National Nutrition Week 2018: Know all about the best nutrition for your baby

Infants and children are more vulnerable to malnutrition and so, optimizing nutrition early in their life-including the 1000 days from conception to a child's second birthday gives the best start with lifelong health benefits.

National Nutrition Month is celebrated in India in the month of September every year. The theme for this year's nutrition month is- "Addressing under-nutrition during the first 1000 days of life: Better child health."

When we talk about child nutrition, we are generally talking about the child's growth and development. Therefore a child's under-nutrition will lead:

  1. Wasting (low weight for the height).
  2. Stunting (low height for age).
  3. Underweight (low weight for age).
  4. Micro nutrient deficiencies.

"And that is why, it is important to feed your child with the best nutrition," said Sreemathy Venkatraman, Nutritionist and Clinical Dietician, Brains Hospital, Bengaluru. Here are ways to ensure that your baby is well- nourished:

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Early start of breastfeeding within one hour of birth as it is the best source of nourishment for the baby.

Promoting and supporting breastfeeding by maternity staff, family and care givers.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.

Complementary feeding to be started usually around 5-6 months to meet the growing nutritional needs in addition to breastfeeding.

Foods should be prepared and given in a safe manner, initially 2-3 times between 6-8 months and increasing to 3-4 times between 9-11 months.

Spoon feed complimentary feeds do not give from a feeding bottle.

Thick porridges, purees, mashed foods are introduced. Every state/community has a staple food which must be given to the baby. Mono cereals such as rice, maize, millets like ragi/finger millet are introduced as porridges.

Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and fruits such as ripe bananas, stewed apples are introduced first.

The cereal porridges can be mixed with dal water/dal to give additional protein once the baby tolerates the mono cereal porridges.

Thick soups with different vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, green leafy vegetables which are rich in micro-nutrients can be given.

Flours of germinated cereals which are rich in amylase help in increasing energy density of porridges and also increases its digestibility should be given for better tolerance when introducing mono cereals.

A child's stomach can hold only 200 ml, do not force feed the child with large portions.

Eggs and meat soups can be introduced at appropriate stages.

Adding jaggery, ghee, oil to soft foods to khichdi, sheera, thick kheer will increase energy and micro-nutrients like iron.

Milk, curds, sesame seeds, groundnuts in the form of powder in porridges, mashed foods is advised to increase nutrient density.

"Introducing a variety of foods one by one at the appropriate age and time intervals is vital for optimal growth of the baby. Remember the child should eat from the normal family meal by the time he/she turns one. Introducing varied textures, tastes will ensure that you do not have a picky eater later in life. Children who are well nourished the first two years of life are likely to stay well nourished later. Do not forget to give age appropriate immunizations on time," added Venkatraman.

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