Poor quality complementary foods with low nutrient density and inappropriate feeding practices have been identified among the major causes of malnutrition in young children. In many developing countries, complementary foods are introduced too early or too late and the quality and quantity of the foods are insufficient, leading to a great risk of nutritional deficiencies during the second half of infancy. Most of the habitually used complementary foods in developing countries are unfortified cerealbased gruels characterised by low energy and nutrient density and are often inadequate in iron, zinc and pyridoxine and in some populations may be deficient in riboflavin, niacin, calcium, thiamine, folate, ascorbic acid and vitamin A.
The aim of this study was to establish current complementary feeding practices of mothers/caretakers living in a medium income urban community in Lusaka, Zambia. The study was the first phase of a larger study designed to develop improved complementary foods based on already-in-use cereals and legumes for the improvement of infant health in urban settings characterised by high HIV prevalence. Complementary feeding practices and nutrient intakes of children 6-18 months old in Lusaka were assessed by qualitative and quantitative methods. Themes generated from three focus group discussions (9 health workers, 7 mothers and 8 fathers) were used to design a semi-structured questionnaire to interview 34 mothers, 20 of whom were observed for 12 hours at home and their infant’s dietary intake measured by 12-h weighed food record and 24-h recall, (assuming medium breast milk intake). The results showed that although mothers had wide knowledge of optimal infant feeding, actual practices were constrained by food cost, maternal HIV status and time availability. Compared with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) at 6-8, 9-11 and 12-18 months of age, the daily nutrient intakes were 88%, 121% and 94% for energy; 33%, 52% and 59% for iron and 30%, 33% and 38% for calcium, respectively. Fortification of complementary foods is necessary to meet infants’ needs for iron and calcium.