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McCann, Margaret F.; Bender, Deborah E.; & Rangel-Sharpless, M. C. (1994). Infant Feeding in Bolivia: A Critique of the World Health Organization Indicators Applied to Demographic and Health Survey Data. International Journal of Epidemiology, 23(1), 29-37.


Infant feeding is a multidimensional activity that can be described and analysed in many different ways. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently issued recommended indicators for assessing infant feeding practices. This paper presents these indicators and demonstrates their applications using the 1989 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data for Bolivia. The results indicate that, although most Bolivian infants are breastfed and two-thirds are breastfed for > 1 year, supplementary feeding practices deviate considerably from international recommendations. Only 58% of infants < 4 months old are receiving breastmilk alone (the 'exclusive breastfeeding rate') and a similarly low percentage (54.7%) of 6-9 month olds are receiving the recommended combination of breast milk plus solid or semi-solid foods (the 'timely complementary feeding rate'). Furthermore, almost half of breastfed infants < 12 months old are also receiving bottle feeds. The infant feeding practices of city residents are least likely to conform to the infant feeding recommendations, while practices of mothers who have always lived in the country are most likely to be similar to the WHO guidelines. Mothers who have moved to the city since the age of 12 are most likely to be giving their infants other milks in addition to breast milk and to be bottle feeding their infants. The WHO infant feeding indicators provide a useful framework for quantifying infant feeding practices, and most of the indicators can readily be applied to DHS data. Nonetheless, improvements can be made in both the indicators themselves and the DHS questionnaire to improve reporting of internationally comparable infant feeding information.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

International Journal of Epidemiology


McCann, Margaret F.
Bender, Deborah E.
Rangel-Sharpless, M. C.