Are You raising a healthy baby?

Are You raising a healthy baby?
Highlights

‘Investing in early childhood nutrition is surefire strategy.’ Good nutrition at any age is vital.

‘Investing in early childhood nutrition is surefire strategy.’ Good nutrition at any age is vital. However, the initial few years of a child’s life are of very important for their physical and mental development and hence it is necessary to ensure that your baby eats the right kind of food to get the adequate vitamins and minerals.

Nutrition for your baby is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults; everyone needs the same kind of micronutrients. Kids, however need different amounts of micronutrients at different ages. Micronutrients play an important role in early childhood development, especially in the first 12 months. Hence, good nutrition is necessary for normal growth and cognitive development.

It also establishes healthy eating patterns that are associated with decreased risk of chronic conditions and diseases in childhood such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases etc. Proper intake of vitamins and minerals can mean the difference between a healthy, productive life and a life filled with illness.

Micronutrients include trace elements such as iron, zinc, iodine etc. which aid in the daily growth of ababy. There are two classes of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, each vitamin and mineral has a specific role in bodily function. It helps in nerve strengthening and neuron multiplication, which causes brain development.

This is why it is so important, because the initial years are crucial time for your baby’s mental growth. It also aids in the development and optimal functioning of their immune system thereby preventing them from developing frequent and severe day-to-day infections. Dr. Jyothi Chabria, Senior Consultant Dietician and Nutritionist, Women Care Clinic, said, “Malnutrition due to poor or inadequate diet quality is a very common factor and it puts the developing brain at risk during the initial years of the child.

It not only affects their physical growth but also affects their immunity, productivity, memorizing ability and in the long run they might be more susceptible to chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.“India is home to a high number of micronutrient deficiencies. In fact India ranks high in the world in prevalence of anemia (iron deficiency) with 70 per cent of children aged between 5-59 months being anemic.

Iron is an essential element of blood production. It is important not only for cellular formation and muscle, brain and cell development but also assists in the movement of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Even the immune system is dependent on iron for its smooth functioning especially for young children.

Neonatal iron stores start to reduce by the fourth month. Hence, it is also importance that mothers make the effort to consume the required amount of iron so that there is a healthy balance on iron in her body. This ensures that her baby gets adequate nutrition between 4-12 months to prevent any sort of iron deficiency.

Vitamin A and Iodine are also common deficiencies prevalent in the country. Vitamin A is essential for maintenance of eye health and normal vision, bone growth and helps protect the body from infections. It also helps promote the health and growth of cells and tissues in the body, particularly those in hair, nails and skin. Iodine is an important component of thyroid hormones that regulates growth and energy metabolism. It is essential for the healthy development of the brain and mental function in infants.

Several studies have shown that micronutrient intake of Indian children do not meet the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) suggested by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). In fact a country wide survey conducted in 1998 by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNNB) showed that Indian diets were adequate in proteins but deficient in some micronutrients.

“A majority of the diets contain insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals. In fact it is not entirely possible to meet 100 per cent requirements of the micronutrients through dietary sources alone due to lack of variation or consumption of processed foods. Utmost care should be taken to include the ‘RIGHT’ kind of foods when planning your baby’s meal. Introducing micronutrient-fortified foods is an added step towards preventing and combating any nutritional deficiencies.” added Dr Jyothi.

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