Did you know that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life (from pregnancy to the first two years of life) is the critical window which holds opportunities for strong foundations to be established towards optimising an individual’s health, well-being, learning and development throughout his or her life?
This topic was featured as the recent Temasek Shophouse Conversation which saw close to 700 registered participants in the virtual event, together with leaders from the public, private and community sectors together. The keynote speech was given by Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health, Mr Masagos Zulkifli.
The event also included two panel discussions, helmed by local and international speakers in health and related fields, such as from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and the US Nurse-Family Partnership and Child First, as well as from the Singapore Ministry of Social and Family Development, and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).
Key findings to start in the first 1,000 days
A child’s experience during the first 1,000 days has a profound impact on her or his ability to grow, learn and thrive – with growing body of evidence linking a mother’s health and well-being to her child’s early life and development.
Key findings from local studies and programmes, such as the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO), of which KKH is a part of, include:
- Antenatal depression and anxiety in mothers impact foetal neurodevelopment, with changes in microstructure, functional connectivity, epigenetic expression that influence infant temperament and behaviour¹
- Parenting stress in mothers impacts on the development of internalising problems in children¹
- In the longer term, school readiness of the child is also impacted, particularly for low-income families¹
- Early detection and intervention is effective in treating perinatal depression²
- Enhancing maternal foetal attachment can buffer impact of toxic stress, and help to nurture mother-child bonding for downstream optimal development outcomes³
- Holistic and integrated support for the mother and family – including public education, screening for antenatal depression and early intervention – with a whole of society approach, such as bettering workplace support, is key to addressing and better supporting maternal and child health needs¹
In a nutshell, what this means is that a mother’s health and mental wellness has a cyclical and cause-and-effect nature, which will affect her child’s health, growth and development.
What can society do?
The event concluded with the launch of three calls to improve maternal and child wellness and support parenting in the first 1,000 days and beyond.
1. Support breastfeeding
First call was for the public to pledge support mothers to breastfeed for the first six months, sharing educational resources with new mothers to support her breastfeeding. Mothers are also invited to register to get more information on how they can be a recipient of pasteurised donor human milk or donate their excess breastmilk to the Temasek Foundation Community Milk Bank Programme.
2. Support other parents and caregivers
The second call is to invite parents and caregivers to be part of the Temasek Foundation ParentWise Programme, which was created by Temasek Foundation in partnership with the Seed Institute. ParentWise seeks to provide parents and caregivers with the tools, strategies and support they need to help their children reach full potential. Parents and caregivers can register to join at ParentWise.sg to learn from other supportive parents or contribute stories and tips.
3. Invite youths under 40 to be changemakers
The third was an invitation to those under 40 from Singapore and the region to be advocates and changemakers to improve maternal and child wellness in their societies. Supported by Heartware Network, the Youth Action for Maternal and Child Wellness initiative called for youths to contribute ideas or propose projects that can ultimately build social resilience and foster healthier outcomes. Businesses and organisations were also encouraged to step forward to mentor youths, and to help shape and support these projects.
Images: Envato and Unsplash