Journal Articles

A review of complementary feeding practices in South Africa

Introduction: Infant health and nutrition in South Africa are a priority, as evidenced by the political commitment and policy development history of the last 25 years. Current efforts focus on improving breastfeeding rates, but the action plan for complementary feeding receives less attention and resourcing. A thorough analysis of the current infant feeding situation is required to assist with policy and targeted programmes associated with complementary feeding.

Aim: The aim of this review was to identify and collate all published research in South Africa on the complementary feeding practices of infants and young children, aged 0–24


Methodology: Searches included English-language research published between 2006 and 2017, within PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar. All papers included in the review had to meet defined eligibility criteria. Papers older than 11 years were excluded. In total 34 papers relevant to South Africa were identified and included in this review.

Main findings: Early introduction of foods and liquids other than breast milk is a common practice. Maize porridge is a common first food for infants, but there is also a high reliance on commercial infant cereal. Water and other liquids (e.g. tea, herbal mixtures) are commonly given to infants younger than six months. There is little information on the number of meals per day. The diets of many older infants do not meet the criteria for a minimally acceptable diet. Few animal source foods are used in complementary feeding. There are indications that processed meats, soft drinks, sweets and salty crisps are given regularly to older infants between six months and one year.

Conclusion: Complementary feeding practices in South Africa are suboptimal and appropriate action is needed to improve this situation. Further investigation is needed on whether older infants and young children can achieve their required dietary intakes from the food that is available to them. If a change in older infant and young child feeding behaviour is desired, then existing methods and approaches need to change.



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