Substituting breast feeding with bites of solid food in the baby’s diet is known as weaning. Children under the age of 5yrs in India are malnourished, underweight, and anaemic or stunted, which makes them prone to the risk mortality and infections. Breast feeding is adequate for about six months and hence complementary feeding is required as it supplements the growing appetite of the baby. There is no standardization of nutritional intake, every child’s requirements varies. Hence, weaning begins as early as 4 months. But to infants, new food and semi solids should be introduced gradually as teething aids in the activity of chewing and swallowing.
The first 2 years of a child’s life are critical for healthy growth and development and feeding is core dimension of care during this period. Malnutrition in infants and young children is one of the most serious health problems in the developing world in which 32 % of the children under 5 years old are underweight and 39 % of the children under 5 years are suffering from stunting. In India 48% infants under the age of 5 years are chronically malnourished, 54% deaths are related to malnourishment and 79% infants under 3 years of age are anaemic. If a child is malnourished the mortality risk associated with respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and other infectious diseases is increased. Nutritional scenario in India can be summarised as such. Every third malnourished child in the world lives in India. Every Second Indian child is underweight 30% are LBW. Three out of four children in India are anaemic and there is a tendency for adolescent obesity.
There are 3 phases of nutrition. In the womb it is placenta which gives nutrition to the babies. After birth it’s through mother’s milk. After 6 months mother’s milk is weaned off slowly and complementary feeding is started. Annaprashan in Sanskrit means grain initiation. Annaprashan marks beginning of solid food in a baby’s life celebrating 6 months completion as a birthday of babies. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants. Breast milk provides calories 67 cal. /day, Carbohydrate (lactose) 7gm (28 cal.)/ Day i.e. 42 % of calories, Proteins (Lactalbumin, lactglobulin) 1.5gm (6 cal.)/ Day i.e. 9 % of calories and Fats 3.5gm (31.5 cal.)/day i.e.4-5% of calories and provide 4-5 % of calories as linoleic acid. It is also an adequate source of most vitamins and minerals in early infancy.
Complementary feeding usually starts at about 4 to 6 months of age and is completed at 12 to 24 month. They also provide the ability to coordinate sucking, chewing and swallowing. The ability to hold neck in upright posture is also an advantage. Beginning of teething allows physical breakdown of large size food pieces. The maturation of salivary and pancreatic Amylase, maturation of gut lactase activity, the increasing stomach capacity, the ability to ward off potential allergens from food as well as pathogens and the ability of kidneys to dispose of high protein load from diet are all advantages of complimentary feeding.