Infant feeding practices of teenage mothers attending a well-baby clinic in a public hospital in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • S Pillay
  • W Sibanda
  • M.R. Ghuman
  • A Coutsoudis
Keywords: infant feeding practices, teenage mothers, well-baby clinic


Objective: This study aimed to determine the breastfeeding practices of urban, predominantly isiZulu speaking, South African teenage mothers, and to examine factors associated with breastfeeding.

Study Design and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted with 73 mothers (aged 15 to 19 years) who were attending a well-baby clinic for their infant’s scheduled 14-week immunisation visit. A face-to-face interview was conducted with each mother in isiZulu (n = 66) or English (n = 7) by a trained research assistant. Close ended questions included; socio-demographic characteristics; obstetric history; and, breastfeeding practices while open-ended questions explored reasons for early cessation of breastfeeding, and perceptions of how the family, health care workers, and the school could support teenage mothers with breastfeeding.

Results: All 73 mothers had initiated breastfeeding; however, by the time of the interview, 31.5% had stopped breastfeeding. A multivariate logistic regression model was used to predict the likelihood of early breastfeeding cessation. The odds ratio of early breastfeeding cessation for teenage mothers below the age of ≤ 17 years was 17.3% higher compared to teenage mothers older than 17 years (OR 1.17, 95% CI:0.617–2.269); 8.6% higher for teenage mothers who completed their grade 11 and above compared those who did not complete grade 11 and above (OR 1.17, 95% CI:0.617–2.269); and, 79.5% (OR 1.795, 95% CI:0.565– 5.739) higher for teenage mothers who experienced breastfeeding problems compared to mothers without breastfeeding problems. However, since the 95% CI for these odds ratios spanned the null value (1.0), the increased odds were not statistically significant.

Conclusion: The elevated odds of early breastfeeding cessation were associated with a young maternal age (≤ 17 years) and experiencing breastfeeding problems. This highlights the importance of targeting adolescent mothers for support and promotion of breastfeeding, noting the influence of society and peer pressure. It is also clear that the healthcare workers, schools and communities have an important role to play in supporting breastfeeding teenage mothers, especially in providing accurate information and support for the prevention of breastfeeding problems.

Keywords: infant feeding practices, teenage mothers, well-baby clinic


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190