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The first 1000 days of a child. how crucial are they to their lives?

From the very first moments of life, a child’s environment is crucial. This is what the government’s first 1000 days initiative and the recent documentary translated into a book remind us. But what could be so important at this pivotal time? Explanations:

The first movements in the womb, the first steps, the first words and many other feats. For about six months, the camera of the director Claire Lageny followed the first important stages of the child’s development. This unique experience is featured in his documentary The first 1000 days broadcast on France 5 on November 21 and is available in the book Where it all begins – The first 1000 days (1). We see people in the making developing under the caring gaze of their parents, whether they’re in a relationship or not, but also under the captivated eyes of four early childhood experts, including neuropsychologist Boris Kirulnik, the panel’s chair. National experts in the first 1000 days.

This period, which stretches from the fourth month of pregnancy, when the fetus begins to interact with its environment, until the child reaches the age of two, is crucial for the proper development of the baby, its future health, and even that. from his descendants. From October 2021, through the 1000 Day Journey, the Government has offered expectant parents a range of advice and services on becoming a parent. But what exactly is happening during this period to attract so much attention to it? What exactly can you do to optimize your baby’s build and health? We will answer you.

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A window of vulnerability

It took about thirty years of research to reach this conclusion. the health and well-being of developing adults depends on their first 1,000 days of life. It all starts with the work of British epidemiologist David Barker. While the infant was considered an immature and incomplete being, a researcher first showed in the 1980s that the environment can affect a child from a very young age. More specifically, low birth weight (below 2.5 kg) has been shown to affect the risk of death from cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

A number of international epidemiological studies will result from this discovery. All agree that the fetus has a “window of vulnerability” from the moment of conception and is built to suit the lifestyle of the parents. “Diet, exposure to stressors, physical activity, quality of sleep, exposure to toxic substances… All of these factors are likely to leave long-lasting epigenetic imprints (gene expressions, editor’s note) to the parents, which can in certain cases (transmit them) to the child, as well as to the child’s own descendants,” says Professor Umberto Simeoni, head of the pediatric department at CHUV and head of the DOHaD (DOHaD development origin). Research unit in the journal Health and Disease Spiral in 2019. Thus, by avoiding all these factors, the parent helps reduce the risk of his child contracting a chronic disease (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, neuropsychological disorders).

A secure attachment will further facilitate the child’s access to speech and socialization.

Natalie Caso-Viccarini, Educator and President of Together for Early Childhood

Protects brain development

During these 1000 days, organs also grow at an impressive rate, especially the brain, which deserves our full attention. From the mother’s womb until the child turns two years old, its size is multiplied by five, and there neural connections are established at a frequency of two hundred thousand per minute. “While it is generally recommended that pregnant women avoid toxic substances such as tobacco, alcohol, or even endocrine disruptors, they should also pay attention to their mental health, which may have implications for the child’s cognitive development,” says to child psychiatrist Antoine Gooden. and a member of the National Committee of Experts for the first 1000 days. Excessively intense maternal stress can actually damage a child’s brain development and future strategies for coping with difficult events.

In order to protect against this, the health worker recommends asking for help from family, friends and the psychological environment, which is a real wall for the emotional stability of both parents. “Early prenatal discussions with your doctor or midwife starting in the second month help to assess and protect this balance,” adds the child psychiatrist.

Promote the app

After all, it is essential to ensure the child’s emotional safety. It is even the most important, according to experts. “Safe application (THE: The complete bond of trust that unites a child and its parent, Editor’s Note) will further contribute to the child’s access to speech and socialization,” assures Nathalie Caso-Viccarini, educator and president of the Ensemble pour la petite jeunesse association. And to build and strengthen this connection, everything begins – once again – in the mother’s womb. “The child develops his senses, touch, taste and even hearing, which allow him to communicate with the world and tame it,” the specialist summarizes. This is why it is especially recommended that parents place their hands on the stomach during pregnancy. “He still doesn’t understand when we talk to him, but the low frequency of the voice soothes and calms him,” explains the educator of young children.

After birth, attachment is developed through interactions. “A child spends 80% of his energy in visual relationships with others, especially parents. In order to provide for himself, he strives to exist in their eyes and communicate with them as much as possible,” he continues. And if the parent participates favorably in this exchange, whether by trying to meet her needs, by feeding her, comforting her, or talking to her, emotional security is automatically reinforced. “Laughing with a child is an excellent fuel to promote the best possible psychological development,” assures child psychiatrist Antoine Goodeny. And Natalie Caso-Viccarini adds: “It is also a powerful way to strengthen one’s ability to overcome possible trials and traumatic shocks in the future.”

Laughing with your child is great fuel for promoting the best possible psychological development.

Antoine Guedeni, child psychiatrist

That being said, can we skip this 1000 day period? And if so, how correctable are our mistakes? Except for extreme cases (mistreatment, physical or verbal abuse), experts are quite reassuring. “Children are incredibly resilient, and as long as parents can control their emotions, not yell at themselves or each other, and try, however mistakenly, to meet all their needs, they are laying a solid foundation for the future,” assures the child psychiatrist. Antoine Guedenay.

(1) Where It All Begins – The First 1000 Days Co-authored by Boris Kirulnik and Nathalie Casso-Vicarin with Isabelle Filiozat and Antoine Guedeni, published by editions du Cherche-Midi, 256 pages, €23.50.

Source: Le Figaro

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