Background and aims: To describe growth patterns of young children in Latin America and the Caribbean, the types of nationally representative data available on complementary feeding practices and complementary feeding practices.
Methods and results: Data on growth, timing of introduction of liquids and foods, and complementary feeding practices were abstracted from nationally representative surveys. The high prevalence of stunting relative to the low prevalence of underweight is striking, with the "average" child in the region, with the exception of the Haitian child, short and chubby. The focus of the demographic and health surveys continues to be on undernutrition with only one question, intake of sugary foods, related foods that may have consequences for adult health. The United States has more comprehensive information; Mexico has information on beverage consumption and Brazil on soft drink and biscuit or snack consumption. In 14 of 19 countries, fewer than half of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life, indicating an early introduction of liquids and complementary foods. Among the 5 countries with data on the intake of sugary foods, intake in the previous 24 h among children 6-23 months of age ranged from 14% to 79%.
Conclusions: The absence of data to characterize complementary feeding diets as they relate to risk of overweight and chronic diseases in the Region of the Americas calls attention to the need to improve data collection frameworks and methods to address this important gap in knowledge. (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V.