The first year of life is crucial in laying the foundation of good health and improving the quality of life of children. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (WHO, 2001). However after six months, breast milk alone will no longer be sufficient both in terms of quantity and quality to meet the nutritional requirement of the child especially for energy and micronutrients notably zinc, iron and vitamin A (UNICEF, 2009). It thus becomes necessary to supplement breast milk with other foods as the child grows older. These foods start as liquid foods and progress to solid foods. This is the process of complementary feeding and it starts from six months.
Weaning foods enhance proper growth and development after the child is weaned. According to Onifiok and Nnanyelugo, (2005), weaning is an introduction of soft, easily swallowed and digested foods to supplement the infant’s early milk feeding pattern. It has been considered to be the time an infants breast feeding pattern is gradually changed to semi-solid foods to replace the nutrient which are present on the breast milk (Frazier and Cooper, 2003).
Weaning foods therefore are used to replace breast milk, thus supplying sufficient nutrient for infants. As in most developing countries, the high cost of fortified nutritious proprietary complementary food is always beyond the reach of most Nigerians families. Such families often depend on inadequately processed traditional foods considering mainly cereal like maize, millet and sorghum (Frazier and Cooper, 2003).
Generally, weaning foods may be prepared from various ingredients that are readily available and affordable within the locality depending on individuals per capital income. In many tropical societies, legumes and cereals are locally used in preparing weaning foods since they are readily available, affordable, acceptable, safe and easy to prepare. In most Nigerian localities, in particular the first weaning food is usually made from fermented maize, millet and guinea corn, especially by the low income earners (Ikujenlola, 2008).
In most cultures the first line complementary food is cereal gruel made from maize, millet or guinea corn (Ibe, 2008). It is called by different names “pap, akamu, ogi or koko” (King and Ashworth, 1987). These cereals are eaten in large quantities in developing countries and are prepared as gruel and used in feeding infants (Ikujenlola, 2008). Due to their high viscosity on colony, a large amount of water is used during preparation to obtain the right consistency. The high viscosity characteristic of cereal grain is obviously responsible for young children in inability to fulfill their energy and nutrient requirement (Kikafunda et al., 2006). Since young children have small gastric capacities, they are unable to meet their energy requirements. This thus contributes to high rate of malnutrition especially in areas where cereals form the major complementary diets.
The aim of this research work is to assess the effect of fermentation on nutritional qualities of formulated cereal/legume fortified weaning foods.
(i) To isolate and identify the microorganisms associated with the fermentation of fortified weaning foods.
(ii) To evaluate the chemical composition, mineral element level and in in-vitro protein digestibility of the weaning food blends.
(iii) To evaluate the sensory qualities of the weaning food samples.