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Month: October 2015

Gazing into the 1,000 Days Window

Most parents will agree that pregnancy and a child’s first two years of life can feel downright magical. It’s a time marked by love, joy and growth beyond compare. But even more than that, those first 1,000 days (9 months of pregnancy + two years) represent an unparalleled opportunity to set a foundation for life-long health and wellbeing—simply by eating right.

The long-term benefits of a healthy 1,000-day window can’t be underemphasized. For starters, during pregnancy, a well-balanced nutritious diet promotes optimal development of babies’ rapidly growing brains (by birth, a baby’s brain will contain 100 billion neurons!) and sets the stage for healthy food preferences (incredibly, babies’ senses of smell and taste begin to develop during the first trimester, which means all the early “tasting” a baby does in utero will influence his food preferences later on).

Once born, breastmilk is a veritable superfood for babies—which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months—and serves as the first immunization against disease and illness. And introducing nutrients from a variety of wholesome foods starting at age 6 months through toddlerhood ensures healthy growth and aids in obesity prevention.

But the benefits of healthy eating don’t end once a child turns two. To the contrary, the impact of good nutrition early in life can reach far into the future. Children who get the right nutrition in their first 1,000 days are ten times more likely to overcome life-threatening childhood diseases, complete nearly five more grades in school, go on to earn 21% more in wages as adults and are more likely to have healthier families of their own.

On an individual level, these benefits can be life altering. Collectively, they can change the world. Evidence shows that the right nutrition in this critical window of time saves more than 1 million lives each year, reduces the risk for developing diseases like diabetes, and increases a country’s GDP by as much as 11 percent year over year!

These statistics are so much more than just numbers. They represent the potential that can be unlocked with one of life’s most basic resources: food. Investing in better nutrition in the 1,000-day window can help families, communities and countries rise out of poverty, thereby shaping a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.

This is why we emphasize proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days; it’s the key to long lasting health and development. Without it, lives are lost and diseases flourish—and moms and babies everywhere deserve better.


 

Maureen Shaw is a writer, editor and proud mama who has dedicated the better part of the past decade to volunteering and working with NGOs and nonprofits. Her writing has been featured widely online, including sherights.com (which she founded in 2011), The Huffington Post, Mic.com, Feministing, Jezebel and more. Maureen holds a Master’s of Arts in Human Rights from Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter at @MaureenShaw.

Introducing the Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative

Breastfeeding is a powerful life-saver.  It is also a critical to the long term health and well-being of both mother and child.

Unfortunately, the majority of world’s mothers are not able to optimally breastfeed their children. In fact, just 38% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months and suboptimal breastfeeding practices contribute to roughly 800,000 child deaths annually.

In response, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative with the aim of raising visibility and political commitment for breastfeeding worldwide. 1,000 Days is proud to work with UNICEF and WHO to lead this initiative which is comprised of several partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Bank, Save the Children, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, International Baby Food Action Network, and World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, among others. The Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative aims to:

  • Foster leadership and alliances and effectively integrate and communicate breastfeeding messages.
  • Mobilize resources for breastfeeding support and protection and promote accountability
  • Build knowledge and evidence to enhance breastfeeding policies, programs, financing and communication.

You can learn more about the Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative here.

Breastfeeding for the Best Start

Breastfeeding is one of the best gifts you can give your baby.  As you prepare to meet your little one and prepare for her first meal, it is important to know what to expect.  While babies are born to breastfeed, moms often need support to breastfeed successfully.  You should be willing to ask for help as often as you need.  Before baby is born, familiarize yourself with where to find help and make sure that the hospital or birthing center where you plan to give birth is breastfeeding-friendly.  This means that they will have skilled lactation consultants, breastfeeding counselors or nurses and physicians trained in breastfeeding on staff to help you.

Getting breastfeeding off to a strong start is important and you should plan to begin breastfeeding ASAP after baby is born, ideally within the first hour of giving birth. This ensures your baby will get colostrum, an antibody-concentrated fluid that protects against disease and nourishes your baby until your milk comes in (which may take a few days).

If you need motivation to try breastfeeding, you can learn about the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding for both you and baby. First, breast milk offers your baby all the nutrition he needs, at just the right temperature, in an easy-to-digest formulation and perfect package (in a soft, warm embrace).

Breastfeeding also provides your little one with just the right amount of nutrition he needs as he grows; it operates on a supply and demand system. The more your baby demands, the more your body supplies (and vice-versa), which takes a lot of the guesswork out of feeding. The process also allows for close bonding between you and your baby, helping you stay in sync with his appetite.

What’s more, breast milk is chock full of antibodies that help protect your baby from infections and illness. Some short-term health benefits of breastfeeding include fewer ear infections, diarrhea, bronchitis or pneumonia and eczema. Fast forward a few years, and breastfed babies tend to be at lower risk of asthma, obesity, diabetes, childhood leukemia and the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding has health benefits for you as well, such as a lower likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. And it may also help guard you from postpartum depression.

The longer you can breastfeed your baby, the better. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and then continuing up to your baby’s first birthday while he starts to eat solid food.

You can start to prepare for breastfeeding success with this list from the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Jill Castle is a registered dietitian and childhood nutrition expert. As a former private practice owner, she currently shares her expertise as a writer, speaker and consultant. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School and author of the upcoming book Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete (2015). www.JillCastle.com