Starting in 2007 SAIFRN has conducted a series of secondary data analyses using the most recent available information from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) from India.
Key findings of our analyses are as follows:
- Sub-optimal breastfeeding:
While breastfeeding is a common practice in the region, few children benefit from early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age. In fact, the harmful practice of giving non-breastmilk fluids such as fruit juice or water is practised in at least 1 in 5 children across the region.
- Increased bottle-feeding:
The use of bottle feeds varies widely, from less than 1 in 20 infants in Nepal to 1 in 3 in Pakistan. However, in all countries this practice is associated with increased wealth, urban residence, maternal education and employment.
- Poor quality complementary feeding:
Despite initiating complementary feeding at an appropriate age, low dietary diversity and insufficient meal frequency contribute to inadequate nutrition from complementary foods. This is particularly apparent in settings of low maternal education and household wealth. Poor complementary feeding practices affect 3 in 10 infants in Sri Lanka and as many as 9 in 10 infants in India.
- Need for tailored intervention:
The considerable variation of both IYCF indicators and upstream factors associated with poor feeding practices demonstrates the need for local evidence-based interventions at the national level. This should be complemented with intensive action targeting sub-populations with poorer IYCF outcomes.