Health experts can’t stress it enough. How you care for your baby during his first 1,000 days is crucial in shaping his future. The first three years of a newborn's life has lifelong implications on your child's development. To highlight its importance, UNICEF Philippines has launched a campaign with the help of actor and dad to 1-year-old Zia, Dingdong Dantes.
The campaign is called #EarlyMomentsMatter, and Dingdong starred in a short public service announcement video addressing all the Pinoy “super dads.” The video focuses specifically on the care parents should give their children during the first 1,000 days, and it was uploaded to UNICEF's Facebook page on Father’s Day.
“Critical period ang early moments in life kaya napakahalaga na kasama ang mga tatay sa pagpapalaki at pagaalaga sa kanilang mga anak habang sila ay baby at toddler pa,” said Dingdong. To help the message catch on, they’re advocating a simple phrase that’s easy to remember. “Hindi mo naman kailangan ng super powers para maging 'super dad' ka. All you need is to…Eat. Play. Love.”
Proper and adequate nourishment, stimulation (through play) and loving care from mom and dad are the core fundamentals of the first 1,000 days. Here are UNICEF and other experts’ tips on how you can practice it at home with your little one:
1. Eat. A baby's nutrition affects their growth, according to UNICEF, and babies get proper nourishment from mom's breast milk and, later on, a healthy diet.
Lack of nutrition during the first 1,000 days leads to potentially drastic effects in children like stunted growth and malnutrition, according to Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, the research arm of the anti-hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World. These conditions can then lead to lost educational capacity and health productivity as the child grows older, explained Lateef.
Give baby the food he needs to grow to his full potential. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months followed by complementary feeding--introducing nutritious solids at the right age while continuing to breastfeed.
2. Play. “Children who are read to, talked to, sung to and played with are not only happier today, they will also have better cognitive capacity -- and a better chance to live a fuller, more productive life,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Laketold Forbes.
There are many ways to play and interact with your little one. Yes, even for infants as young as a week old. At this tender age, UNICEF recommends gently stroking your baby and letting him touch you as well. They have specific recommendations for children up to 2 years old. Find them here.
3. Love. “Babies need our unconditional love, so they feel protected,” according to the video. “'Wag natin sila sasaktan, pababayaan, sisigawan at gagamitan ng hindi magagandang pananalita.” Not only will showing your love build your attachment and relationship with your child, but it will also enable him to achieve his social and developmental growth potential. And, this starts as soon as your baby is born.
A lack of essential newborn care is linked to high infection rates in newborns and even death, explained Roger Thurow, a senior fellow at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time For Mothers And Children--And The World. Aside from making sure newborns can receive colostrum (mom's antibody-rich first breast milk), he stressed the importance of immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth. Afterward, here are ideas on how you can show your love and interact with your baby.
Enjoy making the most out of Eat. Play. Love. in your home!