Feeding practices and Nutritional status of infants and young children in Mazabuka and Kafue Districts of Zambia
Under-nutrition is associated with almost 60% of deaths due to common childhood illnesses. Appropriate feeding practices are of fundamental importance for the survival, growth, development, health and nutrition of infants and children and for the well-being of the mothers. Promotion of appropriate infant feeding practices is an effective strategy in improving the nutritional status of children. Information on infant feeding practices in the various parts of the country is scanty. There was need to investigate more deeply infant and young child feeding practices that were currently being practiced in Kafue and Mazabuka so that messages or health promotion activities that are targeting children will be designed appropriate for the communities.The overall objective was to describe infant feeding practices and nutritional status among infants and young children in Kafue and Mazabuka districts. The research combined both quantitative and qualitative methods in phases; through conducting a survey and focus group discussions with the main target population being mothers or closest caretaker of children aged 0-24 months. The data was collected through focus group discussions and administration of a structured questionnaire. Microsoft Excel and SPSS were used to analyse the data. The Chi-square test was used to compare proportions at the 5% significance level. Before the study began, ethics clearance from the Research Ethics Committee was granted. The Lusaka and Southern Provincial Health Offices as well as the Kafue and Mazabuka districts were informed about the proposed study, and gave permission to conduct the study.Overall, knowledge on breastfeeding and complementary feeding was good in both districts although the caretakers practice was not optimal and a significant proportion of them (68.9% and 71.1% in Mazabuka and Kafue respectively) did not breastfeed exclusively up to 6 months and introduced complementary feeds that were not nutritious. Most of the children seen (84.4% in Mazabuka, and 86.0% in Kafue) were healthy looking and well, with 6.4 percent having severe malnutrition. Education level of caretaker was significantly related to the nutritional status of the children. Those with secondary education were less likely to have a child who was stunted (p=0.011) or underweight (p=0.047). The majority (83.3%) of caretakers in both districts had under-five cards with 90.4 percent having documented BCG administration. Of those eligible, 70.9% percent were fully immunized. The majority of caretakers sought help for health problems from the health workers.Despite the good knowledge and attitude towards infant feeding practices, the practice did not reflect this and the health worker who is held in high esteem should be empowered more to be able to improve on the knowledge that they are imparting to the caretakers as they come to the clinic for antenatal care services as well as UFC attendance. Education of the caretaker (girl child) is important in improving nutritional status of children.
Infant feeding practices -Zambia