First 1,000 Days: Why What Your Baby + Toddler Eats Matters by Yumi
As a new mama or mama-to-be, there’s one important number that you should always keep in mind: 1,000
No, it’s not the number of diapers you’ll have to change, or the number of hours of sleep you’ll lose with a newborn – (let’s be real, those numbers are probably higher). Instead, it’s the first 1,000 days of your baby’s life, from the moment of conception to age 2. Scientists have identified this period as the most important time for nutrition and development. We used to think that kids are resilient - they’ll be just fine, they have a whole lifetime to worry about their diet. It’s us as adults that have to worry about what we eat.
Well, it turns out that’s not exactly true.
What your child eats during their first 1,000 days of life, impacts their health in the future. It turns out nutrition is laying the groundwork for their physiological and neural circuitry.
With the majority of brain growth occurring during the first 2 years of life, it’s no wonder nutrition is so critical. Without sufficient vitamins and minerals to support the brain (we’re talking adequate iron, folate, choline, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and more), the brain won’t thrive in the way it will in an adequately nourished infant. Nutrition also affects the growth and development of your babe’s eyes, bones, muscles, skin & more.
So, what does that mean for you and your baby, as they transition off of breast milk/formula and begin eating solids?
Think of your baby’s belly as a tiny gas tank. As the parent, you can decide what fills that tank, but it can only hold so much. Your baby may love apple puree, but if you only give them apple sauce, you’re only filling the tank with vitamin C, potassium, a little bit of fiber and a lot of fructose. Unfortunately, a lot of the options at the grocery store are heavily weighted to apple and pear puree. Be sure to read the back of the jars and squeeze pouches, to make sure that they’re not just fruit bombs. Just because it says kale in big, bubbly letters on the front, doesn’t mean that’s only kale, kale may be the 5th or 6th ingredient down. And while pouches are convenient from time to time, you want to avoid using them on a regular basis. Experts from The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry warn, “the constant exposure of sugar on their teeth is detrimental” (Fulton). And from a nutritional perspective, high fructose exposure during early development increases the risk of obesity by 2X (Hu). This is why kids below the age of 1 are not supposed to have juice, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
So what should you fill that little tank with?
Veggies for the win. As a parent, you have the ability to control what foods your baby tries first. Instead of going for something sweet, like pureed apples, right off the bat, go for more savory things such as broccoli, carrots, and zucchini. Your baby develops their preference for sweets from an early age, so it’s important to expose them to more than just fruit. Even if you don’t love a certain vegetable, try not to project – your babe might love it.
The power of variety. You should also introduce them to a variety of vegetables, legumes, and fruits. You can also incorporate exciting notes, like basil and cumin, coriander, etc. The more flavors your baby is exposed to early on, the less likely they are to turn into picky eaters down the road. So do yourself and your baby a favor - provide them with variety. Remember, it can take a dozen or more tries for a baby to acclimate to a new flavor. Persistence pays off here.
Fresh is best. When introducing solids to your baby, try to give them food that is as fresh as possible. Unfortunately most of the options at the grocery store are older than your baby and have been processed at very high temperatures to be stable for up to two years.
Use utensils and hands. You want your baby to learn that eating from a utensil (aka not a squeeze pouch) is best. So, let them use their hands! Will it be messy? No doubt. But getting messy at mealtime is an important sensory experience, as it allows your baby to become familiar with the different textures and feels of foods.
Yumi makes it easier to feed your baby fresh, delicious, nutrient-dense food. Recognizing the importance of nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, Yumi’s intelligently designed blends provide balanced meals to support babies’ neurological and physical development at every age and stage. Founded by former private equity executive Angela Sutherland, and former Wall Street Journal reporter Evelyn Rusli, Yumi offers both single-ingredient purees, as well as its signature blends in over 50 flavors. To ensure maximum nutrition AND flavor in every spoonful, Yumi has an in-house team of experts that includes holistic nutritionists, plant based chefs, doulas, doctors and more. Since its launch in 2017, Yumi has emerged as a leader in early childhood nutrition, with coverage in CNN, goop, Vogue, WSJ, Food & Wine, Business Insider, Fortune, and Forbes.