Public Health Nutrition Editorial Highlight: ‘The French national survey on food consumption of children under 3 years of age – Nutri-Bébé 2013: design, methodology, population sampling and feeding practices’  by Authors: Jean-Pierre Chouraqui, Gabriel Tavoularis, Yves Emery, Aurée Francou, Pascale Hébel, Magali Bocquet, Régis Hankard and Dominique Turck.

Infant nutrition is a public health issue in that it not only conditions the child’s growth and development but also the long-term determinism of non-communicable diseases. This means the importance of regularly evaluating and analysing how these children are fed. That was the goal of the Nutribébé 2013 study, which repeated a series of surveys carried out every 8 years since 1981.

This cross-sectional study selected a random sample of 1,184 children, aged 0 to 3 years, according to the quota sampling method. Their food consumption was recorded during 3 non-consecutive days framed by two face-to-face interviews by parents who previously gave their informed consent and used different portion size measurement aids.

The mothers had a mean age of 30.8 ± 5.4 years, and 38% were primiparous; 89% lived with a partner; 60% had an occupation at the time of the survey; 46% had level 3 postgraduate education and 8% no education or primary and/or early secondary school one. For feeding their child, 39% of mothers relied on their previous experiences and 60% on their instincts; 31% asked for advice from their relatives, and 58% sought the advice of a healthcare professional specialised in early childhood; 22% took into consideration media advice, and 2% considered advice from food manufacturers. Primiparous and young mothers were more prone to seek advice from medical sources.

Our survey showed a low prevalence of exclusive or partial breastfeeding (31% before 4 months of age, 24% at 4 months of age, 10% at 5 months), comparing with that described in other countries. Compared to previous studies, there has been an improvement in the observance of the recommendations concerning the use of infant formula (IF), follow-on formula (FOF) and growing-up milk (GUM). In non breast-fed infant the mean age of abandonment of IF was 6.1 months, and in 91% of them it was relayed by a follow-on-formula FOF until the average age of 13 months. 63% of children had subsequently received GUM until a mean age of 31.2 months. 53% of children between 12 and 17 months consumed GUM. The average age of changing to cow’s milk (CM) was 13.8 months due to a more attractive price in 42% of the cases. In 88% of cases the CM used was a half-skimmed one. After 2 years of age the average consumption of milk and dairy products was lower than 500 ml. Cheese contributed significantly (about 10 g/d on average) to it from the age of one year.

Solid foods were introduced in 54% of cases between 4 and 6 months, following the current recommendations and in 31% at 6 months. Of concern is the frequency of consumption of meals intended for adults (26% from 8 months of age, 81% between 1 and 2 years of age, and 95% after 2 years of age).

In conclusion our survey highlights the low prevalence and duration of breast-feeding in France and shows a modest improvement since the previous survey in the observance of recommendations concerning other feeding practices. These data will make it possible to calculate the nutrient intakes of this population and to identify possible excesses or deficiencies.

The full article ‘The French national survey on food consumption of children under 3 years of age – Nutri-Bébé 2013: design, methodology, population sampling and feeding practices’ in Public Health Nutrition is available to download for free until 15th February 2018.

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