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We list ways to boost your baby’s health, starting now!
Now that your baby is born, there are even more things to worry about. A simple cough and cold can transform the most chilled out mum into a nervous wreck. And talk about crib death or respiratory problems are enough to give any mum many sleepless nights. But don’t worry; just follow these simple tips to make sure that you give your baby the best possible start in life.
1. Breast is best
We couldn’t have said it any clearer ourselves, breastfeeding is one of the greatest things a mother can do to make sure her child grows up healthy.
Why? This is because breastmilk is packed with antibodies that boost your baby’s immune system, protecting him from gastroenteritis and ear, chest and urinary tract infections, as well as allergies like asthma and eczema, and diabetes and leukaemia. It also contains fats called LCPs which are necessary for brain development.
So if you could, breastfeed your baby at least during the first six months of his life. It can be tricky, but with some practice, you’ll have your baby sucking away. If you do come across any problems, contact Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group (Singapore), tel 6339-3558, http://www.breastfeeding.org.sg; Moms In Mind, www.momsinmind.com.sg; or La Leche League of Singapore, www.lalecheleague.org for advice and tips.
2. Be smoke-free
The effects of passive smoking are even more dangerous for babies. Breathing tobacco smoke makes children prone to chronic coughs, bronchitis, asthma, middle-ear infections and pneumonia, and increases the risk of crib death.
Use nicotine patches and gum to help you beat your cravings. For advice on giving up, call QuitLine at 1800-438-2000
3. Have a Safe Sleep
According to the Foundation for Sudden Infant Deaths (FSID) in UK, when safe sleeping guidelines were issued in 1991, the number of crib deaths in the country fell by 70 per cent. Sarah Kenyon of FSID advises, “Putting your baby to sleep on his back significantly reduces his risk of crib death.”
Also don’t let your baby get too hot. “Keep the room between 16 and 20 deg C,” says Sarah. “Quilts and pillows aren’t suitable before 12 months – use a baby sleeping bag or sheets and blankets. If you settle him with his feet at the end of the cot, he can’t shuffle under the covers.”
According to Sarah, the safest thing to do is to put your baby’s crib in your room for the first six months. “You may share a bed with your baby, but it can be dangerous if you or your husband smoke, have drunk alcohol or taken drugs or medication that make you drowsy. Sleeping on a sofa or armchair with your baby also puts him at risk,” she continues.
4. Make your home safe
Get down on your hands and knees and start looking around from your baby’s point of view at home and you’ll spot many danger zones.
Having said this, the most serious – and even fatal – accidents happen in the home. So, make sure that you child-proof your home, by fitting stairgates at the top and bottom of the stairs, fitting covers on electric sockets and not leaving small objects within reach of your crawling child.
There are also many potential dangers in the kitchen and the bathroom. So make sure that there are no loose knives or hot drinks within reach of your child. Keep your cleaning chemicals and medicines under lock and key. And never leave your child unattended in the bath, even for a few seconds.
It’s important to child-proof your bedroom and lounge area too. Install window locks, don’t put furniture under windowsills and cut blind cords or tie them up – curious children can strangle themselves when tangled. For more safety advice, visit the Child Safety Centre in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital or visit www.kkh.com.sg.
5. Vaccinate your child
It’s not pleasant thinking about a nurse sticking a needle into your baby’s sensitive skin, but up-to-date vaccinations will protect your child from potentially serious infectious illnesses. If you don’t immunise your child, he will be at risk of such illnesses as meningitis C and whooping cough, which can be deadly.
In the first year, your baby will be immunised at two, four and six months against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio, Hib and Hepatitis B. At 12 to 15 months, he will be given the MMR vaccine (Measles/Mumps/Rubella).
It is normal to be concerned about side effects, but usually these are minor, like soreness or swelling at the site of the injection or a mild fever. Serious side effects and reactions are rare, and are far outweighed by the risk of leaving your child unprotected.
6. Eat healthily
According to author of The Baby Healthy Eating Planner, Amanda Grant, poor diet is linked to childhood obesity. “Frighteningly, children as young as 13 or 14 are showing signs of heart disease thanks to eating too much fatty, sugary, highly processed food,” says Amanda. “In the short term, missing out on key nutrients will weaken your child’s immunity to germs.”
Give your baby lots of fresh, home-cooked foods. “Start your baby on pureed fruit and veggies at around six months and introduce other foods gradually,” she advises. “By 12 months, he should have a balanced diet including all five food groups: Fruit and veg; bread, cereals and potatoes; dairy; meat and fish; and good fats like avocados and nuts.”
Remember to avoid certain foods in your baby’s early years. Honey should not be eaten before 12 months and make sure eggs are cooked thoroughly – both can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning. If there’s a family history of allergies, avoid giving peanuts to your child before he’s 3 – they could trigger a severe reaction.