The 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday offer a unique window of opportunity to build healthier and more prosperous futures.

The right nutrition during this 1,000 day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive—and a lasting effect on a country’s health and prosperity.

Nutrition during pregnancy and in the first years of a child’s life provides the essential building blocks for brain development, healthy growth and a strong immune system. In fact, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that the foundations of a person’s lifelong health—including their predisposition to obesity and certain chronic diseases—are largely set during this 1,000 day window.

It is why it is critical that women and children get the right nutrition during this time. Malnutrition early in life can cause irreversible damage to children’s brain development and their physical growth, leading to a diminished capacity to learn, poorer performance in school, greater susceptibility to infection and disease and a lifetime of lost earning potential. It can even put them at increased risk of developing illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers later in life.

The impact of poor nutrition early in life has lasting effects that can transcend generations. This is seen throughout the world as malnourished women given birth to malnourished daughters who grow up to become malnourished mothers themselves, thereby perpetuating the cycle.

The damage done by malnutrition during the first years of a child’s life translates into a huge economic burden for countries, costing billions of dollars in lost productivity and avoidable health care costs. But by focusing on improving nutrition during the critical first 1,000 days, much of the serious and irreparable damage caused by hunger and malnutrition can be prevented.


The Causes of Malnutrition

Photo credit: World Bank


Diets lacking in a variety of healthy, nutritious foods.

Photo credit: Charles Pieters


Poor infant and young child feeding practices, care-giving and hygiene.

Photo credit: World Bank


Poor health access, certain diseases, and unhealthy or unsanitary environments.

Photo credit: Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition


Poverty is a root cause of malnutrition. Poor families often have limited access to nutritious foods, quality healthcare, and information about best practices; they are especially vulnerable to malnutrition in times of crisis.

Photo credit: United Nations


In many parts of the world, it is women and marginalized populations and ethnic groups that bear the brunt of malnutrition.

The Case for Investing in the First 1,000 Days

Improving nutrition for mothers and children during the 1,000 day window helps ensure children get the best start to life and the opportunity to reach their full potential. Investing in better nutrition during the first 1,000 days also saves lives. Women who are well-nourished before and during pregnancy are less likely to die during childbirth. And by ensuring that mothers are able to breastfeed and babies get only breastmilk for the first six months of life, we can help save the lives of almost 1 million children.

Leading scientists, economists and health experts agree that improving nutrition during the critical 1,000 day window is one of the best investments we can make. In fact, every dollar invested in improving nutrition in the first 1,000 days yields a return of $48 in better health and economic productivity. There is no better investment we can make to secure the future of children, families and nations.

The right nutrition during the 1,000 day window helps:

  • Build a child’s brain and fuel their growth.
  • Improve a child’s school-readiness and educational achievement.
  • Reduce disparities in health, education, and earning potential.
  • Reduce a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease later in life.
  • Save more than one million lives each year.
  • Boost a country’s GDP by as much as 12%.
  • Break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.