This research summary is based on a systematic review of complementary feeding interventions for prevention of undernutrition. Complementary feeding for infants refers to the timely introduction of safe and nutritional foods in addition to breastfeeding. These foods are typically provided to children from six to 24 months of age. It has been suggested that in addition to disease-prevention strategies, complementary feeding interventions targeting this ‘critical window’ are most efficient in reducing malnutrition and promoting adequate growth and development.
The systematic review, which included 11 randomised control trials (RCTs) and 7 non-RCT studies in low- and middle-income countries, assesses the impact of complementary feeding and education on complementary feeding on linear growth, weight gain, iron status and morbidity. Previous reviews have been largely qualitative in nature and made little effort to develop robust meta-analysis (statistically combining multiple studies of a similar nature) based on impact estimates.
Evidence suggests that the effectively implemented provision of complementary feeding and education on complementary feeding have a potential to prevent undernutrition in children less than two years of age in developing countries. However, further research is needed to identify the most beneficial types of complementary food, as well as how to tailor interventions to meet the specific needs of the population depending on their food security situation.