Exploring Infant Feeding Beliefs and Practices among Mothers in Major Urban Informal Settlements in Kenya

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Loyce Joyce Anyango
Okeyo David Omondi
Mugambi Mary
Waswa Judith


Beliefs; Breastfeeding; Hand washing; Infants; Mothers


Appropriate infant feeding is a proxy indicator for the good health and nutritional status of infants. The objective of this qualitative study was to explore mother’s beliefs and practices of infant feeding practices up to two years of age or beyond in major urban informal settlements in Kenya. A total of nine focus groups were conducted in three randomly selected sites, namely: Kaptembwo in Nakuru, Manyatta ‘A’ in Kisumu, and Kibera in Nairobi. Sixty-four mothers of children aged 6-24 months were chosen purposively, and the results were thematically analyzed. Results showed that most mothers still breast-fed their children, but they intended to stop breastfeeding when the child is 18 months old. Generally, the mothers reported the benefits of breastfeeding for two years of age or beyond, such as protection against diseases, improving health, and making the child strong. They perceived barriers to breastfeeding up to two years or beyond such as child illness, child’s decision, return to work, baby addiction to breast milk, and inconvenience brought about by breastfeeding. The foods perceived by mothers as good for the baby included yogurt, groundnuts, pumpkins, bananas, pawpaw, watermelon, oranges, spinach, and traditional vegetables. While the foods perceived as not good for the baby were processed milk, eggs, and sweet foods such as sodas, biscuits, cakes. Participants had a positive attitude towards water treatment and handwashing practices. The most commonly reported method of treating water was boiling. The perceived barriers to water treatment and handwashing practices included lack of fuel and water, forgetfulness, inadequate money, not able to control children. The findings indicate that increasing awareness on the duration of breastfeeding may motivate more mothers to breastfeed for two years and beyond.