Complementary Feeding Practices among Young Children in China, India, and Indonesia: A Narrative Review

Outi Sirkka*, Marieke Abrahamse-Berkeveld, Eline M. van der Beek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)


Under- and overnutrition are co-existing health issues in several countries across Asia. Poor complementary feeding (CF) is a significant determinant of malnutrition in children and a major cause of morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this narrative review is to summarize the most recent evidence regarding the CF practices in 3 countries with a high prevalence of stunting and overweight, and currently undergoing rapid economic and nutritional transition: China, India, and Indonesia. We focused particularly on the adequacy of CF, based on the WHO feeding indicators (2021) regarding timing, frequency, diversity, as well as the consumption of specific food groups. According to the findings, the majority of infants in the 3 countries are introduced to CF at an inappropriate time: either too early (particularly in urban/rural areas of China and Indonesia) or too late (India) compared with the WHO recommendation. Furthermore, in all countries, diets are characterized by a low variety and frequency of CF and consist mainly of staple foods with poor nutritional quality, such as rice, cereals, or noodles. Nutrient-dense and protein-rich foods, such as foods of animal origin, are either inadequately consumed (rural areas of China and India) or introduced too late (urban areas of China and Indonesia) in the diets of children. In all countries, the consumption of fruit and vegetables, especially during the early CF period, is poor. In contrast, a significant proportion of both urban and rural children, particularly in Indonesia and India, are consuming energy-dense/nutrient-poor snacks and sugary drinks during the CF period. The described practices may pose a significant risk for the development of energy and/or nutrient gaps, magnifying the double and triple burden of malnutrition present in these countries. Further research is warranted to understand the significance of the observed practices for stunting and/or overweight/obesity risk.

A large proportion of world's malnourished children live in Asia. This article summarizes the complementary feeding practices in China, India and Indonesia and discusses the relevance for health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernzac092
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent developments in nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2022


  • infants
  • stunting
  • overweight
  • complementary feeding
  • nutrition
  • AGE

Cite this