Bird feeding is one hobby that I have enjoyed doing since long time. In fact, I have seen my great grandmother feeding birds every day before taking her meals. There are a bunch of sparrows that daily visit me in my balcony and enjoy eating rice grains that I spread specially for them. They sometimes bring their little ones with them and try to teach how to eat grains. The sight of mommy sparrow feeding baby sparrow is something I have loved watching always. Once the baby sparrow learns to eat by itself, the mommy sparrow guards the areas in order to safe guard the little one. Once, it so happened that the baby sparrow was eating the grains so slowly that the mommy could not wait! It hurriedly went near it and fed the baby sparrow! This sight inspired me to write this article.
The behaviour of a sparrow here is so much like human beings! A mother taking care of the baby, feeding and then monitoring the child while consuming food. Mommy sparrow or Mothers in general exhibit this behaviour just to ensure that the baby has had enough food to meet its growth and development.
All mothers expect that the environment in which their baby grows be safe, healthy and the baby has a strong defense system to fight against diseases. This is possible when healthy mothers give birth to healthy children and then, the children get to enjoy the breast milk of the mother including the colostrum. Later, during the growth periods they should receive foods that are well balanced in all the nutrients thus, supporting growth and guarding against illness.
Research studies on humans have shown that bonding between a mother and a child increases when a child is breast fed by a mother. Colostrum-the first secretion of milk by the mother is the first food which comes as a blessing to the baby. It contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease and thus helps build immunity.
Many consider this as impure milk and discard it and thus, the baby is deprived of vital nutrients that it could have got through feeding on Colostrum. It is rich in protein and low in fat. Colostrum is regarded as ‘best first food’ for a new born baby. Research has also shown that breastfed children are less prone to allergies. Incidence of obesity in breastfed children is low. Breast feeding is a boon to a new born child.
In recent years, many Health workers, NGOs, Anganwadi, Balwadi workers and also media have played an important role in creating awareness among people regarding the importance of colostrum. This has had a positive impact on promoting breast feeding in India.
Milk secreted by the mother takes care of all the nutritional requirement of the baby till the baby is 5-6 months old. Later, mother’s milk alone cannot meet the growth and developmental requirement of the baby. Hence, supplementary feeding or weaning foods are introduced slowly to the baby.
A well planned nutritious diet for a child can help protect itself against various illnesses. Essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins and minerals are required for a child’s growth and development along with enough calories from carbohydrate and fat containing food. When the infant is about 5-6 months old, strained baby foods based on vegetable, fruits and meat and pre cooked cereal foods are gradually introduced in the feed. Fruit juices provide the required amount of vitamin C. Milk is a poor source of iron and a fair source of thiamine and hence if Egg yolk is included, it provides both these nutrients as it is a fair source of iron and thiamine. Strained vegetables and fruits added in diets from 4th month onwards provide iron, vitamin C and also small amount of indigestible carbohydrates which may also help to prevent constipation.
Surveys carried out by a large number of workers in developing countries have shown that the diets consumed by a majority of pre-school, school going children and adolescents are deficient in calories, proteins and several essential vitamins and minerals particularly vitamin A, riboflavin, folic acid and iron. When a diet is deficient in vital nutrients the risk of developing deficiency diseases is high and children are also prone to illnesses of various kinds.
A balanced diet containing all the food groups helps solve the problem. Milk and milk products, vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, fish, legumes and cereals of various kinds, green leafy vegetables, nuts and oilseeds can help provide the children with the needed nutrients for optimum growth. Including fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans in daily diet not only provides vital nutrients but they are also sources of antioxidants and fibre necessary for immune function.
It is a known fact that even those with access to food often suffer terribly from Undernutrition. Children especially suffer, not only from the direct effects of malnutrition, but from increased susceptibility to disease and other health risks, such as neonatal disorders, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria. Low immunity to fight infections, poor hygienic practices is some of the factors for aggravating such situations.
Herbs of various kinds have been used in boosting the natural defense system like for example Amla, Ashwadgandha, Tulsi, Mulethi or Yasthimadhu etc. Various herbal formulations can be given to children under medical supervision in order to boost immunity.
A carefully planned meal combined with supplements is essential to support growth and increase immunity in children. This will help us in creating a future generation who are healthy and strong enough to fight against not just diseases but also against various things that hinders the development of a Country.
A healthy child is essential to protect the mother (and also Mother India!) in future. It’s time for healthy mothers (unless a mother is healthy, she cannot take care of her family!) to protect the health of their children by providing adequate nourishment for optimum growth so that a stronger, healthier and an immune India can be built.
By the time I finished writing the article, the rice grains were over and the sparrow flew away happily with its baby only to return back again tomorrow morning. 🙂