Infants and Young Child Health


The National Breastfeeding Policy and Action Plan and the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and breastfeeding continued beyond two years if desired.  The beneficial and protective factors of breastfeeding for the infant and the mother are well documented. Human milk is a complete food having the right content of nutrients. The success in achieving breastfeeding depends on latching the infant to the breast occurring in the first hour of birth.   The infant feeds on demand and adjusts the amount taken due to the presence of infant reflexes.  
To Breastfeed Successfully, getting access to the right information on how to get breastfeeding started  is essential. During the first 3 days, there is the transition from colostrum fluid to breast milk which varies during the first weeks, and months.  Infants should feed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Breastfed infants’ feeding patterns will change as they grow and depends on how often and how long they feed.  

Commercial Baby Foods 
In the eventuality that the infant is offered breast milk substitute, guidance is offered to the mother to use the paced bottle-feeding approach. Guidance of how to prepare the infant formula feeding is essential to prevent overfeeding. Mothers should know their infant’s feeding cues as some infants may be sleepy or not interested in feeding.  If this happens, consult with midwives or other healthcare professionals.  

Breastfeeding at the workplace
Mothers may need to return to their place of work a few months after the birth of their child.  It is important to speak to your employer to discuss your needs.  The Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate provides Guidelines for breastfeeding room at the place of work This room is identified by a Breastfeeding logo. Before returning to work, it is essential that the mother needs to know and practice how to express breast milk and how to store it safely.  Freshly expressed breast milk should be stored in a labelled container and stored either in a refrigerator or in a freezer.  Once thawed, it should be used within the day. The baby should also be exposed to drinking breast milk from the bottle so that he can get used to the different sensation early on.

Nutrition during lactation
During breastfeeding, the recommended diet to follow is the Mediterranean Diet since this diet offers a wide variety of protective nutrients.   No special diet is required.  Foods sources that should be limited while breastfeeding include certain types of seafoods, alcohol and restriction of beverages containing sugar and caffeine.

Infant & Toddler Nutrition
The Dietary Guidelines for Maltese Infant and Young Children aged 6 months to 3 years.  A guide for parents  aims to provide the right nutritional information of how to introduce solid food  around 6 months of age, followed by food at 7 months, 8 months and 9 – 12 months.  A weaning recipe book will guide parents and care givers how to prepare healthy and easy meals to reach the infant’s need.

Child Nutrition
The Dietary Guidelines for Maltese Children: The Mediterranean Way provides a healthy lifestyle guide for children aged 3 to 12 years.   Healthy eating during the early years will influence the growth and development of the infant and child. It is a protective factor against chronic diseases and is beneficial in the short and long term.  A balanced and nutritious diet will need to meet the recommended levels according to the growth spurts. 
Prepare healthy meals that can be easily cooked with local, seasonal and fresh ingredients.  The promotion of healthy habits at a young age will shape their food preferences by introducing plant based, cereals, meat, fish and eggs, milk and milk products.   Limiting the addition of salt, saturated fats and sugars to food helps to prevent your child from acquiring these tastes.  
Involving children during meal preparation is beneficial in order to acquire cooking skills and gain confidence in healthy food preparation. 

Vaccines are the means to protect your infant against infectious diseases preventing life-long health issues. Without vaccines, your infant may be exposed to infectious diseases.    Vac-cines are highly regulated medicines which are safe to give and are life-saving.  Possible side effects may be mild redness and swelling at the site of injection and mild fever which goes away over a few days.
Consult with your paediatrician or family doctor to advice which vaccines are recommended according to the age in months.  The National Immunisation Schedule recommends that these vaccines are given :

•    Diptheria
•    Tetatnus
•    Pertussis
•    Polio
•    Hib
•    Boosters
•    Hepatitis B (Hep B, Hep A and B)
•    Hepatis A
•    Pneumococal
•    Rotavirus
•    Measles, Mumps and Rubella
•    Varicella (smallpox)
•    Meningococcal
•    Human papilomavirus (HPV)

Physical activity
For better child wellbeing, access to active play is key to stop the onset of childhood obesity as recommended by the World Health Organization.  Regular physical activity will be of ben-efit in strengthening the muscles, bones and improve mental health for children under 5 years.  The more physical activity the children are engaged in, the better for their health. Parents and care givers are encouraged to reduce screen and sedentary time as from a young age. Read more

Back to school:
Prepare healthy breakfast and school lunches when back to school. As from a young age the child needs to meet the nutritional requirements and at the same time eat a varied diet.  Healthy recipes  The frequency and food portion size depends on the child’s need.  When preparing school lunches, limit the use of processed meats, salt, saturated fats and sweetened sugar beverages.   Healthy school lunches will allow the child to concentrate more during school time while adopting a healthy dietary attitude and less absenteeism. The Subsidiary Legislation 550.1 Procurement of food for schools Regulation supports schools so that only foods that meet the nutritional criteria should be offered to school children.

Further information:
•    National Breastfeeding Policy and Action Plan    
•    World Health Organization
•    Breastfeed Successfully 
•    Get breastfeeding started
•    Guidelines for breastfeeding room at the place of work 
•    Breastfeeding logo
•    Dietary Guidelines for Maltese Infant and Young Children aged 6 months to 3 years A guide for parents
•    Dietary Guidelines for Maltese Children: The Mediterranean Way
•    Vaccines
•    National Immunisation Schedule
•    Physical activity
•    Healthy recipes 
•    Subsibiary Legislation 550.1 Procurement of Food for Schools Regulations