From the day we were born, until the day of our death, we might be thinking that all the days of our life span are very important. This, however, is not the truth. The first thousand days of a human being is considered the most crucial part of his/her life.
What does the concept ‘First 1000 days of Life” mean? This is the first question that might be coming to your mind as soon as you saw the heading. The first 1000 days of life is a period from the first day of pregnancy, until the 2nd year of age.
What is the importance of the first 1000 days? Why should it be taken into consideration? are some of the few questions that you may get in your minds. Actually, it is very simple concept conceived by the World Health Organization (WHO). The main purpose of this concept is to educate people all around the World, especially the pregnant mothers and parents with new born babies to know the importance of nutrients in the early years of the baby. This concept will help in shaping the baby’s overall health and condition throughout its life.
The first 1000 days include 270 days of pregnancy, 365 days of the baby until the 2nd birthday of the child. During the pregnancy and even before starting pregnancy, a woman should eat healthy and balanced diet to nourish the growing fetus as well as to build the optimal body reserves in preparation for breast feeding. During this period, when the baby is in its mother’s womb, mother is the exclusive provider of nutrients and the only source of nourishment for the developing embryo and fetus. Even during the breast feeding period, mother is considered as the one and only source of nutrients and nourishment for the baby. Thus, it is important for the mother to take care of her diet and food habits, in order to provide sufficient and well balanced nutritional component to the growing baby.
A baby should exclusively breastfed for six months and, can be continued up to 2 years along with suitable complementary feeding. Foods introduced during weaning period must be capable to provide all the nutrients required for the body. Weaning period is the period where the baby takes food from other sources than the milk provided through breast feeding. The baby foods should start from liquid and gradually to semi solid, and then finally, solid. During the first 6 months, the breast milk is the whole and sole source of nourishment for most of the infants. Human milk contain appropriate nutrients at appropriate level so that an infant can gain maximum nourishment including some bioactive compounds and immune boosting compounds.
From the 6 months up to 12 months/1st year the infant is introduced with complementary food as the breast milk alone is no longer adequate to provide the required energy. Weaning food must be capable to ensure that the baby is provided with its additional nutritional needs. The purpose of the weaning is also to make the baby to get used to different tastes and textures of food items. The period of weaning is a bit complicated and difficult period for both the baby and the mother. During this period, the growing infant may show some nutritional gap as it is not used to eat anything except the breast milk. But it is very important to remember that it is during this period a baby is trained to eat as well as shaped up with healthy eating habits. Weaning foods such as mashed potatoes, fruits, vegetables, cheese and milk can be given to the baby in a step by step process for it to adapt to the different kinds of foods available. It is important to consult a Doctor to understand what kind of weaning food can be given to the baby during which period. The amount and the way to make the food easy to ingest and digest by the baby should also be considered.
After 12 months the toddlers are getting adopted to the transition of family diet. This period is a time where more energy and nutritional needs are required for the toddlers. Though family foods can be given to the toddlers, still a special care should be given to the food preparation methods. The foods prepared should be appropriate in texture, amounts, free from germs and should be palatable.
During pregnancy, under nutrition can exert a devastating impact on healthy growth and development of a child. If a baby does not receive proper nutrition when it is in the mother’s womb, then there is a high chance for it to get non communicable diseases during the adult life. Likewise, if a baby does not receive proper nutrition until the age of two, then the baby will be developed with a weak immune system and there are high chances for the occurrence of different illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
In the current World, the nutrient value of a food item is not considered when a food item is consumed. Rather, its affordability and its taste are considered. This results in the lack of proper nutrients for the adults and the growing children. In the case of babies, its mother and father are responsible for its nutrients. If the foods introduced to the babies are of high nutritional value, the growth of the baby is well balanced. This, as mentioned earlier, prevents the baby from growing with a weak immune system or the inability of the baby’s body to cope with changes. When the baby is grown into an adult, these changes influence the health and condition of the adult in a daily basis. If the adult is has weak immunity, he/she will fall sick often. If the adult is unable to cope up with the ever changing environment or the food habits of the World, then the adult will regress in his/her development. In order to cope up with all the challenges thrown in by the ever changing World, the person should possess a suitable physical and mental condition. Food habits, nutrients and nourishments provided in the first 1000 days for the baby, greatly influence the physical and mental condition of an adult and help the person be healthy, happy and successful.
There are so many evidences that shows that the right nutrition during the “First 1000 days” window can save more than one million lives each year, reduces the human and economic burden of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. Right nutrition at the right time can also reduce the risk for developing various communicable diseases such as diabetes and other chronic conditions in later life. It can also improve an individual’s educational achievement and earning potential and increase a country’s GPD (Explain term) by at least 2 – 3% annually.
By focusing on improving nutrition for months and children in the 1000 days window, we can help to ensure a country full of healthy generation and prosperity.