LUCKNOW, 03 October 2018 -Two-year-old Ayush with his dimpled forearms tinkers with his mother’s earrings as she smothers him with kisses. Sudha narrates her son’s long journey to health. With Ayush weighing 2500 grams at birth, Sudha wanted to accelerate his weight gain and introduced top feeds and cow milk to him at an early age, instead of continuing with exclusive breastfeeding.
At six months, Ayush was found to be severely underweight during a growth monitoring drive undertaken by the local anganwadi worker (AWW) and was shifted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Center (NRC) located 30 kilometres from his village. At the NRC, Sudha was counselled and taught correct feeding practices to maintain the growth trajectory.
Once back home, she was determined not to make any more mistakes and with the support of the AWW, she attended the Bal Poshan Satr (Village Nutrition session) initiative started in the district by the UNICEF-supported Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Families of other severely- and moderately-underweight children were counselled on the importance of continued breastfeeding, complementary feeding, dietary diversity and water and sanitation. Demonstration of nutritious recipes using supplementary nutrition rations and the home-based food was done.
Ayush’s story was replicated across the village as ten other children gained weight (200-300 gms) – made possible by a simple change in feeding practices, improvement in dietary diversity score (from intake of 3 food groups to 5) and feeding frequency (from 2-3 to 5-6 times). The model has also been replicated in two more districts.