A qualitative study exploring infant feeding decision-making between birth and 6 months among HIV-positive mothers.Matern Child Nutr. 2019 04; 15(2):e12726.MC
Despite efforts to support breastfeeding for HIV-positive mothers in South Africa, being HIV-positive remains a barrier to initiating and sustaining breastfeeding. The aim was to explore decision-making about infant feeding practices among HIV-positive mothers in a rural and urban settings in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. HIV-positive pregnant women were purposively sampled from one antenatal clinic in each setting. A qualitative longitudinal cohort design was employed, with monthly in-depth interviews conducted over 6 months postdelivery. Data were analysed using framework analysis. We report findings from 11 HIV-positive women within a larger cohort. Participants were aged between 15 and 41 years and were all on antiretroviral therapy. Before delivery, nine mothers intended to exclusively breastfeed (EBF) for 6 months, and two intended to exclusively formula feed (EFF). Three mothers successfully EBF for 6 months, whereas four had stopped breastfeeding, and two were mixed breastfeeding by 6 months. Mothers reported receiving strong advice from health workers (HWs) to EBF and made decisions based primarily on HWs advice, resisting contrary pressure from family or friends. The main motivation for EBF was to protect the child from HIV acquisition, but sometimes fear of mixed feeding led to mothers stopping breastfeeding entirely. Infant feeding messages from HWs advice were frequently inadequate and out of date, and failed to address mothers' challenges. Minimal support was provided for EFF. In conclusion, HWs play a pivotal role in providing infant feeding support to HIV infected mothers, but need regular updates to ensure if advice is correct and appropriate.