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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995 Mar;49(3):179-88.

Infant feeding and nutritional status: the dilemma of mothers in rural Senegal.

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  • 1ORSTOM, Institut Français de Recherche Scientifique pour le Développement en Coopération, Montpellier, France.



To describe infant feeding practices in rural Senegal in relation to age and nutritional status. The main hypothesis to be tested was whether mothers modulate feeding in response to growth and nutritional status of their infants.


A cross-sectional survey using qualitative 24-h recalls and lifetime recalls to assess feeding practices, and using weight and recumbent length measurements to assess nutritional status.


Three health clinics in the Fatick region, a rural area of Senegal, West Africa, covering a population of 26,600.


All 2-10-month-old infants attending four immunization sessions in 1991 (n = 1174; 80% of convoked infants).


Prevalence of feeding with additional food (gruel, family diet and food of animal origin), weight-for-length and length-for-age.


All infants were breastfed. A supplement had been given the day before the survey to 10% of infants aged 2-3.9 months, 30% of infants aged 4-5.9 months and 45% of those aged 6-6.9 months. The main food items were watery millet gruel and family diet (millet or rice). Gruel was given in response to perceived breast-milk insufficiency. Animal products were seldom eaten at any age. Length-for-age and weight-for-length were significantly lower among infants supplemented with millet gruel, when adjusted for age; while no such relationship was found with family diet.


Mothers preferentially fed gruel to small, thin infants.


During immunization sessions in May, July, September, and December 1991 at three health clinics in the Fatick region in rural Senegal, interviews with mothers of 1174 infants 2-10 months old and anthropometric measurements of these infants were conducted to determine food consumption patterns according to age and to compare these patterns with the nutritional status of the infants. All the infants had been breast fed the day before the survey. No infant was exclusively breast fed, however. All infants were given water, most beginning with the first week of life. More than 25% of the infants had already consumed some additional food at least once at 3-3.9 months of age. 10% of infants 3-3.9 months old, 30% of those 4-5.9 months old, and 45% of those 6-6.9 months old had eaten other food the day before the survey. The most common food supplements were watery millet gruel and family diet (millet or rice). Mothers tended to give infants millet gruel because they perceived an insufficiency of breast milk. Their perception may have been correct because infants 2-3.9 months old who received millet gruel, but not the family diet, were both shorter and thinner than their counterparts (p 0.01). The nutritional status of infants 6-10.5 months old was essentially the same as the status of infants receiving additional food. Mothers gave additional food at irregular intervals. These findings suggest that low nutritional status may lead to supplementation with gruel. Future research should focus on weaning foods as well as on improvement in breast milk consumption in small, thin infants less than 6 months old.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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