The first 1000 days of child’s life: Foundation for a healthy future


All of us know that optimum nutrition is important for leading a healthy life, irrespective of the age. However, it is during the first 1000 days of life, that a baby needs whole lot of nutrition – “more so than at any other time in their life,” explains Dr.Zubeda Tumbi, at a bloggers’ meet we attended over the weekend. A nutritionist with over 28 years of experience, Dr.Tumbi can’t stop stressing over the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life that start at conception till the child’s second birthday. The period is incredibly deterministic as it lays the foundation for a child’s physical, mental, emotional and cognitive development in the years to come. And as harsh as it may sound, but the nutritional loss during the first 1000 days may cause permanent irreversible damage to developing brain & physical growth

Here are some facts that we would like to share from the interaction:

Why are first 1000 days crucial?
The spur of growth in the first 1000 days of a baby’s life is almost miraculous. Your tiny-fragile bundle of joy triples his weight, grows 50% taller, brain grows three times it’s size and experiences 80% of cognitive development during this period – the rate of growth is more than the entire remainder of his/life. It is needless to say that to support overall growth, a child needs optimal nutrition – through his mother during pregnancy and via milk and food after birth.

What makes ‘nutritious’ food?
For optimised growth, a child needs food packed with macro nutrients and micro nutrients. While macro nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates and fats will provide energy for physical growth and development that you can see and measure. But what about the growth that’s not visible? (Read brain, mental growth & immunity) It is here that micro-nutrients like minerals & vitamins (Iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A).

Micro-nutrient deficiency can lead to ailments low immunity, goitre, cretinism, Menkes syndrome, hypogonadism, growth failure to name a few.

So, what’s the solution?

Did you know that babies’ tiny stomachs (5 times smaller than adults) actually need 5 times more nutrition than adults!

So, the secret of providing optimum nutrition doesn’t lie in quantity but density. The food needs to be ‘nutrient dense.’ Few spoonfuls that your baby may eat in the beginning needs to be packed with right kind of food.

  • As per WHO, for the first six months breast milk is sufficient to meet your baby’s needs. There after introduce small quantities of safe complementary weaning foods, while continuing up to two years or more.
  • Include fortified cereals and foods in your child’s die – they are the easiest way to ensure they get adequate amount of micro nutrients like iron and zinc, which breast milk does not provide in enough quantities.
  • Make sure there is diversity of food groups in your child’s diet. At six months, your child is ready to start on first class proteins, fibre, dals, strained fruits, vegetables and pureed meats – sounds overwhelming? Wondering how would you pack all this in those few spoons? Well, as mothers, we need to up our game. Play smart, make combinations!
  • Few drops of lime juice in your baby’s food or a sip of orange juice along with lunch can make up for Vitamin C.
  • Add some coriander or mint to rice cereal and you will increase the vitamins and minerals and make it yummy too!
  • Introduce Raagi to your child. It’s a great source of protein, calcium and iron.
  •  Khichdi can be turned into a wonder food with an extra dash of peas and beans.
  • Add Papaya, peach, mango, amla, tomato, pineapple, bottle gourd, orange etc for some Vitmanin C.
  • Include greens like Amaranths, Dill, Spinach in the diet but don’t forget to add lime to the preparation to increase easy absorption of iron present in the greens.

The idea is to increase the nutritive density and nutritive adequacy of kids’ diet during the first 1000 days of their life to ensure they have a happy, healthy and disease free future!

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zubeda tubiAbout Dr.Zubeda Tumbi
Dr.ZubedaTumbi specialises in Preventive Nutrition, Weight Management , Nutrition Counselling, Community Nutrition with over 28 years of experience. She has an exemplary academic career with a gold medal at BHSc (SNDT University), MHSc ( merit holder), NET- SET (UGC) and special grants from IDRC Canada and Tata Chemicals for PhD work. Her academic experience includes Senior College Lecturer Ship for 8 years at SVT College of Home Science (SNDT) , Research Guide and visiting faculty at Institute of Hotel Management and Catering.



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