Health experts have identified the first 1000 days of a baby’s life as a vitally important period.1 What happens during this time can influence a baby’s long-term health. 

‘Programming’ which takes place during the first 1000 days from conception to 2 years – and impacts on the development of the endocrine and immune systems, and appetite – has a significant influence on long-term health outcomes.2

A baby’s nutrition during this period is an important factor in programming as it drives growth.

Protein is one of the most important nutrients for growth and the optimal rate of growth is that of a breastfed baby.3 Breast milk provides all the right nutrients – including protein – in the right quantities to support optimal growth. Breast milk also has a beneficial amino acid profile with low levels of the ‘insulinogenic’ amino acids thought to particularly drive growth.

The protein profile of breast milk supports a slower rate of growth than that seen in formula-fed infants. Accelerated growth during the early years is associated with negative long-term health outcomes such as increased risk of obesity.4

Therefore the choices that families make during the first 1000 days can have an influence on a baby’s long-term health. Ongoing research and debate continue into the important area of programming and ways in which a baby’s first 1000 days can be optimised to support the best possible long-term outcomes.

  1. United Nations System 2006. Standing Committee on Nutrition. Third World Urban Forum, Vancouver.
  2. Vickers MH. Nutrients 2014; 6: 2165–2178.
  3. WHO Multicentre Growth reference study Group. Acta paediatr suppl 2006; 450: 76–85.
  4. Singhal A, Lucas A. Lancet 2004; 363 (9421): 1642–5.
  5. Baird J et al. BMJ 2005; 331 (7522): 929.