I had a quick chat with the Senior Nutrition Officer at the General Hospital, Ifako Ijaiye in Lagos, Mrs. Tope Sikiru. She is also the author of Now that your child is 6 months: what to feed. She works a lot with mothers and their babies and our discussion was focused on nutrition for toddlers.
BHA: Working mothers are very busy people yet they have the duty of ensuring that their toddler(s) have adequate nutrition. Can you suggest a strategy that mothers can use to ensure adequate nutrition?
Mrs. Tope Sikiru: For working mothers to ensure that their toddlers have adequate nutrition, it is a thing of the mind, a matter of determination, and knowing the importance of adequate nutrition. It also involves and requires planning. I do tell people most times that “plan your meals and children’s meals just as you will plan your wardrobe.”
BHA: what are the main nutrition issues that you deal with on day-to-day basis at the hospital when it comes to toddler nutrition? And what can mothers do to prevent some of them?
Mrs. Tope Sikiru: There are quite a number of issues but recently being underweight seems to be the main challenge. Children having small weight for their ages appear to be on the increase. Mothers just need to diversify meals they give their children. We always lay emphasis on consumption of a variety of nutritious foods, as well as increasing frequency of feeding. We also encourage them to ensure the intake of these 3 basic things daily: fruits, egg and milk.
BHA: How can a mother know if her child is underweight before going to the hospital?
Most times, the mothers don’t know. They just bring the child to the hospital for one thing or the other; the child might have fever or any other ailments. After consultation with doctors, referrals would be made to Nutrition department. The first thing we do is to take the anthropometric measurements, and compare the measurements of the child with the normal/average weight.
So, it is at this point that we always discover that they are underweight and then the mothers will be like, “BUT this child eats well ooooo”.
Mrs. Tope Sikiru: Interesting. Do you advice the mothers to check their children’s weight often if possible?
Yes, we encourage them. In fact we do tell them the average weights to expect for different ages.
BHA: What are the average weights to except for infants and toddlers?
Mrs. Tope Sikiru: A child at 6months should have doubled his or her birth weight. A one year old should have tripled his or her birth weight or have an average of 10kg.
BHA: Thanks for taking the time to share this information with us.
Mrs. Tope Sikiru: You are welcome.