Turning down the pressure cooker on mum and baby nutrition

When it comes to keeping you and your baby fed and healthy, you’d be forgiven for feeling more than a little overwhelmed. From the second you become pregnant, to those early days on (or off) the boob and the weaning debate, the list of dos and don’ts is endless and — more often than not — contradictory.

Katie Angotti is here to strip things back to basics, so that you can breathe a big old sigh of relief. A Tinto expert with over ten years’ experience in maternal and infant nutrition, Katie’s philosophy is simple: nutrition must work for your body but also your mind.

Katie Angotti, maternal and infant nutritionist

“It’s all about balance”, Katie tells me. “It is so dull, and I say it a thousand times a day, but it’s true”. According to Katie, there’s no point stressing “that everything we put into our mouths has to be the most nutritious, perfect bit of food.” Whether we’re talking nutrition to support fertility, preventing or controlling gestational diabetes, breastfeeding or weaning, managing your diet must work alongside managing your stress levels, not against it. For Katie, it comes down to one simple mantra. Be. Very. Kind. To. Yourself.

If we’re suffering from morning sickness (or all-day sickness, as we like to call it), it can be hard to keep down more than a few slices of toast. How can we support our health — and baby’s health — when we’re feeling bleeeuuurrrgggghhhh?

Being sick in pregnancy is the worst. My rule here is: if it stops you feeling sick long enough to get about and do your day, then it has done its job. Sometimes we over-worry and I think that puts too much pressure on ourselves.

In terms of baby, for the most part your body will prioritise your baby above anything else so even if you are not eating a lot, your body will draw from anything you have stored within and give it to baby. You don’t have to worry that by not eating, your baby is not being nourished. Your body is taking care of that. It’s more about making sure that you have enough energy to get through the day.

Some of simplest tips are the best here. Stay hydrated. A lot of people find they can manage very cold things, so smoothies or even ice lollies packed with fruit and veg are a great way to go. There are different ways to make food fit you.

You have to plan food around your day as to when you feel able to eat most. If that means eating more in the late afternoon, plan your balanced meal for then. If it means you just need to have crackers in the morning, then that’s not the end of the world for a few weeks. Go with what works for you, and just try not to get too hungry!

Supplements can be a real helping hand when we’re trying to keep ourselves and our little ones as healthy as possible. Whether that’s folic acid during pregnancy, probiotics when dealing with the joys of mastitis, or vitamin D every. single. day. But does brand matter when it comes to supplements? When should we be splurging and when is generic okay?

First and foremost, I would say if you have the extra money to spend, spend it on your diet first. This is going to be the best source of those vitamins and minerals. You will absorb them better from fruit and veg than you would do from a supplement. Then, if you can spend more on a supplement once your diet is sorted and you want to, then do so. Think of supplements as a safety net.

It isn’t as straightforward as saying expensive is better and cheaper ones are rubbish. If you’re looking to get just folic acid and vitamin D, there is nothing wrong with choosing a cheaper option. They will still provide you with the nutrient you need.

But it is true that the amount stated on the pack can vary quite substantially. It can be 20% either side of what is actually stated. In particular, some things are added to help with shelf life. Some more expensive supplements might have a shorter shelf life. With a shorter shelf life, you might be able to assume they’re more closely matching what’s on the label. With a longer shelf life, they may have put more in to account for a decrease over time.

So many different things affect how much you absorb from supplements. Broadly speaking, you should aim to get most of the nutrients you need from your diet.

Many of us are frankly terrified of weaning. In particular, no one wants to see their baby choke. How can we make baby-led weaning a positive experience for everyone?

Babies go off of your emotions. So when you’re feeding finger foods, stay calm, smiley and talking. Be there and be reassuring and allow your baby to take their time. Generally speaking, it’s about managing your own emotions rather than managing your baby!

Try not to interfere with finger foods, as you could push food further back with intending to. Your baby might gag on something a bit, but they’ll soon stop and figure it out.

There’s a big difference between choking and gagging. Choking is when your airway is completely blocked and is usually very quiet. Gagging is a reflex — a safety mechanism to prevent us from choking — and is associated with lots of noise, coughing, spluttering and a red face.

A baby’s gag reflex is a little farther forward than ours. The gag reflex only moves further back as you start to test it a little. That’s why when you see babies push things in their mouths, they quite often gag or splutter. They do it when they’re drinking milk or water, or even just randomly they might start gagging on their own saliva! Fun for the parent — I know. But remember — the food will generally come out on its own, and they’ll probably pick it up and put it back in. This is all perfectly normal.

How do we keep ourselves healthy while manically meal planning, prepping, cooking and providing snacks for our babies?

One of the best tips I can give is to feed yourself and your baby the same thing. As long as your diet is suitable and you’re happy to adapt it where necessary, then there’s no reason you can’t eat the same right from the get-go. That way you don’t have to prepare multiple meals. If you feel like you’re doing the best for your baby, eat the same things and then the knock-on effect is that it will be good for you too.

⁠For the most part, they can have what you have. For babies under 12 months, just avoid salt, added sugar, honey and possibly chilli, which might just be a bit much for them — not just for their taste buds but also for their digestive system. You’ll find very nasty effects there!

Watching us is how they learn what is good and safe and nice to eat. And they quickly get to the point where they want what’s on your plate anyway.

Want to hear more from Katie? As one of our Tinto experts, Katie is available on the Tinto app whenever you need her. Whether you’re struggling with your baby’s weaning journey or your own relationship with food as you juggle motherhood, Katie’s ready with trustworthy, judgment-free advice.

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