Nutrition Council promotes proper infants’ care

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Globally recognized as “golden window of opportunity” for nutrition, infants’ first 1,000 days of life was given emphasis in a program launched by the National Nutrition Council in Central Luzon.

Ana Maria Rosaldo, officer-in-charge of NNC Region 3, said the program involves massive campaign for families to introduce proper nutrition and other healthy interventions for babies from the time of conception up to the next 1,000 days.

Representatives from various government agencies, community health and nutrition workers, and the media were tapped to support the program that also seeks to promote health among pregnant women.

“Good nutrition of both the mother and the child is an important driver for a child to achieve maximum growth and development potential that has lasting, profound effect in the life course,” Rosaldo said.

Research show that growth gap or “faltering” happens during the first 1,000 days of life.

Studies have shown a link between undernutrition, especially stunting, in the early years of life and overnutrition in the child’s later years and consequent development of non-communicable diseases.

Stunted growth, or “bansot” in Filipino, means that a child is short compared to other children of the same age.

Stunting, Rosaldo explained, is an irreversible outcome of poor nutrition and repeated bouts of infection during the first 1,000 days.

Children who are stunted have diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity and poor health.

To combat this health concern, NNC and DOH are addressing issues on breastfeeding that prevent or discourage mothers to breastfeed their children up to a certain age.

The first 1,000 days include the time of the fertilization of a mother’s egg cell and the entire pregnancy period of 270 days; baby’s day of birth up to six months composed of 180 days; and the next 550 days of the baby’s life.

Though breastfeeding is supported by several laws and executive fiats, many mothers, especially those from the working class, prefer infant formulas for their babies’ food.

However, health officials said infants are deprived of the nutritional elements only found in the mother’s milk such as colostrum that helps boost the child’s immune system.

The International Labour Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said only one out of three Filipino children are breastfed as recommended.

It is estimated that 16,000 Filipino infants die each year from not being breastfed optimally.

“That is 44 infants–a busload of infants dying each day,” said ILO and Unicef.

If not breastfed, infants aged zero to five months have seven times the risk of dying from diarrhea and five times at risk of dying from penumonia as compared to those babies who are exclusively breastfed.

Commemorative mugs and other promotional materials have been produced under the NNC project to constantly remind families to observe proper nutrition especially during the critical first 1,000 days of life.

The Infant and Young Child Feeding community was also launched to espouse sound young child feeding practices in communities of the region. –Albert Lacanlale