It is Children’s Day and it is all about the kids today. But while many celebrate, a mother somewhere could be feeling bad.
Why? While other children are jumping around in excitement she is at the hospital nursing a sick child.
This is not something a mother wishes for, but it does happen. Especially if the child’s immune system is down.
Children in different places around Nigeria are celebrating Children’s Day with different activities.
As we watched them celebrate the this year’s Children’s Day with so much hype and strength, we saw the need to write to mothers and fathers about how they can make sure their children are healthy.
There are different things that contribute to the health of a child and here are the basics. When these things are rightly implemented the Children’s Day celebration is often a delight.
1. Before Pregnancy
Indeed, not many mothers are aware that what happens before conception also contributes to the health of a child.
For instance, a couple could give birth to a child with sickle cell if they do not take cognisance of their genotype before marriage.
Also, studies have shown that the health of a woman’s egg and the man’s sperm have something to do with nutrition.
How well a baby forms in a woman’s womb is a function of the level of nutrient she has taken before conception and then during the stages the foetus goes through.
Basically, there is a relationship with the level of nutrient that a woman has and her chances of conception (1).
The study cited above says diets high in unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fish have been associated with improved fertility in both women and men.
It also highlights that saturated fats, and sugar have been associated with poorer fertility outcomes in women and men.
Furthermore, in Nigeria, most couples do not plan for pregnancy and as such, not many women prepare their body for it.
However, just like you prepare for every other thing in life, pregnancy is one of such things you should give attention to.
You may read our article on how to prepare your body for pregnancy to find more of what to do.
Most importantly, the health of your baby should be in your mind whenever you want to feed your body prior to conception.
2. Be Nutrition Conscious Once You Get Pregnant
Unfortunately, here is where many women fail and this is why some miscarriages happen. A pregnant woman has very high appetite for food.
Some will want everything that passes them. Some even love to sit in the toilet and perceive the smell of poo. Yes! That is how far it can get.
This desire for almost everything makes some eat some unhealthy foods and junks.
Processed foods have little or no nutrient to offer a woman and then she leaves almost nothing for her growing foetus.
At every given moment of pregnancy, careful nutrition is very important.
Eat more of whole grain foods and stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
Also, adding superfoods to your diet is very important, as they are loaded with more nutrients for you and the foetus.
Also, it is important that you have a fertility expert guiding you all through. Do not rely on the kind of food that your parents ate in their time.
Remember that they did not face the kind of toxicity we face now. They did not engage so much in sedentary lifestyle. How much exercise do you get?
Your lifestyle should be considered before you place a meal on your table each day.
3. Go For Antenatal
One mistake any mum will make in this age is not to register for antenatal the moment she gets a pregnancy confirmation.
The importance of caring for yourself and the foetus cannot be overemphasised. This is because having a good antenatal could help ensure that a child does not develop defects at birth.
Something like heart disease could begin from childhood as a birth defect.
Furthermore, the importance of antenatal is seen in a study.
It says: “the success of fetal life determines not only the health of the newborn, but also has a major impact on adult health and disease risk.
“Good perinatal health is therefore important to individuals, to society and to future generations” (1).
Begin as early as possible and undertake all necessary tests. It could, among other things, help identify if there is an infection that needs to be treated.
4. Engage In Mild Exercises Before And During Pregnancy
Interestingly, different studies have reports of the benefits of exercising during pregnancy.
One study says pregnant women who were exercising 1 to 2 times per week, but not 3 times or more per week, were less likely to report depression (2).
Another study encourages pregnant women to exercise, emphasising that there is considerable evidence that exercise during healthy pregnancy has positive effects on the mother and fetus.
“There is some evidence that suggests positive effects on the child. Women, therefore, should be encouraged to initiate or continue exercise during a healthy pregnancy (3).
Unfortunately, I have heard several women say a pregnant woman does not need exercise. Nothing can be more far from the truth than this statement.
Before I gave birth to my first child, I passed through so much pain and pressure on my due date.
See Mild Exercises That You Can Engage In When Pregnant
I was induced for the baby to come. The labour lasted for hours and it was a remarkable experience. I said to myself, this will never happen again.
So, when I took in again, exercise was a routine. On my delivery day, I even exercised before I headed to the hospital.
I could remember running the stairs to the theatre holding the baby’s head and stooping it from coming out.
That day, I knew what delivering like the Hebrew women meant. It was as a result of my exercise routine.
Remember that those Hebrew women you talk about were the people doing most of the work in Egypt at the time. They were busy.
5. Do Exclusive Breastfeeding For At Least 4 – 6 Months
If you want to see an active child on Children’s Day and beyond, engage exclusive breastfeeding.
Exclusive breastfeeding is one thing that helps children build their immune system from birth.
The breast milk is so full of nutrients and water that a child needs in the early stage of life.
Ensuring that breastfeeding is exclusive even gives you an opportunity to exclude your child from some immunisation procedures.
If you think your job will affect your plan for exclusive breastfeeding, there is a walk-around that we have.
According to the World health Organization, breastfeeding protects against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia.
“It may also have longer-term health benefits for the mother and child, such as reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence” (4).
6. Feed Them More Of Whole Grains
Again on this Children’s Day we are emphasising the need for mothers to feed their children more of whole grain foods.
After the breastfeeding period is another challenging time for mothers. They are worried about what to feed their baby.
Some babies find it hard to just adjust to can foods no matter how hard you try.
At this point, whole grains should be your focus. They contain nutrients that a child needs. Some whole grain foods like red rice could be made into powder with other mix that you can combine. This food helps in brain development for children.
You can try a combination of red rice, sorghum, soy beans (peeled), groundnuts (roasted), whole wheat and maize. Wash these gains and oven-bake them for 30 to 45 minutes before you take them to a mill.
This way, the grains are ready for consumption with just warm water added to it. That is after turning them to powder.
Ensure they clean their machine at the mill well before they blend.
Note: Feeding a child with this should begin from 6 months and above.
Furthermore, a study highlights the efficacy of whole grain intervention in managing childhood obesity (5).
7. Add Vegetable And Fruits To Diet
Adding vegetables to your child’s meal is a great idea. introduce vegetables to them once they begin to eat whole grain meals.
Make a selection of soft vegetables that you can mash and feed the child.
Spinach and the likes are in this category. Boil it and mash it and then give the baby. No matter how little, it is better than not giving the child at all.
8. Do Away With Sugary Drinks. Embrace Fruit Juices
Furthermore, what you should know as a mother is that the organs of your baby are too tender for fizzy drinks.
Avoid giving a child drinks that contain any of the following: sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, sweeteners including sucralose, acesulfame potassium and aspartame, flavourings, colourings, caffeine and preservatives.
They are not even healthy for adults and for kids they are worse.
Instead, give the baby fruit juice that are not acidic in nature. You can blend banana into the child’s meal. You can blend apple and other non-acidic fruits, sieve and give the child the juice.
This is far, ‘far’ better than fizzy drinks.
They are rich in vitamins and minerals that a child needs for a strong immune system.
To see your child strong and healthy each time you celebrate Children’s Day, fruits should be an integral part of the child’s diet.
9. Keep Them Safe From Mosquitoes
One disease that is common in Nigeria is malaria.
Protection from malaria should even start before you conceive.
Basically, untreated malaria in a mother could be transferred to the foetus and cause issues when you give birth.
As a woman trying to conceive, you should sleep under treated nets or use natural insecticides or repellants.
They will help ensure that you do not come down with malaria.
Protecting your child from mosquitos could be as simple as also practicing the above.
Although, the immune system of a child can fight infection when exposure to mosquitos happens, it is better to avoid it. .
Ward off mosquitos from your kids as much as possible and make their Children’s Day celebration a delight always.
If you find this helpful, kindly share with your friends and loved ones so that they will know how to keep children healthy always.