A nutritionist, Olufunmilola Adewumi, says good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life is an investment into a child’s healthy future.
Adewumi, who is a principal nutritionist at the Amuwo-Odofin Maternal and Child Centre, Lagos, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan on Tuesday.
She said that the first 1,000 days of life, which starts from conception to birth and the first two years of age, serve as a critical window for the promotion of optimal growth, health and behavioural development.
According to her, providing good nutrition from the first 1,000 days of life serves as the foundation blocks for the building of healthy and secure lives.
“Investing in a child’s well-being goes beyond choosing a good school; good nutrition is considered the most worthwhile investment we can make into our children’s future.
“Nutrition provides an individual the right amount of nutrients from healthy foods in the right combination for growth and development.
“Development of human brain starts in the third week of gestation with the formation of neural plate.
“ By the end of the fifth month of gestation, 100 billion neurons have been formed.
“A child’s brain is 25 per cent of the adult’s at birth, 80 per cent of the adults at age 3, 90 per cent of the adult’s at age 5,” she said.
She said the right nutrition promotes a healthier generation by preventing many serious health problems later in life.
Adewumi said that the immediate consequences of poor nutrition may lead to significant morbidity and mortality as well as delayed mental and motor development.
“Long term effects include cognitive, intellectual and physical deficits while also putting the child at risk for lifelong chronic health problems like heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” she said.
The nutritionist said that the importance of maternal iodine, iron, zinc and folate and protein-enriched nutritional supplementation should be over-emphasised during pregnancy to provide the infant with optimal nutrition.
“The problems of the 1st 1000days of life start from motherhood, preconception, pregnancy and continues from birth to 2nd year birthday.
“Under-nutrition during pregnancy can have a negative impact on the growth and development of a child as it can potentially increase the risk of death during infancy, “she said.
The nutritionist advised that exclusive breastfeeding be encouraged in the first six months of life.
“Breast milk is the only natural healthy food which is perfectly suited to the unique nutritional needs of infants solely for six months.
“It remain a significant part of his daily diet even after six months of age.
“Breast milk contains everything the baby needs for the first six months of life in all the right proportions.
“ Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life,” she said.
She added that breast milk also contains antibodies and other elements that protect the baby from illness and chronic diseases.
Adewumi said that the time of transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods is a very crucial time being the period when malnutrition starts in many infants.
“This time, according to the World Health Organisation, contributes significantly to the high prevalence of malnutrition in children under five years of age world-wide.
“Children need variety of foods to meet nutrient needs at this period.
“ Such should include meat, poultry, fish or eggs daily or as often as possible.
“It should also include Vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables daily and adequate fat content,” she said.
She said low-nutrient drinks and soda like tea, coffee and sugary drinks should be avoided, adding that these could affect a child’s appetite for more nutritious foods.