Infant mortality is a multi-factorial issue and nutrition certainly plays a role. Registered Dietitian Jessica Jurcak, a Food Strong community partner, as well as owner of On The Move Nutrition, LLC and Health Promotion Coordinator for the Healthy Cleveland Initiative at the Cleveland Department of Public Health, offers some insight. She states that policies, health systems, and environments that provide and support prenatal care, healthy food access, and breastfeeding are essential to supporting adequate nutrition for females of childbearing age. Both maternal and infant nutrition can impact one or more of the four leading causes of infant mortality: birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, and maternal complications.
Both entering pregnancy at a healthy weight and achieving an appropriate amount of weight gain throughout pregnancy are beneficial in reducing birth defects, premature birth, and maternal health complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Enjoying a plant-strong meal pattern of high dietary quality including a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will not only help weight factors, but it will also help the mother to get suitable amounts of essential vitamins/minerals. However, supplementation with a prenatal vitamin that contains additional folic acid and iron is key to preventing incidence of anemia and neural tube defects.
Initiating breastfeeding with newborn infants is vital, whenever possible. Colostrum, the first thick milk, is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies for the infant. The risk of SIDS among infants who were ever breastfed is 44% lower than those were never breastfed. Breastfeeding is associated with overall improved infant immune systems, as well as reduced occurrence of developing diarrhea, allergies, and chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes later in life. It also promotes strong bonding between the infant and mother. A diet with a variety of healthy food choices will change the breast milk flavor and expose the infant to different tastes, preparing for solid food introduction down the road.
To learn how to be a part of our food revolution, reach out to Food Strong at:
Food Strong is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering communities through fresh, local foods. We work with farmers markets, schools and a variety of partners to bring gardens, fresh foods and a variety of resources to communities across Northeast Ohio. We are incredibly excited for the opportunity to discuss the role nutrition plays in reducing the risk of infant mortality in the Battle For Our Babies Newsletter.