Early life nutrition, why so important?

Good nutrition is important at every life stage, but perhaps never more so than during the first 1000 days – that is, from conception to the second birthday. Research has shown that the first 1000 days is a kind of golden window of opportunity, where the right nutrition is crucial for optimal growth and development. As this includes pregnancy, being at your best nutritional self during pregnancy could not be more important.

It’s also the period when the gut bacteria (also called the gut microbiota) is established, which is essential for immune function, gut health and all sorts of other knock on benefits.

Dr Joanna McMillan explains a little about the importance of The First 1000 Days.

We’re learning that the beneficial gut bacteria need the right kind of nutrition – called Prebiotics – to flourish. If the right nutrition is not available, then both the composition and activities of these microbes can be affected. That’s one of the reasons good nutrition during the first 1000 days is so important and evolving evidence highlights that good nutrition includes Prebiotics and Probiotics.

Before conception

What happens during this window has the potential to affect lifelong health and risk of chronic disease, brain development with effects on IQ and behaviour, and the ‘setting’ if you like of the body computer that controls all aspects of metabolism.

Before Conception

0-12 Months

Breastfeeding is optimal and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends exclusively breastfed until around 6 months, at which point solid foods should be introduced. When breastfeeding is not possible or is combined with bottle feeding, infant formula is the required food for babies.


1-3 Years

By 12 months, infants should be learning to enjoy a varied diet, to ensure they get all the nutrients they need and so that they can develop the muscles and skills needed for chewing and eating. Milk continues to contribute significantly to their nutrition, providing important nutrients, especially calcium, but be sure to wean your little ones onto a rich and diverse diet, filled with different colour, texture and taste.

This booklet called The First 1000 Days – Nutrition Matters for Life Long Health, has been generously provided by the Early Life Nutrition Coalition.