Every day I encounter numerous children who are faced with issues of malnutrition that range from low birth weights, low growth weight for height, micronutrient deficiencies, anemia, diabetes, obesity and the list is endless. With their mothers worried about what they will do, the children suffer in the meantime right from their birth dates to the time of their 2nd birthday helplessly.
Children require nurturing in their early years more than anything if they will grow to become healthy adults. The first 1000 days of an infant are thus the most crucial days of a child in terms of nutrition. Infants require macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) to support their metabolism and proliferation of cells to grow their tiny bodies to adolescents and thereafter adults. They also require vitamins and mineral salts which are essential for cellular structure support and function of the body. Without a supply of these nutrients within the first 1000 days of infancy, growth falters. This is the major reason why proper nutrition from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy until the 2nd birthday has an immense impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and rise from poverty.
Stunting is one of the major issues facing infants since they fail to achieve their maximum potential for height, are prone to infections and malnutrition. So what does an infant require to ensure that the infant celebrates the 2nd birthday? Lets tackle some of the needs here:
Energy: while many adults need only about 25 to 30 calories per kilogram of body weight, an infant who is 4kg for example, needs about 100 kilocalories per kilogram per day (430 calories a day). Infants who are around 4 to 6 months who weigh 6kgs or so need roughly 82 kilocalories per kilogram of body weight (490 calories a day). Children who are older and are 1 to 3 years need about 990 kilocalories and so on and so forth. Energy needs thus have to keep increasing within these first 1000 days. It is no wonder that breastfeeding supersedes all other sources of feed for the infants from birth to 6 months.
Water: the water requirements for infants are normally high in children because they have got a higher surface area and a reduced capacity to sweat as compared to adults. They can easily become dehydrated and thus parents should not underestimate the fluid needs of their children. This especially occurs when the child is introduced to food after 6 months.
Essential fatty acids and micronutrients: the requirements for fatty acids in infants are supposedly higher than in adults. Examples of these are omega 3 sources from fish, cod liver oil, or other omega 3 artificial supplements. This is because they play a major role in the development of the central nervous system. Diets that do not have micronutrients can affect the function of the brain and stunt growth which leads to death among women and children. In Kenya, many children are suffering from severe infections, chronic medical problems all because they are micronutrient deficient. Keep reading this and more about how to take care of your child during the first 1000 days of infancy!