The nutrition concept “The 1000 first days”

Martine Bernier

Health journalist, editor-in-chief

August 20, 2021

Are you familiar with the concept of the “1000 first days”? It was introduced by UNICEF and refers to the period from conception to the child’s second year. This is a critical phase of life in which the baby is particularly sensitive and vulnerable and in which the course is set for its future health. During this period, according to UNICEF, nutrition plays a crucial role in preserving the health capital of the child, but also that of future generations.

Already in the womb, the fetus is exposed to possible stress and malnutrition of its mother. All these are risk factors for the later development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, obesity, etc.

Scientific studies unanimously prove the importance of nutrition and environment during the first 1000 days of the baby’s life. Its physical growth during this phase is exceptional: in less than three years, it grows more than in the rest of its life. The nutrients and amount of food supplied during pregnancy and infancy are therefore essential for harmonious and balanced growth. In these 1000 first days, the baby also develops 80% of its later cognitive abilities. The size of its brain triples from birth to two years of age. Meanwhile, its immune system will fully mature and must be supported in its development by nutrition, a key factor for the immune system.

UNICEF and physicians do not want to scare parents by using simplifications or exaggerations to convey the message that these first days determine the health of their children. Nothing is irreversible, but proper nutrition makes it possible to avoid certain negative effects. Good nutrition for babies, exercise and proper care are not insurmountable obstacles.

It is enough to:

• promote motor activity on a regular basis;
• follow the pediatrician’s dietary recommendations;
• promote the awakening of the senses in young children by introducing them to different tastes and textures as early as possible; and
• protect babies from tobacco, alcohol, stress and pollution from the moment of conception.

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