A critical element for children’s healthy growth and development is the nutrition they receive, especially during the early years of life. Nutrition is a key component of nurturing care, and the Nurturing Care Framework recognizes the importance of nutrition interventions and services for supporting young children’s optimal development.
In the earliest years, appropriate infant and young child feeding is particularly important and involves early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond with the addition of adequate complementary foods from six months onwards. Evidence shows that when these recommendations are adhered to, there are multiple benefits for the infant and young child, the mother and the family. Optimal nutrition lowers infant and child morbidity and mortality, fosters neurodevelopment, reduces the risk of chronic diseases along the life course, and has economic benefits for families and societies. However, many children are at risk of malnutrition. Undernutrition results in wasting or stunting while inappropriate foods can lead to overweight and obesity. Most countries are experience the dual burden of malnutrition. Children need to eat healthy foods so they are not overweight or underweight, both of which can affect their physical growth and brain development. Ensuring that adolescents, particularly girls, and women before and during pregnancy enjoy adequate nutrition is also essential for early childhood development. WHO recommends that all caregivers need to be supported to breastfeed optimally; it also recommends that support for responsive caregiving and early learning should be included as part of interventions for optimal nutrition of infants and young children.
This thematic page provides resources specifically for those interested in learning more about nutrition interventions and how to implement them.
Nutrition at Save the Children 2022, https://resourcecentre.
WHO (2017), Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity: implementation plan: executive summary
WHO (2014), Comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-NMH-NHD-14.1
UNICEF, Global Nutrition Cluster, Global Technical Assistance Mechanism for Nutrition (2020), Infant and Young Child Feeding in the Context of COVID-19, https://www.unicef.org/media/68281/file/IYCF-Programming-COVID19-Brief.pdf
WHO (2019), Essential nutrition actions: mainstreaming nutrition through the life-course
WHO (2018), Guideline: counselling of women to improve breastfeeding practices, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241550468
WHO (2021) Improving early childhood development https://www.who.int/teams/maternal-newborn-child-adolescent-health-and-ageing/child-health/nurturing-care
UNICEF (2010), The Community Infant and Young Child Feeding Counselling Package, https://www.unicef.org/media/108391/file/Facilitator%20Guide.pdf
UNICEF, Community based infant and young child feeding, https://www.unicef.org/documents/community-iycf-package
USAID and UNICEF, Infant and Young Child Feeding Recommendations When Covid-19 is Suspected or Confirmed https://www.advancingnutrition.org/what-we-do/social-and-behavior-change/iycf-recommendations-covid-19
Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect.
Victora, Cesar G et al. The Lancet , Volume 387 , Issue 10017 , 475 – 490.
Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices?
Rollins, Nigel C et al. The Lancet , Volume 387 , Issue 10017 , 491 – 504
Rabbani A, Padhani ZA, A Siddiqui F, et al. Systematic review of infant and young child feeding practices in conflict areas: what the evidence advocates. BMJ Open 2020;10:e036757. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2020-036757
Lucas, J. Richter, M. and Daelmans, B. (2017), “ Care for Child Development: an intervention in support of responsive caregiving and early child development, Child: Care, Health and Development Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29235167/
Black, M., Trude, A. and Lutter, C. (2020), “All Children Thrive: Integration of Nutrition and Early Childhood Development”, Annual Review of Nutrition, Vol. 40:375-406. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32966185/
Black, M., Aboud, F. (2011), “Responsive Feeding Is Embedded in a Theoretical Framework of Responsive Parenting”, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 141, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 490–494, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.129973
USAID Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Resource Review September 2022
The Importance of Nutrition in Early Childhood Development (2016), https://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/importance-nutrition-early-childhood-development/
USAID Advancing Nutrition webinar, https://www.advancingnutrition.org/events/2019/09/11/webinar-science-behind-first-1000-days-linking-nutrition-brain-development-and
The Nurturing care framework for early childhood development: A framework for helping children SURVIVE and THRIVE to TRANS- FORM health and human potential builds upon state-of-the art evidence of how child development unfolds and of the effective policies and interventions that can improve early childhood de- velopment.