Feeding patterns and stunting during early childhood in rural communities of Sidama, South Ethiopia

  • Masresha Tessema
  • Tefera Belachew
  • Getahun Ersino


Introduction: The period from birth to two years of age is a "critical window" of opportunity for the promotion of optimal growth, health and behavioral development of children. Poor child feeding patterns combined with household food insecurity can lead to malnutrition which is a major public health problem in developing countries like Ethiopia. Methods: A community based cross-sectional study that involved 575 participants from rural Sidama was conducted from February to March 2011. A two-stage stratified sampling procedure was employed to select the required households. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to compare stunting by feeding patterns and other characteristics. Results: Only 14.4% of mothers fed their children optimally. Prevalence of stunting was higher for infants aged 6 to 8 months (43%) than for those in 0-5 months (26.6%) or 9-23 months (39%) category. Women who did not receive antenatal care(ANC) during pregnancy were 1.5 times more likely to practice pre-lacteal feeding and 2.8 and 1.9 times more likely to feed their children below minimum dietary diversity and minimum meal frequency, respectively (P=0.01). Mothers older than 18 years during the birth of index child were 86% less likely to feed their child below minimum meal frequency than their younger counterparts (P=0.01). Children who started complementary food either before or after the recommended 6 months time, were more likely to be stunted (P=0.01). Conclusion: The feeding practices of most mothers did not meet WHO recommendations. Behavior change communication about the importance of optimal complementary feeding and ANC attendance should be strengthened through extensive use of the Health Extension Workers to reduce the level of child stunting in the study area.

Pan African Medical Journal 2013; 14: 75

Author Biographies

Masresha Tessema
Institute of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology, Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Hawassa University, Hawassa, Ethiopia
Tefera Belachew
College of Public Health and Medical Sciences, Department of Population and Fam. Health, Jimma, University, Jimma, Ethiopia
Getahun Ersino
Institute of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology, Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Hawassa University, Hawassa, Ethiopia; College of Pharmacy & Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan 110 Science Place, Saskatoon SK CAN S7N 5C9, Canada

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1937-8688