Complementary feeding is defined as the process starting when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants, and therefore other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk. The transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods – referred to as complementary feeding – typically covers the period from 6 - 24 months of age, even though breastfeeding may continue to two years of age and beyond. This is a critical period of growth during which nutrient deficiencies and illnesses contribute globally to higher rates of undernutrition among children under five years of age.
A number of successful strategies have been developed to improve complementary feeding practices in low- and middle-income countries, where practical difficulties can limit adherence to complementary feeding guidelines.
Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.
Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
Status: not currently available
Other guidance documents
Guiding principles for feeding non-breastfed children 6-24 months of age
Guiding principles for complementary feeding of the breastfed child
Related Cochrane reviews
Related systematic reviews
Impact of education and provision of complementary feeding on growth and morbidity in children less than 2 years of age in developing countries: a systematic review
Systematic review of the efficacy and effectiveness of complementary feeding interventions in developing countries