When does malnutrition begin?
If the mother is malnourished and anaemic, malnutrition begins before birth. It, however, intensifies sharply between the ages of six months and three years.
Why is the period between six months and six years so critical?
This is the time when the mother’s milk alone is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of a growing child. Even if they are hungry, children at this stage are too young to ask for more food. They are also more susceptible to infections during this period, which also interferes with their food intake.
Can we make up for nutritional neglect in the first six years of life?
Almost 80 per cent of children’s brains develop in the first six years, so it is vital to meet their nutritional needs. Later efforts can help but cannot reverse the developmental gaps that poor nutrition can cause in the early years.
What should young children be fed?
Exclusive breastfeeding is the best food for the first six months of a baby’s life. Besides providing nutrition, it protects babies from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections and stimulates their immune systems. Children need supplementary food after they are six months old and should be given a balanced diet with adequate amounts of iron, vitamins and protein. Giving a child milk alone is not enough.