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Consumption of breast milk, formula and other non-human milk by children aged under 2 years: analysis of eighty-six low- and middle-income countries
Authors: Paulo AR Neves, Aluisio JD Barros, Phillip Baker, Ellen Piwoz, Thiago M Santos, Giovanna Gatica-Dominguez, Juliana S Vaz, Nigel Rollins, and Cesar G Victora
Source: Public Health Nutrition, DOI:
Topic(s): Breastfeeding
Child feeding
Wealth Index
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: OCT 2020
Abstract: Objective: To investigate the prevalence and socio-economic inequalities in breast milk, breast milk substitutes (BMS) and other non-human milk consumption, by children under 2 years in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Design: We analysed the prevalence of continued breast-feeding at 1 and 2 years and frequency of formula and other non-human milk consumption by age in months. Indicators were estimated through 24-h dietary recall. Absolute and relative wealth indicators were used to describe within- and between-country socio-economic inequalities. Setting: Nationally representative surveys from 2010 onwards from eighty-six LMIC. Participants: 394,977 children aged under 2 years. Results: Breast-feeding declined sharply as children became older in all LMIC, especially in upper-middle-income countries. BMS consumption peaked at 6 months of age in low/lower-middle-income countries and at around 12 months in upper-middle-income countries. Irrespective of country, BMS consumption was higher in children from wealthier families, and breast-feeding in children from poorer families. Multilevel linear regression analysis showed that BMS consumption was positively associated with absolute income, and breast-feeding negatively associated. Findings for other non-human milk consumption were less straightforward. Unmeasured factors at country level explained a substantial proportion of overall variability in BMS consumption and breast-feeding. Conclusions: Breast-feeding falls sharply as children become older, especially in wealthier families in upper-middle-income countries; this same group also consumes more BMS at any age. Country-level factors play an important role in explaining BMS consumption by all family wealth groups, suggesting that BMS marketing at national level might be partly responsible for the observed differences.