Your pregnancy is a time filled with questions: “How do I build an inviting home environment for my baby?” “How can I ensure her good health and well-being as she first experiences the world?”
It’s an incredible journey for both of you, and you want to give your baby the best possible start in life—but did you know that your parenting actually begins before your little one is born?
Research shows that prenatal life experiences can leave a lasting biological imprint, both negative and positive, on your baby, which means it’s crucial that you start preparing now.
Doulas and early learning experts in our Healthy Parents & Babies program recommend these 4 ways to give your unborn baby the best start to a healthy future:
- Check your history. After all, there’s a whole other human growing inside of you! Gather your family’s and your partner’s health history to present to your health care provider at the beginning of your pregnancy. This will allow your doctor to foresee and manage any potential health risks for you or the baby during your pregnancy. There are a handful of forms available on the Internet that make gathering this information easy. Download one of them and have family members fill it out.
- Avoid harmful substances. Expectant mothers are warned against using tobacco, alcohol and drugs during their pregnancy. All three are toxins and, when consumed by pregnant mothers, put a baby at risk for low-birth weight and other adverse health outcomes. But it doesn’t stop there, caffeine can also be harmful to the fetus, as a developing baby cannot fully metabolize the stimulant. So it’s important to do your homework on what foods and beverages contain caffeine.
- Eat for two. Consume nutrient-dense meals and take prenatal vitamins to manage your, and your baby’s, dietary needs. Especially important to your diet are foods rich in vitamin D and folic acids, both of which help your baby to grow. Developing these healthy eating habits may also have a long-term effect on your child. Your unborn baby begins to develop taste buds at only eight weeks old and research suggests that what a baby tastes in your amniotic fluid shapes what he eats as he grows older. So why not start developing his taste for broccoli now?
- Don’t stress! Chronic stress is associated with premature deliveries and can also have negative effects on your baby’s brain development. While a joyful time, it is no secret that pregnancy can also be stressful. So, if you are feeling worried or frazzled, practice relaxing techniques like breathing exercises and meditation to help center yourself and calm your nerves. Routinely engaging in other activities that bring you peace, like reading and exercising, also help to relieve strain on your baby and any strain in your life. Practicing staying calm and collected now will help you become more relaxed as a mother and therefore, allow your child to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
To see how doulas are helping low-income young moms get off to a strong start, meet Hilary, a doula at Christopher House: