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Open Access Why does nutrition deteriorate rapidly among children under 2 years of age? Using qualitative methods to understand community perspectives on complementary feeding practices in Bangladesh

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Background. Child undernutrition remains high in South Asian and sub-Saharan African countries. Rapid declines in nutritional status occur before the age of 2 years, particularly during the period of complementary feeding. Improving complementary feeding practices is a neglected area in nutrition programs.

Objective. To understand community perspectives on complementary feeding practices in order to inform the design of future interventions for improved complementary feeding.

Methods. From May through August 2009, data were collected in two rural locations and one urban location in Bangladesh through semistructured interviews, food attributes exercises, 24-hour dietary recalls, opportunistic observations, and trials of improved practices (TIPs). Key informant interviews and focus group discussions were also carried out among family members and community opinion leaders.

Results. Lay perceptions about complementary feeding differ substantially from international complementary feeding recommendations. A large proportion of children do not consume sufficient amounts of complementary foods to meet their energy and micronutrient needs. There was a gap in knowledge about appropriate complementary foods in terms of quality and quantity and strategies to convert family foods to make them suitable for children. Complementary feeding advice from family members, peers, and health workers, the importance given to feeding young children, and time spent by caregivers in feeding influenced the timing, frequency, types of food given, and ways in which complementary feeding occurred.

Conclusions. Perceptions and practices related to complementary feeding need to be effectively addressed to improve the levels of child undernutrition. Lack of understanding of children's nutritional needs and insufficient time for feeding children are key barriers to complementary feeding.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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