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Managing your stress during your pregnancy

Posted on 16 March 2015 by Amber

 

 

Managing stress during pregnancy

For most mums-to-be, pregnancy is a happy and exciting time.  However, for some, pregnancy can be a source of stress and anxiety.  We all know about the importance of physical health during pregnancy, but we can be less likely to consider the effects of emotional health.

Experiencing occasional stress and anxiety during pregnancy is very normal, and for many women, these feelings will come and go.  However, for around 15% or pregnant women, it can be more serious, and potentially harmful.

Rest assured that most women will go onto have a healthy pregnancy and baby even if they’re stressed. 

But if you’re feeling stressed and anxious all the time, don’t struggle on alone, ask your doctor or midwife for help.  There’s some evidence that continuous high levels of stress may have adverse effects on your baby.  It’s thought that the stress hormone, cortisol, can cross the placenta and impact the baby’s brain development.  High levels of chronic stress can also increase your chance of premature labour or a low birth weight baby.

Whist you mustn’t feel guilty or be hard on yourself, trying to overcome your stress or seeking help if you need to, will be beneficial for both you and your baby.

Here are some positive steps you can take to reduce your stress during pregnancy:

Talk about it
Sharing your concerns and feelings with your partner, friends, or family will help relieve some of your anxiety.  Don’t bottle things up.  Turning to others for support and sharing your concerns can really help you feel better. 

If you have worries about your baby’s wellbeing, or a personal matter, you can always turn to your caregiver.  There are many resources out there, so if you are honest about how you feel, you are more likely to get the support you need.

Talking to other mums-to-be can be another excellent source of support, as they’re probably experiencing the same anxieties as you are.  There are plenty of antenatal, exercises or mum-to-be classes available, where you can meet others in the same position as you.

Rest and relaxation
Make slowing down a priority.  You need to be kind to yourself and allow time to rest without feeling guilty.  Treat yourself to some ‘you’ time and put your feet up, have a long bath, or read a good book.  If you feel exhausted, go to bed early or take a nap if you can.  Growing a baby is tiring work and it’s important to listen to your body and get all the rest you need.

Complementary therapies are another great way to unwind.  Reflexology or massage in particular can be a wonderful way to de-stress.  Many spa and beauty salons provide pregnancy treatments, but if you don’t want to put money aside, you can always ask your partner or a close friend or family member to give you a back, neck or foot massage.

Deep-breathing exercises, yoga, or stretching are wonderful to relieve built up stress and tension.  You can teach yourself meditation, breathing exercises and visualisation techniques, they’re free, and you can do them anywhere.  These are ways of relaxing by concentrating your mind on one thing and they’re often used in yoga.

Try to find a pregnancy yoga class near you.  However, if you can’t join a class for whatever reason, there are many pregnancy yoga DVDs available, allowing you to practice in the comfort of your own home.

Look after yourself
If you’re used to caring for others, give your all at work, or find it hard to say “no”, making yourself a priority may seem unnatural, or even selfish.  But looking after yourself is an essential part of looking after your baby.  Now’s as good a time as any to get rid of the notion that you can do it all.  Practice saying “no” and get used to the idea of asking your friends and family for help. 

Take good care of your body and your mental health will improve too.  Do your best to eat healthy food, drink plenty of water and take regular gentle exercise such as walking or swimming. 

Laughter is one of the body’s best ways of relaxing, so meet up with friends, go out for a meal or watch a film at the cinema.

Pregnancy is also a great time to treat yourself to all the treatments you don’t normally splash out on or have time for.  If your bump gets too big to paint your toe nails, have a pedicure, or create your own pampering session at home if you’re saving money.

Prepare for the birth
If the prospect of giving birth is worrying you, learning more about what happens during labour can make you feel more in control and less anxious.  Understanding the process, stages of labour and most importantly, your choices, can put your mind at rest.

Being prepared can really help relieve stress.  Antenatal classes are a great way of being well informed, and if you’re having your baby at a hospital or birth centre, you may be able to have a tour of the delivery suite, or an online tour should be available.  Having a birth plan written up is also one less thing to worry about. 

Speak to your midwife about your worries.  Most likely they are completely normal and you won’t be the only woman having had the same anxieties.  If your fear of birth is so overwhelming, the right support may help you overcome your doubts.  Hypnobirthing is also a great way of feeling positive about the birth.

Money worries
Times are financially difficult for many people at the moment, and with a baby on the way, it can cause considerable stress for some.  But try not to worry; a baby doesn’t actually need that much in the early stages.  Try and write a list of the essential things you really need and stick to it.  You’ll also probably be pleasantly surprised by how much you can borrow, or get things in great condition second hand.

Make sure you know about your entitlements regarding maternity pay, and you may also be entitled to other supplementary benefits too.  Speak to your midwife as they may be able to help you with equipment grants or pointing you in the direction of Charities that will give you good quality cots and prams for example.

What if your stress continues?
If you’re extremely anxious, feel unable to cope or manage your stress, or have a specific reason to be concerned about your baby’s health, consult with your care giver.  They may be able to recommend some professional counselling.  Some women can also experience depression during pregnancy, and this can be treated, so talking to your doctor or midwife can really help.

 

 

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Should you move your toddler onto a Growing up milk?

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Helen

Hi!

As your baby approaches his/her first birthday, you might start thinking about whether you should be keeping them on the same milk feeds or not.  Although they need less of it, milk is still an important part of a toddler’s diet and provides them with valuable protein, energy, vitamins and minerals such as calcium.   From the age of 1 year, they should be getting about ½-¾ pint (about 300-400 ml) milk each day. You shouldn’t let them drink much more than this as it reduces the appetite for other valuable foods.

Toddlers are often switched from formula milk feeds to whole cows’ milk at the age of one.  But is this the best thing to do or are there any benefits in sticking with formula milk instead and if so which one should you use? Cows’ milk can give your toddler lots of the nutrients that he or she needs, but certain nutrients such as iron and vitamin D are found in much higher amounts in formula milks and this can been a nutritional advantage.
Toddlers are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency.  It is estimated that 1 in 8 toddlers in the UK may be anaemic, with the problem being even greater than this in some groups.  Babies are born with enough iron stores to last until about 6 months of age and after this they rely on food sources, but some toddlers may not eat enough of these iron-containing foods to meet their needs.   Fussy eating during toddlerhood can certainly make the situation worse.

If your toddler is a fussy eater or their intake of iron-containing foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals is limited, then they could very well benefit from the continued use of a formula milk such as a Growing up Milk from the 12th month.  These Growing up Milks usually contain 40 times more iron than whole cows’ milk.  But this doesn’t mean that you can stop encouraging them to eat these other foods; variety is key to a healthier diet for your growing child.

For vitamin D is another nutrient that toddlers may be lacking.  It is only found in a limited number of foods e.g. oily fish, eggs, fortified margarines and cereals, and although it can also be made by the action of sunlight on skin this synthesis may be reduced if the skin has limited exposure to sunlight (as a result of clothing worn, living conditions or use of sunscreens).  Growing up Milks are fortified with vitamin D and can help safeguard toddlers against a deficiency of this vital vitamin which is important for the normal growth and development of bones and teeth and for nerve and muscle function. 

For more advice on milk and other drinks at this age, you might want to have a look at the HiPP Baby Club website.

Bye for now.

Helen

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Friendly bacteria

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Helen

Hi everyone,

A look around your supermarket will reveal an increasing number of foods on sale that contain probiotics, or ‘friendly bacteria’, such as live yogurts and fermented milk drinks. These ‘friendly bacteria’, when added to foods, are considered to have ‘a beneficial effect on the health and well being of the host’. They are different to ‘prebiotics’ which are found naturally in some foods, e.g. bananas, chicory, artichokes, and added to others which are not the bacteria themselves but non-digestible food components which stimulate the growth and/or activity of friendly bacteria in the gut.

The health claims that can be made for foods containing ‘friendly bacteria’ is severely limited by the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations and so far none of the claims submitted to the European Food Standards Agency for inclusion in the ‘permitted health claims’ list have been approved, so it is likely to become increasingly difficult for consumers to get information and understand how these ‘friendly bacteria’ could benefit their health.

However, one food you won’t find on the supermarket shelves that does contain ‘friendly bacteria’ but is known to benefit health is human breastmilk. Once thought to be sterile, research in recent years has confirmed that breastmilk actually contains a wide range of bacteria, including lactic acid bacteria with probiotic potential, although the exact composition of this bacterial component of breastmilk varies between individual women.

By providing a continuous supply of bacteria to a baby through lactation, breastmilk plays a significant role in the initiation and development of the gut flora of an infant which doesn’t become fully developed until around the age of 2 years. Researchers believe it is the presence of ‘friendly bacteria’ in breastmilk that could help to explain why breastfed babies suffer from fewer and less severe infections and lower incidence of allergies than non-breastfed babies. 

Until next time....
Helen

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Setting a good example around foods

Posted on 2 May 2012 by Helen

Hi everyone,

As parents we have many responsibilities. One that shouldn’t be underestimated in this day and age, in my opinion, is teaching our children about healthy food choices and sensible eating.  

We must try to help our children feel good about their bodies and show them how to maintain a healthy body weight, whilst ensuring that the foods they choose provides all the nutrition they need for good health and well-being. Whilst you may feel you don’t have all the skills and nutritional knowledge to pass on to your children, there are various tools available to help you do this. Some links that you might find useful for yourself and any older children are given below:

NHS - Good food for home

NHS - Change 4 Life

Some simple things to remember include:

  • Offer children a variety of nutritious foods at planned meal and snack times – and if possible eat with them and use it as an opportunity to talk about different foods and why they are good to include in the diet
  • Plan meals and snacks at regular times - Having set meals and snack times can help children develop good eating patterns and teach them good food behaviors
  • Don’t overfeed – try and pick up on their cues for when they are hungry or full. Babies and young children generally have ways of telling you when they are hungry and know when they’ve had enough to eat. Don’t force babies and young children to finish off all the food that you offer them if they don’t seem to want it.
  • Try and be a positive role model for a healthy lifestyle - Children like to imitate adults, and will learn many of their attitudes about healthy (or unhealthy) eating and physical activity from you. Be enthusiastic about trying new foods yourself. Spend time playing actively with them and don’t just sit and watch. When children notice that you are trying new foods and playing actively, they are more likely to do the same.

For a handy guide on what makes up a good diet for a baby, why not have a look at our leaflet.

I hope you’ve found this interesting.

Best wishes,

Helen

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Eating in the first few weeks after your baby is born

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Helen

Hi everyone,

There are so many new things to think about when you've just had your baby that what to eat might not come high up on your list of priorities. But it is vitally important that you eat regular, nutritionally well-balanced meals to ensure you stay healthy and that you've got all the nutrients needed for successful breastfeeding.

There are no hard and fast rules on when and what you should eat in these early days. There are some 'old wives tales' recommending foods that should or shouldn’t be eaten, but there is little scientific support for most of these. I've heard it said that 'you need to drink milk in order to make milk' which might have been the case when foods were in short supply, but these days with a varied supply of foods available to most of us the energy, protein and calcium needed can come from other dietary sources. Similarly, although Italian mums might be told to avoid garlic, cauliflower, lentils and red peppers whilst breastfeeding, mothers and babies in India are perfectly happy whilst on a diet containing all these foods.

My best advice would be to eat and drink when you feel you need to; if you are breastfeeding, you may well find you're hungrier and thirstier than normal. Making milk 24/7 is extremely demanding and an inadequate diet could easily affect your health.

The following links on our website give you some other useful information on the foods you should include in your diet whilst breastfeeding, and foods to avoid. Perhaps you'd like to try some of our recipes too, or better still, get someone else to prepare them for you!


Until next time....
Helen

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