Rehabilitating Malnourished Children Under 5
Breastfeeding, complementary feeding both are must
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and nutritious complementary feeding must be ensured to rehabilitate around half of Bangladesh’s under-five children who are malnourished, said doctors and public health experts yesterday.
For working women, lack of awareness and time are the main barriers to breastfeeding while negligence and poverty bar the feeding of complementary food, they said.
Children can subsist solely on breast milk for the first six months of life and nutritious complementary food must follow till the age of two to aid physical and mental growth, they observed at a roundtable.
Brac, The Daily Star and Civil Society Alliance for SUN, Bangladesh jointly organised the roundtable, “Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Practices in the Community”, at The Daily Star Centre.
Presenting a keynote, Dr Mohammad Raisul Haque, Brac Health programme manager, said only 64 percent of the country’s mothers provide exclusive breastfeeding to their children for the first six months.
Dr Rukhsana Haider of Alive and Thrive said, “From our experience in promoting exclusive breastfeeding since 1990s, we think 100 percent implementation is not possible. Around 30 percent of urban mothers cannot exclusively breastfeed their children because they work.
“Moreover researches carried out by Alive and Thrive in both urban and slum areas show that families spend their money buying snacks, fruits and junk foods for children but how much nutrition would they complement with these?”
Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, director of Centre for Nutrition and Food Security, ICDDR, B, said stunting (caused by malnutrition) rate among under-five Bangladeshi children is 41 percent while it is 40 and 33 percent in Sudan and Uganda.
Bringing all mothers into providing exclusive breastfeeding and nutritious complementary food can reduce the rate, he said.
However, ensuring nutritious complementary food is difficult as 30 percent of the country’s population is suffering from food insecurity. To these people, small fish and eggs are luxury items, he added.
“We also need to improve the social safety net programmes and promote nutrition-specific intervention,” he said.
Dr Iqbal Kabir, vice-chairperson of Bangladesh Breastfeeding Foundation, said, “Stunting occurs mainly due to a lack of breastfeeding followed by inadequate consumption of complementary food.”
Zeba Mahmud, country director of Micronutrient Initiative, said the lack of protein-based complementary food leads to childhood anaemia, a deficiency affecting Bangladesh at the same rate since 1990s.
Dr Ferdousi Begum, country manager of Family Health International-360, said there are many instances where married women, who were physically and mentally not ready for marriage, are entering “pregnancy” status.
These women are not aware of antenatal care and have no decision-making ability in the family to introduce adequate complementary food, she said.
“Intra-family decision making is very important as mothers must decide on buying necessary complementary food instead of the father solely making the decisions,” said Dr Shahed Rahman, national nutrition coordinator of Care Bangladesh.
Kaosar Afsana, Brac Health director, said, “Exclusive breastfeeding rate has significantly reduced child mortality rate in Bangladesh. It is worth celebrating that Bangladesh has joined this global shift in stunting declination.”
The Daily Star Op-Ed and Strategic Issues Editor Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan moderated the discussion.
Courtesy of The Daily Star