Category Archives: Baby

Optimum Nutrition for Breastfeeding Mums

Optimum Nutrition for Breastfeeding Mums

Optimum Nutrition for Breastfeeding Mums

August 1st marked the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, an awareness campaign organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to protect, support and promote breastfeeding.

As natural as breastfeeding is, it can often be challenging for new mums. Breastfeeding is an energy-intensive business, requiring an additional 300-500 calories each day. Night feeds can leave breastfeeding mums with little rest, and being the sole provider of your baby’s nutrition can feel like a huge responsibility.

The benefits of breastfeeding are widely studied. Breastfed babies are healthier all round. They have a lower risk of infection and auto-immune disease, and are less prone to allergies later in life. Studies have also found breastfed babies to have higher IQs than their formula-fed counterparts.

For mums who are able to breastfeed and choose to do so, looking after your own nutritional needs is crucial. A well-nourished mum is better able to cope with the demands of a new baby, and better positioned to support the health of their baby. Here are the top three supplements for breastfeeding mums, to support the health of both mother and baby.

1. Probiotics

Breast milk from a healthy mum contains several strains of beneficial gut flora. If mum has a healthy gut, then beneficial gut flora can actually move from her gut into her breast milk via a process called ‘vertical translocation’. Mums can encourage healthy bacteria in their breast milk by taking a probiotic supplement. Ensuring a good intake of gut-healthy prebiotic foods such as bananas, asparagus, garlic and onions is also helpful. Finally, including probiotic foods such as probiotic yoghurt, and fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut and sourdough bread is beneficial.

During breastfeeding, probiotics are beneficial both for the mother and the baby. In the mother, probiotics can aid digestion, and they are believed to speed up recovery from mastitis, and to prevent thrush which sometimes occurs after antibiotic treatment for mastitis. In babies, there is evidence that probiotics present in breast milk help to protect against colic, eczema and asthma (1).

2. Omega-3

It is believed that children who are breastfed have higher IQs than formula-fed infants. A recent long-term study of more than 3000 children found that on average, those who were breastfed had an IQ score of 7 points higher than those who weren’t (2).

The main reason for this effect appears to be the levels of essential fatty acids in breast milk. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is vital for brain development. Of course, in order for DHA to be present in breast milk, it is important for the mother to ensure that she is getting enough omega-3 fats in her diet. Two servings of oily fish each week would provide a good level of DHA. Alternatively, DHA supplements are available for breastfeeding mothers. Vegetarians may benefit from taking a DHA supplement, as breast milk from vegetarian mothers is lower in DHA (3).

3. Maternal multi-vitamin and mineral formulations

Breastfeeding can take quite a nutritional toll on mothers. If the mother’s diet is lacking in nutrients, then stores may be drawn from her own body in order to fortify her breast milk. For example, a lack of protein may result in breakdown of muscle tissue, while a calcium-deficient diet could result in loss of calcium from bones.

Other vitamins and minerals cannot simply be drawn from the mother’s body to supply breast milk. A deficiency of any vitamin in the mother’s diet will have an adverse affect on levels in breast milk. It can also, of course, affect the mother directly. For example, low levels of magnesium, zinc and iron have all been linked with postnatal depression (4).

There are currently no official guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplementation in breastfeeding mothers. The exception is for Vitamin D. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that breastfeeding mothers should supplement 10 micrograms (or 400 units) of Vitamin D each day, to ensure the baby’s healthy bone development.

However, most adults in the UK also fail in obtaining the recommended amounts of minerals such as zinc and iodine through diet alone – minerals important for babies’ growth, immune system and cognitive development. For this reason it could be a sensible measure to supplement vitamin D as part of a good quality multivitamin and mineral formula, in order to ensure that both mother and baby are meeting their nutritional needs.

References
1. Lara-Villoslada et al (2007) 2007 Beneficial effects of probiotic bacteria isolated from breast milk. Br J Nutr. Oct;98 Suppl 1:S96-100.
2. Caspi et al (2007) Moderation of breastfeeding effects on the IQ by genetic variation in fatty acid metabolism. PNAS; 10.1073. 0704292104
3. Brzezińska et al (2016) Vegetarian diets in the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women]. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 40(238):264-8.
4. Etebary et al (2010) Postpartum depression and role of serum trace elements. Iran J Psychiatry. 5(2):40-6.

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Fertility and Pregnancy Support – From Conception to Birth

Conception

Making the decision to have children may sometimes be easier than getting pregnant. There are many potential causes of infertility, with fertility problems affecting either the man or the woman. Common causes of infertility in women include lack of regular ovulation and endometriosis, and in men the most common cause is poor quality of semen.

Optimum nutrition is absolutely vital for conception and food supplements are useful where an additional intake of specific nutrients is required. AnteNatal Forte provides a combination of nutrients designed to support a woman throughout conception and pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It is free from vitamin A for those wishing to avoid it, but supplies beta carotene which the body can convert to vitamin A as required. It contains zinc to support normal fertility and reproduction, vitamin B6 which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, and folic acid which contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.

ASC Plus provides a combination of synergistic nutrients to support male fertility, including L-arginine, vitamin E, L-taurine, L-Carnitine, zinc and selenium. Zinc supports normal fertility and reproduction, whilst selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis – the process in which sperm is produced.

Pregnancy

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Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain

Assuming normal fertility, the next challenge is pregnancy, where there are significant biological changes which occur including an increased demand for nutrients such as vitamin D, B12, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

A healthy baby begins with a healthy mum – eating a well-balanced and varied diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and fish will help to provide the nutrients that you and your baby need. Where an additional intake of nutrients is required, a specific pregnancy supplement can be useful. Pregnancy & Lactation Formula is designed to offer comprehensive nutritional support to women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It includes folic acid at recommended levels along with vitamin B12, iron, zinc and vitamin A at a level considered safe in pregnancy. It’s also important to avoid harmful habits such as smoking and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption to help reduce the risk of any pregnancy complications.

Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain…

NHS recommendations suggest that eating fish during pregnancy is beneficial to your health as well as the development of your baby. However it is suggested that you should avoid consuming more than 2 portions of oily fish per week as it may contain pollutants. Omega-3 fatty acids provide EPA and DHA – maternal intake of DHA has been shown to contribute to normal brain and eye development of the foetus and breastfed infants, making its intake rather important.

Mega EPA is a naturally concentrated fish oil of outstanding quality and high potency. Each capsule provides omega-3 fatty acids in a natural triglyceride form, perfect for everyday use. It is of outstanding purity and free from detectable contaminants, so can safely be used during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.

Arrival of the newborn

Some expectant mothers choose to take probiotics throughout their pregnancy, as well as give them to their newborn baby. AnteNatal BioFlora is a clinically proven probiotic for pregnant women containing LAB4B – a specific and clinically proven blend of probiotic bacteria. It has been designed to be used particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy, and provides a guaranteed 10 billion live bacteria per daily intake. Baby BioFlora is an easy-to-use powder and contains the same specialist blend of LAB4B probiotics as AnteNatal BioFlora with the addition of G.O.S (galactooligosaccharide) which is found in high concentrations within breast milk. It is suitable to be given to babies from birth and can be used to help establish intestinal microflora in newborns up to 12 months.

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Caffeine linked to low birth weight babies

A new study published in the journal BMC Medicine last month shows that caffeine is linked to low birth weight babies (1).

Caffeine intake is already a concern in pregnancy, with current guidelines recommending that pregnant women restrict themselves to no more than 200mg of caffeine (equivalent to around two cups of coffee) each day.

While the placental barrier does a good job of screening out many infectious agents, it is not able to block environmental pollutants such as pesticides, mercury and PCBs. Likewise, caffeine can cross the placental barrier, resulting in babies that are small for gestational age (SGA).

The study monitored the caffeine intake of more than 60,000 pregnant women. For every 100mg of caffeine each day, the average infant lost an estimated 21-28g. Caffeine intake also increased the length of pregnancy, with caffeine from coffee in particular having the most dramatic effect. This suggests that another substance in coffee may also contribute to the negative effects. For example, decaffeinated coffee retains other stimulants such as theophylline and theobromine.

While coffee is the primary source of caffeine in many diets, there are many other foods and drinks that contribute to overall caffeine intake. This study monitored all sources of caffeine, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fizzy drinks, as well as foods such as chocolate and chocolate desserts.

Coffee
Caffeine can cross the placental barrier, resulting in babies that are small for gestational age

As a general guide, a can of coke contains around 30mg caffeine, a cup of tea contains around 50mg caffeine, and a cup of instant coffee contains around 60mg caffeine. ‘Proper’ coffee will provide an even bigger caffeine hit. A medium cup of coffee from a high street coffee chain can contain around 200mg caffeine. For those who regularly visit high street coffee chains it’s important to note that the amount of caffeine in drinks from these stores can vary wildly making it very difficult to determine how much caffeine you are actually drinking.

Staying hydrated is especially important during pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids helps lessen the risks of problems such as constipation, urinary infections, fluid retention and haemorrhoids during pregnancy. The volume of blood in your body, which is made mostly of water, also increases during pregnancy.

So what are the best choices of beverage during pregnancy? Water is the most obvious choice for staying hydrated. Keep a bottle at your desk or carry a small bottle in your bag if you’re out and about. If plain water is too boring, try carbonated water and add a slice or two of lemon or lime.

Naturally caffeine-free teas are another good choice. Redbush tea is naturally caffeine free. Peppermint tea can help ease digestive troubles and ginger tea may help to relieve morning sickness. Fruit smoothies using probiotic yoghurt and digestive-boosters such as milled flax seeds is another great option.

Barley water makes a great anti-inflammatory agent for the urinary system which can be more prone to infection during pregnancy. Buy whole barley, put 40g in a litre of water, boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a slice of lemon or the juice of one lemon and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then sip the water throughout the day.

Finally, green smoothies provide all the antioxidants of fruit juice without the sugar hit, and they can be a great source of minerals such as folate and iron which are needed in greater amounts during pregnancy. Try blending a handful of spinach with an avocado, a dash of apple juice, a cup of water, and three tablespoons of plain yoghurt for a refreshing folate and iron-rich green smoothie.

References

1. Sengpiel V et al. (2013) Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: results from a large prospective observational cohort study. BMC Medicine 11:42.

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Maternal Vitamin D levels linked to baby’s brain development

Earlier this year I wrote about a study that links vitamin D in pregnancy with children’s body fat levels. Evidence on the importance of vitamin D in pregnancy continues to grow. More recently, a new population-based study has linked expectant mothers’ vitamin D levels with their children’s brain development (1).

The study, to be published this month in Pediatrics, suggests that pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to give birth to children with slower brain development and decreased motor skills.

The Spanish study, a population-based cohort study recruiting 1,820 pregnant women, was conducted between 2003 and 2008. The women had their vitamin D levels measured during their second trimester of pregnancy. Later, their children’s mental development was assessed by trained psychologists.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements can help raise vitamin D levels in the body to an adequate level during pregnancy

The data showed that 20% of the women were deficient in vitamin D, and a further 32% had ‘insufficient levels’ of the vitamin. The babies of mothers who were deficient in vitamin D scored lower on mental and psychomotor tests at the age of 14 months when compared to children of women with adequate vitamin D levels.

To ensure that the study was fair, the authors used statistical techniques to account for other variables that could have influenced the children’s development. These included factors such as birth weight, maternal age, social class and mother’s education level, and whether or not the mother drank alcohol or smoked during pregnancy.

The differences in scores were significant, with the children of vitamin D deficient mothers scoring 2.6 points lower on mental tests and 2.3 points lower on psychomotor tests. Study leader Dr Eva Morales notes that a difference of just 4-5 points in these such tests could result in halving the number of children with above-average IQ scores. As a result, Morales believes that these differences in scores ‘might have an important impact at the population level’.

This is not the first study to look at the effect of maternal vitamin D on children’s development. A study published by the same journal in March this year indicated links between maternal vitamin D deficiency and children’s neurodevelopment (2). This study found that low vitamin D levels in the second trimester of pregnancy were linked with language impairment in children at the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

While these studies show a link between vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and children’s brain development, they do not prove the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship. Possible reasons for a link include the known role that vitamin D plays in brain function. For example, vitamin D receptors are present throughout the brain, and the vitamin is essential for the formation of neurotrophins, proteins in the brain that help nerve cells to survive and develop.

According to the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey, up to a quarter of people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. In its recent statement on vitamin D requirements, the UK Department of Health considers pregnant and breastfeeding women to be an ‘at risk group’. The current recommendation for vitamin D in pregnancy is 10 mcg, or 400 IU, and the UK Department of Health advises that all pregnant women should supplement this amount. As new evidence comes to light regarding the essential role of this vitamin in children’s development, this advice seems more pertinent than ever.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Morales et al (2012) Circulating 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 in Pregnancy and Infant Neuropsychological Development. Pediatrics. Published online ahead of publication in Sept 2012.

2.Whitehouse A et al (2012) Maternal Serum Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy and Offspring Neurocognitive Development. Pediatrics Vol. 129 No. 3 pp. 485 -493.

 

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