep habits, let’s consider the case study of an eight-week-old baby named Mia. Initially, Mia had trouble sleeping, relied on constant carrying, and experienced difficulty falling back asleep after feeding. However, with the implementation of a sleep training routine, Mia’s sleep gradually improved. After a few weeks, she slept for seven hours straight, indicating significant progress.
For better sleep, here are two tips to keep in mind. Firstly, it’s beneficial to prepare for good sleep habits during pregnancy. Educate yourself about newborn sleep patterns and establish a sleep-friendly environment. Secondly, once the baby is born, start implementing healthy sleep practices right away. Consistency and routine are key elements in promoting good sleep habits.
Key Elements in Promoting Good Sleep Habits for Babies
Creating the right sleep environment and establishing a consistent routine are key elements in promoting good sleep habits for babies. Let’s go through some important checklists for the sleep environment.
Firstly, ensure the nursery is quiet and cool. Keeping the room boring and clutter-free is essential. Avoid having excessive pillows and soft toys, as they can be a suffocation risk. The goal is to create a calm and safe sleep space for the baby.
Starting an eat-play-sleep routine from the early days is highly beneficial. This means feeding the baby when they wake up from sleep, as they will be more alert and hungry. After feeding, engage the baby in stimulating activities to signify daytime. This helps prevent confusion between day and night.
Once the baby has digested their milk and begins to feel sleepy, it’s time to bring them back to the room and place them in the cot for a nap. Ideally, the nap should last for at least one hour.
Throughout the day, follow a play and sleep routine that revolves around three-hour cycles. Adjust the duration based on the baby’s needs and abilities to stay awake.
Flexibility is important as babies are not predictable, and each baby is unique. Remember that not everything you read on the internet should be taken too seriously, as every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another.
“So the whole day, we’re just revolving around like a play and sleep routine. So most of the time, it will also fall into like three hours because the wait time for everybody is quite different, and how long they can stay as before is also different,” said Leann.
In the event that you have tried various strategies and still face challenges with your baby’s sleep, seeking help from a professional sleep consultant can be highly beneficial. A sleep consultant can provide personalized solutions tailored to your specific situation. They will guide you with easy-to-follow steps and provide support and accountability throughout the process.
To summarize, there are three key takeaways. Firstly, prioritize creating a suitable sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and free of unnecessary items. Secondly, adopt an eat-play-sleep routine for your baby, starting the planning process even before the baby arrives. Lastly, make plans for yourself, considering alternative strategies (Plan B and Plan C) to address any unexpected situations.
Remember that while it may not always go according to plan, flexibility and personalized guidance can help navigate the challenges of sleepless nights and establish healthy sleep habits for both baby and parent.