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Has your little one decided to arrive into this world earlier than expected? Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK each year, and a preterm birth can be a confusing and stressful time. So, we’ve pulled together some natural tips to help give your very new arrival the best start in life.
Your baby is defined as being premature if they are born too early. This means they haven’t had the opportunity to develop fully while they are in your womb. Babies are naturally born at around 40 weeks from conception, and if your baby is born at 37 weeks or earlier, they are considered to be premature. Those born earlier than 32 weeks are termed very premature.
If a baby is born before their organs are ready for life outside your womb they may need specialist medical care. They may stay in a special care baby unit or neonatal unit until their organs have developed and they can thrive unaided. For example, a baby’s lungs might not be mature enough for them to breathe on their own, or their liver may not be fully developed, putting them at risk of jaundice. Some premature babies suffer from gut issues, including inflammation of the intestines. Others experience infections because their immune system hasn’t developed enough to properly protect them.
Babies who are born significantly early and who have a low birth weight are more at risk of developing health problems later in life. It follows then, that they’ll benefit from a helping hand from nature early in their life’s journey. Here are some suggestions.
The perfect food for your baby is your breast milk, especially in the case of premature babies because they have additional nutritional needs. The last trimester of pregnancy is an important time for nutrients to be transferred over your placenta to the developing baby, and so they may miss out on part of this stage. Don’t forget your breast milk contains substances to support the baby’s developing immune system, too.
Therefore, it pays to make sure your breast milk is in the very best shape. What you eat makes its way into your breast milk, so a wholefood diet containing plenty of plant-based foods is best. It’s worth knowing many preterm babies end up low in vitamin D, vitamin E and iron. This is because they haven’t had sufficient time to obtain these nutrients from your placenta. So, it makes sense to ensure you have a plentiful supply via your breast milk. Remember Mum’s iron stores are often depleted after pregnancy, while vitamin D is only available in any significant amounts from sunshine. Therefore, supplements of these may be recommended.
Your baby’s brain will be developing quickly at this time, so ensure you are consuming plenty of omega-3 fats, needed for brains to grow. Because many fish are loaded with toxins from the oceans, a fish oil supplement which has been screened for pollutants may be recommended while you are breastfeeding your infant.
However, we understand it might not always be possible to breastfeed your baby, especially if they are born very early. If this is the case, your healthcare practitioner may recommend special preterm birth formula milk. We can recommend any extra nutrients which may be beneficial.
Because your baby’s liver is still developing, it makes sense for you to avoid ingesting toxins because these can easily make their way into your breast milk. This includes anything you put on your skin, as synthetic ingredients in face and body lotions, shampoo and shower gel pass through your skin into your bloodstream. If you can afford to, eat organic at this time. Studies have found many pesticides and toxic metals routinely show up in breast milk.
Your infant will have inherited the basis of its lifelong gut microbiome from you in pregnancy and during birth. But preterm babies and those born by caesarean section don’t have as much chance to pick up beneficial bacteria from you. Taking a probiotic designed for lactating mothers has been shown in studies to improve baby’s microbiome.
Other research found giving premature babies a probiotic supplement reduced the likelihood of a dangerous form of colic encountered in babies who are born too early. This illness is thought to be connected with an imbalance of the gut microbiome 1.
It can be frightening and bewildering looking after a tiny baby, but you needn’t go it alone: we’re here to help every step of your journey. As well as lots of loving care, your premature baby may benefit from certain additional nutrients during infancy and childhood. This is where the support of one of our practitioners, who is experienced in working with mothers and babies with differing needs, can be invaluable.
We’ll provide you with the very best, science-based tips to give your baby a natural helping hand for the very best start in life.
Do you need personalised natural support for your premature baby? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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