Baby Nutrition: the first 1000 daysFebruary 18, 2021
Every parent knows that the first years of the life of their child are an important period with regards to growth, development and well-being of children. There's plenty of theories around how much a baby should sleep, when you should start feeding them solids, and more. But if there's something where experts agree is on the importance of the first 1000 days.
In the last decade, scientists and researchers have defined the first 1,000 days–the period from conception to age 2–as the most important time in a person’s life for nutrition. Yes, you read right. The most importance time in a person's life nutrition wise. Dietary intake in this sensitive period is a key determinant of health both in a short- and long-term perspective. Why?
Researchers agree that nutrition consumed during this period has a lasting impact through adulthood and that nutrient deficiencies can lead to “irreversible damage.”
This is one of the reasons why REAL FOOD is so important in your baby's development. So how does nutrition really impact your bub's development?
A baby's exposure to different flavours starts during pregnancy and continues with breastfeeding and eventually when a child begins eating solid foods. Research has shown that early exposure to a wide variety of tastes, textures and vegetables can reduce the chances of picky eating and increased the probability of a love of healthy foods later in life (who doesn't wish their kid would eat healthier?!)
In a 2013 study conducted across three countries in Europe, researchers found that “increasing variety and frequency of vegetable offering between 6 and 12 months, when children are most receptive, may promote vegetable consumption in children.” On the other hand, there is also concern that over-exposure to sweetened foods or drinks during this period will encourage kids to develop a preference for sugary foods.
This is the time when the brain grows the most. By age 2, about 80% of the adult brain is formed. During this period more than half of all energy consumed is going straight to the brain. That's 50%!
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 in school. Cross-cultural studies have shown that well-nourished children also exhibit higher levels of work capacity.
So what can you do?
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 kids develop a real love for real food.