- Breastfeeding can safely be carried out till the child turns 2
- Infant must be introduced to breastfeeding within an hour of birth
- Solid food items should be a part of baby's diet after 6 months
Commemorating National Nutrition Week 2017, we take a look at some facts and advice that are integral to ensuring optimum health of newborns and young children. The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes close to 45% of child deaths to undernutrition. "Globally in 2017, 155 million children under 5 were estimated to be stunted (too short for age), 52 million were estimated to be wasted (too thin for height), and 41 million were overweight or obese," as per WHO statistics. Health experts suggest proper maternal nutrition during and after child birth and optimum care to be taken in order to stave off any health risks.
WHO on child nutrition
- Over 820 000 children (under 5 years) can be saved every year only if optimum breastfeeding is initiated and carried out in all children.
- No more than 40% of infants (0-6 months) are exclusively breastfed. "Only about 36% of infants aged 0-6 months worldwide were exclusively breastfed over the period of 2007-2014," WHO.
- In many countries, young children are not provided with nutritionally adequate complimentary food.
To tackle the above mentioned hurdles, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF recommend the following:
- Infant must be introduced to breastfeeding within an hour of birth up to at least for the next 6 months.
- Breastfeeding can safely be carried out till the child turns 2.
- Solid complimentary food items to become a part of baby's diet after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and Why is it so Essential?
Breast milk has long been touted as the ultimate and the most nutritious food for the infant. It promises many health benefits to the baby and guards them against common infections and a host of other ailments. Studies have shown exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding to have long-term health benefits for the baby even in adulthood. "Children and adolescents who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, they perform better on intelligence tests and have higher school attendance," as mentioned on WHO's online portal. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the nursing mother and helps with weight loss and stress management and may even reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
An infant's need for energy begins to increase after the first 6 months. It is now when the need for additional nutrition steps in and the phase of exclusive breastfeeding comes to an end. The initiation of solid food items is extremely critical and vital to child's development and nourishment and should, therefore, be undertaken with utmost care. "If complementary foods are not introduced around the age of 6 months, or if they are given inappropriately, an infant's growth may falter," suggests the WHO.
- Meal timings should ideally be - two to three times a day for infants ageing 6-8 months; three-four times a day for the ones who are 9-11 months old. Additional snacks can be introduced once or twice a day after the child is a year old.
- Variety should be maintained to accommodate all possible nutritional requirements. Maintain consistency with respect to the amount and time of your child's meals.
- Nutritionally fortified items can be included if your healthcare expert permits.
Get in touch with a certified medical practitioner to learn more about how to design your little one's diet plan so as to ensure optimum growth with regular nutrition supply.