Parents have to play crucial role in first 1000 days of child’s life
Post by on Monday, December 6, 2021
A baby's brain develops quickly during the first 1,000 days than at any other time of life. Since the brain is closely linked to the rest of the body, an unsafe or unhealthy environment in this sensitive period can affect a child's physical health in later life too.
In conversation with Rising Kashmir’s Health Correspondent Mansoor Peer, Lecturer Pediatrics GB Pant Children Hospital Srinagar, Dr. Suhail Naik talks about role of nutrition, intervention for optimal physical and mental development of child during the first 1,000 days of life.
What do you mean by first 1000 days of life?
The first 1,000 days of life is period from conception to child’s 2nd birthday that is 9 months pregnancy plus first 2 years of life. It offers a unique window of opportunity to build healthier and more potential individuals and a strong nation.
A brighter future begins with investing in women and children in the first 1,000 days. The path to greater prosperity starts in a child’s first 1,000 days. This is because investing in the well-being of mothers and babies pays off in a big way, now and in the future.
In the short term, it means more women and children survive and thrive. In longer term, it provides the foundation for children to develop to their full potential, setting them up for later success in school and in the workforce, and to live a healthy life, reducing their predispositions to obesity and other illnesses as adults. For every child, early moments matter.
Why is this period very critical for life?
Science has demonstrated that life is a short story for which the first 1000 days sets the tone. We have to understand that babies’ brains form new connections at an astounding rate.
According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the child develops more than 1 million neural connections every single second that makes early years of childhood a time of great opportunity.
Even leading economists now agree that investing in a child’s earliest years is one of the smartest things a country can do to combat poverty and create human capital needed for economies to diversify and grow.
Is this period sensitive for child’s development?
Absolutely yes! While the human brain continues to develop and change throughout life, the most rapid period of brain growth and its period of highest plasticity is in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life.
In the first postnatal year, there is rapid growth of the language processing areas as well as early development of the prefrontal cortex that will control higher processing such as attention, inhibition, and flexibility. During early child development, kids can master any language with grammatical perfection.
What measures are suggested for optimal development during this period?
To achieve optimal development is basic fundamental human right for every growing child. To achieve maximum potential, they need comprehensive health care, proper & adequate nutrition, protection from harm and a sense of security, opportunities for early learning, and responsive caregiving like talking, singing and playing with parents and caregivers who love them.
What is role of parents during this critical period of development?
Parents have to play a crucial role in order to secure first 1000 days of life. They should always consult their gynecologist when they are actually planning the pregnancy.
Some interventions like 100 days folic acid supplementation prevent devastating congenital anomaly like neural tube defects.
The well-being of a mother and her child are intertwined right from the start. A healthy baby starts with a healthy mother.
However, research suggests that inequalities in child development often begin before a child is born. Poverty and food insecurity during pregnancy not only harms the health of a mother but also that of her baby.
Does stress affect a baby’s development?
Stress definitely affects a baby’s development negatively. Studies show that exposure to elevated levels of stress hormones in utero can lead to long-term negative outcomes for children such as cognitive delays, attention disorders, trouble in school and emotional problems.
What do you mean by right nutrition at right time in right quantity?
Right nutrition at right time in the right quality and quantity is very important intervention for optimal physical and mental development. Nutrition, in particular, plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper.
Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days can cause irreversible damage to a child’s growing brain, affecting its ability to do well in school and earn a good living and making it harder for a child and family to rise out of poverty.
Beginning early in pregnancy and throughout early childhood, nutrition provides the building blocks for a child’s cognitive abilities, motor skills and socio-emotional development, which in turn impacts her future success in school and economic opportunities later in life.
What is the role of nutrients?
Receiving good nutrition in the womb and through early life is essential for a child's future health. Research has shown that what a mother eats, her weight and her lifestyle habits can influence how the baby's metabolism, immune system and organs develop. Poor nutrition during pregnancy and early life can lead to obesity, heart disease and stroke later on.
Nutrients such as folic acid, iron, zinc and iodine, as well as protein and fatty acids play a vital role in building a baby’s brain during pregnancy. When one or more of these is absent during pregnancy, a baby could be at risk for developmental delays, birth defects and cognitive deficits.
Because a mother’s diet, nutrient stores are only source of nutrition for a developing baby and it is critical that women get health care and nutritious food they need before and during pregnancy.
How important is breastmilk?
Breastmilk is the perfect nutrition for brain development. It contains a variety of nutrients and proteins—as well as growth factors and hormones that cannot be replicated in infant formula—that are vital to a baby’s brain development. Numerous studies have shown that babies who are breastfed perform better in intelligence tests and have higher IQs scores as children and teens.
What is the role of government in strengthening early child development?
Promoting children’s optimal development involves coordinated efforts across health, nutrition, education, child protection and social protection systems, and beyond.
To achieve maximum potential kids need comprehensive health care, proper adequate nutrition, protection from harm and a sense of security, opportunities for early learning, and responsive caregiving.
The government must strengthen these systems so that children receive the services required for their developmental needs and to make sure that the institutions that shape the lives of children and families work together to create a supportive environment for them.
Investing in the health and nutrition of women and children during the 1,000-day must be part of any strategy to build prosperity, reduce disparities and enable future generations to lead better lives.
Millions of children are not receiving the nutrition or health care they need, growing up exposed to violence, polluted environments and extreme stress. They miss out on opportunities to learn and are deprived of the stimulation that their developing brains need to thrive.