Adopting optimal feeding practices is fundamental to a child’s survival, growth and development, but too few children benefit

Proper feeding of infants and young children can increase their chances of survival. It can also promote optimal growth and development, especially in the critical window from birth to 2 years of age. Ideally, infants should be breastfed within one hour of birth, breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life and continue to be breastfed up to 2 years of age and beyond. Starting at 6 months, breastfeeding should be combined with safe, age-appropriate feeding of solid, semi-solid and soft foods.

Data

Infant and young child feeding

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.

Core 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 1–23 months of age
Introduction of solid, semi-solid or soft foods Infants 6–8 months of age who consumed solid, semi-solid and soft foods during the previous day Infants 6–8 months of age
Minimum dietary diversity Children 6–23 months of age who received foods from ≥ 5 out of 8 food groups during the previous day Children 6–23 months of age
Minimum meal frequency Breastfed children 6–23 months of age who received solid, semi-solid and soft foods the minimum number of times or more during the previous day Breastfed children 6–23 months of age
Non-breastfed children 6–23 months of age who received solid, semi-solid and soft foods or milk feeds the minimum number of times or more during the previous day Non-breastfed children 6–23 months of age
Minimum milk feeding frequency for non-breastfed children Non-breastfed children 6–23 months of age who consumed at least two milk feeds during the previous day Non-breastfed children 6–23 months of age
Minimum acceptable diet Breastfed children 6–23 months of age who had at least the minimum dietary diversity and the minimum meal frequency during the previous day Breastfed children 6–23 months of age
Non-breastfed children 6–23 months of age who received at least two milk feedings and had at least the minimum dietary diversity not including milk feeds and the minimum meal frequency during the previous day Non-breastfed children 6–23 months of age
Egg and/or flesh food consumption Children 6–23 months of age who consumed egg and/or flesh food during the previous day Children 6–23 months of age
Sweet beverage consumption Children 6–23 months of age who consumed a sweet beverage during the previous day Children 6–23 months of age
Unhealthy food consumption Children 6–23 months of age who consumed selected sentinel unhealthy foods during the previous day Children 6–23 months of age
Zero vegetable or fruit consumption Children 6–23 months of age who did not consume any vegetables or fruits during the previous day Children 6–23 months of age
Bottle feeding Children 0–23 months of age who were fed from a bottle with a nipple during the previous day Children 0–23 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