Keeping Mothers and Babies Healthy
The first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2 are critical for mother and child.
During this formative time, healthy children develop brain power, vital organs, sight, and laughter. They gain weight, grow taller, and acquire language and motor skills. Without the right nutrition, however, infants can land on a trajectory where they struggle to thrive and survive.
Simple, cost-effective solutions to help mothers and babies thrive.
Helen Keller Intl works with mothers to ensure their health and empower them to keep their fetus and children healthy. Helen Keller counsels mothers-to-be and their family members about the importance of good nutrition – before, during, and after pregnancy. Mothers learn the importance of the essential vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables like carrots, squash, mangos, and tomatoes, and animal source foods like eggs and milk. This knowledge helps them make informed decisions about how to care for themselves and build the nutritional foundation for their children. Many of the women we work with go on to teach other women in their communities; they teach from what they have learned and from their own experiences, helping other moms to make the best food choices possible.
Breastfeeding exclusively and without any added foods or liquids for the first six months of a child’s life (and beyond) is the safest, most economical, healthful foundation for babies’ growth and development. Yet some hospitals and clinics fail to communicate this information or support new mothers to breastfeed. And in some communities, there is also a lack of support for breastfeeding mothers. A recent study by Helen Keller and Nepal’s Ministry of Health found more than 40% of mothers reported that infant formula, not breastmilk, was recommended by hospital health workers, and just 41% of newborns were breastfed within an hour of birth. In response, we partner with ministries of health and healthcare centers to train healthcare workers so that they can better support mothers who are able to breastfeed to do so at this vital time.
Protecting against harmful marketing
Corporations making baby formula and other breastmilk substitutes sometimes take advantage of new mothers, promising health benefits that are simply false or even demoralizing to mothers who choose to breastfeed.
Helen Keller’s Assessment and Research on Child Feeding team works to strengthen policies to require that companies convey accurate nutritional information about food products marketed for infants and children, with the aim of protecting children and empowering mothers with the information they need to make vital decisions for their families. In Cambodia, for example, our research helped strengthening a policy to protect families from predatory promotion of infant formula. Further, our team helped the government train monitors to enforce this policy.
The power of vitamin A
Vitamin A is critical to developing children’s growing bodies. It helps maintain clear vision, prevents blindness, and builds children’s immune systems so that they are strong enough to fight common childhood illnesses like colds, flu, malaria, and diarrhea. For children who do not have regular access to vitamin A through foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, milk, egg yolks, and mangos, Helen Keller works with ministries of health to strengthen health systems to make sure children under the age of five get twice yearly vitamin A supplements.
Improving access to quality foods
Even when people have enough food satisfy hunger, they do not always have foods that provide all the nutrients required for optimal health. By providing women with the tools and support they need to grow a home garden, we empower them to keep nutritious foods on the table, when buying so may be too costly. We also support women to sell surplus produce at markets, so they can not only grow foods but livelihoods. Giving women earning power adds value to their home and community and ensuring them a place at the table in vital home and community decisions.
Your gift can ensure every child has the opportunity to realize their true potential.