Observational Methods in Studies of Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Twenty-Year Retrospective Review

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This narrative review describes the observational approaches used to study infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) published between 2001 and 2021. Articles were included in this narrative review if they were (1) original peer-reviewed articles published in English in PubMed and Web of Science; (2) published between 1 January 2001, and 31 December 2021; (3) conducted in an LMIC; and (4) employed observations and focused on IYCF practices among children aged 6–59 months. The studies (n = 51) revealed a wide-ranging application of direct meal and full-day observations, as well as indirect spot checks, to study IYCF. The findings revealed that meal observations were typically conducted during a midday meal using precise recording approaches such as video and aimed to understand child–caregiver interactions or specialized nutritious food (SNF) usage. Conversely, full-day observations lasted between 6 and 12 h and often used a field notes-based recording approach. Behaviors occurring outside of mealtime, such as snacking or interhousehold food sharing, were also a primary focus. Finally, spot checks were conducted to indirectly assess SNF compliance during both announced and unannounced visits. This review highlights the adaptability of observations across contexts and their versatility when used as a primary data collection tool to help monitor and evaluate nutrition programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number288
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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