Under nutrition, during child hood is the main cause of one third of all deaths in India below the age of 6 years. Undernutrition causes serious health problems along with many social and psychological consequences.
In India weight for age has been the most widely used indicator for the assessment of nutritional status. Poor growth is an adaptation of the body to chronic low energy intake. It is important to prevent stunting because it is not reversible. Early detection and intervention to correct it are keys to prevent stunting.
How can parents find out if the child does not have proper growth pattern? :
- If the child keeps crying or is otherwise irritable
- If the child keeps falling ill regularly, has diarrhea, fever, etc.
- If the child is not eating food according to his age
- If the child is not able to reach the milestones for age oin time, for example teething, walking, etc.
It is required for parents to visit the Child Specialist (Pediatrician) on a regular basis, keep a watch on the child’s weight and height for age standards and if required consult a Dietician for the child’s diet.
To prevent malnutrition and growth stunting in early years of life:
- Exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months of life. (mother’s also need to take proper nutrition)
- Weaning at the age of 6 months with introduction to foods other than breast milk as per the nutritional requirements of age
- Addressing any special requirement the child may have due either to illness or otherwise
- Not stop feeding even if the child has diarrhea or fever, give lighter food but do not starve them, they do not have many reserves
Children this age have increased requirement for energy and proteins, required for their growth and development at this age. As children are not able to eat large quantities of foods at a given point in time, it is important to give them small and frequent meals at regular intervals. Also, the foods should be energy dense or rather nutrient dense. The nutrients of importance during this age (0-6 years) are vitamin A, vitamin C, Iron and calcium apart from energy and protein.
Foods rich in these nutrients, like colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals and whole milk products should be include in their diet. Milk consumption should be restricted slowly to make way for other food groups which should be introduced regularly to the children.
BOTH UNDERNUTRITION AND STUNTING ARE PREVENTABLE, LETS TAKE AN OATH TO TAKE STEPS TO ERADICATE BOTH FROM INDIA