contributor: Kemmone Hall
Nutrition is integral to a child’s life. More essentially, the benefits it affords during the 1st 1000 days of life – from conception into the first 2+ years of childhood – are many. Despite this scientific fact, studies continue to show that while more children are surviving as a result of improved access to healthcare, many are not thriving due to poor nutritional practices, particularly in developing countries such as Jamaica (UNICEF, n.d.).
The last trimester of pregnancy, in particular, continuing into the first two years of life represent the period of the brain’s most rapid growth and highest plasticity. Therefore, proper nutrition is paramount to normal brain development. It also strengthens the immune system, reducing susceptibility to communicable diseases, and minimises the risk of obesity and the development of non-communicable diseases (1,000 Days, 2017).
Developmental conditions caused by undernutrition, overnutrition and (more recently) risky nutrition can not only be prevented but even reversed. According to a UNICEF (2012) study, the elimination of poor nutrition in expectant mothers “can reduce disabilities in their infants by almost one third.”
So what constitutes proper nutrition?
Pregnancy – A diet rich in iron and folic acid support the growth and development of the unborn child.
Baby – Breastmilk provides all the nutrition needed within the first 6 months of a child’s life. Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months is strongly advised and is expected to become local policy in the near future.
Toddler – A variety of fruits, proteins and legumes is essential at this stage, contributing towards all-sided development during childhood.
Watch the UNICEF-sponsored video below for more nutritional recommendations and information on the 1st 1000 days of a child’s life. Also, look out for the Early Childhood Commission’s (ECC) Live Twitter Chat – #1st1000Matter – where you will be able to ask questions and get useful tips on this crucial period of child development.
Finally, the ECC will continue to hold high the twelve (12) Standards for the Operation, Management and Administration of Early Childhood Institutions which include good nutrition as an essential practice within our schools.
The aim is not just for our children to survive but to thrive. Through proper nutrition, thriving is made possible and it starts as early as the 1st 1000 days.
1,000 Days (2017). Obesity. Retrieved from https://thousanddays.org/the-issue/obesity/
UNICEF (n.d.). Nutrition in early childhood care and development [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.nnc.gov.ph/downloads/presentation-materials?download=712:nutrition-in-early-childhood-care-and-development
UNICEF (2012) What is the role of Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_role.html