A discussion paper developed for the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) by Gabrielle Palmer
The IBFAN network has a 30-year experience of campaigns on breastfeeding and the regulation of marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
Relatively recently, generated to some extent by the concerns over the promotion of market-led approaches to solve nutritional problems related to inappropriate complementary feeding, a broad ranging debate has started within and outside the network.
In the course of the debate, we came to realise, that – as with the promotion of breastfeeding 30 years ago – although we all care passionately about infant welfare, we may not share the same assumptions about what is, and what is not, adequate and appropriate complementary feeding.
We feel that there is an urgent need for clarification of what complementary feeding and foods mean. We need to understand how the feeding of older infants and young children can be improved. The drive for clear definitions of terms may be seen as pedantic by some but, just as with breastfeeding, such a process is likely to get support from those who argue that no robust research and consensus can be achieved until exact and understandable terms are agreed.