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Determinants of mothers’ solid food feeding practices during the transition period (4-9 months of age) : implications for iron nutrition Stephen, Loraina


Solid food feeding is complex and involves interaction at many levels. Solid food feeding practices are determined, in part, by the mother's perceptions of infant food needs, the infant's feeding responses, and the mother's knowledge and skills. It is known that by 9 months of age infants who are not bottle-fed with iron-fortified formula are at high risk for iron deficiency anemia and low iron stores. Dietary iron from complementary solid foods is essential to prevent iron deficiency anemia and iron depletion in these infants by 9-12 months of age. However, the content and bioavailability of iron from solid foods offered during the transition period is low. Because of this, it is critical that infant feeding practices are appropriate to meet the infant's evolving nutritional requirements, especially iron needs, during the transition period (4 to 9 months). The success of infant feeding requires that mothers learn both what and how to feed solid foods. The present research used a grounded theory approach and in-depth interviews with 12 mothers to explore how mothers feed their infants and what influences the way they feed solid foods during the transition period (4-9 months). This research identified 5 themes that are central to infant solid food feeding - the feeding process, perceiving infant food needs, ways of feeding, gaining expertise and tailoring the transition process. The central theme that had the most influence on the solid food feeding process was how mothers were 'tailoring' the transition process. A 3-dimensional conceptual model of infant solid food feeding was developed to illustrate the interaction between the themes. A causal-consequence model was used to build a second conceptual model to link dietary iron adequacy to the plausible relationships that were identified from the 5 themes. Findings from this study provide information needed for future development of effective multilevel education strategies that are aimed at facilitating health professionals' practices and mothers' learning about the feeding process and conditions within the proximate environment that determine infant feeding choices and impact on the dietary intake of young infants.

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