As a midwife, I have had the opportunity of meeting a lot of people both young and old. So I was in the community one day for a community outreach for children and I got to a young boy.
I asked him, “How old are you?”. He answered and told me he was 10 years old, well I didn’t believe the child and had to ask another child to confirm his age.
He looked too small for his age and I realized it was the effect of malnutrition.
The first time I heard about the first 1000 days I was so excited at the endless possibilities, fewer children would be malnourished if they got all the benefits of the first 1000 days and this can only happen if mothers knew about the first 1000 days.
So I decided that every expectant mother I met or came for my antenatal classes heard about the first 1000 days and participated in it. The first 1000 days is a critical window period of time from conception to the 2nd year of a child’s life.
It is a critical period because all your baby’s vital organs from the brain to the bones, liver, and kidneys are all developing and any slight problem in this period can mean a certain organ does not develop well or baby can fall ill.
If you want your baby to be attentive in class and make high grades this is the best period to do it. It is also believed the 1st 1000 days is a period in which malnutrition can occur.
Malnutrition is a big issue that can cause irreversible damage to the developing brain and physical growth of the child which can lead to reduced ability to perform in school and increased susceptibility to diseases. The trick to it is for mother and baby to get the right nutrition during this period.
So how does the 1000 days work?
- Quality Feeding During Pregnancy: The 1000 days applies to both mother and child, hence, from the moment mother knows she is pregnant she begins to eat highly nutritious foods as well as fruits and vegetables. Mothers should engage more in quality feeding and not in quantity feeding. Eats food rich in all classes of food such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, and oils in the right quantity.
- Breastfeeding: World health organization recommends that babies are Breastfed exclusively for 6 months and breastfeeding should continue until the age of two years. Breastfeeding has a lot of benefits; prevents babies from coming down with illnesses, it boosts the immunity of the baby, it reduces mothers risks of coming down with breast and ovarian cancer and best of all breastfed babies smell beautiful.
- Complementary Feeding: Complementary feeding is a process in which the family foods are introduced to the baby’s diet after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. This is very important because the breastmilk is longer adequate for the growth of baby so this is given alongside the breastmilk, examples include purees, amala, and ewedu, semolina pudding etc. Avoid foods high in sugar and salts, soda and sugary drinks.
- Immunization: Ensure your child gets all the immunizations from 0-2 years and continue till 5 years.
- Hygiene and Clean environment: Ensure the environment in which your child is clean and this includes giving your child clean safe water. Unclean and unsafe water can expose the child to lots of illnesses and diseases.
I know you might be wondering what happens if I don’t partake of the first 1000 days right?
- The first 1000 days ensure that your child’s growth is not stunted meaning they grow at the pace they should for their age.
- It builds your child’s growth and fuels their brain so they can perform effectively at school.
- It prevents malnutrition in children as there is a rise of malnutrition among children now.
- It ensures that your child grows to be very healthy adults.
- It reduces your child’s risk of coming down with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in later years.
- It cuts the cycle of poverty, well-nourished children grow to be healthy adults who can effectively contribute to the family.
With all these amazing benefits why won’t you partake in the first 1000 days?