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Good Nutrition For Infant Needs More Than Your Intuition

As a mother, we all know that the early years of baby growth are most crucial. With a tummy size of their fist, their nutritional requirements are much higher than that of an adult.

Good Nutrition For Infant Needs More Than Your Intuition

As a mother, we all know that the early years of baby growth are most crucial. With a tummy size of their fist, their nutritional requirements are much higher than that of an adult. As a norm, we start to plan the baby's first diets and usually go by tested and handed down recipes or go with our intuition of what we think is the best for the baby.

Intuitive nutrition is a well-planned, mindful diet and pattern that we put in place for a healthier growth of an infant. However, irrespective of the diet fads that it seems to fulfil, we can still not be sure about the right balance of protein, fat, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to sustain a baby's essential requirements.

While feeding a baby, a mother considers a variety of foods that the family eats. She tries all possible ways to make the food delicious and healthy for the child, thinking all the nourishment needs are being taken care of, but the child may still be nutrition deficient. As a matter of fact, intuitive feeding may not necessarily be good nutrition all the time, and may not carry the perfect balance of micronutrients as needed for a child's growth. The effects of an unbalanced diet in children cannot be seen with the naked eye and until severe, it is impossible to detect it without clinical tests. Symptomatic cases often represent the tip of the iceberg. Deficiency in any of the nutrients either alone or in combination may lead to growth and development issues in infants and children. Adequate nutrition during infancy is essential for lifelong health and well-being.

Here, it is important to know that good nutrition is very scientific and goes beyond just physical needs of a growing child. During infancy, 80% of brain development takes place and what the baby eats in the formative years defines its future.

As per the WHO fact sheet on infant and young child feeding, September 2016, under-nutrition is associated with 45% of child deaths. Globally in 2015, 156 million children under 5 were estimated to be stunted (too short for age), 50 million were estimated to be wasted (too thin for height), and 42 million were overweight or obese . In many countries, less than a fourth of infants 6-23 months of age meet the criteria of dietary diversity and feeding frequency that are appropriate for their age.

The consequences of micronutrients deficiency cannot be seen immediately, and therefore, most people tend to miss out on ensuring that their babies get enough micronutrients. While physical growth is easily measured, mental growth remains ignored. Micronutrients play a vital role in the development of the brain. Parents must understand the nutritional need of their growing child and remember that 80% of brain development is completed by the time an infant is 2 years old.

While there has been a rise in paediatric nutrient deficiencies among urban kids, fortunately there are ways to prevent these deficiencies from developing. Keeping that in mind, complementary feeding for infants from 6 months onwards should be adequate, providing vitamins and minerals enriched food, fortified grains/foods, iron/multi vitamin drops supplementation with a variety of foods to cover the nutritional needs of the growing child.

(Charu Dua is the Head of Department, Nutrition, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali)
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