Four ways to give your child the best start to life

We all want to give our kids the best start to life but did you know the choices you make even before conception can affect their life? Find out more here.

Did you know the choices you make before conception and throughout  your baby’s  first thousand days (from conception up until they turn two) can influence their growth and development and the children, teenagers and adults they become? Scary, right? 

No matter if you’re a new parent or seasoned pro, making daily decisions about their lives can seem like a lot of responsibility. To help you make sense of it all, here are four things you can do now to help give your child the best start in life. 

1. Provide positive interactions

From the time they’re born, your little one is paying attention to what people around them say and do. They learn important life skills such as how to express and regulate their emotions through what they observe and experience. So, it’s important to have positive interactions with your baby where you, your partner and friends and family are smiling, present, communicative and playful. 

Playful interactions in particular can stimulate learning. ‘Serves and returns’ (e.g. playing peek-a-boo or ‘copy cat’ games) can be one of the best ways to teach your baby about sound, language, emotion and movement. 

It’s also important for your baby’s development to create a safe, supportive and loving environment at home where they feel confident to learn and explore. This begins with teaching them to identify safe and secure environments and what happens when they show different emotions. Over time they will build on these skills, which will help them later in life.

2. Practice good nutrition 

Good nutrition is important for your baby’s health, wellbeing and relationship with food.
Eating well before you fall pregnant is important for both mum and dad and will help your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. 
During pregnancy, eating healthily and ensuring you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate, iodine, zinc and vitamin D, will help the growth and development of your baby and assist in preventing birth defects like spina bifida. Read more here on what to eat during pregnancy
Once your baby is born, continuing to eat well is vital. For mum, practicing good nutrition during breastfeeding will help ensure you remain healthy and providing the essential minerals and nutrients to your little one for their growth and development - iodine, iron and calcium are all really important nutrients for development. Read here for ideas on nutritious foods for babies
It’s also really important that you help your child foster a healthy relationship with food. Be a positive role model and enjoy meal times together as a family where you can encourage social interaction and educate them about food. 
mother eating healthy food with her baby

3. Avoid toxins

Establishing a healthy environment by avoiding toxins before conception, after birth and into your child’s first thousand days is important for a healthy start in life. 
Toxins - anything that can harm the body - can cause both complications during pregnancy and health issues in yourself and your little one. While you might not be able to control the pollution around where you live, there are things you can do to reduce your baby’s exposure to toxins:
  • Avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding as it can lead to complications such as miscarriage, restricted growth and learning disorders
  • Taking illicit drugs is not only dangerous for your health and that of your little one, but can also affect your ability to best look after them
  • Smoking during pregnancy and even exposing your little one to second hand smoke from others can result in your baby developing conditions such as asthma or high blood pressure. Any smokers in the household should be asked to smoke outside, with enough distance to prevent smoke from drifting into the house. Read more on smoking, fertility and raising a child here
  • Medication is also something to be wary of during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as you are closely sharing your body and bloodstream with your little one. If you are taking medication, always let your doctor and pharmacist know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

4. Be active and get outside

Getting active outdoors has many benefits for you, your little one and your partner. Playing outside helps children learn about the world around them, from being safe to taking risks and different ways of being active. It can also be beneficial for your emotional health; being outdoors is known to promote positive feelings and lower stress and blood pressure. 
So why not explore a different park or reserve each weekend, or pack up the pram and meet up with a local mums walking group?
Remember that what is good for you is often good for your baby too. Eating well, exercising moderately and getting outdoors - all of these can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life and give your child the best start to life. 

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