The ‘First thousand days’ for any child is the time period between when a child is conceived till his or her 2nd birthday. This includes the time of pregnancy and the first 2 years of a child’s life.
It is the period of rapid growth both of the body and the brain. It is the time of tremendous potential but also a time of enormous vulnerability because if things are not properly managed, it can lead to long term consequences. This period offers us a unique window of opportunity to have healthier babies and a healthier nation.
There are many aspects to it, and nutrition, in particular, has a tremendous role. So, a lady’s nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and baby’s nutrition in the first 2 years determine a baby’s health status, and in turn, the nation’s growth and prosperity, if we look at the bigger picture.
A very smart investment for every nation thus will be investing in the health and nutrition of women (especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding), in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and correct complementary feeding practices for babies.
Any nation failing to invest in these will fare poorly!
Data from across the world shows that every 1 dollar invested in improving the nutrition of mothers and children gives a return of 35 dollars.
Our work is cut out for us, we need to invest in maternal and child nutrition. Good nutrition is when our body gets what it needs, in the amount it needs, for optimal growth, development and immunity.
The optimum nutrition for a baby in the first 6 months of life is his or her own mother’s milk and nothing else. There is a very simple logic behind it, that mother’s milk contains all nutrients required for the baby till 6 months in adequate amounts.
A newborn baby has yet to develop its own immunity (they are born with some immunity which they gain from their mother during the pregnancy and later with immediate skin to skin contact), so till the time the baby acquires good levels of immunity, mother’s milk provides immunity to the baby too (and continues to provide it till the time the baby continues breastfeeding).
Breastfeeding not only provides appropriate nutrition for the rapidly growing brain and body, but it also provides the baby with immunity and the most magical thing about it is that this immunity is dynamic, i.e. it changes based on the baby’s requirement on a second to the second basis, at no extra cost.
Nature has made a beautiful, sophisticated and hi-tech system. So, when a mother catches an infection, she secretes substances (antibodies) protective against that infection in her milk. Not only this, if her baby catches any infection, the baby’s saliva communicates with the mother’s breasts and mother’s breasts start producing protective substances (antibodies) in breastmilk which help babies fight that infection
After the baby is 6 months, a baby’s requirement increases and complementary foods are added to the baby’s diet, along with continued breastfeeding. The WHO recommends that a baby should be breastfed (along with appropriate complementary foods) till a minimum of 2 years of age.
This is so relevant and crucial in these times of COVID-19 pandemic. The researches tell us that Coronavirus does not get transmitted via breastmilk and COVID positive mothers secrete protective antibodies in their breastmilk!!
Sadly, the data coming from across the country shows a decline in our breastfeeding rates and the two chief reasons behind these are, myths and stigma associated with Coronavirus infection and lack of preparedness.
The good news is that it is remediable. All we need to do is create awareness about the Universal (WHO, UNICEF, BPNI, Association of Lactation Professionals India, ILCA, CDC) recommendations about immediate skin to skin contact and breastfeeding by the mother irrespective of her COVID status.
I understand that this is the role of government and the health care system but individuals can also play a big role. They need to take care of themselves in pregnancy, acquire breastfeeding knowledge by reading or attending ‘Breastfeeding Preparation’ classes, talk to their doctor about breastfeeding and seek the help of a skilled ‘Lactation Professional’ at the earliest if they face any challenges while breastfeeding.
To cut a long story short, breastfed babies and mothers are healthier and have better immune status. Breastfeeding is protective and recommended even if the mother is COVID positive.
Like we prepare for war by collecting ammunition and making strategies to keep our defense system strong and impenetrable, to fight disease pandemics like this COVID-19, we need to collect knowledge, build up our immunities from the initial days and have a plan of action for a healthier society.
About the Author: Dr. Shacchhee Baweja is the lactation consultant, pediatric, with BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
Leaving No One Behind
Delhi’s Northwest District Launches 4-Day COVID Vaccination Drive For Transgender People
Activists say misinformation, lack of proper documents and digital divide are to be blamed for the low vaccination coverage in...
5.22 Per Cent Transgender Persons Vaccinated Till Now; Activists Say Misinformation, Lack Of Digital Knowledge Adding To Their Problems
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also requested states to organise separate mobile COVID-19 vaccination centres or booths...
Discrimination And Barriers Make Access To Quality Healthcare A Challenge For Many Transgenders
Transgender individuals have specific healthcare needs; however, they face multiple obstacles to accessing quality health care ranging from social stigma...
Uttar Pradesh’s First Transgender-Only Toilet Built In Varanasi
According to an official at the municipal corporation of Varanasi, the operation and maintenance of the toilet complex has been...
Mental Health Explained: What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the event: CDC, United States
How Can Parents Support Children Dealing With Mental Health Issues Like Anxiety And Depression
Remember, a change in a child’s behaviour like mood swings and angry outbursts is an indication of inner turmoil, said...
Upward Trend In Suicide Cases: How Can You Identify Red Signals In Time?
Studies show that suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-29 year old in India. What compels young adults...
Each COVID-19 Surge Poses A Risk For Healthcare Workers: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The surging Delta variant is heaping on fresh trauma as the United States and other nations begin to study Post-Traumatic...
Depression Can Be Classified As Serious Illness In Context Of COVID-19 Pandemic: Gujarat High Court
The Gujarat High Court set aside the cancellation of registration and admission of an engineering student by a government college...
Opinion: Climate Change Is A Healthcare Emergency
Injuries and deaths due to extreme weather events are likely to increase manifolds as a result of climate change
Promises Of Climate Finance, Low-Cost Tech Transfer To Developing Nations Must Be Fulfilled: India
According to Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, climate justice requires that the promises of climate finance and low-cost technology transfer...
U.N. Says World Likely To Miss Climate Targets Despite COVID Pause In Emissions
There is now a 40 per cent chance that the average global temperature in one of the next five years...
Make The Choices That Help Make A Difference, John Kerry, Special US Envoy On Climate Change Crisis
In an exclusive interview with NDTV, US climate envoy John Kerry talks about climate change emergency