Nutritionists have continued to lay emphasis on early infant nutrition as an essential and inexpensive means to ensure the growth, health and development of children to their full potential.
According to nutritionists, the first 1000 days that is two years of a child’s life are a critical window during which foundations for healthy growth and development are built.
The nutritionists at a one-day international course on applied Nutrition organized by Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) in collaboration with the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and the Dietitian Association of Nigeria (DAN) stressed on the need for appropriate nutrition in infants as it affects their development.
Manager and Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa, NNIA, Mrs. Chioma Emma-Nwachukwu, said that with malnutrition being a major challenge facing the African child, it was necessary to bridge the gap between the science and the practical application of good nutrition, as nutrition begins with what the pregnant woman takes which affects the child in the womb.
She said: “We are looking at the impact of early nutrition, that is, the critical linkage between early nutrition and long-term health. Nutrition affects later outcome in the sense that there are certain nutrition action we take today could either positively or negatively affect our health, and it is always better to get the right nutrition early in life. It is not just feeding the baby with anything, but we also found out that nutrition starts even with the pregnant mother, when she feeds right, her child will be healthy and the circle continues, as they live better nourished.”
In his presentation, “The Challenging Phase of Protein Nutrition”, the Board Chairman, NNIA and Head, Department of Paediatrics, Babcock University Teaching hospital, Prof. James Renner, said proteins is the most important nutrient for the development of infants and as such, both the animal source and plant source of protein should be balanced for the child to have the complete amount of protein, adding that those who are vegetarians and then feed their babies with only the plant source of protein are hindering their babies from getting the benefits of proteins.
“Proteins influence all aspects of growth and development, as low protein leads to underdeveloped amount of immune system. Long-term ill health is influenced by lack of proper nutrition,” he added.
It was also revealed that at six months, the nutritional requirements of babies increases because of their rapid growth rate and maturation, which is an indication of the need for adequacy of nutrient given to the child, hence the need for complementary feed, which they said should be appropriate.
Consultant Pediatrician, Lagoon Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Olatomi Bamgboje, said after six months of exclusive breast feeding, the child no longer gets satisfied and requires complimentary feeds to compliment the breast milk, which should be food that are suitable for the child.
She added that breast milk supplies 100 per cent of the total nutrition in infant at the first six months, then from six months to two years 50 per cent is supplied and the remaining 50 per cent is supplied from the complimentary food, as it fulfills the requirement of essential nutrients and energy that can not be met by breast milk alone.
The Lagos State Nutrition Officer, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Mrs. Olubunmi Braheem, said the state government to ensure that mothers feed their babies with the right nutrition, has given an approval for six months maternity leave to all nursing mothers, either working class or not to enable them breast feed their babies as required, adding that more awareness should be created to educate mothers on the benefits of good nutrition.
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