Dietary and Complementary Feeding Practices of US Infants, 6 to 12 Months: A Narrative Review of the Federal Nutrition Monitoring Data

Regan L. Bailey, Jaime S. Stang, Teresa A. Davis, Timothy S. Naimi, Barbara O. Schneeman, Kathryn G. Dewey, Sharon M. Donovan, Rachel Novotny, Ronald E. Kleinman, Elsie M. Taveras, Lydia Bazzano, Linda G. Snetselaar, Janet de Jesus, Kellie O. Casavale, Eve E. Stoody, Joseph D. Goldman, Alanna J. Moshfegh, Donna G. Rhodes, Kirsten A. Herrick, Kristin KoegelCria G. Perrine, Tusa Rebecca Pannucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Complementary foods and beverages (CFBs) are key components of an infant's diet in the second 6 months of life. This article summarizes nutrition and feeding practices examined by the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees during the CFB life stage. Breastfeeding initiation is high (84%), but exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months (26%) is below the Healthy People 2030 goal (42%). Most infants (51%) are introduced to CFBs sometime before 6 months. The primary mode of feeding (ie, human milk fed [HMF]; infant formula or mixed formula and human milk fed [FMF]) at the initiation of CFBs is associated with the timing of introduction and types of CFBs reported. FMF infants (42%) are more likely to be introduced to CFBs before 4 months compared with HMF infants (19%). Different dietary patterns, such as higher prevalence of consumption and mean amounts, were observed, including fruit, grains, dairy, proteins, and solid fats. Compared with HMF infants of the same age, FMF infants consume more total energy (845 vs 631 kcal) and protein (22 vs 12 g) from all sources, and more energy (345 vs 204 kcal) and protein (11 vs 6 g) from CFBs alone. HMF infants have a higher prevalence of risk of inadequate intakes of iron (77% vs 7%), zinc (54% vs <3%), and protein (27% vs <3%). FMF infants are more likely to have an early introduction (<12 months) to fruit juice (45% vs 20%) and cow's milk (36% vs 24%). Registered dietitian nutritionists and nutritional professionals should consider tailoring their advice to caregivers on dietary and complementary feeding practices, taking into account the primary mode of milk feeding during this life stage to support infants’ nutrient adequacy. National studies that address the limitations of this analysis, including small sample sizes and imputed breast milk volume, could refine findings from this analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The findings and conclusions are those of the authors and do not represent the views of their respective universities or any entity of the US Government. This work was completed in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. R. L. Bailey, J. S. Stang, T. A. Davis, T. S. Naimi, B. O. Schneeman, K. G. Dewey, S. M. Donovan, R. E. Kleinman, R. Novotny, E. M. Taveras, L. Bazzano, and L. G. Snetselaar were members of the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and reviewed all the data and wrote the report that this article reflects. All other authors are federal staff who supported the efforts of the Advisory Committee. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. FUNDING/SUPPORT There is no funding to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


  • Birth to 24 months
  • Breastfeeding
  • Complementary feeding
  • Dietary guidelines
  • Nutrition policy
  • Pediatrics

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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