Early Life Nutrition – What is the role of the first 1000 days of life for future health?
NAQ Nutrition’s Food Foundations team recently attended a symposium in Brisbane to learn about the most up to date recommendations for nutrition in early life. It was both theoretical and practical, covering maternal nutrition, infant feeding and later obesity, allergy prevention and toddler nutrition.
Key facts (and questions raised) include:
- Inappropriate maternal nutrition has persistent effects on child health – excess weight gain during pregnancy has significant short and long term health implications for both mother and child. As more than 50% of women presenting at their first antenatal appointment have a BMI over 25 (overweight), this is a significant issue today. However, how much emphasis is put on weight during pregnancy?
- Most micronutrient requirement in pregnancy can be met through diet but are women taking too many supplements that aren’t necessarily required? If required, medical supervision and advice should be sought by individuals
- Avoidance of allergens in the maternal diet when pregnant is not associated with reduced incidence of allergy. Furthermore recommendations on the introduction of solids to children advise that potential allergenic foods should not be delayed, even in high risk infants. See www.eatforhealth.gov.au for full information in the Infant Feeding Guidelines 2012
- Research supports that ANY breastfeeding offers benefits to most young infants so even if mum’s are introducing solids or considering introducing formula to their infant, we should encourage them to continue with some breastfeeding if possible. We should always respect their wishes whatever mum’s decide
- Are we winning the battle in tackling infant obesity? What do you think? Obesity in childhood has health consequences; influences psychosocial development; difficult and costly to cure; and children are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. We need to take action as 1 in 4.5 Australian children are obese or overweight and if current trends continue, this figure will only increase
A major challenge highlighted from the day is the influence between improving nutrition in the shorter term and optimizing health in the longer term. Early Childhood Settings are one way in which we can provide help and support to families and carers, and children, to start good eating and drinking habits early, which will then continue into their later lives.
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