The most rapid growth your baby will ever experience is during the 266 days prior to birth. Here is what’s happening to you and your baby each month in your pregnancy during this amazing transformation.
YOUR BABY During this first month your baby grows from a barely visible single cell to the size of a grain of rice. The first organs to appear are a tiny pulsing heart and a tiny liver. The stomach and intestines grow rapidly. Dimples on the head mark the location of the eyes and ears. Swellings appear where your baby’s arms will be.
YOUR BODY Your baby’s brain influences everything he or she will ever do, think or feel — and your habits directly influence your baby’s development. Your baby’s first brain growth spurt begins around day 17 (the 17th day after conception) and continues through day 56. Smoking while pregnant is the number-one cause of a preventable learning disability, and drinking alcohol is the number-one cause of preventable mental retardation. If you smoke or drink, get help so you can stop.
NOTE Food supports all growth. Nutritionally superior foods — superfoods — contain substances that actively promote good health. Incorporate superfoods such as blueberries, broccoli, spinach, strawberries and walnuts into your diet. Other excellent choices include black beans, kidney beans, green tea, oranges, tomatoes and wild salmon.
YOUR BABY In Month 2, the face and mouth, internal reproductive structures, surface of the skin and contours of the brain are forming. Cartilage begins to harden into bone. All the little lumps on your baby’s trunk develop into the well-proportioned limbs of an inch-long baby.
YOUR BODY You urinate more often as your metabolism steps up to support development. Urinate when you feel the need to, and drink 13 cups/3 liters of water per day.
NOTE Make sure your diet includes sufficient calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and protein to promote bone growth. Safeguard your baby’s brain growth with sufficient folic acid and healthy fats.
YOUR BABY Your baby triples his or her length to three inches and adds sockets for all 20 baby teeth, vocal cords and a voice box, gall bladder, spleen, thyroid gland, and bile from the liver for digesting fat. Developments in the mouth (the presence of sucking muscles in the cheeks, salivary glands, a formed palate), swallowing and rooting reflexes and functional intestines prepare your baby for nursing or bottle-feeding. In addition, the external sex structures will now clearly indicate whether your baby is a boy or a girl.
YOUR BODY Pregnancy-related mood swings can shift your attention away from your healthy habits and make you feel immobilized, frantic or scattered. If these feelings interfere with your focus, talk to your ob/gyn immediately.
NOTE As your baby practices breathing, swallowing and sucking in the womb, you can plan ahead for breastfeeding by gathering supplies and lining up advice and support.
YOUR BABY Whole-body growth is so rapid that your baby reaches half the length she will be at birth and weighs six ounces (168 g), big enough for you to feel movement. Connections between the nervous system and muscles proliferate, adding more reflexes, like grasping, and making your baby more agile. Your baby can make a fist, move her thumbs and bend her wrist.
YOUR BODY All the major elements of the lungs have formed except those involved in receiving oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Because your baby cannot breathe air yet, do all you can to prevent prematurity. For example, carry a nutritious snack so your blood sugar level doesn’t drop too low.
NOTE Peanuts and tree nuts (like walnuts and almonds) can be a significant source of protein during pregnancy. However, daily consumption during pregnancy especially by women with food allergies may influence your baby’s susceptibility to developing asthma. Discuss any concerns with your ob/gyn.
YOUR BABY Her weight more than doubles, and her length increases by more than an inch. Cartilage develops into bone for stability (head support), mobility (bearing weight) and protection (brain). Your baby has head hair, eyebrows and ears that stand out from her head.
YOUR BODY Your baby can grip with some force now. When an infant grasps our clothing, hair or fingers, we interpret those actions as affection, and that encourages baby bonding. In addition, you can now hear your baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope so you can feel even closer to your little one.
NOTE Support your baby’s brain development and the formation of bone with a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, like those from eco-friendly fish, olives, avocados, nuts, sunflower seeds, canola/safflower oil and tofu.
YOUR BABY Your baby adds two inches in length, weighs around two pounds (820 g) — the equivalent of a quart of milk — and really fills up your uterus now. She has eyelashes, taste buds, and developing capillaries that color the skin pink or bright red regardless of race or ethnicity.
YOUR BODY Rest on your left side to improve the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to your baby. If you find yourself on your right side, don’t worry. Just roll over. Stay off your back if you can.
NOTE Your breasts are already actively preparing for milk production and nursing. Moms who breastfeed need pregnancy-level nutrition plus some significant additions in vitamins A, B2 riboflavin, B6, B12, C, E; copper, iodine, folic acid, and choline. Consult your provider, and get ready to provide the most perfect food on the planet!
YOUR BABY This is a milestone month: Your baby’s lungs can breathe air! In addition, your baby has toenails, a good head of hair, and eyes that can open, close and move to practice “looking.” Your baby’s forebrain enlarges (thinking, reasoning and personality), and there is rapid growth in brain areas sensitive to light, sound, taste, touch and smell. At birth, your baby’s sense of smell and touch are sharpest. This development helps your baby identify you as a source of nourishment and protection.
YOUR BODY Count your baby’s kicks, rolls and stretches when she is most active. Hiccups don’t count. The best position for you to be in is sitting or lying on your left side. You should be able to feel ten or more in a two-hour period. Let your practitioner know if you baby is less active than that.
NOTE If you haven’t already done so, familiarize yourself with the features of available car safety seats and make a selection.
YOUR BABY You now have a wall-to-wall baby in your uterus who will continue to grow rapidly in size and brain volume through birth and beyond.
YOUR BODY Your blood volume increases significantly in anticipation of childbirth. Clean drinking water, iron, high-quality protein and vitamins C and E will support the process.
NOTEPrepare for childbirth by getting ready to feed, comfort, clothe, clean and help your baby sleep. Know the signs associated with labor. Line up people to call on for help after your baby arrives, particularly if you have other children.
YOUR BABY Your baby’s chest becomes prominent, the skeleton remains flexible, and the eyes begin to respond to light intensity. Your baby’s brain can now register information from all five senses — touch, taste, smell, vision and hearing.
YOUR BODY Like you, your baby prepares for delivery. The additional fat that is deposited under your baby’s skin helps her stay warmer, but also eases the lumps and bumps associated with contractions. Your baby’s lungs also produce more surfactant, a substance that keeps the air sacs open.
NOTE Make sure your baby’s car seat is correctly installed and you know how to use its safety features. Consider using a baby carrier or a stroller. Put together a travel bag for the hospital/ birthing center. You’re almost there!
A. Christine Harris, PhD, is the author of The Pregnancy Journal, Baby’s First Year Journal and The Toddler Journal.
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