Improving Micronutrient
Quality in Child Diets

Photo @ World Bank/Binyam Teshome

The quality of complementary feeding of older infants and young children, ages 6-23 months, remains a significant public health and nutrition challenge across low- and middle-income countries. According to a 2021 UNICEF report, over 2 in 3 children in these contexts are being “Fed to Fail”—not having access to the right nutritious foods, in the right quantities and the right frequencies. Improving the micronutrient quality of complementary feeding during this age period is important to ensure proper growth and development—without which their future health and productivity may be compromised.

In this context, the Micronutrient Forum organized an expert consultation on 8–9 June 2023, to reflect on existing knowledge and the gaps in knowledge on specific food groups and home fortification products used in complementary feeding of children aged 6–23 months. The 31 participants from academia, research institutes, implementing organizations, and the United Nations, discussed priorities and key activities to align and catalyze food-based actions to improve the micronutrient quality of the diets of older infants and young children.

Recommendations from the Expert Consulation

Encourage governments to include specific guidance for complementary feeding of older infants and young children 6–23 months in national food-based dietary guidelines.

Encourage stakeholders in the food system and the social protection system to take infant and young child feeding requirements into consideration as part of their systems’ policies, strategies, and programs.

Recommend the development of implementation guidance for programming in plain language, with concrete examples to accompany the updated WHO complementary feeding guidelines (to be published by end 2023). Countries should be encouraged to update their young child feeding policies accordingly.

Recommend that the various child feeding recommendations included in different WHO guidelines be aligned with complementary feeding guidelines.

Recommend that complementary feeding guidelines specify that dietary components that contribute to nutrient deficiencies and obesity (such as high-sugar beverages and nutrient-poor, high-fat snacks) should be avoided.

Encourage the integration of micronutrient-rich, affordable, and acceptable diets and practices in complementary feeding, including traditional and indigenous foods.

Recommend that cost, convenience, time, and availability of foods be considered when making recommendations for a healthy complementary food diet. These are highly relevant factors to low-income urban and rural families when making decisions on child
feeding (and household diet).

Encourage governments to include complementary feeding interventions in annual budgets, costed development plans, resource mobilization strategies, expenditure tracking, and accountability systems across national budgets for food, health, and social protection systems.

Recommend holding additional expert convenings to review the following topics:

  • Unhealthy foods and beverages (low in micronutrient density, high in sugar or unhealthy fat)
  • Commercially produced fortified complementary foods
  • Demand creation and social behavior change communication
  • Complementary feeding in humanitarian contexts

Improving the Micronutrient Quality of Complementary Feeding in Early Childhood

Photo @ World Bank/Rama George-Alleyne

Meeting Report from Expert Consultation Held on 8-9 June 2023

Synthesis of Evidence, Knowledge Gaps, and Priorities for Food-Based and Home-Fortification Interventions

Landscape of Key Actors in Micronutrient Nutrition and Child Diets

Photos @ World Bank/Kenneth Pornillos and World Bank/A’Melody Lee

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