For every child, early moments matter

New Unicef report highlights importance of first 1,000 days

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6 October 2017

“The early moments of life offer an unparalleled opportunity to build the brains of the children who will build the future.”

In this new report, Unicef highlights why investing in a child’s early moments is so crucial for their future health and wellbeing.

It explains that in the first years of life, neurons in our brain form new connections at the astounding rate of 700–1,000 per second – a pace never repeated again. These connections are the building blocks of a child’s future, and for them to develop properly children need to be nourished and nurtured from pregnancy right through the early weeks, months, years and beyond.

The report stresses the importance of developing close, loving parent-infant relationships for a baby’s wellbeing. Responding to their needs for love, touch and comfort help a baby to feel secure, triggering the love hormone oxytocin which supports brain development. Find out more in our Building a Happy Baby leaflet for parents.

It also highlights the vital role that nutrition plays in laying a strong foundation for a child’s brain and body, reiterating the importance of supporting mothers to exclusively breastfeed for six months and continue breastfeeding alongside complementary foods for two years and beyond. As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization notes, investment in breastfeeding support is crucial not only to help children survive, but also to help them thrive. Find out more about the importance of breastfeeding to both infant and maternal health.

Recognising the significance of the first 1,000 days on a child’s future, Unicef calls on governments to:

  1. Invest urgently in services that give young children, especially the most deprived, the best start in life.
  2. Expand access to effective and essential early childhood development services in homes, schools, communities and health clinics – including antenatal care and breastfeeding support.
  3. Make family-friendly early childhood development policies a national priority – and a private sector imperative – including breastfeeding support in the workplace.
  4. Collect data on essential indicators of early childhood development and track progress.
  5. Provide dedicated leadership for early childhood development programmes and coordinate efforts more effectively across sectors.
  6. Drive demand for high-quality early childhood development services.

Together, these actions will support all children to have the best possible start in live.

Read the full report.

Find out more

Call to Action on infant feeding in the UK

Read more

Building a Happy Baby: A Guide for Parents

Read more