Experts in Nutrition and Dietetics on Wednesday said inappropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices were main causes of malnutrition in the first two years of a child.
The experts made the observation at the 6th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference organised by the Nigerian Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NISPGHAN) in Lagos.
Our correspondent reports that the theme of the conference is: “The Role of specialised Paediatric Gastroenterological care in improving child health’’.
They observed that the period of birth to two years of age of a child was recognised as a critical period during which adequate nutrition should be provided for the child to achieve optimum development and full growth.
Prof. Philip Abiodun, a Consultant in Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, regretted that mothers gave complementary feeds to their babies too early.
He said that the appropriate and perfect feed for infants in the first six months of life was breast milk.
“Breast milk is the perfect blend of nutritional and non-nutritional substance that ensures appropriate outcomes in growth, cognition, immune response and long term well-being.
“In Nigeria, malnutrition is widespread as 41 per cent of all children less than five years of age are stunted, 14 per cent wasted and 23 per cent are underweight.
“This is as a result of poor diet or lack of food. Also, when the intake of nutrients or energy is too high, too low or poorly balanced,’’ Abiodun said.
The nutritionist urged mothers to ensure they gave adequate amount of food to their children and at the right frequency.
He advised nursing mothers to eat well so as to be able to exclusively breastfeed their babies, saying unless they (mothers) are extremely sick to do so.
Abiodun, also President of NISPGHAN, urged mothers to eat well rather than considering drinking palm wine for more breast milk.
He said drinking of palm wine does not help in the production of milk, saying normal good and balanced diet does the magic.
Miss Patience Chima, a Dietician Nutritionist of the Dietetics Department, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said malnutrition affected infants mostly due to lack of nutrients critical for normal growth and development.
According to her, globally malnutrition starts under age five.
“Children need to eat balanced meals and variety of foods to get the right nutrients; they should get enough protein and vitamins.
“The more malnourished a child is the more nutrients that are missing, the more likely she is to have a problem,’’ Chima said.
She urged mothers to effectively feed their children so as to avoid them being under nourished.
She said under nutrition whether in weight, size or in height would cause problem to the child.
She said the mental development of the child would also be affected, thereby, causing the brain not to have the energy to do what he supposed to do.
Our correspondent reports that Nestle Company, nursing mothers, nurses and doctors from all over the country attended the conference.
A communiqué is expected at the end of the conference on Aug. 31.