A Healthy Start for Babies
A Healthy Start for Babies = Healthy Children Who Are Eager to Learn

A Healthy Start for Babies  = Healthy Children Who Are Eager to Learn


Before babies are born—

v      Prevent prematurity and low birth weight. Premature and low birth weight babies have an increased risk of developmental disabilities and chronic illness. These in turn affect overall health and the ability to learn. Families experience greater stress, and their resources can be stretched thin.

v      Avoid exposure to substances. Cigarette smoking by mom and second-hand smoke from others increase the risk for developmental and behavioral problems. Alcohol use during pregnancy has been called the #1 preventable cause of intellectual disability among children. There is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy.

v      Prenatal care. Early prenatal care can lead to early detection and treatment of pregnancy complications and chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, and infections.  

v      Oral health. Gum disease and cavities among pregnant women increase the risk of prematurity and the chances babies will develop cavities in early childhood. Disease of the teeth and mouth can cause physical problems, but ugly teeth can also negatively affect a child’s sense of self. Newest research: To prevent decay, moms should chew gum sweetened with Xylitol during pregnancy and while their children are babies.

Nutrition. New guidelines recommend that all pregnant women eat a high quality diet, but overweight and obese women should gain much less than was previously recommended. The babies do just as well with the lower weight gain and the mothers do better.

What’s so important about Women’s Health before pregnancy?

v      Folic acid. All women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin with 400 μg of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. It takes about three months for the levels of folic acid to be high enough. Waiting until a woman finds out she’s pregnant can be too late.

v      Control chronic illnesses. Getting chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control before pregnancy decreases birth defects and prematurity.

v      Healthy weight. Maintaining or gradually achieving a healthy weight before conception decreases the risk of pregnancy and birth complications as well obesity in children and diabetes in the mom.

v      Substance use. For healthy outcomes, before pregnancy is the best time to quit smoking, begin avoiding all alcohol, and stop the use of any drugs or medications that may not be safe for the baby. These include illegal drugs, some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and some herbal preparations. A woman should ask her doctor for advice before stopping any prescription medicines- they may be important for her health and the baby’s, too. This is a good time to ask for help if it is difficult for a woman to stop smoking, drinking, or using drugs.


After babies are born—

v      Eat at mom’s. All babies need their mother’s milk. It provides the right nutrients for brain growth, improves immunity to illnesses, decreases the risk of obesity, and guarantees frequent interaction between mother and baby.

v      Safe sleep. There are steps to take to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A safe place to sleep, putting babies to sleep on their backs, avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke, prenatal and well child check-ups, and breastfeeding are proven ways to help.

v      Play, sing, talk, hold. As they grow, babies love these activities, and they help babies make connections in their brains for a bright mind that learns well and enjoys people.

Early intervention. If parents have any questions about their babies reaching developmental milestones, they can ask for an assessment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended a screening for autism spectrum disorders at 18 and 24 months in addition to the usual questions about milestones at all well baby visits.

Heart of Georgia Healthy Start provides prenatal education and case management, peer counseling, parenting classes, developmental assessments, childbirth classes, breastfeeding support groups and counseling, and a breast pump loan program. 478-274-7616 or 1-800-880-0117.

  Serving 10 counties:  Bleckley, Dodge, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Pulaski, Telfair, Treutlen, 
  Wheeler and Wilcox.  This project is supported in part by project H49MC00122 from the U.S.
  Department of Health and Human Resource, Health Resources and Services Administration,
  Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act).