Behavioral Change Strategies for Improving Complementary Feeding and Breastfeeding

World Rev Nutr Diet. 2016:115:184-92. doi: 10.1159/000442104. Epub 2016 May 19.


Improving infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, including breastfeeding and complementary feeding, has been identified as one of the most effective interventions to improve child survival, stunting and wasting. Evidence from randomized controlled trials suggests that effective promotion of breastfeeding and complementary feeding, with or without food provision, has the potential to improve IYCF practices and child nutrition. However, in many countries, breastfeeding practices and complementary feeding practices are still far from optimal. The lack of implementation of available, effective, affordable interventions in scale-up programs is in part attributed to a lack of innovative, creative and effective behavioral change strategies that enable and encourage caregivers. Successful behavioral change strategies should be based on a rigorous situational analysis and formative research, and the findings and insights of formative research should be used to further design interventions that address the identified barriers and enablers, to select delivery channels, and to formulate appropriate and effective messages. In addition, successful behavioral change interventions should a priori define and investigate the program impact pathway to target behavioral change and should assess intermediary behavioral changes and indicators to learn why the expected outcome was achieved or not achieved by testing the program theory. The design of behavioral change communication must be flexible and responsive to shifts in societies and contexts. Performance of adequate IYCF also requires investments to generate community demand through social mobilization, relevant media and existing support systems. Applying these principles has been shown to be effective in improving IYCF practices in Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ethiopia and is recommended to be adopted by other programs and countries in order to accelerate progress in improving child nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries
  • Ethiopia
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Mothers
  • Non-Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Nutritional Status
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vietnam