Every parent desires to have and raise a healthy child. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), goal number three emphasizes good health and well-being. A healthy population equates to a better quality of life, reduced mortality, increased productivity, and overall economic development of a nation. However, several factors exist that challenge the aspiration of sustainable development through good health at each life cycle. Children below the age of five are the most affected.
Factors affecting your child’s health status
- Birth order
According to a study by the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute in New Zealand, first-born children had insulin metabolism disorders and higher blood pressure than those who had older siblings. The difference between the older and younger siblings was due to the physical changes in the mother’s uterus where the nutrient flow was restricted in the first pregnancy and increased in subsequent pregnancies.
Also, according to a Netflix documentary Babies, several scientists teamed up to identify the nutrients, nutritional quantity, and quality of breastmilk. The discovery made was that milk quantity increased with each additional pregnancy. Reduced milk levels might prompt some women to initiate weaning below the six-month mark resulting in detrimental effects on the child’s health and nutritional status.
- Birth spacing
A woman is encouraged to have intervals of at least two years between each birth. This enables the mother to improve her nutrient reserves, heal and have enough time to care for her baby.
If a woman is pregnant while still nursing her other child, cultural dictations and societal judgments have pushed women to avoid tandem nursing that helps the mother bond with the first baby. The earlier baby may feel neglected and withdrawn leading to probable pernicious effects on their social and emotional health.
Additionally, giving birth too close has been linked with maternal depletion that could lead to the negative nutritional status of the following pregnancies. This contributes to increased incidences of preterm births, intrauterine fetal growth retardation, maternal mortality, and morbidity.
- Maternal education level
Maternal literacy levels are associated with malnutrition outcomes such as stunting, wasting, and underweight. Low education levels result in resistance towards modern medicine. This significantly reduces the number of expectant mothers visiting antenatal clinics and mothers with children seeking medical treatment.
- Lack of nutritional education
Insufficient information on maternal nutrition negatively affects the health and nutritional status of children.
- Low socio-economic status
Women with minimal or no income tend to live in environments that have reduced influence on child health and survival. The resulting effect is high malnutrition and mortality cases.
These factors may contribute to the poor health status of first-born children. Often in following pregnancies, it is assumed that the mother is experienced and learns from the initial mistakes. However, that may not necessarily be the case because the claws of culture are deep within us.
As we make plans on the number of children to have and how best to raise our families, may we be equipped with the information to save our generation, a baby, at a time.