Infant and young child feeding practices and stunting in two highland provinces in Ecuador

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The first two years of life are critical for growth and development. Little is known about infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices in the Ecuadorian highlands and how they contribute to stunting. With the objective of understanding nutritional status and the influencing factors to design an intervention, we assessed the nutritional status of 293 infants and children between 0 and 24 months of age, living in 14 communities in the provinces of Tungurahua and Chimborazo using a cross-sectional study design. We used the WHO IYCF indicators to assess feeding practices; estimated dietary intake with 24-h recalls; and identified nutritious local foods by food frequency questionnaires. Multiple regression modelling was performed to identify correlates of nutritional status. Stunting was found in 56.2% of children. Mean protein, vitamin A and vitamin C intakes were above recommendations for all ages. Only infants 6.0 to 8.9 months of age and non-breastfed children 12–23.9 months of age consumed energy intakes below recommendations. Younger age groups had below recommended intakes for iron and calcium. While mean complementary food densities met recommendations for protein, vitamin A, vitamin C and energy, those for zinc, iron and calcium were lower than recommended. Older age, respiratory infections and being male were predictors of lower HAZ, whereas early initiation of breastfeeding, higher socioeconomic status, consumption of iron-rich foods and higher dietary protein density were protective. Interventions that promote and support optimal breastfeeding practices and enable increased consumption of nutritious local foods have potential to contribute to reducing stunting in this vulnerable population. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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