Addressing malnutrition is of utmost importance as it enables in laying a strong foundation for human development. However, the Global Hunger Index released recently revealed that India is ranked at 107 among the 121 countries that have been assessed. The score is largely a measure of child health markers, which indicates that children in India are undergoing malnutrition to a great effect. Therefore, ensuring maternal nutrition and young child feeding can serve as the most effective set of interventions to reduce death in children and in preventing diseases such as malnutrition. It further advances cognitive development, eventually enabling productivity during their adult life.
In an exclusive interaction with OnlyMyHealth editorial team, Pratibha Pandey, Senior Health Specialist, ChildFund India shares the importance of ensuring effective nutrition intake for mother and child after childbirth.
It is imperative to undertake interventions during the first 1000 days of a child’s life; i.e, till they turn two years old. During this time one can ensure effective growth and cognitive development, child survival and lifelong health and nutrition. This is the period when 80% of the brain is developed.
Inadequate nutrition in the first 1000 days of birth can cause severe damage to the child’s brain, which has an impact on their ability to do well in everyday living. It further causes other diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
One must also keep in mind that when the child is in the womb, they are dependent on the mother for nutrition as well as mental and physical growth. There is a greater possibility that an undernourished mother will give birth to an undernourished child, which will result in a cycle of undernutrition. Hence, stakeholders must generate awareness and provide resources to ensure effective childhood development by focusing on the first 1000 days.
Interventions To Be Undertaken After Childbirth
1. Reaching out to pregnant women
Often, children between six to 24 months are in the ‘higher risk group’ category of undernutrition. Hence, it is essential that we reach out to women soon after they have been diagnosed to ensure they take critical care.
2. Establish improved nutrition among adolescent girls and young women
Another critical factor to be kept in mind is that we must reach out to young women during and after their pregnancy. A few aspects to be kept in mind during this stage are taking complete immunisations, and adequate complementary feeding that will further be supported by regular growth monitoring. Additionally, diarrheal, and respiratory diseases can be prevented through handwashing mental stimulation can happen through play and affection.
3. Involving families
Awareness generation workshops can help in educating families in providing support to mothers for breastfeeding, which is very important and can serve as the best protection against diseases and illness.
4. Usage of technology
Technology has advanced to a great level today enabling direct communication between families and caregivers, who can educate and support them on the needs of the babies and support them in receiving the required healthcare.
5. Focused counselling
Focused counselling allows the caregiver and families with room for negotiation. During a visit to the homes, healthcare workers and families can have open dialogues on consumption of food that provide nutrition by growing them in the kitchen gardens. This also provides an opportunity to share information around the public distribution system, take home ration and immunisation drives.
6. Dissemination of information through digital or mass media
Social and digital media platforms can be used in the correct manner to disseminate accurate information and ensure adoption of proper breastfeeding practices during the first six months after birth.