Parents have been warned against feeding babies sweet beverages because the drinks interfere with breastfeeding and contribute to obesity.
Giving children sweetened beverages also increases the risk of dental caries (tooth decay).
According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), at least 64 per cent of children aged between six and 23 months who are not breastfeeding consume a sweet beverage, compared to 45 per cent of children who are breastfeeding.
The data by KDHS also shows that 36 per cent of children aged between six and 23 months who are not breastfeeding had unhealthy food, contrary to 24 per cent of children who are breastfeeding.
“Unhealthy infant and young child feeding practices should be avoided because they can replace nutritious foods that provide important nutrients for children and promote unhealthy weight gain,” reads a section of the KDHS report.
The report adds, “Forty-nine per cent of the youngest children aged between six and 23 months living with their mother had a sweet beverage, 26 per cent had unhealthy foods, and 25 per cent consumed zero vegetable or fruit.”
Children across the country also reported not feeding on fruits and vegetables.
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Diets with low fruit and vegetable consumption, according to the survey, have reduced nutrient intake, which can negatively impact the healthy growth and development of young children.
“The percentage of children who had zero vegetables or fruits is twice as high in rural areas (31 per cent) as in urban areas (15 per cent),” adds the report.
During the study, it was noted that mothers with higher education feed their children more fruits and vegetables compared to those with low education.
Additionally, feeding on fruits and vegetables depends on the socio-economic status of parents, according to the report.
Low fruit and vegetable consumption is also associated with non-communicable diseases later in life.
Acting Director of Medical Services Dr Patrick Amoth said breastfeeding has stagnated.
“Employers should establish breastfeeding spaces for working mothers, as a way of boosting nutritional uptake among newborns,” Amoth said.