Nutrition matters! Good nutrition has short and long-term health benefits. But maternal nutrition matters even more because it affects our future generation’s immediate and lifelong health. We are nourishing our future leaders, teachers, doctors and doers.
USA Falling Short with Maternal & Infant Nutrition
According to the Global Nutrition report (2021), the United States of America is 'on course' to meet only 3 of 10 targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition. And these three targets relate to the number of children under five who are stunted, wasted or overweight. No progress has been made towards achieving the target of reducing anaemia among women of childbearing age, with 11.8% of women aged being affected. There has also been no progress towards achieving the low birth weight target, with 8.0% of infants having a low weight at birth. When it comes to exclusive breastfeeding, some progress has been made to achieve the target, but still only 34.7% of infants aged 0 to 5 months are exclusively breastfed. All of these may affect future health outcomes and we need to do better.1
Risk of Anaemia
Anaemia is associated with poor work performance, which may influence economic development. In pregnant women specifically, iron deficiency anemia is associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight infants and decreased iron stores for her baby. Decreased iron stores during infancy may lead to poor cognitive development.2
Achieving Optimal Health
Iron is not the only nutrient that matters. For example, maternal nutrition during breastfeeding can affect the breastmilk quantity of some nutrients such as vitamin A; some water-soluble vitamins including vitamin B6, B12 and folate; iodine; selenium and some fatty acids.3 And all of these are essential for optimal health and development.
Our nutritional status during early life could shape our response and reaction to stress later on in life.4 This includes the nutrition we received as fetuses and whilst being breastfed.
Science shows that life is a story for which the beginning sets the tone.
When children miss out on good nutrition, they pay the price in lost potential. They may die before they have a chance to grow up, or they may grow up with poor physical and mental health. And because of this they may struggle to learn and, later, to earn a living. Failing to give children the best start in life perpetuates cycles and we all pay the price.5
That is why maternal nutrition matters as it affects a child from conception onwards. Adequate maternal nutrition saves lives and our future!
- Global Nutrition Report. 2021. [Online]. Available from: https://globalnutritionreport.org/resources/nutrition-profiles/north-america/northern-america/united-states-america/. [Accessed 6 February 2022].
- World Health Organization. 2021. WHO Global Anaemia estimates, 2021 Edition. [Online]. Available from: Anaemia in women and children (who.int). [Accessed 6 February 2022].
- Innis, S.M. 2014. Impact of maternal diet on human milk composition and neurological development of infants. Am J Clin Nutr. 99(3):734S-41S.
- Bekdash, R.A. 2021. Early Life Nutrition and Mental Health: The Role of DNA Methylation. Nutrients. 13:3111. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/nu13093111.
- UNICEF. 2021. Early childhood development.[Online]. Available from: Early childhood development | UNICEF [Accessed 7 February 2022].