A group of village women admire a plump little baby in a cot. What’s her mother feeding her? Is it mother’s milk?
It must be mother’s milk – the baby is just over six months old. But it can’t be… their children don’t look as healthy. It’s got to be some magic food. They start to search the kitchen for the supernatural ingredient that is making this little girl grow so well.
The baby’s mother, unseen, watches with a smile. Then she walks in. Her embarrassed friends, caught pulling out all the edibles in her kitchen, blurt out their question: What special, amazing, magical food is she feeding her baby?
The mother points to all the things they’ve found. “Just all of this!” she says. The voiceover kicks in: Cook whatever is at home, make it into a thick mash, and feed it to your baby.
This advertisement for complementary feeding answers some basic questions: When does a child transition from mother’s milk to solid food, what do you feed the child, and what consistency should the food be?
Families often think that six-month-old babies are too young for anything other than mother’s milk. Fearing that the infant might choke on anything thicker, they think any solid food with so much water that its nutritional value is diluted. And they often restrict food to rice and lentils when they should be including the widest possible range of foods.
These practices all contribute to unnecessary infant malnutrition even within families that can afford to feed their babies properly. Children between six months and two years of age need, in addition to mothers milk, several feeds consisting of a thick mash of the same food as adults eat, though without spices.
The complementary feeding campaign capitalises on the idea of ‘positive deviance’ – that is, the idea that one person whose correct practices and behaviours show obvious results, can influence other households to follow her example. The positive deviant serves as a role model whose secret everyone is eager to know.
In this ad, one mother, using only what she has in her kitchen to nourish her child properly, influences her peer group to do the same. She demystifies a “magical” result by sharing the simple steps she took using resources available to every mother.
The complementary feeding campaign reinforces a simple way to help secure the basic health of millions of children in Bihar at no extra cost to their parents.