Breastfeeding and the First 1000 Days: the foundation of life

Breastfeeding and the First 1000 Days: the foundation of life

Breastfeeding: The Foundation of Life

The First 1000 Days of Life (from conception to the age of two years) are a critical window in a baby’s development. The 1000 Days concept was first widely used by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, and there are currently numerous campaigns building on that theme.*

There is currently an inquiry into the First 1000 Days by the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Health and Social Care. This blog brings together a few of the key concepts and resources on the importance of breastfeeding during the First 1000 days.

A joint supplement on the importance of breastfeeding in the first 1001 Days was produced by the UK breastfeeding organisations in 2015, which summarises much of the evidence.

A focused briefing on the the role of breastfeeding on infant brain growth and emotional development can be found here.

 

Breastfeeding: cornerstone of the First 1000 Days

Human babies are born extremely immature compared to other mammals; they are completely dependent on their mothers for milk, comfort and warmth.

  • “A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.” ~ Grantly Dick-Read

Scientific research has continued to underscore the vital role that breastfeeding and breastmilk play in the development of the human infant. See our WBTi blog series for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, from 31st July – 7th August 2018 for a review of the myriad ways that breastfeeding influences human development.

 

Breastfeeding: more than just food

This is the title of a series of blogs by Dr Jenny Thomas which focuses on some of the ways that breastfeeding contributes to immune development and more. Beyond physical health and development, however, breastfeeding also plays a key role in the healthy mental and emotional development of the infant. Breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition for the first months and years of life, alongside suitable complementary food after six months, but it also supports the development of the child’s immune system and protects against a number of non-communicable diseases in later life as well.

The World Health Organization commissioned high level reviews on a range of health and cognitive outcomes which were published in a special issue of Acta Paediatrica in 2015; these formed the foundation of the Lancet Series on Breastfeeding  which was published in 2016.

 

The impact of breastfeeding on maternal and infant mental health and wellbeing.

Breastfeeding can help strengthen mother and baby’s resilience against adversity, and can protect infants even when their mothers suffer from postnatal depression. It supports optimal brain growth and cognitive development. Unfortunately, if mothers don’t receive the support they need with breastfeeding, this can significantly increase their risk of postnatal depression. A summary of evidence can be found here.

The role of breastfeeding in protecting maternal and infant mental health is often poorly understood – mothers who are struggling need skilled support to resolve breastfeeding problems if they wish to continue breastfeeding

 

What does the future hold?

It is essential that policy makers, commissioners, and researchers understand the evidence and importance of breastfeeding, so that women who want to breastfeed get any support they need. The WBTI report outlines major policies and programmes that national infant feeding strategies need to include; other research on the psychological and cultural influences on mothers’ infant feeding decisions will help policy makers to develop sensitive and sound policies and programmes to support all families.

In the end, it will be essential that families themselves are heard, in order to create the support systems that our society needs.

 

 

*Unfortunately a number of infant milk and baby food companies have jumped on the “1000 Days” bandwagon too, despite the fact that breastfeeding is the centrepiece of the original 1000 Days concept, and replacing breastmilk with formula or baby food actually removes that fundamental building block from a baby’s development.

 

 

 

Helen Gray IBCLC photoHelen Gray MPhil IBCLC is Joint Coordinator of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) UK Working Group. She is on the national committee of Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, and is also an accredited La Leche League Leader. She is a founding member of National Maternity Voices. She represents LLLGB on the UK Baby Feeding Law Group, and serves on the La Leche League International special committee on the International Code.

The Code: Protecting ALL babies

The Code: Protecting ALL babies

Protecting babies from commercial pressures –

WBTi Indicator 3

#WBTi3

#ProtectAllBabies

Babies are vulnerable, so it’s crucial that decisions about how they are fed are made objectively, not influenced by advertising or other marketing ploys such as price reductions. Also, babies have a single source of nourishment – milk – in the first few months so it’s essential it’s of high quality. For breastfed babies, the mother’s body ensures quality, tailored to her baby’s needs. For infant formula you’d expect regular independent testing to ensure quality. But such testing very rarely happens!

 

To address this, Alison Thewliss MP introduced her Feeding Products for Babies and Children (Advertising and Promotion) Bill to Parliament in November 2016. The aim of the Bill is to set standards for infant feeding products aimed at babies and children up to 36 months, and their marketing, with penalties for advertisers and promoters who do not meet the standards.

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/feedingproductsforbabiesandchildrenadvertisingandpromotion.html

 

The 2nd reading of the bill is timetabled for 24 March. If this Bill is to progress MPs need to support it. That means they need to understand the damage infant formula marketing can do, by influencing and thus restricting choice, especially when promotion is misleading and labelling confusing. Will your MP support the Bill?

 

Concurrently, Baby Milk Action is producing a detailed UK monitoring report to show that the formula industry needs to be regulated better to protect babies fed on formula. It includes profiles of the relevant companies, an explanation of the International Code and Resolutions, analysis of changes needed in the UK Law and a summary. It’s therefore a valuable source of evidence.

http://www.babymilkaction.org/monitoringuk17

Further information about the composition of formula milks, ingredient claims and costs are available from the charity First Steps Nutrition: http://www.firststepsnutrition.org/newpages/Infant_Milks/infant_milks.html

WBTi report gaps and recommendations for the UK
Indicator 3: Implementation of the International Code

WBTi 3 GapsRecs

These actions work towards implementing recommendations of Indicator 3 of the WBTi report, recommendations which include full implementation of the Code and Resolutions and coordinated enforcement. These changes would help to protect both babies fed on formula and breastfed babies, improving public health.

https://ukbreastfeedingtrends.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/wbti-uk-report-2016-part-1-14-2-17.pdf

 

 

What you can do

  1. 1. Ask your MP to attend the 2nd reading of the Bill on 24th March. http://www.babymilkaction.org/archives/12254

  2. Raise awareness of the monitoring report as evidence for the need for better formula industry regulation.  http://www.babymilkaction.org/monitoringuk17