When a baby reaches six months, breast milk becomes insufficient to support the energy and nutrition needs. At this point, it proves necessary to introduce a new way of nourishing the infant. One such way is making use of supplementary foods. The term in this context refers to formulated food mixtures that have been modified to make them suitable for consumption by infants. The foods come with a vast array of health benefits to the infant as discussed below.
Supplementary foods are appropriate for a start because they help to meet the nutritional requirements of the infant for optimal development. In some parts of the world, some nutrients may not be sufficiently available in local foods. When making supplementary foods, cereals are used as the base and are then fortified with vitamins, minerals vegetable oils, milk, and sugar. The resulting mixture is sufficient to ensure that the baby is not missing out on important diet components.
Supplementary foods gradually prepare the infant for weaning. They help the baby to adapt progressively to ordinary foods. The baby’s experience with supplementary foods ensures a smooth transition in diet variations, for example, different tastes and textures of foods. With this, the child is more likely to avoid having digestive problems and developing eating problems during the weaning period. Eating problems are known to cause undernutrition, leading to less energy for growth.
The foods act as a substitute for breast milk. This mostly applies to infants whose mothers cannot produce enough milk for breastfeeding due to various reasons. The foods also act as a remedy for breast milk deficiency. This refers to a situation where a mother produces milk that lacks some micronutrients. In such a case, supplementary foods when taken by infants make up for the missing components, ensuring the child does not suffer from deficiency conditions.
Due to their nutritional composition, supplementary foods boost the immune system of the infant. As such, the child is in a better position to fight illnesses such as colds and pneumonia. Some of the vitamins incorporated into the supplementary foods (such as vitamin C) promote the healing power of the child’s body, so they recover quickly from infections.
Statistics from World Health Organization show that malnutrition affects approximately 160 million infants globally. The view is further supported by a study that they conducted on various parts of the world including Peru, India, and Ghana. The infants were put on a trial supplementation program, and measures were put in place to monitor their development. The study revealed that malnourished child is at a higher risk of being underweight, wasting, and eventually dying.
From the reports of the above study, but also from some researches conducted by clinics or food producers, like Mayo Clinic and Bebivita, it is clear that we cannot underestimate the importance of supplementary foods for infants. The foods eliminate the problem of malnutrition by providing the appropriate amounts of nutrients in correct proportions. With this, the foods promote all round development of the infant and reduce chances of stunted growth. Proper nutrition during childhood is essential for health and survival, and supplementary foods help to meet this goal.