Original Research

Perceptions of grandmothers and HIV-infected mothers on infant feeding practices in a rural South African district

Motlatso G. Mlambo, Karl Peltzer
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 25 | a1372 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v25i0.1372 | © 2020 Motlatso G. Mlambo, Karl Peltzer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 September 2019 | Published: 05 August 2020

About the author(s)

Motlatso G. Mlambo, Department of Institutional Research and Business Intelligence, Risk and Advisory Services, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Karl Peltzer, Department of Research Administration and Development, University of Limpopo, Turfloop, South Africa

Share this article

Bookmark and Share


Background: Despite enormous interventions aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV, cultural practices on mixed infant feeding remain prevalent. Complementary food provision to infants seems to be the most common and acceptable form of infant feeding highly endorsed by grandmothers.

Aim: This study aimed to explore the perceptions of grandmothers and HIV-infected mothers on infant feeding practices in the context of prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Setting: This study was undertaken in two primary healthcare facilities in the Mpumalanga province, South Africa.

Methods: A qualitative exploratory narrative design was used to conduct four focus group discussions with 32 purposefully selected grandmothers and 21 in-depth interviews with postnatal HIV-infected women in the two identified health facilities. Data were analysed using an interthematic inductive analysis approach, resulting in major themes and subthemes supported by participants’ excerpts.

Results: Four themes emerged showing (1) high mixed feeding endorsement because of the need to adhere to conventional practices, strengthen the umbilicus and have fuller, fat and calmer babies; (2) infant feeding fallacies and stigma reflected by exclusive breastfeeding period confusion, breastfeeding scepticism and infant feeding stigma; (3) breastfeeding endorsement for other disease prevention and family support for breastfeeding and (4) conflict between traditional and western infant feeding approaches.

Conclusion: Total elimination of MTCT of HIV in a rural context calls for targeted education for grandmothers addressing their perceptions and practices of infant feeding. The knowledge of the identified factors encouraging mixed infant feeding can assist in designing programmes to change community beliefs on infant feeding. Cultural, social and psychosocial factors should be addressed when making recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding for HIV-positive mothers.


PMTCT; infant feeding; mixed feeding; grandmothers; HIV positive


Total abstract views: 798
Total article views: 1359

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.