NUTRITION CORNER: Complementary feeding vital to nutrition of infants, young children

Complementary feeding is the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to giving other foods while continuing breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend that this transition feeding starts when the infant is six months until the child is 24 months old. At six months, infants are very vulnerable to malnutrition because at this stage, breastmilk alone is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs.

Perfect timing in giving complementary feeding is very crucial because given too early or too late will not be good for the infant’s health and nutritional well—being.

Giving it earlier than six months is discouraged because it exposes infants to pathogens that increase the child’s risks to infection and diarrhea and decreases the demand for breastmilk that in turn decreases breastmilk production.

Given late, it will predispose the child to undernutrition since breastmilk alone is not enough to cover the increasing nutritional requirement of the child after six months.

Aside from appropriate timing, complementary feeding should be nutritious, prepared in sanitary manner and given in appropriate texture and amount,

According to the infant feeding practices data of the Food and Nutrition Research institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) taken from the 7th National Nutrition Survey, water, on the average was given at three months to 9 out of 10 infants, and water with sugar was given at age four months to 2 out of 10 infants. These results fell short of the recommendation that only breastmilk should be given to infants before six l months.

Based on the results, there is a need to strengthen advocacy and training on correct infant and young child feeding practices to all nursing mothers and would-be mothers to improve Filipino infants and young children’s nutritional status.# (Mildred O. Guirindola/FNRI-DOST S & T Media Service)