The Hard Truth About What & When We Feed Our Kids

baby brainThe nutrition a child receives during that crucial development period is so important that it can affect them for the rest of their entire lives. Recent studies, and many older ones, show that nutrition in the first 1,000 days of your child's life -- conception to the second birthday -- are some of the most important times during a child's development. A child's birth weight can dictate the likelihood of suffering from heart disease and heart attacks as a middle-aged adult.

We know diet is important during pregnancy -- without a decently balanced diet, the baby can have developmental issues, and mom's own body will suffer as well. But as soon as baby comes out, sometimes we shift to "it doesn't matter what baby is fed, as long as they're being fed." Honestly, we all know that's not quite true -- of course a child being fed is better than not, but what they eat when there are options matters a ton, too. And no, I don't just mean the choice to breastfeed or not.


These are "critical periods" in both a fetus and born and living baby's life, and certain brain connections have to be made in those windows for development. But they also need proper nutrition to fuel the amazing growth the brain makes in the first three years -- from 25 percent of adult size at birth, to 80 percent of adult size by their third birthday.

We often will say things like, "When they're teens, you'll never know who was breastfed, formula fed, started on solids with cereal at 2 weeks" and so on. But the thing is, we do know. Or scientists and doctors do, anyway. While the choice of what you ultimately feed your child is up to you as a parent, we need to stop kidding ourselves that it doesn't matter, because it does. Pretending it doesn't ends up creating generations that we have currently in middle age who were part of big "man-made is superior" movements that involved no breastfeeding and insanely early and often unhealthy solid food, who have astounding amounts of medical problems that we know are directly linked to diet and poor nutrition as a child.

According to the research as well, there's nothing our children can do to fix this either. When their body is making critical growth as a baby, if something gets damaged, no amount of veganism, biking, yoga, or healthy activity can fix that missed window.

I don't mean this as a guilt trip, I really don't, but as a wake-up call -- it does matter, and we can't afford to say it doesn't. We need to keep in mind that while starting solids can be fun, it's not worth the potential risks. Waiting a few months to allow your baby to get optimum nutrition from their breast milk or formula, and avoid medical problems decades down the road, is worth waiting just a couple more months to play airplane with a spoon.

Do you feel that nutrition during pregnancy and infancy sets the stage for the child's entire life? Or do you think it's a crock?

Image via Toca Boca/Flickr

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