To improve our advocacy and nutrition education efforts, 1,000 Days strove to understand sources of nutrition information during the first 1,000-day window and gaps in culturally relevant communications about healthy diets. Through a combination of qualitative research methods, including surveys and an environmental scan, we listened to over 225 Black pregnant and birthing people about their perceptions of their health, when and how they received nutrition information related to their pregnancy, and their preferred sources of information.
At 1,000 Days, we are deeply concerned by the recent CDC data revealing an increase in infant mortality in the United States for the first time in two decades. Our nation has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of any wealthy country. This disheartening increase is a stark reminder of the urgent need for collective action to address the critical challenges facing maternal and child health in the United States.
The CDC found that the overall infant mortality rate increased by 3% with significant increases for mothers aged 25-29. Mortality rates also climbed for preterm babies, male infants, and for infants born in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. The data also shows a deepening divide along racial and ethnic lines with infant mortality rates for American Indian or Alaska Native women increasing by over 20%, from 7.4 deaths to over 9 deaths per 1,000 births, while rates for White women increased by about 3% from 4.36 deaths to 4.52 deaths per 1,000 births. Infant mortality rates for infants of Black women did not drastically increase but they continue to experience the highest overall rates of mortality with nearly 11 deaths per 1,000 births, or over double the mortality rate of White infants. The significant disparities in infant mortality rates among different racial groups highlight the pervasive impact of systemic inequities on health outcomes.
1,000 Days remains dedicated to our mission of making the health and well-being of women and children in the first 1,000 days, from pregnancy to two years of age, a policy and funding priority. We call on Congress to continue investing in maternal and child health and services, recognizing that it is critical during the 1,000-day window to deliver nutrition and support for women and infants. Access to proper nutrition and comprehensive maternal health services is a right for all women and families, and it is imperative to ensure that no one is left behind. Strong policies and investments in this critical window are not only about saving lives today but also about nurturing healthier generations.
A strong start in life is every child’s right, and we are committed to working alongside partners, communities, and policymakers to create a world where all children can thrive. The CDC’s findings reinforce the urgency of our mission, and we stand ready to collaborate and advocate for the changes needed to ensure better outcomes for everyone.
Together, we can strive for a future where infant mortality is a rare and unacceptable tragedy. Join us in making a difference and securing a brighter future for the next generation.
For more insights and information, please visit the CDC report here.
Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Paid Leave
This week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on paid leave, highlighting the critical need for family and medical paid leave and how our current patchwork of paid leave policies falls short of supporting all infants and families. It also confirmed the importance of paid leave for workers, businesses, and the country.
While there have been some gains in paid family leave over the past five years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about 1 in 4 employees (27 percent) in the private sector workforce have access to paid family leave. Access to paid family leave is lower among those receiving lower wages or working part-time. People of color also have less access to paid family leave than their white counterparts.
This lack of paid family leave means parents are often forced to choose between taking time off from work to care for their young children and earning the income they need to support their families. It means that 1 in 4 women in America return to work just 2 weeks after giving birth, putting their health and that of their infant at risk. Policies that enable parents to spend time nurturing and caring for their babies—particularly in the early weeks after birth and for babies that are born pre-term, low birthweight or with illness—are critical to the healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development of children.
We applaud state, local and business-level efforts to increase access to paid family leave, but it is not enough to address this public health crisis. We need a national paid family and medical leave program that is comprehensive and covers all workers, including small business employees and the self-employed. Paid leave is the biggest obstacle to working women in the U.S. in the 1,000-day window and can reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. Our 2020 qualitative paid leave report highlights real stories from families without access to paid leave and the detrimental impacts it had on their family, including their health and the health of their baby.
We appreciate the Senate Finance Committee’s thoughtful attention to this issue. We call on Congress to take the next step, moving legislation to enact a comprehensive national paid leave policy that supports mothers and families and ensures children get the strongest start to life.
As we kick off the 2023 Children’s Week, we feel a mixture of excitement for the opportunities to improve children’s nutrition and concern about policy and funding proposals that undo progress to protect the health and wellbeing of children and their families in their 1,000-day window.
The nutrition that people receive leading up to and throughout their pregnancy, as well as the nutrition their babies receive in the earliest years of life, has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and thrive. In honor of Children’s Week, 1,000 Days is highlighting some legislation that we support focused on children, mothers, and birthing people. It is our hope that with these bills enacted, moms, babies, and their families will receive the support and resources they need to begin to build a healthier future.
The Wise Investment in Children Act of 2023 (WIC Act of 2023) (H.R.3364/S.1604) expands eligibility to receive benefits under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This would extend the certification period for infants to up to two years and increases the certification time under the program for postpartum women to a period of up to two years.
Modern WIC Act of 2023 (H.R.2424/S.984) would build on lessons learned during the pandemic and modernize WIC to allow remote access. The remote flexibility implemented during the public emergency contributed to a 12% increase in child participation since 2020.
WIC Healthy Beginnings Act (H.R.3151/S.974) requires USDA to make information on infant formula procurement under WIC publicly available. This increases transparency and promotes competition within the sole-supplier model.
Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R.3305/S.1606) will address the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. through historic investments that comprehensively address every driver of maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities in the United States. The Momnibus Act includes twelve individual bills that among other actions will make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition and extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods.
The Family Act (H.R.3481) would provide employees a family and medical leave insurance monthly benefit payment of two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, limited to a maximum of $4,000, for no more than 60 days of qualified caregiving. The bill also established the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration.
No Surprise Bills for New Moms Act (H.R.3387) would automatically cover newborns with health insurance for the first 30 days and create a standard for enrollment after that period. It eliminates confusion for new parents by establishing a uniform 60-day enrollment period after that first month. The bill would also have all health plans and insurers notify parents if they receive a bill for an uncovered newborn.
We also continue to remain focused and engaged in the appropriations process for FY2024. Non-defense discretionary programs, which disproportionately serve young children, families, and those most in need across the country, will face the brunt of spending caps and cuts. We must protect programs that support children and families and build off the recent successful increased investments in the first 1,000 days. In doing so, we are letting our children and our nation’s future the opportunity to thrive. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during the 1,000-day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive.
1,000 Days is dismayed by the House Appropriations Committee’s fiscal year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill released today. This bill under delivers in providing nutrition assistance to those in need and rolls back successful program improvements implemented during the pandemic. Of concern, the bill would reduce funding levels for WIC below current levels, with proposed funding $800 million below the FY24 President’s Budget request. This would result in fewer women and children being served, and possible waitlists for those that qualify for the program. The proposed House Agriculture Appropriations bill ends the increased fruit and vegetable benefits that have been provided to families since April 2021, further reducing nutrition benefits provided to WIC participants. These benefits have had multiple benefits, especially for young children, including increased fruit and vegetable consumption in WIC toddlers and a broader variety of fruit and vegetable purchases by parents. The bill also undermines the science-based review process for the WIC food package, preventing USDA from updating the foods provided to include more fruits, vegetables, seafood, and whole grains.
The proposed bill is short-sighted, cutting benefits to pregnant women, infants and children when investment in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s 2nd birthday sets the foundation for all the days that follow. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during the 1,000-day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. Research has proven that WIC saves lives. WIC reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality; reduces low birthweight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy; and it improves the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children. We call on Congress to fund WIC at $6.35 billion in fiscal year 2024, providing essential nutrition services during this critical timeframe.
Good nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy has a profound impact on the health of both a mother and child. This National Nutrition Month (NNM), and as part of our global #March4Nutrition campaign, 1,000 Days is highlighting some of the nutrition-related regulations and legislation that we support to ensure every child can grow, learn, and thrive. Much of this legislation also shapes the future for mothers, pregnant, birthing and postpartum people. This Spring, we are focused on advocating for regulatory updates, legislation that supports nutrition for families here in the U.S. and around the world, and additional funding to support all these programs. This year’s NNM theme of “Fuel for the Future” highlights the importance of ensuring families are well nourished to support healthy futures.
Updated Regulations for Maternal & Child Nutrition
WIC Food Package Updates
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed several regulatory changes to strengthen nutrition programs and improve maternal and child nutrition. The agency is currently updating the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages, that would impact over 6 million WIC participants which include moms, babies, and young children. The updates, which are science-based and align with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the 2017 National Academies (NASEM) report, increase fruit and vegetable vouchers, promote greater flexibility to accommodate cultural food preferences and dietary needs, strengthen support for breastfeeding, and increase access to under-consumed, nutritious foods, like seafood with lower levels of methylmercury.
Child Nutrition Program Updates
USDA also proposed updated nutrition standards to school meals that would more closely align the standards recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to provide children with nutritious and delicious meals. The proposed updates do include some changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which serves young children, including those in their 1,000-day window, at childcare. Changes in the CACFP program would support more nutritious meals and snacks by reducing added sugar content and allowing more plant-based meat/meat alternate options.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
While not specific legislation or regulations, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) form the basis of nutrition policy in the U.S. and are a critical component of improving maternal and child nutrition. Co-developed every five years by USDA and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the basis of the guidelines is a science-based report developed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee (DGAC) which includes nutrition researchers, physicians, and Registered Dietitians. The DGAs have a broad impact ranging from WIC food packages and child nutrition programs to food labeling and nutrition education programs. The guidelines include dietary recommendations for pregnant and lactating people and birth to age 2, which were included for the first time in the 2020-2025 DGA. The next iteration of the guidelines is currently underway as the DGAC is reviewing evidence and drafting conclusion statements which will ultimately lead to dietary recommendations and guidelines for Americans, including mothers, babies, and young children.
2023 Farm Bill
Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill which is a robust, multiyear law that authorizes food and agricultural programs. Although the name may imply that most of the bill is focused on farming and agriculture, nutrition spending makes up an overwhelming majority of the legislation. In 2018, the nutrition title (Title IV) made up about 76% of total Farm Bill spending, and for the 2023 Farm Bill, it is projected to be as much as 85%. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” is authorized in the Farm Bill which is the reason for the large amount of spending for nutrition in the bill. When children have access to SNAP, from birth through early childhood, their risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other poor health outcomes later in life greatly decreases. Children on SNAP can immediately experience a reduction in food insecurity. As Congress works to reauthorize the 2023 Farm Bill, it is imperative that they ensure families have access to the food and nutrition assistance they need through SNAP benefits as nearly half of all people who participate in SNAP are children.
In addition to domestic nutrition programs, the Farm Bill also reauthorizes international food aid programs in Title III. These programs include Food for Peace Title II, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, Food for Progress, and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. These programs are primarily focused on improving food security. As Congress works to reauthorize the 2023 Farm Bill, we urge them to further consider how the programs can incorporate nutrition interventions to address both food and nutrition insecurity and prevent malnutrition. Robust funding will be needed to address the current malnutrition crisis and to build resilience in communities globally.
Implementation of the Global Malnutrition Prevention & Treatment Act
In October 2022, the Global Malnutrition Prevention & Treatment Act (GMPTA) was signed into law to bolster the federal government’s efforts to address global malnutrition and build resilience. It authorizes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance targeted interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition around the world while requiring a robust monitoring of interventions to ensure effective use of funding. As USAID works to draft the implementation plan and coordinate efforts, we look forward to working alongside them to ensure all activities address the nutritional needs of families in their first 1,000 days.
Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations
Addressing nutrition security in the U.S. remains a critical need. 1,000 Days joins the National WIC Association and the broader maternal and child health community in urging funding of $6.35 billion for WIC in FY 2024. This amount will ensure adequate funding to support WIC’s growing caseload and address rising food costs in WIC food categories. We also support increased funding to strengthen FDA’s food safety and nutrition capacity, especially for infants and young children.
While reductions in global mortality rates for women and children are two of the biggest success stories in international development, progress has slowed over the past 12 years. There remain significant gaps that additional investments can help close. In 2021, 5 million children under age five died from mainly preventable and treatable diseases, with malnutrition as the underlying cause of roughly half of these deaths. Additionally, 300,000 women die annually of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
As Congress determines funding levels for FY2024, it is critical that funding meets the moment to address the malnutrition crisis. 1,000 Days as part of the 1,000 Days Advocacy Working Group (AWG) and the Maternal, Newborn, Child Health Roundtable (MNCH RT), is requesting $300 million for the nutrition account and $1.15 billion for the maternal and child health (MCH) account within USAID. Malnutrition costs the world $3.5 trillion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year. The current global food crisis, fueled by conflict, climate shocks and the threat of a global recession, continues to threaten the lives of women and children globally. Full funding of the nutrition account is critical for saving lives and reaching USAID’s goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths.
The Biden Administration’s FY 2024 budget proposal includes significant funding for several of 1,000 Days’ domestic key policy priorities. The proposal reflects priorities of the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and opportunities identified in the American Journal of Public Health series to unlock the untapped potential of this critical time by closing data gaps, enhancing promising programs, strengthening policies and uniting around this powerful window of growth. It includes:
- $6.3 billion to fully fund the 6.5 million individuals expected to participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
- $325 million to establish a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program plus $10 million to help states expand access to paid leave benefits, including creation of a Technical Assistance Hub to share best practices among states.
- $471 million to support implementation of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis to strengthen maternal health initiatives. Additionally, the budget requires all states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum, eliminating gaps in health insurance at a critical time.
- Increased funding for early care and education programs to increase childcare options for more than 16 million young children and lower costs so that parents can afford to send their children to high-quality child care.
While we celebrate increases across domestic nutrition programs, the proposals for global programs missed the mark. We welcome the topline increases for the State Department and USAID, but the Administration’s proposal to provide no increases to current investments in global nutrition and maternal & child health fall short in addressing growing the need. This past week, a report released from UNICEF shed light on how dire the malnutrition crisis is, particularly among adolescent girls and women. The number of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers suffering from acute malnutrition has soared from 5.5 million to 6.9 million – or 25 percent – since 2020 in 12 countries hardest hit by the global food and nutrition crisis. Ensuring children have access to good nutrition when it matters most is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to create brighter, healthier futures.
As rates of hunger and malnutrition continue to climb around the globe, it was disappointing to see that Global Health accounts within the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) budget for the Nutrition and Maternal & Child Health (MCH) did not receive funding increases in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget. Within the proposal, the nutrition account is flat funded at $160 million and the MCH account is flat funded at $910 million. The NGO community has called for no less than $300 million for the nutrition account and $1.15 billion for the MCH account. The released budget is world’s apart from these needs-based community asks to address the ongoing health and nutrition crisis.
Ultimately, these funding levels will be decided by Congress and we urge Congress to fund State and Foreign Operations accounts at a level that meets the moment, including $300 million for the Global Health Nutrition account, $1.15 billion for the Maternal and Child Health account.
Our favorite time of year: #March4Nutrition
We’re thrilled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of National Nutrition Month in March 2023. Developed by our friends and colleagues at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, every March we work especially to amplify the importance of nutrition for families in the first 1,000 days: the time between pregnancy and a baby’s second birthday.
Throughout pregnancy, infancy and beyond, families need good nutrition, breastfeeding support, and nurturing care in order to thrive. Backed by decades of research and most recently the American Journal of Public Health’s special nutrition series, we know nutrition plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper.
We invite you to follow #March4Nutrition on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all month long and join the conversation. Every week in March, we’ll dive deep into a new theme and explore how nutrition lays the foundation for brighter, healthier futures.
Week 1 March 1-10: Women’s nutrition – Access to proper nutrition can help women grow their power.
Week 2 March 13-17: Benefits of breastfeeding – Breastfeeding has critical benefits for both moms and babies.
Week 3 March 20-24: Healthy foods and drinks for babies and toddlers – Growing babies need good nutrition to flourish.
Week 4 March 27-31: Raise your voices – Help us spark action to change the world for moms, babies and families, 1,000 days at a time.
At 1,000 Days, we believe that every family, everywhere deserves the opportunity to have a healthy 1,000-day window and beyond – and that starts with access to good nutrition.
Join us this month as we #March4Nutrition for moms and babies!
February 9, 2023
Dear Members of the 118th Congress,
As leaders advocating for healthy families and children, 1,000 Days and the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee invite you to join us in creating a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States.
Breast milk is recognized as the optimal food for babies and plays a critical role in their growth and development.[i] Numerous studies have shown that breastfeeding promotes healthy cognitive and social-emotional development.[ii] It also saves lives by helping to protect babies from infections and conditions such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).[iii] Breastfeeding even lowers a child’s risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. In addition, women who breastfed reduce their risk of specific chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancers.[iv]
Unfortunately, the U.S. has many barriers to establishing and maintaining breastfeeding. While four out of five babies born in the United States start out being breastfed, about half are still doing so at six months.[v] This is not due to capacity or wishes of the parent, but rather because environments in the U.S. do not support breastfeeding.
Our country’s policies, systems, and environments must be improved to make breastfeeding a realistic option for all families. New research released this week highlights the critical need for strong policies to fully leverage the value of breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding rates can be rapidly improved by scaling up known interventions, policies, and programs in the workplace and health system.
- Infant formula companies utilize intrusive marketing strategies to families, health care providers, and policy makers to portray these products as solutions to common infant health issues in ways that systematically undermine breastfeeding and prey on parental concerns.
- Policy changes are needed to address the power imbalances and political and economic structures that influence feeding practices and health outcomes.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the infant formula crisis, it is critical that you and your colleagues in the House and Senate take action to address infant nutrition security, including through support for breastfeeding.
As you know, changing environments and systems requires everyone do their part – parents, policymakers, health facilities, communities, and employers. As a Member of Congress, you have an incredible opportunity to create the policy changes families need. Together, we can build on the momentum from recent advancements like the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act to build a robust infrastructure for infant nutrition security.
Breastfeeding has such a profound impact on population health outcomes that increasing breastfeeding rates and creating lactation-friendly environments have been identified as critical public health priorities in the U.S. as well as across the world. Breastfeeding is included in a variety of national initiatives, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Healthy People 2030, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, and more.
It is time to move from reports and vision statements, to taking action on the policy priorities that families deserve. We hope you will take the time to explore the new Lancet series on breastfeeding and join us as we work to build a country where infant nutrition security and breastfeeding is valued, protected, promoted, and supported.
|Amelia Psmythe Seger,
U.S. Breastfeeding Committee
About 1,000 Days
An Initiative of FHI Solutions, 1,000 Days is the leading non-profit organization working in the U.S. and around the world to ensure women and children have the healthiest first 1,000 days. Our mission is to make the well-being of women and children in the first 1,000 days a policy and funding priority. We are passionate about turning evidence into action and use our deep understanding of the science and the issues to help shape policies that improve the lives of moms and babies in the U.S. and throughout the world.
About the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee
The mission of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States. USBC functions as a national coalition of 100+ organizational members representing nonprofits, breastfeeding coalitions, federal agencies, and businesses working at national, state/territorial, tribal, local, and community levels to protect, promote, and support human milk feeding. The USBC uses an equity-centered collective impact approach to facilitate multisectoral collaborations.
[i] Breastfeeding. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/index.html. Published Aug. 2018. Accessed February 6, 2023.
[ii] Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days: A Foundation for Brain Development and Learning, 1,000 Days and Think Babies. https://thousanddays.org/wp-content/uploads/1000Days-Nutrition_Brief_Brain-Think_Babies_FINAL.pdf. Accessed February 4, 2023.
[iii] Breastfeeding Benefits Both Baby and Mom. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/breastfeeding-benefits/index.html. Published July 27, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2023.
[iv] Making the decision to breastfeed | womenshealth.gov. womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed/#1. Published 2020. Accessed December 20, 2022.
[v] Breastfeeding Report Card, United States 2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm. Published August 31, 2022. Accessed February 8, 2023.
The “1,000-day window” as an organizing agenda is a new and relatively unknown concept in the United States despite its established role in global health. But, there is opportunity to unite public health communities through the relevant, compelling framework.
We believe further focus on creating the best conditions for families in their 1,000-day window can change the trajectory of the path we’re on. We seek to present a comprehensive picture of the state of the science, research needs, and a policy agenda for optimal maternal and child health in the United States through a dedicated series in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).
Three papers were released at 4 p.m. ET September 19, 2022 (and can be found below once published). The full series will be released October 26, 2022 on the AJPH website.
- Dr. Heather Hamner, CDC: Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days in the United States: A Federal Perspective.
- Dr. Kofi Essel, community pediatrician, Children’s National Hospital: The First 1000 Days – A Missed Opportunity for Pediatricians
- Supporting materials: Q&A
- Blythe Thomas, 1,000 Days initiative of FHI Solutions: From Evidence to Action: Uniting Around Nutrition in the 1000-Day Window
- Marketing toolkit for advocates and key stakeholders