Early solids feeding can cause obesity

Early solids feeding can cause obesity

Giving birth is perhaps the most joyous occasion in a woman's life. But rearing child should be dealt...

Giving birth is perhaps the most joyous occasion in a woman's life. But rearing child should be dealt delicately. A time will come when mother's milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of growing child. From six months of age, the baby begins to need additional sources of energy and other essential nutrients for good health, growth and development.

The act of complementing mother's milk with semi-solid and solid foods after the child has reached six months of age is called complementary feeding. Doctors suggest that complementary foods should not be introduced either too early or late as it may lead to health consequences later. According to pediatricians, the time period of 6 months to 18-24 months is a vulnerable one for the child. The most rapid growth of human body occurs during infancy, and nutritional needs are at their highest per unit of body weight. This is the time when malnutrition starts in many infants.

It is only at six months that a baby's digestive system is developed enough to digest a range of solid and semi-solid foods. The baby attains the necessary motor skills to cope safely with these. Feeding solid foods too early has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, celiac disease, allergies and other disorders like eczema later in childhood. Yet, the practice of untimely introduction of complementary feeding continues due to a lack of awareness among mothers. On the other hand, introducing complementary food later than six months is also likely to impact the baby's health, triggering nutritional deficiencies as mother's milk alone may not be able to meet all her nutritional requirements.

Children fed only on their mother's milk after this period face the prospects of a nutritional gap and lowered immunity against preventable illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia. As per the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) guidelines, this is a serious issue in India where around 40% of children remain without any complementary source of feeding till they attain eighth months of age. Complementary food for children needs to be timely, adequate, appropriate as well as safe and hygienic

Doctors say that for infants starting on complementary foods, iron requires special attention because iron deficiency is the highest among children less than two years old. Providing complementary foods rich in essential fatty acids along with mother's milk will help in ensuring adequate supply of these essential nutrients. Also important is Vitamin D for infants with inadequate exposure to sunlight and Vitamin A in areas where deficiency rates are high. It is well recognised that the period from birth to two years of age is the "critical window" for the promotion of optimal growth, health, and development.

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