It’s estimated that on any given day, 30 percent of American preschoolers don’t eat a single vegetable, yet they all consume a sweetened snack and beverage. Because bad habits start early (just ask what remains of your fingernails), the 1,000 Days organization hopes to improve the nutrition of kids during the most critical for their development: from pregnancy to their second birthday, or, you guessed it, their first 1,000 days.
The nonprofit and advocacy group has released a massive report that reveals how poor nutrition can impact your kid during this time — not only by denying them the nutrients needed for cognitive development but indirectly through “toxic stress” resulting from food insecurity. Despite the World Health Organization’s and American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations to feed infants breastmilk their first 6 months, only 22 percent of them are. One in five babies in the U.S. are never breastfed at all, and it wasn’t because their dads were jealous. It was because of a lack of support for breastfeeding mothers, such as access to paid leave, 2 little words you’re all too familiar with at this point.
By the time babies become toddlers, many of them have diets comparable to adults, and not just because everyone agrees Cheddar Bunnies are delicious. The most popular “vegetable” among American toddlers is french fries, suggesting that many kids don’t know the difference between Old MacDonald’s farmers’ market and … old McDonald’s. It could also be why 25 percent of toddlers do not receive their recommended iron allowance, a key brain-building nutrient, and 10 percent are showing signs of obesity by the time they turn 2.
The report looks beyond your tiny human’s health and raises alarms about your partner who’s carrying them as well. They found that nearly half of pregnant women experience an excessive amount of weight gain (not that you’ve noticed), contributing to the U.S. having one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. For the mothers who survive childbirth, 54 percent of them are then fed mixed messages about what to feed their baby.
Unfortunately, the report made no mention of the role of dads in these 1,000 days, but knowing the risks, you can conclude your work is cut out for you. Still, there’s hope for your kid, who has plenty to gain by closing these gaps. According to the organization, fixing this 1,000 day problem would do more than insure healthier development among individual infants. It could reduce disparities in health, education, and earning potential, boost the country’s GDP up to 12 percent (every dollar invested in the effort yields a return of $48 in better health and economic productivity), and save more than one million lives each year. Plus, those Pop Tarts won’t taste nearly as good now. You know too much.