The First 1,000 Days: Listening to America’s Mothers

This Presentation Uses Sound

The numbers and statistics paint a concerning picture for America’s young children and their families: nearly half of all infants and toddlers in the U.S. live in low-income households and 1 in 5 children under the age of 6 live in families that struggle to put enough nutritious food on the table. What’s clear is that too many young children in America aren’t getting the nutrition they need to thrive. But the numbers are only one part of a much more important story: what women themselves have to say about their experiences with nutrition, feeding and diet during pregnancy and their children’s earliest years.

In order to understand the perspectives of mothers themselves, 1,000 Days set off on a listening journey to hear from moms across the country about their thoughts on nutrition and their experiences in feeding their young children. We met nearly 60 mothers –women in rural Oklahoma to urban centers in California; in southern states like Mississippi and Kentucky to Minnesota in the Midwest.

From their very first feeding decisions, the mothers we met face conflicting messages from various sources and too few strategies to put their knowledge into action. Further, they deal with a lack of support in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. And too often, when they aren’t able to provide what they know is best for their children, moms blame themselves.

Scroll down and listen as Wanda, Chloe and Toshina talk about their personal experiences as moms with young children. Please note, these audio clips were recorded in the women’s homes so there is background noise. You may need to turn up the volume on your headphones.


Wanda lives in Kentucky with her husband and 3 boys: a 4-year-old, a 22-month-old and an 8-week-old. In this audio clip, Wanda discusses the challenges of breastfeeding and notes that it can be especially tough in the beginning when mom and baby are still getting the hang of it. At first she didn’t feel comfortable nursing in public, but as time passed she became more confident. Wanda also highlights the hardships many breastfeeding moms face when forced to return to work—especially an unsupportive workplace—before they are ready.


Chloe shares a motel room in California with her husband and her three children, all of which are under age 4. In her audio clip, Chloe discusses the challenges she faces in buying and preparing healthy foods for her family. Without an oven or stove, Chloe must rely on a rice cooker and hot plate for all of her cooking. She worries about the safety of her young children with this set-up, especially when they run around the small room – she doesn’t want them to pull the cords and hurt themselves. When Chloe doesn’t have enough food, she visits food pantries or reaches out to other moms she meets through groups on Facebook. She hopes to be able to move out of the motel and into a better housing situation soon.


Toshina is from Mississippi, where she lives with her parents and two sons – a 15-month-old and a 2-month-old. In this clip, Toshina shares her story about trying to meet her breastfeeding goals as a high school student. Despite not having any family members who could help her, Toshina started breastfeeding with the encouragement of another mother she met at a local parenting class. Although she loves all the health benefits of breastfeeding, for Toshina, the best part is the connection she feels to her son when she nurses.

We are deeply grateful to each of the women who participated in this research. All of the moms featured in the report provided permissions for their words and photos to be shared, but their names have been changed. They opened up their homes and hearts to us and generously shared their stories. It is an honor to share those stories with you.

For more information and to read about some of the other moms who participated in this research, read The First 1,000 Days: Listening to America’s Mothers.