7 Nutrition Milestones for Your Child's First 1,000 Days

  • Mother bottle feeding infant
    Healthy Food and Developmental Milestones
    The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are a critical period for growth and development, spanning conception to age 2. Researchers believe this period is particularly important because each area of the brain is growing at its own rate, and as different regions develop, they draw upon a variety of nutrients to do so. Experts know from various studies that children who don’t receive proper nutrition during this time are at higher risk for a host of health problems, from loss of neurodevelopmental potential to a higher likelihood of obesity. By providing your young child with a healthy, well-rounded diet that includes key nutrients, you’re helping them meet the following developmental milestones.

  • woman-pushing-cart-through-grocery-aisle
    Laying the Foundation: Pregnancy and Iron
    Good nutrition starts during pregnancy, and ensuring that you’re taking in enough iron is critical to providing your developing baby with good nutrition. Iron-deficiency anemia affects about 20% of women during pregnancy, with your likelihood increasing as the baby grows. Studies have shown that adding an iron supplement during pregnancy can prevent later neurodevelopmental impairment. Babies born to mothers with iron-deficiency anemia in late pregnancy had significantly lower mental-development scores at 12, 18 and 24 months. You can amp up your iron intake with a supplement or with foods like peas, prune juice, fish and poultry.

  • Young Caucasian woman sitting in home office taking medication with a glass of water
    Using the Window of Opportunity: Pregnancy and Folic Acid
    Folic acid is another key nutritional building block in early pregnancy that establishes a foundation for cognitive and motor skills. Research has shown when women took a daily iron-plus-folic-acid supplement beginning in early pregnancy, children later had significantly higher scores in working memory, attention and behavior control, and fine motor skills at the ages of 7 to 9. Take advantage of this particular window of opportunity for your child’s health and developmental milestones by taking a prenatal vitamin and eating foods rich in folic acid, like spinach, citrus and rice.

  • Baby breastfeeding
    Developing a Strong Immune System with Breast Milk: Birth to 6 Months
    Exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months acts as a powerful protective factor against illness. Breastfeeding has been shown to have the single largest impact on a baby’s ability to survive preventable infections, and it also protects again diarrheal diseases and respiratory infection. During these early months, when even a small cold can be a big deal, breast milk adapts when the mother and baby are exposed to bacteria and viruses to provide specific antibodies to fight them. Breastfeeding has also been shown to prevent obesity and diseases later in life.

  • Young Caucasian parents feeding baby sitting in high chair at outdoor dining table
    Chewing, Swallowing, and Sitting Upright: Around 6 Months
    After six months, babies start to require more nutrition than just breast milk or formula can offer. Consult your doctor to figure out when exactly is the right time to introduce solid foods. Generally, babies can begin supplementing with solid foods around 6 months old, once they’re able to chew, swallow, and sit upright. Until this point, babies have a reflex to push solid objects forward in their mouths. Once ready, introduce your baby to wholesome foods containing needed nutrients, particularly iron and zinc. These nutrients are found in fortified cereals, lentils, peas, and dark chicken meat.

  • Asian American baby smiling with peanut butter on face
    Introducing Peanut Butter: As Early as 6 Months
    Experts previously believed that parents should wait until after age 3 to give any foods containing peanuts to children. However, the National Institutes of Health now recommends babies be introduced to peanut butter much earlier. A landmark study found that introducing peanut butter as early as 6 months and continuing to regularly include it in babies’ diets, lowered the likelihood of developing a peanut allergy. Be sure to work with your doctor, as some babies will still develop an allergy, which can be life threatening. Your doctor can help determine your child’s risk of food allergy by looking at related risk factors like skin conditions.

  • African American mother holding baby in kitchen looking at cookbook on counter of fresh vegetables
    Establishing a Healthy Weight: The First Year
    Childhood obesity continues to be on the rise, and it’s linked to a higher risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, liver disease, sleep disorders, mental health problems, and even early death or disability later in life. This early period of eating is a window of opportunity to teach your baby to enjoy the flavors of wholesome foods. By opting away from overly sweetened and processed foods, you’re helping your baby develop healthy eating habits and an appreciation for a variety of food groups, textures and colors.

  • Caucasian toddler boy eating soup with spoon at wooden table
    Using Utensils and Deciding How Much: Age 2
    As children approach age 2, they become more independent during meals, both in terms of how they eat and how much they eat. Around this time, kids can start using spoons and forks to feed themselves. Offer easy foods to help develop these skills, like yogurt or thick stews, to practice scooping food and moving it into their own mouth. Also, while you get to select what your child eats, allowing them to choose the amount helps them learn to tune in to their own cues for hunger and fullness.

7 Kids Health Milestones for Your Child's First 1000 Days

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