Characteristics associated with the transition to partial breastfeeding prior to 6 months of age: Data from seven sites in a birth cohort study

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4 Scopus citations


The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. However, the transition of the infants' diet to partial breastfeeding with the addition of animal milks and/or solids typically occurs earlier than this. Here, we explored factors associated with the timing of an early transition to partial breastfeeding across seven sites of a birth cohort study in which twice weekly information on infant feeding practices was collected. Infant (size, sex, illness and temperament), maternal (age, education, parity and depressive symptoms), breastfeeding initiation practices (time of initiation, colostrum and pre-lacteal feeding) and household factors (food security, crowding, assets, income and resources) were considered. Three consecutive caregiver reports of feeding animal milks and/or solids (over a 10-day period) were characterized as a transition to partial breastfeeding, and Cox proportional hazard models with time (in days) to partial breastfeeding were used to evaluate associations with both fixed and time-varying characteristics. Overall, 1470 infants were included in this analysis. Median age of transition to partial breastfeeding ranged from 59 days (South Africa and Tanzania) to 178 days (Bangladesh). Overall, higher weight-for-length z-scores were associated with later transitions to partial breastfeeding, as were food insecurity, and infant cough in the past 30 days. Maternal depressive symptoms (evaluated amongst 1227 infants from six sites) were associated with an earlier transition to partial breastfeeding. Relative thinness or heaviness within each site was related to breastfeeding transitions, as opposed to absolute z-scores. Further research is needed to understand relationships between local perceptions of infant body size and decisions about breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13166
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • breastfeeding
  • food insecurity
  • infant feeding
  • infant growth
  • maternal depression


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