I am going to be discussing infant and young child feeding and my focus will be on children aged 0 to 12 months.
Child nutrition is important for a proper growth. Undernutrition leads to stunted growth, mortality and eventually morbidity.
There are two phases of breastfeeding involved:
- Exclusive breastfeeding which should be carried out at the first 6 months of the infant’s life.
- Complementary feeding. This is also known as weaning period. It is when a child is introduced to solid foods. The child is introduced to complementary feeding at the 6th month of life.
An infant should breastfeed within the first 30 minutes to 1 hour of birth to prevent infections and child morbidity. Exclusive breastfeeding should be carried out for the first six months without introducing complementary food. This will minimize cases of food allergy. It will also minimize cases such as asthma and eczema.
HIV infected mothers are also recommended to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months as long as they are on antiretroviral medication. The medication reduces the risk of transmission from mother to child. Mixed feeding before six months can lead to diarrhoea or the child being infected with HIV.
Exclusive breastfeeding benefits both mother and child in such ways:
- The breast milk does not have any microorganisms.
- There is a strong bonding between the mother and the infant through breastfeeding.
- It leads to quick healing of the mother’s birth related wounds.
- All the nutrients the infant requires are found in the breast milk.
- The milk is of the right temperature.
- It is a method of family planning.
- It increases the child’s intelligence in later ages.
- It reduces the risks of breast cancer for the mother.
COMPLEMENTARY FEEDING / WEANING
Complementary food is introduced as a mother continues breastfeeding. It is started at the six months of a child’s age.
At six months, the energy and nutrient needs have already increased hence the need to introduce complementary foods that carter for the extra needed energy and nutrients.
A couple of factors must be considered at this stage:
- The child’s nutrient needs.
- Hygiene when handling the food.
- The food should contain the right texture.
- Add flavour and colour to the food so that the baby might be interested in feeding (do not add artificial flavour and colouring).
- The level of the child’s tolerance to the food.
At this stage, poor feeding can lead to malnutrition so the mother should make sure the child gets the required nutrients and the right quantity of food daily.
- At 6 months the mother should start with pureed food, pureed carrots, potato, pumpkin, fruits such as pawpaw and bananas and as the baby learns how to chew introduce pureed peas, cabbage, spinach or broccoli, mixed starch such as potatoes with vegetables, dairies such as yogurt and bread deepen in soup or milk. Introduce soft porridge.
A mother can also introduce fruits such as oranges and observe the child’s reaction to them.
Kenya Ministry of Health recommends the babies to be fed 2 times at this stage. Feed 2 to 3 spoons at each meal.
- At 7 to 9 months, introduce mashed and or minced food. Include some lambs so that the child’s GIT system can be used to solid foods. All nutrients should be given.Starch such as rice, potatoes, porridge, Weetabix and oats are given. Boiled water is introduced. Fruit juices made from fruits only with no additives or sugar and it should be diluted (1 part juice to 10 boiled water which is cooled) and fruits such as oranges, bananas and apples are given. A mother can also give meat, dairy products such as yogurt and vegetables such as carrot, spinach and cabbage. Feed the baby 3 times and give a half of a 250 ml cup per meal.
- At 10 to 12 months. Introduce minced or chopped food. All the nutrients should be considered when feeding the child.
Feed 3 times a day and introduce a snack. Give ¾ of a 250 ml cup in each meal.
WHAT NOT TO GIVE
- Egg white
It causes allergic reactions to the child.
- Large amounts of salt
The baby needs only a pinch of salt since the baby’s kidney is not mature enough to deal with large amounts of sodium.
- Nuts and some seeds
They cause choking since the child’s gut is not well developed to handle such rough foods.
Milk from animals and soy milk contain proteins the child cannot digest. Minerals in these milk can damage the kidney.
It causes infant botulism. This is because of immature growth of the baby’s intestines.
- Vegetables that may be hard to swallow for example traditional vegetables.