The first 1,000 days of life is “a critical window of opportunities and outcomes,” says the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) in a position paper released this year. It starts at the moment of your child's conception and lasts until your child reaches 2 years old. “The first 1000 days is a period when a child has increased nutritional needs to support rapid physical growth and mental development.”
The right nutrition at the right time can have a profound impact on a child's ability to grow and learn. Based on guidelines set by PPS, here are tips for every stage of your child’s first 1,000 days.
Pregnancy #1 Follow your doctor's vitamin-and-mineral-supplement recommendation. Adequate nutrition is essential for a baby to grow healthy in a mother's womb. PPS recommends all Pinay pregnant women to take an iron-folate-calcium multi-micronutrients supplement. Folic acid reduces the risk of serious birth defects including spina bifida. Calcium is needed by the baby for bone growth and reduces pre-eclampsia in mom. Iron, on the other hand, prevents anemia and low birth weight.
Make sure the salt you’re using at home is iodized as well. “Iodine is essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and young child. A woman’s iodine requirements increase substantially during pregnancy to ensure adequate supply to the fetus,” said the World Health Organization.
#2 Schedule regular check-ups. Pregnant women should at least visit the doctor four times if their pregnancy is normal or uncomplicated. The first should be before the fourth month, the second during the sixth month, the third at eight months, and one more at nine months.
Newborn #3 Delay cord clamping. Wait for one to three minutes before clamping the newborn's umbilical cord, says the PPS. The additional blood flow from the placenta has been shown to be beneficial to full-term and premature infants. It increases hemoglobin (red blood cell) levels at birth, improves iron levels which prevent iron deficiency in the first year of life, and more. The DOH and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) promote similar recommendations.
#4 Practice the "Unang Yakap" protocol. Like the DOH, the PPS also recommends "kangaroo mother care" (or "Unang Yakap") for newborns. It includes skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and in short periods during the day or night afterward. Kangaroo care also promotes exclusive breastfeeding, maternal-infant bonding, and increases the newborn's protection against infection.
#5 Let your newborn be screened before you leave the hospital. All newborns are highly recommended to undergo newborn screening, which tests for a range of genetic, metabolic and infectious conditions. “Early identification and timely intervention can lead to significant reduction of morbidity, mortality, and associated disabilities in affected infants,” said the DOH.
Two options are available for parents: the basic newborn screening, which tests for six conditions, and the expanded newborn screening which tests for 28 conditions. See a list of newborn screening facilities in Metro Manila here.
#6 Breastfeed for as long as you can. The lack of nutrition in the first 1,000 days can lead to stunted growth and malnutrition that have life-long consequences. The PPS is an advocate of continued breastfeeding and the timely introduction of appropriate complementary feeding. It typically means exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months followed by the introduction of nutritious solid foods when the baby is ready while still continuing to nurse. Find a guide on how to introduce solid foods to babies here. #7 Make sure your child gets the recommended vitamins and minerals for his age. The PPS recommends a dose of vitamin K for newborns after birth to reduce bleeding during the first week of life (including bleeding after circumcision). It also suggests vitamin A and iron supplements for young children to lower the risk of diarrhea, measles, anemia, and iron deficiency. Zinc is also recommended for kids with moderate to high risks of respiratory infections. Talk to your child's pediatrician about vitamin and mineral supplements that are appropriate for your little one.
The pediatric group also warns about micronutrient deficiencies. For children in the Philippines, it includes iodine deficiency that hinders optimum brain growth potential. Make sure the salt your family uses at home is iodized. Check for the “Saktong Iodine Sa Asin” quality seal from the Food and Drug Administration and DOH on the label. #8 Follow the immunization schedule. PPS releases a childhood immunization schedule every year together with the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines and the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV). Following the guide, most of your child's vaccinations will be given during his first two years of life. This includes the DPT-Hib-Hep B, oral polio (OPV), pneumococcal conjugate (PCV), rotavirus, measles, and measles-mumps-rubella vaccines. The BCG vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine should be given at birth. Find the full schedule here.