Pregnancy and breastfeeding take a toll on a woman’s body. Creating and nourishing a whole other (albeit small) human being is no small task, and this new little human is totally dependent on your body and your nutrition for its growth and development.
Many parents believe (and are incorrectly told) that the baby will take whatever it needs from the mom’s body, much like a parasite, leaving mom deficient in nutrients if she’s not consuming enough for the both of them.
This is absolutely not true. Nutrients do not go first to the baby and then to the mom. As stated in Nutrition Through the Life Cycle:
When maternal nutrient intakes fall below optimum levels or adjustment thresholds, fetal growth and development are compromised more than maternal health. In general, nutrients will first be used to support maternal nutrient needs for her health and physiological changes, and next for placental development, before they become available at optimal levels to the fetus.
So if you’re not eating well during pregnancy or nursing, baby doesn’t get first dibs on the nutrients you’re consuming. If you’re not consuming enough for the both of you, baby is going without!
If you’re preparing to have another baby it’s important to replenish the nutrients your first baby heavily relied on – those same nutrients your new baby will also need, and they’re the ones you’re more likely to be deficient in after a pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Here are four super-important prenatal nutrients:
Omega-3s improve your baby’s eye and brain growth and early development. Taking in enough omega-3s can lower your baby’s chances of getting asthma and other allergic conditions. They also may lower your risk of giving birth too early, and of having depression after you have your baby (postpartum depression).
Here is a quick list of foods to eat during pregnancy for brain development.
2. Iron – Here’s what The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has to say about iron:
Iron is used by your body to make a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, you need extra iron—about double the amount that a nonpregnant woman needs. This extra iron helps your body make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. The daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy is 27 mg, which is found in most prenatal vitamin supplements. You also can eat iron-rich foods, including lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals, and prune juice. Iron also can be absorbed more easily if iron-rich foods are eaten with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
(Check out our list of the best pregnancy juices)
It is unlikely your prenatal vitamin provides enough vitamin D. A recent study found women taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily had the greatest benefits in preventing preterm labor/births and infections.
Vitamin D now has extensive research supporting its role in immune function, healthy cell division and bone health. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin D invests in the well-being of your baby by supporting healthy bone development. Deficiency with vitamin D is also related to preeclampsia.
4. Folate – Beware the use of the terms “folic acid” and “folate” interchangeably. They are not the same! Look for supplements with folate, or get your folate through real foods like leafy greens, seaweed, chicken liver, sunflower seeds, leeks, and peppers. Here’s why folate is so important:
Folate, a B vitamin, plays an important role in cell division and in the synthesis of amino acids and nucleic acids like DNA. It is essential to the normal development of the spine, brain and skull of the fetus, especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy. This is a time when many women are not yet aware that they are pregnant. Folate also supports the pregnant woman’s expanding blood volume and growing maternal and fetal tissues.
Restoring these nutrients will give your newest child the health benefits your first one enjoyed, and help keep momma healthy throughout another wonderful pregnancy!
For more articles about health during pregnancy read our other articles:
- best foods for fetal brain development