Countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States made little progress in child nutrition and mortality between 1990 and 2005. The present paper assesses the nutritional status of children <5 years of age and discusses possible strategies for improvement.Data on low birth weight, infant and young child feeding, underweight, overweight and micronutrient deficiencies were compiled from available reports and databases, complemented through questionnaires to UNICEF Country Offices, and analysed by country, age, gender, urban/rural residence, maternal education and wealth quintiles. Exclusive breast-feeding in the first 6 months and continuing breast-feeding up to 2 years fall short of WHO and UNICEF recommendations. Complementary foods are introduced too early and may be poor in protein and micronutrients. Stunting and underweight are prevalent, especially in children aged 12 to 35 months; overweight is even more prevalent. Vitamin A and I deficiencies are still present in some countries, despite current control efforts. Anaemia ranges between 20 % and 40 %. Higher rates of malnutrition are found in rural areas, children of less educated mothers and lower-income families.Discussion Current public health strategies should be redirected to address: (i) overall protection, promotion and support of infant and young child feeding, in addition to breast-feeding; (ii) overweight, in addition to underweight and stunting; and (iii) malnutrition as a whole, in addition to micronutrient deficiencies. An equity lens should be used in developing policies and plans and implementing and monitoring programmes. Capacity building, cross-sectoral action, improved data collection within adequate legal frameworks and community engagement should be the pillars of redirected strategies.