The first 1000 days of a child’s life, from the moment that child is conceived in a mother’s womb up to the age of two years, is a critical period of enormous growth. Different organs and tissues in the body are forming and whatever happens at this time will affect the child’s health in the years to come. One of the most important ways to support the child’s development in the first 1000 days is to provide good nutrition.
During pregnancy, the foetus’s nutrition depends on how well Mum is eating. There are many nutrients that are vital for a healthy development of the foetus and the best way to get these nutrients is through a nutritionally balanced diet.
Sometimes, it can be difficult for busy Mums to prepare healthy meals regularly, therefore it is recommended that she fortifies her diet with supplements. There are five nutrients for a healthy development of the foetus that mothers should pay particular attention to:1,2,3,4
✿ Folate is vital for the prevention of defects in the brain, spine, or spinal cord. It is especially important in the first trimester when the foetus’s neural tube is forming. Ideally, women who are planning a pregnancy should begin taking folate supplements before conceiving.
✿ Iron is required to make haemoglobin in red blood cells which help carry oxygen to the tissues.
✿ Zinc is essential for cell growth and DNA production.
✿ DHA allows for optimal brain, eye, and nervous system development.
✿ Calcium is important for the growth of strong bones and teeth, healthy nerves, heart, and muscles. It also helps with the development of a normal heart rhythm and blood clotting ability.
To assess health and development, doctors will look at two important measures when a child is born - which are the birth weight and head circumference. Scientific data has frequently linked low birth weight to a higher risk of infant death and poorer health outcomes later in life5. Conditions like asthma, low IQ and hypertension are also more commonly found in individuals who were born with a low birth weight6.
A child’s head circumference at birth and its growth in the first year can also predict future cognitive ability. Not only are they more likely to earn a university degree, they also score higher on verbal-numerical reasoning tests7.
One of the easiest ways for a mother to support her foetus growth and development during pregnancy is to take a maternal nutritional supplement, like Similac Mom®, throughout the course of her pregnancy. Similac Mom® contains all the nutrients to help meet the increased nutritional needs of pregnant women.
1. Abbott Family: Similac Mum. SIM140716. Website.
2. Traci C. Johnson, MD. Your Healthy Pregnancy Diet: Top Nutrients, WebMD Medical Reference© 2017 WebMD, LLC. (2017)
3. Natalie Butler, RD, LD: Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy. Healthline Editorial Team. (2017). Website.
4. American Pregnancy Association: Nutrients & Vitamins for Pregnancy. (2017) Website.
5. Wilcox AJ and Russel IT. (1983) Birthweight and perinatal mortality: II. On weight-specific mortality. Int J Epidemiol 12:319-25.
6. Wilcox AJ. (2001) On the importance – and the unimportance – of birthweight. Int J Epidemiol 30:1233-1241.
7. Hagenaars SP, et al. (2016) Shared genetic aetiology between cognitive functions and physical and mental health in UK Biobank (N=112 151) and 24 GWAS consortia.
Mol Psychiatry 21:1624-1632.