Eight World Health Organization (WHO) feeding indicators (FIs) and Demographic and Health Survey data for children <24 months were used to assess the relationship of child feeding with stunting and underweight in 14 poor countries. Also assessed were the correlations of FI with country gross national income (GNI). Prevalence of underweight and stunting increased with age and ≥ 50% of 12-23-month children were stunted. About 66% of babies received solids by sixth to eighth months; 91% were still breastfeeding through months 12-15. Approximately half of the children were fed with complementary foods at the recommended daily frequency, but <25% met food diversity recommendations. GNI was negatively correlated with a breastfeeding index (P < 0.01) but not with other age-appropriate FI. Regression modelling indicated a significant association between early initiation of breastfeeding and a reduction in risk of underweight (P < 0.05), but a higher risk of underweight for continued breastfeeding at 12-15 months (P < 0.001). For infants 6-8 months, consumption of solid foods was associated with significantly lower risk of both stunting and underweight (P < 0.001), as was meeting WHO guidance for minimum acceptable diet, iron-rich foods (IRF) and dietary diversity (P < 0.001); desired feeding frequency was only associated with lower risk of underweight (P < 0.05). Timely solid food introduction, dietary diversity and IRF were associated with reduced probability of underweight and stunting that was further associated with maternal education (P < 0.001). These results identify FI associated with growth and reinforce maternal education as a variable to reduce risk of underweight and stunting in poor countries.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.