The first 1 000 days of a baby’s life shapes their future. | First 1000 days

The first 1 000 days of a baby’s life shapes their future.

What is the First 1 000 Days?

This is the period from conception until a child’s 2nd birthday, which offers a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures.

What are the important aspects?

The correct diet (and nurturing environment for both mother and baby), building a bond with the parent or caregiver in a safe and loving environment as well as regular, stimulating play are crucial aspects of healthy child development.

Why is this time period so important?

Research shows that children who benefit from essential First 1 000 Day outcomes, can earn up to 20% more as adults versus their counterparts; and are more likely to have healthy families themselves. Most brain development happens during pregnancy and after birth. Neural pathways are strengthened during the First 1000 days period through play and stimulation, creating a safe and loving environment for children and good nutrition.

Does this mean I should be thinking about my life choices and health before I become pregnant?

Yes, absolutely.

The right decisions about nutrition, the environment, safety and support for the pregnant mother play a key role in determining baby’s future happiness and success.

Who can help?

It makes a big difference when babies have one consistent caregiver taking care of them. Dads can also play a crucial part.


Nutrition, nurturing and a healthy environment are key to the first 1 000 days of a child’s life.

Good nutrition is essential to ensure you are healthy during pregnancy, and that your baby is born with a strong body and smart brain. During pregnancy, babies draw all of their nutrients from their mother. If mom lacks key nutrients, so will her baby, putting the child’s future health and development at risk. Refer to pages 4 – 7 in the Road-to Health Booklet for essential nutritional messages.

Breast milk is super food for babies. Aim to breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months. Breast milk protects your baby’s immune system and provides perfect nutrition. It also develops a loving bond between mom and baby.

Nutrients are an essential complement to breast milk to ensure healthy growth and brain development. This is a time of physical growth, and the brain also develops rapidly. Babies need good food, protection, love and play to grow well.


A good environment in the first 1 000 days of a child’s life includes loving care and a nurturing, safe space free from stress and harmful substances.

When you decide to have a baby, think about your child’s care. Loving parents and an attentive, consistent caregiver can be a good team to ensure the best first 1 000 days.

Take care of your health and well-being, and get support from your partner, family and friends. Your baby wants to see, touch and smell you. Smile, talk and sing, and make frequent eye contact. Also hold your baby close to bond and help them feel safe and loved. Avoid situations where there is smoking, drinking and a chance for violence because it can interfere with the baby’s development.

Check for the following at home and at the child’s care centre:

  • A care plan for sick children.
  • Enough space, ventilation and light.
  • Safe drinking water.
  • Clean toilet facilities.
  • A clean area for food preparation and the safe storage of anything that could be harmful to children.

It’s important to set the scene for your baby to learn. The key is to provide mental, emotional and physical support so they feel secure and loved.

  • Here are some special tips:
    Encourage eye contact and talk about everything you see with your child.
  • Play peek-a-boo and sign nursery rhymes.
  • Allow your toddler to explore a safe environment – curiosity is an important part of learning.
  • Allow time and opportunity for free play.
  • Establish a daily routine and be consistent.
  • Make sure your child’s muscles get lots of exercise by playing with him/her.
  • Allow playtime with other children.
  • Smile, praise, and hug your child every day.
  • Consult with your doctor if your little one suffers from regular ear infections or a runny nose.
  • Consult your local clinic or doctor if you have any concerns regarding your child’s development.

Refer to page 22 in the Road-to Health Booklet for essential information on Love, play, and talk for healthy development.