The first 1,000 days are the most crucial period in the life of a child, as they lay the foundation for how Your Child sees the world and forms a relationship with you and others.
What is the first 1,000 days
The first 1,000 days is the period that starts from when a child is conceived to when they celebrate their second birthday. It encompasses the 270 days (nine months) of pregnancy, the first 365 days for the first year, and the next 365 days for the second year. That is, 270 + 365 + 365 = 1,000.
This period is the time the seed of life is planted, nurtured, and developed. It is a time when most of the body systems develop. In fact, close to 80 percent of the brain’s growth happens within the first 1,000 days.
Why the first 1,000 days matter
The quality of care Your Child receives during the first 1,000 days has a tremendous impact on the child’s ability to grow, learn, and thrive. Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days can cause irreversible damage to a child’s growing brain, affecting the IQ and their ability to earn a good living.
Different stages of the first 1,000 Days
Based on how the child is nourished at every stage, the first 1,000 days can be categorized into three main stages:
- Babyhood and toddlerhood
This is the period the baby is in the womb and is nourished through the mother’s blood. The baby is exposed to virtually anything the mother consumes. It is, therefore, very important that the mother takes the right nutrition that will nourish her and the baby, without harming the baby with alcohol, cigarettes, and hard drugs.
In this context, the infancy period refers to the time from birth to 6 months. The WHO recommends that the baby feeds exclusively on breast milk during this period because breast milk has all the necessary nutrients a growing baby needs. It offers the following benefits to a baby:
- It provides immunity against gastrointestinal and respiratory infections
- It encourages optimal brain growth and development
- It reduces the risk of developing non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, later in life
- The act of breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding between mother and child
If a mother is not able to breastfeed, she can use infant formula, which is enriched with the nutrients a baby needs during this important period.
Babyhood and toddlerhood
This period lasts between the 6th month and the 2nd birthday. It is a time when a baby is introduced to complementary foods in addition to breast milk or infant formula — the WHO generally recommends initiating appropriate complementary foods when the baby is around 6 months old.
You may start with 1 meal of liquid foods and gradually add more meals, then move to solid foods when the baby gets used to them. Boiled vegetables mashed with potatoes, beans, rice, or eggs are good ways to begin.
Any sort of processed food should be avoided during the first two years of life as processed food is often high in bad fats, sugars, and salts. Red meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, and goat, should also be avoided since red meat, according to the WHO, increases the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
Ketsupa Jirakarn (Mental health specialist) (1 July 2022)