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Dairy’s Role in Pregnancy + Early Childhood Nutrition

Nutrition during pregnancy + early childhood lays the foundation for optimal health, cognitive abilities, motor skills and more.


Nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood lays the foundation for optimal health, cognitive abilities, motor skills and social and emotional development.1 Consistent access to nutritious foods like milk and dairy foods greatly influences brain,2 bone and immune health,3 ensuring proper growth and development. Healthy eating can have far-reaching impacts on children’s ability to succeed in school and life, as well as likelihood of developing diet-related chronic diseases.



NDC_Dairy's brain building nutrients

Source: National Dairy Council







First Foods


First Foods, Beverages + Beyond


BeveragesMilk + Water Are the Go-to Beverages Recommended by Leading Health Authorities13First Beverages

1 to 2 years old2 to 3 servings
2 to 3 years old2 servings
3 to 5 years old2.5 servings


Food accessAccess to Nutritious Foods Supports Thriving Communities

WICThe Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) support maternal and child health by providing nutrition education and nutritious supplemental foods, including milk and dairy foods. The WIC public health program has been proven to:14

Resources + Research Summaries


What Foods Support A Healthy Pregnancy?

Megan Holdaway, RDN, provides examples of nutritious foods to eat during pregnancy for mother & baby

Learn more


1. The First 1000 Days: Nourishing America’s Future. 1000 Days. 2016. Accessed November 30, 2023. https://thousanddays.org/wp-content/uploads/1000Days-NourishingAmericasFuture-Report-FINAL-WEBVERSION-SINGLES.pdf 

2. Schwarzenberg SJ, Georgieff MK, Committee on Nutrition. Advocacy for improving nutrition in the first 1000 days to support childhood development and adult health. Pediatrics. 2018;141(2):e20173716. DOI:10.1542/peds.2017-3716 

3. Robertson RC, Manges AR, Finlay BB, Prendergast AJ. The human microbiome and child growth: first 1000 days and beyond. Trends in Microbiol . 2019;27(2):131-147. DOI:10.1016/j.tim.2018.09.008

4. Bath SC. The effect of iodine deficiency during pregnancy on child development. Proc Nutr Soc. 2019;78(2):150-160. DOI:10.1017/s0029665118002835

5. Bougma K, Aboud FE, Harding KB, Marquis GS. Iodine and mental development of children 5 years old and under: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1384-1416. DOI:10.3390/nu5041384

6. Caudill MA, Strupp BJ, Muscalu L, Nevins JEH, Canfield RL. Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double blind, controlled feeding study. FASEB J. 2018;32(4):2172-2180. DOI:10.1096/fj.201700692rr

7. Heaney RP. Dairy and bone health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28(Suppl1):82S-90S. DOI:10.1080/07315724.2009.10719808

8. Calder PC. Optimal nutritional status for a well-functioning immune system is an important factor to protect against viral infections. Nutrients. 2020;12(4). DOI: 10.3390/nu12041181

9. Daly JM, et al. Effect of dietary protein and amino acids on immune function. Crit Care Med, 1990.18(2 Suppl):S86-93.

10. Leeuwendaal NK, Stanton C, O’Toole PW, Beresford TP. Fermented Foods, Health and the Gut Microbiome. Nutrients. 2022;14(7):1527. DOI:10.3390/nu14071527

11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When, what and how to introduce solid foods. Updated June 27, 2023. Accessed November 30, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html 

12. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th ed. 2020. Accessed November, 30 2023. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials 

13. Lott M, Callahan E, Welker Duffy E, Story M, Daniels S. Consensus statement. Healthy beverage consumption in early childhood: recommendations from key national health and nutrition organizations. Healthy Eating Research. Published September 2019. Accessed November 30, 2023. https://healthyeatingresearch.org/research/consensus-statement-healthy-beverage-consumption-in-early-childhood-recommendations-from-key-national-health-and-nutrition-organizations 

14. WIC: building a healthy foundation. Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture. Updated February 16, 2023. Accessed November 30, 2023. https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/building-healthy-foundation 

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Explore the top food and nutrition trends for education and health professionals.