WEANING FOODS AND PRACTICES IN CENTRAL UGANDA: A CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDY|
Kikafunda JK, Walker AF and JK Tumwine
Breast milk is the natural first food for infants and should be fed alone for the first 4 to 6 months of life. After 6 months however, breast milk alone is not sufficient, in quantity and quality, to maintain the growth and development requirements of the infant. Appropriate foods, referred to as weaning or complementary foods, need to be introduced while continuing breast feeding up to 24 months. This is the weaning process. Exactly when to wean, how to wean and what to wean with is a subject of great importance which in Uganda, has not received adequate scientific attention. Consequently, there is very little documented information on weaning foods and practices of the infants and young children in the country. The present study was therefore undertaken to assess and document what foods are fed to infants and young children, the weaning practices and the influencing factors. The study was a household cross-sectional survey utilising stratified multistage random sampling methods. The participants were mothers/caretakers of 261 young children aged 3-28 months. Diet assessment was done using conventional methods. The findings revealed that while breast feeding was universal at birth, early weaning with watery, energy- and nutrient-poor staples was widespread in this rural area of Uganda. The negative weaning practice of introducing complementary foods too early was highly prevalent with almost half of the children (44.1%) having started complementary feeding before the age of four months. Older mothers significantly (p≤0.0001) breast fed their children for longer periods than the younger mothers. Over half of the children (62.1%) commenced the weaning process with cow's milk. The weaning foods were dominated by the green cooking banana (matooke) which is known to be bulky with low nutrient content. Children from the rural areas consumed significantly more papaya (p=0.014), pumpkin (p≤0.0001) and matooke (p=0.007) than children from the urban areas while urban children consumed significantly more cows' milk (p=0.005), rice (p=0.008), sweet potatoes (p=0.018) and pineapples (p≤0.0001) than rural children. Consumption of animal protein, fruit and vegetables was found to be very low among this cohort of children, a possible risk factor for the high levels of micronutrient malnutrition among under-five children in Uganda.
Weaning, infants, young children, complementary foods, exclusive breast feeding