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Open Access Across-country comparisons of selected infant and young child feeding indicators and associated factors in four South Asian countries

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Background. Information on infant and young child feeding is widely available in Demographic and Health Surveys and National Family Health Surveys for countries in South Asia; however, infant and young child feeding indicators from these surveys have not been compared between countries in the region.

Objective. To compare the key indicators of breastfeeding and complementary feeding and their determinants in children under 24 months of age between four South Asian countries.

Methods. We selected data sets from the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2004, the India National Family Health Survey (NFHS-03) 2005–06, the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2006, and the Sri Lanka 2000 Demographic and Health Survey. Infant feeding indicators were estimated according to the key World Health Organization indicators.

Results. Exclusive breastfeeding rates were 42.5% in Bangladesh, 46.4% in India, and 53.1% in Nepal. The rate of full breastfeeding ranged between 60.6% and 73.9%. There were no factors consistently associated with the rate of no exclusive breastfeeding across countries. Utilization of health services (more antenatal clinic visits) was associated with higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding in India but lower rates in Nepal. Delivery at a health facility was a negative determinant of exclusive breastfeeding in India. Postnatal contacts by Public Health Midwives were a positive factor in Sri Lanka. A considerable proportion of infants under 6 months of age had been given plain water, juices, or other nonmilk liquids. The rate of timely first suckling ranged from 23.5% in India to 56.3% in Sri Lanka. Delivery by cesarean section was found to be a consistent negative factor that delayed initiation of breastfeeding. Nepal reported the lowest bottle-feeding rate of 3.5%. Socioeconomically privileged mothers were found to have higher bottle-feeding rates in most countries.

Conclusions. Infant and young child feeding practices in the South Asia region have not reached the expected levels that are required to achieve a substantial reduction in child mortality. The countries with lower rates of exclusive breastfeeding have a great potential to improve the rates by preventing infants from receiving water and water-based or other nonmilk liquids during the first 6 months of life.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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