It’s fairly common for women in their third trimester of pregnancy to experience insomnia, thanks to a whole range of hormone fluctuations as well as body discomfort in the last few weeks before birth. The need to constantly get up to empty your bladder, or the persistent irritation from heartburn, as well as anxiety and leg cramps do little to allow you to sleep peacefully during this late stage.

Is insomnia harmful to you and your baby?

Unless you are chronically tired and still unable to sleep, you’re probably getting enough rest, and this inability to sleep could also just be your body’s way of preparing you for a gruelling post-natal routine. While some people thrive on eight hours or more of sleep, others can do with less. If you’re worried about not getting enough sleep or are feeling particularly fatigued, speak to your doctor and get to the root of the problem.

Pregnant women with insomnia Ways to conquer insomnia

The worst possible approach to not getting enough sleep is to worry about it, which will just keep you awake for longer. If you let go of the anxiety, it will increase your chances of getting some sleep. You can do this by quietly meditating, listening to soothing music, or relaxing in a long, warm bath before getting into bed. Try to keep as much of a persistent sleep routine as possible so that your body can get used to sleeping at a specific time at night and waking at the same time each morning.

self-help for insomnia

Languish over your dinner to reduce the effects of heartburn, and don’t drink tea or coffee for at least a few hours before bedtime. If you have trouble sleeping, rather opt for a warm glass of milk than juices or other sugar-drenched stimulants, and try to take in your last fluids early in the evening to avoid having to get up to go to the bathroom at all hours. Make sure that your bedroom temperature is comfortable and sleep with a pregnancy body pillow to ensure that your body is properly supported for a good night’s rest.

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In spite of all the child-targeted marketing, there are quite a number of foods that are not good for kids at all! We list some of them here, and recommend some healthy alternatives.

 Breakfast cereals

Many cereals aimed at kids are essentially sugar-bombs that your children get excited about eating in the mornings (especially if they can find a toy inside the box). Check the nutritional table on the box – if the word “sugar” appears close to the top of the ingredients list, you may as well be feeding your child a chocolate bar before school. Cereals should contain more than 3 grams of protein per serving and be high in fibre. A healthy alternative would be a warm bowl of oats, or fruit and nuts with low-fat yoghurt.

 Polony, hot dog meats, and chicken nuggets

Processed meats contain low quality animal products that have been cleaned at high heat and have had loads of sodium, preservatives, and colourants added to them. These processed meats contain nitrites and saturated fats which are incredibly bad for you – why would you feed them to your kids? Chicken nuggets are another culprit (for the same reasons) and because they’re deep fried in unhealthy oils. A healthy alternative would be to season and grill some chicken breasts and make your own chicken strips, serving them up with guacamole, chilli sauce, or chutney.

Hot dog

 Sweets and pastries

While kids love colourful lollipops and gummy sweets, as well as the decadence of jam-filled pastries, these treats will encourage your children’s bodies to constantly crave sugar (which will lead to bad habits later in life) and can cause unnecessary visits to the dentist. Frozen yoghurt ice cubes (made from low-fat yoghurt), fruit pops (with no extra sugar), or even delicious fresh fruit should be offered as alternatives. The natural fruit sugars will satisfy kids’ desires for something sweet, without the harmful side effects (including weight gain) from refined, processed sugars.


Kids usually learn by example, so ensure that your own lifestyle reflects the kind of healthy eating and healthy living you want for your children.

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Spina bifida is quite a serious neural tube defect, which can be first detected in unborn babies through a series of blood tests, ultrasound, and amniocentesis. This birth defect is characterised by a lack of development in the neural tube (the embryonic structure that eventually becomes the brain, spinal cord, and enclosing tissues), which can result in three levels of severity: spina bifida occulta (mild, with no serious symptoms), meningocele (nerves remain covered, but the membranes around them appear on the outside of the skin; can be corrected with surgery after birth), and myelomeningocele (the spinal canal remains open and uncovered with some of the spinal cord and nerves protruding at birth).

How is spina bifida treated?

Depending on how severe the spina bifida is, there are various treatment options available – from drug prescriptions, to surgery (either when the baby is still in utero, or very shortly after birth), caesarean birth, as well as ongoing care – sometimes lifelong. Each case of spina bifida will be diagnosed based on individual factors, which will also determine the treatment plan, based on the specific causes.


Causes of spina bifida

It’s unclear what exactly causes spina bifida, but doctors have determined both genetic and environmental causes. The risk factors for this birth defect include race (white and Hispanic babies are more prone to developing spina bifida); a family history of neural tube defects; some anti-seizure medications, which have the ability to limit folic acid absorption by the foetus; as well as folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency, especially before and in the first month of pregnancy. Women with diabetes who are also overweight increase the risks of spina bifida in their babies, as well as women with high body temperature.

Since it’s sometimes impossible to tell whether a woman will deliver a perfectly healthy baby or a child with any number of birth defects, it helps to be covered by an affordable medical aid long before you even think of starting a family.

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Women need to take extra special care of themselves, especially when they’re pregnant. Medical aids in South Africa do provide pediatric cover, but it’s moms’ responsibility first to ensure that they do as much as possible to have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. One common health disturbance that can have devastating effects babies is sleep apnoea, especially in obese women.

What is sleep apnoea?
Imagine being fast asleep and you suddenly stop breathing – that’s sleep apnoea. The cessation can be caused by airways that are blocked, especially when body weight bears down on those airways. Sleep apnoea is very common in obese patients. It can cause oxygen deprivation to the blood and brain, which is not only dangerous for pregnant moms, but also for unborn babies who rely on their mothers for nutrients and oxygen.

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea, obesity, and pregnancy
Not only does obesity cause a whole range of health problems (especially for pregnant women), but the sleep apnoea correlates with many other complications such as hypertension, diabetes, and circulation issues. In a study performed on 175 obese pregnant women, 42% of the women who experienced sleep apnoea and other sleep disturbances also developed pre-eclampsia; with 65% of the obese moms needing to deliver via C-section. These numbers were more than 50% higher than the mothers who didn’t suffer from sleep apnoea.

With such a close correlation, it’s important that obese mothers-to-be receive the right screenings for pregnancy complications so that the appropriate treatment can be administered early. It’s also important that doctors work together with their obese patients to tackle their obesity, which will lower their risk of other complications and ensure a much healthier pregnancy for both them and their babies.

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Babies reach their developmental milestones at different times. One of the more constant milestones is when your baby should start eating solid foods. The World Health Organisation recommends that six months of age is the average earliest time at which to start on the solids. Why is that so?

 baby eating solids

By the age of six months, your baby’s digestive system would have had time to adjust to doing its job, as would her immune system. Waiting until six months before you start her on solids is a much safer option than feeding her solids before six months, and her digestive system will be more mature and able to handle the density of the food. Also, when her immune system has built up some strength and is more able to fight off infections, your baby is less likely to have an adverse reaction to foods, especially foods like dairy, wheat, citrus, eggs, and fish.


If you and your baby are on an affordable medical aid, it would be worthwhile to take her to a paediatrician – one that specialises in infant nutrition – especially if she’s already starting to show that she’s ready for solids. She may be displaying signs like still being hungry right after feeding, or perhaps her weight gain has begun to slow down, or she’s putting toys and other objects in her mouth.


If your baby was born prematurely or is reaching her other milestones at times that don’t seem in line with your expectations, she may also wean off breast-milk earlier than the six-month mark. If you are unsure of what to do, don’t hesitate to get in contact with your GP or your child’s doctor for the best advice.

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There are a few great medical aids in South Africa that encourage their members to maintain a healthy, fit lifestyle in order to live better lives and also reap the benefits from their medical aids. For many people, it’s easy to decide on a fitness plan and start working on their physical health straight away, but if you’re pregnant, you need to pay careful attention to these dos and don’ts when considering exercising during your pregnancy:

 exercising moms to be

If you maintained a relatively good level of physical fitness before your pregnancy, you can expect to continue exercising while pregnant, although it’s advisable to bring the level of strenuous exercises down a few notches. However, it’s IMPERATIVE that you see your doctor or gynaecologist and get the A-okay from them before you start or continue with any exercise programmes. This is the ONLY “do” for exercising while pregnant: DO consult your doctor first!

 pregnant women workout

DON’T exercise while pregnant if:

  • you have an existing heart condition or a risk for pulmonary hypertension and other circulation issues
  • you are prone to suffer from lung problems associated with asthma or bronchitis
  • you are at risk for cervical cerclage (an incompetent cervix)
  • you are expecting twins or triplets, or have another risk for premature labour
  • you are experiencing bleeding in the second and third trimesters
  • you’ve had premature labour
  • you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • you have very low iron levels
  • you have Type 1 diabetes
  • you are morbidly obese or extremely underweight
  • your usual lifestyle has been very sedentary


There are a range of other conditions that will limit you to not exercising during your pregnancy, so we cannot emphasise it enough: check with your doctor and get the all-clear before you do any exercise. In the meantime, eat healthily and keep yourself well hydrated!


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If it’s almost time for your little angel’s first birthday, you’ll want to make it a special one. She probably won’t remember much from her party, but looking back on the photos when she turns 21 will make you (and her) glad you went to the trouble. If you’re considering throwing her a party, here’s what you should include:

baby's first birthday


At this early age, your one-year-old will still be nervous about strange new places and people, so hosting her party at home will be the safest bet for making her feel secure in a familiar place. Cordon off an area in the living room or dining room with adequate place for your close family and friends who will be attending. Keep valuables and breakables out of the way, and ensure your pets are occupied elsewhere.

birthday party decor


Your close family and friends may want to celebrate your child’s first birthday with you, so keep the guest list limited to people that your little one is already familiar with. A large party with lots of strange new faces may make her feel scared.



Choose a time of the day when your baby is most active. Enjoying a birthday party during this time will ensure that she uses up every ounce of her energy, but also that she isn’t cranky and tired. If you are inviting other young mums and there tiny tots, ensure that the party is not during their nap times either.



You will not need a lot of food or activities for a one-year-old’s birthday party. If there are other infants there, you can provide food that isn’t a choking hazard (peanuts, raisins, sweets, and other small solids are a no-no). Cheese squares, pieces of fruit, crustless sandwiches, or tasty biscuits may work. Aim for small amounts of a wide variety of foods for the little ones, and easy-to-eat finger foods for the adults.


A birthday cake and a special gift will be mandatory for birthdays, but forego things like balloons, which can be a choking hazard, as well as party poppers, which can make unexpected loud noises. Throw on a nursery rhyme CD and you should be all set!

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We all want what’s best for our children, so it may be devastating to learn that your child has a neurodevelopmental disorder like autism. Autism can make it extremely difficult for your child to communicate with other people, interact socially, and experience normal cognitive, behavioural, and speech development. Whether your child has developed as expected and has begun to regress into an autistic state, or whether you’ve noticed the signs early on, it’s important to immediately seek out a diagnosis and care as soon as you can.

autism 1

In short, here are some guidelines on how to care for a child with autism:


Learn as much as you can

Get as much information as you can about autism. This will help you to make informed decisions about treatment and the kind of support you can provide. It’s also important to become the number one expert on your child – how he behaves, what his triggers are, and the situations that he finds stressful. Understand that these are just aspects of who he is, and should be accepted for.

autism 2

Be consistent

A child with autism struggles the most with adaptation and learning to adapt their behaviour from one situation to the next. As long as you provide a consistent routine in familiar environments, and stick to the schedule that your child knows, you’ll be helping him.


Learn to communicate in non-verbal ways

Children with autism often don’t communicate verbally, so it’s up to you to be attentive to how they communicate non-verbally. Identify those behaviours and learn to respond appropriately. It’s important that you are very aware and observant towards what can be very subtle communication methods. If your child throws a tantrum, it’s probably because he’s frustrated by his inability to effectively communicate what he wants or needs.


Focus on the unique treatment

All autism patients will have their own unique treatments based on their strengths and weaknesses and learning abilities. Be proactive in discovering your child’s treatment needs and work on them accordingly.


Helping an autistic child is hard, full-time work. While it’s essential to find help and support groups for him, don’t forget about finding support for yourself too.

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There are few mothers who can afford to stay at home these days and are busier than ever being mothers, employees (or employers), and wives, among other roles. There are huge sacrifices that moms make to be able to provide a stable life for their kids, but quality time doesn’t have to be one of those sacrifices. Here’s how to make more time for your children:

mother with child

1. Relax your housework standards
You don’t need to constantly maintain a house that’s worthy of a décor magazine spread. Many moms have found it difficult, yet worthwhile, to relax their standards of cleanliness in order to spend more time with their kids. Some moms have found inventive ways to do the housework on the go – such as only cleaning one room a day, which frees up plenty of time in the short-term.

2. Involve the kids and hubby
Get your husband or partner as well as the kids involved in doing the chores with you. You can turn housework into a game – whoever does their chores the fastest gets their dinner first, etc. – and also promote the sense of responsibility and care that comes with doing chores.

Mom and dad with child

3. Employ a helper
Employing a cleaner or nanny to help you with housework and childcare means you free up quality time to spend with the children. Sure, the additional cost may weigh on your budget, but the added benefits far outweigh the financial layout. You are providing someone with an employment opportunity; you’ll come home to a clean house; and food will be prepared (or on the stove, at least), which takes a massive load off your shoulders and gives you the space and time to be a mother to your kids.

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Vegetarians and vegans have recently come under a lot of fire for maintaining their lifestyle and eating habits to the detriment of their children’s (especially infants’) health. However, just because you choose to be vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean that your children’s diets will be inadequate. If you’re breastfeeding, here are some great, healthful foods to eat, which will supply your body with the nutrition your baby needs:

1. A variety of foods

No matter which foods you choose to focus on, be sure to eat a variety of foods. This will ensure an even spread of nutrients and vitamins, but it will also provide your child with a broad palate, which will make the phase of solid food experimentation a lot smoother.

vegetable variety

2. Blueberries

The magic berries of any diet, blueberries deliver a power-packed vitamin punch, providing vitamins A and K, potassium, fibre, as well as antioxidants… and they’re delicious!


3. Avocados and nuts

Get in as many healthy fats as you can without picking up weight. Avos and nuts have plenty of vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as B-vitamins (avocado especially), which will provide breastfeeding moms with a healthy and natural energy boost.

4. Oats

Get the required amount of iron in your diet by eating simple, yet easy-to-enjoy oats. Complex carbs with lots of fibre and protein, oats will keep you fuller for longer and keep your energy levels up, while still providing all the goodness and nutrients to your baby via your breast-milk.

5. Legumes

Legumes are nature’s power-protein when it comes to the vegetarian way of life. Beans, lentils, and peas are low-fat, yet high-energy, and contain such important nutrients as folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium, which are essential for your baby’s healthy development.

Medical aids in South Africa do cover specialist visits, so if you are concerned about your vegetarianism affecting your baby’s health, or want to get more information on the best diets to follow for healthy vegetarian breastfeeding, visit your nutritionist and put your mind at ease.

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