What happens when… You give a baby the best start to life?
What are the biggest, most important days of your life? It’s not the day you finally graduate from your studies or the day you meet your life partner (although those are definitely big ones too!). The most important days are the ones you don’t remember - the first 1000 days of your life.
Studies from biologists, neuroscientists and early childhood development experts all agree that the period between conception and two years old is a once-in-a-lifetime window of time that shapes your health, growth and your brain development for life.
Parents everywhere want the best for their kids. But UNICEF estimates at least 200 million children living in developing countries are failing to meet their development potential – and poor nutrition, disease, environmental hazards and violence are some of the root causes.
That lost potential has a huge cost not only for each child, but the local and global economy too. The World Bank estimates the lost productivity and economic growth caused by undernutrition costs the world US$3 trillion a year, and between 3 and 16% of individual countries’ GDP. COVID-19 made the situation even worse - the economic cost of malnutrition triggered by the pandemic is estimated at US$29 billion.
The good news is we can do something about it! All over the world, child sponsors are helping to giving babies the best start to life through World Vision programmes like Go Baby Go, which targets the first 1,000+ days of a child’s life in hundreds of places around the globe. Together, we’re empowering families with the knowledge, skills and resilience to improve parenting practices and understand early child development, health and nutrition, and child protection.
So, what happens when you give a baby the best start to life?
1) Parents combine forces
Having a baby can be a big change for families – whether it’s the first in the family or the sixth. And for families living in poverty, that change can be overwhelming – another mouth to feed, another future to consider. Child sponsorship supports parents and caregivers on their parenting journey - learning resilience-promoting techniques to improve their parenting practices and a place where mums can find a support network. Connecting women and caregivers also grows stronger communities. And strong communities provide the best start to life for babies!
2) Better food is on the menu
Good nutrition is essential to a child’s early growth and development. Through child sponsorship, programmes like Go Baby Go and Village Health Groups for mums and caregivers provide education and support for families on how to make sure babies and young children grow up healthy and strong. Breastfeeding support and cooking demonstrations using locally sourced, affordable vegetables and ingredients helps parents provide their babies with the nutrition they need to grow and thrive, giving them critical foundations for life.
Tann is a mother of two sponsored children and her youngest daughter Pheak (age 3) was malnourished before she started attending the Village Health Group in Kralanh, Cambodia.
“Before my child was underweight but now, she has gained weight,” says Tann.
“I have learned a lot, especially about the health of children. I get the knowledge and then I can put it into practice in my family. I cooked the supplementary foods at home and my child gained weight.”
That means Pheak has a stronger chance to fight off disease, meet her physical growth milestones, will require less medication which strains the family budget, and can be an active member of her community. And the impact grows…
“I like to share the information I’ve learned with other people in my community,” says Tann.
3) Parenting gets positive
A crying baby or a toddler throwing a tantrum can be enough to push any parent to the edge of reason at times. Programmes like Go Baby Go provide valuable parenting education to help families learn self-care and other strategies to strengthen their parenting confidence and competence. In some communities, violence is used as a common form of discipline, but community support groups help caregivers discover positive parenting alternatives and learn how to parent with tenderness and care, while still drawing on cultural wisdom. That can be a game-changer, helping to ensure kids grow up in a warm, loving environment where they are cared for and protected.
4) Prevention gets attention
It’s no secret that most health problems are best tackled by prevention instead of cure. In community groups made possible through child sponsorship, mums and dads are educated on important topics like how to protect their children from disease and the importance of providing vaccinations and monitoring children’s growth and development so that any problems can be picked up and treated early. When mums and dads and caregivers have the knowledge and access to health care they need to give their babies the best possible start in life, it sets them on a course of strength - with knowledge, empowerment, with access to tools, help and support to make those first 1,000 life altering.
Right now, child sponsors are helping give babies around the world the best start to life. Will you join us?