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