Advocacy for the first 1000 days of nutrition
Supporting mother and baby in the critical first 1000 days of life. By working with other stakeholders, Nestlé is helping to lay the foundation for a healthier future for all.
A mother’s diet is crucial to her baby’s health
Good nutrition during pregnancy, including an intake of folic acid, contributes to good brain development and a healthy birth weight while reducing the chances of birth defects, according to a report by the World Health Organization (pdf, 90Kb). Following a good nutrition program requires that people are wellinformed and have the requisite information.
A mother’s diet is equally critical for the period when she is breastfeeding, both for her own health and that of her baby. Breast milk reflects the mother’s own dietary intake when it comes to some micronutrients such as vitamins A and D, iodine and selenium.
Ensuring adequate nutrition for vulnerable mothers can require input from governments, NGOs and the private sector. Fortification programs are an important element of maternal nutrition strategies. Fortification involves adding iron, vitamin A, iodine, vitamin D and zinc to affordable and accessible food in line with national guidelines. Nestlé collaborates with other stakeholders in nutrition education initiatives and in disseminating nutrition information to help mothers make informed nutrition choices.
A baby’s diet for the first six months
The World Health Organization says that babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. They should continue to breastfeed, alongside appropriate complementary foods, up to the age of two or beyond.
The multiple benefits of breastfeeding are established in this series of reports from the medical journal The Lancet. Key among them is protecting the newborn from gastrointestinal infections, as well as building up immunity and reducing the likelihood of obesity in the longer term.
Breastfeeding has also been found to benefit the mother, including a reduction in the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, as well as better mental health.
Despite the promotion of this message over many years, the statistics are disappointing. Globally, only three out of ten children were exclusively breastfed for six months between 2007 and 2014.
Significant interventions and collective action are needed to improve this low level of breastfeeding.
Despite the multitude of breastfeeding benefits, women today do not have the support they need to breastfeed, and face daily barriers in doing so.The Lancet, Breastfeeding Series, January 29, 2016
Legislative frameworks are needed regarding maternity protection, and workplaces and public spaces must be conducive to breastfeeding. Women also need more support and encouragement to breastfeed, both within the family and at a community and societal level. This should go hand in hand with increased financing and education, ensuring that all barriers and negative perceptions are broken down. Nestlé works with willing partners to collectively advocate for up to six months maternity leave and flexible working time.
When breastfeeding isn’t possible
Sometimes, a mother may not be able to breastfeed, or may choose not to. In that case, infant formula has a very important role to play, and is recognized as the only scientifically appropriate solution.
Every child has a right to good nutrition. Mothers who find that they cannot or choose not to breastfeed exclusively should also be supported, to ensure that their children have an opportunity to get the best possible nutrition.
The private sector has an important role to play in producing scientifically proven and life-saving formula when breastfeeding is not possible.
As a leader in this category, Nestlé is committed to marketing these replacement solutions responsibly and ethically.
A baby’s diet after six months
After six months, breast milk alone is insufficient to meet the nutritional needs of a growing child, and complementary food needs to be added. The World Health Organization describes this as a ‘vulnerable period’ and the time when malnutrition often begins.
A joint report (pdf, 3Mb) from leading global health bodies has found that about 155 million children under 5 were stunted in 2016. Stunting is the devastating result of poor nutrition in early childhood. These children may never grow to their full height or develop their full cognitive potential.
The same report found that 52 million children suffered from wasting in 2016. This means these children face an increased risk of death, as well as being susceptible to long-term developmental delays.
A joined-up approach
Urgent collective action should be taken by government, civil society organizations and the private sector to halt and reverse this trend. This will require the targeting of maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation; optimal breastfeeding or appropriate replacement when breastfeeding is not possible in the first two years of life; and nutritious food – fortified when necessary – in early childhood.
It is a goal that Nestlé is committed to, including advocating for country-specific legislation which takes into account country health indicators and barriers to optimal nutrition for mothers and children in the first 1000 days.