In discussing Two Key Strategies for Child Growth, we have to kickiff with childhood malnutrition; a global health concern and is especially prevalent in lower and middle-income countries. Stunting (short for age), wasting (thin for age) and intrauterine growth retardation together contribute to 2.1 million deaths worldwide in children under five years of age
The World Health Organization strongly recommends that all infants must be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
At six months, the infants should be gradually introduced to a variety of complementary foods that are adequate to meet their nutritional demands and of appropriate texture and quantity.
One of the most critical periods for an infant’s growth is between 6-24 months, when the child is no longer exclusively breastfed. The incidence of stunting is highest in this period as there is a higher nutritional demand, which is often not fulfilled due to low quality and quantity of complementary foods.
Another round of key strategies for child growth; Complementary feeding strategies – encompass a wide variety of interventions designed to improve not only the quality and quantity of these foods but also improve the feeding behaviors.
There are several complementary feeding strategies in practice such as nutritional counseling to mothers, provision of complementary foods, supplementation or fortification of complementary foods with micronutrients and increased energy content etc.
There is much interest in the scientific community to measure the effectiveness of these interventions and to determine whether these complementary feeding strategies can help tackle the global health problem of childhood malnutrition.
Complementary Feeding Strategy Effectiveness – Findings from A Systematic Review of Literature
- Maternal education on complementary feeding
- Provision of complementary foods with or without nutritional counseling
Their findings showed a positive impact of both these interventions on the child’s growth. Key results are summarized below:
- Provision of complementary foods and maternal education, both interventions were found to significantly increase weight gain. (WMD 0.34 SD, 95% CI 0.11 – 0.56 and 0.30 SD, 95 % CI 0.05-0.54 respectively
- Provision of complementary foods and maternal education, both interventions were found to significantly increase linear growth. (WMD 0.26 SD, 95 % CI 0.08-0.43 and 0.21 SD, 95 % CI 0.01- 0.41 respectively)
- Pooled results from studies show that the provision of appropriate complementary foods (with or without nutritional counseling) resulted in an extra gain of 0.25 (±0.18) kg weight and 0.54 (±0.38) cm height in intervention groups.
- Education of mothers about complementary feeding led to an extra weight gain of 0.30 kg (±0.26) and a gain of 0.49 cm (±0.50) in height in the intervention group compared to the control group.
Thus, it is evident that the provision of appropriate complementary foods and maternal education are two effective strategies to promote healthy growth and development in children aged 6 months and above. These interventions may also be useful in reducing the risk of stunted and wasted children.
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