Optimizing the introduction of complementary foods in the infant's diet: A unique challenge in developing countries

Julanda Van Der Merwe, Megan Kluyts, Nadia Bowley, Debbi Marais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Being one of a series of technical support papers pertaining to the South African paediatric food-based dietary guidelines, this paper specifically deals with two of the guidelines proposed for the age group 6-12 months regarding the introduction of complementary foods in the infant's diet. Studies have shown that most of South African infants receive solid foods at the age of 4 months or earlier while only a small percentage are breastfed exclusively until 6 months. The untimely and inappropriate introduction of complementary foods have been shown to be risk factors for both under- and over-nutrition with resultant under- or overweight, stunting and micronutrient deficiencies. Optimal timing for the introduction of complementary foods will depend on the infant's physiological and developmental status. Small, frequent meals of easily digestable, smooth, semisolid nutrient- and energy-dense complementary foods should initially be offered while gradually increasing variety in both the type and texture of food. Protein and carbohydrate intake should increase with the infant's age while preference should be given to foods rich in micronutrients. It should be observed that certain foods, such as fresh cow's milk and egg white, because of their allergenic properties, as well as fat-free and high-fibre foods, excessive fruit juice and low nutrient value drinks such as tea are not recommended. Timely introduction of appropriate complementary foods is vital for the immediate and long-term health of the infant and caregivers should be accordingly advised on feeding at this age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date4 Sept 2007
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • breast feeding
  • developing countries
  • female
  • humans
  • infant
  • infant food
  • infant nutrition disorders
  • infant nutritional physiological phenomena
  • male
  • nutrition policy
  • nutritive value
  • practice guidelines as topic
  • weaning
  • infants
  • complementary foods
  • South African food-based dietary guidelines


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