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Baby boom prompts advice on First 1,000 Days

Baby boom prompts advice on First 1,000 Days

September is officially the baby arrival month, with more children born in September than any other month and 30th September the most common birth date in New Zealand[1].

Around 60,000 New Zealanders are born every year and the Early Life Nutrition Coalition is highlighting that the first years of life provide a critical window of opportunity to shape a child’s long-term health.

ELN Coalition spokesperson Associate Professor Clare Wall of Auckland University says, ‘While many new, and soon-to-be, parents are focussed on installing baby capsules, assembling flat-pack furniture and preparing for late-night nappy changes, they also need to keep in mind the important link between nutrition and long-term health.

‘Fortunately, unlike the directions that come with flat-pack furniture, getting nutrition right in the First 1,000 Days – from conception through to toddlerhood – is straight forward and easy to follow.

‘There is a growing body of evidence that diet and lifestyle factors in this period are key to reducing a child’s risk of developing obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and allergy in later life.’

According to the Early Life Nutrition Coalition, to maximise nutritional intake, pregnant women and women who are breast feeding should be advised to incorporate a balanced combination of the key food groups into their diets, including:
• Proteins – a source of lean protein should be eaten every day, this includes poultry (without the skin), meat, fish, beans and tofu
• Carbohydrates – foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes provide a good source of energy and fibre, wholemeal sources are less processed and provide more nutritional content
• Dairy – foods such as cheese, yoghurt and milk are a good source of calcium
• Fruits and vegetables – these foods are a vital source of vitamins and nutrients
• Avoiding too many foods with high levels of saturated fat, sugar or salt.

Clare Wall highlights that when it comes to introducing solids, there remains considerable confusion in the community. ‘In large part this confusion can be attributed to the significant change in recommendations in recent years,’ she says.

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, introducing solid foods at around six months is necessary to meet the infant’s increasing nutritional and developmental needs. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommends introducing solids when the infant is ready, at around six months, but not before four months, this includes introducing a variety of solid foods, starting with iron rich foods, while continuing breastfeeding. The ASCIA guidelines recommend all infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. This includes infants at high risk of allergy.

When it comes to introducing solids, the Coalition recommends:
• Around 6 months of age, foods should be smooth and easy to swallow. These include iron-rich baby cereal mixed with either breast milk, formula or water; cooked and pureed vegetables such as pumpkin, potato, sweet potato or zucchini; and cooked pureed liver and meat. Iron dense foods are particularly important, as without additional iron infants run a greater risk of developing iron deficiency, anaemia or even permanent IQ damage.
• From six-to-eight months, children should progress to lumpier textures. Food options during this period could include pureed or mashed vegetables, legumes, pasta and fruits, minced or finely shredded cooked meat and fish, cereals, wholegrains and porridge.
• From eight-to-twelve months, parents should start introducing finger foods. Unsweetened, full-fat yogurt can be given to infants during this period, but cow’s milk should not be introduced before the first birthday.
• From twelve months onwards, babies can enjoy all family foods, excluding low-fat dairy and choking hazards such as whole nuts. Honey, cow’s milk, goat’s milk and soy milk can also be introduced from twelve months.

The Coalition supports the recommendation of introducing known allergens to babies, including those with a high allergen risk, in the first 12 months, but not before four months of age. Another key aspect in infant nutrition is the importance of breast feeding.

Clare Wall adds ‘Breast feeding for as long as possible is also very important, there is a great deal of evidence that exclusive breast feeding to around six months of age, if possible, and then continued “any” breast feeding for even longer is associated with a number of important health benefits to both the baby and the mother.’

About the Early Life Nutrition Coalition
The Early Life Nutrition Coalition is a formal sub-committee of the Perinatal Society of Australia & New Zealand and its membership comprises: Australian Diabetes Educators Association; Australian Diabetes Society; Caring and Living as Neighbours; The Children’s Nutrition Research Centre, University of Queensland; Nutricia Early Life Nutrition; Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Society; Dietitians Association of Australia; The Liggins Institute; Menzies Institute for Medical Research; Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Pharmaceutical Society of Australia; United Way Australia; and the University of Auckland.


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