The first 1,000 days of life – the time spanning roughly between conception and one’s second birthday – is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan occur. Beautiful journey of an embryo to a healthy baby & a smart toddler by the age of 2 is in the hands of mother. Her knowledge about right diet helps baby in womb & deliver a healthy baby.
First 1000 days are divided as-
- 0-9 months of pregnancy
- 0-6 months of breastfeeding
- 6-12 months of additional top feeds along with breastmilk.
- 12 months-24months- Full diet though modified initially to normal adult food.
1. 0-9 months of pregnancy-
Adequate growth of the baby in womb depends on the optimum nutrition status of pregnant Mother. In pregnancy, additional 100 calories in first & second trimester followed by 300 calories in third trimester are needed with the usual calorie requirement.
Along with calories, proteins, Vitamins D, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, choline and the minerals such as iron, iodine and calcium are particularly important during pregnancy. You should include folic acid from before pregnancy and continue till first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Omega 3 fatty acid is important for brain development of baby.
Foods to include– Milk, Eggs, Paneer, Daal/ pulses, Chicken/Fish
Fruits (daily 1-2), salads, sprouts , green leafy vegetables (4-5times /week) , coconut
Water (daily 1), dry fruits esp Almonds/Walnuts etc.
Foods to avoid – Chinese food, junk food, bakery products, foods from unhygienic eateries. Avoid overeating.
2. 0-6 months of breastfeeding-
Breastfeeding needs to be emphasised and promoted right from conception! Initiation of breastfeeding within 1st hour of life is crucial. Colostrum (yellowish coloured breastmilk secreted in first 2-3 days) provides first immunisation to the baby! It is best to continue exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months of life.
Nowadays many doctors promote formula feeds saying its as good as breast milk, but breast milk is the golden elixir god’s gift to nursing women for the babies , so breastfeeding by mother is of utmost important not only for growth but for immunity , brain development , good health, and most importantly to strengthen the bond between mother and baby.
Healthy growing baby with good immunity is a positive outcome of exclusive breastfeeding in first 6 months. After that you should provide breastfeeding along with top feeds in 6 to 24 months of age.
Mothers who have problem nursing for reasons such as mastitis, infection, inadequate milk, improper latching should visit a lactation consultant to solve this problem & continue breastfeeding which is most economical & always ready for your baby.
There are two classes of proteins in milk-—the caseins and the wheys. Caseins turn into clots or curds in the stomach. The wheys remain liquid and are easier to digest. About 60% of the proteins in breast milk are whey whereas in cow’s milk, whey represents only 18% of milk protein .Most baby formulae are high in casein. This makes them harder to digest than breast milk.
It is important to discourage bottle feeding as babies refuse breastmilk and they are unnecessarily overfed. I have seen many mothers fully convinced & influenced with formula feeds being best for babies, but never go against nature. BREASTFEEDING IS VERY IMPORTANT & NOTHING CAN REPLACE IT. Even if the mother is working she should pump breast milk which can be fed to baby by other members at home.
3. 6-12 months: solid food introduction
As nutritional needs increase beyond 6 months of age, complimentary feeds become important as foods with different tastes. Additionally, the baby needs different nutrients in each stage according to food digestibility in each month.
After 6 months, you can gradually start feeds such as Dal +rice feed, mixed veg soups, egg yolk, some dry fruits, some fresh fruits, cereal porridges like rawa kheer, nachni kheer; but that’s not the end to breastfeeding! Keep it going on, enjoy motherhood, breast milk is a gift of love for your loving baby.
Foods to include
Iron rich foods – Getting enough iron in baby’s weaning diet can influence their brain development forever. Babies are born with natural stores of iron that begin to decrease around 6 months. Sources include chicken, eggs, leafy green vegetables, garden cress seeds, figs and prunes. Vitamin C aids iron absorption so include foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
Vitamin D rich foods – Vitamin D is a key nutrient for healthy bones. All babies should be taking a Vitamin D supplement as prescribed by the paediatrician in first 12 months of life. Non vegetarian foods contain some amount of vitamin D. It is best to expose your child to sunrays for 10 minutes daily between 9 to 12 PM.
Omega 3 fatty acid rich foods – Omega-3 fatty acids support baby’s brain, eye and nervous system development. Sources include walnuts (to be given in powdered form until the baby is able to chew), fish (minced) and flaxseeds.
Foods to avoid
Salt – Avoiding salt for 1 year protects baby’s immature kidneys from harm and helps to prevent them developing a taste for salt in later life. Limiting early salt intake can have long term effects on blood pressure.
Undercooked eggs – only hard-boiled or very well-cooked scrambled eggs should be given before 12 months.
Honey – never give under 12 months as it can contain spores which may cause an illness called botulism.
Sugar – limit its amount as it can damage baby’s teeth and can cause them to develop a sweet tooth, also avoiding obesity in later stage of life.
Unpasteurised and soft cheese – These contain bacteria which can cause infection.
Tea, coffeeand fizzy drinks – Never include these in baby’s diet. Tea and coffee contain tannins which reduce the amount of iron that is absorbed.
Cow’s milk – You should not offer as a main drink before 12 months but you can add it in small amounts in the form of curds or into meals after 6 months.
Whole and chopped nuts – Do not give these to babies under 5 years of age due to the risk of choking.
Maida, junk, bakery products.
4. 12 months-24months-
Full diet though modified initially to normal family food.Your baby is one year old, have few teeths, likes to eat food, starts liking & disliking tastes, picks up food, you have started him on finger foods. Your food plate is a new thing that your baby grabs showing his/ her interest in that specific food, you smile, feel great to share a bite of your morsel in his mouth after adequate smashing, everything goes well or maybe not that well but don’t forget to feed your baby well till second birthday. This journey of mother child nutrition which was connected through placenta in womb is even continued now but with mothers hand to baby’s mouth. The love, affection, emotional bond continues and the result is healthy intelligent baby with good immunity.
Right nutrition can help mothers give their babies a healthy head start in life. And if babies are healthy, they’ll grow on to become well-rounded individuals and productive members of the society. Not only your baby’s, but a whole generation’s healthy future starts with these First 1000 Days, it starts with you.