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Days 1 - 1000

The ages and stages of baby’s first 1000 days

As a mom, we know that your first priority is to make sure baby grows up to be happy and healthy. You have the power to influence baby’s short and long term health, through the decisions you make during your pregnancy and in the years that follow baby’s birth. 

We’re here to sort through the mountains of information available to new moms present only the most relevant, evidence-based pieces in an easy  to consume format that you can readily apply to your everyday life. So, let’s jump right into the ages and stages of a baby’s first 1000 days

Pregnancy

What you eat, as well as how much weight you gain, can have a significant impact on baby’s future health through a process called nutritional programming. The amount of weight you gain will depend on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), and the quality of your diet should be maximised so that you nourish your growing child with every bite. Too little or too much food, as well as vital nutrients during this time, can alter your baby’s metabolic pathways, predisposing him or her to chronic diseases at a later stage.

Your diet also impacts the flavor of your amniotic fluid. Why is this important? Well, at around 12 weeks, your baby starts to swallow this fluid and thus starts to develop a taste for the foods that you’ve been eating. Taste, even at this early stage can have implications in terms of food choices, and ultimately long term health, moving forward.

0-3 months

The moment baby is born is one you will never forget. Whatever your birthing experience, research shows that initiating breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth, ideally within the first hour, together with uninterrupted skin to skin contact provides the best start for your breastfeeding journey. The current recommendation is to exclusively breastfeed on demand (meaning only breastmilk, as many times per day and for as long as your baby wants) from birth to 6 months. After that, appropriate complementary foods should be introduced with continued breastfeeding.

Breastmilk nurtures the growth of beneficial bacteria in your baby’s gut which may modulate brain development and cognitive functioning, formation of fat cells, metabolic responses and even immune regulation. This may explain why breastfeeding has been associated with high IQ, as well as a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even childhood leukaemia. If that’s not enough, breastmilk, just like amniotic fluid, prime’s your baby’s taste buds and is the next step in their taste adventure.

4-6 months

Around halfway through baby’s first year, you can start looking for ‘signs of readiness’ to start feeding solids. Some of these signs include:

  • Staying in a sitting position unsupported and able to hold head steady
  • Coordinates eyes, hands and mouth to look at food, pick it up and put in mouth
  • Loss of tongue thrust and therefore able to move food to the back of the mouth and swallow
  • Shows satiety (fullness) by moving head away
  • Shows an interest in food

It’s important to remember at this stage that when baby starts to eat, the food is less about sustenance and more about exploration and exposure. Milk has all the nutrition and hunger bases covered. Gone are the days of delaying certain allergens (like fish or peanuts), with current guidelines these foods be introduced early and often.

A preference for sweet tastes is built-in. It has evolved to drive food intake and avoid poisons (which are usually bitter). Unfortunately, this sweet taste preference may very easily lead to overconsumption. In humans, the more sweet foods we eat, the more we want. So, the key here is to limit your baby’s exposure to sweet foods (especially in the early stages) and focus on a wide variety of minimally processed foods such as vegetables and meats.

8-12 months

This is definitely the ‘getting the hang of things’ phase. The consistency of the food you feed your little one should progress from a comfortable puree from about six months to soft finger foods at six to eight months and eventually mashed or slightly modified family foods at 12 months. Texture progression is so important because a window exists (before 10 months of age) where the introduction of different textures may help prevent feeding difficulties later on. Less feeding difficulties means better food acceptance, a varied diet and ultimately sets baby up for great health!

Milk, while still important at this time, slowly starts to take a back seat as food variety and volume increases with age. Continued breastfeeding until one year is encouraged (for maximal benefits for mom and baby) and if you are not breastfeeding, then formula milk will be the main milk sources. Breastfeeding can then continue for two years and beyond, as long as you are both still enjoying it.

12-24 months

During this time, you will have an actively growing baby who is discovering the world and developing at lightning speed! Progressing to family foods, means that you should all, more or less, be eating the same things. As baby’s little stomach has limited capacity, you want to try to feed small but frequent meals that are both nutrient and energy dense. During this time, food habits are formed based on what they see you and the rest of the family do. This is when you want to foster mindful eating with minimal distractions and encourage a relaxed, family-style way of eating to assist with continued exploration of new foods, flavors and textures. 

What you eat, what your baby eats (and how they eat it), will have a lasting effect on their long term health. Focus your attention on variety. Variety of flavors, nutrients and textures for the best outcomes. Avoid distraction, eat together and savour this precious time with your little one.

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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