Ensuring optimal infant and young child feeding practices in children 0–23 months of age is critically important to improving children’s nutrition, health, and development. Measuring infant and young child feeding practices, however, is a challenge because several different practices need to be observed, and optimal practices change rapidly with the age of the child.
A five‐year research effort led by IFPRI in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of California at Davis, UNICEF, USAID, and the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project/Academy for Educational Development (or, the “core group”), developed a set of indicators of child feeding practices for global use.
This is the first time that a set of simple yet valid and reliable indicators of child feeding practices had been developed for universal use in large‐scale data collection exercises at the population level. The use of these indicators is critical in improving the assessment of problems, monitoring and evaluation of programs, cross-country comparisons, and tracking global progress of children’s nutrition, health, and development. They have also become the universal indicators used for Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) at the global level as well as in research and practice, as is evident for instance in the multi-partner, WHO‐endorsed publications entitled Indicators for Assessing Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices: Part I - Definition, which was published in 2008, and Part II – Measurement and Part III – Country Profiles, both of which were published in 2010. The recommended indicators from these publications are used in WHO’s website, WHO Nutrition Landscape Information System, for tracking IYCF practices globally.
These indicators have been used by many NGOs as well. For instance, they were cited in the widely used infant and young child feeding survey module produced by the Child Survival Project. Mercy Corps placed the indicators in their “Assessment Tools Research Base” on their website. USAID has also used the core group’s indicators and cited them in their publication Nutrition Update 2010. The research was also cited in the “Index for Measuring Child Feeding Practices” by the Indian Journal of Pediatrics. The core group document was cited at a 2008 UNICEF/WHO consultation in Geneva that was attended by more than 50 experts involved in research, program implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of infant and young child feeding interventions.
Until this project was undertaken, there was no guidance on standard indicators that could be used in large surveys to measure infant and young child feeding practices beyond breastfeeding. Lack of consensus on simple indicators of appropriate feeding practices hampered progress in measuring and improving them, which constrained improvements in infant and young child nutritional outcomes.
For more information, see Indicators for Assessing Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices.