Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Complementary feeding

Baby fed with a spoon

When breastmilk is no longer enough to meet the nutritional needs of the infant, complementary foods should be added to the diet of the child. Complementary feeding typically covers the period from six to 24 months of age, and is a very vulnerable period. It is the time when malnutrition starts in many infants, contributing significantly to the high prevalence of malnutrition in children under five years of age worldwide.

WHO has developed Guiding Principles for Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Child which set standards for developing locally adapted feeding guidelines. They are complemented by Guiding Principles for Feeding Non-breastfed Children which provide guidance on adequate feeding in those circumstances where children six months and older do not receive breastmilk as part of their diet.

Practical guidelines on appropriate feeding are included as part of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness guidelines and training course for first-level health workers. Extending these guidelines, WHO has developed the guide Complementary feeding: Family Foods for Breastfed Children which is the basis of a three-day training course for health professionals. The Integrated Course on Infant and Young Child Feeding also addresses complementary feeding.