Majority of Filipino infants and children do not receive appropriate and timely complementary feeding, based on the results of the 2019 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) conducted by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).
The DOST-FNRI noted that complementary feeding practices of parents and caregivers in the country do not comply with the infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practice recommendations of the government and development partners.
“There is low adherence to infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practice recommendations for Filipino infants and young children ages six up to 23 months old,” the DOST-FNRI survey results showed.
According to the 2019 ENNS, nine out of 10 Filipino infants and young children aged six to 23 months old do not receive appropriate complementary feeding, indicating “poor quality and quantity of complementary foods.”
The survey showed that five out of 10 eat commercial baby food, while one out of five consumes lugaw or porridge.
“About eight percent of them consume mashed vegetables, seven percent eat boiled rice, four percent eat biscuits/breads, and two percent eat fruits,” it said.
The DOST-FNRI stressed that at six months old, complementary foods together with continued breastfeeding are needed to meet increasing nutritional requirements for proper growth and development of an infant.
“Complementary foods are meant to “complement” breastmilk in giving the nutrients that babies need. Complementary foods given to infants and young children ages six to 23 months old should be soft, mashed, well-cooked and prepared safely,” it reminded.
“In addition, these foods should be given in gradually increasing consistency, texture and density until young children transition to food from the family pot or regular meals,” it added.
The Institute noted that between six to 35 months, children undergo rapid growth and are more susceptible to malnutrition and infections.
The 2019 ENNS further revealed that seven out of 10 Filipino infants and young children aged six to 23 months old do not receive timely introduction of complementary foods when they turn six months.
It said eight out of 10 Filipino infants and children lack food diversity in their diet based on the minimum dietary diversity (MDD) indicator of at least four of the seven food groups.
Minimum dietary diversity (MDD) is defined as proxy or a “substitute” indicator of micronutrient intake of infants and young children.
The DOST-FNRI explained that the MDD is met when infants and young children aged six to 23 months old receive foods from at least four of the following seven food groups: grains, roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products; flesh meat; eggs; vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables; and other fruits and vegetables.
The 2019 ENNS said five out of 10 eat commercial baby food, while one out of five eats lugaw or porridge.
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), the DOST-FNRI said the nutrition-specific and nutrition sensitive interventions should be properly implemented and coordinated across sectors in the first 1,000 days.
“Lack of proper and adequate nutrition during this stage may result in stunting, or low length or height-for-age,” it said.
“Stunting results to impaired growth and development that infants and children experience due to suboptimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, improper nutrition, and environmental hygiene. It has long-term effects, such as diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity, and poor health.”
The Institute said intelligence scores of children after the age of three years can no longer be significantly improved even with a better diet.