Breast-feeding beyond Infancy and Child Nutritional Status in India and its Regions


The benefits of breast-feeding are well-documented in literature, especially in terms of the growth of the child during the first few months of life. However, a close examination of the literature related to extended breast-feeding suggests that breast-feeding beyond 12 months of age in developing countries is associated with a greater risk for under-nutrition, as defined by lower weight-for-age, height-for-age and weight-for-height. The central hypothesis of this study is to determine the effects of extended breastfeeding on the anthropometric measurements of children in India and its regions using cross-sectional National Family Health Survey-2 data. A simulative approach has been adopted in the paper to find out the effects of extended breast-feeding. Results suggest that extended breast-feeding without supplementary diet was not beneficial for children of all the regions of India. The effect of different extended durations (12-17 months and 18-23 months) of breast-feeding with supplements did not show any significantly different impact on the anthropometric measurements of child health. Further, results suggest that breast-feeding beyond 23 months, along with supplements, has a significantly negative impact on child health. The magnitude of different anthropometric measurements according to different durations of breast-feeding suggests that breast-feeding beyond 23 months is not beneficial.