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Complementary feeding defined as the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods. The period during which other food or liquids are provided along with breast milk is defined as period of complementary feeding. Any nutrient-containing foods or liquids other than breast milk given to young children  during the period of complementary feeding are defined as complementary food (WHO, 1998, WHO, 2001).

Infants are particularly vulnerable during the transition period when complementary feeding begins. Ensuring that their nutritional needs are met thus requires that complementary foods be (WHO, 2003):

  1. Timely – meaning that they are introduced when the need for energy and nutrients exceeds what can be provided through exclusive and frequent breastfeeding;
  2. Adequate – meaning that they provide sufficient energy, protein and micronutrients to meet a growing child’s nutritional needs;
  3. Safe – meaning that they are hygienically stored and prepared, and fed with clean hands using clean utensils and not bottles and teats;
  4. Properly fed – meaning that they are given consistent with a child’s signals of appetite and satiety, and that meal frequency and feeding method – actively encouraging the child, even during illness, to consume sufficient food using fingers, spoon or self-feeding –are suitable for age

Infants are born as “univores,” that is they require a single food source-human milk-for adequate nutrition. In order to continue normal growth and development beyond the nursing period, their parents must help them make the transition from dependent to independent self-feeding and learn to accept and enjoy the varied “omnivore” diet. This transition occurs gradually over the first two years of life and involves: 1) a shift from a single to multiple food sources, 2) increased opportunities for self-regulation of food intake, and 3) new social contexts for eating involving peers and adult caretakers.

The success of the transition from a single-food source to a multiple-food source diet is shaped by the availability of dietary variety, the quality of children’s early feeding experiences and the ability of parents to accommodate their children’s emerging independence (Leann L.B, and Karen GT, 2004).

Constraints to improving feeding practices can classify as environmental (unavailability or seasonal variability of certain foods, the need to work outside the home which decreases time available for food preparation and feeding, scarcity of cooking fuel or communication of misinformation by health workers about child feeding) or attitudinal (perceptions, beliefs, and taboos related to feeding).

Some common attitudes that negatively influence child feeding practices are perceived breastmilk insufficiency or inferior quality and perceived inability of child to swallow or digest particular foods. Lack of maternal self-confidence and feelings of powerlessness against children’s resistance to eating as well as traditional food distribution rules within the household may be responsible for negative feeding behaviors. Fear of spoiling the child with excess quantity of foods or with special foods may also cause problematic feeding practices (Dickin et al, 1997)

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This entry was posted on 22 October 2011 by in Balita, Gizi Daur and tagged .

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