To assess the infant and young child (IYCF) practices among caretakers of children 0-23 months in Sierra Leone.
Children less than 24 months of age were analyzed from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey (2013). Using the World Health Organization IYCF indicators, information on feeding practices was collected from caretakers using structured questionnaires in face-to-face interviews during household visits. Additionally, a recently proposed infant and child feeding index was calculated.
Among 319 children 0-23 months of age, 66% (95% confidence intervals [CI]: 59, 73) of caretakers reported initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. For the 77 children less than 6 months of age, 42% (95% CI: 29, 55) were exclusively breastfed. Continued breastfeeding coverage at one year was high (89% of 63 children 12-15 months of age (95% CI: 81, 94), but only 42% (95% CI: 28, 58) of infants 6-8 months had received semi-solid foods. Among children 6-23 months, only 35% (95% CI: 28, 43) of 281 children had a diet with minimum diversity, 26% (95% CI: 19, 34) of 196 children achieved minimum meal frequency, and 13% (95% CI: 8, 20) of 207 children had a minimally acceptable diet. The infant and child feeding index was deemed satisfactory in only 17% (95% CI: 13, 21) of 324 children 0-23 months of age.
Optimal IYCF practices remain a challenge for most households in Sierra Leone. Exclusive breastfeeding is not sufficiently widespread and complementary feeding practices are suboptimal. Interventions to improve IYCF practices should be sustained and scaled up.