South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Breastfeeding, complementary feeding and nutritional status of 6 - 12-month-old infants in rural KwaZulu-Natal

M Faber, A J Spinnler Benade


Objective. To determine breastfeeding, complementary feeding and nutritional status of 6 - 12-month-old rural
Study design. A cross-sectional survey was done. Breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices were
determined by questionnaire; an unquantified food frequency questionnaire was used to determine usual food
intake. Biochemical assessment of nutritional status included determination of haemoglobin, serum retinol,
ferritin and zinc concentrations. Body length and weight were measured.
Setting/subjects. Subjects included 505 infants aged 6 - 12 months living in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a
rural area in KwaZulu-Natal.
Results. Breastfeeding had been initiated in the case of 96% of the infants. Milk feeds at the time of the survey
included breastmilk alone (58%), breastmilk plus bottle feeds (23%), and bottle feeds alone (18%). Formula feeds
were either dilute (54%) or concentrated (14%). First solid foods given were maizemeal porridge (55%), infant
cereals (32%), and ready-to-eat bottled baby foods (9%). Various energy-rich foods were added to the porridge for
most of the infants. Biochemical data showed that 20% of infants had serum retinol levels < 20 μg/dl, 67% had
serum ferritin levels < 12 μg/l, 49% had haemoglobin levels < 11 g/dl, and 32% had serum zinc levels < 60 μg/dl.
Anthropometric data showed that 16% were stunted and 6% were underweight.
Conclusion. Inappropriate feeding practices and micronutrient deficiencies should be addressed. This can
be done through the community health worker programme, provided that the community health workers have
adequate knowledge of infant nutrition.

South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol. 20 (1) 2007: pp. 16-24

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