Infant feeding practices during the first 6 months of life in a low-income area of the Western Cape Province

Goosen, Charlene ; McLachlan, Milla ; Schubl, Claudia (2014-05)

CITATION: Goosen, C., McLachlan, M. & Schubl, C. 2014. Infant feeding practices during the first 6 months of life in a low-income area of the Western Cape Province. South African Journal of Child Health, 8(2):50-54, doi:10.7196/SAJCH.675.

The original publication is available at http://www.sajch.org.za/index.php/SAJCH

Article

Background. Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life protects against infant morbidity and mortality. Few studies describe the infant feeding practices of mothers living in low-income areas of the Western Cape Province of South Africa (SA). Objective. To describe the infant feeding practices of mothers of infants younger than 6 months in two low-income communities of SA. Methods. A cross-sectional community-based study using a structured questionnaire, and seven focus group discussions were conducted from February to August 2011 in Avian Park and Zwelethemba in Worcester, an urban area in the Western Cape. Results. Seventy-seven per cent of participants (n=108) had initiated breastfeeding. At the time of the study, 6% (n=8) breastfed exclusively. Ninety-four per cent (n=132) applied suboptimal breastfeeding practices: 36% (n=51) breastfed predominantly, 27% (n=38) breastfed partially and 31% (n=43) did not breastfeed. Ninety per cent (n=126) of the mothers had introduced water, of whom 83% (n=104) had done so before their infants were 1 month old. Forty-four per cent (n=61) of the mothers had introduced food or formula milk, of whom 75% (n=46) had done so before their infants were 3 months old. Qualitative findings indicated that gripe water, Lennon’s Behoedmiddel and herbal medicines were also given to infants. Nutritive liquids and/or food most commonly given as supplementary feeds were formula milk and commercial infant cereal. Conclusion. Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) during the first 6 months of life was a rare practice in these low-income communities. Water, non-prescription medicines and formula milk and/or food were introduced at an early age.

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