The First 1000 Days of a Baby’s Life-What matters and why

Did you know that the first 1000 days of a baby’s life are a great window of opportunity for setting the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment? The influence of the baby’s health and learning environment during these 1000 days can last over his/her lifespan. Here’s giving you a detailed view of what your little bundle of joy requires from you in his/her first 1000 days.

Understanding the span of the first 1000 days of a baby’s life

As per the concept conceptualized by the World Health Organization (WHO), the first 1000 days of a baby’s life are categorized in three stages:

270 days of pregnancy

365 days of baby’s first year

365 days of baby’s second year


First 1000 days of baby’s life

First 1000 days of baby’s life –Importance of proper nutrition for brain development

According to the American Academy of Paediatricians, by the age of 2 years, the brain develops into a complex organ that allows children to learn to walk, talk, and read. It’s ready for new changes and experiences, like learning maths, reasoning, and complex thought. But if the brain does not get the necessary experiences and nutrition especially during this time, it can miss out on certain important developmental processes.

Health and nutrition-At all three stages

First 270 days (Pregnancy)

Though the human brain continues to develop and change throughout life, the most rapid period of brain growth is in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life. The human brain at 5 months post-conception is a smooth, bi-lobed structure that looks somewhat like a coffee bean. By 9 months, i.e. term birth, it looks far more like the walnut-like adult brain. At birth, rapidly developing brain areas are, the visual and auditory cortices. Hence due care should be taken during pregnancy to make sure that your baby receives the right nutrition for optimum brain development at that stage.

Things to do

  • Take care of things that shape the health of your baby in the womb – your mental state, your diet and nutrition as well as how much you sleep.
  • What is the best diet to follow during pregnancy? Simple. Follow the food pyramid and you are on the right track.
  • Get the right amount of sleep. How much sleep is right? Sleep when you feel sleepy. Of course, if you can or at least 8-10 hours a day. Remember your body is putting those extra efforts to manage you and your baby.
  • Do regular checkups. Even if it means missing work. Many if not all, developmental problems can be detected and treated before birth.
  • Read good books. Experts say that reading aloud in the later stages of pregnancy can promote language skills in a child.
  • Don’t miss your vitamins and folic acid. It is essential for proper physical and neural development of the fetus.
  • And most of all, stay happy. Your mental health will promote the well-being of your unborn baby.

365 days of baby’s first year

According to an article by UNICEF, in the first year, there is a rapid growth of the language processing areas as well as early development of the prefrontal cortex that controls “higher processing” such as attention, inhibition, and flexibility. Thus, this time period harbours the greatest opportunity to provide optimal nutrition to ensure normal development as it is also the time of greatest brain vulnerability to any nutrient deficit.

Things to do

  • Breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months of life if you can. Breast milk provides nutrients, growth factors, and types of cells not found in infant formula.
  • If you are not breastfeeding, give your baby an approved infant formula, which has the nutrients babies need in the first 6 months of life to have healthy brain development. Cow’s milk is not recommended at this stage.
  • After six months, eating a variety of healthy foods is important. Brain development of the baby depends on the body getting all the nutritional building blocks it needs.
  • Include a combination of wholesome foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, pulses, egg, and chicken soup to provide proteins, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates in your diet and your baby’s too.
  • Consult your paediatrician and give calcium and vitamin D3 supplements if required, for proper development of bones and to avoid the risk of rickets in babies.

365 days of baby’s second year

Just like the first year, even in the second year, a child’s brain is developing rapidly. Children who don’t receive proper nourishment during this crucial period can suffer cognitive problems including slower language skills, lower I.Q. and poor school performance. Although many factors contribute to brain development in 1- to 2-year-olds, nutrition is considered to be an important factor. A toddler who’s given a conducive environment for learning is likely to achieve a number of cognitive and language milestones between 12 and 24 months.

Things to do

  • Toddlers should be offered 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day which are rich in a variety of nutrients. Fruits, veggies, poultry, whole grains may do the trick.
  • This is a period of peak iron requirement for the brain and therefore is a period of highest risk of iron deficiency. Provide Iron-rich foods to your toddlers like spinach, broccoli, beetroot, pomegranate juice, and dates etc. to keep the Iron requirement at bay.
  • If your child falls ill regularly, consult a paediatrician to check whether the child is deficient in any nutrients or iron. Your paediatrician may prescribe nutritional supplements if required for improving the immunity of your child.
  • Active play includes: running, skipping, climbing, hopping, jumping, throwing a ball, dancing, playing with riding toys, and playing with push/ pull toys such as wagons or strollers. Toddlers should not sit still for 1 hour or more at a time, except when sleeping.
  • Continue breastfeeding your child as long as you and your toddler are comfortable. There is no nutritional supplement or formula that is better than mother’s milk, which contains a high amount of nutrients required for your child’s brain development.

Providing the right learning environment during the first 1000 days of baby’s life

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) clinical report, The Power of Play: A Paediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children, states how and why playing with both parents and peers is essential for building thriving brains, healthy bodies, and social ties―all-important in today’s world. Research shows that if the right type of stimuli is provided to the child during the first 1000 days of life, it helps with language, maths, reasoning and social skills.

Try these simple developmental activities for baby and toddlers to provide the right learning environment.

5 popular developmental activities for 0 to 6 months old baby

Top activities for 6 months to 1-year-old baby

Activities for 1 year to 18 months old toddler

9 developmental activities for 18 months to 3-year-old child

 So get to the floor with your toddler and experience the joy of parenthood. Be alert and careful about your child’s nutritional needs and you are good to go….

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Happy Parenting!

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