Category: Topic

Why new dads should take parental leave – lessons from my father

In the early 1990’s, my dad joined the first cohort of men to take part in Canada’s newly minted paternity leave program, a step so novel that it inspired a full-page newspaper spread and the now cringe-inducing moniker, “Mr. Mom.” Mr. Mom, aka Gordon Kent, took 6 months off work to stay home with me, while my mom returned to work. Now, 3 decades later, I’m fighting to grant the same opportunity to dads across the United States.

Despite strong bipartisan support for parental leave, the United States remains the only high-income country that doesn’t mandate any paid parental leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about a quarter of employees in the private sector workforce have access to paid family leave and 1 in 4 women return to work within 2 weeks of giving birth. For fathers, the numbers are even bleaker: fewer than 5 percent of American fathers take 2 or more weeks of leave.

Programs and policies that allow men to spend more time caring for their young children have numerous benefits for nutrition, child development, and women’s empowerment. After taking parental leave, men tend to share more equally in household labor even after they return to work. The skills men gain during their time at home have important impacts on both their children and their partners. Paternity leave is correlated with improved breastfeeding rates, better psychological health for children, reductions to the “motherhood penalty”, and new mothers who are significantly less likely to face physical and mental health complications. At a societal level, the knock-on effects of paternity leave can facilitate economic growth, shift gender norms, and help level the playing field for working mothers.

When I asked my dad why he chose to take paternity leave, he said that not staying home with his first child (and a second daughter when she came along) never entered his mind. As he put it, “how could I miss such an opportunity when I was so lucky to have it offered?” My father recalls our time together being “exhilarating, exhausting, and sublime.” While holding his baby, he says the last thing on his mind was whether he was falling behind at work.

For individual dads, the experience can be life changing. Research has shown that spending time looking after a baby rewires fathers’ brains to make them better caregivers. The more time they spend, the more their brain adapts. Paternity leave is key to giving dads the time to bond more deeply with their children in ways that will impact their relationship both immediately and in the years to come.

Equally important are the ways in which men’s involvement in childcare and other household tasks can alleviate the care burden that is often placed disproportionally on women. As my dad wrote at the time, “even though I’m on parental leave, it should really be classified as educational leave. I’m seeing first-hand a world traditionally dominated by women.” For him, the experience gave him both an appreciation for the challenges of caring for a family and the skills he needed to contribute more to household work. 

When my dad wrote about his time staying home with me, he closed his article by noting that “Emma probably won’t remember our time together, but it’s something I’ll cherish forever.” In that he’s partially right – I don’t remember our time together per se. But I believe it laid the foundation for a life-long closeness between us and that it created the bond with my dad that I value so deeply today.

The author, Emma, smiles as her dad embraces her and her baby son

1,000 Days Statement on FY24 Minibus

Washington, D.C., March 25, 2024 –  Last Friday, Congress passed a fiscal year (FY) 2024 minibus spending bill, which includes funding for some key U.S. foreign assistance accounts that combat malnutrition. We applaud the passage of this bipartisan bill, while recognizing there is still work to be done to ensure all families have a happy and healthy first 1,000 days.

1,000 Days was grateful to see a modest increase to the Nutrition Account, but was dismayed that overall State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs funding levels fell short of FY23 levels. For the first time in history, annual deaths of children under 5 have dropped below 5 million, a staggering decrease from 1990 when nearly 13 million children under 5 died each year. While we celebrate this incredible progress, now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. Globally, there is still 1 child death every 6 seconds and nearly 1 in 4 children worldwide has had their growth stunted by malnutrition. U.S. global leadership has reached families across the world with low-cost, quality, and effective health services and continued commitment is needed to end preventable maternal and child deaths.

“Malnutrition is still the greatest threat to child survival worldwide. U.S. investments support delivery of cost-effective, proven, life-saving services in countries around the world and maintaining that investment is crucial”

Solianna Meaza, Acting Initiative Director, 1,000 Days

We look forward to working with the Administration and colleagues in Congress to strengthen our FY25 appropriations with stronger global investments, including:

  • $300 million in the Global Nutrition Subaccount;
  • $1.15 billion for Maternal and Child Health, including $340 million for Gavi; and
  • New and additional funding to support the United States’ flagship food security program, Feed the Future.

From Food Security to Nutrition Security: Bridging the Gap for a Healthier World

Photo: K. Trautmann via Flickr

“Fighting global food insecurity means more than feeding the world – it also means nourishing the world. Calories alone are insufficient to increase individuals’ well-being, fuel economic growth and build resilient, prosperous communities.”

2023 Feed the Future Snapshot

After more than 3 years of worst-case scenario hunger headlines, this year’s plateau in global food insecurity was, relatively, a breath of fresh air. Global hunger remained relatively unchanged this year, and we saw the gender gap in food insecurity, which got worse during the pandemic, decrease by 37%.

But despite these positive-seeming signs, we are not yet out of the woods. Global food insecurity remains far worse than it was in 2019, with 122 million more people facing hunger in 2022 than in 2019. Ongoing conflict, as well as climate and economic shocks, threaten to tip the scales and send food insecurity numbers surging again. In this crisis, it is easy to view the quality of calories as less important than the quantity, but there are millions of vulnerable people who cannot sustain themselves on calories alone. Experts estimate that over half of preschool-aged children and two-thirds of non-pregnant women of reproductive age worldwide have micronutrient deficiencies. Even if we fed every hungry person today, millions of women and children would still be malnourished, jeopardizing their wellbeing and limiting countries’ overall potential and growth. As we focus on the monumental task of addressing these sky-high rates of global hunger, we must ensure achieving nutrition security is a fundamental component of our food security strategy.

Nutrition security means making sure people not only have enough to eat, but that they have sufficient nutrients to ensure they are not malnourished. It means moving beyond solutions focused merely on providing hungry people with starchy staples that may be able to sustain life but are insufficient to meet their nutritional needs. It means ensuring people have access to diverse diets that include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and animal-sourced foods. When healthy diets are unavailable, it means providing stop-gap nutrition interventions, like specialized food supplements and fortified foods, and screening and treating severely malnourished children promptly with ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF).

Nutrition is often sidelined as a secondary component of food security efforts, but for vulnerable groups, it is often the difference between life and death or a barrier to a child developing to their full potential. The most vulnerable of these groups are children in the 1000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday for whom even a short bout of malnutrition can cause lifelong physical and cognitive consequences leading them to perform less well in school and earn less as adults. We also know that in times of food insecurity, women often bear the brunt of the hunger burdens for their families, eating last and least to help food stretch further. We must ensure these women get the nutrition care they need, both for their own sakes and because malnourished mothers often give birth to malnourished babies, perpetuating an inter-generational cycle of malnutrition.

To build true food security, we must draw from models that build resilience across vulnerable communities. One such model is the U.S. Department of State’s Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) which focuses on developing climate-resilient varieties of nutritious, indigenous crops with the potential to diversify diets and reduce rates of malnutrition. Similarly, initiatives that strengthen and embed nutrition interventions into national health systems build community resilience to food shocks by ensuring nutrition care continues even when food availability diminishes.

In the coming years, the world will face numerous threats to global food security, the most serious of which is likely the growing threat climate change poses to the quantity and quality of food that is available. Increasingly frequent climate shocks will make crops harder to grow and livestock harder to raise which will ultimately decrease food supply and incomes for agricultural workers. The food that does grow will be less nutritionally dense. In the face of these challenges, we will need to take concrete steps to shore up global food security. Clear plans to address malnutrition along with hunger will be key to any successful strategy.

Improving the Health of Ourselves and Our Nation

By Minerva Delgado, Director of Coalitions & Advocacy at the Alliance to End Hunger

March is National Nutrition Month. While the first impression we may get from hearing this is interpreting it as a challenge that seems simple and straightforward, the truth is that we as Americans are not great at nutritious eating.   

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Healthy Eating Index reports,…“average diets in the U.S. do not conform to dietary recommendations.” The CDC reports that only small percentages of American adults consume the suggested amounts of fruits (12%) and vegetables (10%) daily. Poor nutrition can contribute to illness and death. Poor diets have been associated with nearly half of deaths from cardiometabolic diseases in the United States.

Developing healthier eating habits, while important, can be really challenging. These challenges are only further compounded for low-income families. Low-income households face additional challenges and tend to have fewer resources, less time for food preparation, and less access to healthy foods. Federal nutrition programs provide an opportunity to mitigate these challenges and support healthier diets.

The USDA defines nutrition security as consistent and equitable access to health, safe, affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being. Nutrition security has become an important goal of federal nutrition programs alongside the long-standing goal of food security. We know that nutrition and food security are intertwined – a person cannot achieve nutrition security if they are food insecure. Unfortunately, food insecurity has been increasing.  Food insecurity increased sharply in 2022 across all populations. Across our country, an estimated 44 million people, including 13 million children, were living in food-insecure households.

Fortunately, most food-insecure households can turn to federal nutrition programs. These programs form a necessary food safety net, providing access to food and improving nutrition, health, household finances, academic outcomes for children and productivity for adults. They also have broad societal impacts such as supporting farmers and retailers, reducing healthcare costs and increasing gross domestic product.

Two key programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

SNAP is the largest federal nutrition program, with over 42 million people receiving a monthly shopping credit to be used at approved retailers including grocery stores, farmers markets, and online shopping. The size of the benefit depends on a variety of criteria, such as income and household size, and was recently raised to an average of approximately $5.45 per person per day.  This bump in the SNAP benefit was the result of a reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis of the SNAP benefit amount.

While the benefit is modest, it has a huge impact on program participants. SNAP helps families stretch their food budgets, putting nutritious foods within reach.  As reported by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “SNAP improves food security, offers benefits that enable families to purchase healthier diets, and frees up resources that can be used for health-promoting activities and needed medical care.” 

According to USDA, SNAP reduces the rate of food insecurity among participants by at least 30%, particularly among young children and the most food insecure families.  Participation in SNAP lays the foundation for greater nutrition security among participants. 

WIC differs from SNAP in specifically focusing on “nutritionally at-risk” mothers and children. In addition to offering health screenings and breastfeeding support, WIC families receive vouchers for foods meant to maximize healthy birth outcomes and child development.

WIC has demonstrated multiple nutrition and health benefits, including: decreasing fetal deaths and infant mortality; improving the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children; and significantly improving children’s diets. Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and up-to-date immunizations. WIC also prepares children for school by improving intellectual development.

National Nutrition Month is an opportunity to highlight the tremendous importance of these programs as we strive to improve the nation’s nutrition and health. It was great to see Congress recently invest an additional $1 billion in WIC to address growing need for this vital program.  Now Congress has another opportunity to help struggling families through continued protection of and investment in SNAP. We have the opportunity to use this month of action to not only look inwardly at our own nutritional choices, but also more broadly at what will make our nation as a whole healthier.

Uniting to close the Gender Nutrition Gap

Happy #March4Nutrition!

As part of 1,000 Days’ annual #March4Nutrition campaign and alongside the Commission on the Status of Women, we’re excited to announce The Gender Nutrition Gap will be hosting an X (formerly Twitter) Chat on Wednesday, March 13th at 9:00 ET/14:00 CET.

To participate, please create answers to our predetermined questions and be ready to tweet during the specified event time. Make sure your answers are posted either by a retweet or as a reply to the question. Be sure to include the hashtags #March4Nutrition and #GenderNutritionGap so your answers don’t get lost!

See you on X!

Find all the questions we’ll be asking and some suggested social media here!

You can find the Gender Nutrition Gap on XLinkedIn and Instagram, and on our website.

Maximizing Potential: The Impact of Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation (MMS) for Improved Maternal and Child Health

In the quest for improved maternal and child health and gender equality, we often overlook a fundamental intersection with the importance of good nutrition. The unique biological needs of women, gender disparities in access to food and services, and harmful social norms contribute to an ever-growing gender nutrition gap. During pregnancy, increased nutritional needs due to physical changes and the needs of a growing baby further exacerbate this gap. Micronutrient deficiencies during pregnancy put both mothers and babies at risk of birth complications, small vulnerable newborns, and even death, and the lack of nutrients in this critical period can prevent children from reaching their full physical and mental potential. Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation (MMS) during pregnancy provides a transformative solution to mitigating a wide array of harmful micronutrient deficiencies. During #March4Nutrition, we want to highlight MMS as a proven solution to meet the increased nutritional needs of women during pregnancy and further children’s growth, learning, and overall well-being.

The highlight of our year: #March4Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month! Developed by our friends and colleagues at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, every March we work 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. Decades of research has shown that nutrition plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper.

We invite you to follow #March4Nutrition on FacebookInstagram, LinkedIn, 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 4-10: Thriving families – What if … families had access to quality nutrition services before, during and after pregnancy?  

Week 2 March 11-17: Women’s nutrition and gender equity – What if … nutrition was seen as a key piece of achieving gender equity?  

Week 3 March 18-24: Nutrition & food (in)security – What if … families had access to safe, affordable and nutritious foods? 

Week 4 March 25-31: What we can do? – What if … our work could support moms, babies, and families in the United States and around the world to access nutritious food?

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!

Find the social media toolkit here.

Understanding Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days: Black Moms and Birthing People

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.

1,000 Days Statement on Increased U.S. Infant Mortality Rates

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.

1,000 Days Statement on Senate Finance Committee Paid Leave Hearing

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.