Complementary feeding is the term used for giving other foods and drinks in addition to breastfeeding after the completion of the 6 months exclusive breastfeeding period. The food and drink given should “complement” or make complete - the energy and nutrition provided by continued frequent breastfeeding up to two years and beyond. In other words, complementary foods are needed to fill the gap between the total nutritional needs of a child and the amounts provided by breastmilk.
Inadequate nutritional quality, or the baby is given complementary food too early or too late, in too small amounts, or not frequently enough are some common challenges that mothers or caretakers face when introducing complementary food to children 6-24 months old.
The feeding pattern in the first two years of life has tremendous impact on the individual, household and society as a whole. Poor infant feeding patterns often lead to malnutrition. Malnutrition occurring in the first two years of life is virtually irreversible and impairs:
1. Cognitive development
2. Intelligence and school performance
3. Physical strength, and stamina
4. Productivity of a nation