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 survive and thrive.
Simple, cost-effective solutions to help mothers and babies thrive
Helen Keller Intl works with mothers to ensure their health and empower them to have healthy pregnancies and children. Helen Keller helps 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 dark green leaves, and animal source foods like eggs and milk. This knowledge helps them make informed decisions about how to nourish themselves and build a 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 other foods or liquids for the first six months of a child’s life is the healthiest, safest, and most economical 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 at delivery, and just 41% of newborns were breastfed within an hour of birth. In response, we partnered with the Ministry of Health and healthcare centers to train healthcare workers so that they counsel mothers on how to initiate and succeed in breastfeeding 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 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 childhood illnesses like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. For children who do not regularly consume adequate levels of vitamin A in their diets, 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. Last year, we helped reach more than 35 million children in 13 countries across Africa with two doses of vitamin A.
Improving access to quality foods
Even when people have enough food to 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 these 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 vital role in home and community decisions. In 2023, we supported more than 100,900 women with education and tools to grow, prepare, and sell micronutrient-rich foods.
Your gift can ensure every child has the opportunity to realize their true potential.