THE National Assembly was told on Tuesday that too many children in this country miss balanced diet -- a critical anomaly that endangers their mental state. What many families do not know is the stark reality that unbalanced diets often trigger mental disorders.
The Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders, Dr Faustine Ndungulile, told the august House that children who do not get proper meals eventually develop mental disorders that can be difficult to reverse.
Indeed, child rearing appears to be a simple task that is managed by all sorts of parents - the rich and the poor. Even beggars, and other socially disadvantaged citizens, raise children. But there are internationally accepted standards that should be followed if child rearing is to be rated as acceptable.
Exclusive Breast-feeding helps protect babies from common illnesses and ensures good physical and mental growth and development. A child who is given only breast milk for about the first six months usually grows very well during this time. At this age babies should not be given water. Mothers' milk has enough water content in it. And there are no impurities in breast milk.
Unfortunately, not many parents know this. By about six months, a child needs other types of foods and drinks. But most of these foods should be mashed.
However, breast-feeding should continue into the second year. It is also imperative to mention here that breast-feeding helps protect infants and young children against dangerous illnesses. It also creates a special bond between mother and child.
In fact, breast-milk is the baby's "first immunization." At the age of six months the child's diet should now include peeled, cooked and mashed vegetables, grains, pulses and fruit, according to nutritionists.
It should also include some oil, fish, eggs, chicken, meat or dairy products to provide vitamins and minerals. In the second year, breastfeeding should be offered after meals and at other times.
A mother can continue to breastfeed her child for as long as she and the child wishes. Children aged six to 12 months should be breastfed frequently. What the legislators were not told on Tuesday is that some parents smoke in the presence of their babies.
This diabolical practice emanates from total ignorance of offensive consequences. Smoking parents expose their children to a very hostile environment. Smoking is also on record for crippling the limbs of infants or impairing their mental state.
Respiratory complications, infected ears, laboured breathing and peptic ulcers are likely to occur. Children are also likely to get pneumonia and other respiratory problems.