You’ve always known about the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet. It’s not quite as easy to grasp just how important it really is unless you pause to ponder on its impact on your children’s health.
Nutrition is one of the three main factors that impact early development. Early nutrition is said to be a crucial factor of long-term health. Your children’s diet has a deep effect on all aspects of their growth and development.
The other two factors are genes and environment. All three have a very strong influence on your children’s future health and academic performance.
It Starts Before Birth
No matter your stance on the beginning point of life, studies have found that the early years nutrition include those months before they were born. This critical stage pertains to the first 1,000 days – 270 days in the womb, plus the first two years after birth.
Babies’ nourishment in the womb profoundly influences whether they are going to grow and develop normally. When the mother is undernourished, the unborn baby’s growth and development is stunted, which may result in irreversible chronic illnesses and conditions.
Child nutrition advisors cannot emphasize enough the importance of consuming all the nutrients that are required in the early years. The benefits of good nutrition are easy to assume. Babies grow and develop on point and eventually become healthy and smart people.
Meanwhile, the damage of poor nutrition isn’t always easy to register. When the red flags begin to show themselves, people aren’t always quick to point the finger at diet deficiencies.
Consequences of Undernourishment
What can go wrong when babies don’t get the nutrients their bodies require?
1. Weaker Immunity
When babies don’t get the nutrients they need from the milk they consume, their natural ability to fight infection is compromised. They’re more susceptible to ear infection, diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, etc.
2. Iron Deficiency Issues
Iron is a particularly essential mineral since it is a vital brain tissue component. In and out of the womb, babies should be getting enough iron. When they don’t, the following are the potential effects:
- Their nerve impulses may be slower.
- They may actually incur permanent damage to their brains.
- There may be behavioral irregularities.
- Their psychomotor development may be delayed.
3. Decreased Social and Cognitive Function
Poor nutrition lowers activity levels as well as negatively impacts social and cognitive abilities. High energy levels may be something that many parents of young children complain about, but that’s the norm and preference compared to decreased levels of activity.
What your children eat when they’re babies have long-lasting impact on their lives. This is why it’s important to give them the most nourishing milk and the best baby food available to you. The effects are usually most noticeable when they start school.
In what manner do these effects manifest? According to research findings, breastfeeding seems to lead to higher IQ. Meanwhile, those who didn’t get enough iron seem to perform at reduced cognitive capacity and consequently do not number among high achievers. Those who were undernourished as babies also tended to be sicklier, thus missing a lot of school days and having a more difficult time catching up to their peers.
There are certain nutrients that seem to be harder to adequately provide, hence the resulting deficiencies. For expecting moms, the following are the nutrients that many tend to not get enough of and pass on to their babies: calcium, iron, folic acid, and vitamin D. This is why it’s imperative to take prenatal vitamins and follow a nutritious diet.
When it comes to babies, vitamin D is usually a problem, especially among exclusively breastfed infants since there’s no vitamin D in breastmilk. This can be remedied with supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency and rickets may also be a higher risk among babies living in places with very little sunlight since most vitamin D is made on the skin when exposed to the sun.
Iron can often be a problem as well. In fact, older babies and toddlers are a high risk for iron deficiency anemia, which is why pediatricians typically prescribe supplementation for breastfed babies starting on solids. Milk formulations are often already fortified with iron, but the mineral is usually present in very low levels in breastmilk.
Food and Well-being
From the get-go, babies instinctively realize that nourishment is key to their survival. With the right intake of essential nutrients, you can optimize your children’s growth and development.