29 January 2013

Zambia: Breast Milk Essential for Infants

Breastfed infants, in general, have fewer infections and a reduced chance of developing allergies and food intolerances.

For these and other reasons, breast-feeding is strongly recommended for at least the first four to six months of life.

However, if a woman is unable to breast-feed or chooses not to, infant formulas (altered forms of cow's milk) could provide safe and adequate nourishment for an infant.

Goat's milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk are inappropriate for infants.

Soy formulas and hydrolysed protein formulas could be used if a milk allergy is suspected.

In developing countries with poor sanitation, over-diluted formulas or those prepared with contaminated water could cause malnutrition and infection, resulting in diarrhea, dehydration, and even death.

Breastfed infants may need supplements of iron and vitamin D during the first six months of life and fluoride after six months.

A vitamin B12 supplement is advised for breastfed infants whose mothers are strict vegetarians.

Solid foods, starting with iron fortified infant cereals, could be introduced between four and six months to meet nutrient needs that breast milk or infant formulas can no longer supply alone.

Other foods could be introduced gradually, one every few days.

Infants should not be given honey which may contain bacteria that could cause botulism, foods that are too salty or sweet, foods that may cause choking, or large amounts of fruit juice.

Starting at one year of age, whole cow's milk could be an excellent source of nutrients for children.

However, because cow's milk is associated with gastrointestinal blood loss, iron deficiency, and an allergic response in some young infants, some medical societies do not recommend giving unmodified whole cow's milk to children less than one-year-old.

Low fat or non-fat milk is inappropriate for children less than two years of age.

The rapid growth rate of infancy slows down in early childhood.

During childhood but not before the age of two, a gradual transition to lower fat foods is recommended, along with regular exercise.

Establishing healthul practices in childhood would reduce the risk of childhood obesity as well as obesity in adulthood and related chronic diseases, example, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Vegetarian children could be well-nourished but care is needed for them to receive sufficient energy (calories), good-quality protein, vitamins B12 and D, and the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium.

It is difficult for children who do not drink milk to obtain enough calcium from their food, and supplements may be required.

Because of possible toxicity, iron supplements should be taken only under medical supervision.

A small percentage of school-age children who have difficulty sitting still and paying attention are diagnosed with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Studies have found no convincing evidence that ADHD is caused by sugar or food additives in the diet or that symptoms could be alleviated by eliminating these substances.

Because of unusual eating practices, skipped meals, and concerns about body image, many teenagers, especially girls, have a less than optimal diet. Teenage girls, in particular, need to take special care to obtain adequate amounts of calcium so that bones could be properly mineralised. Iron deficiency anaemia is a concern not only for teenage girls, who lose iron periodically in menstrual blood, but also for teenage boys.

We are now very confident that you would raise your children in a healtful way nutritionally as we have provided you with the standard for good health.

This long journey for health living is spiced with a lot of ingredients and once you add them in your life in its rightful proportion then disease won't be your portion.

Though we might fall sick at times, there is a lot we can do to prevent diseases and what we are giving you through health informative articles is an eye opener to your past, present and future health risks.

The author is a health practitioner and commentator.

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