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Days 1 - 1000

Early Brain Development

We know the first 1000 days, from conception through to the age of two, is a time of tremendous growth and development, especially when it comes to the brain. When baby is born, the brain is already a quarter of the size of an adult brain. In the first 90 days it more than doubles and by three it will be almost 80% its final size. This rapid growth not only needs the right nutrition, but also the right environment and social interactions to really thrive.  

Making connections

For the precious first few years of life, baby’s brain is like a little sponge, soaking up and learning from its environment. What baby tastes, sees, smells, touches, hears, how secure baby feels and their needs responded to, all contribute to how baby’s brain circuits are wired – also known as synaptic connections. Baby is born with almost 100 billion neurons and over the next 3 years, the rapidly growing brain will make trillions of synaptic connections in response to their environmental experiences.  Nurture the right experiences and it will be these neurons that will be connected. Similarly, nurturing poor experiences can also have life-long impacts.

Therefore, if we want our children to grow into confident adventurous eaters, who have a healthy respect for their own bodies and appetites, we must provide the opportunities and environment to learn and nurture the right experiences. This learning can start as early as newborn, and continues throughout the toddler years and beyond.

Tuning in

Being in tune with baby and learning to read their cues is the first step on this journey. Baby is particularly receptive to learning through feelings and experiences, so responding to hunger and fullness cues are vital first steps. As tempting as it might be to try and get baby to finish that last bit in the bottle or that last mouthful, responding to fullness cues will help baby feel secure and listened to, building trust and confidence.

Baby is also learning from everything they see. So, being a positive role model when it comes to eating and food, plays an all-important role. Baby will be far more receptive to trying new foods if they see those they trust doing it too.

Feeding baby’s mind

The manner in which food is presented and delivered can also have an enormous impact on baby’s learning. Familiarization through repetitive exposure, not only to taste, but also how it looks and feels, is all part of how baby learns. So, don’t be put off by the funny faces or the out-right refusals, just try again next time.  Giving into demands for custard over cauliflower will not end in a long-term healthy relationship with food. Likewise, the use of bribery or food, for any other reason than hunger, can also create a host of eating problems in the future.

A healthy relationship with food requires the brain connections that come with positive eating and feeding behaviours. These are:

    • Understanding and responding to hunger and fullness cues
    • Building trust through responsive feeding 
    • 0-6 months - You provide (breast milk or formula), baby decides (how much and when)
    • 6 months + you provide the ‘what’ (solid foods), the ‘where’ (high chair, dinner table) and the ‘when’ (time of day). Baby decides how much to eat
    • Be a positive role model for healthy eating behaviours and foods, including baby at the family table when possible
    • Continue to offer previously rejected foods, or foods that you ‘assume’ baby won’t like. Repeat exposure (and no health by stealth measures!)
    • Encourage independence through self-feeding and finger foods
    • Avoid using food for any other reason than hunger (e.g. bribery or to combat boredom)
    • Don’t classify foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Rather, talk about ‘everyday foods’ and ‘sometimes foods’ 
    • Don’t get hung up on what or how much baby eats on a given day. Rather, take a week-long approach and try and incorporate a healthy balance throughout
    • Try not to let your own emotions get in the road of how much baby does or doesn’t eat
    • Try to maintain a pleasant mealtime environment and avoid distractions (e.g. television)

Food can be so much more than just filling hungry tums. Providing the right foods and the right environment, we will help baby to not only survive, but to prosper and thrive.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

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