The Importance Of Your Baby's First 1000 Days
Did you know that the first 1000 days of your baby’s life are a great opportunity to set the foundations of optimum health, growth, and brain development?
Studies says that by age 3, your baby’s brain has reached 80% of its adult size. The quality of his experiences during his first 1,000 days of life will determine his foundation. It will go on to affect everything about his life in the coming years. Loving mum that you are, you want to do everything you can to make sure he has a solid foundation. Let's focus on what is important about this time, and how you can do right by your baby.
Nutrition For Brain Development
The brain needs all the necessary nutrition during this time, in order to develop properly. We'll be focussing on nutrition as it affects baby's brain development. According to the concept of World Health Organization (WHO), your baby's first 1000 days are:
- 270 days of pregnancy;
- 365 days of baby’s first year;
- and 365 days of baby’s second year.
Nutrition In Pregnancy
In pregnancy, your baby depends on you for nourishment. The most rapid period of brain growth is in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life. So your diet in pregnancy is contributing to the quality of your baby's brain forever. Deep? Yes. If this is what it'll take for you to eat healthy when pregnant, then let's do it! Remember mama, eating healthy doesn't necessarily mean eating for two.
What you should do
- Your mental state, your diet and your sleep will directly affect baby's health in the womb. Give them attention.
- Make sure you're sleeping well. How much sleep is enough? Sleep when you feel sleepy.
- Take your antenatal appointments seriously. Many developmental problems can be detected and treated before birth.
- Read good books. Experts say that reading aloud in the later stages of pregnancy can promote language skills in your child.
- Don’t miss your vitamins and folic acid. You need them for baby's proper physical and neural development. Also, iron is extremely important for brain development.
- Stay happy. Your mental health also affects baby's well-being.
Baby's First Year
According to a UNICEF article, baby's first year is full of fast language processing. In his first year, there's also higher processing. This concerns areas like attention, and flexibility. This is when baby learns to speak and process things. It's a pretty big deal, which is why you should take it seriously and provide him with optimal nutrition.
What you should do
- There's no wonder food quite like breast milk, and that's putting it mildly. Breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months of life if you can. Breast milk provides nutrients, growth factors, and types of cells not found in infant formula.
- If you're up for it,breastfeed your baby throughout his first year. Your heart will burst with pride when people tell you how smart he is. And it will be more than enough reward.
- If you're not breastfeeding, give baby an approved infant formula. One with the nutrients babies need in the first 6 months of life for healthy brain development. Keep cow's milk away at this time.
- After six months, give your baby a variety of healthy foods. Baby's brain development depends on him getting all the nutrition he needs.
- Include wholesome foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, pulses, egg, and chicken soup to provide proteins, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates in your diet and your baby’s too.
- Consult your paediatrician regularly for deficiency checks.
Baby's Second Year
The second year is as crucial as the first for a baby, as his brain still develops rapidly. Without proper nourishment, your child can suffer cognitive problems like slower language skills or lower I.Q. This isn't good for his school performance.
What you should do
- Offer your toddler 3 nutritious meals and 2 or 3 snacks daily. Think fruits, veggies, poultry, whole grains.
- Iron, iron, iron! Foods rich in iron will go a long way at this time, as his brain needs a lot of it. Think spinach, broccoli, beetroot, pomegranate juice, and dates.
- If your child falls ill regularly, consult a pediatrician to check if he's deficient in any nutrients or iron.
- Active play includes: running, skipping, climbing, hopping, jumping, throwing a ball, dancing, playing with riding toys, and playing with push/ pull toys such as wagons or strollers. Toddlers should not sit still for 1 hour or more at a time, except when sleeping.
- Continue breastfeeding your child as long as you and your toddler are comfortable. At the end of the day, nothing is more nutritious than breast milk.
Although many factors contribute to brain development in 1- to 2-year-olds, nutrition is no doubt an important factor. A toddler who’s given a conducive learning environment is likely to achieve a number of cognitive and language milestones between 12 and 24 months.