oa South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Early infant feeding practices of mothers attending a postnatal clinic in Ga-Rankuwa
Background. Despite the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 4 - 6 months of life, several South African studies on infant feeding practices have shown that the introduction of feeds other than breastmilk before 4 months is a common practice. The timing of initiation of complementary feeding within the first 4 months is, however, difficult to determine.
Objective. To determine feeding practices of mothers of infants 8 weeks of age or younger, attending the postnatal clinic at Ga-Rankuwa Hospital.
Methods. A cross-sectional study of mothers attending the postnatal clinic at Ga-Rankuwa Hospital using a standardised interview schedule.
Results. A total of 150 mothers were interviewed. All infants in the sample were younger than 9 weeks of age. The mean age of the sample was 37.4 (5.2 weeks) ± 12.1 days. Although 99% of infants were breastfed, exclusive breastfeeding was practised by only 4.6% of the sample. Water was given to 88%, infant formula to 43% and complementary feeds to 37%. Forty-six per cent of mothers said that the reason for giving water to their babies was to prevent constipation. Infant formula was added because mothers believed that their breastmilk was insufficient for their infants' needs. Of the complemented infants, 91% had received complementary feeds before 7 weeks of age. Thin maize meal porridge providing less than 1 kJ/ml and negligible protein was the most commonly given first food.
Conclusion. Breastfeeding was almost universal, exclusive breastfeeding was the exception. Mixed feeding was common, with the introduction of complementary feeds occurring within the first 2 months of life, well before the WHO recommendations.
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