It is important to determine early feeding practices within subnational contexts. Early feeding practices were determined in relation to anaemia and iron status for 6-month old infants in a peri-urban South African community.
At 6-months old (n=750), early feeding practices and a seven day dietary recall were assessed retrospectively. Haemoglobin (Hb), serum ferritin (SF) and serum transferrin receptors (sTfR were assessed. Height-for-age, length-for-age and weight-for-height Z-scores were calculated using WHO growth standards.
For 48.9% of infants, exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) stopped at 0â2 months. There was early introduction of semi-solid/solid foods at 3â4 months (43.9%) and 5â6 months (33.6%). But most infants were still breastfed at age 6 months (70.1%) and 42.0% received formula milk. Most frequently consumed complementary foods included infant cereals (68.1%) and jarred infant foods (22.7%). In total, 29.3% were stunted, 36.4% anaemic (Hb < 11 g/l), 16.1% had SF < 12 µg/l and 30.1% with sTfR/l > 8.3 mg/l. Anaemia was less prevalent with frequent consumption of formula milk (27.6% versus 43.5%, p= 0.001) and commercial infant cereal (33.8% versus 41.5%, p= 0.042). On regression analysis infants for whom EBF stopped at 0â2 months and those frequently consuming formula milk had a lower chance of anaemia and iron deficiency.
Early feeding practices were non-optimal. Frequent consumption of formula milk was associated with lower risk of anaemia and iron deficiency but these were not determined at birth. Further investigation of prevalence and determinants of anaemia and iron deficiency in this age group is warranted.