The one number every parent needs to know? 1,000.
The 1,000 is the first 1,000 days between the moment of conception and age 2. In the scientific community, it is considered the most profound period in nutrition and development. What a child eats in this window will determine their health for the rest of their life. Known as a ‘golden opportunity,’ there are three factors known to contribute to early brain development: reduction of toxic stress, the presence of a strong social support and secure attachment, and the provision of optimal nutrition.
Ignoring this vital time period can have profound consequences, as the failure to optimize for brain health has shown to have long-term effects on potential and mental health. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Let’s Talk About the Brain
The brain is not a homogenous organ. In fact, it is made up of multiple areas and processes, which are known as myelination.
In short: Myelin enables nerve cells in the brain to transmit information faster and also allows for more complex brain processes. The myelination process is crucial for healthy central nervous system functioning.
And guess what? The myelination process is complete by age 3. But it has been hard at work before then. At 32 weeks, myelination abruptly increases. This process is most active during the first 2 years of life. The systems involved in processing reward, affect, and mood, are all developing during this time.
Similarly the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of memory, learning and emotion begins its rapid growth phase at approximately 32 weeks gestation and continues for at least the first 18 postnatal months.
And the prefrontal cortex! That part of the brain responsible for attention and multitasking, has the onset of its growth spurt in the first 6 postnatal months.
There is so much happening in little tiny brains that will have profound effects on life outcomes. It’s complex stuff, but you don’t have to be a scientist to support the takeaway: the first 1,000 days matter more than we ever thought.
Let’s Talk About Nutrition
Nutrition plays a crucial role in the healthy development of your baby’s brain.
All nutrients are important for brain growth and function, but scientists have identified key macro-and-micro nutrients that are critical in brain development during (you guessed it) the first 1,000 days.
- Protein. Protein is part of the minerals pro-team.You know this. But did you know that at least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way? An essential macronutrient, protein is found in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. Protein is made from twenty-plus basic building blocks called amino acids. Because we don’t store essential amino acids in our bodies they must come from food. The building block of life, protein plays a crucial role during the first 1,000 days.
The following micronutrients might be ‘small,’ but they have the ability to make a macro-impact. Elimination of the three most prevalent micronutrient deficiencies—iron, zinc, and iodine--could increase the world IQ by 10 points.
- Iron. An iron deficiency during the first 1000 days is correlated with diminished mental, motor, and behavioral functioning later in life. It’s a big deal. During pregnancy the mother’s body prioritizes a baby’s needs, transferring iron from her body to the baby’s. Around the 6 month mark, your baby’s natural iron stores begin to run low. Iron, which helps carry oxygen to the brain, is one of the most important minerals in growth and development.
- Zinc. Necessary for normal brain function, an early life zinc deficiency results in poorer learning, attention, memory and mood.
Let’s Talk About Solutions
That was a lot of science. Luckily, you don’t have to learn it all.
Yumi, the first-ever freshly made baby food delivery service, was developed specifically to address the nutritional needs of babies during the first 1,000 days. Their meals are mapped against 1,000s of clinical studies to address the concerns and worries of new parents. They nerded out, so you can spend more time snuggling.
Unlike the overly processed pouches at the center of the grocery store that are loaded with fructose and added sugars, Yumi blends are freshly made, seasonal, and made with gourmet ingredients. Most importantly, Yumi baby food blends are developed with the first 1,000 days in mind, with ingredients formulated for an infant's age and nutritional needs. With a holistic approach to your baby’s health and wellbeing, Yumi works with a team of dietitians, doctors and chefs to develop their recipes, sourcing ingredients from local, organic farms.
And we have a Yumi code exclusively for our readers. Take 50% off your first order with the code: THEFIRST1000DAYS.