Mothers and "The Involved Others" in Child Feeding Practices: the Socio cultural Context of Implementing The Recommended Child Feeding Practices In Sebeta Awas Woreda, Oromia Region- Ethiopia.

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Addis Ababa University


Recommended child feeding is not simply a mothers’ response to the metabolic demands of her child, but involves a complex web of behaviors and interactions among people including fathers, grandmothers and health workers. These interactions emanate from meanings that people hold, conditioned by myths and beliefs about the vulnerability of babies to nature and evil spirits. Concurrently, this study investigated the embedded nature of child-feeding practices in the socioeconomic and cultural contexts of the households and the urge of considering this dynamism in the biomedical discourses and policy interventions related to child nutrition. Taking mothers as the primary actors in child feeding, the study utilized mixed research approach that triangulated the methods and data from the research process. The study utilized quantitative method to measure the variations in child-feeding practices, and qualitative method to interpret meaningful actions and to highlight interpretations that participants give of themselves or others. Subsequently, 707 mothers whose children were less than 24-month age responded to the survey questionnaire with response rate of 99%. Concerning the beliefs, policy, operational opportunities and challenges, 12 focus group discussions as well as 15 in-depth and 15 key informant interviews were conducted with mothers, men, senior women, health extension workers, and experts. In addition, seven case studies illuminated the experiences of mothers and senior mothers about recommended child-feeding practices. Guided by the socio-ecological model, the results of the study indicated the significant roles of economic and socio-cultural contexts as well as mothers' agency in shaping the concept and practice of recommended child-feeding guidelines. Specifically, the collective nature of child rearing values that assigned specific roles to men, female children and senior women, made men and senior women to act as advisors, supervisors, and providers in child-feeding and health seeking behaviors. Furthermore, the role of adult female children and community networks were also found significant assets in sharing mothers’ domestic responsibilities and to focus on childcare and feeding practices. Yet, the actors considered the child-feeding recommendation as “ideal” and the “medicalization” of motherhood. As the result, the implementation of the recommendation faced various barriers such as poverty, employment laws, infrastructure and service amenities, as well as lagging changes in cultural attitudes supporting customary child-feeding practices. Overall, the study indicated child-feeding practices as an arena where struggle, negotiation, and encounters take place among the actors— mothers, men, senior women and health ix workers. In effect, mothers responded to the child-feeding recommendations differently— adoption, adaptation, and rejection. The study called for the coordination of multi-sector partners to addresses the economic, social, and cultural needs of mothers and the actors in household and community contexts for optimal child-feeding practices. Similarly, child-feeding intervention should be “de-medicalized” to incorporate the traditional beliefs, preferences and practices of the community. Accordingly, establishing linkages in traditional and modern child- feeding promotional messages were encouraged to enrich the recommended child feeding efforts. In addition to strengthening the baby-friendly health facilities and services, the employment policies and working environments should be baby friendly to keep the balance between “good mother- good worker” roles. Lastly, nutrition related issues are advised to be included in formal education and agriculture related professional trainings to engage men and senior women in sustainable support of recommended child-feeding practices and life cycle based nutrition interventions. Key terms: Sociology of food, recommended child-feeding practices, Child nutrition, Ethiopia



Sociology of food, recommended child-feeding practices, Child nutrition, Ethiopia