Ensuring a Healthy Pregnancy & Newborn
Contributed by the Center for Child Protection
Pregnancy and infancy are incredibly important times of development and growth for your baby. Learning about your baby's early life will help you feel more connected to your baby, and that's the foundation of a powerful and positive relationship!
- Learn about development. It is helpful for parents to know that pregnancy - also called the prenatal period - and infancy - also called the neonatal or newborn period - are times of major growth and brain development for your baby. Your baby will be born with the majority of neurons they will have for the rest of their life. Brain growth during this time is rapid. This means it is important to know what you can do to promote healthy development and growth. Your baby's experiences will help them grow and become happy and healthy.
- Work to address stress in your life while pregnant and parenting. Your developing baby and infant will feel and experience what you are feeling. Being overly stressed, anxious or in a distressful and unsafe situation will impact your baby. Your baby will not only feel what you feel, but their development can also be impacted if you are in a situation that is significantly impacting you. Make sure you are getting the support and help you need to cope with any life stressors or unsafe situations.
- Prenatal care and nutrition is important. Your nutrition and health are important to your developing baby. While it may be overwhelming to think that everything you do affects your baby, it can also be helpful to know that a healthy diet is important in promoting positive development for your baby.
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs during pregnancy is important for your health and the health of your baby. If you use any of these substances while you are pregnant, you are putting your baby at risk for serious health conditions like preterm birth, fetal alcohol syndrome, brain and lung damage, SIDS, and still birth. If you are using any of these substances and want help quitting, contact your health care provider today.
- Consistency and predictability are important. Babies need a caregiver who is predictable, present and calm. What this means is that your baby needs to know you will be there to meet their needs in a calm and predictable manner. This helps your baby feel safe. Your baby will begin to develop a set of positive and safe associations, which is important for healthy development. Of course, as the parent of a newborn you may not always feel calm and present, but don't be hard on yourself. What's important is that you are doing the best you can to respond to your baby.
- Be nurturing, hold your new baby. No matter what you have heard, there is no way you can spoil an infant. Babies need to be held, rocked, talked to and gazed at. All of these bonding behaviors will help build a strong attachment with your child. These behaviors will also promote healthy development by providing the experiences necessary for your baby to continue to grow and develop.
- Baby exercise. Yes, this is a real thing. Look into age-appropriate play and physical activities for your infant. Tummy time while awake and other activities that promote development are important for your baby. This is also a great opportunity for you to continue to share positive experiences with your baby.
- Build a positive support system. Ever heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child"? This is true for you and for your baby. While you will be the primary caregiver and attachment figure the more help you have from positive and nurturing family and friends the better. A sense of community and support is important for you and for your baby. Don't be afraid to reach out to your friends and family for support, ultimately this will be best for you and your baby.
For More Information
- Talk to your child's pediatrician. They can help you to understand your child's mental, physical and emotional milestones.
- Read the book Touchpoints: Birth to Three: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development (2006) by T. Berry Brazelton.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5, Sixth Edition”
- American Academy of Pediatrics, “Your Baby’s First Year, Fourth Edition”
- HealthyChildren.org, Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy
- HealthyChildren.org, Alcohol and Pregnancy: It’s Just Not Worth the Risk
- HealthyChildren.org, Last Minute Activities Before Delivery
- HealthyChildren.org, Depression During and After Pregnancy: You are Not Alone
- HealthyChildren.org, Where We Stand: Smoking During Pregnancy
The Center for Child Protection is a nationally accredited children's advocacy center. The Center's goal is to end the cycle of child abuse by supporting current victims of abuse and empowering them to break the cycle of abuse in their own lives, through timely, strategic, effective and evidence-based intervention with the Protective Parenting Program.