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An exploratory qualitative investigation was done to determine the feeding and weaning practices, knowledge and attitudes towards nutrition of mothers/caregivers of children up to 3 years old attending baby clinics in the Moretele district (South Africa).
Qualitative data collection on six relevant nutrition topics was done using focus group interviews. Trained moderators, using a pre-tested, structured interview schedule, interviewed participants in six age groups. Focus group interviews were taped, transcribed and translated. Content analysis produced systematic data descriptions and ethnography provided descriptive data.
Breast-feeding was the choice feed and bottle-feeding was only given when breast-feeding was impossible. Solid food was introduced early (at 2–3 months) and a mixed family diet at 7–9 months. Milk feeds were stopped completely from 18–24 months. Weaning diets were compromised due to poor food choices, preparation practices and limited variety. The participant's nutrition knowledge regarding specific foods, their functions and recommended quantities was poor. The women adhered to their cultural beliefs regarding food choices and preparation practices.
The data analysis revealed that inadequate nutrition knowledge and adherence to cultural practices lead to poor-quality feeding practices. Cultural factors and taboos have a powerful influence on feeding practices and eating patterns. Young mothers often find it impossible to ignore their ill-informed elders or peer group. Nutrition knowledge needs to be changed in a first step towards implementing improved feeding practices. Facilitated group discussions could focus on possible solutions for the identified nutrition-related problems.
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