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The First 1,000 Days: When Nutrition Matters Most

The First 1,000 Days: When Nutrition Matters Most

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NaN MIN

The world of childhood nutrition and wellness is riddled with conflicting advice. And yet, there is growing consensus around one topic: the importance of the first 1,000 days.

Here's What You Need To Know:
  • The first 1,000 days (the period from conception to age 2) is the most important time in a person’s life for nutrition.
  • By age 2, about 80% of the adult brain is formed.
  • It is common for babies to be iron deficient, especially after 6 months when they have depleted their iron stores.
  • Studies show that early exposure to a wide variety of texture, tastes, and vegetables can reduce fussiness and instill a love of healthy foods.
  • Introducing solid foods too early (before 4 months) is linked to a higher risk of obesity.
  • The sugars that a mother consumes while pregnant or nursing can be passed to her baby.
  • Several studies have shown a correlation between proper nourishment and strong academic performance.
  • Try to avoid feeding your child too much fruit and do not give juice before the age of 1.

From Pregnancy to Two Years Old:

In the last decade, scientists and researchers have circled the first 1,000 days (the period from conception to age 2) as the most important time in a person’s life for nutrition. The concept of the 1,000 days was first established in 2008, when The Lancet, an influential British medical journal, published a landmark series on maternal and infant nutrition. The report concluded that nutrition consumed during this period has a lasting impact through adulthood and that nutrient deficiencies can lead to “irreversible damage.”

“Research has shown that mom’s diet during pregnancy and what the baby eats in the first one to two years of life can have a long-term impact on not only baby’s health but also food preferences, behaviors, and even neural development,” says Nicole Avena, PhD, author of What to Eat When You’re Pregnant, research neuroscientist at the New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University, and Yumi advisor.

Below is a look at three ways nutrition impacts your baby in the first 1,000 days:

1. Neural Development

By age 2, about 80% of the adult brain is formed. During this period, more than half of all energy consumed is going to straight to the brain. Several vitamins and minerals play an important part in this development. For example, folate helps close neural tubes early in a baby’s development, while iron carries oxygen to the brain. Unfortunately, it is quite common for babies to be iron deficient, especially after 6 months of age when they have depleted the iron stores from their mother.

2. Taste Preferences

Flavor exposure begins in the womb and continues as a child begins to eat solids. Studies show that early exposure to a wide variety of texture, tastes, and vegetables can reduce fussiness and instill a love of healthy foods. In a 2013 study conducted across three countries in Europe, researchers found that “increasing the variety and frequency of vegetable offerings between 6 and 12 months, when children are most receptive, may promote vegetable consumption in children.”

3. Metabolic Issues

This period has also been regarded as important for fat cell development. Studies show that introducing solid foods too early —before 4 months— is linked to a higher risk of obesity. According to a Washington Post article by Michael I. Goran, PhD, professor of preventive medicine and pediatrics at the University of Southern California, “The sugars that a mother consumes while pregnant or nursing can be passed to her baby, disrupt healthy growth and development, and increase the risk of obesity.”

4. Lifetime Success

Several studies have shown a correlation between proper nourishment and strong academic performance. In one study, children who were well nourished in early childhood were able to enter school earlier and be more productive. Cross-cultural studies have shown that well-nourished children also exhibit a higher work capacity.

What Should I Do?

While all the research may feel daunting, mealtime doesn’t have to feel scary. In the first 1,000 days, focus on a varied diet for you (during pregnancy and breastfeeding) and your baby when they transition to solids.

Try to avoid feeding your child too much fruit and do not give juice before the age of 1. Though whole fruits are definitely better than juice because of their fiber content, a diet too rich in fruits will increase fructose consumption and limit room for other nutrient-rich veggies and proteins. Variety will help you hit nutrients that young kids are typically deficient in, such as iron, and will help them develop a real love for real food.

What Should I Do?

While all the research may feel daunting, mealtime doesn’t have to feel scary. In the first 1,000 days, focus on a varied diet for you (during pregnancy and breastfeeding) and your baby when they transition to solids.

Try to avoid feeding your child too much fruit and do not give juice before the age of 1. Though whole fruits are definitely better than juice because of their fiber content, a diet too rich in fruits will increase fructose consumption and limit room for other nutrient-rich veggies and proteins. Variety will help you hit nutrients that young kids are typically deficient in, such as iron, and will help them develop a real love for real food.

Summary

Evelyn Rusli and Angela Sutherland co-founded Yumi because of the importance of the first 1,000 days and their frustration with the current baby food market. Yumi works closely with nutritionists and doctors to design baby meals that are nutrient dense, organic, and low in total sugar.

Evelyn is a former New York Times & Wall Street Journal journalist and Angela is a former finance executive and the mother of two young children in Los Angeles. You can follow Yumi on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook.

About the Author
Evelyn Rusli
Co-Founder of Yumi

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