Growth & Development

Publications, Videos and News

Nutrition plays a powerful role in early life programming and, in so doing, impacts a child’s growth and development. There are three key areas of child development. These are: cognitive development, physical development as well as social and emotional development. Each area of development is affected by nutrition. 

The areas of development are significantly affected by nutrition acquired in the first 1 000 days of life.  Nutrition at this stage affects the body, brain, metabolism and immune system. To achieve the adequate development of a child, proper nutrition needs to be undertaken from when the mother is pregnant.  It is recommended that expectant mothers have a healthy diet. 

To achieve adequate growth and development, breastfeeding is a vital source of nutrients in the first six months of life. Breast milk offers all the nutrients required for proper development. Human milk can meet all nutritional requirements in the first six months of life, with the exception of vitamin D. This nutrient can be substituted using fortified milk.
After the first six months, the source of nutrients occurs through the introduction of solid foods. Foods given to a baby can impact future eating habits. When to introduce the child to solid foods depends on a number of factors including age, hunger and growth rate. It is also advisable to begin with semi-solid foods.  Grain foods should be considered when first giving infants solid foods as they provide extra nutrients for healthy growth and development.

Other factors that impact growth and development are good and bad eating habits. These habits are differentiated according to whether the child consumes a balanced amount of nutrients or not. Poor consumption of nutrients can lead to being overweight or underweight. Health science has revealed that there is a relationship between early nutrition and the development of conditions like stunting, obesity and diabetes during childhood and later in life. 

Obesity has become prevalent in children across the globe. UNICEF states that upwards of 38.2 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese.
Obesity is caused by an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars, a lack of physical activity and increased urbanisation. 
By not curbing the risk of obesity in the first 1 000 days by fostering good eating habits and providing adequate amounts of nutrition, a myriad of conditions can develop and last well into adulthood. Some of these conditions include cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers. 


Growth and development are vital for the establishment of an individual’s lifelong health. The NNIA advocates the importance of adequate nutrition from the womb to two years to help promote proper cognitive development, physical development as well as social and emotional development. Growth and development that is well-facilitated results in healthy outcomes for children following the early developmental stages. 

Visit our obesity, nutrition & wellness, malnutrition and low birth weight pages for more information. You can also use our nutritional tools or apps to help you in your clinical practice. 


The Parenting Index
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The Parenting Index 2021

1 min read

The Parenting Index was commissioned by Nestlé as part of its ongoing commitment to support families in the first 1,000 days of life, with a methodology developed and executed by Kantar. The Parenting Index provides a new framework for understanding

Born Too Soon or Too Small
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Born Too Soon or Too Small

1 min read

The 81st Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop,titled ‘Low Birth Weight Baby: Born Too Soon or TooSmall’ was held in Magaliesburg, South Africa from 30

3 topics

Volume 29 - No 2

1 min read

In the second SAJCN journal of 2016, original research conducted focusses on:
The effects of rising food prices on household food security on female-headed households in Runnymede Village, Mopani District, South Africa, The determinants of


Early feeding in the NICU
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Early feeding in the NICU

Registered dietitian, Inge Retief, discusses neuro development influences that are associated with inadequate nutritional support in infants in the context of the newborn intensive care unit (NICU).

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Human Milk as the First Source of Nutrients

min watch

The nutrient requirements of young infants are higher per unit body weight than at any other time of life. The amount of nutrients in the milk of a well-nourished woman is sufficient to support optimal growth and development of her infant. However

Prof. Andrew M. Prentice
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Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Health of Infants in Africa

min watch

Research in recent years has demonstrated that Human Mil Oligosaccharides (HMOs) play a contributory role in protecting infants from disease in developing countries This video at babies in low and middle-income countries and compares their growth


Latest News

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Promoting breastfeeding for healthy brain development

8 min read

During the first 1 000 days of life, brain development is rapid, with a number of processes taking place in a time-coordinated fashion.

The article focuses on the link between breastfeeding and brain development.