First Foods: Diet Quality Among Infants Aged 6–23 Months in 42 Countries

74 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2018 Last revised: 27 Mar 2019

See all articles by Samira Choudhury

Samira Choudhury

SOAS University of London

Derek Headey

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

William A. Masters

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Tufts University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 22, 2019

Abstract

Diet quality is closely linked to child growth and development, especially among infants aged 6-23 months who need to complement breastmilk with the gradual introduction of nutrient-rich solid foods. This paper links Demographic and Health Survey data on infant feeding to household and environmental factors for 76,641 infants in 42 low- and middle-income countries, providing novel stylized facts about infants' dietary intake. Multivariate regressions examine associations between household socioeconomic characteristics and community level indicators of climate and infrastructure with dietary diversity scores (DDS). Results show strong support for an infant-feeding version of Bennett's Law, as wealthier households with more education introduce more diverse foods at earlier ages, with additional positive effects of local infrastructure and more temperate agroclimatic conditions. Each of five nutrient-dense food groups is more often used for infant feeding by wealthier households with more parental education, with coefficients on maternal education about twice the magnitude of paternal education. Our findings imply that while income growth is likely to be an important driver of diversification, women’s education and local availability of nutritious foods are likely to play an independent role. The impact of climate change on year-round access and use of nutrient-dense food groups for infant feeding is an important issue for future research. These results reveal systematic patterns in how first foods vary across developing countries, pointing to new opportunities for research towards nutrition-smart policies to improve children’s diets.

Keywords: Child Malnutrition, Complementary Feeding, Dietary Diversity, Bennett’s Law

JEL Classification: I15

Suggested Citation

Choudhury, Samira and Headey, Derek and Masters, William A., First Foods: Diet Quality Among Infants Aged 6–23 Months in 42 Countries (March 22, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3263020 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3263020

Samira Choudhury

SOAS University of London ( email )

Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London, WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

Derek Headey

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

William A. Masters (Contact Author)

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy ( email )

150 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02111
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.tufts.edu/willmasters

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

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