Social circumstances and cultural beliefs influence maternal nutrition, breastfeeding and child feeding practices in South Africa
This study (PDF) in the Nutrition Journal determined maternal dietary diversity, breastfeeding and, infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices and identified reasons for poor nutiriton and suboptimal breastfeeding in five rural communities in South Africa, in the context of cultural beliefs and social aspects. Maternal and child undernutrition remain prevalent in developing countries with 45 and 11% of child deaths linked to poor nutrition and suboptimal breastfeeding, respectively. This also has adverse effects on child growth and development. Results show that maternal dietary diversity was very low and exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life was rarely practiced, with young children exposed to poor-quality diets lacking essential nutrients for child growth and development. Social circumstances including lack of income, dependence on food purchasing, young mothers’ feelings regarding breastfeeding and cultural beliefs were the major drivers of mothers’ eating habits, breastfeeding behaviour and IYCF practices. Fathers were left out in breastfeeding and IYCF decision making and young mothers were unwilling to employ indigenous knowledge when preparing food (especially traditional foods) and feeding their children. Finding a balance between mothers’ income, dietary diversity, cultural beliefs, breastfeeding and considering life of lactating mothers so that they will not feel burdened and isolated when breastfeeding and taking care of their children is crucial. Paternal inclusion in breastfeeding decisions and safeguarding indigenous knowledge on IYCF practices is recommended.