Chennai: As an infant crosses six months of age, parents slowly begin to take their child off the regular diet of only mother's milk and over the next few months introduce the baby to a diet of solid food as well.
Parents try to provide their baby with healthy home cooked food, but fail to understand that it may be lacking in essential micronutrients. “There is enough evidence to prove that infants who are not fed sufficient micronutrients in their daily diet are at great risk of altered mental and physical growth. This deficiency can affect the child's health in his / her early years of life and lead to serious health consequences,” said Paediatrician Dr Sreedevi.
According to a recent UNICEF report, the daily dietary intake of five out of six children under two years of age lack in essential micronutrients, putting them at the risk of irreversible mental and physical damage.
“Infants who are given food that meets the nutritional requirements of the rest of the household are more likely to have inadequate amounts of micronutrients. Children less than two years of age require vitamins and minerals in higher quantities than what is required by adults,” said Dr Lakshmi, a health expert.
The report also said that approximately half of the children's population suffers from one or more micronutrient deficiency worldwide. Emphasising on the importance of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child's life, Dr Sreedevi said, “An insufficient intake of a variety of food deprives the infants of essential micronutrients when their growing brain and bodies need them the most. A mother's nutrition during pregnancy and successful breastfeeding during the first six months of life are the first steps to improve the nutrition of the child.”
Dr Sreedhar, consultant paediatrician, Veritas Children's Clinic, said, “In many cases, infants growing with proper weight and height are often reported with deficiency of micronutrients which include essential vitamins and mineral as diet in Indian household generally provide macronutrients, but many times lack in micronutrients required for the mental development of infants. Therefore, it is imperative that the diet must include micronutrient dense food.” “Failure to meet the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals can falter child's growth and development, affecting quality of life at later age,” he concluded.