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Optimal breastfeeding, complementary feeding will prevent malnutrition in children – UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday said that optimal breastfeeding and age-appropriate complementary feeding practices would prevent malnutrition among children under five years.

Mrs Chinwe Ezeife, a Nutrition Specialist at the UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, stated this in Kaduna at the end of a three-day training for traditional birth attendants, women leaders, health workers and nutrition focal persons.

The training was organised by the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) to promote optimal Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices toward ending malnutrition in Kaduna State.

Ezeife explained that good nutrition is the bedrock of child survival, health, and development.

She added that well-nourished children would grow, learn, participate, and contribute to the development of their communities.

She said that the well-nourished children would also be resilient in the face of disease, disasters, and other global crises.

“But for the millions of children suffering from acute malnutrition, death is inevitable except something is done urgently.

“For millions more, chronic malnutrition will result in stunting – an irreversible condition that literally stunts the physical and cognitive growth of children.”

She said that with optimal breastfeeding practices and adequate complementary feeding, malnutrition would be averted among children and would give them a good start in life.

The nutrition specialist said that optimal brain development of a child depended largely on sufficient quantities of key nutrients during the first 1,000 days of life, which breast milk and age-appropriate complementary feeding will provide.

“As such, early initiation of breastfeeding within 30 minutes to one hour of birth and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months presents a window of opportunity for the nourishment of children.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants should not be given any form of complementary food until after the first six months of age, in addition to breast milk.

“Complementary feeding is introduced after six months, when breastfeeding alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants, and therefore, other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk,” she said.

Mr Silas Ideva, CS-SUNN Coordinator in the state, explained that the objective of the training was for the participants to understand the importance of feeding children the right kinds of food.

Ideva added that the training was also organised to identify and resolve the difficulties in ensuring optimal IYCF practices in communities. (NAN)

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