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  1. Weaning

    Your baby will survive perfectly well for the first six months on milk alone, whether breast or formula, but around this time s/he will be ready to try ‘proper’ food, on the way to enjoying family meals with you. It used to be recommended to wean much earlier, but research has shown that your baby’s digestive system is not fully developed until six months. If you feel your baby is ready slightly earlier, do resist if you can, especially if there is a history of allergies in your family, and consult your doctor or health visitor first. In any case, you should never start weaning before 17 weeks. If s/he’s starting to show an interest in what you eat, is reaching out for your food, or s/he still seems hungry after a full milk feed, now could be the time to start the baby on solids. You may also find that s/he’s started waking more at night, having previously slept through. 

    Start by offering solids once a day, just to see how s/he copes. Give a small amount on a baby spoon or the end of your finger, but only try when s/he’s happy and not too hungry. Don’t worry if s/he spits it out – s/he’s just getting used to what it feels like in the mouth, besides, the milk will provide the nutrients s/he needs for the time being. The most common ‘first food’ is baby rice, made up with a small amount of your baby’s normal milk, but any bland flavours will do. As s/he gets more used to the idea, introduce new flavours and increase the frequency of solid feeds. Generally speaking, by eight months, your baby should be eating three solid meals a day, plus about 600ml (1 pint) of milk.

    At first, offer purées of vegetables and fruit, such as carrots, sweet potato, parsnip, apple or pear, making them quite runny at first, then increasing the thickness as s/he gets used to eating. Getting the baby used to a variety of flavours now will help for more adventurous flavours later on. It is important to introduce texture and get your baby chewing, as this will help with speech development as s/he gets older. If there is a history of allergies in your family, avoid these foods for now. 

    Making your own food gives you complete control over what your baby eats, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do this all the time. There are plenty of organic brands of baby food to choose from, and these can be really useful for days out and holidays. If it helps, make up a large batch of food and freeze in individual portions for a quick, convenient meal at a later date. Also, try to think of ways you can adapt what you’re cooking for yourself, so that you don’t have to cook twice.

    As your baby gets older, you’ll find that, even without many teeth, the baby can chew through a finger of toast or a rice cake. Introducing these foods is important as it helps develop the hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills. Let the baby use cutlery too (but be prepared for big-time mess at first!) – you may find it useful to have a spoon each to make the meal time quicker. S/he’ll also be able to cope with increasingly lumpy food, so that by the time s/he’s one year old, s/he’ll be eating something that at least vaguely resembles the food you eat, ideally feeding oneself so you can enjoy your own meal while it’s hot! Whenever your baby is feeding, keep a lookout to make sure s/he doesn’t choke.

    Healthy eating for babies

    Bear in mind that your baby has a small stomach but is growing rapidly, and therefore has different dietary needs to an adult. A child needs lots of calories and nutrients in a small amount of food, so don’t give ‘low-fat’, ‘low-calorie’ or ‘high-fibre’ foods. Fat gives your baby energy and provides some vitamins that are only found in fat, so choose full-fat dairy foods. High-fibre versions of foods, especially those with added bran, can prevent babies absorbing important minerals such as calcium and iron, so don’t give your baby brown rice, wholemeal pasta or bran-enriched breakfast cereals until they are older; some brown bread is fine.

    Good choice

     Starchy foods: aim to give 2-3 servings a day of starchy foods such as potatoes, yams, rice or bread.

     Fruit and vegetables: you may not make it to five a day at first, but it’s good to head in this direction so try to include them at two or more meals each day. As your baby gets older, these make good finger foods.

     Meat, fish or pulses: give one serving of soft cooked meat, fish, egg, tofu or pulses such as beans or lentils (dahl) a day. Red meat such as beef, lamb and pork is an excellent source of iron.

     Eggs (well cooked): a quick, nutritious and cheap source of protein.

     Oily fish: include one portion of oily fish per week, eg, salmon, sardines.

     Dairy products: yoghurt, cheese and fromage frais are a good source of calcium. 

    Bad choice

     Sweet treats: giving sweet biscuits and rusks will encourage your baby to get into the habit of expecting sweet snacks.

     Salt – a young baby’s kidneys can’t cope with it, so don’t add it to any food you cook for your baby. It is banned from ready-made baby foods. Some foods, such as cheese, sausages and bacon, are high in salt, so limit how much of these foods you give. Also, any foods that aren’t specifically ‘baby food’, eg, sauces and ready-made porridge, can be high in salt, so limit how much of these you give and do check the label. If you’re giving food you have prepared for the rest of the family, remove his portion before seasoning.

     Sugar: sweetened puddings, biscuits, sweets and ice creams are not recommended for babies under a year. Good dental health starts even before teeth have formed.

     Honey: not recommended until one year old as it occasionally contains a type of bacteria that can cause infant botulism. It’s also a sugar.

     Nuts: as well as being a common allergen, they are also a choking hazard. Whole nuts should not be given to under-fives for this reason, although nut butters are fine for toddlers, as long as there is no allergy problem.

     Certain fish: shark, swordfish or marlin are not recommended as the levels of mercury can affect a baby’s growing nervous system.

     Raw or runny eggs: this is due to the risk of salmonella. Completely cooked eggs are fine.

     Cow’s milk should not be given as a drink until your baby is one year old; its make-up is very different to that of breast or formula milk. It is, however, fine to use in cooking.

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  2. Bottle-feeding know-how

    Not all women breastfeed successfully, or for the recommended six months. If you fall into this category, the most important thing is to ensure that your baby receives all the nutrients he needs through formula. Whatever your reason, don’t feel guilty, just move on and get on with being the best mother you can be – feeling anxious about being unwilling or unable to breastfeed could affect your relationship with your baby, and this is a time for unconditional love on both sides!

     First, choose your formula: there are rules and regulations governing compositional standards for formula, so you can rest assured that it will contain the nutrients they need. You may prefer an organic formula, and there are several brands available, though these may well be more expensive.

     Bottles and teats (you will need teats with bigger/more holes as your baby gets older and is able to take on milk more quickly). Some babies refuse to drink from certain types of bottle, others will drink from anything they are offered. You may wish to seek out bottles that do not contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that has been linked with breast, prostate and reproductive system problems and some cancers, along with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. 

     Steriliser: this can be electric or microwaveable, or you could use cold-water sterilising tablets. It is vital to keep your baby’s feeding equipment scrupulously clean and sterile for the first 12 months while his immune system is more vulnerable.

     Make up the feed as instructed; current recommendations are that you should make up one feed at a time to avoid build-up of bacteria,

     When feeding, make sure that the bottle is tipped up so that your baby is sucking milk, not air – this is a prime cause of colic among bottle-fed babies.

     Cuddle your baby close to you as you feed: this can be just as much a bonding experience as giving a breastfeed.

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  3. Breastfeeding your new baby

    There’s no disputing the evidence: breast milk is the best possible food for your new baby. It contains substances that help regulate appetite, promote brain development and guard against diseases both in the short and the long term. It adapts to suit your baby’s stage, and varies from mother to mother and from one day to the next. Once established, breastfeeding is cheap, easy and convenient, with no formula to buy and prepare and no specialist equipment needed, save a few good feeding bras and breast pads for you.

    Sounds great? Well, when it works well, it is. However, despite being perfectly normal and natural, not all new mothers find it easy, whether it’s down to sore nipples, engorged breasts, mastitis, not producing enough milk or not latching the baby onto the breast correctly. Whatever the problem, it’s worth persevering as it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of motherhood. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, but you can carry on longer if you wish (extended breastfeeding is more common in non-western cultures) and if you only do it for a few weeks or months, you can be reassured that you have given your baby a great deal of goodness.

    Getting started

     As soon after the birth as possible, put your baby to your breast; the baby is born with rooting and sucking reflexes, which will help the baby to find your nipple and extract milk from it. You will have to make sure to put the baby in the right position, so make sure there’s a midwife around who can help you out.

     Your position is vital: you should be able to sit up straight rather than hunching over your baby, as this is bad for your posture. If necessary prop your baby up on cushions or pillows so s/he’s at the correct height.

     Your baby’s position is also vital: s/he should be lying on his side with his mouth level with your nipple, so that when it goes into the baby's mouth, all of the nipple and most of the areola are in the mouth. S/he will be so close that the baby's nose is touching your breast and the lips are curled back – this means s/he is sucking your breast, not chewing your nipple.

     Relax and let your baby feed for as long as s/he needs to, which could be anything from ten minutes to an hour, If s/he stops sucking and falls asleep, chances are s/he’s probably had enough.

    Eat well

     Just as it’s vital to eat well during pregnancy, so it’s important to have a healthy diet while breastfeeding – remember, your milk is what’s sustaining your baby so make sure it’s top quality. Now you really are eating for two, so you will be eating more than normal, perhaps up to 500 calories a day extra.

     Eat lots of carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, rice, wholewheat bread, pulses and cereals.

     Make sure you get at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, as these will provide lots essential vitamins and minerals. Otherwise, follow the healthy eating advice in the pregnancy section.

     The following nutrients will help your growing baby: fatty acids (find them in oily fish, pulses and nuts); vitamin D (exposure to sunlight, fortified margarine, oily fish, eggs and milk); calcium (milk, cheese, fortified soya milk, canned pink salmon, sardines, baked beans, nuts and green leafy vegetables); zinc (meat, nuts, seeds, cheese and tofu); iron (meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, eggs).

     Keep up your fluid intake – you may find you feel thirstier anyway – if your milk supply feels low and your urine is dark, you need to drink more. Water is best, but any liquid will help, such as fruit juice or herbal tea. Fizzy drinks, however, may give your baby indigestion.

    What to avoid

     It’s probably best to avoid peanuts if there’s a history of allergy in your or your partner’s families.

     Certain foods may affect the flavour of your milk, such as garlic, hot and spicy foods, citrus fruit, grapes, although as no-one knows exactly how long it takes a food to reach your milk, it’s hard to pinpoint a particular culprit. The most common reaction from your baby is for him to be unsettled and windy and perhaps suffer from mild diarrhoea; if it’s just the taste, you may find he fusses at the breast more than usual.

     If you think your baby has reacted to a food, consult a doctor before cutting out an entire food group from your diet, as this could be detrimental to your baby’s health. 

    Common problems

    Sore, cracked nipples: this usually occurs as a result of your baby not being latched on properly; if this is the case, seek advice and try different positions at each feed. A little nipple cream may help, but make sure it’s safe for your baby or clean it off before feeding again. Do make sure your nipples are clean and dry between feeds.

    Breast engorgement: this is where your breasts feel heavy, lumpy and tender. It is common when your milk first comes in and can happen if you stop breastfeeding suddenly. The best remedy is to carry on feeding, alternatively apply a warm compress (a muslin cloth soaked in warm water with a couple of drops of camomile, geranium or lavender added) to soften and reduce the swelling. A cold white cabbage leaf placed in your bra will also feel cool and soothing. If you’re too engorged for your baby to latch on to your nipple at the next feed, express a little milk off first, then feed as normal. 

    Mastitis: a common infection of the breast, symptoms include swollen, engorged breasts, sometimes with red patches, and occasionally a fever. It is often a result of the breast not being emptied properly, perhaps as a result of not being latched on properly. Do keep feeding, as stopping could make it worse, but make sure you get plenty of rest and fluids. If symptoms do not clear within 24 ours, see your doctor as you may need a course of antibiotics.

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  4. First steps towards a non-toxic pre-school

    In kindergarten, children are exposed to the same chemicals at home but sometimes at an even greater extent research shows. It may be due to problems material foam and soft PVC is particularly common in preschool. Extra worrying considering how much time most children spend there.

     Call the municipality and set requirements! The procurement of new goods, school feeding and cleaning is a good opportunity to ensure that as little harmful chemicals as possible end up at preschool.

     Share these tips with the staff and help them take the first steps towards a non-toxic preschool.

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  5. Postpartum recovery

    Post-birth recovery

    So you’ve had your baby – and he’s gorgeous, of course. But what about you? Over the next few days, weeks and months, you will start to feel more like your old self, both physically and mentally (hard to believe, but true). Give yourself a helping hand and take extra care of yourself as well as your baby.

    Much depends on the type of birth you had, but even a straightforward vaginal birth can leave you feeling a bit battered. Long labour, instrumental deliveries, episiotomies and C-sections will add to this.


    The first few days

     Take arnica tablets to help reduce any bruising.

     Apply soothing compresses (cloths soaked in cool or warm water with a few drops of witch hazel, tea tree or lavender oil) to reduce inflammation.

     If it hurts when you urinate, pour a jug of warm water over the affected area to relieve the stinging sensation.

     If sitting is uncomfortable, use a valley cushion to relieve pressure.

     Use ice packs or gel pads to reduce swelling.

     Start doing pelvic floor exercise (kegels) as soon as possible; this will improve blood flow to the area and help restore muscle tone.

     If you had a C-section, start moving around as soon as possible.


    The next few weeks

     Keep getting as much rest as possible – and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

     Start gentle abdominal exercises with guidance from your midwife; these will help the natural process of contracting your abdomen after the birth.

     When you feel ready, resume your sex life (usually not recommended until about six weeks post-partum), but take things gently, especially if you’ve had stitches. And don’t forget contraception…

     Keep any wounds (episiotomy, C-section, tearing) as clean and dry as possible to encourage the healing process and prevent any risk of infection.


    The next few months

     Keep eating well, and get as much rest as you can.

     Assuming all is well, resume your usual exercise routines (but don’t go too mad at first or you’ll end with torn muscles!).

     If you’re going back to work, make sure everything is in place, such as childcare and any renegotiations you need to do with your employers.

     Don’t ignore your partner: your relationship is still important, even if your baby is now taking up much of your time.

     Make sure you get some ‘me’ time, by visiting friends and, dare we suggest, having a night out.

     Enjoy being a new mother!


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  6. 5 steps to a better birth

    Whether you’re planning a high-tech hospital birth or want to stay in the comfort of your own home, spending time thinking about what might happen on the big day is advisable – being informed puts you in charge of any decisions that need to be made.

    1. Be well read: visit your local library or spend time online learning about pregnancy and birth, your pain relief options and their relative pros and cons. Even if you’re not sure it’s for you, knowing about water birth, self-hypnosis, epidurals and all those other terms you’ve heard will help you feel that whatever decision you make is the right one for you.

    2 Ask, ask, ask! Don’t be afraid to quiz your midwife, doctor or anyone else involved in your pregnancy, especially if you feel they’re blinding you with science. Their job is to help you at this time, so do tap into their knowledge as much as you feel you need to.

    3 Plan: while it’s impossible to say how you’ll feel on the day, writing a birth plan will make you weigh up your options and leave you feeling empowered and in control – but do be aware that your plan is a best-case scenario, and events may overtake you during labour.

    4 Choose the right birth partner: Your partner may seem the obvious choice and will almost certainly want to be there to see your new baby, but if your partner is squeamish, for example, it might not be the ideal choice. 

    5 Expect the unexpected: your labour won’t be the same as your best friend’s, your mother’s or your worst enemy’s. Birth is unpredictable so do listen to the advice your caregivers are offering and do be prepared for anything!

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  7. Feelgood remedies for your pregnancy


    What’s the alternative?

    Many women turn to alternative therapies during pregnancy, whether to help with problems such as backache or morning sickness or simply to help them feel calm and relaxed. Before undergoing any therapy, do make sure that your practitioner is qualified and experienced in treating pregnant women.


    This branch of Chinese medicine can be used from early in pregnancy to alleviate morning sickness, heartburn, pre- and postnatal depression, lower back pain and anxiety. It can also be used during labour for pain relief and to help boost energy levels – but do check that your hospital is happy for your acupuncturist to accompany you. One form of acupuncture, moxibustion, is sometimes used to turn breech babies: here the herb mugwort, in the form of a stick, or ‘moxa’, is placed on an acupuncture point and burnt (it will be extinguished before it burns the skin!).


    Here, essential oils are used to promote general wellbeing and alleviate specific ailments, such as morning sickness and fluid retention. Different essential oils have different effects, so it’s probably best to check before using, especially as some are not safe for use either throughout pregnancy or at certain stages. Oils can be massaged into the body when mixed with a carrier oil – this works best when done by an experienced masseur using appropriate techniques, by burning essential oils in a vapouriser, or adding a couple of drops to a relaxing bath.

    Aromatherapy oils to avoid during pregnancy:

     Clary sage











    Chiropractic/McTimoney chiropractic

    Chiropractic literally means ‘done by hand’ and involves the manipulation of the spine to ease back pain. As well as helping during pregnancy, it has been shown to reduce the length of labour; after pregnancy, your chiropractor can help ensure that your stretched out joints and loosened ligaments return to normal.

    McTimoney is a particularly gentle form of chiropractic, which makes it especially suitable for pregnant women. Treatment is recommended from the third month of pregnancy onwards.


    Massage of specific points on the feet and hands to treat the whole body, based on the principle that all the bodily structures including organs and glands are represented in these ‘reflex areas’. The aim is to encourage the body’s own recuperative powers. Stimulation of specific points releases blockages in the energy pathways and improves nerve function and blood supply throughout the body. In pregnancy it can be used to boost energy levels, alleviate musculo-skeletal problems, relieve heartburn, reduce oedema (swelling) and normalise hypertension.


    Based on the principle that a little of what is making you ill can cure you, homeopathic medicines come in minute doses, which will trigger your body’s natural healing system. It is safe to self-prescribe for common ailments, but a qualified homeopath will be more helpful. In pregnancy, homeopathy can be used to treat morning sickness, constipation, mild urinary problems, diarrhoea, heartburn, anaemia, varicose veins, backache, cramps, thrush or emotional distress. It can also be used during labour to alleviate panic, encourage contractions, or even slow them down. Your homeopath can prescribe a labour kit and advise what you should use and when, or she could accompany you at the birth.


    The Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that expectant women who are massaged throughout pregnancy have better sleep, reduced anxiety and stress, less back pain and fewer labour complications. Properly tailored pregnancy massage can be very effective in relieving discomforts such as backache, headache and constipation and is useful in combating anxiety and promoting relaxation and general wellbeing. Research has shown that it is an effective form of pain relief and some women find it helpful during labour.


    A holistic treatment that emphasises mechanical, structural and postural factors in the healthy functioning of the body. Osteopaths use a range of manipulative techniques to help the body find the most natural balance possible. It can bring great relief, freeing the body of unnecessary tensions and strains that may compromise the ability to adapt to the changes.

    Osteopathy is particularly beneficial in pregnancy as it can help your body adapt to the changes that are constantly taking place in terms of weight distribution and posture.

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  8. Pregnancy feelgood

    Feelgood pregnancy

    People may talk of the healthy pregnancy ‘glow’, but you could well spend your time feeling less than perfect. Because of all the changes taking place in your body, there are many common ailments, from constipation and heartburn to backache and morning sickness. On the plus side, you’re unlikely to suffer all of them, and some will be particular to certain stages of pregnancy, so will pass. And there are plenty of ways of alleviating the symptoms…

    Morning sickness

    Nausea is no respecter of the clock and can strike at any time – and can range from slight queasiness to extreme vomiting. It’s most likely to occur when your blood sugar levels are low, so eating little and often can help, especially if you eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, which will release their energy more slowly, sustaining you for longer. Some women find that foods and herbal teas containing ginger or mint are helpful. If you have sea bands (the elastic bands worn to counteract seasickness), try wearing those. Alternatively, find the anti-nausea pressure point three finger-widths from the wrist crease on the inside of your arm and press down gently, ideally four times a day for ten minutes at a time. Homeopathic remedies may also help: try a 6c potency of sepia, pulsatilla, nux vomica or ipecac every two hours or consult a homeopath for more advice. If your vomiting is severe and you feel unable to keep anything down, see your doctor, as you may suffer dehydration.


    The hormones that prepare the pelvic muscles for labour tend to slow down the digestive system, thus leading to constipation. If you’re suffering, don’t just sit there feeling uncomfortable, but keep moving. Exercise is beneficial, whether it’s a gentle stroll or a few lengths of the pool, as is drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fibre-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains.


    This is common in the later stages of pregnancy, as your growing bump puts pressure on your stomach. Spicy, fried, rich or yeasty foods can exacerbate the problem, so avoid these, and opt for alkaline foods such as yoghurt or milk. Pineapple and papaya (pawpaw) contain beneficial enzymes, while herbs and spices such as anise, caraway, dill and fennel can help digestion – use them in your cooking or find a herbal tea that contains them. 


    With the hormone relaxin softening your muscles and ligaments in preparation for the birth plus the extra weight you’re carrying around your middle, it’s no great surprise that many women suffer backache during pregnancy. First and foremost, try to keep your back straight when you’re standing, and do try to keep moving and changing position during the day. Sitting on a birth ball will help as it encourages gentle movement and hip rotation. Or try doing a few pelvic tilts: stand with your feet hip width apart, bend your knees and place your palms down on your lower back. Breathe out, move your hands down, tilting your pelvis up and tucking your bottom in. Return to the start position and repeat. Ask your partner to massage your lower back; a few drops of lavender and geranium blended into 30 ml sunflower oil should relax you nicely.

    Water retention

    Swollen legs and ankles are common in late pregnancy, but only a worry if accompanied by high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Try to make time to sit with your feet up, and if possible, have a foot bath: add eight drops of camomile, geranium, neroli or lavender oil to warm water and soak for 10 minutes. Follow with a cooler foot bath to improve circulation. Massaging in a decongestant foot cream using firm strokes upward towards the heart will also help (get your partner to do this if you can’t reach your feet any more!). Nettle tea is also good, as are fennel and horseradish.

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  9. Organic food during pregnancy

    Is organic best?

    If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to chemicals, eating organic is an obvious way to start. Organic foods are grown with the use of synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides and all animals are reared without the routine use of antibiotics. While only four chemicals are used on organic crops, some 430 are used on non-organic crops. And while ‘acceptable’ levels of these chemicals in the food we eat are laid down by regulations, it’s worth bearing in mind that these are based on adult consumption; you may not wish to expose your baby to that level of risk, especially as little is known about the long-term risks of exposure to multiple pesticides.

    In the UK, Soil Association research has found higher levels of vitamin C, minerals and phytonutrients in organic food, while organic red meat has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, which helps prevent cancer and reduce heart disease. Organic chickens have been found to contain 25 per cent less fat than non-organic ones, and organic milk full-fat milk contains at least 64 per cent more omega 3 essential fatty acids, vital for brain function, heart health and supple joints.

    Organic food is more expensive than non-organic, so if you don’t feel you can afford to go totally organic, choose the items you buy the most of, such as milk, bread, pasta and certain vegetables, and look out for money-saving offers on other items.

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  10. Your pregnancy diet

    It’s often said that you are what you eat, and while you’re pregnant this is also true for your baby. What you eat while you’re expecting impacts directly on your baby’s development in the womb and, ultimately, to his health as an adult. Studies have shown that a diet high in salt, sugar and fat (all the things we know we should be avoiding anyway!) during pregnancy can lead to overweight infants with long-term health problems. So, normal healthy eating rules apply, although you may want to modify the way you eat through the day.

    Your appetite will probably increase from early pregnancy, and it’s a good idea to eat when you feel hungry, as it’s one of the best ways to combat queasiness (sounds crazy, but it’s true), so go for five or six smaller meals a day, rather than two or three large ones. This will also ensure that your energy levels remain stable through the day (as long as you keep it healthy).

    The greatest temptation when you’re pregnant is to ‘eat for two’, but beware! You don’t actually need any extra calories in your normal daily diet until the last three months, when an extra 200 per day will suffice. Most women gain 8-15kg (18-32lb) during pregnancy, but do bear in mind that this is just an average. If you gain too much weight, you may be at risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, but if you gain too little there is an increased risk of low birthweight and prematurity.

    What to eat

     Carbohydrate-rich foods for energy, eg, bread, pasta, rice, couscous.

     Protein-rich foods, eg, fish, lean meat, beans, pulses.

     Fresh fruit and vegetables, for their vitamin and mineral content – choose a mix of colours to ensure a good mix of nutrients.

     Fish contains proteins, minerals, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids; try to eat two portions a week, and make one of them an oily fish, such as mackerel or salmon (but don’t eat more than two portions of oily fish per week).

     Iron-rich foods, eg lean meat, dried fruit, nuts, to help ward off pregnancy anaemia.

     Vitamin C-rich foods, eg, citrus fruit, blackcurrants, broccoli, to help your body absorb the iron in your diet.

     Calcium, for your baby’s development as well as the health of your bones and teeth; find it in dairy products, green vegetables and fish with edible bones.

     Foods rich in omega 3 and 6, eg, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, linseed, flaxseed, hemp oil and oily fish. These oils are essential for brain and nerve function in your baby as well as preventing allergies.

     Keep rehydrated by drinking plenty of water, herbal tea and juice throughout the day.


    What to avoid

     Too much tea and coffee: caffeine affects your absorption of vital nutrients such as iron; some research has also shown a link between caffeine and low birthweight and miscarriage. Try to restrict your intake to two cups of tea or coffee per day – and beware of hidden caffeine in chocolate, some medication and energy drinks.

     Too much alcohol. Some experts recommend abstaining completely, others say that 1-2 units, once or twice a week, is safe. All agree that getting drunk is an absolute no-no.

     Too much salt: excess salt intake can cause fluid retention and high blood pressure, both bad news during pregnancy. It also increases the amount of calcium secreted by your body. Try to keep your total daily intake to 6g (1 teaspoon) – do check labels on prepared foods as these tend to be high, and if you need a flavour boost, reach for the herbs and spices, not the salt cellar.

     Soft, unpasteurised and blue-veined cheeses, eg, Brie, Camembert, Stilton. These can harbour bacteria that can cause food poisoning and stillbirth, miscarriage or severe illness in newborn babies. * Bagged salads and ready meals may also harbour bacteria, so wash all salads and reheat ready-made foods thoroughly.

     Raw or partially cooked eggs may harbour salmonella, so should be avoided, but as eggs are an important source of protein, don’t cut them out completely, just cook them thoroughly.

     Liver (including pâté and liver sausage) contains the retinol form of vitamin A, which can cause birth defects.

     Shark, swordfish and marlin contain high mercury levels, which can hinder your baby’s development.

     Raw seafood such as oysters or sushi that has not been made with previously frozen fish.

    Further information

    Feelgood Foods for Pregnancy by Lyndel Costain and Nicola Graimes (Ryland, Peters & Small)

    Healthy Eating for Pregnancy by Amanda Grant (Mitchell Beazley)

    The Yummy Mummy Pregnancy Cookbook: Healthy Food for You and Your Baby by Hope Ricciotti (Dorling Kindersley)

    Natural Pregnancy by Zita West (Dorling Kindersley)

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