Feeding practices and growth of infants from birth to 12 months in the central region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa.Nutrition. 2004 Mar; 20(3):327-33.N
We evaluated feeding practices and growth patterns of infants in the central region of the Limpopo Province over the first 12 mo of life.
A follow-up study on a cohort of term infants born to 276 mothers recruited during their third trimester of pregnancy was undertaken. The mothers were recruited by the nursing staff at nine randomly selected clinics. From this sample, 219 women gave birth at the local hospital and the infants were followed from birth to 12 mo. Data collected included infant feeding practices and anthropometry at regular intervals (1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 mo). The anthropometric measurements taken were body weight, length, and head circumference.
At birth 8.8% of infants had a low birth weight, 9.6% were stunted, 48.9% were underweight, and 7.3% were wasted. Mothers in this study breastfed their infants for long periods with more than 80% still breastfeeding by the ninth month. However, exclusive breastfeeding during the first 3 mo was uncommon as mothers tended to introduce supplementary feeds at an early age, with 56% of the infants receiving some form of supplement by the end of the first month. The most common supplementary foods were maize meal porridge and mabella (sorghum). Stunting became increasingly apparent in the early months with 30% of infants being stunted (<-2 standard deviations [SD] of the National Center for Health Statistics [NCHS] reference curves) by the first month, and this percentage remained high for the 12-mo period, remaining at below - 1 SD NCHS height-for-age standard. Increased weight gain was seen during the first 3 mo and then declined until mean weight-for-age at 12 mo was below 0 SD NCHS. Twelve percent of infants were overweight (>2 SD NCHS) by the 12th month. Postnatally the infants showed a pattern of gradual stunting. Postnatal factors associated with this pattern were related to maternal socioeconomic status, and these included the mother's level of education, employment status, parity, and access to electricity.
There was a high frequency of underweight infants at birth but stunting was less common. With respect to feeding practices, the mothers tended to introduce supplementary feeds at an early age.