Learning in Action: Improving Complementary Feeding

November 14, 2016

This post is part of our Learning in Action series, a collection of external articles summarized for The Hunger Project for continuous learning relevant to our program work areas. The excerpt is a summary of the article Improving Complementary Feeding in Malawi: Lessons learned from a process review of a food security and nutrition project; Food and Agriculture Department of the United Nations.


Chronic malnutrition and undernutrition is a major problem facing Malawi, and is caused by food insecurity, unhealthy lifestyles and environments and poor caring practices. The study in the article Improving Complementary Feeding in Malawi: Lessons learned from a process review of a food security and nutrition project, aims to find methods to improve infant and young child feeding practices, particularly complementary feeding, and family diets using locally available foods.

The study primarily focuses on the first 1000 days of life aiming for exclusive breast feeding for six months followed by appropriate complementary feeding 6-23 months. By improving these practices, stunting and undernourishment can be avoided ensuring proper development for children.

Nutrition interventions are needed to educate families and caregivers on better practices for the first 1000 days of life. Interventions in the study included education for farmers on food security and diversified agriculture while caregivers were trained on proper nutrition and best feeding practices. Questions focused on the following issues: targeting families with young children (not just school-aged) with agriculture support; implementing nutrition education activities; supporting existing government services; and underlying socio-cultural issues related to childcare and feeding.

How Can we Apply these Lessons at The Hunger Project?

  • Use locally available food to best complement breastfeeding and educate on substitutions when common foods are out of season.
  • Educate communities on portion size and age appropriateness of meals and snacks, especially encouraging enriched porridge for young children even when families think children are too old for the meal, the children still benefit from the nutrition.
  • Consider the complexity of family dynamics; all family members should be educated- feeding crosses gender, and generation (especially grandmothers) and even households.
  • Nutritionally appropriate agriculture support and education according to seasonal crops corresponding with health and nutrition education will help families prepare nutritional foods year round. Providing recipes and cooking classes will also promote good health and confidence in cooking nutritional meals.

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