The first 1000 days in a child's life are now accepted to be the most important phase of their development. It starts at the moment of conception and follows through to a baby's second birthday.
What you eat during pregnancy and what you feed your baby during their first 1000 days of life can determine their health, well being and brain development for the rest of their lives. This is a critical window of opportunity to ensure optimum nutrition, and so it is really important that we try and give them the best start possible.
Here at Heavenly Tasty Organics, we know how difficult it can be for parents with young children, to constantly provide the best nutrition possible. We believe that we have a responsibility to provide yummy nutritious products, made with the finest organic ingredients, which will help to make mealtimes a little less stressful.
Being pregnant can be the best incentive for anyone to start eating healthier. During pregnancy your baby gets all their nutrients from you, so healthy choices before, during and after pregnancy are important.
Your body converts what you eat into nutrients for you and your baby, but it can only transfer as much as you take in, so you need to ensure what you eat and drink is packed with nutrients. By eating a wide and varied range of fresh, wholesome and organic foods, you will be giving your baby the best start in life. You do not need to eat for two, just try to remember that what you eat, is as important as how much you eat.
During Pregnancy the following nutrients are particularly important:
Folic Acid is a B vitamin found in some foods as well as in supplement form. All women who become pregnant are advised to take 400μg of folic acid each day to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida. It is important to ensure you continue to take the supplement until at least the 12th week of pregnancy. Green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and spinach can provide good sources of folic acid.
Aim to eat iron rich foods every day as iron is needed to help make the extra blood needed for you and your baby. Some foods such as tea and coffee can reduce your body's ability to absorb iron from your food so try not to have these at the same time as you take iron tablets or eat iron rich foods. Foods such as Red meat, eggs, beans and lentils provide good sources of iron.
Vitamin C helps your body to absorb the iron from the food you eat so maybe drinking a glass of pure orange with iron rich foods will help you absorb the iron a little better. Foods rich in vitamin C are oranges, berries, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli.
Calcium is well known for being important for strong bones and teeth. Your baby will receive adequate supplies of calcium - deficiencies in your diet will be compensated for by being drawn from stores in your body, but this means that calcium levels in your bones and teeth can diminish so you will need to increase your intake. Foods such as dairy products, small bony fish such as sardines, green leafy veg are good sources of calcium.
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of Calcium, for you and your baby's bones and teeth. Your skin can synthesise Vitamin D from sunlight, but unless you live in a warmer climate, levels tend to be low in Ireland and the UK. Oily fish, eggs and sunshine are all good sources of Vitamin D.
During the first trimester your unborn baby grows at an alarming rate and just 18 days after conception your baby's brain has begun to develop. For it to grow properly, the brain needs essential fatty acids (EFA's) from you. A cruical component of the brain, eyes, and nerve cells is Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an Omega 3 EFA. It is also important for the healthy development of the signalling structures in the human brain, so your baby must receive an adequate supply. An Omega 3 supplement will ensure you build up a supply. Good sources of Essential Fatty Acids in your diet include, Avacado, oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months as the best form of nutrition for your baby and it plays an important role in your baby's first 1000 days.
We believe that breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for your baby, but we also understand that it doesn't happen for everyone. Some mothers may find it very easy and enjoyable, others may struggle, whilst for others it just isn't an option. Whatever option you choose, whether its breastfeeding, or infant formula, just ensure you choose an option which works well for you, and for your baby.
Below is some information on the benefits of breastfeeding;
Breastfeeding is good for your baby; if you choose to breastfeed your little one will have:
- less chance of diarrhoea and vomiting
- fewer chest and ear infections
- less chance of being constipated
- less chance of developing eczema
- less likelihood of becoming obese and therefore developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses later in life.
Any amount of breastfeeding has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for mums too!
Breastfeeding lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer. Immediately after the birth it helps the uterus to return to its original size and over time may help mum to return to her pre-pregnancy weight as it naturally uses up to 500 calories per day. Plus its free!
What exactly is weaning?
Weaning is a process which leads your baby gradually through varying textures of solid foods to the consumption of family foods during the second year of life. Many new skills are developed throughout this process such as taking food from a spoon, moving the food from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth for swallowing, moving lumps around the mouth, chewing, and gradually self-feeding and eating the same foods that the rest of the family are eating.
When should I begin weaning?
Breastmilk or formula milk provides all the nourishment your baby needs during the early months. From about six months babies require more than just milk feeds so it is at this time that they will need to have started weaning. Weaning onto solid food will provide the extra nutrients that your baby needs and it is also an important stage in your baby's overall development.
The exact timing of when you should begin weaning your baby onto solids will vary from baby to baby. All babies are different, and do not rush into this stage, just take your time and enjoy it with your baby. It is an opportunity for you to both enjoy the time together and it shouldn't feel like a chore.
Government guidelines recommend weaning your baby as close to six months as possible, but not before 17 weeks (4 months). A baby's digestive system is not ready for solid foods before four months and weaning too early can increase the risk of your baby developing food allergies and intolerances. Certainly if there is a history of food allergies in your family it is best to hold off on weaning until your baby is closer to six months old. It is advisable not to leave weaning much later than six months as by this time baby's energy requirement is higher. Also vital birth stores of nutrients such as iron and zinc are likely to be running low and will need to be supplied through the diet.
Signs your baby may be ready for weaning
1. Doesn't seem satisfied after a milk feed, or starts to demand feeds more frequently over a time period of more than 1 week. They may start to wake in the night to be fed, having previously slept through.
2. Seems hungry between milk feeds
3. Shows an interest in foods, perhaps reaching out for food
4. Watching others with interest when they are eating
5. Shows an increased need to chew, and dribbles more frequently
6. Starts to put toys and other things e.g. their fist, into their mouth to explore taste and texture
7. Should be able to sit up with some support to begin with
Find a time during the day which best suits both you and your baby to begin weaning. Choose a time when your baby isn't tired, stressed or sick. It might be best to offer your baby some of their milk feed to stave off any initial hunger or thirst. Offer a few tastes of puree and then let them finish off their milk feed. Make sure you use a spoon which is soft on baby's gums.
At this stage in weaning all you are really wanting your baby to do is to learn to take the food from the spoon. You might find at the beginning that your baby spits out most of the new tastes they are experiencing. Don't worry though! Babies sometimes need to taste a new food up to 10-15 times before they accept it. So be patient. Just remember to make it an enjoyable experience for baby! Be enthusiastic and make sure you give your baby praise when it goes well.
How much is a serving?
As a guide a baby of around six months old may eat around 1-2 tablespoons at each meal. This is only a rough guideline, and remember, every baby's appetite is different.
From around six months
A common food for babies to start off weaning on is rice cereal. Ensure you use an organic cereal which is age appropriate and suited to your baby's needs.
Other foods which are perfect for baby's first tastes include mild fruit and vegetable purees such as apple puree, pear puree, carrot, avocado, butternut squash. Once you have tried some single flavours you might want to add some grains such as quinoa or millet which are easy for your baby to digest and less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Seven to nine months
At this stage your baby should be well used to eating from a spoon and there should be more texture in your baby's food but no hard lumps yet. Adding in some pureed protein such as chicken, fish or beef to fruit and vegetable purees is a good way of adding texture and encouraging chewing.
A typical serving at this stage would be between 2-4 tablespoons and again, some babies may take more, some may take less.
Your baby might have new teeth at this stage to try to offer some soft cooked vegetables cut into bite sized pieces. (never leave your baby alone while eating in case of choking).
Nine to twelve months
From around nine months your baby will show a desire to feed themselves. It might get a little messy at times but allow them to experiment with one spoon whilst you feed them with another.
Your baby is likely to have several teeth at this stage so you can mash their food rather than puree it. You should try and introduce more finger foods such as pieces of chicken, toast, mini rice cakes, chunky carrot sticks or apple slices. Again, never leave your baby unattended whilst eating in case of choking.
This stage is just as important for your baby as the early days of weaning. They still need a nutritious diet and should be eating along with the rest of the family at mealtimes.
Toddlers grow at an alarming rate, and during these formative years it is key that they receive the key nutrients needed to support their growing bodies. Your baby's brain reaches about 50% of its size by the time they are 6months old and around 85% of its size by the time they are 3 years old. Around half of your baby's energy is used for their brain development! Amazing when you think about it! So now we know why its important to ensure they still get the best nutrition possible.
Iron is needed in the blood to help carry oxygen around the body to the muscles. It can be found in foods such as red meat, pulses, egg yolk, dried fruits, wholemeal bread and fortified cereals.
Calcium is not only important for the development of strong bones and teeth, but also for blood clotting, and muscle function. Calcium can be found in many foods such as eggs, dried foods, green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium for your baby's bones and teeth. A great source of Vitamin D is natural sunshine, but unless you live in a warmer climate levels can be low in the UK and Ireland. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as Eggs, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Proteins are essential for the building and repair of cells and tissue and can be provided from animal sources or Vegetable sources.
Animal sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products.
Vegetable sources of protein include grains such as rice, millet, wheat, quinoa and lentils, tofu, seeds, lentils, pulses such as chickpeas and beans. Breastmilk is an excellent source of protein.
Essential Fats (EFA's) - the Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential polyunsaturated fats - help us stay physically healthy, reduce the risk of allergies, asthma, eczema and infections, due to their anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive properties. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are 'essential', but we can't make them for ourselves, so we must get them from our diet. For this reason they are called 'Essential Fatty Acids'.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are particularly needed for the growing brain, nervous system, to prevent inflammation, and to support eye and brain function at all ages.
Foods that provide Omega-3 include:
- Flaxseeds and Flax Oil
- Oily Fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon
- Fortified eggs (Some eggs are now fortified with Omega-3, check the label for details.
Easting one or two portions of oily fish as week will help ensure your child receives an adequate level of essential fats to help with brain development.