INFANT NUTRITION


The first 2 years of life are critical and need more attention and care, as a lot of development goes on during this period. Also, children under 5 years are prone to sickness, if not cared for properly. Research has shown how important is it to feed infants appropriately. Infant feeding practices contribute greatly to the welfare of children. If done appropriately, it improves the health of the Child. Most mortality cases of children under 5 years are associated with conditions resulting from poor infant feeding practices. This situation can be improved when mothers and families receive the necessary knowledge and support to initiate and sustain a healthy infants via practicing appropriate feeding practices. Mothers and families can always contact their doctor or Health care professionals in this field, for thorough education and guidance as to how infant feeding should be done.

IMPORTANCE OF INFANT NUTRITION
Below are some reasons why appropriate Infant Nutrition is important:

• For Healthy Growth of Infant:
Feeding is a major factor in the growth of children. More importantly, good nutrition helps to ensure the growth, good health, and overall development of children. This can also be linked with long-term impairment in the growth and development of an individual ( child) when not done properly.

• Reducing Risk for Some Childhood Illnesses: Poor nutrition can result in illnesses and even death of children in worse cases. It can result in childhood obesity as well, which is becoming a health concern in some countries.

• Stunted Growth
Poor nutrition during the first 2 years of life can result in stunted growth which can have long-term effects such as the adult being shorter than his or her potential height.

• Impaired Intellectual Ability
Studies have shown that adults who were malnourished in early childhood are seen to have impaired intellectual performance, as compared to properly nourished children, and may also have reduced capacity for physical work. Women who were also malnourished as children may also be affected along the lines of reproduction.

• National Development
The development of a nation suffers when many of its children are not properly nourished, as this has a long-term nutritional deficit effect on the adults these children would develop into.

WHY DO BABIES NEED CERTAIN FOODS
Babies essentially need breast milk and are gradually weaned as they grow and the demand for food increases. Complementary foods for babies are advised after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.

Exclusive breastfeeding means that an infant receives only breast milk from his or her mother or expressed breast milk, and no other liquids or solids, not even water, with the exception of oral rehydration solution, drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, minerals supplements, or medicines, example: vitamin A. Whiles
complementary feeding is defined as the process starting when breast milk is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants, and therefore other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk to meet the energy needs of the infant and enhance growth, and health, and development.

WHO and UNICEF have global recommendations for infant and young child feeding practices. These are practical guides to achieving a healthy and appropriate feeding of the infant and should be encouraged and adhered to. Also, studies have shown that the effectiveness of interventions, achievement of universal coverage of
optimal breastfeeding (which involves, initiating breastfeeding one hour after childbirth, giving colostrum, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and giving complementary foods when it is due) could prevent 13% of deaths that occur in children less than 5 years of age worldwide, while appropriate complementary feeding practices would result in an additional 6% reduction in the death of children less than 5 years. When it comes to breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is advised. It plays a vital role in the early life stages of a child, some of which are reducing the risk of diarrhea and respiratory illness. It meets the nutritional and energy needs of a child when done properly. As mentioned earlier, water should not be given when breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months ( 180 days), breastmilk has enough water to satisfy the baby’s thirst. No other foods are necessary during the 6 months. Health care professionals are well abreast with how to breastfeed, care and handle baby feed, always consult your health care giver whenever you need clarity on how to handle baby feed. Ideally, breastfeeding should continue till up to 2 years of age. Breastfeed on demand, day and night.

From 6 months, complementary foods can be added to a baby’s diet, as they required more energy and nutrient than what breastmilk can provide. This stage is also very important as it can impede or improve the growth and health of the baby, depending on what the baby is being fed. But even at this stage, breast milk is not taken out of a child’s diet. The period of complementary feeding starts from 6 months to 23 months and beyond.

In giving complementary foods, start with
small amounts of food and gradually increase the quantity as the child gets older, also vary the food while maintaining frequent breastfeeding. Keep foods clean and at required temperatures, use safe water and cooking materials and cook thoroughly.

Foods that can be added as complementary foods include Starches and grains, high iron foods, fiber foods, foods rich in vitamins and minerals, and water. More on this would be mentioned in the next sub-heading.

DO’S AND DON’TS IN INFANT FEEDING

• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing and feeding an infant.
• Wash your hands and baby’s hand before eating
• Breastfeed before giving other foods.
• Feed baby using cleaned hands, clean utensils, cups, and food
• Use Clean cups and spoons to give food or liquids to your baby.
• Don’t use bottles, teats, and spotted cups since they are difficult to clean and can make a baby sick
• Store foods are given to the baby in a safe clean place and t the right temperatures
• Continue breastfeeding when baby is due complementary foods
• Be patient with baby and encourage baby to feed
• Start with staple foods like porridge ( from corn, wheat, millet, rice, sorghum, potatoes) mashed banana, mashed potatoes, etc.
• Try to feed a variety of food at each meal to achieve a four (4) star diet. Food groups that constitute 4-star diets for infants include: Animal Source foods ( meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, etc), Staples ( grains, roots, and tubers), legumes and seeds ( beans, groundnuts, etc), Vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables and other fruits and vegetables (colorful fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, high iron sourced foods examples: mango, pawpaw, left, Obama, Nkontomire, turkey berry, carrots, yellow sweet potato, pumpkin, and also, pineapple, watermelon, pear, avocado, banana, tomatoes, garden eggs, etc)
• Serve food in a different place for infants and encourage them to eat all served.
• Food should have a good thickness, it should be thick enough when touched.
• Do not force a child to eat
• Gradually, increase servings as time goes on
• Each week add one new diet to the child’s meals
• Avoid giving infants sugary drinks and sweet biscuits
• Use iodized salts when cooking
• Practice good hygiene to avoid contaminated and illnesses
• Additional nutritious snacks ( fruits and vegetables) can be given in between meals.
• Give mashed or pureed foods to infants until he or they can properly chew.
• Contact health professional or caregiver for the right amount of food to be given when child starts complementary diets.

Conclusion

Infant nutrition can have serious implications on the health, growth an development of child when not done properly. Ask the right persons ( health professionals, dieticians) if you need any information concerning how and what to feed your baby consult your nutritionist.

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