Malaysia still has malnourished young children and may only achieve one global nutrition targets by 2025. Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related noncommunicable diseases.
The main symptom of malnutrition (undernutrition) is unintended weight loss. Your baby will unintentionally lose 5 to 10% of the body weight within 3 to 6 months.
Other symptoms of malnutrition include:
- Reduced appetite
- Lack of interest to drink or to eat.
- Feeling tired all the time
- Wounds taking a long time to heal
- Poor concentration
- Feeling cold most of the time
- Low mood or depression
Causes of baby malnutrition
- Improper long-term feeding and insufficient calories such as no breast milk or insufficient breast milk at birth.
- Sudden weaning, there should be no planned steps to wean the baby, but weaning suddenly, so that the children’s gastrointestinal tract can not adapt.
- Frail children such as low-weight children, twins, multiple births or frail children caused by dystocia and suffocation and other accidents are easy to get malnutrition.
- Exposure to infections such as respiratory and gastrointestinal infections such as pneumonia, lung abscess, cleft palate and frequent vomiting can lead to poor appetite, loss of weight and malnutrition.
In addition, there are some factors in daily life that affect the baby’s nutrition and health, including:
- Poor dental conditions which can make eating difficult or painful
- A physical disability or other impairment that makes it difficult to move around and eat
- Parents having limited knowledge about nutrition or cooking
- Parents alcohol or drug dependency
- Low income family or poverty
The hazards of baby malnutrition
Children who do not reach their optimum height or consistently experience bouts of weight loss during childhood are affected in the long term in numerous ways.
They do not reach their optimum size as adults (and so may have less physical capacity for work), their brains are affected (resulting in lower IQs) and they are at greater risk of infection (which kills many children during their early years).
Iron deficiency can cause anemia and the baby will show symptoms such as irritability, memory loss, inattention, etc., and leads to a decline in academic performance.
Zinc deficiency in the diet can cause the baby’s blood zinc to decrease, affecting physical development and intellectual development.
Iodine deficiency can affect the synthesis of thyroxine, and thyroxine can promote brain development. Vitamin B1, vitamin B6 deficiency can cause convulsions and affect the baby’s future intelligence.
Treating malnutrition in children
- Dietary changes, such as eating foods high in energy and nutrients
- Support for families to help them manage factors affecting the child’s nutritional intake
- Treatment for any underlying medical conditions causing malnutrition
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- High-energy and protein nutritional supplements – if the other treatments are not enough on their own
- Severely malnourished children need to be fed and rehydrated with great care in hospital.
- Once they are well enough, they can gradually begin eating a normal diet and continue this at home.
- Weight and height measurements will be taken, the child will be referred to specialist services if there’s no improvement.