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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsA baby's growth, and even their food preferences, is informed by their mother's nutrition during pregnancy and in their early years. This focus on in utero and early life seeks to shine a spotlight on the vitally important time that pregnancy and the first two years of life have in shaping a child's health for the rest of their lives. Making sure babies have the right mix of nutrients in the first 1000 days also helps them to better resist infections and allows their growing brains and bodies to realise their full developmental potential. Naturally, good nutrition remains important across our lives.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsBut this focus on the early years seeks to remind us of the absolute importance of providing the very best opportunities we can for infants around the world. The implications of infants receiving the best nutrition does vary both within and between countries. For example, in countries that are poor with developing economies, getting nutrition right in the first 1000 days would dramatically reduce child malnutrition, infections, and, in turn, child mortality, all while promoting healthy growth. Meanwhile, in countries that are richer with developed economies, getting early nutrition right is also important because it will help to prevent a child's lifelong risk of developing what we call non-communicable diseases, like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsThis is true, too, in countries undergoing what we call economic transitions, for example India and China, where the effects of both of over-nutrition and under-nutrition can be seen in the same country. At both ends of the wealth spectrum, the importance of good nutrition across early life is fundamental to health now and into the future. Providing infants with the right mix of foods from when they begin to eat solids at around six months of age also ensures that children are exposed to a wide range of tastes and textures. This means that they're more likely to grow up enjoying the very wide range of foods that humans of all ages need to maximise their health.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsThe fact is a child's food likes and dislikes seem to be pretty well formed and pretty difficult to change from around the age of 3. So these first few years are just critical in terms of establishing the building blocks for a lifetime of good eating and, in turn, good health.

The first 1000 days of life: the importance of good nutrition

When talking about early childhood and early childhood nutrition, we often refer to the first 1000 days.

A mother’s nutrition during pregnancy and the nutrition a child receives in the first two years of life are vitally important influences in determining good health both now and into the future. These first 1000 days of life set us up for good health across our lives.

Ensuring babies have the right mix of nutrients in their first 1000 days helps them to better resist infections and allows their growing brains and bodies to realise their full developmental potential.

In some countries a healthy diet will dramatically reduce child malnutrition, infections, and in turn, child mortality, while in others getting early nutrition right will help to prevent a child’s life-long risk of developing non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

While we’ve always known that an infant needs good nutrition to grow in their early years, the understanding that nutrition in the first 1000 days will influence health many years down the track is relatively new and our knowledge continues to grow.

In this video, Karen outlines the importance of good infant nutrition during the first 1000 days of life and how a child’s diet in their first 12 months of life impacts their future development.

Your task

Watch the video to find out more about how too little or too much of certain nutrients may affect a child’s genetic expression, growth, fat deposition patterns and even food preferences in later life.

When you’re done, use the comments to share what your experience has been of obtaining clear and helpful nutrition advice about these important issues either across pregnancy and early infancy, or in your professional working life.

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This video is from the free online course:

Infant Nutrition: from Breastfeeding to Baby's First Solids

Deakin University

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • How much food do babies need?
    How much food do babies need?
    video

    In this video, Dr Katie Lacy describes why providing small amounts of a variety of nutrient-dense foods to infants is important.