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Infant Feeding Practices of Low-Income Rural Mothers

Barton, Sharon J. Phd, RN

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2001 - Volume 26 - Issue 2 - p 93-97
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Purpose: To examine infant feeding practices at 1 to 2 months of age and at 4 to 6 months in a rural population of infants at risk for failure to thrive.

Design: A descriptive/exploratory study with 52 mothers who were interviewed twice during the infant's first 6 months of life. Mothers were recruited from health care facilities in rural southeastern Kentucky. Mothers participated in two structured interviews about feeding practices conducted in health care clinics or in the home.

Results: At birth 52% of mothers chose to use formula, 41.2% chose breastfeeding, and 8% were both breastfeeding and formula feeding. By 1 month, 71% of mothers were formula feeding and only 29% were breastfeeding. At 4 to 6 months postpartum 80% of mothers were formula feeding and 20% were breastfeeding. Mothers with more children, higher family income, and more education were more likely to breastfeed. Almost all mothers began solid foods before the infant was 4 months old. Infants were fed table foods including mashed potatoes and gravy, and beverages such as apple juice, fruit juices, and soda. Mothers relied on health professionals for support for feeding decisions at the first interview; however, they relied more on the grandmother for support at the time of the second interview.

Conclusions and Clinical Implications: Breastfeeding mothers need additional support to continue breastfeeding beyond the first month. Mothers and grandmothers need education to discourage the practice of early introduction of inappropriate solid foods, including the practice of thickening bottles of formula with cereal. Nutrition teaching should be provided to mothers and grandmothers including how to select high nutrient, lower fat-weaning foods, and limiting infant intake of high-calorie drinks.

Sharon J. Barton is an Associate Professor, University of Kentucky, College of Nursing, and Clinical Nurse Researcher, University of Kentucky Children's Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky. She can be reached at College of Nursing, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536-0232; e-mail:

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.