Exploring the infant feeding experiences of mothers living in selected Tshwane informal settlements: a qualitative study
Objective: The study aimed to explore and describe the infant feeding experiences of mothers of children aged 3 to 24 months, living in two selected informal settlements in Tshwane, South Africa.
Design: This exploratory qualitative study gathered data via six focus-group discussions (FGDs). These were facilitated using a semi-structured questionnaire guide with probes. Data were then transcribed, coded and thematically analysed.
Setting: The study was conducted in the two selected informal settlements in the west of Tshwane, South Africa.
Subjects: Biological mothers (n = 28) of infants and young children aged 3 to 24 months, living in the selected informal settlements participated. The mothers had to be living with their child with some responsibility for their daily care and feeding.
Results: Three themes with six sub-themes were identified following thematic analysis. First was the mothers’ experience of infant feeding, which included their interpretations and practices of exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding. Second, mothers received infant feeding support from their elders based on common beliefs. The support received from healthcare workers was sometimes perceived negatively. However, healthcare workers based at healthcare facilities were important sources of exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding information. Third were the setting-related factors that negatively affected the mothers’ ability to access nutritious food for themselves and their infants. These included household food insecurity, plus environmental and household factors affecting food storage and preparation.
Conclusion: Mothers experienced several challenging circumstances affecting their infant feeding efforts. These findings highlight the need to strengthen targeted infant feeding counselling and support for mothers living in resourceconstrained
Keywords: infant feeding, informal settlements, complementary feeding, communities, exclusive breastfeeding, experiences, mothers, support
The SAJCN does not hold itself responsible for statements made by the authors.