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What to Expect® creator Heidi Murkoff teams up with 1,000 days to highlight critical importance of early nutrition on children’s future health

Washington, D.C. – 1,000 Days, a leading maternal and early child nutrition advocacy group, is partnering with Heidi Murkoff, author of the worldwide bestselling What to Expect series of pregnancy and parenting books and creator of WhatToExpect.com, to raise awareness in the United States about the critical need for good nutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days.

There is powerful scientific evidence that shows that the right nutrition in the 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday sets the foundation for a child’s future health and well-being. The problem is that poor nutrition during this critical 1,000 day window is pervasive throughout the world – including in the U.S. The lack of essential nutrients during pregnancy and in the first two years of life can have a devastating effect on a child’s physical development and brain growth. Poor nutrition during pregnancy and early in a child’s life is also deadly – it is responsible for almost half of all deaths of children under age five and about one out of every five deaths of women during childbirth globally.

This is not, however, just an issue affecting women and children in developing countries. In the United States, a staggering one in four pre-school aged children is overweight, and one in eight is obese. In fact, the United States ranks among the top 10 worst-performing countries in the world on several maternal and child health indicators including rates of exclusive breastfeeding and childhood obesity. Along with skyrocketing rates of obesity in America’s youngest children, poor nutrition is also contributing to an epidemic of diabetes and other chronic and costly health problems. Ensuring that mothers are informed and empowered to properly nourish and care for themselves and their children throughout the 1,000 day window is one of the most powerful ways to prevent these health issues and ensure that children get the best start to life.

Heidi Murkoff and her What to Expect brand have championed healthy eating and feeding for more than 30 years, providing information and resources to pregnant women and new moms. Now, for the first time, What to Expect is teaming up with an organization to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of women and children worldwide. Through this partnership, 1,000 Days and What to Expect hope to get Americans talking about why good nutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days is essential and what can be done to ensure every child, everywhere, has access to the right nutrition, right from the start, to reach their full potential.

“All parents want to give their babies the very best start in life possible – and one of the best ways to do that is to feed them well, even before they’re born,”

says Murkoff, whose series has sold 40 million books worldwide and whose website receives 14 million unique visitors every month. “While it’s never too late for good nutrition, it’s also never too early. The health, well-being and economic success of this nation, and countries around the world, is inherently linked to the nutritional status of our moms and moms-to-be, and our babies and toddlers. It’s time for us, a society that focuses on family values, to truly value families – and to prioritize nourishing the next generation.”

Together 1,000 Days and What to Expect will engage the next generation of moms, advocates and policy makers to ensure women and children everywhere have access to good nutrition.

“When you understand the science behind the 1,000 days and the impact of poor nutrition during this time on babies’ developing bodies and brains, you realize this issue has to start making headlines,” stated Lucy Martinez Sullivan, executive director of 1,000 Days. “1,000 Days could not ask for a better champion than Heidi Murkoff. By working with Heidi and What to Expect we hope to get people to pay more attention to just how vital good nutrition is to ensure a healthy future for every child.”
The announcement coincides with the release of the third edition of What To Expect The First Year.

About Heidi Murkoff and What to Expect®

Heidi Murkoff is the author of the world’s best-selling and parenting series, What to Expect, which began with What to Expect When You’re Expecting and was inspired by her first pregnancy. Dubbed the “pregnancy bible,” the iconic New York Times bestseller (currently over 680 weeks on the list) is now in its all-new fourth edition, with over 18 million copies in print. USA Today named it one of the most influential books of the last 25 years – reporting, too, that it is read by 93 percent of women who read a pregnancy book. The What to Expect books have sold more than 34 million copies in the US alone and are international bestsellers, published in over 30 languages. Heidi is also the creator of WhatToExpect.com, which is home to a close-knit community of more than 14 million moms worldwide, the WTE app, and the founder of the What to Expect Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping underserved families expect healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries and healthy, happy babies. In 2013 the What To Expect Foundation joined forces with the USO to create “Special Delivery” – baby showers hosted by Heidi and held at bases all over the world, celebrating and supporting military moms-to-be who are stationed far from their family and friends. In 2011, TIME magazine named Heidi one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Heidi and her husband Erik have two children and are the proud grandparents of grandson Lennox who is in his 1,000 day window and made his debut just in time to grace the cover of Heidi’s newest book, the third edition of What To Expect The First Year.

Pregnancy Means 1,000 Days of Eating Better for My Baby (And for Me)

This post originally appeared on WhattoExpect.com  on May 7, 2014


The question people ask me most these days is “you’re still pregnant?” As if the answer weren’t obvious (hello, huge belly and swollen feet), I tell them yes, only X number of weeks/days/hours to go. In case you’re wondering, right now I am 12 days away from my due date.

But I am not a fan of the pregnancy countdown as, IMHO, it puts way too much emphasis on the destination (baby’s birth) and does not honor the journey that mom and baby walk together every step of the way during pregnancy.

Pregnancy truly is an amazing journey—for both mom and baby. This is something I’ve learned on an emotional and visceral level through both of my own pregnancies. And I’ve also learned it first-hand in my work as Executive Director of 1,000 Days, an advocacy movement dedicated to improving nutrition for moms and babies during the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s 2nd birthday. My job requires me to understand the science behind fetal development and how mom’s nutritional choices during pregnancy (and even before) could impact her baby’s future health.

Mom As Nutritional Gatekeeper

During my first pregnancy, I was overwhelmed by the newness of it all—the physical sensations, the realization that I was about to become a mother, and the endless to-do lists in preparation for baby.

This time around I’ve had the opportunity to really think about how every aspect of my unborn child’s development is shaped by two factors: genetics and the environment I create for my baby in my body. And here’s the kicker—there is not much we can do about genetics or even about certain factors having to do with mom’s health or her age. But there is one thing we expectant moms can influence greatly—baby’s nutrition.

As moms we are the nutritional gatekeepers for our children starting in pregnancy. The scientific and medical communities are realizing just how much this matters to a child’s lifelong health and development, and there is now a growing area of research that specifically looks at how the quality of mom’s nutrition before and during pregnancy can positively or negatively affect her unborn child’s future health. Researchers have theorized that poor nutrition during pregnancy can predispose a child to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancers, for example.

In this way, pregnancy is not simply about growing a baby for nine (ten) months; it is also a window of opportunity to shape a child’s lifelong health.

“Eat For You, Not for Two”

For me, pregnancy has been an opportunity to become more mindful of what—and how much—I eat. Admittedly, when I first learned I was pregnant, I secretly thought to myself, “Hooray! I can finally eat whatever I want!” But I soon learned that as my baby’s nutritional gatekeeper, I was most certainly NOT supposed to be “eating for two.” “Eat for you, not for two” was probably the most important piece of advice I received, because the truth is, developing babies don’t need their own super-sized helping of calories (especially those empty ones that come from sugar); they need proteins and nutrients that come from the food you eat.

When it came to eating for me, while I certainly gave into my cravings for chocolate milkshakes and French fries more than I probably should have, I made sure to incorporate into my weekly diet foods like fish, salads made with spinach, and nuts. While these foods never topped my list of crave-worthy treats, they are packed with the kinds of nutrients that are great building blocks for a baby’s development. I also tried to include as much fresh food as I could in my pregnancy diet—avoiding in particular foods loaded with preservatives and artificial colors.

The Next Step in My Pregnancy Journey

Knowing that I had such an important role to play in shaping the development of my baby’s brain and body—together with the amazing experience of seeing my baby’s heart beat inside my body during my sonograms—has made me truly appreciate the journey of pregnancy.

So now, despite the fact that the journey has not always been easy, and that as I am in my final weeks of pregnancy I can’t seem to get comfortable or get a good night’s sleep no matter how hard I try, I am still not in a hurry to get to the destination.

I will miss having my body be my baby’s home and his or her source of nourishment. I do take comfort in knowing, however, that I will still be my baby’s nutritional gatekeeper, especially as we embark on our next big journey together—breastfeeding!

Lucy Martinez Sullivan is the Executive Director of 1,000 Days. Follow Lucy on Twitter@LucyMSullivan.

Pregnancy: The Window to Future Health

1,000 Days advisor Dr. Leanne Redman answers questions about weight gain, fitness (physical and mental), and mom’s role as a nutritional gatekeeper. Read on to learn more about the essential role of nutrition in women’s health from Dr. Redman, an Associate Professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center within the Louisiana State University System.


As your research is focused on women’s health and weight management, particularly during the 1,000-day window, what trends are you seeing with respect to nutrition during, and even before, pregnancy?

Dr. Redman:  Not only is the weight and health status of a mother at the time of conception important, but the amount of weight gain during pregnancy is also now known to have consequences for the infant. For example, too little weight gain is associated with babies being born small for gestational age and, many times, preterm. Moms with too much weight gain in pregnancy are more likely to develop metabolic issues like gestational diabetes or blood pressure problems, and the babies are often born large for gestational age. In both cases – under- and over- nutrition in pregnancy has been shown to translate to weight and obesity in childhood and adult life.

There is an abundance of solid scientific evidence that suggests that mothers entering pregnancy heavier than their ‘ideal’ weight or body mass index (BMI) have an increased risk of maternal complications during the pregnancy. More alarming is the data showing increased risks for the unborn infant during gestation, injury and complications at the time of birth, as well as increased risk for future weight gain, and even obesity and diabetes later during childhood and in adult life.

Pregnancy in many cultures is viewed as the time to let go and to eat for two. While that might have been a good idea 50 plus years ago when the quality of food was more nutritious and less likely to be high in saturated fat and sugar, eating for two in today’s obesogenic environment leads to excess weight being gained in pregnancy. Women should know the consequences of weight gain in pregnancy and the amount of weight it is recommended they gain on the basis of where they start. The Institute of Medicine put out guidelines in 2009 for women in the United States.

The phrase ‘Fertility Fitness’ seems to pop up in your work. What does it mean, and why is it so important?

Dr. Redman:  The U.S. Institute of Medicine strongly advocates that women contemplating pregnancy tackle barriers interfering with a healthy lifestyle prior to pregnancy, and attempt to conceive once maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Many women are united in a common goal for pregnancy, that is to deliver a healthy baby – however many newly pregnant women (and men) do not realize the importance of their pre-pregnancy health on the future potential outcomes of their unborn child. Being physically and mentally ‘fit’ for pregnancy will help to ensure the most optimal pregnancy outcomes for mom and child; and, the whole family will enjoy the newly learned habits needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle for years to come.

So you’ve said ‘pregnancy is the window to future health’ – what do you mean by this?

Dr. Redman: Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life when she is more likely than any other time to adopt new health behaviors to give her unborn child the best start in life. For instance, women will quit smoking, avoid caffeine or soda, increase fruits and vegetables, and take a vitamin. There is no better time in fact to adopt new behaviors that support a healthy lifestyle that will hopefully be carried forward with her in her life for many years after the birth of her baby.

Mothers have been described as the nutritional gatekeepers of the home – making most of the decisions regarding foods, meals, meal preparation and shopping. Since we now understand how critical pregnancy is on the future and long-term health of both the mother and her child, pregnancy can be thought of as a window of opportunity to foster changes for healthy nutrition. Unfortunately, pregnancy can also be a window to poor health outcomes for mom and baby. Optimizing health and nutrition for pregnancy and beyond needs to be at the forefront of thinking for moms from day one!