What every family and community should know about Child Growth (part 6)

The following is lifted from Facts for Life, Philippine National Edition, published by the Philippine Information Agency in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Supporting Information on Child Growth

6. All children need foods rich in Vitamin A

Over 200,000 children go blind each year because they do not have enough Vitamin A in their bodies. Vitamin A may also protect children against other illnesses such as diarrhea. It should therefore a part of every child’s daily diet.

Vitamin A comes from breastmilk, dark green leafy vegetables, and from orage or yellow fruits and vegetables such as squash, carrots, papayas, and mangos.

If a child has had diarrhea or measles, Vitamin A will be lost from the child’s body. It can be replaced by breastfeeding more often, and by feeding the child more fruits and green and yellow vegetables.

7. After an illness, a child needs extra meals to catch up on the growth lost during the illness

One of the most important skills of a parent is the skill of stopping illnesses from holding back a child’s growth.

In time of illness, and especially if the illness is diarrhea or measles, the appetite falls and less of the food that is eaten is absorbed into the body. If this happens several times a year, the child’s growth will be held back.

So it is essential to keep on encouraging a child who is ill to take food and drink. This can be very difficult if the child does not want to eat, so it is important to keep offering the child the food he or she likes, usually soft, sweet foods, a little at a time and as often as possible. Breastfeeding is especially important.

When the illness is over, extra meals should be given so that the child ‘catches up’ on the growth lost. A good rule is to give a child an extra meal everyday for at least a week after the illness is over.

The child is not fully recovered from an illness until he or she is at least the same weight as when the illness began.

If illness and poor appetite persist for more than a few days, the child should be taken to a health worker.

It is also important to protect a child’s growth by preventing illness:

  • Give a child breastmilk alone for the first six months of life, then introduce other foods, and continue to breastfeed.
  • Get your child fully immunized before the age of one year.
  • Always use latrines and keep hands, food and kitchens clean.

(to be continued)