Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 1.1: Support healthy lifestyles for children through the provision of food and nutrition
Learning outcome: Understand how food choices impact on health and development during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Assessment criteria: Explain the impact on health and development of food choices during: pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, breastfeeding.
Good nutrition is essential for the healthy development of children, both in the womb and during their early years. Our eating habits have a direct impact on our health and well-being, as well as that of our offspring.
Establishing good eating habits should begin before pregnancy. Eating a nutritious diet will help to build up reserves of essential nutrients, such as iron and folic acid, which are important for a healthy pregnancy. Good nutrition is also linked to an increased likelihood of conception.
Once pregnant, it is important to be aware of which foods should be avoided in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Raw eggs, meat and unpasteurised dairy products can harbour harmful bacteria that can cause disease. Some fish, such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel, contain high levels of mercury which can be harmful to the developing foetus. Previous guidance recommended avoiding peanuts during pregnancy but this has been changed to advise that only women with a nut allergy should avoid them.
When breastfeeding, mothers do not need to follow any special dietary requirements unless advised by a GP. However, eating a healthy and balanced diet is important to ensure that the baby gets all the nutrients they need. Breastmilk is naturally tailored to meet a baby’s changing needs and provides everything they need in their early months.