Complementary Foods: Guidelines and Practices
Complementary feeding, the transition from a breast milk based diet to inclusion of other sources of nutrition in an infant’s diet, is a major milestone in infant development. This transition period is important as it is a time when infants are vulnerable to developing nutritional deficiencies and occurs during a developmental stage when important food related behavioural patterns are being established.
As under- and over- nutrition may coexist in children from the same country it is important that advice provided by complementary feeding guidelines meets the needs of all children helping them to grow and develop into healthy adults.
Many consistent and important themes emerge when comparing complementary feeding guidelines from different countries:
- Complementary foods at, or around six months of age
- Continued breastfeeding
- Nutrient dense complementary foods
- Hygienic food practices
- Development of feeding skills that foster long term healthy eating habits
- Prevention of non-communicable diseases such as obesity
Complementary feeding guidelines that promote good eating during the first year and beyond recognise that nutrition, particularly during the first 1000 days, has an important influence on immediate growth and development, but also an important role in setting up taste preferences and behavioural patterns which inform an infant’s susceptibility to development of disease later in life. However, guidelines in many countries are not always followed, particularly during the second year of life and innovative methods are needed to increase compliance.