Life cycle & Nutrition: First 1000 days | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 30, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 PM, April 30, 2019

A note on nutrition

Life cycle & Nutrition: First 1000 days

The “National Nutrition Week 2019” kicked off on April 23, with this year’s focus theme on the nutrition requirements of children’s, and their mothers’, first 1000 days.

The dietary requirements for a healthy life vary, as an individual’s needs for nutrients and energy change over time. While a typical adult woman may need only 6.7 milligrams of calcium per pound of body weight, a nine-month-old infant needs 27 milligrams of calcium per pound of body weight.

Women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding need to ensure they are consuming a well-balanced diet for a healthy gestation period. Gradual weight gain is important; 2-4 pounds during the first three months, then a little less than 1 pound per week for the remainder of the pregnancy.

A total gain of 25-35 pounds is recommended.

If a woman is overweight at the beginning of the pregnancy, she should not diet, but instead limit the amount of desserts and other ‘extras.’ If underweight at the beginning of pregnancy, she should increase her food intake and continue to gain wait gradually.

A pregnant woman has specific water and fluid requirements. Overweight women have a high risk of developing complications such as hypertension and gestational diabetes, and resulting birth defects in the baby.

At critical periods in the development of specific organs and tissues, there is increased vulnerability to nutrient deficiencies, nutrient excesses, or toxins.

Excess consumption of vitamin A during early pregnancy can cause brain malformations in the foetus; including the right amount of folic acid (also called folate or folacin) in diet reduces the risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly — partial or complete absence of the brain — which involve spinal cord damage and varying degrees of paralysis, if not death.

The dietary reference intake recommendation for folic acid increases to 520 micrograms, and then drops down to 450 micrograms during breastfeeding. Good food sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit and juice, beans and other legumes, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and liver.

In the second and third trimesters, pregnant women need additional food energy — about 300 kilocalories. Key nutrients of particular concern are proteins, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and zinc.

Tea and coffee need to be limited for the proper absorption of iron and calcium. An extra 500 kilocalories of food per day are needed to meet the energy demands of lactation. A pregnant woman’s lifestyle and poor nutrition habits can lead to a low birth-weight baby (less than 5½ pounds).

Low birth-weight babies are more likely to have medical complications including trouble breathing, brain damage due to insufficient nutrition; anaemia, low body temperatures because they do not have fat stored to stay warm; and bleeding in the brain.

Breast-fed infants, in general, have fewer infections and a reduced chance of developing allergies and food intolerances. So, it is strongly recommended for at least the first four to six months of life. Soy formulas and hydrolysed protein formulas can be used if a milk allergy is suspected.

Breast-fed infants may also need supplements of iron and vitamin D during the first six months of life and fluoride after six months. Solid foods can be introduced between four and six months to meet nutrient needs that breast milk can no longer supply alone.

Other foods can be introduced gradually, one every few days. 

Food that S too salty or sweet, or food that may cause choking, need to be avoided. Starting at one year of age, whole cow’s milk can be an excellent source of nutrients for children. The rapid growth rate of infancy slows down in early childhood.

During childhood but not before the age of two, a gradual transition to lower-fat foods is recommended, along with regular exercise. Children who have positive experiences during family meals are more likely to develop healthy attitudes.

Children have small stomachs and cannot eat a lot of food at a time. It is better for them to have several snacks and meals than to eat three large meals a day.

Bite-size pieces of raw fruits and vegetables and cheese cubes are ideal snacks. However, food should not be used to calm or cheer up children. That may result in children associating food with emotions and not hunger.


From birth until 24 months: Start breastfeeding, and continue.

4 to 6 months: Start cereals and gradually introduce vegetables, fruits, and juices. Use real fruit juices, not a sweetened fruit drink. Use commercial baby food, or unseasoned strained and mashed table food.

5 to 6 months: Start plain meats, which have more iron and protein than combination dinners or soups.

6 to 9 months: Start finger foods. Teething crackers and other foods such as toast, or dry, unsweetened cereal are good choices. Practice using a cup to drink milk, juice, or water as an adult holds it. Two-handled cups with a spout are easiest to use.

9 to 24 months: Start table foods that are well chopped or mashed.


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