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

Over the last two decades, science has shown that the first 1,000-day window, the time between conception and a child’s second birthday, is most critical for brain development and when good nutrition has the greatest influence on future health. For the first time, the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025) includes recommendations for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and lactating women in this pivotal period.

What is less well known is awareness and adoption of the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines among Black pregnant and postpartum people, and the supports and barriers they experience in meeting the recommendations. 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.

During these valuable listening opportunities, we heard that:

  • The majority (44%) learned about nutritious foods and the importance of vitamins and minerals in the first trimester, and about one-third learned about these topics 1 year or more before conception.
  • Pregnant women received information from their healthcare providers, followed by family members, friends, or neighbors, and from online sources.
  • Their preferred source of information and advice was from their healthcare providers. They highly valued nutrition information from their doctors and wanted to receive more.
  • Many (67%) wished they had the opportunity to work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and/or a Prenatal Nutrition Specialist.
  • Social media emerged as a priority source of nutrition in pregnancy information for Gen Z mothers.

We also found that the type of information is important. Black pregnant and birthing people are looking for nutrition knowledge and they need help cutting through the inconsistencies that exist. They are also looking for information that reflects life circumstances and is culturally relevant. The complete survey results can be found in the 1,000 Days resources.

Last year, the American Journal of Public Health released a special series that identified opportunities to unlock the untapped potential of the first 1,000-day window by closing data gaps, enhancing promising programs, strengthening policies and uniting around this powerful window of growth and development. In addition to creating supportive environments and investing in federal nutrition programs, we also need to translate science-based recommendations into actionable, understandable, and culturally relevant messages for healthcare providers to share with families.

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, funding and programmatic priority. Now is the time to invest in federal nutrition programs, health care provider training, maternal and child health and services, and the development of culturally relevant and actionable guidance for families. Achieving nutrition security during the first 1,000 days will require federal investments, multisector collaboration, advocacy, and action to fully support families where they live, learn, work, play, and gather