First 1000 days

The first 1000 days is considered as the approximate time between conception and the child’s second birthday. This window is considered a very critical period for the child’s growth and development as the foundations of optimum growth, health and neurodevelopment are established. Along with building foundations of ideal growth and development it also impacts the child’s nutritional and health status in later life.

Nutrition given to child in this period should be taken care primarily as deficiencies and neglect can lead to irreversible damage. Providing right nutrition will not just secure the child’s growth and health, it will also help break the inter-generation cycle of malnutrition, which if not broken at the right time can result in ‘undernourished girls’ who would later enter motherhood as ‘undernourished mothers’ and give birth to ‘low birth weight infants’.

Key Nutrients for the first 1000 days of life

  • Protein: At the time of pregnancy it is important to consume adequate protein as deficiency can become a hindrance in obtaining maximum growth of the baby and the number of cells in brain tissue may be less. Intake of protein is important during lactation as the deficiency may result in low volume of milk. Throughout infancy the protein requirement remains important as it helps meet the needs of skeletal and muscle growth and may prevent protein-energy malnutrition. Some of the good sources of protein include, milk, paneer, curd, egg, lentils, lean meat such fish and chicken etc.
  • Iron: Iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin and for the growth pf fetus and placenta. If there is no enough intake of iron during pregnancy the baby will be born with deficit stores and may become susceptible to anemia. During infancy good amount of iron should be given to the child as dietary lack of iron can lead to infections and anemia. Expectant mothers can consume iron rich foods such as dried beans, green leafy vegetables, eggs, dried fruits etc. Infants should be given iron rich foods such as rice flakes, egg yolks and greens in their diet.
  • Calcium: Calcium is involved in foetal development as it helps in the calcification of foetal bones and teeth. A deficiency in the calcium can make the child to be born underweight due to decreased foetal bone growth. It is also essential for mother’s milk production and the mineralization of bones of the baby. During infancy if sufficient calcium is not supplied to the infant his motor development may be delayed. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, green leafy vegetables etc.
  • Zinc: Adequate zinc intake during pregnancy is very essential as its deficiency can double the risk of low birth weight delivery. During infancy zinc promotes normal growth and is necessary for normal brain development. Foods such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are good sources of zinc and should be included in the mother’s diet. For infants, breast milk is the best source for zinc, during the introduction of complimentary feeding, egg and whole grains can be included in the baby’s diet.

Complimentary feeding

From about 6 months of age breast milk alone cannot suffice the nutritional needs of the infant. Hence, complimentary foods such as liquids and soft foods should be introduced to the infants diet.

Some of the nutritious complimentary foods that can be given to the baby are as follows:

  1. Fruit juice: tomato and orange juices can be provide the child with vitamins such as vitamin C and A.
  2. Soups from green leafy vegetables: This will provide the child with essential minerals and also introduce the baby to a new taste.
  3. Mashed foods: Around 8 months of age stewed apples, soft custard, mashed bananas, egg yolks can be given to the baby. It provides the child’s with healthy calories and prevents the risk of choking.
  4. Soft foods: Around 1 year, soft foods such as idli, khichdi, pongal, malted cereals, rice flakes and rice flour gruels etc., can be given to the child as it is easily digestible and meets the needs of required calories and protein.

Measures to be taken during first 1000 days of life. 

Some of the measures to ensure optimum growth in this window period include:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age
  • Timely introduction of complimentary at 6 months of age.
  • Complimentary feeding should be adequate in terms of age, quality, quantity and frequency.
  • Immunization at right time.
  • Ensuring safe and hygienic feeding practices.