Infant and Young Child Feeding

The Challenge

  • Children experience the greatest risk of malnutrition during the first 1,000 days—or from conception until their second birthday.
  • Malnutrition can have a lasting effect on the healthy growth and development of children, including increased risk of blindness, stunted growth, the inability to withstand common childhood diseases, as well as reduced educational achievement.
  • Malnutrition is connected to approximately 45% of all child deaths.

HKI Solutions

Helen Keller International is committed to preventing malnutrition worldwide, and our approach to Infant and Young Child Feeding is an important strategy to help accomplish that goal.

Helen Keller International (HKI) implements Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) programs within the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) framework to promote optimal breastfeeding and the timely introduction of complementary foods to ensure ideal growth, development and disease resistance.

  • HKI’s Infant and Young Child Feeding programs raise awareness among health workers in local communities so they understand the importance of exclusive breastfeeding of newborns during the first 6 months of life.
    • Breastfeeding enhances both infant and maternal health.
    • Breast milk provides infants with essential antibodies necessary to resist infections while providing easy to absorb nutrients in the right amount.
    • Breast milk also contains enzymes, hormones and growth factors not found in formula.
    • Breastfed infants are less likely to suffer from diarrhea and severe bacterial infections than are non-breastfed infants.
    • Breastfeeding also benefits maternal health because it helps mothers recover from childbirth, reducing the risk of life-threatening post-partum hemorrhage orexcessive bleeding following the birth of a baby.
  • After 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, children need additional sources of micronutrients and energy. Together with continued breastfeeding, HKI promotes the use of foods easy for young children to consume and digest, known as complementary foods, to balance a child’s needs at this vital stage.
    • In many developing nations, complementary foods of appropriate nutritional value are often not available or known, which can have a truly harmful impact on a young child’s health and growth. In some cases mothers need to be shown improved recipes for baby foods; in others, they need supplements to meet the elevated nutrition needs of this period.
    • HKI helps local communities by identifying local foods for enriching traditional baby foods and by promoting and distributing point-of-use fortification products, such as Sprinkles, to provide young children with essential vitamins and minerals.
    • We also work with government and local agencies to create materials to train health workers and promote positive nutrition behaviors in local communities.
  • HKI’s Assessment and Research on Child Feeding (ARCH) Project is gathering information on the promotion of foods consumed by infants and young children in four countries (Senegal, Tanzania, Cambodia and Nepal), and provides this information to relevant stakeholders to contribute towards improved global health. As countries work to scale up nutrition interventions, the ARCH Project serves as a resource to guide the development of policies and programs related to infant and young child nutrition.