A mother's food and nutrition choices before and during pregnancy can contribute to the future health of her children. For pregnant women, key habits include eating a variety of foods, ensuring adequate intake of vitamins and minerals, gaining an appropriate amount of weight, participating in regular physical activity and avoiding harmful substances.
Once the baby has arrived, it is important that newborns receive optimal nutrition from the beginning. Studies have shown that breastfeeding provides many advantages to both baby and mother — in terms of health benefits and financial savings. In addition to eating right from birth, developing physical activity habits at an early age also is important.
Eating Right during Pregnancy
Moms-to-be need a variety of foods from all the MyPlate food groups to get the nutrition needed for a healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women need a balanced diet including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthful fats. The MyPlate dairy group includes options for those who can’t tolerate lactose or prefer non-dairy alternatives. A prenatal multivitamin/mineral supplement may be recommended by your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist to ensure that you get enough iron, folic acid and other nutrients.
Healthy Weight Gain during Pregnancy
The amount of food a woman needs during pregnancy depends on a number of things including factors such as weight before pregnancy, the rate at which she gains weight, age and appetite.
Research shows the risk of problems during pregnancy and delivery is lowest when weight gain is within a healthy range. Women should talk with their healthcare provider about the best rate of weight gain for them. If needed, a registered dietitian nutritionist can provide individualized help for meeting nutrient needs with an appropriate amount of calories in ways that fit personal lifestyle and food preferences.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends exclusively breastfeding for the first six months if possible to provide optimal nutrition and health protection, and continuing breastfeeding with the addition of complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age.
In addition to providing the best nutrition, breastfeeding reduces your baby's risk of ear infections, respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal infections and possibly sudden infant death syndrome and obesity. Breastfeeding also provides mom with benefits including aiding in weight loss after delivery and reducing risk of breast and possibly ovarian cancers.