Why are the first 1000 days of life important for a child?

Here is everything you need to know about the first 1000 days of life

Have you ever wondered why starting 2 years is considered as the most important period of baby nutrition and is your child getting the appropriate amount of nutrition in his early childhood? Do you know your child’s brain develops in which age group the most? Let’s explore these and similar questions in this article.

The first 1000 days are the most crucial and essential time period for your child as scientists have discovered that major ailments such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension may be determined by nutritional status during this period.

If you take care of your child’s nutrition and needs then during the first 1000 days, it will show on the baby’s neurodevelopment and growth and will be beneficial for overall health also.

There could be many ill effects of poor nutrition on a child’s brain development and growth which can be long-lasting and profound. Let’s see how nutrition values shape the growth of body and mind during four stages in the first 1000 days.

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Stage 1 of the first 1000 days of life: Pregnancy

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During pregnancy, a mother goes into a lot of physical, hormonal, and mental development changes which in one or the other way affect the growth of her baby. You should get a balanced and healthy diet which will help you and your baby.

What you eat is the main source of your baby’s nourishment, so it is very critical to get the right amount of nutrients. Your body needs both macronutrients and micronutrients Let’s look into important nutrients in little detail:

1. Calcium needs during the first 1000 days of life:

Calcium is one of the major macronutrients which is mandatory and is needed in the body to build strong teeth and bones. Calcium also helps nerves to function properly, allows blood to clot normally, and the heart to beat properly.

ACOG recommends 1000mg of calcium for lactating and pregnant women. Food products that are rich in calcium are dairy products, bread, fish, dark leafy vegetables sesame seeds, and almonds.

2. Iron needs during the first 1000 days of life:

Iron is also one of the essential and important nutrients needed by our body. If you are pregnant then the need for including iron in your diet is a must. Iron is an important part of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. It helps to build resistance to disease and stress, as well as help to avoid weakness, tiredness, irritability, and depression.

ACOG recommends a total of 27 mg of iron for a pregnant woman. Good sources of iron include dried fruits, beans, green leafy vegetables, and whole-grain products

3. Folic Acid needs during the first 1000 days of life:

What does Folic acid actually mean and how it is considered such an important nutrient for pregnant women? Folic acid is one of the constituents to make extra blood your body needs during the formation of a fetus inside your body. ACOG and the March of Dimes recommend 400 micrograms of folic acid for pregnant women, this is included in prenatal vitamins.

According to research if pregnant women take the appropriate amount of Folic acid then more than 70% of all the neural tube defects can be avoided. Foods that are rich in Folic acid and should be included in your diet should be lentils, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli. Citrus fruits, beans, and nuts are also a great source of Folic Acid.

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4. Protein needs during the first 1000 days of life:

Protein is a very cardinal nutrient which is very important for a baby’s growth and should be taken in the suggested amount by pregnant women. It is needed to provide energy to the body throughout the day and repair different parts of the body such as muscle, brain, and blood.

To calculate the exact amount of protein intake by you during pregnancy, you need to divide your pre-pregnant weight by 2. There many options of protein-rich food such as seafood, eggs, beans, peas, lean meat, soy products, seeds, and nuts. Always look for the protein intake nutrition value on packaged food to maintain the intake for the proper growth of the child.

5. Vitamin A, Vitamin D and DHA needs during the first 1000 days of life:

All these nutrients are micronutrients and are needed by a lesser amount. Vitamin D works with calcium and is very helpful in the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps to get healthy, glowing skin and improves the eyesight of you and the baby. Good sources include fortified milk, fatty fish such as salmon.

You should also include sitting in sunlight to get Vitamin D for your skin which proves to be relaxing in winters. Vitamin A is a micronutrient but should be included in the diet of pregnant women. Vitamin A rich food includes carrot, sweet potatoes, milk, and green leafy vegetables.

DHA which stands for docosahexaenoic acid is essential for pregnant and lactating women which promotes the growth of the baby inside the womb.

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Stage 2 of the first 1000 days of life: Infancy

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After pregnancy, when the baby is out from the womb up to 6 months is termed as infancy. This period is the most crucial days for the child as he takes time to adapt to the new environment in the world. His body is very delicate and sensitive and need to be taken proper care of every time.

Nutrition given during this time span is of utmost importance as during infancy a child’s growth and development is maximum.

Babies can be fed breast milk exclusively for 6 months on a daily basis thrice or even more. Breast milk is rich in optimal nutrients and is rich in good stuff such as enzymes, antimicrobial factors, antibodies, anti-inflammatory, fatty acids which promote brain development.

Breastfeeding helps in the proper growth and development of the child, helps to fight back diseases such as respiratory and gastrointestinal infections which can prove to be very severe at the small age of the infants.

Breastfeeding not only helps to bond the mother and the baby but also helps to reduce the weight of the mother as breastfeeding stimulates beneficial hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin.

If you are breastfeeding the baby, you must take care of a few things such as:

1. Cut down the intake of alcohol, caffeine.

2. Limit your toxin exposure.

3. Avoid seafood.

4. Wash and scrub your fruits and vegetables.

5. Try to eat raw and organic food as much as possible.

Apart from breastfeeding, some infants may lack some important nutrients which need to be fulfilled through outer supplements. Nutrients which has to be included in the nutrition of the infants are Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron, and Probiotics.

Probiotics rich food includes yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, kimchi, and many others. Vitamin B12 rich food includes yogurt, cheese, packed infant formula. Do consult your doctor on how to feed your baby with extra supplements and in how much appropriate amount.

You don’t need to worry if you can breastfeed for any reasons which may include any particular ailment or disease which may not allow breastfeeding, or you may have undergone breast reduction surgery or due to postpartum depression or anxiety.

You can buy breastfed milk from the stores that may readily provide you organic breastfed milk which is safe to consume by your baby.

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Early Childhood

Stage 3 of the first 1000 days of life: 6 to 12 Months

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Till 4 to 6 months, the baby is not able to digest any solid food and is mostly kept on breastfeeding or baby milk. They are ready for some solid food after they double their birth weight, this generally happens after 6 months and now they are ready to eat some solid food.

Don’t replace the solid food with the breastfeeding instead keep them both for better well-being and nutrition for a few more months. Let’s see some of the solid food you can introduce after 6 months in the diet of your baby:

1. Rice Cereal

Rice cereal along with breast milk is the first common solid food for the baby after 6 months. It is generally well-tolerated with a low probability of allergy and ingestion. It is very chewable and soft which becomes easy to digest by the baby.

2. Vegetable

Another solid food you should introduce after the rice cereal is the puree of boiled vegetables. They are not as sweet as fruits but are healthy and are very beneficial for the child. You can feed them boiled puree of vegetables such as beets, squashes, sweet potatoes, or carrots as these are easy to cook and are readily mashed with the masher. Don’t go for harder vegetables which are complex to eat and digest.

3. Fruits

Always keep fruits after vegetables as if in the starting baby is feed sweet food like fruits then they won’t eat vegetables due to their non-sweet taste. Fruits are very good for the baby as a portion of solid food and are also loved by most of the babies. You can make pure seasonal fruits like pears, peaches, apples, or mashed banana with breastfed milk. Prefer fruits which have low fiber as thigh fiber fruits can cause diarrhea

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Stage 4 of the first 1000 days of life: After 12 months

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After turning 1 year old, babies can be introduced to more variety of simple solid foods that promote better growth and development of body and mind.

You got to understand the eating and digestive pattern of different food after 1 year which helps in later childhood and you can easily find a substitute for those nutrients to maintain the perfect balance of all nutrients which is very important for the development of the child.

You can feed them food like avocado, asparagus, tree nuts, beans, egg yolk, fruit purees of different and seasonal fruits, and if you eat nonvegetarian you should definitely go for small, boiled and mashed meat, chicken, or mild-tasting fish.

Avoid packaged fruits as much as possible for at least 3 to 4 years of age. You should also avoid processed sugar that comes in packed juices and purees, also avoid honey for the very first year as it contains bacteria that are not easily processed by the babies at starting years.

Feed them organic and raw food items as much as possible as it will not only keep their system clean but will also help to develop the habit of eating clean and healthy in their later childhood which will prove to very beneficial for them.

Teach them little stretching and massaging their hands and legs which will keep blood flow proper, their body flexible, and helps to digest food properly.

Another important aspect of nutrition in the first 1000 days of life of a child is the time that you feed your body. You need to be very specific and careful with time and portion size of food you feed your child especially after 12 months as if you feed them at different times daily, it will affect the body clock of the child which may cause digestive issues and creates other problem also.

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The final words on the first 1000 days of life

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So, to conclude, the first 1000 days i.e. almost up to 2 years of age of your child, you should pay maximum attention to your child as these are the critical and substantial time periods for the growth and neurodevelopment of a child’s body.

You need to take care of what to feed when to feed and how much to feed your child. Breastfeeding is the ultimate food for your baby especially during the first six months as it is full of nutrients and other good stuff which not only fills the tummy of the baby but provides the best possible nutrition.

Never skip breastfeeding even if you are feeding them some other food for at least 1 year. Always go for simple solid foods for the baby as they are easy to digest.

Keep a check on supplements such as vitamin D, Vitamin A, DHA, iron, zinc, iodine, omega acid, and others as these all not be included in the diet of the child for the proper growth and development.

If you are not able to find what to feed your baby due to any reason, always consult an expert. They will help you in the journey by providing a proper diet plan and report of your baby’s growth and development in the best way possible.

Don’t make any mistakes due to lack of time, patience, or money, your child’s proper nutrition and well-being should be your priority especially during the first 1000 days of a child’s life.

Additional Resources:

Smit Kumar

Health & Wellness Coach: Smit Kumar believes in the philosophy of successful nutrition hunting mindset for the healthy body, mind and spirit. https://thenutritionhunt.com

2 thoughts on “Why are the first 1000 days of life important for a child?

    • November 7, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Thank you so much for your compliment, Ma’am. TNH loves to be sincerely dedicated to the TNH family readers. Please visit again for more interesting pieces of articles on health & wellness for you. Truly, glad to be of your service.


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