It has been documented and a well-established fact that good nutrition including appropriate infant and young child feeding practices is central to the growth and development of all infants and young children. A study to investigate infant and young child feeding practices was conducted in Foni Kansala District, The Republic of The Gambia. The overall aim of the study was to explore the situation of infant and young child feeding practices that are prevalent and perceived effective in promoting the health and nutritional status of young children in the study area. A total of three focus group discussion (FGDs) and five in-depth interviews were conducted, and interviews were conducted in natural settings. Purposive sampling technique was used to recruit the participants. Thematic analysis approach was used to analyse the responses from the interviews. The results of the study found that exclusive breastfeeding up to six months was rarely practiced in the area due to strong cultural and traditional beliefs and inadequate information on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding. Colostrum was perceived as impure and unsafe to be given to the infant. Breastfeeding is the most common method of infant feeding, while bottle was practiced by only two mothers who participated in the FGD. Initiating breastfeeding after delivery is usually delayed due to cultural and traditional practices and the involvement of partners. The role of health workers, opinion leaders, traditional communicators, NGOs and grand mothers in supporting mothers to adequately feed their infants have been highly valued in the area. In addition, increased workload of women, maternal illness or death after delivery, breast milk insufficiency and the involvement of grand mothers, husbands, friends and other family members play an influential role in the early introduction of complementary foods to infants. Also, mothers’ socio-economic status, culture and tradition have been found to have an influence on early introduction of complementary foods. This article presents an analysis and summary of the data collected during the course of the explorative research conducted in the study area.
Key words: Infant, feeding practices, complementary feeding.
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