First 1,000 Days of Life
The first 1,000 days of life begin at day one of conception up until a child reaches its second birthday. This period of time has, in recent years, been shown to be critical in a child’s development, however, it can also be one of the trickiest times for parents – having to contend with: nausea, fatigue, sleepless nights, breast/bottle feeding, weaning and fussy eating….. need I go on?!
During those first 1,000 days, a baby’s brain develops rapidly and lifelong health foundations are built. Nutrition is a vital factor in promoting optimal growth and development; providing the necessary fuel for mum and baby to thrive.
Throughout pregnancy, baby’s brain, metabolism, immunity and organ function are created and developed. All are required to function as effectively as possible for the child’s future health and growth. Baby is reliant upon the mother’s diet and nutrient stores, which means that we don’t want mum or baby to be depleted in any way. Of particular importance are: folic acid, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, vitamins C & D, protein and fatty acids.
Up until baby reaches 6 months, they are completely dependent on breastmilk and/or formula. Formula is fortified with essential nutrients for baby, and breastmilk also contains antibodies which help boost baby’s immune system. When breastfeeding, baby is still drawing upon mum for nourishment and it is therefore considered best practice to continue focusing on eating a healthy diet and taking the necessary supplements in order to replenish nutrient stores to keep mum and baby happy and healthy.
Once weaning has begun (around 6 months) baby’s diet should incorporate iron, zinc and protein to help develop their hungry brain! It is also important, from the beginning, to develop baby’s palate and healthy eating habits to promote and encourage your child to grow within a healthy weight range and avoid obesity related issues including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). Babies, like all of us, have a preference for sweet tastes and it is considered good practice nowadays to introduce more savoury and bitter tasting foods from the beginning, such as puréed broccoli or cauliflower, before moving on to sweeter options, such as carrots or parsnip. [As a side note, you will often find that pre-prepped baby foods contain sweeter vegetables and/or fruit combinations to increase the chances of baby eating it!]
Calcium – dairy, green leafy vegetables, tofu, fish with small edible bones (e.g. sardines) and fortified products (e.g. some dairy alternatives, breads)
Folic Acid – supplement 400mcg daily for first 12 weeks of pregnancy or, ideally, from the time you start trying to conceive.
You will also find folate (nature’s version of folic acid) in pulses, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and fortified products (e.g. some milk, bread, cereals)
Iodine – sea fish, shellfish, eggs and some fortified dairy / milk alternatives
Iron – meat, beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, dried fruit and fortified foods (e.g. some cereals)
Zinc – meat, shellfish, dairy, nuts, seeds, bread and cereals (e.g. wheatgerm)
Vitamin C – citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, lemons, lime), kiwi, peppers, berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts and potatoes
Vitamin D – the sun! However, we often don’t get enough exposure and, when we do, we’re often covered up with hats and sun lotions, etc. It is therefore recommended to supplement 10mcg per day, especially during the winter months.
Vitamin D can also be found in food sources, including: oily fish, eggs, red meat and fortified products (e.g. some cereals, spreads, dairy alternatives)
Protein – meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans and soya
Fatty Acids – oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), nuts, avocado and olive oil
Finally, it is important to consider what you eat but also how you eat as this can breed lifelong habits. Just think – do you eat now, the way you did growing up? Do you crave foods that were given to you as a comfort/treat? Do you eat around the table, as a family, or do you eat alone or in front of the TV? Do you rush your meals or take your time to enjoy them, perhaps while chatting about your day? All of these, and more, can influence the way your child perceives food and how it is incorporated into everyday life.
My passion is to make those first 1,000 days the healthiest they can be to give your child the best start in life. I can help you to adjust your diet to your specific needs throughout pregnancy; work with you and your baby while manoeuvring through the newborn stage; and/or guide you through the anxiety of weaning.
If you would like to book a consultation or call to discuss how this would suit you, please get in touch.
Blog references available on request.