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Complementary food balance avoids stunting

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National Nutrition Day

Jakarta, IO – National Nutrition Day is celebrated every January 25. This year’s theme is “Animal Protein for MPASI (Complementary Foods-Breast-milk) to Prevent Stunting” with the slogan “Quality MPASI for the Golden Generation”. Indonesia is targeting a stunting rate of 14% in 2024, down from 24.4% in 2021 and 21.6% in 2022. Stunting is defined as a failure to grow and develop due to a chronic lack of nutrition, especially protein. 

Around the age of 6 months, an infant’s need for energy and nutrients starts to exceed what is provided by breast-milk, and complementary foods are necessary to meet those needs. An infant of this age is also developmentally ready for other foods. This transition is referred to as complementary feeding. If complementary foods are not introduced around the age of 6 months, or if they are given inappropriately, an infant’s growth may falter. 

“Ensuring that infants’ nutritional needs are met requires that complementary foods be: timely – meaning that they are introduced when the need for energy and nutrients exceeds what can be provided through exclusive breastfeeding; adequate – meaning that they provide sufficient energy, protein and micronutrients to meet a growing child’s nutritional needs; safe – meaning that they are hygienically stored and prepared, and fed with clean hands using clean utensils and not bottles or teats; properly fed – meaning that they are given consistent with a child’s signals of appetite and satiety, and that meal frequency and feeding are suitable for age,” explained Mahmud Fauzi, SKM, M.Kes, Chairman of the Ministry of Health Nutrition Standards Adequacy and Quality Working Team,, in a talk show with the theme “MPASI Rich in Animal Protein Prevents Stunting” which was held on Tuesday (23/1/2024). 

dr. I Gusti Ayu Nyoman Partiwi, Sp.A, MARS
dr. I Gusti Ayu Nyoman Partiwi, Sp.A, MARS. (Source: Private Doc)

He added that giving MPASI, defined as the process of providing foods in addition to milk when breast-milk or milk formula alone are no longer adequate to meet nutritional requirements, generally starts at age 6 months and continues until a toddler is 23 months of age. Adequate MPASI is important to reduce new stunting at the age of 6-23 months. 

In the 12–23-month age period, there is a 1.8-fold increase in stunting, caused by low intake of food sources of animal protein. This is a developmental period, when it is critical for children to learn to accept healthy foods and beverages and establish long-term dietary patterns. It also coincides with the peak period for risk of faltering growth and nutrient deficiencies, leading to immediate and long-term consequences of malnutrition and increased risk of non-communicable diseases. 

Gain Momentum 

Meanwhile, dr. I Gusti Ayu Nyoman Partiwi, Sp.A, MARS, a pediatric from Bunda Group Hospital, stated that stunting does not happen suddenly, but can be prevented by providing exclusive breastfeeding for six months. “One of the risk factors is that the baby’s body length at birth is less than 47 cm. Health workers can prevent this condition by providing education to mothers about early initiation of breastfeeding and a good breastfeeding process. After the baby is exclusively breastfed until the age of six months, we must be able to monitor the baby’s weight and height according to his age. The baby’s weight should increase by 15-20 grams per day,” she said. 

Each age has its own proportion of breast-milk. Babies age 0-5 months can get 100% breast-milk. Age 6-8 months, 70% breast-milk, 30% from MPASI. Age 9-11 months, 50% comes from MPASI, and after 1 year breastmilk is only 33%. She emphasized that MPASI must contain animal protein. It’s best to choose animal protein for babies because they can be absorbed quite well and is easy to digest. 

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“A common mistake in Indonesia is giving bananas as MPASI. Breastmilk no longer contains the zinc or iron that babies need for growth and development, which can only be obtained from protein such as eggs, fish, and meat. One egg is enough for a 6-month-old baby, but not enough for an 8-month-old baby, so added chicken or fish,” she explained. 

In the final part, Mahmud emphasized how the commemoration of National Nutrition Day could signify momentum to reduce stunting in Indonesia. (est)

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