In talking with these women, one thing became clear: moms want to nourish their children well.
No matter where a child is born, the first 1,000 days are a window of opportunity when good nutrition can make a big difference. Those early days of life are critically important to development, as well as livelong health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, both here in the United States and around the world, the ability to provide good nutrition in a child’s early years is out of reach for too many families.
That’s why last year I set out on a journey to better understand what and how young children in the United States are being fed by their families. I got to travel across the United States to meet and talk to moms about what it’s like to feed their babies and young children. From California to Mississippi, nearly 60 women invited us into their homes to experience firsthand what it’s like for them as moms.
I met women like Chloe from California, a mom living in a motel room in Oakland with her husband and three kids. Without access to a kitchen, Chloe cooks all her family’s meals using a rice cooker and hot plate – which she keeps plugged in on the bathroom sink. Chloe’s family can’t always afford enough healthy food, even though her husband works two jobs and the family participates in SNAP (a federal nutrition assistance program).
Standing in the small motel room where the family of five slept, ate and played, I asked myself: How can Chloe make time to think about something like nutrition when she has so many other, more immediate concerns to worry about?
And yet – she does think about nutrition. A lot.
Like all the moms we met, Chloe worried about what her children were eating and how it impacted their health and growth. Somehow, despite all the pressures she faced, Chloe found ways to give her family the best food she could provide.
In talking with these women, one thing became clear: moms want to nourish their children well. Yet, many face barriers and challenges beyond their control, from conflicting messaging about what and how to feed their babies and young children to a lack of support in their schools, workplaces and communities.
We all have a role to play in nourishing our nation’s youngest children. We should be doing everything we can – from ensuring access to high quality, affordable health care to paid family leave – to support America’s moms and babies. And this effort starts by listening to moms.
Take Action Challenge
1,000 Days is the leading organization fighting in the U.S. and around the world to improve nutrition for women and their babies during the critical window from pregnancy through age two. We hope you will explore the stories of the women we met and share them with your networks. It is up to all of us to ensure that every woman and child gets the nutrition they need in the first 1,000 days.