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Complementary feeding practices for infants and young children in South Asia. A review of evidence for action post-2015
Authors: Victor M. Aguayo
Source: Maternal and Child Nutrition, 13(Suppl 2): e12439; DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12439
Topic(s): Child feeding
Country: Asia
  Multiple Asian Countries
Published: OCT 2017
Abstract: Some 37% (~64 million) South Asian children under 5 years are stunted. Most stunting occurs during the complementary feeding period (6–23 months). Our objective was to (a) characterize complementary feeding practices in South Asia and (b) review the effectiveness of information, education, and counselling (IEC) interventions aiming to improve complementary feeding in South Asia. We conducted a comprehensive review of (a) the latest nationally representative survey data and (b) peer-reviewed interventions (January 1990 to December 2015) that used IEC as the main strategy to improve complementary feeding. The analytical sample included 30,966 children aged 6–23 months. Foods made from grains are the main complementary food (76.8% of children). Only 33.2% of children are fed fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A and a mere 17.1% are fed complementary foods containing meat, fish, poultry and/or eggs. Timely introduction, minimum meal frequency, minimum dietary diversity, and minimum acceptable diet were estimated at 57.4%, 47.7%, 33.0%, and 20.5%, respectively. The evidence on the effectiveness of IEC interventions is limited in quantity, quality, and scale. The 12 intervention studies that met the inclusion criteria indicate that IEC interventions delivered by many types of primary care workers/community resource persons using multiple contact opportunities improved the timeliness, frequency, diversity, and/or adequacy of complementary feeding. However, acceptability, availability, and affordability seem to constrain improvements in diet diversity, particularly foods of animal origin. The small size of most intervention studies and the training and/or supervision intensity of counsellors raise concerns about the potential for scale and/or sustainability of some of the interventions reviewed.