Doctors Talk About How Your Home Life Right Now Affects Your Child's GrowthBe mindful of these factors as this "new normal" changes your family's daily routine.CREATED WITH PEDIASURE PLUS
Now that the whole family is spending their time indoors, everyone must continue to stay healthy to keep their immune system going, especially the kids. Children need to eat a balanced diet and get enough rest and exercise to keep their stamina up and their bodies strong.
We cannot underestimate how our current circumstances may actually have an effect on their physical, emotional, psychological, and mental development. So what’s a mom to do in this situation?
As part of the PediaSure Plus Champions of Growth Facebook Live series, host Riki Flores-Reyes — herself a mom of two — consulted with a number of trusted pediatricians to discuss the importance of proper nutrition, strong immunity, and a safe and nurturing environment in a child’s growth.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the live sessions:
1. Your child’s growth depends on how strong his or her immune system is.
“Having a weak immune system makes you more susceptible to sickness and poor growth,” explains Dr. Mary Jean Guno, a pediatric gastroenterologist.
“The key to a healthy immune system is proper nutrition. They need a complete and balanced meal of proteins — whether animal- or plant-based — carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, eggs, and a nutrition supplement that can provide all the vitamins they need.”
The doctor said that when a person is sickly, his or her immune system focuses more on fighting the sickness. This results in the body neglecting the person’s growth and development.
This is why parents need to start teaching their kids to eat healthy, advises Dr. Sylvia Estrada, a pediatric endocrinologist.
“Let’s start the good habits already kahit bata pa lang,” she says. “Incorporate these nutrients in their diet so that the vitamin supplements only have to come in when we begin to see signs of nutritional imbalance.”
Dr. Estrada adds: “We need to think about picking the types of food that will help nurture them holistically because this will ensure good growth.”
Watch the discussion here.
2. The way you feed your child has a direct effect on his or her growth.
Since a child’s immune system is largely dependent on his or her diet, parents must be more mindful of the eating habits and practices they knowingly — and unknowingly — teach their child.
According to Dr. Mimi Avendaño, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician, “It’s important to have a good organization of meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between. Hindi puwedeng kung kailan lang gusto ng bata at kung ano.”
She stresses that parents play a crucial role in a child’s eating mindset. “Feeding is a relationship between the child and the feeder. We want to make sure that they have an appetite for the next meal, so duration between meals is also important,” Dr. Avendaño adds.
Dr. Fil Gatcheco, also a pediatric gastroenterologist, agrees with the sentiment. “Feeding a child can be considered as an art form complemented with science. Almost all children are picky eaters; they just differ in terms of how soon they overcome it,” he says.
“As you try to deal with your child’s pickiness, you can give them an oral nutrition supplement that’s complete in macronutrients and micronutrients so that their nutritional intake isn’t compromised.”
Watch the discussion here.
3. Parents should be more hands-on in creating a nurturing environment for their child to grow and thrive.
Dr. Ochie Pacifico, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, acknowledges that it can be challenging to monitor a child’s development right now. Parents, even when at home, are preoccupied with a lot of concerns and responsibilities.
However, the doctor advises that parents include monitoring and guiding their kids at home in their top priorities. “It’s always good to have a daily schedule to keep things organized not just for yourself but also for the kids.”
She says, “This is an opportunity for parents to oversee what’s happening at home and really be hands-on — from meal planning to actual playtime.”
Pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Charo Dizon wholly agrees, saying that parents can even lead the way when it comes to regular exercise.
“I really encourage parents to be active with their kids,” she says. “Exercise works best on their bones because it’s a living tissue. The repetitive force placed on it somehow makes the bone denser, since the bone cells grow.”
“Any physical activity affects the growth plate, allowing the child to grow further,” she explains further. “Besides, it triggers their hunger signals so mas may appetite sila to eat.”
Watch the discussion here.
4. You need to put in an extra effort in the first 5 years of your child's life — a critical time for growth.
According to Dr. Guno, a 2016 study by Aline Jelenkovic found that environment is what really matters in a child’s first five years of life, wherein growth velocity is the highest.
Contrary to popular belief, genes aren’t the be-all and end-all of a child’s growth. “Fake news na yun,” Dr. Guno points out. There is still hope for Filipino children to achieve their maximum height even if their parents aren’t very tall.
Dr. Estrada agrees, explaining that parents can take advantage of the first five years of their child’s life to “intervene” if they observe that the child isn’t growing properly.
How? “There is really no magic pill,” Dr. Guno stresses. “All of the following has to be present.”
- The right amount of sleep: As Dr. Guno points out, “it’s during sleep that the growth hormone is actually active.”
- Enough exercise or physical activity: At least an hour every day
- Sunlight: Around 20 to 30 minutes a day
- A stress-reduced, nurturing environment: For Dr. Guno, this means “nabibigyan ng attention ang mga bata at minamahal sila.”
- Proper nutrition supported by an oral nutritional supplement: “To ensure all macronutrients and micronutrients for growth and boosting immune health will be there, such as protein, zinc, vitamin D, A, C, and E,” Dr. Guno says.
Dr. Estrada says giving kids an oral nutritional supplement can help fill any nutritional inadequacies when kids aren’t eating properly. “We are aware that 0- to 5-years-olds are very labile in their appetite," she says. "Even if you give them yung pinaka-maganda at masarap na pagkain … sa kanila, for some reason, hindi nila type.”
And this is where an oral nutritional supplement helps. One glass, according to her, has an adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein, and other important vitamins and minerals.
Both Dr. Guno and Dr. Estrada also underscore the importance of parents being more mindful of their children’s growth, especially since it has far-reaching implications on the kids’ future.
“Height is associated with a lot of consequences,” Dr. Guno explains, saying that this could mean diminished brain and physical development for the child. “And siyempre, when there’s diminished brain development, ang school performance niya mababa,” she adds.
For her part, Dr. Estrada has this to say: “Ang height kasi parang yan yung end result."
“‘Pag tinignan mo ang isang batang maliit — para sa kanyang family or para sa kanyang peers, kung iko-compare mo siya dun sa mga kaklase niya — iisipin mo, ‘Bakit? Eh yung mga kapatid naman nito okay.’”
“It’s very critical na tignan ng mga parents ang mga anak nila early on,” she adds.
Watch the entire discussion:
The PediaSure Plus Champions of Growth Facebook Live sessions aim to help moms understand the value of the meals they prepare for their kids and the activities they do with them at home — both of which are vital during a child’s first five years.
In compliance with the Philippine Medical Association's Code of Conduct, the doctors featured in this article are not promoting or endorsing any brand or product.