Right nutrition crucial in infancy

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Right nutrition crucial in infancy

Complementary feeding refers to the transition for an infant from exclusive breastfeeding to regular food, which should be initiated after the baby turns six months old, while continuing to breastfeed up to two years and beyond.

After six months, breast milk alone is insufficient to meet the increased nutritional requirements of a rapidly growing infant. An infant should receive energy and a nutrient-dense diet to ensure appropriate nutrition at every stage.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), only 40% of children in India were introduced to timely complementary foods, while only 10% children between six to 23 months received adequate diets.

Complementary feeding is a foundation for good health. It is important to consider the right time for introducing complementary foods, as early introduction (before four months) has been associated with the risk of obesity and too late (after seven to eight months), with the risk of fussy eating.

Here are some dos and don’ts of complementary feeding:

Infants should be introduced to new textures gradually (from thick puréed, lumpy to normal foods) while branching out to wide variety foods from different food groups like cereals, pulses, non-vegetarian components, fruits and vegetables.

Iron is an important micronutrient, which needs special attention and iron-rich foods should be introduced during complementary feeding. Around
82% of infants, who are less than two years of age, reportedly suffer from anaemia.

In India, cow’s milk is also commonly given to infants. Cow’s milk has low concentration of iron and it may put a strain on infant’s immature kidney and is also difficult to digest.

Dr Nandan Joshi
(The author is head nutrition science & medical affairs, Danone India)

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