SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Every infant and child has the right to good nutrition according to the ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
Undernutrition is estimated to be associated with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Infant and young child feeding is a key area to improve child survival and promote healthy growth and development. The first two years of a child’s life are particularly important, as optimal nutrition during this period lowers morbidity and mortality, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and fosters better development overall.” – WHO
This week the global community of nations are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7).
The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Section Youth Health Care (YHC) from the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (Ministry VSA), has been promoting information via various mediums to educate the Sint Maarten community and women and mother’s/mother’s to be about the importance of child nutrition and breastfeeding.
Optimal breastfeeding is so critical that it could save the lives of over 820,000 children globally under the age of five years each year.
The WHO and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) recommends early initiation of breastfeeding within one (1) hour of birth; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six (6) months of life; and
introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at six (6) months together with continued breastfeeding up to two (2) years of age or beyond.
However, many infants and children do not receive optimal feeding, WHO points out; for example, only about 44% of infants aged 0–6 months worldwide were exclusively breastfed over the period of 2015-2020.
WHO recommendations have been refined to also address the needs for infants born to HIV-infected mothers. Antiretroviral drugs now allow these children to exclusively breastfeed until they are six (6) months old and continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months of age with a significantly reduced risk of HIV transmission.
Around the age of six (6) months, an infant’s need for energy and nutrients starts to exceed what is provided by breast milk, and complementary foods are necessary to meet those needs, the WHO says.
“An infant of this age is also developmentally ready for other foods. If complementary foods are not introduced around the age of six (6) months, or if they are given inappropriately, an infant’s growth may falter. Guiding principles for appropriate complementary feeding are: continue frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until two (2) years of age or beyond; practice responsive feeding (for example, feed infants directly and assist older children. Feed slowly and patiently, encourage them to eat but do not force them, talk to the child, and maintain eye contact).
“Practice good hygiene and proper food handling; start at six (6) months with small amounts of food and increase gradually as the child gets older; gradually increase food consistency and variety;
increase the number of times that the child is fed: two-three meals per day for infants 6–8 months of age and 3–4 meals per day for infants 9–24 months of age, with 1–2 additional snacks as required; use fortified complementary foods or vitamin-mineral supplements as needed; and during illness, increase fluid intake including more breastfeeding, and offer soft, favorite foods.”