Chennai: India is making significant strides in improving child health and nutrition, yet every year, millions of children succumb to the scourge of a deficiency in vitamins and minerals, which, according to doctors is one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity among infants.
Leading causes of child mortality among children under-five include pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and malaria where malnutrition is often an underlying cause. “The first three-and-a-half years in a child’s life lays the foundation for and shapes the state of his health for the latter part of his life. The intake of nutrient dense food during this time is paramount to ensure that the child reaches his full potential when it comes to physical growth,” said Dr Levin R, a paediatrician in the city.
The consequences of this deficiency are so fierce, that over seven lakh out of 26 million babies born annually; do not even survive infancy, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
Stating that a sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals is essential for proper growth and a healthy immune system, Paediatrician, Dr Lakshmi said, “Until an infant reaches six months of age, he should essentially be fed mother’s milk. There are many mothers who make the mistake of diluting cow’s milk and feeding the baby. In such cases, the infant misses out on the nutrients available in the mother’s milk.”
Experts find that gaps in micronutrient delivery are the highest when the infant is moving from exclusive breast milk to semi-solid feeds because the needs are going up whereas delivery is going down at the same time.
“While ensuring the child gets mother’s milk until he turns six months, a parent should also give him nutrient dense food (vitamin and mineral enriched food, fortified grains/foods, iron/multivitamin drops supplementation) along with breast milk after the child turns six months old,” said Dr. Priya Chandershekhar, Paediatrician, Apollo Children’s Hospital.
“Only then will sufficient minerals and vitamins enter the infant’s body, enabling better physical growth,” she added....