n Institute of African Studies Research Review - Social dynamics and infant feeding practices in Northern Ghana

Volume 19, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0855-4412



Infant feeding practices have been identified as one of the major determinants of children's nutritional status and account to a large extent for the high rates of malnutrition among children in Ghana. The relationship between breastfeeding and especially exclusive breastfeeding and child health and birth spacing in developing countries is well documented. However for the age group 0-6 months, although breastfeeding is widely practiced in Ghana, studies indicate that only 8% of children under 4 months are exclusively breastfed and 45% are given some form of supplementary feeding by age three months. Despite efforts of Health Workers to increase the percentage of exclusively breastfed babies, not much success has been achieved, because feeding practices are often difficult to change as they are directly related to varied economic, socio-cultural and religious factors in the community and to various dynamics prevailing at the household level. <br>Employing mainly qualitative research methods, this paper examines infant feeding practices of women with children 0-6 months in two areas in the Bawku East District of Ghana and analyses the role of socio-cultural factors, household and gender dynamics as determinants of infant feeding practices and child nutrition. It argues that the existence of beliefs and value systems especially with regard to the cultural administration of water is central to conflicts with exclusive breastfeeding recommendations of WHO and UNICEF. <br>The paper recommends that policies that seek to improve infant and child health status in developing countries, must recognise and understand the broad complex of dynamics operating at the household and community level affecting feeding behaviour. It also requires that women's knowledge and perceptions on infant feeding are recognised and valued to ensure sustained changes.

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