How to prevent health and growth problems of my children from malnutrition?
Make sure the child eats often enough. In addition to breastfeeding, a child aged 6 to 8 months needs to eat two to three times per day and three to four times per day starting at 9 months. Additional nutritious snacks, such as a piece of fruit or bread with nut paste, may be needed one or two times per day. A child with developmental delays or disabilities may require extra help and time for feeding.
Make sure the child receives enough food. A child aged 6 to 8 months needs to receive initially 2 to 3 spoonfuls of food, increasing gradually to 1/2 cup (250-millilitre), at each meal. A child 9 to 12 months old needs to receive 1/2 cup at each meal. A child 12 to 23 months old requires 3/4 to 1 whole cup of 'family foods' at each meal. Children 2 years and older need to receive at least 1 whole cup at each meal. If the child finishes his or her food and wants more, the child needs to be offered more. If the child does not seem to like the taste of a particular food, other foods should be offered. New foods should be introduced gradually.
Make sure the child's meals have enough 'growth' or 'energy' foods. Foods that help children grow are beans, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, grains and pulses. The daily inclusion of animal-source foods in the diet is particularly important. A small amount of oil can add energy. Red palm oil or other vitamin-enriched edible oils are good sources of energy. High-quality 'growth' foods are especially important to ensure that children gain both adequate weight and height. Foods such as highly processed fatty foods or sugary snacks are not rich in vitamins and minerals and other important nutrients and may cause children to gain too much weight without a proportionate growth in height.
Take special care for a sick child. A sick child needs encouragement to eat small, frequent meals. The child needs to be breastfed more frequently. After an illness, the child needs to eat more than usual to regain the weight lost and to replenish energy and nourishment. If the child is frequently ill, he or she should be checked by a trained health worker.
Make sure the child is getting enough foods with vitamin A. Breastmilk is rich in vitamin A. Other foods with vitamin A are liver, eggs, dairy products, red palm oil, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, and green leafy vegetables. If these foods are not available in adequate amounts, a healthcare provider can provide the child with a vitamin A supplement (tablet or syrup) every four to six months.
If a breastmilk substitute is given, it should be fed from a clean, open cup, rather than from a bottle.
Make sure the food is kept clean. If not, the child will often be ill. Raw food should be washed or cooked with clean water from a safe source. Cooked food should be eaten without delay. Leftover food should be carefully stored and thoroughly reheated.
Clean water is vital for a child's health. Water should come from a safe source and be kept clean by storing it in covered containers that are clean on the inside and outside. Clean drinking water can be obtained from a regularly maintained, controlled and chlorinated piped supply, public standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring or rainwater collection. If water is drawn from ponds, streams, unprotected springs, wells or tanks, it needs to be purified. Home water treatments can be used such as boiling, filtering, adding chlorine or disinfecting with sunlight in accordance with information provided by a trained health worker or extension agent.
Make sure that faeces are being put in a latrine or toilet or buried. Are hands being washed with soap and water or a substitute, such as ash and water, after use of the latrine or toilet? If not, the child may frequently get worms and other sicknesses. A child with worms needs deworming medicine from a trained health worker.
If the young child is left alone much of the time or in the care of an older child, the young child may need more attention and interaction from adults, especially during mealtime.