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Core and optional infant and young child feeding indicators in Sub-Saharan Africa: a cross-sectional study
  1. Samson Gebremedhin
  1. School of Public Health, Hawassa University, Hawassa, Ethiopia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Samson Gebremedhin; samsongmgs{at}


Objective The objective of the study is to determine the status of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) based on multiple indicators.

Design Secondary data analysis of 32 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in SSA since 2010.

Setting Thirty-two countries in SSA.

Participants 151 575 infants and young children born in the preceding 2 years of the surveys.

Indicators determined Eight core and six optional IYCF indicators.

Results Majority (95.8%) of the children born in the preceding 24 months were ever breastfed, and 50.5% initiated breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. Among infants 0–5 months of age, 72.3% were predominantly breastfed and 41.0% were exclusively breastfed. Continued breastfeeding at 1 year (89.5%) was reasonably high, but only 53.7% continued breastfeeding at 2 years and 60.4% had age-appropriate breastfeeding. About two-thirds (69.3%) of infants 6–8 months of age received solid, semisolid or soft food over the previous day across the countries. Among children 6–23 months of age, 41.9% met the minimum recommended meal frequency, while smaller proportions satisfied the minimum dietary diversity (21.0%) and acceptable diet (9.8%). About one-third (37.6%) of children 6–23 months of age consumed iron-rich or iron-fortified food over the previous day. Among non-breastfed children, only 15.0% received the recommended two or more milk feedings. Thirteen per cent were fed with a bottle with a nipple in the previous day. Country-level estimates for most indicators showed remarkable variations. Yet the minimum dietary diversity and acceptable diet indicators were consistently low.

Conclusion Most breastfeeding-related indicators, except exclusive and early initiation of breastfeeding, are in an acceptable level in SSA. However, complementary feeding indicators are generally low.

  • infant and young child feeding
  • breastfeeding
  • complementary feeding
  • sub-saharan africa

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  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Contributors SG accessed and analysed the data and developed the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The original surveys were approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of ORC Macro and national-level IRBs of all host countries. Data were collected after taking informed consent from the mothers of the index children. Ethical clearance was not sought for this specific data analysis. However, the primary data were collected in accordance with international ethical standards. The data sets were accessed after taking permission from Measure DHS.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The data sets analysed for the study are available from

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