Early Life Nutrition | The Importance of the First 1000 Days

Published on February 8, 2021

The first 1000 days, starting from pregnancy, are highly important for your child’s health and development. During this period, ensuring the right nutrition will have an immense impact on the child’s future. This might reduce risks of obesity, allergies, gut discomfort and diabetes.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the optimal nutrients to both mother and child need to be delivered. These include iron, Vitamin D, folate and Omega-3 fatty acids, especially in the form of DHA.

Breastfeeding

Breast milk is the ideal nourishment for infants. The WHO recommends exclusive breast feeding for at least the first six months, and for as long as possible. Breast milk is a complex substance consisting of the perfect nutritional mixture which meets infants’ needs at each stage of their growth and development.

Breastfeeding has many health benefits, both in the short and long term. Breast milk provides short-term immunity by the transfer of antibodies and other immune-boosting nutrients. In the long run, studies show that breastfeeding could reduce the risk of obesity later in life.

pregnant women

Infant Formula

In cases where the mother cannot breastfeed her baby, or decides not to, infant formulas are available as breast milk substitutes. Infant formulas are designed to meet the requirements during the first months of life, while follow-on formulas reflect the needs of an older infant.

In addition to protein, carbohydrates and fat which are required for energy and to provide the building blocks for healthy development, micronutrients and fatty acids such as DHA are also crucial. During the first few years of life, DHA plays a significant role in the structural and functional development of the brain.

Experts have recently identified Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) which are a mixture of carbohydrates, including 3’-GL which is the most abundant in human milk. Extensive studies on HMOs have proven that, in addition to their prebiotic effect, they are also important for the healthy development of the immune system and allergy prevention. HMOs are now being introduced in baby formulas.

Growing-Up Milk

Growing-up milks are designed to meet the specific needs of toddlers aged between one and three years. At this age, children will normally eat a wide variety of food. However, meeting their nutritional needs, particularly those of “picky-eaters,” can be challenging, and growing-up milks can help close this gap. Growing up milk has an adapted level of protein for healthy growth and development, which may prevent obesity later in life. In addition, it consists of iodine, vitamin D and iron to prevent deficiencies and support brain development. Although cow’s milk is fine for older children, it does not contain the right amount of nutrients that the toddler requires as part of a balanced diet.

Your child’s healthy development is crucial and you can consult with your healthcare professional to guide you helping your child get the nutrients they need during their first 1000 days, to keep their development on track while setting them up for a happy and healthy life.

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