Do girls have a nutritional disadvantage compared with boys?:statistical models of breastfeeding and food consumption inequalities among Indian siblings

Fledderjohann, Jasmine and Agrawal, Sutapa and Vellakkal, Sukumar and Basu, Sanjay and Campbell, Oona and Doyle, Pat and Ebrahim, Shah and Stuckler, David (2014) Do girls have a nutritional disadvantage compared with boys?:statistical models of breastfeeding and food consumption inequalities among Indian siblings. PLoS ONE, 9 (9). ISSN 1932-6203

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BACKGROUND: India is the only nation where girls have greater risks of under-5 mortality than boys. We test whether female disadvantage in breastfeeding and food allocation accounts for gender disparities in mortality. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Secondary, publicly available anonymized and de-identified data were used; no ethics committee review was required. Multivariate regression and Cox models were performed using Round 3 of India's National Family and Health Survey (2005-2006; response rate = 93.5%). Models were disaggregated by birth order and sibling gender, and adjusted for maternal age, education, and fixed effects, urban residence, household deprivation, and other sociodemographics. Mothers' reported practices of WHO/UNICEF recommendations for breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity, and total duration (ages 0-59 months), children's consumption of 24 food items (6-59 months), and child survival (0-59 months) were examined for first- and secondborns (n = 20,395). Girls were breastfed on average for 0.45 months less than boys (95% CI: = 0.15 months to 0.75 months, p = 0.004). There were no gender differences in breastfeeding initiation (OR = 1.04, 95% CI: 0.97 to 1.12) or exclusivity (OR = 1.06, 95% CI: 0.99 to 1.14). Differences in breastfeeding cessation emerged between 12 and 36 months in secondborn females. Compared with boys, girls had lower consumption of fresh milk by 14% (95% CI: 79% to 94%, p = 0.001) and breast milk by 21% (95% CI: 70% to 90%, p<0.000). Each additional month of breastfeeding was associated with a 24% lower risk of mortality (OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.73 to 0.79, p<0.000). Girls' shorter breastfeeding duration accounted for an 11% increased probability of dying before age 5, accounting for about 50% of their survival disadvantage compared with other low-income countries. CONCLUSIONS: Indian girls are breastfed for shorter periods than boys and consume less milk. Future research should investigate the role of additional factors driving India's female survival disadvantage.

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© 2014 Fledderjohann et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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09 Jan 2017 14:22
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22 Sep 2023 00:30