Background and aims: Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child stunting in the world, which especially impacts rural indigenous agricultural communities. Despite decades of intensive nutrition research and interventions, only rarely have nutrition programs successfully lowered the rate of stunting in these settings. The bulk of nutritional interventions in Guatemala are targeted at the education of female caregivers. However, women's ability to implement best practices in infant breastfeeding and complementary feeding are often constrained by external factors. This study evaluated the knowledge, beliefs, and practices of female caregivers, as well as the attitudes of fathers, toward breastfeeding and infant feeding in a rural Guatemalan village.
Methods: Clinical work, participant-observation, surveys, interviews, and focus groups were conducted in a rural Guatemalan village in conjunction with a child feeding program from August 2008 to January 2011.
Results: Male employment status, mental health, and attitudes towards child rearing and parenting responsibilities are often principal factors in infant growth failure.
Conclusions: Successful child feeding programs must include educational elements for men and should consider structural elements that provide a safety net for unexpected changes in domestic finances.