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

In this video, Professor Karen Campbell outlines the key principles of good, early infant nutrition during the first 1000 days of life.
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KAREN CAMPBELL: A baby’s growth and even their food preferences is informed by their mother’s nutrition during her 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 their first 1000 days also helps them to better resist infections and allows their growing brains and bodies to realise their full developmental potential.
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Naturally good nutrition remains important across our lives, but 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.
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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. This is true too in countries undergoing what we call economic transitions, for example, India and China, where the effects of both overnutrition and undernutrition 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.
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Also ensures that children are exposed to a wide range of tastes and textures. This means that they are more likely to grow up enjoying the very wide range of foods that humans of all ages need to maximise their health. The 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.

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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.
Having said that, we can only do our best as parents with the information we have. If you already have older children and are expecting again, be assured that changes to better eating and nutrition are still possible and later in the course we’ll give you some advice on dealing with picky eaters.

Your task

Tell us about you and your family – are you expecting your first child, or do you already have a few?
What are some of the concerns you have about providing nutritious meals for your family? Share two or three and discuss them with other learners in the comments.
What, in your view, are some of the potential workarounds?
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Infant Nutrition: from Breastfeeding to Baby's First Solids

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