Investing in early childhood development is one of the finest investments a country can make to hike economic growth, promote peaceful and sustainable societies, and cast out extreme poverty to inequality.
Children are the priceless resource and they deserve a long, healthy, and productive lives. The key is to invest in people when they are young. Evidence shows the hungry and improper nutrition children have poorer health, worse educational outcomes, and earn less as adults.
Children who receive proper nutrition, appropriate care, and quality education grow up to be healthy, proper, and responsible citizens. Good nutrition doesn’t mean strong bodies only, it’’s also about strong minds.
During the 1st 2 years, up to 75% of each meal goes to building your baby’s brain, so it is very important to know how the baby should be fed.
During the baby’s first 6 months of life, your baby can receive all of the nutrients and energy she needs to grow and develop from mother’s milk. She doesn’t need anything else during this period.
A normal newborn baby should breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Each feed should be average 10-15 minutes with good attachment and position. A newborn baby needs to eat a lot because they are growing rapidly. They double their birth weight in the first 6 months of life or before.
The first hour after birth is a very crucial time for the mother and baby. Breastfeeding is a very organized neurological behavior. As soon as the baby is kept in the mother’s skin, the baby triggers to seek the breast on their own within about 30 minutes to one hour.
Introducing foods or fluids other than breast milk to your baby before she is 6 months old can cause the risk of illnesses, such as diarrhea, which can make her thin and fragile and even can be life-threatening. Your baby may also be breastfed less often, so your supply of milk, her most vital food may cede.
A mother’s milk is the safest and healthiest food for the first 6 months of life for all children everywhere. It s a safe source of essential nutrition wherever you and your baby live in the world.
FROM 6 MONTHS TO 8 MONTHS :
This is the time to introduce solid foods. Baby needs more energy and nutrients now than into any other time which milk alone cannot suffice.
At 6 months, start giving your baby just two to three spoonful of soft foods such as porridge, mashed potatoes, fruits, or vegetables twice a day. After 6 months, breast milk is still your baby’s main source of energy and nutrients but solid foods should be added.
When your baby is 6 months old, she is just learning to chew. Her first foods need to be soft so they are very easy to swallow. To make it more nutritious, cook food until its thick enough not to run off the spoon.
Feed your baby when you notice her signals that she is hungry such as inserting her hands to her mouth. After washing hands, start by giving your baby just two to three spoonfuls of soft foods, twice a day.
The taste of a new food may surprise your baby. Give her time to get used to these new foods and flavors. Be patient and don’t force your baby to eat. Watch for signs that she is full and stop feeding her then.
FEEDING YOUR BABY: 9- 11 MONTHS
From 9 -11 months old, your baby can take half a cup of food three to four times a day, plus a healthy snack. Now you can start to chop up soft food into small pieces instead of mashing it. Your baby may even start to eat food herself with her fingers. Continue to breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. Each meal should be easy to eat and packed with nutrition. Foods need to be rich in energy and nutrients.
In addition to grains and potatoes be sure your baby has vegetables and fruits, legumes and seeds, a little energy-rich oil or fat, and especially animal foods( eggs, meat, fish, and poultry ).
If your baby refuses a new food or spits it out, don’t force to insert it again. Try again a few days later. You can also try mixing it with another food that your baby likes or squeezing a little breast milk on top.
FEEDING YOUR BABY: 1-2 YEARS
Your child can now eat the same food as the rest of your family. At one year old, your child is learning to eat on her own, she can chew her food as well. so she can eat the same foods as the rest of the family.
At 1 year, solid foods including healthy snacks are now your child’s main source of energy and nutrition. She can take between three quarters to one cup of food three to four times a day, plus one to two snacks in between meals.
Continue breastfeeding as much as your child wants until she is at least 2 years old. Avoid junk food and soft drinks. At this age, breast milk still provides important nutrition and protection against diseases but other foods become her main source of nutrition and energy. Feed her other foods first and then breastfeed after, if she is still hungry.
Give her some of all the food your family eats and make every bite count. Each meal needs to be packed with nutritious foods. Be sure she has a portion of animal foods (milk, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry) each day plus legumes like( chickpeas, lentils, or peas ) or nuts and orange or green vegetables and fruits. Add a little oil or fat to the food for energy. Be sure your child’s snacks are healthy such as fresh fruits.
Your child can take between 3/4th to 1 cup of food 3 to 4 times a day, plus one to two snacks between meals. If you are not breastfeeding, she’ll need to eat more often. When your child is at 1 year, about the time she’s starting to walk, your child feeding schedule should incorporate 4 to 5 times meals a day, plus two healthy snacks. Milk products are a very important part of your child’s diet. Give her one or two cups of milk a day.
Having a bowl of food will help your child learn to feed herself. Trigger as soon as she wants. Give her all the food she needs and plenty of time to eat. At first, she’ll be sluggish and messy. Help her so that she gets most of the food in her mouth ( instead of on herself or floor). Encourage her to finish it and make sure she has had enough. Shower your child with lots of love and encouragement to eat during meal times. Sit in front of her and make eye contact, interact with your child, smile at her, talk to her, and praise her for eating. Make an environment where she can enjoy the meal.
When your child refuses to eat solid foods, make sure she is hungry at mealtimes and has not just had a snack. Although breastfeeding continues to be healthy for your child, breastfeed only after his meals. At this age, she should eat solid food first. Give your child healthy food that she likes or mix the food she likes with food she doesn’t like much. Try different food amalgamation and textures. Don’t be tempted to give junk foods. Be calm and accepting. Give your child positive attention when she does eat, but don’t panic when she doesn’t.
Dr. Aruna is a Pediatrician working in Civil Service Hospital and International friendship Children’s Hospital located in Kathmandu, Nepal. She successfully completed the post-graduate program in Pediatric Nutrition affiliated from the Boston University School of Medicine. She did her observership in Neonatology from Belgium. She along with her colleagues and mentor has published a handbook ‘Mero Pahilo Swatha Pustika ‘ which answers all the queries regarding infants and children. She can be contacted here.
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