Hesperian Health Guides
Everyone needs enough food. Eating enough gives the energy and strength our bodies and minds need each day.
Lack of food over weeks or months leads to serious and long-lasting health problems. Children, old people, sick people, people with HIV, and pregnant women suffer more (and more quickly) from a lack of food. So be sure there is enough for people who may have less ability to take care of themselves.
Children especially need enough food
More than anyone else, children need enough food every day. Lack of food in early childhood causes small size, sickliness, and difficulty learning that lasts a lifetime.
To ensure children get enough food:
- Give only breast milk and no other food or drink until the first teeth come in — about 6 months.
- Even when you start to give food at about 6 months, continue to breastfeed. The best is to breastfeed for 2 years or even longer. Giving breast milk and food ensures the child never lacks what she needs to grow and thrive.
- When you start to give food, offer a little bit a few times a day. Then increase to more foods, in greater amounts. A 2-year-old should eat at least 4 times a day. A baby who has stopped breastfeeding needs more meals than one who is still nursing.
- Give smaller children food in their own bowls. Then check that each child has eaten her share.
- Give girls just as much food as boys. Girls and boys need the same amount of food to be healthy and grow strong.
- Treat diarrhea right away with rehydration drink and other fluids.
- Treat children with mebendazole when they have worms. If many children have worms, give mebendazole to all children in your community every 6 months to prevent infection.
At different ages, children have different needs for food. See more information about feeding babies and children.