UNICEF’s Gift to Dads: Fathers Are The Best Child Development Resources by Neelam Jain




If you’ve ever found yourself a couch potato in front of the TV after a bad day, mindlessly scooping ice cream out of the container with a spoon, you know that mood and food are linked. If the relationship between food and mood is a verified phenomenon, the correlation between foods you got as an infant and how you will do in life is even more important. As most of the world ready to celebrate yet another Father’s Day, UNICEF has given dads a thumbs up on the key role they can play in the nutrition and well-being of their babies. “Fathers have the power to build their babies’ brains,’ a UNICEF release said ahead of Father’s Day. “There is no time more critical for brain development than the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, and there is a growing body of evidence that fathers hold a huge stake in this process.”

The responsibility, so far, of most childhood campaigns, be it proper nutrition or timely vaccinations has been on the mother.  This approach inadvertently missed on a key component for the all-round development of the child. UNICEF India, in its EarlyMomentsMatter campaign, urges fathers to be equal partners in the healthy development of their babies’ brains, leading to their well-being in adult life. “This year’s focus is on food and nutrition,” said UNICEF’s Chief of Nutrition, Mr. Arjan Waqt at a roundtable with media in Delhi as part of Father’s Day celebrations. “Nutrition is not just filling the stomach. UNICEF India will celebrate the ABCs of good parenting for healthy brain development and highlight the importance of protection, nutrition, and stimulation in the earliest years of life.”

Fathers have an important role at various stages of a child’s life, beginning with conception, to childbirth and followed by post-natal care. According to research, over 80% of a baby’s brain is formed by three years. “Babies need nutrition, protection, and stimulation in the earliest years of life for healthy brain development – particularly from pregnancy to age three,” Raji Nair, a nutrition expert with the organization told this journalist. The effects of malnutrition are not reversible. If the child is undernourished during the first 2 years of life, the consequences can be life-long.

This UN body that works in 190 countries to ameliorate the plight of children, especially the most vulnerable and excluded, will also be building in India a community of dads online and offline who can share their experiences of parenting and exchange tips, officials said at the roundtable.

Sometimes social and cultural beliefs may inhibit a new father to be present with mother and child. UNICEF is using Father’s Day to renew its call to break down such barriers that prevent fathers from spending quality time with their young children. “More than just a second parent or an extra set of hands, fathers are one of the best child development resources we have, and if we are going to give children the best start in life, we all need to fully recognize and utilize this role,” said UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development Dr. Pia Britto in a press release.

As part of its tribute to fathers around the globe and part of it ‘Super Dads’ campaign, UNICEF launched a new parenting site to bring together fathers from across the world to share their parenting tips. The site will also give nutrition guide for healthy brain development.

Neuroscientists have proved that children who spend their earliest years of life, particularly their first 1000 days in a nurturing and stimulating environment, have their brains develop at an optimal speed. These neural connections lead to well-adjusted adults later in life. “When fathers bond with their children from the beginning of their lives and play an active role in their development the children will have better psychological health, self-esteem and will become healthier and happier adults,” said Waqt.

UNICEF India’s Super Dad campaign is participative and wherein you can share a video – What does it take to be a super dad/real dad/baapwalibaat and submit via Twitter and Instagram. Primary hashtag: #EarlyMomentsMatter  
Secondary hashtags: #BaapWaliBaat  and #FathersDay.
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