MANY Filipino infants and young children between 6 months to 23 months old are not receiving adequate nutrients needed for their optimum growth and development.
The 2019 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), that was released recently, revealed the “low adherence to infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practice recommendations for Filipino infants and young children” of this age group.
While seven out of 10 Filipino infants and young children in the same age group received timely introduction of complementary foods when they turn 6 months, eight out of 10 did not meet the minimum dietary diversity (MDD), the DOST-FNRI said in a news release.
MDD, a proxy or “substitute” indicator of micronutrient intake of infants and young children, is met when at least four of the following seven food groups are received: 1) grains, roots and tubers; 2) legumes and nuts; 3) dairy products; 4) flesh meat; 5) eggs; 6_ vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables; 7) other fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, nine out of 10 Filipino infants and young children 6 months to 23 months old are not receiving appropriate complementary feeding, suggesting poor quality and quantity of complementary foods.
In terms of types of complementary foods that most Filipino children of this age group are eating, the 2019 ENNS also showed that five out of 10 eat commercial baby food, while one out of five eats lugaw (porridge).
About 8 percent of them consume mashed vegetables, 7 percent boiled rice, 4 percent biscuits or breads and 2 percent fruits, the ENNS further revealed.
At 6 months old, complementary foods, together with continued breastfeeding, are needed to meet increasing nutritional requirements for the proper growth and development of an infant.
Complementary foods are meant to “complement” breastmilk in giving the nutrients that babies need.
Complementary foods given to infants and young children 6 months to 23 months old should be soft, mashed, well-cooked and safely prepared.
In addition, these foods should be given in gradually increasing consistency, texture and density until young children transition to food from the family pot or regular meals.
Between 6 months and 35 months, children undergo rapid growth and are more susceptible to malnutrition and infections.
The World Health Organization declared this stage as the “window of opportunity,” or the First 1,000 Days, when nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions should be properly implemented and coordinated across sectors.
Lack of proper and adequate nutrition during this stage may result in stunting, or low length- or height-for-age.
Stunting results in impaired growth and development that infants and children experience due to suboptimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, improper nutrition and environmental hygiene.
It has long-term effects, such as diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity and poor health.
Moreover, intelligence scores of children after the age of three years can no longer be significantly improved even with a better diet.
The DOST-FNRI Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP) is an integrated intervention strategy involving nutrition education and technology transfer of complementary food technologies of the Institute.
The MRP is in collaboration with the DOST regional and provincial offices, local government units, entrepreneurs, academe and other organizations involved in nutrition programs.
Through technology transfer, qualified beneficiaries are provided production equipment and license to produce and commercialize DOST-FNRI complementary food blends and snack foods in their communities.
Besides the establishment of complementary food processing facilities, the Package for the Improvement of Nutrition of Young Children (DOST-Pinoy) will be implemented in these areas.
The DOST-Pinoy provides nutrition education to identified Barangay Health Workers and Barangay Nutrition Scholars on basic nutrition, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, meal planning, safe food handling and preparation and backyard vegetable gardening.
These trainings and seminars help in enhancing their knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently implement the program in their localities.
Moreover, the 2021 Menu Guide Calendar (MGC) of DOST-FNRI focuses on recipes for complementary feeding of infants and young children 6 months to 23 months old to support their optimum growth and development.
The 2021 MGC features innovative kitchen-tested recipes that are sensory acceptable, utilizes locally available raw materials and provides adequate nutrient requirements for children 6 months to 23 months old.