Complementary feeding is the process starting when breastmilk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of an infant and when other foods and liquids along with breastmilk are needed. The age range for complementary feeding is generally 6-24 months.
Read Alive & Thrive’s Technical Brief, “Why stunting matters” Note: we have other relevant briefs on complementary feeding.
The challenges are context specific, but many are common across settings, including:
Household and family factors. Maternal nutritional status before and during pregnancy, poverty, household food insecurity, low caregiver education, inadequate child stimulation and activity, and water, sanitation, and hygiene contribute to child malnutrition and illness.
Changing requirements. As the child ages, feeding practices must change in response to the child’s changing nutritional requirements, motor skills, and maturing digestive and immune systems.
Labor, time, and resource constraints. Animal-source foods are rich in protein, fat, and micronutrients, but their cost limits consumption. Commercial, fortified food products are often beyond the reach of the poor. A growing proportion of people in developing countries live on less than $2 per day, with little disposable income to purchase fortified products. At the same time, studies consistently show that poor families spend significant resources on soft drinks and street foods of low nutritional value, suggesting that there is some spending flexibility and a demand for time-saving, convenient foods.
Improving nutrition in this age group requires a combination of strategies.
 Stewart CP, Iannotti L, Dewey KG, Michaelsen KF, Onyango AW. Contextualising complementary feeding in a broader framework for stunting prevention. Maternal and Child Nutrition (2013), 9 (Suppl. 2), pp. 27-45.