Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding

Mother and child, Ecuador

Infant and young child feeding is a cornerstone of care for childhood development. In 2005, one third of children under five in developing countries were estimated to be stunted as a consequence of poor feeding and repeated infections. Even in resource poor settings, improved feeding practices can lead to improved intakes of energy and nutrients, leading to better nutritional status.

Over the past decades, the evidence on the biological requirements for appropriate nutrition, recommended feeding practices and factors impeding appropriate feeding has grown steadily. Moreover, much has been learned about interventions that are effective in promoting improved feeding. For example, studies in Bangladesh, Brazil and Mexico have demonstrated the impact of counselling, in communities and health services, to improve feeding practices, food intake and growth.

The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, endorsed by WHO Member States and the UNICEF Executive Board in 2002, aims to revitalize efforts to protect, promote and support appropriate infant and young child feeding. It builds upon past initiatives, in particular the Innocenti Declaration and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, and addresses the needs of all children including those living in difficult circumstances, such as infants of mothers living with HIV, low-birth-weight infants and infants in emergency situations. The Strategy is the guiding framework through which WHO prioritizes research and development work in the area of infant and young child feeding, and provides technical support to countries to facilitate implementation.