The Surgeon General's Tips for Mothers and Mothers-To-Be
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., today gave a Mother's Day gift to mothers and mothers-to-be (and dads, too) - an even dozen tips for keeping their babies healthy and safe. This is the first in a series of "Healthy Dozen Tips" that Dr. Carmona will release as part of "The Year of the Healthy Child" agenda.
1. Eat Healthy. It's good for you and your baby. Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Also, every woman of childbearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects (including spina bifida) and congenital malformations, which are the leading cause of infant mortality.
2. Don't drink alcohol when you are pregnant or might become pregnant. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. Alcohol can affect an unborn baby even before a woman knows that she is pregnant, and the problems caused by prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong. Alcohol-related birth defects are completely preventable, and eliminating alcohol will prevent all alcohol-related birth defects, including growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, central nervous system impairment, behavioral disorders, and intellectual development.
3. Get prenatal care early. As soon as you think you may be pregnant, see a health care professional for prenatal care. And continue going for prenatal care during your pregnancy. Immediate and consistent prenatal care can prevent preterm delivery, and improve pregnancy and childbirth.
4. Don't smoke. And don't allow anyone else to smoke around your baby. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to a low birthweight baby and can reduce your baby's lung function. Even second-hand smoke can have a harmful effect on your baby's breathing and can have long-term respiratory consequences like impaired lung growth, chronic coughing, and wheezing. In addition, disorders related to preterm birth and low birthweight are the second-leading cause of infant death. Diseases of the respiratory system (aggravated by second hand smoke) are one of the leading causes of infant hospitalization and infant doctor visits.
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5. Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life has significant health benefits, and maintain a healthy diet after that. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. Mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Breast milk has agents called antibodies to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses and to help them fight off infection and disease.