ISLAMABAD  – Health experts have said that appropriate feeding during 6-23 months of infants’ age reduces childhood illnesses and mortality.

According to them, complementary feeding rates are undesirably low in Pakistan as compared to other countries in the region and urged to improve timely complementary feeding. Talking to APP, they stressed the need to make strategies in this regard including better antenatal counseling.

They said there is also a need to have uniform approach for collecting data on complementary feeding to include all World Health Organization (WHO) recommended complementary feeding indicators.

They said lack of appropriate feeding in early childhood is a major risk factor for ill-health throughout the course of life. The life-long impact included poor school performance, reduced productivity, impaired intellectual and social development and chronic diseases, they added.

They said the concerned authorities should develop a strategy to address feeding practices and the nutritional status, growth and health of infants and children.

Dr Wasim Khawaja from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said nutrition plays a crucial role in the early months and years of life and that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.

He said after six months, they should be fed adequate and safe complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond.

He said complementary foods should be rich in nutrients and given in adequate amounts. At six months, caregivers should introduce foods in small amounts and gradually increase the quantity as the child gets older.

He said young children should receive a variety of foods including meat, poultry, fish or eggs as often as possible. He added the consistency of foods should be appropriate for the child’s age.

Dr Wasim said infants can eat pureed, mashed and semi-solid foods beginning at six months while from eight months, infants can eat finger foods, and from 12 months, children can eat the same types of foods as consumed by the rest of the family.

He said complementary foods should be given 2-3 times a day between 6-8 months, increasing to 3-4 times a day between 9-11 months while between 12-23 months of age, 3-4 meals should be given.