Too few children benefit from recommended breastfeeding practices

From birth to 6 months of age, feeding infants nothing but breastmilk guarantees them a food source that is uniquely adapted to their nutrient needs, while also being safe, clean, healthy and accessible, no matter where they live. Putting newborns to the breast within the first hour of life – known as early initiation of breastfeeding – is critical to newborn survival and to establishing breastfeeding over the long term. When breastfeeding is delayed after birth, the consequences can be life-threatening – and the longer newborns are left waiting, the greater their risk of death.

 

Data

Notes on the data

The indicators

The standard indicators for infant and young child feeding practices developed in alignment with WHO’s Guiding Principles on feeding the breastfed and non-breastfed child are used to assess these practices within and across countries and to evaluate progress in this programme area. The 2021 publication, Indicators for assessing infant and young child feeding practices includes a total of 17 recommended indicators.

This set of indicators provides an update to i) 2008 guide which covered indicator definitions and ii) 2010 guide which covered operational instructions. This edition no longer makes a distinction between core and optional indicators.

Indicators for infant and young child feeding practices

Indicator name Definition
Numerator Denominator
Ever breastfed Children born in the last 24 months who were ever breastfed Children born in the last 24 months
Early initiation of breastfeeding Children born in the last 24 months who were put to the breast within one hour of birth Children born in the last 24 months
Exclusively breastfed for the first 2 days after birth Children born in the last 24 months who were fed exclusively with breast milk for the first two days after birth Children born in the last 24 months
Exclusive breastfeeding Infants 0–5 months of age who were fed only breast milk during the previous day Infants 0–5 months of age
Mixed milk feeding under six months Infants 0–5 months of age who were fed formula and/or animal milk in addition to breast milk during the previous day Infants 0–5 months of age
Continued breastfeeding at 12-23 months Children 12–23 months of age who were fed breast milk during the previous day Children 12–23 months of age

 

Data collection and reporting

Data for these indicators are collected through household surveys such as DHS, MICS and other national nutrition surveys. With the exception of 3 indicators; ever breastfed, early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusively breastfed for the first 2 days after birth, the other indicators are based on questions about liquid and food intake of children aged 0─23 months in the 24 hours preceding the survey. Standard questions and other practical methodological instructions for collecting, analyzing and reporting this data are also available in this document