Recent research has suggested that women who drink insufficient milk during pregnancy probably to limit weight gain or due to concerns about allergies may inhibit their babies' growth in the womb.
The results of the study were pubished in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 300 women took part in the study. All were non-smokers. However, on comparison of the birth weights of babies of mothers who drank at least a cup of milk a day during pregnancy with babies of mothers did not revealed that the former were heavier.
The results of the study are especially important for women who restrict milk consumption during pregnancy in the belief that it will lower fat intake thereby minimizing chances of weight gain, lactose intolerance and development of allergies. The negative impacts of this dietary practice in fetal development would definitely alter the outlook of mothers-to-be as well as health professionals.
The study chose a cup of milk as the benchmark as this contains about 2.5 micrograms of vitamin D. although this by itself is significantly below the daily intake of 5 micrograms, which is recommended by some dieticians and nutritionists.
Vitamin D is vital in skeletal growth in addition to transporting calcium from the mother during pregnancy to the developing baby through the umbilical cord.
The rising pressure among pregnant women to gain their pre pregnancy figures after birth is exemplified by the wide media coverage of celebrities such as, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Madonna and Victoria Beckham and their post pregnancy figures within weeks of their respective deliveries.
Earlier studies conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton revealed that children of mothers deficient in vitamin D during pregnancy tend to grow up with lower-than-normal bone mass, thereby increasing the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures later in life.
The Canadian study found that each daily cup of milk added, on average, 41g to the birth weight of the baby.
The report also revealed that although most nutrients in milk may be replaced from other foods or with supplements, vitamin D is found in few commonly consumed foods besides milk
The study also proposed that all pregnant women should receive a Government advice book from their health care providers, which emphasises the importance of dairy products as a part of a healthy diet for mother and baby. The book suggests that at least one portion of milk, cheese or yoghurt be consumed every day, while pregnant women on income support are entitled to receive seven pints of cow's milk free each week.