September first week is celebrated as “World Nutrition Week ” throughout the world. The theme for 2018 is ” Nutrition during first 1000 days of life.” First 1000 days of life refer to the 270 days of the pregnancy and following two years post delivery. New research says that child development not only depends on the breastfeeding and complementary feeding but it starts right from the time of conception. Hence it becomes very important to understand the whole science behind this theory. To put it in simple words nutrition of mother plays a very important role in deciding whether the newborn will grow as a healthy individual.
First 270 days of life!
This is the period from conception to full term pregnancy. Preparation of pregnancy should begin with proper healthy balanced nutrition of the mother to be. Her haemoglobin levels, calcium status should be checked. Weight should be adequate for her height. If possible her fat percentage and muscle mass should be checked. Also if its a planned pregnancy folic acid, calcium and iron supplements should be started 2-3 months prior to conception (with gynaecologists advice). All in all the mother to be should be in optimum status of her health before conceiving.
Once concieved, then the real countdown of the 1000 days begins. In first trimester that is the first three months the mother gains very little weight and the embryo formed starts developing into brain and the spinal cord. Studies have shown that optimum nutritional status pertaining to good levels of haemoglobin, calcium and other micronutrient storage in mother’s body leads to proper growth and developement of the foetus.
Important nutrients to focus
Folic acid is crucial because it prevents babies from being born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid helps with cell division and formation, and in pregnancy, helps the baby form the neural tube that will become the spinal cord and brain. If the fetus doesn’t get enough folic acid, the neural tube may not close properly, putting the baby at risk for defect. You can get your required intake of 600 mcgs of folic acid by munching on leafy, green vegetables, bananas, or nuts and supplementation.
Iron plays an essential role in your baby’s brain development. Research conducted by University of Rochester Medical Center showed that anemia or iron deficiency in infants may compromise the baby’s ability to comprehend sounds. This could lead to language problems down the line. When a mother doesn’t get enough iron, her baby may also be born with a low birth weight, which can bring on some complications. Iron supplementation during pregnancy and 6 months post delivery is crucial for mother and baby both. Target haemoglobin should be 10-11 mg% in last trimester. Include foods like eggs, raisins, dates, figs, sprouted legumes, green leafy vegetables and liver in the diet.
Zinc helps the unborn baby’s cells grow and replicate, and is a necessary nutrient throughout all stages of pregnancy. Without zinc, you put your baby at risk for miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. It can also cause toxemia. A pregnant woman should have somewhere between 12 and 15 milligrams of zinc in her diet during pregnancy. Good sources are nuts and oilseeds and meat. Supplements of multivitamin multiminerals also provide with zinc.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism notes that not getting enough iodine during fetal development can lead to the infant contracting attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. Pregnant women need more iodine than usual because maternal thyroid hormone production increases by about 50%, resulting in iodine loss. Using iodized salt for food preparation can help considerably in getting iodine in your diet.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
It is an Omega-3 fatty acid that helps in your baby’s brain development. Getting the right amount of DHA can increase your baby’s intelligence, providing them with better attention spans and capacity to learn. Getting DHA can be as simple as adding flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, almonds, salmon to your diet.
Calcium helps in fetal development by promoting bone growth. Calcium aids in blood clotting, the sending of nerve signals, muscle contractions, hormone release and heartbeat regulation. Pregnant mothers need to make sure that they are getting their usual calcium intake during pregnancy so that there is enough left over for the baby. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Nutrition indicated that a calcium-deficient mother could give birth to a child more prone to increased body fat percentage, elevated triglycerides and insulin resistance.
Moms need to eat essentially vitamin A, B-vitamins, vitamin C, D, E and K. Vitamins play an important role in fetal development. Vitamin A and beta carotene help your baby grow bones and teeth, flawless baby skin, and help with eyesight development. B-vitamins each have their benefits, from B-1, which regulates your nervous system and energy levels while pregnant to B-12, which aids in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin C works to keep your body tissues undamaged, while vitamin D promotes strong bones. Vitamin E has multiple benefits, such as aiding in the absorption of vitamin K and muscle formation.
A developing fetus needs protein because it encourages cell growth, provides the amino acids that boost in bone and muscle development, and allows for healthy blood production. A pregnant mother lacking protein may feel weak and fatigued. To ensure her baby develops normally, a mother should consume 70 grams of protein daily, from sources like pulses, dals, low fat milk, paneer, curd, eggs, chicken.
Immediately post delivery it is important to initiate baby crawling and start natural breastfeeding. ” Baby Crawling ” is now recommended worldwide instead of putting the baby to mothers breasts. This also assures skin to skin contact and gives warmth to the newborn baby.
Exclusive Breastfeeding – defined as the practice of only giving an infant breastmilk for the first 6 months of life (no other food or water) has the single largest potential impact on child mortality of any preventive intervention.
Optimal Breastfeeding includes initiation within one hour of life and continuedbreastfeeding for upto 2 years of age or beyond.
Exclusive Breastfeeding is a cornerstone of child survival and child health because it provides essential nutrition for child development.
Why is breast feeding important ?
Breastfeeding is the foundation of child development. Initially for 3-4 days the amount of breast milk is very less and it is yellowish in colour and called as colostrum.
Advantages of colostrum
- Colostrum is rich in proteins and immunoglobulins.
- Helps in initiating bowel and bladder movements for the baby.
- As the baby passes stools and urine it is prevented from developing jaundice.
- The newborn babies intestines are very delicate and hence colostrum is easy to digest as well as it helps in the developement of the intestine.
- It supplies good amounts of vitamin A and K.
- It contains good fatty acids which helps in baby’s brain developement.
Hence it is very important to start breastfeeding immediately post delivery. This assures establishment of successful breastfeeding practices.
Gradually after 4-5 day mature milk starts synthesizing in the mammary glands. The composition of this milk and amount both change as per the baby’s developemental stages.
Following are the advantages of breastfeeding.
* Breastmilk is nutritionally superior to any alternative.
* Breastmilk is bacteriologically safe and always fresh and is easily available to the baby.
* Breastmilk contains a variety of anti-infectious factors and immune cells.
*Breastmilk is least allergenic of any infant food.
* Breastfed babies are least likely to be overfed.
* Breastfeeding developes good jaw and tooth developement.
* Breastfeeding generally costs less than the commercial infant formula available.
* Breadtfeeding automatically promotes close mother to child contact.
* Breasfeeding is generally more convenient once the process is initiated.
* Protects the baby from allergies, asthma, loose motions, pneumonia.
* Ensures the baby to be an healthy individual in adulthood and studies show breastfed babies have less chances of developing diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiac diseases and obesity in adulthood.
* The composition of the breastmilk changes throughout the six months as per the nutritional requirements of the baby. So its a complete food for the baby for first six months of life.
* The baby can take breastfeed even in illness. (unless the paediatrician restricts in some diseases).
- Appropriate and adequate complementary feeding is crucial for child development and it needs to be started after completion of 6 months.