The first 1,000 days of a child's life, from conception to their second birthday are the most significant for a child's health and development.
A mum-to-be who eats a healthy, varied diet can have a positive impact on the lifelong health and eating habits of her child. This could seem like a daunting responsibility, but with the latest advice to hand we hope you can enjoy nurturing and nourishing your growing bump.
Baby's first food is the amniotic fluid in the womb and what you eat when pregnant will change its flavour. Babies remember the flavours they first tasted there and appear to like them more.
A recent study among woman who drank carrot juice in pregnancy showed their babies seemed to enjoy the taste of cereal flavoured with carrot juice more than those who hadn't tasted carrot in the womb (1). This idea that baby's tastebuds can be influenced before they start eating continues with breastfeeding as your baby will become used to your typical diet as it changes the flavour of your breast milk.
Research with flavours like garlic, aniseed and mint has shown that babies enjoy them more when they start weaning. We're not suggesting you have to guzzle gallons of carrot juice or eat garlic with every meal, but the studies seem to show that by eating a varied, healthy diet you can help lay down good food foundations for your baby early on.
1 Mennella JA et al.; Prenatal and postnatal flavour learning in human infants; Pediatrics 2001; 107(6):E88.
Other sources: My Pregnancy: Recipes and Meal Planner by Dr Rana Conway PhD RNutr (Public Health), What to Eat When You’re Pregnant by Dr Rana Conway.
Eating for two
For a long time there was a misconception that pregnant women needed to eat for two but we now know that you only need an extra 200 kcal a day in the last trimester when your baby’s weight increases to get ready for birth.
For the first two trimesters, a healthy balanced diet made up of fruit and vegetables, protein-rich foods, dairy foods and unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains will provide all the nutrients your growing baby needs, from vitamin A to zinc.
Women can sometimes miss out on these key nutrients but with a bit of extra planning you can make sure you’re eating just what you need to nourish your growing bump.
“I had morning sickness for the first few weeks with each of my pregnancies and wanted quite plain food, but once that passed I enjoyed a range of foods, including stir-fries, lots of veggie pasta dishes, and sandwiches piled high with salad. Bananas were a life saver at those times when I suddenly felt incredibly hungry, I always had one in my work bag, which was probably good training for becoming a mum!”Rana
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A that’s needed for the development of your baby’s skin, eyes and lungs. It also helps ensure you both have a healthy immune system and can help ward off pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia.
Carrots have more beta-carotene than other fruit and vegetables but it can also be found in sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash and cantaloupe melon.
Bump boosting foods
Fact or fiction?
Are prunes really good for constipation.
Fact or fiction?
But don’t worry, a handful of prunes won’t have you dashing to the loo. Prunes won’t have a dramatic effect but they are an effective treatment for mild and moderate constipation. Most fruit and veg will help keep your bowels moving, as they contain fibre, but prunes are also rich in sorbitol, which is a type of sugar that is absorbed slowly from the intestines and is known to have a laxative effect.
Supplements in pregnancy
It’s recommended for pregnant women to take supplements containing 400 micrograms (μg) of folic acid daily until the 12th week of pregnancy and 10μg of vitamin D daily throughout pregnancy.
Vitamin D is important because it helps regulate levels of calcium and phosphate which are needed for healthy bones and teeth. Labels on the pack of vitamins should advise how much they contain.
Do not take vitamin A supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol), as too much could harm your baby.