#Marchis4Nutrition: What if moms had the support they need to ensure their children get a healthy start?

In honor of National Nutrition Month, 1,000 Days is hosting its annual #Marchis4Nutrition campaign to amplify the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation. All month long, we have been imagining a world in which moms have the support they need to give their children a healthy start to life. In this final week of March we’re asking:

What if moms had the support of programs and policies to ensure their children get a healthy start?

Policies and programs that prioritize the health and nutrition of moms and babies can make a huge difference. These societal investments can positively impact the nutritional health of women, infants and toddlers by improving access to healthy foods, increasing a family’s economic security, and improving access to health services.

Estimates show that almost half of the world’s 900 million extremely poor are children. Supportive policies and programs also play an important role in reducing poverty and ensuring that children have the opportunity to thrive.

So, what will it take for moms and their families to have the support they need?

In the United States, for example, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is an essential social safety net program supporting nearly 8 million women, infants and children every month. WIC is a proven effective program that improves birth outcomes, access to healthy food and a child’s development. WIC provides pregnant women, new mothers and their young children support to access whole grains, vegetables and other healthy foods. This, along with nutrition counseling, healthcare referral services and breastfeeding support, helps moms give their kids a healthy start.

 “WIC’s ‘Mom Strong’ centers assure moms healthier babies, toddlers, and young children. At WIC, moms get pre-natal health care referrals and the breastfeeding support they need; babies and young children get pediatric and immunization referrals; parents and grandparents are empowered with nutrition tools and resources to make the healthy choices for their children. With WIC, the whole nation benefits from healthier, happier more productive families.”
-Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway, President & CEO, National WIC Association

Around the world (including in the U.S.) additional social supports are needed to improve the health of moms and their families. Cash transfer programs, for instance, are an important means of improving economic security and access to maternal and child health care for pregnant women and new mothers, particularly for women living in poverty. These programs provide eligible families, often the most impoverished or vulnerable, with income support. Research shows that families with access to programs like cash transfers consume a more diverse and higher quality diet since nutritious food is made more affordable by the transfer.

Paid family leave is another critical policy needed for women and families around the world. Job-protected paid leaves enables women to have the time they need to care for themselves and their newborns following the birth of a child.  There is strong evidence that shows that parental leave can help reduce infant death and illness, increase the likelihood that babies get their pediatric check-ups and immunizations, and lower mothers’ risk of health complications after childbirth. Studies also show that paid leave helps women breastfeed more successfully and for longer periods of time, enabling both mom and baby to reap the powerful long-term health benefits of breastfeeding. In the U.S. alone, if breastfeeding rates improved, over $3.6 billion would be saved in treatment costs for childhood illnesses. Unfortunately, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid maternity leave policy.

“If moms had access to social supports, their breastfeeding journeys could continue for longer providing further benefits to them and their children.”
Helen Keller International ARCH Nutrition

ALL moms need support – from accessing nutritious foods to paid family leave – to ensure their children get a healthy start in life. Join the #Marchis4Nutrition conversation on Facebook and Twitter this month and tell us what you think: What does the world look like if moms had the support they needed from programs and policies to ensure their children get a healthy start?