Scientifically, it is proven that the first 1,000 days of a child, from conception to the age of two, are the most crucial and critical. Hence, the concept of care, health, and hygiene of both the mother and child during this period is an excellent one. One has to remember that most of the processes of the formation of the brain happens in the first 24 months after birth. Hence, if this period is neglected, it will impact the minds of the future generation, affect their livelihoods and incomes when they mature, i.e. if they are able to avoid deaths during the first five years. In India, a million children die before they erach five years.
Yet another fallacy, which is witnessed in both rural and elite urban areas, is that the first few weeks, even 3-4 months, of pregnancy are not considered important. We tend to take this period quite casually. But one must remember that the formation of a child’s brain begins from the 16th day after conception. Hence, if the mother suffers from infections or nutritional deficiencies, or smokes and drinks, early on, they can directly affect the child’s brain, and her future health and mortality chances. It can lead to birth defects, and abortions. Therefore, there is a need to take care throughout pregnancy and, of course, during the first two years of the child.
However, this doesn’t imply that the pregnant mother cannot work in the months before childbirth. Such women have worked until the eighth month. But they should be in control of their diet and nutrition, and ensure that it is a balanced one. Iron and folic acid, for instance, are critical for the child when she is in the womb. At the same time, pregnant women have to stay away from stress and anxieties. Mental health is important; they need to be happy and comfortable. The fact is that everything that a mother undergoes passes on to her child, both the positive and negative effects.
As doctors, and as promoters of preventive medicine in all its aspects, we focus a lot on breast-feeding. For example, it is imperative that this continues for the first six months. We tend to under-do this for several reasons, but complete breast-feeding in the first 180 days is critical. Between six months and one year, breast-feeding has to be complimented with food cooked at home. Most of us forget this too, and continue only breast-feeding. Even the home-cooked food needs to be balanced; it cannot comprise the same items every day. The food has to change to provide a balanced diet.
We feel that three things are important for any child’s overall personality. This is absolutely true during the first 1,000 days. The first is nutrition, which I have talked about earlier. The second is that there should be minimal exposure to toxins and infections, both for the mother and child during this period. Infections can impact the child, and lead to malnutrition. Hence, hygiene, especially simply but extremely useful habits like washing hands regularly with soap, should be a top priority for the mother and child. The third constitutes the born child’s experiences with the external world — family, neighbors, and peers. A secure environment, lots of love, and happy relationships can radically improve the child’s health.
To impart information on such issues, I do regular TV shows, as well as programs for several companies. They deal with both direct and indirect subjects such as heart attack, epilepsy, pregnancy, beauty, and others. I do programs on cuisine to emphasize the importance of nutrition and diet. Although I am a professional doctor, I feel that I am more of a social entrepreneur today.