How great is the link between nutrition and the conception, growth and development of a healthy baby? In this book, Patrick Holford and Susannah Lawson take you through four stages of becoming a parent.

They examine the foods and state of health that give you the highest chance of getting pregnant; how to give your growing baby the best chance when it is developing in the womb; how to stay as healthy as possible when you breastfeed; and finally how you should eat healthily as a youngfamily.

When it comes to writing about the link between diet and health, the pedigree of these writers can hardly be better. You might recognise the Patrick Holford as the person behind the ground breaking research that formed the basis of a Horizon documentary in the 1980s about intellect and nutrition.

During the decades that followed the Horizon programme, he has written many more books. Holford’s co-writer, Susannah Lawson, tempers his research based approach with her clinical observations. She has a common sense approach from which it is clear that she has treated many new parents, and as you read through the book her plain English approach is welcome.

In the first section, the writers encourage all would be parents to give themselves an MOT and take a long honest look at their lifestyles, and what they eat (and perhaps more importantly, drink). The style of the book is attractive because it gives readers the confidence that they can take responsibility for their own fertility, and control a situation which is often believed to be down to chance.

However, there is an uncomfortable implication here that mothers must somehow be responsible for any weakness or defect they suffer. Such an implication would be unfair – sometimes we have to accept that natural processes do not go according to plan.

Generally, the book strikes the right balance between science and practical advice. For example, the A to Z of vitamins and minerals provides a useful guide to which elements have which effect, but there is also a section with recipes for healthy meal plans so that you can put this knowledge into practice (“The Better Pregnancy Diet”).

A slight cause for concern may be chapter 19, on vaccinations. The writers are so convinced that the secret to good health is a good diet that they are sceptical about the value of or need for immunisations. Whilst it may be true that the responsible thing to do as a parent is to feed your children as well as possible, readers may wish to check their doctors’ advice when they consider whether to vaccinate.

In conclusion, this is a helpful book, if read with the attitude that good nutrition will help rather than hinder a successful pregnancy – but the “perfect” baby cannot be guaranteed.

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