Key practice: Infant feeding during sickness
Appropriate feeding for faster healing
Continue to feed and offer more fluids, including breastmilk, to a child when the child is sick.
What is infant feeding during sickness important?
- A sick child loses a lot of body fluids through increased body temperature, sweating and sometimes diarrhoea thus will need increased fluid intake.
- A sick child also loses a lot of energy through increased body temperature and poor appetite due to the disease itself.
- It is also important to give a sick child more food than usual to replace the lost energy. Therefore, parents/caretakers must continue to feed and offer more fluids, including breast milk to sick children.
During an illness, children need additional ﬂuids and encouragement to eat regular meals, and breastfeeding infants need to breastfeed more often. After an illness, children need to be offered more food than usual to replenish the energy and nourishment lost due to the illness.
Benefits of infant feeding during sickness
- When children are sick, such as when they have diarrhoea, measles or pneumonia, their appetite decreases, and their body uses food less effectively.
- It is very important to encourage a sick child to eat. This can be difﬁcult, as children who are ill may not be hungry. You should keep offering foods the child likes, a little at a time and as often as possible. Extra breastfeeding is especially important since it can provide nutrients required for recovery from infections.
- It is essential to encourage a sick child to drink as often as possible. Dehydration (lack of ﬂuids in the body) is a serious problem for children with diarrhoea. Drinking plenty of liquids will help prevent dehydration.