Smart starts: Your child’s first 1,000 days

Carol RH Malasig

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Regarding the most crucial period in developing a child's brain and immune system

RAISING SMARTER KIDS. Cultivating your child's brain starts in the womb

MANILA, Philippines – The first 1,000 days of a child’s life can actually be reflective of how healthy he will be for the rest of his life and how well he will do in school.

Health experts — among them, Dr. Mario Capanzana, director of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute — say that the time spent in a mother’s womb up to a child’s second birthday is the most critical period for his development.

During this 1,000-day period, a child develops his immune and neurological systems. He will need adequate nutritional support to fight disease, build brain power, and establish important functions such as seeing and hearing.

READ: Survey: Pregnant mothers nutritionally-at-risk

The brain and its cognitive functions expand quickly during the first 1,000 days. The child will be able to learn quickly if provided with the right nutrients that will help his brain develop.

OPTIMAL NUTRITION. Dr. Hua explains the benefits of diet and thorough child care 

DSM Nutrition Science and Advocacy Manager Dr. Jing Hua swears by a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich diet.

“It is important for parents and health professionals to invest time and effort in ensuring optimal nutrition for children in the earliest years of life,” she said.

“Targeted nutrition supports major physiological, psychological, immunological, and cognitive developmental processes that will have an impact on a child’s ability to achieve his potential.”

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid most commonly associated with milk. It is a primary structural component of the brain, skin, and eye’s retina.

An Oxford University study known as the Docosahexaenoic Acid Oxford Learning and Behavioral Trial has linked low DHA levels to decreased reading ability and memory performance in children. 

Dr. Hua adds that increased intake of DHA can even show significant improvement in a child’s cognitive skills within as little as 4 months.

Here are some sources of DHA:

  • Breast milk and infant formula
  • Salmon
  • Algae
  • Tuna (Blue fin)
  • Caviar
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Fish roe
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel

READ: Make breastfeeding work for you

Starting and maintaining a healthy diet early on can benefit a child for the rest of his life.

Dr. Hua says children and adults who may have failed in providing their bodies with the proper nutrients may not see the effects now, but in 20 to 30 years, this deficiency can cause chronic diseases like cancer.

Aside from DHA, Dr. Hua says a steady intake of Vitamins A, C, D, and E are also important, especially in the first 1,000 days.

She says enough supply of vitamins and DHA will give the child a good head start for a healthy lifestyle. –

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