The prominence of the first 1000 days of life
The first 1000 days of baby – comprises of woman’s pregnancy (starting from conception till delivery, 270 days) and her child’s 1st two years (730 days) and this is an exclusive period of opportunity when the foundations for optimum health and development across the lifespan are established. While the human brain continues to develop, the most rapid period of brain growth is in the last three months of pregnancy and the first two years of a baby’s life after birth. While all nutrients are essential for brain development and function, optimal brain development depends on providing sufficient quantities of vital nutrients during specific and sensitive time periods in these first 1,000 days.
Vital nutrients required for baby’s brain development and growth
While the brain requires all nutrients for growth, specific nutrients, including protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, zinc, copper iodine, choline, folate and vitamins A, B6, and B12 are particularly critical. Of these, iron, represents the necessity of adequate nutrition at specific times of brain growth to ensure full developmental potential.
Important nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and fetal growth
The nutrient requirements increase in a woman during pregnancy for those 9 months. During this period the diet followed by mother is should benefit the ‘Two’ i.e. herself and the growing fetus as well. The important nutrients required are good quality proteins, essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. The mother’s diet should be balanced containing all of these nutrients. Baby’s weight and overall growth at the time of birth are dependent on the mother’s diet during these 9 months of pregnancy.
Important nutrients during pregnancy:
- Proteins: Milk and milk products, eggs, chicken, fish, pulses, legumes, sprouts, nuts
- Essential amino acids like lysine: Whole grains and cereals
- Omega-3 fatty acids are required for the brain development of the fetus. The sources are flaxseed, almonds, walnuts, til, fish.
- Iron: Green leafy vegetables, black raisins, dates, jaggery, garden cress seeds, ragi. Along with these iron-rich foods, the right amount of proteins and vitamin c (lemon, amla) should also be taken in the diet for proper absorption of iron.
- Folic acid, vitamin B12: All non-vegetarian foods, fermented foods, milk, and milk products, green leafy vegetables
- Calcium and vitamin D: Milk and milk products, rajgeera, til, Craig, and non-vegetarian foods and sunlight exposure for vitamin D.
We can divide these first 1000 days of life into three-time points such as pregnancy, a period of exclusive breastfeeding, and a period of complementary feeding along with breastfeeding.
Myths and facts during the period of exclusive breastfeeding (first 6 months):
Give honey, sugar water, gutti to the baby before starting the breastfeeding
This is a very wrong practice. This can cause a delay in starting the breastfeeding, increases the chance of infections. Do exclusive breastfeeding for 1st 6 months. Do not give anything to the baby in these 6 months except water.
Delay in starting the breastfeeding
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding should be started within an hour after birth. Still, this practice is not followed in many places. Especially after cesarean section, breastfeeding is started on the second day. Doctors should promote the breastfeeding should be started within an hour after birth. Nowadays many hospitals have lactation counselors who are experts in this field and can guide well. Because of any reason/ busy schedule if there is a delay from doctors to guide on this then family members and mother herself should take a lead in this regards.
If breast milk is not sufficient for the baby then give formula feed
The breast milk is produced in less quantity for 2-3 days after delivery. The first yellow colored milk comes which is called as ‘colostrum’ is very rich in vital nutrients which are very important for boosting baby’s immune system. So this milk has to be given to the baby. Even if it comes in less quantity this much milk is sufficient for the baby for first 2-3 days after birth. If the mother is not getting enough breastmilk then many people start giving cow’s milk or formula feed to the baby. This should be avoided. Keep always in mind that the production of breastmilk increases as much the mother does breastfeeding.
Use bottle for giving cow’s milk or water
Many babies are given milk/ water using the bottle for convenience. This should be avoided. Baby get used to the bottle feeding and soon it becomes the habit and these babies refuse for breastfeeding. There are various disadvantages of bottle feeding. Through bottle feeding unnecessarily extra amount of milk is given/ taken by baby which can lead to increased risk of excessive weight gain of a baby. These babies have increased the risk of developing diabetes and obesity-related disorders in the future. There are chances of infections if the bottle is not kept cleaned and sterile.
Start complementary feeding before 6 months
Many people start giving complementary feeds to the baby within 3-4 months after birth. The digestive system of the baby is weak in this period. Giving complementary foods (foods other than breastmilk) can cause diarrhea and infections in the baby. To avoid this wait until the baby becomes 6 months old.
Complementary feeding is the shift from exclusive breastfeeding to introduction and consumption of family foods, typically covers the period from 6 to 18-24 months of age. The first two years of a child’s life are considered as the critical window of opportunity and during this time the foundations of a healthy growth and development are established.
Myths and facts during the period of complementary feeding along with breastfeeding (6 months-2 years):
Give baby only the liquid foods or foods ground finely in a mixer
Add more amount of sugar and salt in babies diet:
Because babies should eat with interest or we follow such a habit, so we include more amount of salt and sugar in babies’ complementary foods also. Ideally, salt and sugar should be avoided for the 1st year. And after 1 year also salt and sugar should not be added in large quantities so that babies will develop a good habit of taking less salt and sugar which will decrease the future risk of non-communicable diseases and this all will help the baby.
If the baby is not hungry then also feed him/ her compulsory, show him/her TV while eating
Many parents feed the baby compulsory because of their love and worry for the baby and his/her proper growth. Even if the baby refuses to eat, move his mouth away from the food plate, throw the food out of the mouth, then also parents feed the baby with constant efforts and then only they stop. Many times parents run behind baby to finish the food or show him/her TV or mobile games or videos while feeding to grab his/ her attention and then feed. These practices are wrong. Baby does not feel any love regarding the food.
Feeding the baby compulsory when he/ she is not hungry can increase their weight and fats in the body. Afterward, the baby doesn’t eat till you show him/ her TV or mobile. Make the baby, sit at one place and eat. Make it as a habit. Don’t expect the baby to eat the same and fixed amount of food at each time/ meal. The appetite of baby do changes either it decreases or increases. It decreases in summer season or when the baby is not well. If the baby is not ready to have food then do respect his/ her decision. Give the food after some time, don’t force the baby to eat.
Stop breastfeeding the baby before 2 years
Mothers tend to decrease the frequency of breastfeeding once the complementary feeding is started, but many times they stop breastfeeding before 2 years. As the breastfeeding has advantages for the baby, it has for the mother also. So until the baby becomes 2 years old, continue doing breastfeeding at least 1-2 times a day.
These first 1000 days of life builds up the base for the whole life of the baby and for this base to be strong enough, keeping good health of the mother and baby is very much essential. So be aware of these myths and facts and make your friends also aware of these.