Background China has the largest population in the world with more than 70% of the people living in rural areas. Over 34% of children under the age of 5 years are responded to show moderate or severe growth stunting, so United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund and Chinese Ministry of Health conducted this large-scale survey in China. This study aimed to learn the feeding practice, to find the problems in child-feeding practice and to provide evidence for the government to develop an approach to child malnutrition in rural China.
Methods A structured questionnaire was used to survey 21 036 mothers of children with age of 0–24 months.
Results Of the 20 915 children, 98.22% were breastfeeding and 24.36% were exclusively breastfeeding. The proportion of children with weekly protein intake was 78.47%. Among the infants under 4 months, the risk of pneumonia in the group of exclusive breastfeeding was 1.69%, while in the group of non-exclusive breastfeeding was 3.63%, showing a statistically significant difference between the two groups. The risk of diarrhoea in the group of exclusive breastfeeding and in the group of non-exclusive breastfeeding among the infants under 4 months was 24.37% and 40.86%, respectively, also showing a statistically significant difference between the two groups. For children with age 4–6 months, the complementary feeding contributed to a higher prevalence of diarrhoea, but not pneumonia.
Conclusions The breastfeeding was very common, but the exclusive breastfeeding was quite low and the exclusive breastfeeding for children under the age of 4 months decreased the risks of pneumonia and diarrhoea. For children with age 4–6 months, the exclusive breastfeeding could decrease the risk of diarrhoea, too. Protein intake was insufficient for children in rural China. The rural people lacked health knowledge and were greatly influenced by traditional feeding practices.