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....
It was reported in the news this week that pregnant women who ask for a caesarean delivery should be allowed to have one. You can read the full story on the BBC website.
A vaginal birth is generally safer than a caesarean birth. However, a caesarean section may be needed to save the life of a mum or baby. In these cases, caesarean birth is without question the safest option.
But there are also times when the decision is not so obvious and it will be up to you and your doctor to weigh up the risks and benefits of having a caesarean to decide what's best for you. Although a caesarean is a common procedure, it involves major surgery in your abdominal and pelvic area, and all operations carry risks.
Disadvantages of a caesarean:
- Pain. The main disadvantage is pain after the caesarean. This may last for a few weeks or more after the operation. You will be given medication to help cope with the pain but it will affect your daily activities.
- Infection. Before the operation, you will be offered a single dose of antibiotics, but about 8% of women still go on to get an infection.
- Blood clot. Any surgery carries a risk of developing a blood clot. This can be serious, or even life-threatening, depending on where the clot develops. You will be given blood-thinning drugs and support stockings to improve the blood flow in your legs after the caesarean. You'll also be encouraged to get up and move around as soon as possible afterwards. This helps your circulation and reduce your risk of developing a clot.
- Adhesions. These are bands of scar tissue which form as you heal and can make organs in your abdomen stick to each other or to the inside of your abdominal wall. About half of women who have had a caesarean get adhesions, and this can increase with more caesareans. Adhesions can be painful because they limit the movement of your internal organs.
- Infertility. Occasionally, adhesions can lead to problems with fertility, as they can press on or block fallopian tubes. Sometimes women experience unexplained infertility after a caesarean.
- Anaesthetic. Most caesareans are done with an epidural or spinal, which numbs you from the abdominal area down. An epidural or spinal is safer for you and your baby than a general anaesthetic. However, having any anaesthetic involves a small risk. With epidurals and spinals a few women can have; a severe headache (affects about 1% of women); nerve damage. This rarely happens and, if it does, it usually only lasts for a few days or weeks although very rarely it’s permanent.
- Injury to the bladder, to the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder (ureters) or to the bowel.
- Very occasionally, if there are major complications, to protect a woman's health, doctors may have to perform an operation to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).
- A blood transfusion. If you've had a serious complication during the caesarean, you may need a blood transfusion. Some of the rarer complications of a caesarean can be life-threatening. However, the risk of a caesarean proving fatal is extremely small, only one in 12,000.
- Breathing difficulties for the baby. About 35 in every 1,000 babies have breathing problems after a caesarean compared with five in 1,000 babies born vaginally. Breathing problems are more common for premature babies born by caesarean or babies born by a caesarean before labour started.
- About 2% of babies get a nick or cut from the doctor's scalpel.
- Although early postnatal depression is more common in women who've had a caesarean than women who've had a vaginal birth, by two months, the rates are about the same.
- Women who've had a caesarean are less likely to start breastfeeding than women who've had a vaginal birth. However, once you've started, your chances of success are the same as for a woman who's given birth vaginally.
- It can affect future pregnancies. Once you've had one caesarean, you're much more likely to have another caesarean in future pregnancies. Having had a caesarean slightly increases your risk of having a low-lying-placenta (placenta praevia) in future pregnancies. There is a very small risk of the scar on your uterus opening up again in future pregnancies or births. This is called a uterine rupture but is rare and affects 0.5-1% of women in future pregnancies.
Advantage of a caesarean:
- If it’s planned, you will know when your baby will be born.
- Although you'll have a very sore tummy, you won't have some of the discomforts that can result from a vaginal birth, such as pain and bruising and tears and stitches around your vagina.
- Caesarean birth may help protect against the slight risk of urine leaks and in later years, vaginal prolapse. However, other factors such as the number of births, having big babies, having assisted deliveries and obesity also contribute to these conditions. Pregnancy itself is also a risk factor for these conditions as it can weaken your pelvic floor, so you still need to do your pelvic floor exercises!
If you have any questions about either a caesarean or a vaginal birth, don't be afraid to ask your midwife and talk through all of the options with her.
Best wishes - Amber
Are organic foods better for your baby?
It’s Organic September - time to celebrate everything about organic! I’ve worked with HiPP for over 12 years now and during this time I have read a lot about organic farming and organic food production and in my opinion there are four main reasons why it is better to choose organic:
1. Babies are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of unwanted chemicals found in non-organic foods and will benefit from foods containing no GM ingredients or harmful pesticides.
2. Organic food is food as nature intended, and often tastes better
3. Organic foods are often higher in essential nutrients e.g. vitamin C and antioxidants
4. Organic foods are better for wildlife, animal welfare and the environment.
Some official UK bodies are yet to be convinced on the benefits of organic foods, but there is growing evidence in Europe and internationally that there are nutritional benefits in choosing organic versus non-organic foods.
The following websites give more information on organic foods and I hope once you’ve had a look at these you will agree that organic foods may well be better for all of us, our wildlife and our environment -
What do you think - do you believe organic foods are better for you and/or your baby? Have you changed your mind on this recently? Or do you think organic foods are an unaffordable or unnecessary luxury? We’d love to hear your views.
All the best,
My baby is constipated, what should I do?
I’m often asked for advice about bowel habits! One of the occupational hazards of being a nutritionist/dietitian I guess. If a parent comes to me saying that their baby is not passing frequent stools and the stools are hard, often pellet-like, and baby appears to be in some pain, it’s likely they are constipated. Constipation is most common in bottle fed babies (in which case I always check that the formula is being prepared correctly), and also in babies who have started eating more solids and drinking less milk. Caused by dehydration, in these cases I often advise parents to offer extra drinks of water or diluted juice which will help to rehydrate and relieve the constipated baby.
If baby has started weaning onto solids, it’s a good idea to give a variety of different pureed or chopped fruits (adjust consistency to suit age of baby), such as apples, apricots, blueberries, grapes, pears, plums, prunes, raspberries or strawberries. These are all fibrous foods that can help relieve constipation and are worth a try. Babies can also have some wholewheat pasta or breakfast cereals, porridge or wholemeal bread to increase the amount of fibre in their diet, but the amounts of these should be kept fairly small and not given every day as they can be a bit bulky for babies.
Giving a warm bath can sometimes help relax babies and relieve constipation, as can baby massage. Also, I often suggest that parents try lying their baby on his/her back and move their legs in a bicycling motion – this can often help.
If these home treatments have not worked, or if your baby’s constipation is severe, a doctor or pharmacist may suggest a laxative, probably lactulose, but only try this with their guidance.
Some useful websites to look at for more advice are:
The nhs website
Weaning advice on hipp.co.uk
Bye for now,
Does my baby or toddler need vitamin or mineral supplements?
Of course, none of us want our kids to be missing out on anything important in their diets and if there is a risk that they might not be getting enough of any particular vitamin or mineral we will probably want to give them a supplement of some sort, so when are supplements necessary?
In fact, the Government recommends that all children between 6 months and 5 years are given vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D. Even if your child is eating a wide variety of different foods, giving this vitamin supplement can safeguard them against vitamin deficiencies and so makes good sense.
A couple of important considerations –
- If you are breastfeeding your baby and you didn’t take a vitamin D supplement during pregnancy, you may be advised to give your baby a vitamin D supplement from 1 month of age, not 6 months
- If your baby is formula fed and is drinking more than 500ml formula per day, they will be getting the vitamins they need from this formula and so you won’t actually need to give them any extra vitamin supplements until they’re drinking less formula.
- It’s important to remember that too much of some vitamins is as harmful as not enough, so don’t give your baby two vitamin supplements at the same time.
Ask you health visitor for advice on which vitamin drops to use and if you’re eligible for free vitamin supplements for your baby.
Unlike vitamins, most babies won’t need mineral supplements.
One mineral parents often worry about is ‘iron’, but if your baby is eating some meat or fish every day, and eating other foods that are a good source of iron, such as fortified breakfast cereals, dark green vegetables, bread, beans and lentils, eggs, dried fruits (eg. apricots, figs and prunes), then they are likely to be getting enough iron to meet their needs. But if you are still concerned about your baby's iron intake, talk to your doctor and if they think a supplement is necessary then they can advise you on which one to give.
For most babies, milk and other dairy products will provide all the calcium a baby needs, but if your baby has a milk intolerance then it’s worth checking with your doctor if they are likely to be getting enough calcium and if a supplement is necessary.
I hope this helps. Until next time…