The main points of this technical guidance piece include:
- Adequate nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years is necessary for normal brain development, laying the foundation for future cognitive and social ability, school success, and productivity.
- Undernutrition may influence brain development both directly and indirectly.
- Priority should be given to the prevention of severe acute malnutrition (very low weight for height), chronic malnutrition (as evidenced by intrauterine growth retardation and linear growth retardation or stunting), iron-deficiency anemia, and iodine deficiency. There is strong evidence that they affect the developing brain and compromise long-term cognitive, motor, and socio-emotional development.
- There is growing evidence that breastfeeding promotion, pre- and post-natal multiple micronutrient supplementation, pre- and post-natal supplementation with essential fatty acids, and fortified food supplements provided during pregnancy and to the child from 6 to 24 months of age can have beneficial effects on early child development. Few data exist on the long-term effects of these interventions.
- An integrated approach is likely to be most effective for promoting optimal child development, i.e., interventions that combine improved nutrition with other strategies such as enhancing the home environment and the quality of caregiver-child interaction.