When you hold a tiny infant in your arms, it’s easy to be struck by the fragility of a new human life.
I remember feeling both exhilarated and, at moments, terrified when my son was born. It was such uncharted terrain.
One of the greatest comforts in those early months was watching him thrive and gain weight. I hadn’t anticipated the compulsion – the singular focus — on feeding my babe. It was an overwhelming, primal impulse that must be universal among new mothers, right?
During my pregnancy i consulted a nutrionist along with my gynaecoogist and had everything required for my body and my babys growth. My baby was born 4.25 kg during birth and my doctor was really happy, she said he is a healthy boy and its all because you took care of him during your pregnancy days.
Though he is not fat or some may even call him lean, but i know he is growing and his immunity is much more compared to other kids of his age. I exclusively breastfed him for 6 months and then we started with solids. I did follow baby led weaning but i was not successful after few months. Will be soon doing a detailed post on BLW.
Recently i attended a session organsied by Dr. Manjari Chandra, senior Consultant Nutrionist , Clinical Nutrition, Max multi speciality centre and founder of Manjari wellness. The workshop was organsied to focus on the need of first 1000 days of nutrition for a childs better future .
What is First 1000 days
Children begin developing during pregnancy and obtaining proper nutrition during that time sets the stage for a child to have a healthier and more prosperous future. Long term effects of under nutrition include cognitive and physical deficits while also putting the child at risk for lifelong chronic health problems.
The first 1000 Days the span of time beginning during a woman’s pregnancy and lasting until the child’s second birthday. This period of time is believed to dramatically improve the health and wellbeing of a child well into the future.
Why is first 1000 days so important
- In the first 1000 days, your baby grows more than the entire remainder of their life. In the first year alone, your baby’s weight triples and height increases by 50%. What’s more, a staggering 80% of their brain and cognitive development is complete by their second birthday, with their brain size tripling from birth to two years; Babies are born with immature immune systems and it takes up to 2 years to strengthen it.
- Your baby needs a whole lot of nutrition during this time, more so than at any other time in their life.
- But did you know, that what your baby eats in the first two years, determines your baby’s potential for the rest of their life? The right kinds of food have the power to ensure your baby reaches their full potential when it comes to physical growth, learning capacity and also ensure that your baby isn’t susceptible to illness as a child and as an adult.
- If your baby doesn’t get the right kind of nutrition that meets all their requirements, there are very real risks of irreversible damage to their brain development and physical growth.
Your baby needs two kinds of nutrients: macro nutrients and micro nutrients during the First 1000 days
- Macro nutrients are responsible for providing energy and aid physical growth and development. For example, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Essentially this is development we can see with our eyes.
- What you can’t see developing within the baby are the brain & immunity growth and development. These are fueled by the micronutrients which your baby needs & are very important during this phase. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients. Iron, zinc, vitamin A for example, aid in brain development and immunity.
- Micronutrients need special attention in the first 2 years because any micronutrient deficiencies during this time could lead to impaired cognitive development and affect immunity. This affects brain growth and immunity and leads to reduced learning capacity later in life and can also make your baby more susceptible to infections throughout life.
- You can’t see the consequences of micronutrients deficiency immediately, most people tend to miss out on ensuring that their babies get enough micronutrients.
How do you ensure that your baby gets the right nutrition in this critical stage?
- In the first six months, breastmilk is the gold standard & is sufficient to meet your baby’s needs. Once your baby turns six months, breastmilk needs to be supported by other foods.
- When starting off on solid foods, your baby can’t take in more than a few spoonfuls of food. This, as you know, is because your baby’s stomach is incredibly small. It is the size of their tiny fist, which is only 20% of the size of an adult’s stomach.
- The surprising part, though, is that while their stomach size is so much smaller, they actually need more nutrition than adults to support their incredible growth rate.
- So the limited amount of food that the baby eats needs to provide all that the baby requires. While breast milk still continues to provide partial nutrition to your baby, the other foods you give bear the huge responsibility to bridge the gap that breast milk can’t fill.
How are these complementary solid foods doing in meeting your baby’s requirements
- Indian diets are high in macronutrients but are very low in micronutrients, iron, zinc and calcium.
- This is a cause for concern because the percentage of these nutrients that need to be met by complementary foods is extremely high. 98% of your baby’s iron and 72% of your baby’s zinc needs should be fulfilled through complementary food but our Indian diets are insufficient to do so.
- Gaps in micronutrient delivery is the highest when your baby is moving from exclusive breast milk to complementary feeds, because the needs are going up whereas delivery is going down at the same time.
- Couple this with the size of your baby’s stomach, and it becomes next to impossible to meet their needs through regular food.
- To meet the daily requirement of Iron for a 6-12 month old child, the mother would have to feed 9 bowls of spinach puree!
So how do you manage your baby’s micronutrient needs?
- You need to give your baby small quantities of food that are packed with more nutrients than your regular food. Nutrient dense foods or complete foods that are fortified with minerals & vitamins like iron, zinc etc. so that your baby can get all they need in the amount of food that they can actually eat.
- Iron plays a very important role in your baby’s brain development and cognition and iron and zinc help in the development of your baby’s immunity
- Fortified cereals and foods have been found to be the most effective way of ensuring that there are no micronutrient deficiencies in children.
- Ensure diversity of food groups in your baby’s diet by including foods from all food groups on a daily basis for a balanced diet.
- Supplements are a solution to tackle the issue, and you can give supplements of various vitamins & minerals after consulting your pediatrician.
- Hence you could use fortified food like Atta, Salt etc. readily available in the market to ensure your baby gets the right nutrition for his/her proper development.
- 2 bowls of fortified cereals a day bridge the nutrition gap in your baby’s diet
Typical Diet Plan for a 2 year old baby
- 1 egg
- 500-800 ml dairy in any form (milk, paneer, curd)
- 3 servings of cooked vegetables (150 gm each)
- 1 serving of fortified cereals (salt, sugar,wheat flour,milk, condiments(sauces))
- 2 servings cooked Beans/Pulses(150 gm)
- 3 servings cooked Cereals/Grains (150 gm)
- First two years nutrition requirements are more than an adult.
- Your baby needs both macro and micro nutrients.
- Iron and Zinc are very important for growth and immunity.
- Breastmilk is not sufficient to meet your baby’s development needs after six months.
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