In the last decade the insight regarding “The First 1000 days”, the time between conception and the second birthday of a child, suggests a large impact of early nutrition on healthy development of infants and possible diseases later in life1. Next to the focus on the macronutrients of infant nutrition, also specific bioactive components are investigated that are expected to be beneficial for the baby. On top of that personalised nutrition is getting more scientific attention in relation to growth & development, the immune system, digestion and microbiota of the baby.

Growth & Development

For newborns, healthy growth & development is the first priority. In the first two years, the body weight is multiplied by 4! To develop motor skills and grow rapidly in height and weight, the infant body needs the right building blocks. Balanced nutrition provides these building blocks.

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Immunity

The immune system is actually a cooperation between specific cells, organs, tissues, and proteins that defends the body against infections. At birth, the immune system is complete, but not yet mature. Optimally, breastfeeding gives the immune system of an infant the best start by providing bioactive proteins (e.g. antibodies against pathogens and growth factors that help the gut to mature) and prebiotic oligosaccharides that can stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut2. Thus, early nutrition plays an important role in immune maturation and establishment of a healthy gut microbiota3.

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Digestion

The digestive system of a newborn has a very important task. All the nutrients that are vital for healthy growth and development, need to be transported in the right way to the right place. All the topics described above depend on digestion. Since the digestive system of the newborn is immature, how can we provide nutrition to safeguard the optimum availability of all these nutrients? For one, we need to focus on good digestibility of all our ingredients.

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Brain development

The human brain continuously develops throughout life. However, the period of the fastest growth is in the last trimester of pregnancy and in the first two years of life. During the first 1000 days rapid growth is seen in number of braincells, increased complexity of the structures and growing number of connections in the brain4. In the first two years of life, the brain reaches approximately 80% of its adult size.

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